Sunday, May 17, 2015
28th State Completed
Runners: 1,419 (805 men, 614 women)
Start Time: 6:00 a.m. MT
Course: Urban tour of downtown Denver with an
elevation of 5,280' and a 350' climb from
miles 5-15, mostly rolling hills with flat stretches
Weather: 46 degrees and sunny at start, 65 at finish
SWAG: Short-sleeve moisture wicking shirt and free
downloadable race photos
Race Organization: Good pre-race and at Expo,
some issues during race, and poor post-race
Crowd Support: Non-existent until the end of the race
Volunteer Support: Outstanding support from local
fire and police officers, good - but very limited other
volunteers, especially at water-stops
Food: Bananas, bagels, BBQ
Finish Time: 3:54:09 (5th slowest ever)
Average Pace: 8:55
Place: 336/1,419 Overall, 67/213 40-49 Age Group
If I only had one word to summarize our trip to Denver, Colorado to run the 2015 Colfax Marathon, it would probably be ... DICHOTOMY. I found it to be true, not only of the beautiful "mile-high" city, but also the 10th annual marathon and race weekend. From the social conditions that seemed in direct contrast each other, to portions of the race weekend that were flawlessly organized, while others were poorly handled, to even my personal race result which was on the opposite end of the spectrum to where I usually finish, there were just a number of things that seemed to be polar opposites. But even with the contradictions, we still had a great time a nice event.
|Beautiful view of the snow-covered Rocky Mountains in mid-May as we approached Denver|
|Colfax Avenue in the heart of Denver, Colorado|
|Michael and I enjoyed Bastien's Steakhouse and Marco's Coal-Fired Pizza in the LoDo and Colfax areas|
|Colorado State Capital Building on Colfax Avenue|
But it was in this financially booming and bustling area that we first noticed the most obvious socially confusing, economically polar, and frankly heartbreaking trait of Denver ... it's overwhelming and growing homeless population. There were literally homeless and transient people wandering around everywhere. I travel for a living and have been all over the country, and I've never seen anything like it. Based on news and published reports, the problem is apparently very concerning to city officials, but there doesn't seem to be a consensus on the reason why it's happening. However, the most popular public opinion is that homeless folks are flocking to Denver because of it's lax laws on marijuana use. The juxtaposition of so many downtrodden people against the backdrop of neighborhoods representing wealth and privilege was almost a little surreal. While we were out and about in the area, I wouldn't say that we ever felt "unsafe", so I certainly don't mean to discourage visiting the area, but it was definitely one of the most lasting impressions left on both of us from the trip.
|B-52 Strategic Air Command bomber at the entrance of Wings Over the Rockies Air & Space Museum|
|2015 Denver Colfax Marathon Race Shirt|
The Race Expo was held the day before the race at Wings Over The Rockies Air & Space Museum. And quite simply ... it was AWESOME! It was one of the most unique Race Expos I've ever attended. Michael and I spent quite a bit of time checking out all of the displays housed in the giant 40,000 sq. ft. Hangar #1 built in 1939 on the former grounds of Lowry Air Force Base. Parking was a little congested at the event, but with almost 10,000 runners for the 10 miler, half and full marathons, it was to be expected. There seemed to plenty of friendly volunteers waiting to point the way and assist with information, however this wasn't the case all race weekend. The Expo was an unexpected opportunity to see many of the military aircraft used over the years up close. The largest and most impressive aircraft was the B-52 Strategic Air Command Bomber sitting right outside the front door of the museum. There were several smaller fighter jets on display inside the hangar dating from early century fighters to current day jets. But by far our favorite was a scaled version of a Star Wars X-Wing Fighter with R2D2 in the cockpit. And even though there were no signs of Luke Skywalker, Hans Solo, or Chewbacca, we had a great time at the event.
|Michael and me at the Denver Colfax Marathon Expo - one of the coolest packet pickups I've ever attended|
If you've read my blog for a while, or know me in "real-life", you'd probably figure that finishing the Colfax Marathon with my fifth slowest time ever of 3:54:09 was really disappointing or upsetting ... but surprisingly, you couldn't be more wrong! After dealing with a mild left hip injury all Spring, I wasn't anywhere near peak marathon shape and I knew a marathon literally a mile above sea level would most likely be a struggle. So leaving Denver healthy and with a finisher medal from my 31st marathon were the only two objectives. And fortunately, it was mission accomplished for both.
|Denver City Park (photo from race website)|
|Thatcher Memorial Fountain in Denver City Park|
Runners were lined up in alphabetical corrals by projected finish time. When I signed up for the race back in January, I figured my finish time to be around 3:15, which put me in Corral A. So on Sunday, I just tried to stay out of the way as the faster runners whooshed by me and my slower than usual plan of attack at the outset of the race. The first mile was spent exiting the green-grassed park adjacent to the lake, and circling two of the beautiful statue monuments, before heading West on Colfax Avenue, where much of the race would be spent.
A few miles into the race, I fully expected the "mile high" altitude to be sucking the wind out of me. But I can honestly say it was never an issue on Sunday. I just tried to keep my pace at a nice comfortable 8:00/mile, and enjoyed the sights and sounds of the Denver metro. And around Mile 4, those surrounding became really cool as we got to run through the open doors of a Denver Fire Station. There were several firefighters standing there cheering and supporting us, and I thought it was an awesome added feature. Shortly after leaving the fire station, we ran under a huge American flag that was pulled tight by two fire truck ladders, and waiving in the light Sunday morning 50 degree sunshiny breeze. The conditions were literally perfect.
|Colorfully decorated manikin at the |
Rocky Mountain College of Art and Design
Just past the park as we were making our way out of downtown Denver, Sport Authority Field At Mile High came into view. It's better know as the home of the NFL's Denver Broncos, and on the marathon course, we passed through the stadium and actually ran on the field ... twice ... on the way out and on the way back. And even though I'm a lifelong Kansas City Chiefs fan, I have to admit, I was looking forward to running through the stadium. I'd ran through Kauffman Stadium several times at the end of the Kansas City Royals 5K, but I'd never been on the field of an NFL stadium. Just like at Kauffman, we entered through a tunnel at the end of the stadium. Once we were inside the stadium, we basically ran from end zone to end zone. The Bronco's groundskeepers had the field roped off to keep us off of the grass, so we basically ran around the perimeter of the field. But I couldn't help but notice how perfect and green every blade had been manicured. I slowed my pace a little the first time through the stadium, and stopped to walk the second time through so I could fully enjoy the unique experience. Being on the floor of an actual NFL stadium was one of the really cool things about the race.
|The marathon course takes runners through Sports Authority Field at Mile High, twice|
|Running through the stadium|
Ten of the next eleven miles were spent going still further West on Colfax past typical rural businesses and apartment complexes, turning around in a neighborhood near Morse Park, and then retracing our steps back to downtown on a nice gradual decline East on Colfax. It was still early on Sunday morning, but to this point, there were still very few folks out watching the race. About the only crowds that gathered were at the end of the race, and at the post-race party. However, just before Morse Park, we ran through Rocky Mountain College of Art & Design where several colorfully decorated male and female manikins lined the parking lot to greet us. But despite the nonexistent supporters, the course was lined with law enforcement officers. There seemed to be three or four officers at almost every intersection. In fact, it seemed they outnumbered the volunteers at this event. The volunteers in attendance were helpful and did a great job, but there just didn't seem to be enough of them, especially at the conclusion of the race. At some of the water stops in particular, they seemed to be a little disorganized and scrambling because they were undermanned. Michael told me that at one of the water stops in her race, there was one person trying to get water to everyone. And at another, they ran out of cups and were pouring water into the hands of runners. For a race that was celebrating it's tenth year and has rave reviews on Runner's World and other websites, it seemed a little below average.
|Local firefighters handing out medals|
at the finish line, really cool
I went into this race fully aware that I would most likely have to walk/run the last few miles. Although I'd ran a good half-marathon a couple of weeks before, my legs weren't conditioned for the full marathon distance. So after the second trip through Sports Authority Field, I pretty much shut it down. It wasn't completely by choice mind you - for about three of those last miles I really fought stomach issue. But if I would have been a little more focused and committed to running the whole thing, I might have been able to push through. But I had about five miles left in the race, and a nine hour car-ride back home immediately after crossing the finish line, and I really didn't want to be sick, sore, or even worse, injured on the trip home, so I began a combination of walking and running. Up until about Mile 21, my average pace was a respectable 7:55/mile. But for the last five miles, it dropped off to about 12:30/mile. Quite a difference. I finished the race just under four hours ... a pretty significant contrast to the times I'd been running lately. But it was just one more thing over the course of the weekend that just didn't seem to match.
Most of the race organization had been pretty good, with a slight hiccup here or there, up until this point. But unfortunately, I would give some of the post-race organization a "fail". The best part about the post-race was the firefighters who handed out medals. That was really cool. But the bag drop area seemed really far away from the finish area. Plus, when I got to the bag drop pickup, there was a line of about 100 people, with only two or three volunteers doing the best they could to retrieve the bags as quickly as possible. I stood in line for about 10-15 minutes after the race waiting for my bag, which, on tired marathon legs is a long time. There was the exact same experience at the results tent. I waited about 15-20 minutes in the results line before I just gave up. There were more tents than I'd ever seen at a post-race party and literally people everywhere. Plus, I wasn't getting a signal on my cell phone, so it made finding Michael a little more difficult. At any other time, these things probably wouldn't have been a big deal, but standing around and dealing with the clusters of unorganized people on exhausted legs kind of left a bad lasting impression to an otherwise good race weekend.
After I found Michael we hurried to the car, got back to the hotel and showered and packed, ate lunch, and then I headed back to KC. She stayed in town for a couple of more days visiting a friend. The nine hour drive back to Missouri wasn't as bad as I thought it would be because I'd ran at a comfortable pace. Plus with the much slower pace int he final miles, I didn't feel too bad at all.
|Tons of people gathering at the post-race party|
|9 hour drive back home across Kansas immediately after the race|
... Be Great Today