On Labor Day I ran my 28th marathon, the American Discovery Trail marathon in Colorado (state #17). There aren't a lot of marathons to choose from in the summer, because it's hot. I figured Colorado wouldn't be so awful bad. Even if it was hot, it wouldn't have the oppressive humidity we get in Maryland. I'd been to Colorado Springs a few years back for a work meeting, and stayed after for a few days to see the sights and visit my friend Beth, who lives outside of Denver. So I decided I could make this trip a quick one, since Mike wasn't going with me and I'd seen Pike's Peak and Garden of the Gods and stuff already. One thing that I didn't do before, and that I wish I'd given myself time to do this time, is the Incline. I thought about hiking it on Sunday afternoon after I got there, but storms came through and I was really tired. So, next time.
I had done some reading online about dealing with the altitude, and came to the conclusion that if I couldn't get out there a week early to acclimate, I'd be better off flying in as close to the actual event as possible. So I flew in on Sunday for the Monday race. Flew in and out of Denver and rented a car. I decided to save about $10 by using Fox Car Rental. I would not advise that. While I stood there waiting 1/2 hour for their bus, I saw multiple buses from every other car rental company come by and pick up their customers. After finally getting to their rental counter, I got to wait in line for almost an hour. Thank goodness I didn't have any place I needed to be.
I stayed in the host hotel, which was the Antlers Hilton right downtown. The expo was there, they were giving 2:00 pm checkout times (which was very generous considering the race started at 6:30), and they had buses to the start right from the hotel as well as the park down the road where everyone else was getting picked up. Anyway, by the time I got to the hotel I was exhausted. I did walk over to the park where the finish was (and where the buses were picking up the majority of runners), just in case there was a problem and I had to catch the bus there in the morning. I stopped at a 7-11 and picked up some snacks and Gatorade, and I was exhausted. I had planned on dinner with the 50 States Marathon Club, but I just didn't have the energy to walk the four blocks or so, so I ordered room service and went to bed early.
I got down to the lobby right around 5:00 Monday morning. I'd seen different info on the bus situation - one place said one bus from the hotel at 5:30, another said buses starting at 5. If there was only one bus, I didn't want to miss it. And if there was any question, I wanted time to walk over to the park to catch a bus, where the last busses were also leaving at 5:30. I got some coffee in the lobby just as a school bus pulled up. Nice. The ride up to the start passed quickly as I was sitting next to a girl that was also doing the 50 states, so we talked races we'd done in different states and suddenly we were there. Straight to the porta-potties, then hung out until about 10 minutes before the start and then left my jacket at baggage drop. It was so cold. I was standing at the start just shivering. Some nice guy took pity on me and gave me the towel he had to wrap around myself and stay a little warmer. I did manage to make the Maniac picture, although I'm hard to see behind the person in green:
We started at 6:30 with a loop around Palmer Lake and then headed down the Santa Fe Rail Trail, which is also part of the American Discovery Trail. It was beautiful. Clear, blue sky overhead with mountains to our right. I of course didn't have my phone or a camera so didn't take any pictures. So I stole a few from the Colorado Springs Gazette website so you can see what I mean:
Ran on through the edge of the Air Force Academy (which you can sort of see at the base of the mountains in the last picture above), and on back towards Colorado Springs. When I was a kid, we went on a family vacation (and as the youngest, yes, I had to sit in the middle pretty much the entire trip) to Colorado and South Dakota. I remember bickering with my brother and sister in the backseat, and whining "are we there yet", and my dad kept saying "Just look at all the beautiful scenery". At the time I thought he was nuts, but running along, seeing that same scenery, I kept thinking "look at all this beautiful scenery". Either he wasn't nuts, or I inherited his nuttiness.
At some point as we got closer to town we got off the rail trail and onto Pike's Peak Greenway (I think), which had more sidewalks and asphalt paths and less packed dirt. About mile 21 I finally caught back up to the four hour pace group, which was down to the pacer and two runners, so was much easier to pass. Although the course was a net downhill, there were still a few steep hills along the way. The last big hill had three signs along it.
First sign: SHUT
Second sign: UP
Third sign: LEGS!
I channeled my inner Jens Voigt and kept running. The closer we got to town, the more people were out, but most were out doing their own thing and didn't realize there was a marathon going on. Got the occasional question of how much farther or what time did we start. I started getting tired, but at this point I had determined I was going to finish sub-4, so I couldn't really slow down. I finished in 3:58:09. Great post-race food, including pizza, sub sandwiches, ice cold soda and water, chips, etc. I sat down and ate and just enjoyed the beautiful weather (it was probably around 70 at that point) before walking the few blocks back to the host hotel.
One more picture from the race:
After the race I had plenty of time to clean up and find some ice cream before heading up to hang out with Beth for the rest of the day. Beth and I have been friends since 9th grade, when we met walking home from the bus. She was the student council "most likely to succeed" half of our friendship, and I was the shy, nerdy, band geek half.
I showed up on Beth's doorstep Monday afternoon. Her husband Bill greeted me with "You look fantastic. I would kill to have legs like that." Have I mentioned that Bill is one of my absolutely favorite people in the entire world? Flattery will get you everywhere. And bonus, Beth's dad and stepmom were out from Illinois visiting. Beth's dad was also my high school physics teacher, and what could be more fun after a marathon than hanging out with your high school physics teacher? We had a great time hanging out and catching up. I spent a lot of time at their house as a kid, but hadn't seen them in years, and had forgotten how much fun and how funny they are. Beth's dad was also in my aunt Barb's high school class (yes, this is what small town life in Illinois is like). They had recently had their 50th high school reunion, and my mom told me I was to find out how it was since Barb couldn't make it. For the record, I did ask, and they said it was a lot of fun, and they told me some stories and mentioned some people by name, but I was kind of tired and pretty much forgot all the details. I do, however, remember all the bear stories.
We enjoyed a delicious dinner on their back patio and called it an early night. I had an early flight out Tuesday morning. Travel home was uneventful. I would like to go back to Colorado and spend some more time being a tourist. Because I don't think I would ever get tired of looking at all the beautiful scenery.
Next up are just a few short tune-up races leading up to my goal marathon for the fall - Mohawk Hudson River in New York on October 13.