Tuesday, September 3, 2013

ADT Marathon Recap, Reflections & What's Ahead...

Well, my goal of 3:45 came and went at Mile 17.5 under the bridge of Woodmen Road when the 3:45 pacer passed me as a cramp in my right calf completely stopped me in my tracks for about a minute and a half.  My finishing time was 3:55:42.  This is a full 8:34 slower than my first marathon at Myrtle Beach or roughly what I am supposed to run every mile at to achieve a 3:45 marathon.  I would like to say I am upset, but instead I went from down and dejected at Mile 18 and through about 23 miles when every mile crawled by to feeling pretty great about myself and the whole experience by the time I finished.  I cramped off and on from Mile 17.5 until about Mile 24.7 where the Jack Quinn's Running Club awaited at the final aid station.  I had my final wind kick up there and my calves completely relax finally.  But let's start the night before...

After a long day, the wife, Andi, and I arrived down in Monument in the dark after an exciting Colorado Buffaloes victory.  The Maps on the iPhone tried to get us completely lost but we managed to get to the Inn at Palmer Divide with a little help from my Aunt D and Uncle Tim.  (Note: This place could be a $200/night place with some remodeling to the bathrooms and updating the bedrooms, but like my Aunt said it had a nice resort feel to it with a small family ran feel to it.  It is only a $100/night and I wish we had a day or two more to enjoy the Springs area and stay there.  Well worth the money!!!)  Sophie was waiting in her PJs in the room with the Harrington Harriers in bed with "her" cousins Katee & Emily, which are actually my cousins but they are closer to Sophie's age than they are mine so I understand but I digress (as usual).  We quickly said good night and headed downstairs to get a quick bite and to get Sophie to bed.  I prepped for the race while Andi got to bed as well.  After about 45 minutes I was ready for the next morning which was now less than a 5 hour alarm away.  It didn't matter, I slept poorly and had to get up to go pee a couple times.  When the alarm went off at 3:50 a.m., I laid in bed for another 10-15 minutes and just relaxed.  I finally said no more delaying this and got up.  I ate rice cooked the day before in the bathroom on the floor so as not to wake the family.  Finally around 5:00 I couldn't wait any longer and I ventured out of the room to just relax a little.  Around 5:15 I headed back in the room to grab some more fluids and saw a nervous and excited runner.

Him and I headed up to the lobby and talked while he debated heading to the start at 5:15.  The young man's name was Stephen.  He was a recent college grad that was shooting for a 2:55 to ensure he gets in to Boston by being 10 minutes under his qualifying time.  I wish I had another hour to talk with Stephen.  He seemed like a real down to earth great person with a positive outlook on life.  He couldn't wait any longer and at 5:40 rushed to ensure his spot up front with the elite runners.  I later found out Stephen finished at 2:59:35.  I am hopeful he is able to get in when the qualifying time is opened to all runners that have qualified rather than just the 20 minutes and 10 minutes faster groups.

Around this time I headed up to see if my Aunt D or anyone was up from the Harrington group.  My Aunt D was sitting at the little lobby area near their room and I hung out with her the next 15 minutes talking about Sophie and her night.  Around 6 she decided to check on my Uncle and I hurried downstairs to do my last preparations and we were out of the hotel by 6:15.  A quick 3 minute drive got my Aunt Dee and I to the start and I did my traditional pee next to a bush to make sure I was good.  I felt much better physically than I did in my horrific Dog Days Half and felt like I had prepared my fueling much better and given myself plenty of times to relieve myself of the issues I had in July.  I stood at the start with my Aunt D and honestly felt like I was just going for a run.  Unlike the Myrtle Beach Marathon, I didn't feel nervous or focused on anything in particular, I was just going for your every day 26.2 mile run.

Before I get into my run and other things, I first have to give my thoughts on the marathon course, the people who put on this race and whatever else there is to add to it.  First, the course is absolutely gorgeous for a marathon.  The views of the Air Force Academy, the feel of being in the mountains though you really are only in what is the foothills of the Springs area are amazing.  It is a race that should only continue to gain popularity.  I wasn't fortunate enough to go to registration but I hear it was quick and easy and didn't require much hassle.  The aid stations have plenty of cups of Gatorade and Water stacked so even if you only manage to get one from a volunteer, grabbing a second one as I often did is of great help.  There was plenty of places they offered gel packs throughout and there was plenty of aid stations placed in perfect locations throughout.  The trail is well maintained even with heavy rainstorms in the area for much of the past month.  Mainly, again, the views of this course area amazing and the fact it is downhill but not leg destroying downhill is a reason I will run this race again!

And suddenly my run and the Harriers ran began with my Aunt and I wishing each other a good run (this without hearing the fact we had even started because of all the excitement and nerves from the group) and with the first mile of the ADT was a warm-up for anyone slower than the Top 20 runners because the trail around Palmer (Dry) Lake is far too narrow for nearly anything but to just go with whatever the group ahead of you is doing.  The 3:45 pacer was within eyesight and that was good enough for me.  No reason to run too hard the first mile even if it's a little slow.  When we started heading downhill and down the American Discovery Trail it started opening up a little and you had more than your shoulder width to run.  I ran it slow and so did the 3:45 pacer I noticed for the next couple miles. At around Mile 2.75 the sun shown over a ridge and hit me hard and I felt the warmth of my father-in-law rush through me and smiled brightly and knew it was a great day to go for a run with the weather, the pure beauty of that trail and I felt amazing.  Finally at Mile 3.75 I crushed the first little uphill of the course and was almost on the heels of the pacer.  After about a mile of just hanging with the 3:45 group, I kept my pace going and couldn't hear him chit chatting with the group once I got to about Mile 6.  Around Mile 6.5 I saw Andi, Sophie, Tim, Emily and Katee turning around to cheer me on before the checkpoint.  It was good to see them and I felt really good.  I kept churning when I knew I'd see them again at the relay transition point at 7.8 miles.  I gave Sophie a kiss and Andi a high-5 and felt amazing.  I knew I was on a good pace.  At 8.5 Miles you hit your first real hard hill up and I killed that hill while other marathoners walked it and looked a little dejected.  At Mile 9.5 a gentleman pulled up alongside of me and we ran along side one another for about a mile.  I asked him the time when we hit the 10 mile marker and we were at 1:25 which was right on pace.  He was a nice guy and we had light conversation about how beautiful certain aspects of the course were and before I know it some skinny tall bastard wearing orange is in my peripheral vision and I knew it had to be Tim Harrington!  I knew my Aunt had crushed it and they were far ahead of their pace and should easily beat 3:45.  Tim and I ran together for about a mile and a half. I felt great and he gave me some pointers. 

We saw a view similar to this but a little bit zoomed out.  This part of the trail has amazing ridges with drop offs of a hundred or more feet but is amazing.  At Mile 12 Tim bid me adieu and took off while I kept plodding along.  There was a lot of downhill and some uphill at this point where you went through the wooded areas.  I felt good when I exited the heavy treed around Mile 15.25 just before Ice Lake which looked like this.
At Mile 15.5 (didn't see no lake) I saw port-a-potties and felt like there was no better time than then to take a quick pee break.  I exited and saw the 3:45 pacer and went well he obviously picked up the pace!  I knew I had as well.  I took off and right at Mile 16 saw two young bucks right off the trailhead while I was all by myself.  It was an amazing site as they both looked into my eyes.  I felt great and then things started turning a little sour within minutes, I felt my leg twinge a little and a loss of energy.  It was very sudden.  That mile to where I'd see the family around relay transition point 2 just past the 17.1 mile mark was brutal but I kept going strong passing people on the uphill even feeling a little concerned with my pace and like I was slowing.  When I saw the family I tried to put on a strong face, but I knew cramps had kicked in.  I had just finished a gel and was just wanting to take leg cramp pills to keep myself from doing so if possible.  I think I rushed it and washed them down rather than taking them how I should have but still it was too late.  As soon as I got to the bottom of the hill and out of their site and under the bridge to Woodmen Road, my calf completely seized and would not let go (and where we started this blog post).  I just rubbed it and did what I could but it took a little to finally relax.  I walked it off about 15 seconds once I got comfy and started a slight jog.  The run until cramp began.  Right around Mile 18, I was on a pedestrian bridge that almost made me feel like I was going to pass out.  I thought I was starting to lose it but realized it was a very bouncy bridge and I hadn't lost my mind and I was fine.  This was a war on the mind for the next 4 miles.  All I could tell myself is get to your family at Goose Gossage Park at 22 miles and the last transition point to the relay.  That 4 miles seemed like a death march.  I would walk/run all the way there.  My family knew at this time I was not doing well.  They had their phones out to take pictures and I gave a 2 thumbs down but decided to give a good one as well.  It was good to see them but I was negative at this point.  I think I said I'm cramping like a bitch and just shaking my head.  My Aunt D really tried to pick me up and Andi, Sophie and Emily tried to as well.  I spent the next mile wondering how long I would take and if I got to Mile 23 I would be lucky.  Suddenly my attitude changed on an unexpected uphill I walked with a guy wearing a BEEF A great source of protein shirt (after reading Scott Jurek's book Eat and Run I was mocking this shirt because from my past year and a half I have found Beef to be an only if there is no other option meal) I had seen early on in the marathon and who had passed me off and on.  He was more concerned about his heart rate while I was just complaining about having cramps in my calves.  I suddenly got a new wind.  I was over next to Colorado College and while I couldn't see much of the college the run was more scenic and gorgeous and I knew I was doing better than most people out there.  At Mile 24, I walked up a little hill with a man from Orlando, FL.  He was humbled by the altitude and based off what other sea level people go through when they come here and I have read about, I felt for him.  He was struggling and just shooting to beat the 4-hour pacers.  I felt the same way and when I saw that last aid station and walked as I drank my last of fluid and electrolytes, my calves finally released. 

With right around a mile to go I saw my Uncle Tim had ran all the way back to check on how I was doing.  He had ran from Mile 7.8 to the finish with my cousins and had obviously hightailed uphill to check on me and "bring me home".  I think he was a little surprised to see me running as fast as I was.  I was back around marathon pace and suddenly my calves were completely fine.  I didn't think it would last so I went for broke until they would try to seize up again.  I have to tell you, I was probably showing off and ran about 30-45 seconds faster that last mile than I could have on my own.  I am grateful that he came back because it helped me catch 2 or 3 people within the last half a mile.  The temps were hot and this part is the ugliest part of the trail but it opens up to a beautiful view of America the Beautiful Park and this glorious structure with it's awesome water falling.  I wanted to be flying through the middle of that when I saw it.  I kicked it into a higher gear but the finish was far enough away I knew I might just stop and sit in the water but I kept going.

Then I got about 50 feet from the finish and saw my wife and daughter and cousins with my Aunt there and felt amazing.  I had kicked the last 1.5 miles ass and was finishing strong how I envisioned finishing a marathon.  The previous 7 miles of pain and doing between 9:30 and 10:30 miles didn't matter, just that I was tearing it up.  The best part was my wife and family had read my mind without me saying it and had Sophie ready to finish with me.  I grabbed Sophie's hand and we crossed the finish line with the clock showing 3:56:03. 
As you can see Sophie has much better form than I do and has fortunately got the Kunkel genetics in fast twitch muscle fibers.  The people at the finish were yelling to be careful.  What they didn't know is I would be lucky to keep up with this little speedster (fastest in her class by far)!!!

My eyes are closed because I almost lost it and began crying.  The emotion of having your family with you is something that I didn't realize how amazing it was until I crossed that finish line.  I didn't care I was over 10 minutes over my goal.  I cared that my wife and daughter were there to be a part of it, that I had beat 4 hours and the Harrington Harriers who have been some of my biggest supporters were there with my immediate family supporting me during the run.  It was a great experience.

I had a great experience in my first marathon finishing the LIFE challenge my Uncle and brother let me join in on and having my mom and brother's family there to support me.  But I was so close to my goal time, had never ran a marathon and it was more about the goal, the goal, the goal.  After that marathon, I ran this one as a long, tough run with great support along the way.  I had a goal, I still want that goal, but finishing and doing something you love and having your family be a part of something that is a challenge and great accomplishment just completing is a far more important than what the clock says and it made my day!

My day was made better when I was able to enjoy Taco Bell again for the first time in weeks and to get an email from my mom that had her time and distance for the Selena Half Marathon (I made that name up) that she had done the same day.  I am so proud of my mom.  She has went from being completely inactive and making work a priority over herself for far too long.  She has kicked butt fully committing herself to take care of her body and has lost around 20 lbs and can now go 13.1 miles.  She never thought it would be possible but I knew she could and am so glad she has changed her life.

So what's next?  I don't know.  I want to run a 3:45 full marathon and 1:50 half marathon before I turn 33 in June.  I would like to finally re-test for my Professional Engineers License in April.  Mainly, I'd like to help my wife get in better shape and happy with herself a little more.  She is a gorgeous woman to me that I love no matter what but I know she would be happier to be in better shape.  My goal is to be supportive in that role as a husband and as a coach to her.  What else is next?  Who knows but to have people like my wife, daughter, mom, brother & his family, Uncle & Aunt, my in-laws is what is most important for whatever does lie ahead down the road.  Either way, I know part of my life will always  be running because running is part of a tool to help you change your life like it has mine.  No matter how much you think you may hate it, starting slow and building up slowly you will see how much it can improve your life and help change you for the better.  Taking 30 minutes to 4 hours to go for a run your mind is allowed to open a lot and your happy endorphins will make you realize while it's not easy, it's rewarding for your MEPS (Touched more in on this post about improving yourself Mentally, Emotionally, Physically & Spiritually) .  Now if I can work on eliminating cussing and saying yes more to my wife instead of being the hard nosed person that has to argue the fact I am right all the time, even though we know the wife is always right. :)  Have a great day and enjoy your run!