Sunday, March 31, 2013

That Dam Run- Mile High Running

It's been a long time since I've posted.  I've been battling plantar fasciitis for months and I feel like every time I start posting consistently, something happens and I'm back on the injured reserve list.  I've focused on building mileage slowly and not stressing much when I miss runs.  This year I've run one race and felt it was worthy of a better-late-than-never race report.  My husband and I planned a trip to Denver for the first weekend of March; it was a good excuse to get away, see my brother, and celebrate my hubby's birthday.  I looked online and saw that a half marathon, That Dam Run, was taking place on Sunday morning less than 10 miles from my brother's house; the week was designed as a cutback mileage week and I could not resist doing a race that had a 10am start. :)

I was curious how the altitude would affect me; last time I was in Denver, I did not run much due to PF and I only noticed the altitude when I was running uphill. The race was a small race and no elevation profile was available online; after I signed up, I found a race report and saw the elevation graph showing that the second half (out-back course) was uphill.  Yikes!  We arrived on Friday and, while my husband felt the altitude, I only noticed it when climbing up steps.  I woke up Saturday morning and went out for a run; I had packed an old pair of running shoes and, due to snow being on the dirt trail, I had to stick to the concrete path.  I threw in a couple of climbs and that's the only times I felt the altitude.  It was actually easier for me to breathe at a mile high...I'm guessing that is because the air in Orange County is so polluted that my respiratory system is overworked on my normal runs.

That evening I noticed that I had shin splints...uh oh.  The next morning my shins were hurting more and I wished that a store was open early enough for me to buy new running shoes before the race but that was not the case.  I arrived at the race and loved being able to walk about 2 minutes to pick up my bib and goodie bag.  I was impressed with the shirt and goodie bag considering the race was only $50.  I hungout in the car with my brother and hubby until about 30 minutes before the race; it was then I walked over to hit the porta potties.  Oh my..that was a nightmare!  The race organizers had about 8 porta potties for over a thousand people (half marathon and shorter distance).  I was in line about 25 minutes and then ran over to get near the middle of the group lined up for the race start.

The course was an out-back with about 2 miles on Dam Road and then we turned and went down into the Cherry Creek park; as we ran along the road, I wished we were running on the trails that we down below in the Cherry Creek park.  The course became scenic as we crossed over the creek and I probably made people laugh as I gasped at the beauty.  I absolutely loved the scenery, though the concrete bike path beat up my legs.  What concerned me was seeing the signs indicating "steep grade" since I knew I would be running up that steep grade in the latter miles; there were numerous little rolling hills and I know those take their toll.  I realized I had to save some oxygen and energy for the second half, so I tucked in with a couple of people and let them be my unofficial pacers; we talked and they were impressed that I was running so well at altitude.  I was happy that I did not feel the altitude much but I knew the second half would be tough.  After the turnaround, my "pacers" slowed up and I stayed behind them for a couple of minutes and then decided to go for it.

I started feeling a little tired around mile 9 (mile markers were for miles 7-9 so I was happy I wore my Garmin) after having tackled part several rolling hills and the initial part of the long 300 foot climb.  I decided to keep pushing since my shins were hating the concrete and I was hungry  I started passing people on the next couple miles of uphill climbing and really felt the effects of altitude as I pushed uphill.  When I ran up onto Dam Road at mile 11, it was like torture as it was a two mile straight shot to the finish.  I tried to focus on the scenery and the beauty of the mountains on the horizon and park below but that was not enough; my left knee (one with cyst) began acting up and I was forced to slow down.  I began playing the game of breaking up the course into markers (the next sign, the next sign, etc) and realized I hated being able to see the finish line so far out!

I crossed the finish line with nothing left- finishing time of 1:51 (154th place out of 587 overall) was better than I expected considering the altitude and uphill second half.  I saw Alan and Tim and told them to just walk with me to the car since I was so out of breath.  It was a fun, low-key race and one of the most scenic road half marathons imaginable.  I highly recommend it, though the porta potty issue at the start needs to be resolved by the race organizers.  I love Denver and hope to do more runs there in the future!