Everyday we’re faced with a myriad of decisions. Most of which have such a tiny impact, we won’t even notice for years that we opted to add that extra squirt of dressing to our salad or to skip that post run hip flexor stretch.
Others, we know in the moment are bigger.
Is he the one?
Is this house really in your budget?
Is this race one you should run?I’ve certainly encouraged many friends not to toe the line with injuries because there are indeed MANY more races. It’s so easy to feel pressure to hit a PR, to push through pain or honestly just to feed our own ego with a hell ya I finished despite the pain.
But wanting to run for the long term is about knowing when to lean in to your discomfort and when to wave the white flag.
So why did I even line up? Honestly, I thought I could handle a nice easy downhill run.
Understanding My Choice
I recently tore my left meniscus and had some other issues which resulted in a loss of full knee extension.
The injury happened in January and I made it through the Phoenix half marathon in February, so I didn’t figure this would be all that different. I’ve been hitting PT and my Osteo Surgeon said he still wanted to try and avoid surgery, so if my knee taping was allowing me to run pain free I had the green light.
That taping in fact got me through 30 miles of trails in Malibu….what was a little 13.1 mile jaunt with my handsome husband through a beautiful area of Colorado? I had no plans to push my pace, but I was aware that if it came to walking I’d be in trouble. With the loss of extension it’s much more painful to walk than to keep my knees lightly bent in a easy run.
I felt good that morning and figured I’d simply give it a go.
Colorado Half Marathon Recap
Arriving in the start area, I noticed a few times as I wandered through the field a little twinge here in and there, but I’ve become so used to that it didn’t really phase me. In fact, I was mostly thinking how bizarre I’m wearing a tank top to race in Colorado and I was wearing long sleeves, gloves and hat for Phoenix!
It was the perfect weather for a race. Right around 50 degrees and staying mostly overcast with no big breezes.
All 1100 half marathoners bundled together on the road and with a random cheer, started running! No frills race starts are amusing, but also keep the nerves from going crazy because you start without getting a chance to really think about it.Miles 1-3 are mostly downhill through this scenic canyon. It’s not a steep grade, but a consistent downhill, so I tried to focus on relaxing my legs and not breaking which long term runners know can trash the quads and the knees.
One of the first things I noticed though was these roads are sharply cambered. Not a light slant, but a deep slant to keep the water running off the road and back in to that beautiful river. On the plus side, the slant keeps switching so it’s not always on one leg.
Why does this matter? As the road slanted to the left it meant my right leg was thus running shorter and my left leg was being asked to extend…which it isn’t doing right now. Yup, this was the start of a problem.I also tried something new by planning to listen to my iPhone, instead of carrying an iPod too…but I forgot to bring a converter to plug in my headphones. Thus when I would normally use my 3 song rotation to pull in to myself and focus, I felt a little adrift listening instead to heavy footfalls and breathing around me.
Miles 4-5 flatten out, but the camber continues. We were averaging just under 9 minute miles and both assuming we’d just enjoy the day with something under 2 hours. No pressure.
Mile 6 is the one and only real uphill in this course. It was no biggie, but I noticed myself suddenly trying to shift my body to find comfort. I wasn’t in pain yet, but my stride felt wrong as we started down the hill to mile 7.
Mile 8 I looked at David and said I don’t think I’m going to finish. He was stunned and honestly, so was I. I couldn’t believe I was contemplating quitting, but I could tell things were going from not great to bad rapidly.
My timing was impeccable as we had just left the road and entered the paved trail portion of the race…yup dropping out was going to get a lot harder without access to a vehicle. David dashed in to a porta potty, so I kept moving forward but my pace was getting slower and slower.
I kept thinking that if I just slowed down maybe it would feel ok. 9:30 pace, nope.10 minute pace, nope. 10:45 pace, nope. 12 minute pace….yeah you see where this is going.
Mile 9 I stopped completely and started rubbing down my leg because the calf and shin were getting angry with my varied attempts to relieve pressure. Could I just walk to the finish? I mean I was getting so close!
Gimp, drag, pause, cringe…I waved David on because I knew he could finish, but my pain was ratcheting up the scale quickly so it was that moment when ego and pride battle your brain.
Mile 10.2 I finally came to the next aid station which was blessedly in a parking lot along the trail so that I could officially say this is it. As I waited for transport, I would keep testing out the knee thinking maybe I could just walk it…I mean what was 3 miles to a marathon runner?! Yet, I also knew that 3 miles was a damn long ways to an injured body and one race wasn’t worth complete catastrophe.
It took loner to wait for that transport than it might have taken me to drag myself in, but it was necessary. At the finish line, I realized we had about a 1 mile walk back to our AirBnb. OHHHH the irony! Something that would normally be no big deal was suddenly beyond ridiculous. Because I’d been resting for awhile and because I’m still stubborn, I thought I’d make it back without issue. Instead it took us probably 30 minutes which involved lots of pausing and rubbing my eyes.
Results: I don’t regret lining up. I really looked at all the facts and thought I would be ok. I also stopped once it was too much. While I spent the rest of the day in a lot of pain and things aren’t great today, I don’t think it’s any longer term damage than where I was.
David did indeed finish, but it was his worst race to date which he thought was also due to the roads causing him a lot of knee pain. He’s not so sure he wants to run it again, but I do. I will. Great photo from Instagram
Colorado Marathon Race Review
Considering my pain, I actually have nothing but good things to say about the Colorado Marathon and Half Marathon overall. I fully anticipate trying it again…assuming all systems are 100% operating as they should!
This race is much smaller with only about 1100 in the half and another 1100 in the full. Which means in some areas you get better treatment like luxury buses to the start line. And in other areas no frills, like no big start line just an open field.
In truth, I’d take this gorgeous open field in the middle of a canyon with a river rushing by any day.
- Gorgeous start line in the canyon watching the sunrise
- Plenty of porta potties for the smaller race size
- Water and coffee available at start area
- Could easily park near the bus transport to the start (we walked the mile from our AirBnb)
- Final miles are on a paved path rather than the road which is nice (so I’m told)
- Finish is in downtown Fort Collins with band and beer garden
- Very cool Colorado themed medal
- Strongly cambered road (slanted) isn’t great for knees or IT Band
- Fruit and cookie found post race, didn’t see other food options (again so I’m told)
- Race shirt design and quality wasn’t great. The sponsor right across the front made it one you might not care to wear.
- Ummm…1 uphill?
- Narrowed down to the shoulder while still enough people to run 5 wide meant you were stuck behind people
Over the years I’ve definitely learned that the right gear is a big piece of the puzzle. For the first time I tried using my phone to be my everything!! Which makes me sound ridiculously old, but previously I had 0 storage so I just carried to try and snap a photo or two.
MapMyRun: I decided to use this app for tracking to eliminate the need to look at a watch or worry about HR, since this was more of a survival mode race. However, it does actually have a feature to give you an update.
Compression long shorts – I debated tights just to give my leg more support, but it was a warmer morning and I love these shorts. They’re long enough that I don’t worry about them riding up and providing perfect chafe protection.
Under Armour Speed Swift:These are a good neutral shoe with an 8mm heel drop and cushion that feels good without being too much. Not my favorite overall shoe, but was sponsored by UA for this particular race.
Ultimate Direction Handheld: I don’t have an armband for my phone and I HATE water stops, so I decided to test out carrying this. The front pocket is large enough for my iPhone and chapstick as well. The bottle is also curved to easily fit in your hand. I considered wearing my UD hydration pack, but it felt like overkill though the plus is always that it doesn’t disrupt your stride the way carrying something can.
Music: I had my standard playlist of only 3 songs in rotation. But guess what…I forgot that my new iPhone doesn’t have a headphone jack!!! Le sigh, this really was not my day.
As noted, I still don’t think I was being naive about this race, but of course right now as it hurts to move I wish I hated done it. ha!
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