Colorado Springs Marathon (August-Sept)

My first marathon was the Colorado Springs Marathon, which took place at the end of September. My logic going in was that, even though I didn’t have a very long build-up (only about 6-8 weeks of focused training), I would race it in trainers at more of my long-run pace anyway and use it as a training run for a later (December CIM marathon) race. The first part of the plan went accordingly, but unfortunately, I never made time to actually get out and do the December marathon (which really was unfortunate since the course, which is already known for being quick, had unusually fast times).

Here is a look at the weeks leading up to the race (dates are off….Race was Sept 29th…):

July 30 – Aug 5

Sunday – AM = 15.5 miles @ 6:30 pace/ PM = off

Monday – AM = 2 hour 40 minute bike/ PM = easy 9 miles

Tuesday – AM = 1.5 hour bike+8 mile run/ PM = 6 miles

Wednesday = AM – 12 miles/ PM – 1.5 hr bike

Thursday = AM – 9 miles easy/ PM – 1.5 hr bike

Friday = 3 mi w.u, 5.22 mile tempo @ 5:41-5:45 pace, 2.5 mi cd/ PM = off

Saturday – AM = 10 miles/ PM = 1 hr 45 min bike

Running = 80.5 miles/ Bike = 9 hrs.

 

Aug 6 -12

S – AM – 16.5 miles @ 6:30 pace/ PM = 1.5 hr bike

M – AM – 2 hr bike/ PM – 8 miles slow – very tired

Tu – AM – 2 hr bike/ PM 9 miles + 7 striders

W – AM = Rock Creek – ran to top and extra 2 miles; 12 miles total/ PM = 60 min rollerski

Th – AM – 2 hr bike/ PM = 9 miles easy

F – AM – 3 mi w.u, 6 mile tempo (5:41, 11:23, 17:07, 22:55, 28:43, 34:31), 2x1H/1E, 2 mile cd

S – Pikes Peak hill climb – 1 hour 39 minute ascent (bike race) / PM – off

Running – 68 mile/6days; Bike = 9.5 hours; Rollerski = 1 hour

 

Aug 13 – 19

S- AM – 9 easy/ PM – 1 hr 40 min bike

M- 9.5 easy/ PM – 1 hr 50 min bike

Tu – AM – 2.5 mi w.u./ 10x2H/1:30E @ 5k effort/cd – 10 miles total/ PM – off

W – AM – 9 miles  + 30 minutes of weightlifting/ PM 1.5 hour bike

TH- 1.5 hr bike + 6 miles of running + striders/ PM – 9 miles

F – AM – 2 hr bike ride/ Mid – 10.5 mile total = 7H/2E, 7H/2E, 3H/2E, 3H/2E, 2H/2E, 2H/2E, 5x1H/1E. PM = 4.5 mile shakeout run

S – easy 9 miles

Running – 78 miles; Bike 8.5 hours

Aug 20-26

S- 17.5 miles – slower (6:50-7:10 pace)

M – Am- 9 miles/ PM – 50 mile bike in 2 hr, 34 minutes – averaged 20+MPH last 2 hrs

T – AM – 9 miles/ PM – 2 hr bike + 5 mile run + lifting

W – Am – 9 total – 3x7H/2E (mile splits – 5:36, 5:29, 5:30); 2x1H/1E/ PM = 90 min bike + 4 mile run + striders

Th – 9 miles easy/ PM – 6 miles

F – AM – 9 miles/ PM – XC met – ran 6-7 miles

S – AM – 2 mi w.u., 12×400 – first 6 = 80 sec, second 6 = 76-77 (1:20 jog rest)/ PM – drove to Denver, slept in car

Running – 95 miles; Bike = 6 hours

Aug 27 – Sept 2 (first week of school)

S – AM 8.5 mile trail run + 90 mile bike ride (Golden Gran Fondo)

M – AM – 5 easy/ PM – 9.5 miles

T – AM – 9 easy/ PM – 6 easy+ lift

W – AM – off, PM – 5.5 mile run+3xmile@Cole Park (5:04, 5:02, 4:57….add about 8-10 seconds for actual mile distance as route is just short) + 1k (3:17)…all with 3 min jog rest – ran with high school team

Th – AM – 9 easy/ PM – 7 easy = lift

FR – AM – 9 miles/ PM – 1.5 hour bike

S – 1hr 45 min run in Leadville – trails and hills

Running – 90 miles; BIke – 8 hours

Sept 3 – 10

S – 2 mi w.u (3x10H/2E) (first rep was at 5:40 pace, second was 5:33 pace, third was 5:27 pace) then 3H/1E, 2H/1E, 800 (2:41) all on dirt roads in trainers – 11.5 miles total / PM – 2 hr bike, first 40 minutes easy

M – AM – 18 miles easy/ PM – 80 min bike (shifter broke and had to stop)

T – AM – 9 easy/ PM – 8 easy

W – AM – 2 mi w.u. ; 8 mile tempo (two mile splits = 12:01, 11:32, 11:21, 11:01); 2 mi. c.d./ PM – 9 miles @ 6:45 pace

TH – AM – 9 miles/ PM – 6 miles

F – AM – 9 miles/ PM – 7.5 miles

S – Joe Vigil meet; 6 am early morning workout – 3 mi w.u., 17×400 with 1 min jog rest; most on dirt, some on grass; averaged 79-80; last 5 = 77-78; 4 mile c.d./ PM – biked with puppies (40 min)

Running – 113 miles (3 speed workouts + long run); Bike = 3.5 hours

Sept 11- 18

S – 20 miles (6:26 pace – last 15 @6:16 pace – last 5 – 6:02 pace)/ PM – 90 min bike

M – AM – 9/ PM – 9 miles in hills in Sanford – kids ran hard; 6:00 pace on way back

T – AM – 9/ PM – 9 with striders

W – 5:30 AM – 2.5 mi w.u with 4 strides, 2×2 mile with 2 min jog rest (10:53, 10:54) (on dirt and in trainers) + 2H/2E (changed into lighter flats) + 2×800 on roads with 1:30 jog rest (2:33, 2:31) + 2×400 (75s); 1.5 cd/ PM – 8 mile shakeout

Th – AM – 9 miles/ PM – 6 miles

F – AM – 9 miles/ PM – 9 miles in Durango – got home at 2AM

S -AM = 1hr 45 min bike/ PM – 80 min run @ Fuchs Res (11,000 feet)

Running – 120 miles, Bike – 3hrs

Sept 19-26 (week before race)

S – AM – 1 hr. 45 min bike – spend all day working on HPPE hw; felt terrible/ PM – 9 miles easy

M – AM – 2 mi w.u. (3H/1E, 2H/1E, 1H/1E) x 4, 2 mile c.d./ PM – 8.5 miles (last 4 progressing to 6:00 pace (MP)

T – AM – off/ PM – 9 easy

W – AM – 8.5 easy/ PM – 7.5 easy

Th – 5:30 AM (cold, had to wear pants for workout— on dirt trails in trainers) 2.5 mi w.u., 2×2 mile with 2 min jog (10:37, 10:42) + 2H/1E, 2x1H/1E, 1.5 mi cd. / PM – 8.5 miles including Paine road (big hills in Ft. Garland) with XC team.

Fri – AM – off/ PM – 9 easy

S – 13.5 miles in Ft. Garland – included Paine Rd. Hills

Running – 92 miles; Bike – 1 hr 45 min

Week of Race

S – AM – 9 miles

M – 9 miles

T – 4h/1E, 2x (3H/1E), 2x(2H/1E), 2x (1H/1E) – 9 miles total

W – 9 easy

Th – 4.5 miles easy + strides

F – AM – 20 minutes easy

Traveled in afternoon to Springs

Saturday – RACE

 

Takeaways –

  • wasn’t very consistent with long run, but still had a couple of key workouts (20 miler at a firm pace, fasted and without taking water at any point of run). The 20 miler I did gave me the confidence that I could for sure finish the run while running at about 6:00-6:20 pace. I almost did it fasted and without water, and I planned on having a light carbohydrate meal 3-4 hours before and having some fluid on the course. However, I didn’t take anything until mile 16, which is kind of crazy to think about (and it was a small sip as my hands were cold. I tried to drink a little more at mile 20 and got barely any again…)
  • I didn’t really do a lot of true speed work (5k race pace or faster). In fact, at no point did I even go under 5 min pace….even in most of the 400’s. However, my strength was very evident by the long intervals with short rest (3×10 minutes @ 5:20-5:30 pace with a 2 min jog rest). My final 2×2 mile was an incredible workout, as it was basically the equivalent of doing 4 miles, on dirt, in training shoes, at 5:30 in the morning (in full tights!) at 7,700 feet, at the pace at which I raced 5 miles in XC my senior year of college (5:20 pace). After that workout, I wondered what I could have run an 8k in at sea level, or a half marathon. I don’t think 25:50 for 8k and 1:10-1:11 for a 1/2 would have been crazy. My 2016 half (1:14 in Albq) converts to a 1:12 – and I think I was stronger in 2017.
  • Not much of a taper – which was intentional (mileage – 113 miles, 120 miles, 92 miles, then race week (50 miles), as I was hoping to go through another 4 weeks or so of getting into the 100s. Most marathon build-ups in the elite level consist of 3-4 weeks above 100 miles, followed by a down week – and repeat that 2-4 times. I basically did one cycle, giving my body only one chance to supercomensate and adapt.
  • The volume of training coinciding with the rest of my life is pretty remarkable. During this time, I obviously held down my full time position as an elementary music teacher, a job that requires standing and moving all day, as well as singing, scaffolding, planning, and engaging (a lot of mental energy…..). Not only is teaching an exhausting job, it also means that you are at school at 7:30. After school, I coached with the AHS XC team. Granted, this allowed me on most days to get a PM run in, but it still took every weekend away from me (which, in an ideal world, would probably be spent traveling to my own races). I don’t regret either of these investments of my time or energy. Finally, I decided to be a full time exercise science graduate student in the Fall, which meant I had 2 courses (6 total credits) to balance around everything else. This really meant I had to be on top of homework every single night. My days were pretty consistent – wake up early, train, go to school – work, go to practice – train and coach, come home – eat, put the feet up and read/work on graduate work, eat again, go to bed by 9. Saturdays and Sundays had to be spent doing all of my school planning (in addition to the long run and XC meets) so that I didn’t need to do as much of that during the school week.
  • The race itself = I have a pretty detailed description in my training journal, but the quick synopsis goes as follows: I wore training shoes for this race, with the idea that I would run the first 90 minutes at my long run pace, then speed up as I felt able. I didn’t want to risk injury by wearing racing flats, and at this point, not having done anything longer than an 8 mile tempo, I didn’t feel confident running my goal marathon pace anyway (5:40-5:45)…I just wanted to finish. Also, the nature of this course (6,500 feet of altitude, small race – no one to run with the whole way, 5 miles on dirt trail, over 1,000 feet of climbing) were more condusive to just a ‘hard’ long run. I went out at about 6:20 pace for the first 2 miles, then quickly jumped into 6:10’s and held that comfortably until the 11 mile mark. I was in 3rd place at this point, and there was no one in sight behind or in front of me. I came to a turn and a bridge, and while a person was supposed to be directing traffic, they had moved from their post for a very brief moment. This was extremely unfortunate for me, as I went the wrong way and ran for about .8 miles before realizing what had happened. I stopped for only about 15 seconds and then immediately turned around and kept running. At this point, I only knew that I was lost – I still didn’t know where the wrong turn was or where I needed to go! I was in sheer mental agony – do I go on? do I just complete a 20 mile run, drop out and move on to the next race? What would Christie, who was waiting for me ahead, think? I felt like crying – I had worked and prepared so hard for this tiny little race and this is how it repaid me! When I got back to the bridge, a lady insecurely said, “You were supposed to go this way,” all the while knowing she had been the one who was supposed to direct traffic into the narrow trail entrance. The next 6 miles was a steady uphill, with the final portion on dirt. Some group of fans at a water stop cheered for me, saying, “You are in 6th place! Good job!” This only added to my mental turmoil. I tried to stay positive and stay in the moment. I figured I had lost about 8 minutes. It was beyond frustrating. Top 3 came away with monetary prize, which I had assumed would be a minimum takeaway for me. Now, I didn’t even know if that was possible. I actually quickly caught and overtook the 6th place runner. 5th took a little while longer, but by mile 18, as we approached the turnaround, I could see 3rd place. I was gaining on him quickly. When I turned around, I knew that I had about 4-5 miles of steady downhill, and I had been running within myself, so I tried to press on the gas a little. I put in 2 sub-6 miles, but I found I was actually losing ground. Turns out, the two people in front of me were 2:21 and 2:23 guys – they weren’t exactly chumps. Around mile 21, the awareness of my watch showing me that I had run 1.5 miles further than every mile marker was telling me started to wear. The last 6 miles of a marathon are hard enough as it is. Imagine coming to mile 22 and then, 2 minutes later, your watch reads “24 miles completed.” At that point in time, having only 2 miles to go and having 4 miles to go is a huge difference. I felt as though it was the reason that I ran a little more within myself, instead of really overextending to the line. I knew in my head that in order to finish, I would need to run 27.5 miles, and so that became the cornerstone information by which my body judged its pacing. I kept 6:07-6:12 pace going all the way to the finish. My 26.2 mile split was exactly 2:42, and my official time was something like 2:52 (I don’t even remember, how sad is that!). One thing I will say that gave me a respect for the distance – at about mile 25 there was a steep incline. I ran up it at like 8 minute pace – even doing it that slow caused my heart rate to skyrocket, my legs to feel weird, and my breathing to start coming through my ears and head in loud throbs. It felt like the final lap of a 3k indoors! My body had been steadily taxed all the way to its limit. On that given day, I couldn’t have run that distance, in those conditions, much faster.

There were many encouraging things to take away from the race – I had fought through great adversity. I had finished what I started. My 26.2 mile split was pretty fast for in trainers, given my training, and at altitude with hills and 6 180 degree turns…and no competition. Had I not gotten turned off course, I would have been right near 1st and 2nd place, which would have been fun, as I think we could have pushed each other.

Some conversion charts for my race gave me 2:32 when just accounting for altitude. Other, more course specific websites were a bit more generous. For example, my time of 2:42 at Springs converted to a 2:26 at CIM and a 2:27 at Boston, Twin Cities, or Fargo. I think it is safe to say that on a perfect day, on a flat course, giving my best performance, I probably could run between 2:29-2:31. The caliber of the people whom I finished with would at least suggest that, as their PR’s were much faster. However, the nature of the beast that is the marathon leaves a lot of unknowns. 6:05 pace is way different than 5:40’s. I might be able to do 5:40’s for 21 miles and then have nothing left for the final 5. One thing that is likely is that I will need to do a better job of in race fueling (which really wasn’t an issue because of the slow pace I ran at Springs) in order to complete the full marathon at a pace that is more in line with my fitness.

 

 

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