Finally – May 18th did arrive and it was time to run my first marathon in 2014. I got up at 2.45 AM and was on the road at around 3.30-ish AM. I wanted to park near the start/finish area and the early bird would catch the best parking spot. I knew they would be closing the roads in that area for the race and second I also expected them to block of access to some parking areas for runners because the Denver Zoo is right there as well and they had to keep parking open for Zoo visitors. Well, I got lucky and got in before that happened. In the end that meant walking of 5 minutes or less to and from the race. Score!!!
It got crazy busy soon and lots of cars tried to enter the now blocked of parking lot. The poor guy who was in charge of the access road got almost run over a few times by some really rude drivers. I felt sorry for him – he probably had one of the worst volunteer jobs that morning. I fixed myself a carb-heavy breakfast in the car (Einstein Bagels with lots of Nutella) and just rested and relaxed. I went to the porta-potties twice in preparation for the race and came back to my car for more food and rest. It was chilly outside even though the temperatures were in the low 50s, but a higher level of humidity does not work in your favor and so it felt cold enough that I decided to wear my fancy throw-away sweater while waiting for the start in the start corral. I left the car with about 30 minutes left before the start, used the porta-potties one more time and then headed over to corral D as that was assigned to me.
Quite a few people were waiting there already and I could tell I was not the only one wearing some cheap throw-away clothes. I chatted with another runner for a little bit, but then we both were concentrating on warming up and doing some stretching as well (and of course moving around to stay warm). The corrals started to fill up with runners and then the race organizers came on to make the usual pre-race announcements. Jake Schroeder (Opie gone Bad) sang the National Anthem (he seems to do this for many sports events in the area actually as I saw him do it at one of the Mammoth’s Lacrosse games last year) and it was just moments before the race would start. It was a wave start with 90 second intervals between each corral and soon enough it was time for corral D. The start was quick and for whatever reason most of the runners in that corral went out with a crazy pace of under 8 minutes per mile. The corrals were assigned based on expected finish time and that pace was simply too fast in my opinion. Once I realized the fast speed I purposely slowed down towards my target pace. Side note: I passed quite a few of those fast starters later on in the race.
Within just a few minutes we were out and about hitting the streets of Denver. The race felt well organized and it was really a good run. I enjoyed it a lot today. Once we hit Colfax Avenue we went towards the State Capitol and then City Hall. From there we were running towards the West and the course even lead through the Denver Fire Station #1 which was pretty cool to run through. The Denver Fire Fighters were waiting for the runners and it was a really cool part of the race. From there the run continued going west-bound. I talked to another runner for a while. She was running the same pace I did and her goal (3 Hrs. 55 mts.) pretty much matched up with mine and so we stayed together up until we reached Sports Authority Field at Mile High – Home of the Denver Broncos. She had to refill her bottles for her hydration belt and so we went separate paths. Later on she finally passed me again about half a mile before the finish line.
Running through the football stadium was cool. We went through the same tunnels that the players would take to enter field during a game. From there we continued to head west on Colfax Avenue. It started going uphill for quite a while until the course made a right turn towards Sloan Lake. Sloan Lake has a nice trail leading around it and it was very flat which made for really nice running. Lots of people were out cheering on runners. Once I was around the lake the course went back towards Colfax Avenue. On the side road leading towards Colfax I passed a blind runner with his guide. I think it was impressive and let them know about it by cheering them on. The next few miles were a long uphill battle, but I was able to maintain my pace. This part of the race did not seem to end and I was afraid I would be paying a price for it. The course lead away from Colfax into a residential neighborhood in Lakewood with really nice houses and lots of people were out supporting us runners. Finally we were done running uphill and we came back onto Colfax Avenue. We ran down the entire Colfax Avenue now towards the Sports Authority Field at Mile High. From there we followed some parts of the course we had already taken earlier that day, but then it changed up and we ran through Downtown Denver. At mile #24 a brutal hill forced many runners to walk, but I was able to run up that hill without stopping. As a matter of fact, I did run the entire race and only walked through some of the water aid stations to make sure that I would get enough liquids.
As mentioned I made it up that brutal hill at mile #24 and from there it was mainly flat. We were directed through some of Denver’s residential neighborhoods in the City park area and a few people were out there cheering and holding up funny signs. It felt like the last 2 miles would never end. I made the mistake looking at my GPS watch way too often, but I could not help it. My goal was to run this marathon in under 4 hours and I was right on track to do it. I even got a bit emotional at one moment thinking about it, but then distracted myself quickly (sissy moment). I was very thirsty and was glad that I was carrying two bottles with Gatorade in my hydration belt to substitute the aid stations and still had some left to drink.
Finally we made it back into the City Park area. Now more and more people had lined up along the race course and cheered us on. It helped a lot – I can tell that for sure. The last half mile was really awesome because so many people were there – mainly waiting for their loved ones finishing the race, but it created a great atmosphere for everyone. I dug deep and found some fuel to be left in the tank and accelerated even though my legs felt heavy, but it was a great feeling to pass some runners on the home stretch. I saw many walkers (The Living Dead) on the last few miles – some were from the marathon relay, some were from the Urban 10 Miler (you could tell based on the color of the Bibs), and of course a few marathoners as well. As mentioned before, during the last few miles I passed several people that were with me in the same start corral, but apparently did go out too fast and then crashed and burnt. This is an important reminder for me – it is easy to get carried away with the excitement of the start and if you do not pay close attention to your pace you will pay the price for it.
I crossed the finish line in 3:57:06 and a Denver firefighter handed me my medal (that was a pretty cool moment) and I had the feeling I walked a like a zombie at first once I had crossed the finish line. I grabbed two bottles of ice-cold water and downed the first one within moments. They also handed out chocolate milk style protein shakes and (greedy me) I grabbed 3 bottles. I can never eat much the minutes after a long run, so I skipped the dry bagels and the bananas, but drank 2 protein shakes, had some coffee, and of course drank a lot of water. I left the finish area and found a spot on the grass to sit down and relax a little bit. There were several vendors advertising and selling their products and of course food, but all I was interested in was to sit down and to recover. Doing so felt really good and life was slowly coming back to me. I worked my way back to my car and then drove home.
Overall I found the race to be well organized. The finish area was very congested (make it wider please) and so were some areas during the run because of too many runners in one spot. Parts of the course were so crowded because of marathon relay and Urban 10 miler runners joining in on the same course for the rest of their race. I had to slow down a few times on the way back – especially around the Sports Authority Field at Mile High and on the following 2 miles along the South Platte River because of (runner) congestion. But other than that it was a well-organized race and I really enjoyed it.
No Blisters, No Chaffing
I ran this race in a pair of Nike Air Pegasus+ 30 shoes. Overall the shoes performed well and did not experience any blisters or other types of issues. I also used BodyGlide on my thighs to avoid chaffing and it worked really well. Last week I had tried Blue Steel Anti-Chaffe, but had some minor issues and so I took the risk to try BodyGlide for the very first time after reading up on it. I was happy I did because with the warm weather I was sweating a lot and the friction on the skin could have been a major issue.
My Fueling Strategy for the Marathon
Fueling for this marathon started Friday before the race. I increased the amount of carbs already on that day, but the main carbo-loading started Saturday. I started the day with some breakfast bread and then I went to Einstein’s Bagels and got myself a baker’s dozen of Honey Whole Wheat Bagels. According to their website each of these puppies is loaded with ~49 grams of carbs. My goal for that day was to eat a minimum of 600 grams of carbs. I also switched from drinking water to drinking Gatorade for the day. Each bottle came with 29 grams of carbs. In the early afternoon I also ate a large bowl of Coach’s Oats with raisins mixed with Flax Milk. This meal contained good carbs as well as protein. I probably ate about 6 bagels with cream cheese on Saturday.
For Sunday morning I cut 4 bagels into smaller pieces and put them into a Ziploc bag. I also packed a large glass of Nutella and a knife. Once I had found my parking spot near the start I had breakfast – bagels with lots of Nutella. This combination has worked well for me before my training long runs and accordingly I was hoping for the same good results. Since I got there so early I had time to eat ~3 bagels loaded with Nutella over the course of 90 minutes. I felt stuffed, but this type of food is carb heavy and least for me it seems to work great as a pre-race food.
For the race I had 5 packages of Gatorade Chews prepared. I always take them out of the factory packaging because it is hard to open while running. I put them into small Ziploc snack bags because they are easy to open while running. I usually one every 4-6 miles depending on how I feel and I actually used them all during the race. I probably did not get enough Gatorade (fluids) during the race (due to the heat I used a bit more water) and so the 5th Gatorade Chew package was needed during the race. I totally ignored the Cliff Shots that the race organizer was offering during the race. I do not know if it is just me, but I do find them complicated to eat – at least in a way to get the complete contents of a gel package and in addition my stomach does not handle them as well as the Gatorade Chews.
As mentioned I also carried my hydration belt with two 8 oz. bottles of Gatorade to substitute the water aid stations. They really came in handy on the last few miles when the temperatures got really up there.
Now it is time to recover and then to get ready for the next marathon on May 26.