Sunday, March 13, 2011

I hate Colorado, and Happy Birthday To Me.

I was very well-prepared for this race.  The only thing I forgot was underwear.  So, like pioneering women of the past, I hand-washed my Vickies and laid them out to dry each evening (Friday and Saturday).  

Now, about the marathon.  Well, first off, at this moment I hate Colorado and will probably hate it for a while.  Not that I was under any illusion that any marathon in Colorado would be easy; the Colorado triathletes and runners that come down to New Mexico and kick all our asses deserve our respect.  

It's just that  I did not expect the level of gleeful sadism that obviously went into planning this course. What I expected was ~8 miles of climbing, ~8 miles of rollers, and then ~8 miles of descent.  This fantasy was based on this profile, which was posted on the race web site:

The race began at 9 am.  The course starts out with about 8 miles during which you climb up 2000 feet.  I watched the other marathoners get further and further away, eventually disappearing from sight. I was left playing can-and-mouse with a guy from New York who was in his 60s and overcome by the altitude, and what appeared to be an older gentleman who could not run and was trying to power walk the thing.  I was under the additional stress of making cutoffs.  I basically walked 8 miles uphill, with occasional jogging, and managed to keep my pace at about 15:20.

I made the first cutoff with 15 minutes left (cutoff was 1 hour), and the second one at mile ~7 with about 10 minutes left (cutoff was .  I then had 45 minutes to make the 3rd cutoff at mile ~10.3.

That third cutoff is after a little 4 mile out-and-back.  See above, how it goes down, and then steeply up just before mile 10?  See that?   When I saw that, I was horrified: it is a 300 mile climb over about 1/4 mile, and it was covered with large, loose rocks about the size of a basketball. Then it was flattish, to the turn around.   

I left New York guy and power walk guy behind here, I think.  The next cutoff was 5 hours into the race, or 2 pm, and it was at mile 20.  No problem, right?  But in between, the middle section I thought was rollers was actually climbing and descending the same 200 feet in altitude over and over again. It was brutal.  There would be long downhills strewn with loose rocks and boulders, and then uphills covered with snow, ice, and deep, thick, mud.  At this point every time I saw an uphill I swore openly.  The next thing I knew, I was passing mile 19, and it was 1:50 pm.  I was alone, and had been alone, pretty much since mile 10.

I looked at my watch: ten minutes to the cutoff, which was about .75 miles away. I ran hard, and passed a couple of guys.  I looked at my watch: 4:54.  I passed a couple of guys walking, and ran harder.  I lept over rocks and sprinted down hills.  4:58. I turned a corner and there in front of me was the 20ish mile aid station.  I had beat the cutoff by 2 minutes.

(I didn't know it, but Baboo had finished and was in the shower at this point in time.)

Now I was free to relax, right?  I had two hours to go 6 miles, right? An easy cruise, right?

 I was mildly curious about this, and wondered why I had two hours to go six miles.  Whose idea was that?  It was mostly downhill from here... 

See there, just after mile 20, that little V?  That's where I hit the wall.  Not a real wall, but a hill that, when you look at it on my Garmen profile, looks like a wall.  It rose, over a half mile, 400 feet up.

No. NO.  This could not be the trail.  I have not ever been so bad in any life as to deserve this.  Then very, very far above me I saw a runner heading up, up, up.  SHIT.  By then all the swearing had left me, and I just stood, hands on hips, and muttered, "you have got to be fucking kidding me," and then girded my Vickies and headed up.

Before I hit that hill, my pace was 14:50. After that hill, my pace had dropped to 15:30, and barely budged from there again.  That hill took all that I had left.  Halfway up I could feel whimpy tears of self-pity coming to my eyes, but then I was just freshly pissed.  

I hated Colorado.  I hated its stupid mountain trails and the stupid RD who made this course and all the people out there that were faster than me...I was pissed at the blue sky, at the trees, and the rocks, and the water.  And being pisssed gave me some energy.

There was no powering down the hills after that.  Given that the aid station at mile 20ish had filled one of my water bottles only halfway, there wasn't any fluid for me, either, until mile 23.  

I told the hapless aid station volunteers that this was my husband's idea, and that I've better get a big "I'm proud of you" and a steak when I got back.  Then I got two full bottles of cold water and I was ready to, but by then, by then all the fight had left me. I knew the truth, as plain as the water in my bottles: I had now developed a lifelong malignity for Colorado. 

Now I knew I hated Colorado.  I hated everything about it.  I hated its magestic vistas, snow-capped mountains, deep blue skies, and fluffy clouds.  I hated the wind.  I hated the trees.  Why the fuck am I doing this, I muttered. I can see mountains and evergreens 15 miles from my house.

I now understood why the RD had made mile 20 the 5-hour cutoff.  It took me 1:45 to finish the last 5 miles of the race.  I wasn't last, but I'm pretty sure I was a contender for last place.  I finished in 6:43, and the cutoff was 7 miles.  I was dazed when I finished.  

This race doesn't give a finisher's medal.  We got one of those RedStar gift cards (Yeah, I know.) and a soup ticket, except I had no idea where the soup was or any inkling of how to get to it, so I got two orders of Burger King fries and noshed on those while Baboo perused local menus.  Then I had a small steak (yes, a steak, yes, me) and sweet potato fries.  Then we went back to our hotel room and I slept for a few hours and then had second dinner, a burger king chicken sandwich.  

Now, if you are a masochist, I'll tell you some good things about the race.  The shirts are shirts you'd actually wear.  Mine is a woman's brown cap-sleeve shirt; Baboo's is a manly blue shirt that looks great on him.  The course is exceptionally well-marked, and it's small, and it's well-organized.  

So now Colorado, state #12 is done.  The only running I plan to do here in the future is for crewing or pacing.  It's too hilly, and too hard, and remember, I. Am Lazy.  

The next morning, we drove to Rio Grande Gorge and my plan was to run 12 miles to finish out a week of running 46 miles in honor of my 46th, but the wind was strong and I was tired, so we'll just have to call it at 44.  


  1. Nice job finishing what looks like a very tough marathon. Not sure that a flatlander likemyself will ever get to do one of those crazy Colorado marathons, but maybe one day.

  2. For what it's worth, this totally random chick in Chicago thinks you're a total badass! Happy Birthday!

  3. The Flying Pig should be fun for you. The hills in Cincinnati are for real, but they're only hills. None of this 'running up mountains' silliness.
    Way to go!

  4. Now us local yocals out here in Colorado might take offense to you putting down our great state! Not all marathons in Colorado are like that. You could have done the Colorado or Denver. I wouldn't have picked those hills even on a good day. I'll be enjoying the Cincy hills in May as well. See you there!

  5. First, happy birthday! Second, the SB is awesome at everything, but maybe you need a new marathon picker? Half of Colorado is as flat as Kansas. On second thought, keep him as your race picker, your blog would be nowhere near as much fun to read if you weren't swearing at the trail or the race director. Great job out there!

  6. Happy Birthday! And I have to agree with DaysRun! You sure picked one of our harder races!

  7. Happy Birthday! And OMG for a Colorado marathon! You indeed picked one of the tougher ones, so Hooray for doing it and completing it!

    I am training to do my first marathon and will be doing the Colorado Marathon on May 1. It is still at altitude, but has a general downhill trend with a few hills for good measure. Next time that could be your choice.

    P.S. I am humbled by your list of successes! I too am asthmatic and had thyroid issues (it has now been removed) so your accomplishments are AWESOME!! Enjoy reading about your journey.

  8. Great job completing this tough course! I had some similar thoughts when doing the Sedona marathon just didn't have the guts to say it out loud, but this one was def. tougher!

  9. You are lazy. Hah. That course looks beyond nasty, though. Way to go, and happy birthday. :)

  10. "...girded my vickies"- hilarious! Glad to hear you made it through this killer, and with sense of humor intact.


  11. I've always found that the best benefit to trail running is that if you crap out, you're on a great hike. Win-win. Unless I'm dodging lightning I can't think of a scenario where a run/hike in CO would ruin my day. Perhaps I hadn't considered racing to meet time-cutoffs at Salida. Sounded rough. Nice work on the successful finish.


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