Sunday, September 23, 2012

RNR Denver half RR

Denver at sunset

  Since the end of July, I've had nothing but trouble.  This time, the culprit was an extreme intolerance to sugar.  I resolved to drink nothing but water except during long runs in which I would drink Powerade.  Even that was not enough.  It progressed to the point in which I could not even eat certain fruits or breads and even a sip of Powerade would cause my whole body to tighten up.  Obviously, something had to be done about this.  I ordered a supplement called Fructosin which allowed me to at least bring it to a manageable condition that will allow an occasional splurge while staying clean most of the time, which is what I should be doing anyway.  All told, I managed only one good long run the entire cycle and had only once gone beyond 13 miles in the last 5 months.  NOTE:  My lower volume/high intensity training style has NOTHING to do with sugar intolerance.  If the race had been even one week earlier, I never would have finished but I began to feel better in the days leading up to the race.  I thought that perhaps if everything fell into place, I might run as fast as 1:35 even at altitude.  However, I would likely be racing on a higher than optimal Thym-Adren dosage so the more realistic goal was a sub-1:40.  My doctor says that it's common to see a patient's adrenals go through the roof immediately after a major problem is solved but it's only a temporary reaction.  As my system began to slow down, a dosage that had previously worked like magic was now too much.

2 years ago, I took a road trip through New Mexico and Colorado that even included cutting through small portions of Wyoming and Nebraska as part of my visit all 50 states project.  I only spent one full day in Denver but I really liked the city and made plans to come back for a race.  Of course, the question on most people's minds is the effect of mile high elevation.  The answer is that it's not too bad.  You will definitely tire easier and be struggling for breath but the effect is comparable to a hilly course or 75 degree weather with humidity. For an athlete who runs a 7:00 pace, you can expect to be about 15 seconds slower per mile.  That adds up to just over 3:15 for a 13.1 mile race.

This year, I flew out of Atlanta with my buddy Nick on Thursday morning.  The trip went without a hitch and we checked into our hotel just a few blocks from the starting line and expo then proceeded to run a solid fast finish 6 miler on Cherry Creek trail.  In addition to racing, we would see the Garden of the Gods, the Coors brewery and a baseball game at Coors Field.

Some of my readers will be surprised to learn that the Mile High city of Denver is actually pretty flat. To quote Jeff Daniels in the movie Dumb and Dumber: "I would have expected the Rocky Mountains to be a little rockier than this."  The east side of town (near the airport) is nearly a pancake flat prairie plateau but the mountains come into view on the west side.  True to form, the course was mostly flat.  Most of the "hills" were just gentle inclines though there were steeper sections early in Mile 4 as well as Mile 11 but the last mile was a steady decline so it was certainly manageable.  The course also provided a nice variety of city streets and parks that even included a small lake.  I did not see many mountain views but it was still among the most scenic overall that I have raced.

  We arrived at the starting area with plenty of time to spare and after a decent warm up, I had to make a last minute bathroom stop.  I had to jog back to the starting line and arrived back at Corral #2 just in time.  Like most big races, it was quite congested at the start and many runners lined up much closer to the front than they should have.  I had to do a bit of weaving and ran some extra distance but I hit the first 2 miles right on target near 7:15.  Unfortunately, by Mile 3, which is quite often the tell tale sign of a good race or bad one, I was really sucking wind and would have to back off.  I rebounded a bit in Mile 4 but still did not feel so great and was mathematically preparing for the worst.  If I faded to 8:00 pace, I'd run about 1:42:xx.  Here are the early splits:
7:18 (7:18)
7:15 (14:33)
7:31 (22:04)
7:16 (29:20)

We seemed to be going up a gradual incline for most of the next mile and it was here that I really felt like I was in trouble.  I feared that I would end up in survival mode the rest of the way and end up well above 1:40.  Fortunately, we hit a bit of a downhill as we entered City Park and after an all important hydration stop, I got a bit of a resurgence for a while.  1:35 had slipped away but I was still in good shape to come in well under 1:40.  The resurgence did not last long an with nearly half of the race and the toughest part of the course to come, I was already struggling.
7:32 (36:52)
7:22 (44:14)
7:42 (51:56)
7:39 (59:35)

The bottom of the decline after coming out of City Park came around 8.5 miles and I found the return trip back up to be manageable.  With 4 miles to go, all I needed was slightly below 8:00 pace for the rest of the way and with the downhill finish, I could even afford to go 10-15 seconds in the red and be able to make it up.  By this point, I knew that I was off form and just wanted to be done but I would fight just hard enough to secure the sub-1:40 and not much harder.  Just before the end of Mile 10, we hit the steepest hill of the race, which lasted almost a half mile. At this point in a race, a relatively mild hill can feel like a mountain and at altitude, it's twice as hard.  Several runners around me were walking and I wanted to do the same but I kept my resolve and continued plodding along for I knew that once I stopped, it would be difficult to get going again.  We were treated to a nice steady decline around 10.5 miles and I thought that was the worst of the hills.  I rounded a corner just after Mile 11 and audibly groaned at what I saw up ahead.  Again, I kept plodding along and got through another section of rollers just before the welcome Mile 12 sign.  The volunteers said it was all downhill the rest of the way and this time, they were right.  I checked my watch and found to my relief that I had a sub-1:40 in the bag and if I really pushed I could break 1:39.  Do I go for it?  No.  Just cruise it on in.  You're off form and at high altitude. This could still get ugly.  DO NOT risk a melt down at the finish.  Going downhill, I did pick up the pace to under 7:00 in the closing straightaway in front of the state capitol but showed no real sprinting form and allowed myself to be passed.  Thankfully, I crossed the line VERY sore and winded but on my feet with no need to visit the medical tent.  My official time was 1:39:12- 7:34 pace (11 minutes off my PR) but probably the equivalent of mid-high 1:35 at sea level, which is certainly no disgrace.
7:35 (67:10)
7:44 (74:54)
8:00 (1:22:54)
7:52 (1:30:46)
7:37 (1:38:23)
:49 (1:39:12) last .12 @ 6:42

Final thoughts:
Despite a so-so performance in the race, I enjoyed the trip and checked off state #14 in my Half2Run challenge (half/full mary in 25 of the 50 states).  This was a well organized event too and as a bonus, the finisher's medal is one of the best.  If you are willing to concede a PR and are able to take several days to enjoy the city, make use of great running trails and see some breathtaking scenery nearby, this event should be on anyone's list seeking a destination race.

Garden of the gods

1 comment:

Yo Momma Runs said...

Great race recap! Plus a great performance in the high elevation. It's very hard for me to run in the mountains, but any downhill on a course is always welcome.