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Old 07-20-2009, 11:56 PM  
Rain Man Rain Man is online now
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Okay, this was a challenge.

As some of you know, I was a participant in the Tinyevel weight loss contest, and as part of that I started jogging. 3 miles became 4 miles, which became 5 and then 6 and then 8, and then last month I ran my first half-marathon here in Denver. I thought it went pretty well overall. I wasn't in the top half of finishers, but I finished it and did pretty well.

My wife had a friend getting married up in the mountains, and I googled around and found a half-marathon in Vail, so I signed up for it.

All half-marathons are not the same.

This was actually about 10 percent longer than a traditional half-marathon, at 14.5 miles, but I figured that wasn't a problem. It's long, but if I can do 13.1 without trouble I can do 14.5.

The altitude was a bit of a worry since Vail is at about 8,000 feet, but I figured there's only one way to find out.

Then I saw the course map. Here's a link, http://www.vailrec.com/ckfinder/user...ps/09_half.pdf, and a picture is below.

So the first 9.7 miles of this thing is up a mountain, topping out just under 12,000 feet in elevation. You're basically gaining 4,000 feet in elevation without respite during that stretch, and then coming back down 2,000 feet in the last 4.8 miles. At 12,000 feet, you're getting 20% less oxygen than you would in Denver, and about a third less than at sea level.

But hey, I'm willing to take a shot, so I sign up for it.

I show up at the starting line, and there's a few hundred people there milling about. And they line us up and have us start.

Mile 1 - Not too bad. It's a dirt road, but it's reasonably wide. However, everyone's all bunched together, and some older guy with no shirt keeps getting in front of me and slowing down with this little trundling jog, so I can't get a good pace as I avoid him. It's a steady uphill run, but doable.

Mile 2 - I've managed to get around Mr. No Shirt, and we're spread out enough that I'm doing okay on my pacing. I'm playing cat and mouse with some woman who's got three small canteens on her belt and is wearing an easy-to-spot turquoise top. No problem. It's a steady uphill run.

Mile 3 - First aid station. If you don't make it there in an hour, you're disqualified, but that's no problem. It's probably only been about 30 to 35 minutes. I've noticed that I'm sweating profusely, and since I don't have water, I stop and get a drink. Turquise Top passes me and gets a reasonable lead, but no problem. I'll catch her again, but man oh man, it's still uphill and there are no level spots at all. In fact, now the road has these moguls in it, maybe four or six places per mile where the road suddenly has a tiny steep hill that then drops into a tiny steep ditch, which then has a tiny steep incline on the other side to get back to the slope. They're small, maybe three foot hills, but they really mess up your pace.

Mile 4 - I've never stopped running on a training run or in my first half-marathon in June. It's a point of pride. But seriously, this is ridiculous. There's no place to catch your breath, it's just a nonstop climb. For the first time since January, I actually have to slow to a walk, and I've still got 10 miles to go. I alternate walking and jogging. Everyone's spread out enough by now that I occasionally pass or get passed, but there's usually no one within about 100 feet of me. Those moguls in the road are not cool.

Mile 5 - For the love of god, this is really hard. No level spots, just uphill. I'm alternately walking and jogging now, but I can't keep my pace for more than a quarter-mile at most before I have to walk again. However, my jogs are still making good time. I can see Turquoise top up ahead of me, and she's keeping a slow but steady pace. However, my walk-jog combos are actually catching her, and I'm only about 100 yards behind her.

Mile 6 - Aid Station 2. Gotta get some water. I stop and slurp down some water. Turqoise top keeps going. Damn those canteens. I need some canteens. By now, I'm walking as much as I'm jogging, and she's slowly pulling away from me. The switchbacks pose me a major dilemna, as I can hug the inside but they're steeper, or I can go outside and walk further but at less of an angle. I choose outside.

Mile 7 - Oh, man. Mr. No Shirt is now running even with me. He's caught me after six miles, trundling along with his little short-stepped pace, and I can't see Turquoise Top any more. Every time I walk, No Shirt passes me, and then I pass him again when I jog. We're approaching 10,000 feet, and my legs are feeling the climb. I'm shuffling more than jogging, and I break out one of my little energy gel goos. I'm not sure if it helps.

Mile 8 - I think it's getting steeper. There's a big switchback, and I'm please to see that Turquoise Top isn't really that far ahead of me, just farther up the mountain. Mr. No Shirt is shuffling by her, having won his duel with me. This is brutal. I walk about 3/4ths of this mile, and chat with some guy from Dallas who's using his phone to check on the Tour de France. I can't tell if I can't run because I'm out of wind or out of legs, but I think it's a tie.

Mile 9 - Aid Station 3. You have to make it here in 3 hours or less, but I'm in good shape, running something under 2 hours. Well, not really running. We're up high enough now that there's snow on the road, and then it turns into a trail more than a road. I stop and get some water, and chat with some woman from Orlando who's in the process of slowing passing me as we both walk. At one point, there's a clearing in the trees, and I can see a huge bunch of people, maybe 30 or more, all only a few minutes ahead, all walking. I think I can catch them eventually. One of them looks like Turquoise Top, but Mr. No Shirt is long gone. That dude is fast.

Mile 10 - Summit, glorious summit! There's a little water station at the top of the hill, and a big downhill stretch. I ask the guy if this is really the top, and he says there are a couple more big hills and one more climb, but this is the hard part. I take off, and it feels like I'm flying, whooshing downhill at speeds approaching the speed of sound, or at least a reasonable jogging speed. This is heaven.

Mile 11 - Downhill, downhill, downhill. The trail is now only a foot wide in a high mountain pasture, so you have to stop and step aside if someone wants to pass. The views are absolutely spectacular, a big mountain valley with the Mount of the Holy Cross across the valley. I don't pass anybody, but three 20-something women all cruise by me. I don't know where they came from, but they apparently run downhill faster than me, and I nearly brain myself when I step aside to let one pass and catch my shoe on a root. At some point we end up on a cliff and you have to climb down, which ordinarily wouldn't be too bad, but after 10 miles you're taking it pretty slow. I slip and catch my left thumb under the bark of an old log, which hurts, and then when I get to the bottom the dirt skids out from under me and I catch myself by grabbing some kind of thorny bush with my right hand. Another 20-something woman passes me as the trail widens into a big dirt road in front of a ski lodge, where I stop for a drink and an energy goo at Aid Station 4. I don't know where these women are coming from.

Mile 12 - Long and level, with maybe even a slight downhill. We're out of the forest now, and it's pretty good visibility. I can do this. I'm almost there. And what's that? Up on the horizon, there's Turquoise Top! She's only about three or four minutes ahead of me! Damn those canteens! I chat with a couple of other guys who've slowly caught me, as we're all jogging at a pace that may be slower than walking.

Mile 13 - Oh...my...god. I thought I had it under control, and then it looms ahead. Kloser's Klimb. I don't know how big that hill really is, but at 13 miles it looks like a roller coaster track, straight up and with an upside-down twist at the top, as tall as 10-story office building or more. There wasn't even an attempt at jogging. I walked up that thing, and there was about a sixty-second span when I actually thought I was going to just stop and sit down, but I knew if I did it'd be hard to get back up. Major, major morale hit. I dragged myself to the top, and then as extra punishment, it was so steep on the other side that I had to run with my brakes on the whole way down. At the bottom of the hill was Turquoise top, but I stop at the aid station and she pulls away again.

Mile 14 - Back on narrow one-person trails in the trees, and it's really pretty easy at this point. Relatively shallow downhill, but enough that I can coast. There are times when I can't see anybody in front or in back of me.

Mile 14.5 - I'm cruising along, thinking I've got to be near the end, and up ahead I see a guy jogging along, older than me. I feel guilty about passing anybody after 14 miles, but he steps aside and lets me pass and we comment that we're about ready to be done with this. As I pass, I can hear cheering in the distance. Finish line! I'm making good time now, cruising along. Another few hundred years, and then I hear footsteps behind me. I glance back, and there's some woman gaining on me. I have no idea where she came from. I keep up the pace so that she can't catch me, because the trail is narrow and I'm not going to get passed at this point. She stays behind me, and is slowly gaining ground, and then...nirvana! I can see the trail is about to spill out onto a dirt road, and I can see the finish line! But she sees the same thing and makes her move, and all of a sudden she's right behind me. As soon as we're on the road, she hits the gas and is passing me in the last 100 yards, but no ma'am, that's not going to happen. So I hit the gas and she speeds up and I speed up and the crowd sees it and starts cheering and she pulls ahead of me and I reach deep inside my gut and throw everything into it and blow by this 53 year-old woman and take the flag a full two seconds ahead of her. I look her name up later and see that a few years ago she finished a 100-mile mountain race in about 29 hours.

3 hours, 23 minutes, and 2 seconds. 208th place out of 253 finishers. I may have been in the bottom 20 percent of finishers, but I am wearing that t-shirt with pride, my friends. Wearing that t-shirt with pride.
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Last edited by Rain Man; 07-21-2009 at 12:04 AM..
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Old 07-21-2009, 12:07 AM   #2
Ari Chi3fs Ari Chi3fs is offline
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COngrats man! That is amazing!

Did you even run/jog before the weight loss challenge?
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Old 07-21-2009, 12:10 AM   #3
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So, we're not gonna excuse such a lengthy absence from ChiefsPlanet in the future, Mr. Kevin. That is not what you signed on for and guess what? You can't just leave. Ha! No more 1/4, half, or full marathons.
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Old 07-21-2009, 12:12 AM   #4
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I'm out of breath just from reading that.
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Old 07-21-2009, 12:30 AM   #5
Chiefs=Good Chiefs=Good is offline
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That is an epic tale of win! Congrats mate!
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Old 07-21-2009, 12:36 AM   #6
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Weeeeeez.... weeeeez....

You wore me out there Mr. Rain Man.
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Old 07-21-2009, 05:28 AM   #7
ziggysocki ziggysocki is offline
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Good work Rain Man. You should come run the KC marathon with me in October. I gotta warn you though, the hills here are brutal! Seriously, great job!
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Old 07-21-2009, 05:38 AM   #8
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Congrats, but can you answer the question on everyone's mind ... was "Ms. Turquoise Top" a hot or not?
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Old 07-21-2009, 05:46 AM   #9
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Good job, Kevin.
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Old 07-21-2009, 05:58 AM   #10
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Wow. Very, very nice.

You should be proud.
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Old 07-21-2009, 06:09 AM   #11
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I'm exhausted just reading about it.

Way cool.
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Old 07-21-2009, 07:00 AM   #12
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You're reborn Kevin, researching with an attitude!!! Congrats!

I hope with all this new found stamina & energy the wife is reaping some benefits as well. All the extra yard work getting done and all that.
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Old 07-21-2009, 07:16 AM   #13
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Old 07-21-2009, 07:27 AM   #14
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I need a nap now. I'm all wore out.

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Old 07-21-2009, 07:35 AM   #15
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