Colorado | Getting baked (in the sun)

Coming off of a fun race in Montana, I felt like I was in a really good place with how my training had been going. I knew I could have probably tackled that race a little better (still figuring out stomach fun) but all things considered, I was pleased with the race. The next races on the calendar weren’t until September so I had some time to get more miles in and focus on what was next.

Around that time my birthday was coming up and I was throwing around ideas of what I wanted to do for it running wise. Previously I had been running my age in miles from 30-33. Last year, for my 34th birthday, I was not allowed to run per doctor’s orders, so I decided I would bike instead. It was not as satisfying but at least I had gotten the mileage in. Now being in Minnesota I wasn’t really feeling doing 35 miles straight as I just haven’t met folks that would be stupid enough to do it with me like I had in Columbus. So instead I came up with a dumber idea, that I somehow convinced myself would be better. I was going to run the day of the month up until my birthday. One mile on the 1st, two miles on the second and so on. This would equate to 105 miles in 14 days, with the last 7 days holding 77 of those miles. 

The start of it went as expected with the short miles making for easy days but then as I hit double digits the wear started to get to me. I felt fine until day 11. That run was just tough. Things were sore and my head wasn’t in the right space. But then day 12 came and I felt fantastic. I ran a 9:57 average pace on day 11 and a 9:14 on day 12. Things were looking great with just two days left. Then I woke up on day 13 and my left foot just didn’t feel right. I have a genetic bone deformity called haglund’s deformity which is basically a bump on the back of my heels. This comes about with overtraining and lack of stretching. I had been stretching but obviously jumped up miles pretty quickly. So on day 13 my heel was killing me and underfoot was sending shrills up my left leg. I barely made it .5 miles before I realized this may not happen. By one mile, I stopped my watch and turned back around to head home. Just like that, the birthday run goal ended.

Now I’m sure you are thinking, “I came here to learn about your race, not a birthday run” and you would be right in saying this. However, because of this set back I actually had to take a lot of time off of running to get my heel to calm back down. I would try to get a few days in and then feel like I was back on my ass not able to hit the road. I ran less than 50 miles in August. This lack of time on the road started to make me doubt the sanity in the back to back races coming up in September. I tried to use the “rest” to refocus my mind and just say that I had been rested coming into races but I knew it would be a challenge.

As per usual, Kaela found my next races from a typical search on Running in the USA. Taking a look at our calendar, we had found the back to back races in Colorado and Wyoming would work in our schedule. I had a credit from the race in Colorado that was canceled due to the wildfires in 2020, but since these races were close, just a 90 minute drive between, it made a lot more sense to go this route and knock them out together. The All-out Fall fest seemed like a nice “small town” race vibe with multiple distances to bring out lots of different kinds of people and being a “simple” course on local bike/walking trails, I thought why not.

Race: All-out Fall Fest
Location: Westminster, CO
Date: September 16, 2022
Time: 5:23:14

We headed out the Thursday before race weekend heading to Colorado. It was just a 13 hour drive which felt a lot nicer than the 21 hour drive we did to Boston a few weeks prior for Kenny Chesney at Gillette. The route we took went the “long way” through Minnesota heading from Minneapolis to the southwest corner of the state. It was an easy drive, but just not much to see with the occasional town in sight. We started to get hungry for breakfast and were looking for our go to Chick-Fil-A stop but there were none anywhere close. Taking a look at our maps it wouldn’t be until we made it to Sioux City, NE, so I just held myself off by grabbing a bagel from our snack bag. We made it through Iowa with the wonderful sight of just fields on both sides of the road. “Fields of Opportunities” as the state motto really fits.

We made it to the Chick-Fil-A and also used the stop to refuel. From there we were on a route of a ton of backroads within Nebraska. This route was just a little bit faster according to google, but it was about 80 miles shorter, so I thought it would be the best route. Next time I’m just going to take the interstate. With lots of left turns then right turns, it was hard to feel like we were making any progress, especially when every single road looked the exact same. After losing cell service a few times, having to slam on the brakes not to miss the side country road, and one quick side of the road stop for Bella to pee, we finally arrived at North Platte and Interstate 80! This exit had literally every food option you could imagine, which made it hard because of all the choices. We ended up agreeing on stopping at Qdoba as they are always coming through clutch with filling meals.

Back on the road we had just a few more hours to make it to Westminster, which was just north of downtown Denver. Timing wise things worked out nicely as we arrived towards the end of rush hour so traffic was pretty easy getting to our hotel. Our hotel was located on the path that I would be running for the race that joined in with a few other paths. Across the street there was an outdoor strip mall set up so after getting checked into the hotel we took a walk to stretch our legs, get some food and pick up my bib. We stopped at Target to grab some additional food for the room and then made our way to Road Runner Sports to pick up my bib. Walking into the store I saw where they had the bibs, gave them my name and then they were looking confused as they couldn’t find my name. 

“What race did you sign up for?”
“All out fall fest”
“Yeah, I’ve heard of that, but this isn’t that race”

I tried pulling up the race email to confirm the right location but was having just poor service. Kaela was able to get it pulled up only to find out that pick up was Thursday not Friday. So I was like “welp” and we left with no bib. We took a walk from the store to BJs brewhouse for a quick pizza. We were still pretty full from lunch but I knew I was going to need a little something more in order to not to wake up in the middle of the night hungry. Back at the hotel I scarfed down my pizza, cleaned up and laid down to get some rest.

The next morning, I got myself out of bed and out the door for a shakeout run. We didn’t set an alarm as we had no real morning plans, so it was nice to just naturally wake up and make it happen. The run felt really good. First bit of it I had some struggles getting a good deep breath, which was expected with the elevation difference, but other than that everything felt great. Back at the hotel I picked up some fruit for Kaela and I as a breakfast appetizer until I cleaned up and made it back down to grab something of more substance. We just laid in bed eating breakfast and then just watched some TV. I always joke with folks that the only time I ever remember watching the show ‘Friends’ is when I am in a hotel and that’s exactly what we were doing. It was just nice to just lay and do really nothing, it’s been a while since that has happened.

Around noon we made our way out of the hotel and to a local park. We wanted to set up our picnic blanket and just enjoy the beautiful weather and maybe even hang up the hammock if we could. We didn’t really pay that close attention to our blanket placement though because it apparently was over a ton of goose poop. We would roll over and feel the softness underneath us. I tried to stay as still as I could while I laid down but eventually I just felt like it was seeping through the blanket and getting all over me. Luckily by that time it was the ideal time to grab some lunch. We walked around the park as we waited for our pizza order from Proto’s Pizza.

We took the pizza to-go as we were heading to a local brewery and having an old friend from my Florida days join us. Kaitlyn had moved to Colorado a while back and the last time we were in the area in 2020, it was just a little too far away to connect, especially with the fires. So this time since we were a bit closer, her and one of her friends joined Kaela and I. We had a great little time at 4 Noses Brewery, catching up on life, current events and just overall crazy stuff. The pizza was fantastic and the beer was delicious. It was the vibe that I was hoping to have that afternoon. My stomach was acting a little funny but just thought some of the beer wasn’t sitting well.

We made it back to the hotel to just hang out and relax until it was dinner time. We placed an online order for me to pick up at Massino’s Pizzeria. This pizza place was a local joint and was located in a strip mall between a liquor store and a vape shop, so I knew it was legit. Kaela ordered eggplant parm and I went with the classic pre-race meal of spaghetti. The food was yummy but my stomach was just not playing nice with me still.

As I have talked about before, I always write Bible verses on my shoes as just a reminder of some truth that is resonating with me at that time. I always write Phil 4:13 on my right foot and then my left foot just varies. I was racing in some newer shoes that I had not yet written a verse on, so Kaela and I spent some time thinking about what would be a great reminder while I was racing. We landed on 1 Peter 2:21

For God called you to do good, even if it means suffering, just as Christ suffered for you. He is your example, and you must follow in his steps.

This definitely fit with the “suffering” in running, but just a great overall reminder to follow the example of Jesus and all that He has done for us, be that example for others.

After stretching, cleaning up and laying down in bed, my stomach was still all over the place. I tossed and turned and it felt like I was up every 30 minutes heading to the bathroom. Time after time, just checking the clock every time that I got up. At around midnight I decided to put my airpods in to play some white noise to try and get out of my own head. It seemed to work a little bit as I felt like I mostly got sleep until 4:30a when my alarm went off. However, I wasn’t in a good place. After cleaning up my face I sat down to eat my breakfast and just couldn’t get much down. Stomach was still a mess, I was exhausted from the lack of sleep. This was not an ideal situation but I tried to keep positive and just roll with it as I could.

Luckily we had a short walk to the start of the race. I was wearing a long sleeve to cover up as it was a bit breezy at the start and didn’t want to start too cold. We picked up my bib and noticed some folks spraying what looked to be bug spray. I didn’t even think about grabbing some of that so Kaela rushed back to the hotel as I slowly walked that way setting up my bib in my race belt to grab the bug spray from the car. After a health application of “the juice” we made the walk back to the start area. Kaela took my pre-race photo and then made her way to the course. They had to change the course a little bit because of construction so it started with a short out and back so I kept my long sleeve on knowing that I would be able to hand it off early on.

I made one more quick trip to the porta potty to empty the bladder, knowing that I had some issues with that in Helena I wanted to make sure not having to pee from the start. I said a quick prayer to focus and calm myself knowing that there were going to be a lot of steps in front of me but to just focus on one at a time. As they started the countdown to the start, I positioned myself towards the back of the pretty small pack running the marathon. Each distance had its own start time so I knew these people would be my people for the race.

3…2…1…Go!

Starting at the back seemed to be the smart move. As we left the parking lot where the starting coral was and headed to the bike path, the connection was a single wide sidewalk so we were basically walking 50 feet after the start. Once on the trail I was able to stretch it out a little bit to wake my legs up. Kaela was set up on the side cheering us on by and putting some energy in the runners that seemed still asleep. The route was similar to where I did my shakeout run so I was slightly familiar with the start of the route. It was a pretty wide paved path that helped provide enough room to not feel like I was running on someone else’s heels. At about 1.5 miles we made it to the first aid station and the turnaround. I grabbed some water as I wanted to make sure I stayed hydrated with the elevation. I thanked the lone volunteer that was there and said “see in a few hours” as we would be back there again just before mile 15.

The weather felt good with a slight breeze that helped it feel comfortable in the morning but not too cold. Making the turn, I took off my long sleeve and just carried it in my hands as my arms took on a little bit of the cold where I was previously covered. Before I knew it I was back near the start and noticed Kaela off in the distance, off the trail in the brush. “I thought this was a cool angle” she yelled as I laughed running towards her. She was right, it was a pretty cool angle.

I handed off my shirt to her and kept moving down the trail. From here we followed along the path continuing to head westbound. It was quiet and peaceful in the morning with very little traffic on the roads that we passed by and under while on the trail. Shortly after mile 4, we got off the paved trail and onto a packed dirt trail. This portion of the course was where we would head towards the dam wall of Standley Lake. The trail opened up a bit and what once was tree covered was now completely exposed. I could see the runners in the distance at different levels which made me realize there may be a little more elevation gain than anticipated. (Of course I didn’t check the elevation chart).

Right after the aid station at mile 5, we had a steep downhill followed up by a climb for almost a mile. The grade was just enough to slow down the pace but I was still feeling strong as I passed a few runners. Towards the top of the climb, we were at a turning point to make our way to the north end of the lake. At that point the leader of the marathon was already heading back toward the start, which put him about 3 miles ahead of me. 

I was having some issues getting a deep breath and combined with the slight grades on the course and my stomach pains, I was ready to get to the next aid station. I had kept to my nutrition plan with my gels that I was carrying to try and curb it the best I could and then using sports drink at the aid to help as well. On the north end of the lake we had some beautiful views of the Rocky Mountains. I walked through the aid station at mile 7.5 just to take it all in. We hit the turnaround and headed back down hill the way we just climbed to another little out and back section wrapping towards the south end of the lake. Again the views of the mountains helped keep my mind off of any issues that my body was facing.

After this second turnaround on the south end, I was finally at the spot where I saw the leader a few miles before, heading back to the starting area. From this spot we would be mostly going downhill for the next 10 miles which even though it wasn’t steep, I think helped in feeling like I was able to glide with each step.

Around mile 12 I was taking my gel while walking when I caught up to another runner.
“Wait, you’re running the marathon!? I’m doing the 10k and I’m exhausted!”
It gave me a good laugh and I wished him luck as I picked up the pace after consuming my gel.

My average pace at this point had slowed down to upper 10’s / low 11’s. I was walking through any aid station to get plenty of fluids and just being cautious of having another race the next day. It’s not where my original goal was but from the start it was clear that the stomach issues were going to cause some havoc during this race. I kept moving forward knowing there was a lot of race left and that I needed to power through.

I hit the halfway point just under 2:20 and Kaela was set up on the side to help hand off any gear I needed. I just wanted to apply more glide as the open dryness of the dam trails seemed to make my inner thighs a bit rough. She checked in with me to see how I was doing since I was a little slower than planned. I let her know that I was having trouble breathing but things were overall in a good state. This would not last though.

We doubled back the way that we started the race but the steps did not come as easy this time around. The little bumps in the path seemed to take a little more out of my legs with each step. The temperatures were starting to increase and without a cloud in the sky with little to no cover/shade, it was going to make this an interesting end of the race. Right after the aid station at mile 14.5 I took a few minutes to walk it out. The race field was small already but being in the state I was in, it felt like I was alone for a lot of the race. Which can be a good thing when you are feeling good and not wanting anyone to bring you down, but not so much when you are down and need someone to lift you up.

Around mile 15, the leader was passing me heading on his way back to the finish. It always amazes me how fast some of those folks are able to put in the miles, especially on a challenging race day like it was becoming for me.

The water at the aid stations didn’t seem to make a dent for me as I was just feeling so dehydrated. In hindsight, I was drinking way too much water and flushing out any electrolytes in my system which caused my stomach issues to be a little worse than they already were. Mile after mile I would increase how much walking I was doing and my body was just running out of energy. It did not help that the sun was beaming relentlessly down on us on the trail. However, I did feel in good company when I could see up the winding path and noticed other runners running short bursts and then zombie walking like I felt like I was. Prairie dogs lined the path and you could hear them yapping back and forth to each other. I was sure they were talking and making fun of my struggles, but maybe I was just playing this up in my head.

I kept the next aid station in mind as I remembered the course layout and where there would be, knowing that Kaela would be at the final turnaround just around mile 20. I powered as much as I could to muster a jog and then if I needed to walk, I put a little purpose behind it to try and not just be stuck in the sun any longer than I already was. Other than a few underpasses, there was ZERO shade in this portion of the course. The path just zig zagged with a few up and downs. The volunteers at the aid stations were fantastic though. Always supportive and tending to my request of double cups of water (again drinking too much, lesson learned).

I kept looking down at my watch and seeing all of the goals I had go right out the window. My typical doubt set in and I worried about what I was thinking about doing a race at higher elevation and not only that but trying to do another one the next day? Who did I think I was? I did my best to shake those thoughts knowing that I could only handle my next step and needed to keep moving forward with some sort of positivity. All of this took place in my head just within 4 miles from that aid station where I started walking as I headed into the aid station at mile 19. I grabbed some fluid and walked down the unpaved path that was a short little stint to our turnaround where I saw Kaela waiting for me.

“Run for the camera!”

She always knows how to bring a smile out of me when feeling in the dump. She handed me off a waffle and provided some moral support. It would be the last time I would see her until the finish and with just 10k left, I needed to try to kick it into any gear that was faster than what I had been doing. But it was a struggle. I spent more time walking than I did running but somehow I was catching up to a few people on the course. Around mile 21, I saw folks on the horizon and it gave me a goal to try and catch up to them. I don’t remember much on the course at this point because of the struggle bus I was in, but I do remember seeing those 4 folks and telling myself that I will pass them before the end of the race. Every time I would start running, they would also start which made me push just a little bit harder to run when I could as often as I could.

Just before mile 25 I had finally caught up to the last two of them. We shared an expression about how hard the day had been. Something along the lines of “this is bullshit!” I was at mile 25 and already over 5 hours into the race. It was definitely not where I saw this race going but here I was. I’ve said this with a lot of things in life but we can’t always control what happens to us, but we can control our reactions to them. I had to make a choice in how I was going to react in this situation. My choice was to run.

I grabbed some fluids at the aid station and decided to give it all I had left to keep pushing. This equated to running a mid 11min/mi when I could run and then walking any little climb until I arrived back near the finish. With a few more turns left, I sucked up any pain/pride and just put one foot in front of the other. It wasn’t pretty, but I was getting it done. I climbed the sidewalk back to the parking lot and could hear Kaela in the distance cheering me in. It took all I had not to just cry in utter disappointment in the basically empty finish line area because everyone was long gone with the amount of time I had been on the course.

5:23:14

After crossing the finish I just stopped and was trying to get my bearings. I felt light headed, like I was going to pass out. I was just mentally and physically beat down and distraught. I grabbed some water and gatorade and just started to make the slow walk back to the hotel. Kaela offered for me to sit but I just wanted to keep on moving. I told Kaela that we may have to change up the plan for the New Mexico race that was going to be in a few weeks as I didn’t know if I was ready to do more races this year.. I was in a really tough place mentally. It had been a while since I had felt that way after a race and luckily Kaela kept providing encouragement as we made it back to the hotel.

I cleaned up, changed and packed up for us to leave. We had a late checkout but the long race made us cut close to that time putting us a little behind schedule for the day. I still felt like trash but I forced myself out the door and into the car to get some lunch. I told Kaela my stomach was still not feeling the best and she concluded it was because I hadn’t really eaten much and it wasn’t gas pains, but hunger pains. We stopped at Big Daddy’s Burger bar to grab a carryout order. Kaela wanted to eat outside but after baking in the sun for most of the day I wanted to just sit in the shade so we ate in our car.

No surprise to me at all, that burger is exactly what I needed (and that Kaela was right). As I ate my mood just started to change overall. My stomach started to feel better and was coming out of my “everything sucks” mentality. This was a good thing since I had another race the next day. 

Overall this was a tough course. Not technically speaking or really that much elevation gain, Strava showing just over 1,000 ft, but the fact that most of the race had no relief from the sun. The 7am race start seemed to be the thing I would think would have helped with that as starting just before sunrise would have allowed at least another 30-45 minutes in “cooler” space, but you have to run the course as it is. They had mentioned at the start of the race that it was the last year that they would be doing the full marathon and I’m not sure if it was because of participation or just logistics in having to put on a longer distance.

An earlier start could have helped me but I really think that my stomach issues and lack of sleep were the main thing that contributed to my slow race. It was a pretty first half of the race and then the second half, other than the prairie dogs, didn’t hold any positive vibes for me because of the sun. However, it looked like a nice walking path for those that lived in the area as there were lots of walkers, runners, cyclists and rollerbladers that passed by during the race.

We headed up the interstate towards Cheyenne just talking about the race and how we need to make adjustments to be successful the next day. We had a great talk about nutrition, which I’ll break down in the next report, but I think this race was a definite learning experience. All goes back to the “how will you react” and I chose to see this “failure” as an opportunity to find out what I can learn from it rather than getting the best of me. 

It was race number 50 of the distance marathon or longer and still so funny how with every race I learn something new about racing and about myself that will continue to help me get through this journey. State #42 is done, off to Cheyenne!

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