Posts Tagged ‘Denver Rock n Roll Half Marathon’

The last two days have been rest days and after picking up my packet at the expo this afternoon all that stands between me and the starting line here in Denver is Saturday morning’s 2-mile shakeout.

My sister in-law Kim and I are going to take a ride in the morning to run the part of the course that will take us to the highest point of the race at mile 11.5 and then start the descent down to the finish line.

After driving the majority of the course yesterday all I can say is that I think it sets up as a very fair race course.

When you think of racing in Denver, CO most would expect large hills and a lot of topographical challenges.   That does not seem to be the case as the course is much, MUCH flatter than the Decker Challenge half-marathon course back home in Austin.

Now, if you’ve run Decker you are probably saying, “Big deal, everything is flatter than Decker …”

O.K., maybe that is true, but the hills the elevation profile of the Denver half-marathon course shows some areas where climbing is required, but there are also some nice long gradual descents that will allow the runners to pick up time, but not worry about “braking” to slow themselves down, and in turn, stress those quad muscles.

It remains to be seen just how much the altitude affects my ability to hold half-marathon pace on Sunday, but right now, with very cool race temperatures forecasted (38-40 at the start) and very little wind, I think it is shaping up to be a fast day for the runners on Sunday.

I will be running on Saturday morning at 6:55 a.m. locally, the same time as the race start on Sunday to dial-in and “dress rehearse” for race day.  The top of the park tomorrow is going to be the point in the race where I start to click the turnover just a bit faster and really try to let it all hang out over the final 1.5 miles.

After reviewing the course map again this afternoon and replaying the mental pictures I took yesterday I have arrived at my race plan.

Miles 1-3 – Relaxed/Controlled ~6:35

Miles 4-7 – Lock it in ~6:30

Miles 8-11.5 – Hang tough ~6:25

Miles 11.5 – Finish – Let it all hang out ~6:20?

So, we’re going to go for the negative split, hard charging strategy and see just how much we can push it down the stretch.

Regardless of my overall time, finishing this race with my hair on fire is what I am looking for in Denver.  It will be the perfect way to wrap up these last three weeks of racing and move into the final 4 weeks of preparations for New York.

I want to feel the wind in my face and my legs churning as my friend Steve Speirs likes to say, “closing like a freight train”.

If you’re on the side of the road over the final mile, be on the lookout for a bright yellow brooks singlet flashing by – it’s going to be quite a final mile on Sunday.

When I put together my training plan for the NYC Marathon I was looking for a half-marathon to run as a “tune-up” event 4 weeks prior to the marathon.  A race where I would be able to put myself back into a large crowd, lots of hoopla at the start, race day nerves and butterflies swirling around my stomach and an opportunity to gauge where I was physically and mentally with New York closing in on me.

16 weeks, 765 miles, 8 races and one triathlon later and here we are – The Denver Rock n’ Roll Half-Marathon.

2010 Denver Start

The race is important for me, but it is more important for someone close to me – my Sister-in-Law and Landry’s God Mother Kim.  Kim will be running her first half-marathon here in Denver on Sunday, the third mile of the race will take her less than a full city block from where she lives.

She will be running farther on Sunday than she ever has before – as her training plan called for a long run maximum of 11 miles.

When I am reaching the half-way point of my race and the burn is starting to creep into my quads and calf muscles and holding on at half-marathon pace is being challenged for the first time in the thin mile-high air of Denver, Kim will be slugging it out for the first time with a race course and distance that is going to test her.

She is going to find out some things about herself on Sunday that only being put in that position can do for a person.  There will be great highs and perhaps a few challenging miles and moments for Kim on Sunday – but all of those tough times will be erased as she comes onto that final stretch of road with the finish line in sight and just another 1/10 of a mile to go.

The emotions of that moment are something you truly have to experience to understand.

It has been said that you can only do something for the first time once – and when it comes to the marathon or half-marathon, crossing that first finish line is something that truly lives up to the hype.

Yes, when I hit the line on Sunday I will be happy to reach it and immediately I will reflect on the race, what I did well, what I could have done better and what I need to do over the next 4 weeks to be in a position to really go for it in New York and run the best marathon I have ever run.

It will be my fourth finish in the half-marathon.  I have run each one of them faster than the last.

1:32:13

1:26:45

1:23:55

That streak of three consecutive PR’s in the half-marathon is almost certain to end on Sunday.  Racing this week after last Sunday’s 10K PR at IBM and runs of 8.3 miles on Monday, 16 miles on Tuesday and 10 miles on Wednesday here in Denver at altitude would not normally be the way I would prepare to race a half-marathon.

But this weekend’s race is more about next month’s marathon than anything else.  I’m going to go out like I do at each event and leave everything out there.  I’ll try to lock in at 6:22-6:25 pace over the first two miles and see if that is a pace I can reasonably hope to sustain as the altitude starts chipping away at my oxygen and my ability to keep pushing.

The elevation did not seem to have any affect on me Wednesday morning through 10-miles as I ticked them off at 7:15 pace with spits of:

7:19, 7:28, 7:22, 7:19, 7:07, 7:17, 7:13, 7:13, 7:10, 7:12.

I felt solid and strong throughout and even threw in a few strides on the grass by the South Platte River when I finished my workout.  With two days of rest on Thursday and Friday, then a short 2-mile shakeout on Saturday morning.  I will have prepared this week in identical fashion to my ramp up for the IBM Uptown Classic last weekend.

It worked well for me at the 6.2 mile distance in Austin.  Time will tell if it produces another PR effort on Sunday in Denver.

No matter, the story of this day belongs to Kim.  I will be asking her to write a race report of her experience for me to post here on the blog to see the race through the eyes of a first-timer.  It has been awhile since I have been that runner, crossing over a finish line that at one point in the recent past seemed essentially impossible.

The amazing thing is that once you cross that line, another one almost assuredly presents itself just a bit further down the road.  For Kim, it looks like that line is already on her horizon – the Pittsburgh Marathon this May.

From there?  Who really knows.

All I do know is that when things get tough for me on Sunday – and they will, it is only a matter of when and how bad – I’ll be drawing inspiration to keep going from someone a couple of miles behind me, doing the best she can for as long as she can, which is what this thing is really all about.

Go Kim.

The events of the last couple of days since coming through the chute at the IBM Uptown Classic can be summed up for me in just one word.

Whew.

After a summer of training through what was the hottest summer in recorded history in Austin – I honestly had no gauge as to where I was from a “race ready” standpoint.

I raced my first triathlon, ran several 5K races, two 10K’s as part of the Austin Triathlon Relay and the Austin Marathon Relay but each race was held in close to if not above 90 degree temperatures.

I soldiered on the best I could, left it all out there each and every race, but the lowest I could go at the 5K distance was a 19:00 minute flat race the day after my mother was diagnosed with Brain Cancer.

At the 10K distance, I barely snuck under 39:00 minutes on a loop course at the Austin Triathlon relay.  I was training hard and racing hard, but there were no positive signs in the way of race times.  My brain kept telling me that it was the heat. “You’re fine”, I kept saying to myself, but I would be less than honest if I didn’t admit that I was nervous.

Perhaps my best shot at a 3 hour marathon was on February 20th last year in Austin and I had blown it.  The heat, humidity and wind conspired against me that day – and with it went my one and only shot at 2:59:59.  The loftiest and to be honest final running goal that I have out there.

But in 37 minutes and 30 seconds on Sunday all of those doubts were erased.

I beat my time in what I considered to be my most untouchable of PR’s by :36 seconds.

In a 6.2 mile race we are talking about a lifetime, more than :05 seconds/mile.

So now we move on to Denver and the Rock n’ Roll Half-Marathon on Sunday morning.  A race that two days ago I was thinking would tell the story of what my capabilities were heading into the New York City Marathon in a little less than 5 weeks, just a month after Denver.

Now?  It’s just going to be a 13.1 mile tempo workout with 5 or 6,000 of my closest friends.

It’s been awhile since I raced for the fun of it.  Now 13.1 miles at altitude somewhere around 6:35 min./mile pace might not sound like your idea of fun.  But for me it really is.

There is no pressure on me whatsoever to “go low” on Sunday.  I’m going to repeat what I did last week following up my 8.3 mile recovery run on Monday with a 16-mile long run early Tuesday morning.  Another 8-10 miles out in Denver on Wednesday to acclimate to the elevation and then a 2-mile shakeout after a couple of days off on Saturday morning.

Sunday morning at 7:00 a.m. local time I’ll shed my sweats in the sub 40 degree temperatures, punch my watch and race.

1:26, 1:27, 1:28, 1:29 – it really doesn’t make any difference.  I’m going to settle into a comfortably “uncomfortable” pace and let the miles tick by.  If the altitude is bothering me, I’ll dial it back a notch and play it smart.  If I feel good through 8 miles, I’ll wind the watch a bit and start ticking over a little bit faster.

At the hill at the 11.5 mile mark the course elevation tilts in the favor of the runners and leads to a downhill finish.  I’d like that mile to be one of my fastest.  We’ll thunder to the finish, hit the timing mat and punch stop on my watch.

That is the first time I am going to look at it on the course.

I’m going to retrieve my bag, put on some warm clothes and find my family.  I’m going to hug and kiss my wife, do the same to little Landry and put my medal around her neck.

Goals for Sunday?  Only three.

Run hard and honest.

Exit the race healthy.

Have fun.

Sounds like a pretty darn good Sunday.

More from Denver later this week, so stay tuned!  Can’t believe that I just packed gloves in my race bag!

After yesterday’s 22-mile long run which wrapped up the endurance building portion of the NYC Marathon Training Cycle we are moving on to a three-week stretch of racing each Sunday to put some speedwork back into the schedule.

September 25 – Silicon Labs Austin Marathon Relay

October 2 – IBM Uptown Classic 10K

October 9 – Denver Rock n’ Roll Half Marathon

Three straight race weekends and then two final 20+ mile long runs will take us to a two-week taper for NYC.  I am reducing the taper by one week for New York, feeling that adding a 5th 20 mile long run just two weeks out from the starting line on Staten Island will help us close strong over the final miles in Central Park.

Adding races to my marathon preparation is something that I did for the first time last year competing in the Austin Distance Challenge.  The Distance Challenge was a 5-race event featuring one 10K race (IBM), one 10 Mile Race (Run for the Water), two Half-Marathons (Decker & 3M) and finally the Austin Marathon on February 20th.

I felt like the miles run at race pace really paid dividends during my training cycle as it is so hard to run at “race pace” alone in the morning through a training run.  It takes the spectacle of race day, other runners and pinning a bib on to your shorts or singlet to get that race day mojo going and drop pace that final :10-:15 seconds per mile that make the difference between “running” and “racing”.

Each event will test my readiness in a different way, racing this coming weekend on somewhat tired legs without the benefits of a taper.

Then on to the IBM Uptown Classic where I hope to rebound and make a run at my 10K PR of 38:06 set last October.

Finally the Denver Half-Marathon, run at elevation, which should tell the tale of the tape regarding my ability to punch through the 3:00:00 mark in New York.  1:24-1:25 in Denver means we’ve got a shot.  Anything over 1:25:30 – even at elevation, and it will be tough for me to even decide to go for it on race day. 

Amazing in a footrace of 13.1 miles how much :30 will mean.

But this weekend’s race is an opportunity to shake loose some of the cobwebs from our race legs and have a great time racing with friends.

The SI Labs Austin Marathon Relay is a 5-person relay event covering 26.2 miles in Downtown Austin.  Each runner on the team is responsible for handling their leg of the course, which is divided into a 12K opening leg, two 10K legs and two 5K legs.

Our team comprised of Brendon, Mick, Lee, David and yours truly are running in the Men’s Masters Division – as all of the runners on our team are over the age of 40.  We are running under the moniker – 5 Sorta Fast Old Guys or 5 S.F.O.G.

Last year’s Men’s Masters winning entry ran a time of 2 hours and 45 minutes.  On that team was my good friend Scott Birk, who you may remember passed away on June 13th of this year after being struck by an automobile during a morning training run here in Austin.  The post about Scott’s accident can be found by clicking HERE.

On Sunday, on my left race flat I have Scott’s initials and date of his accident.  On my right instep are Dom’s initials and the date he passed away in August of last year.  With the team we have put together we should be able to throw down a time in the 2:42:00 – 2:43:00 range – which we are hopping will be fast enough to earn us some race day hardware.

I will be running the second leg of the event, the first 10K taking the timing chip from Brendon who is leading things off for us, and handing it over to Lee for the third leg.  Mick and David will run all out over the final two 5K legs and bring home the bacon so to speak.

It is going to be a lot of fun to race with some good friends, and kick off this mini-race season of ours before things turn very serious over the final few weeks leading up to New York City.

As for Boston – we registered for the race just a few minutes ago.  The final spots will be awarded based on how far under the qualifying time a runner ran their qualifying race.  Today’s registration date is for all runners who beat their time by less than 5 minutes, giving out spots from fastest to slowest.

Our qualifying time was 4:59 below our standard, meaning we are at the front of the line for Bibs, only competing with those who ran an identical time as ours.  It looks like we’re in for Boston in April.

Lookout Hopkinton.  A VERY different marathoner will be there on April 16, 2012 than the one you casually threw aside on April 19, 2010.  I look forward to putting a size 9 Adidas Adizero Aegis squarely up your ass.

The NYC Marathon is now just 59 days away and the miles are starting to pile up.

It’s funny how during the marathon itself I never really pause to ask myself why I am out there doing it.

All of those questions and doubts seem to come during preparing for the marathon.  Never while racing it.

The individual marathon training days are a lot like the individual miles of the race itself.  There are good ones and bad ones, tough ones and easy ones.  There are days when you can’t wait to hop out of bed and take on your workout, followed sometimes only 24 hours later by mornings when all you want to do is hit that snooze button on the alarm and roll back over.

But every square on that marathon training schedule is a building block for all of the squares or runs that follow.  To skip a workout would be like leaving a brick out of a wall.  Sure you may be able to get by missing a brick here or there.  But miss too many of them and that wall is going to collapse under its own weight.

Such is training for the marathon.

Well this week is our “highest mileage week” of the entire training cycle.  64.80 miles.

I have never ran as many miles in a single week.  After four tough workouts Monday through Thursday I still have a 10-mile run on Saturday and a 20-miler on deck for Sunday.  I feel like I’ve put in some solid work after this morning’s hill repeat session.

The reality is I’ve only done 54%of the work so far.

Preparing for the Austin Marathon last winter I ran only one week over 60 miles (62.40).

This cycle I will do it four times.

Prior to Austin I logged three runs of 20 miles or more.

This cycle I will do it five times.

In preparing for the hilly Austin course I raced six events in the lead up to the marathon.

For NYC I will cross 10 finish lines including our first triathlon.

So what does all this mean?  I’m really not sure.

I am being very careful to monitor my quality workouts and races to make sure I get plenty of recovery time.  A training injury right now would be devastating.  I would have no time left to recover in time for race day.

I am trying my best to get my rest, take care of my body, but still bring my best to every workout, every day.  Even if that workout is an easy recovery run, bringing my best means sticking to that plan and not turning it into a tempo run just because I feel like it.

Plan the work, work the plan and hopefully put this now 44 year-old marathoner in a position to run their best ever race 4 years and 50 weeks after our first run through the 26.2 mile gauntlet.

After 20 and 21 mile long runs the next two weeks we will have three weekends of racing:

Silicon Labs Austin Marathon Relay – September 25

IBM Uptown Classic – October 2

Denver Rock N’ Roll Half Marathon – October 9

Upon returning from Denver we’ll have a final 21 mile long run and then the taper will begin for NYC.

Amazing how fast race day is approaching.

524.55 Miles down, 376.30 to go.