Skip to "Race Day" if you want to skip all the pre-race blah blah blah.
I decided to leave work early Friday to drive to Buena Vista (or as they say it "Byoona Vista," yuck). It's only 2.5 hour drive, which in California, doesn't seem like much since that might get you to L.A. or San Diego, Vegas... but here in Colorado, 2 hours puts you in the middle of wilderness and often feels much farther than when driving in Cali.
We finally got to a good steady climb up a dirt road, but I really love climbing in the beginning of runs and kept my slow and steady pace. After that it was a lot of rolling hills which are my absolute favorite.
Around mile 21 I saw the girl in pink who stuck with me earlier and knew her hips were preventing her from going much faster, but asked if she wanted to push through the last 4 miles with me anyway. She declined and cheered me on ahead which felt really nice, so I did. After some super tiny but steep climbs, it flattened out and was kinda tough but not as tough as uphill and I was almost grateful for the boring non-technical dirt road. Not many pictures after this point (well, none), because after mile 20, it hurts to even think about anything, let alone try to take your phone out for a picture. At this point, it hurts more to walk than to run, so you just have to shuffle along as best you can.
So finally, mile 22ish, aide station 5. Poured some cold water on me, drank the rest, didn't feel like eating anything since even water made me feel sick, and trucked along, knowing it wasn't much longer to the finish. The worst had to be behind me.
Soon after, I saw a lot of mountain bikers and a mile from the finish some hikers, a couple of them could have been racers who finished far before and came back to cheer on the stragglers like me. I finally got a lot of "Almost there!!" and my watch confirmed it, but when you're that tired, even 1/3 of a mile feels so far and inside you're screaming "Stop lying to me!!" and you believe it will never end! But I crossed a bridge, felt great, sped up, turned a corner and I could see the end! I sped up some more, not knowing where on earth I was getting that energy, and started hearing the claps and cheers of everyone hanging around the finish. Victory! They even noted I had a smile on my face at the end and gave me a medal and took my time. They didn't have a big clock for me to see my official time, but I stopped my watch and it said 5:51, I was so happy! Some time is sure to be added to that for the auto-pause at aide stations and stripping down and trying to poop, but anything revolving around 6 hours makes me feel so great. I was sure I wouldn't do nearly as well as my first and only other marathon in San Francisco, but I did just about the same, about a 14-min mile.
I wasn't sure what to do with myself after, so I sat in the grass, noting that I didn't feel nearly as bad as I did in SF, and tried to stretch what I could, know I'm supposed to, but so bad at actually doing it. I decided to wait around for pink shirt girl and cheered her and others I passed into the finish.
I ate a wrap and had the most delicious Coke in my life and chatted with some ladies around me who walked the entire course. Before I finished eating, winner of the 50 miler came in! It was guy number 2 I encountered at mile 18.5 and his final time was 7:15 I think. So crazy! While I'll never be that fast, I hope to get better at these marathon and soon ultramarathon distances. One day!
Which this race really made me realize I'm not ready for 50 miles this year. I push myself too fast and I need to learn better training habits before I take on something like that. I think I'll still do a 50K this year and it'll be a good first ultra, but there's a reason people don't go out and do 50-100 milers with 2 years of running experience. I would love to think I'm that one badass in the world, and I'm sure there are plenty of people who have done that or similar and could handle it. But I don't think it would be smart for me to do so.
Instead, I'll see if I can fit as many marathons and 50K's in the next year and maybe two years from now I'll see about fitting in training for a serious ultra. This race made me see that even though I was really disappointed in myself this year and I slacked a lot on training, and I fell into a slump, and I wasn't sure what I was doing with myself, that I still kept up fine. I might have done this race around 15sec/mile slower, but it was also 8000-9000 ft higher in altitude, and I wasn't feeling great most of the run, and I still got roughly the same time as before. That's not so bad at all.