Mile High, Elephants, Topless Men, OH MY!

Colfax Half Marathon

May 19, 2013

I have done this race before.  When I first started nurturing this crazy hobby of mine and way before I decided to do one race in each state, I found the Colfax Marathon and thought it would be fun.  In 2011 it had a 3 ½ hour cut-off.  Which I missed.  By 9 minutes (I still was allowed to finish and collect my medal).  This year it had a 4 hour cut-off.  Which I came under.  By 15 minutes.  Not really an improvement (actually, I got slower), but it’s nice to have that cushion.

This year the race organizers changed the route.  Instead of the majority of the course taking place on Colfax Avenue, they wandered the course through the Denver Zoo and then around other streets that weren’t Colfax.  Only about 1 ½ miles actually took place on Colfax – which isn’t a bad thing – Colfax isn’t the prettiest (or shadiest street in Denver) and I actually enjoyed the new course better.  Except for the 2 miles that went by every restaurant in town.  I was hungry.  And without money.  Or time.  But the best part of this course happened about mile 11.4 – firemen.  Without shirts.  Wowza.

But I get ahead of myself…

I was successful in talking my friend Amanda into doing this race with me by telling her that the course ran through the zoo – “You’ll get to see elephants, Amanda!”  “Sold!”, she said.  And then I told her about the firemen who would be in attendance.  After she wiped the drool off her face, she registered and I had my weekend companion all lined up.  It’s a strange combo, elephants and topless men, but I do what I have to do to bribe my friends.

Packet pick up this year was located at Mile High Stadium (nka Sports Authority Field at Mile High, formerly known as Invesco Field at Mile High, but it will ALWAYS be just Mile High for Coloradans) and I was in heaven.  It made me wish for football season.  It wasn’t the roomiest of packet pick-ups but it was fairly quick and had free parking.  And the view.  O.M.G. it was amazing.

Just look at that skyline!

At packet pick up, the firemen were present and Amanda got all flustered.  She bought their calendar, took a picture with them and forgot her name.  For about an hour afterwards she was still flushed and flabbergasted.  It was quite entertaining.  And I think the firemen got a kick out of her, too, tho I imagine they probably experienced that reaction frequently over the 2 days of the expo.
Our race was scheduled to start at 7:00 am Sunday morning but in order to get to the start and find parking, we had to leave the hotel at 5:00 am.  When my alarm went off at 4:00 am, I began my usual dialogue with myself over the whole insanity of not only willingly getting up that early but PAYING for the privilege as well.  My rant sounded something like this (cleaned up, tho – I have quite a potty mouth at 4 am): “What in the world am I doing?”, “Who in their right mind gets up this early on a Sunday?”, “Why don’t I just go back to bed.  No one will miss me.”, “Dammit – Amanda’s here.  I HAVE to get up.” And on and on and on while I put on my outfit, got my gear ready and headed to the car.  Fortunately, once I’m at the location the energy of the impending race takes over and I get excited, giddy, even, at the knowledge that in just four short hours I will have another medal to add to my quickly growing-crowded medal rack.  I really do love race morning.  It’s the whole getting up and out thing that sucks.
When we finally found parking (they really have to do something about that whole parking issue – you would think that the parking attendants would actually KNOW if there were parking spots in their assigned areas), we had 45 minutes until our Half Fanatic picture meet-up and 90 minutes until the start of our race.  So we hung out in the car until we were just so bouncy from anticipation that we had to get out.  We visited the porto-lets (disgusting already) and then went to our meet up point to wait.  Pretty soon we found our fellow loonies and the pre-race photo was obtained.

Shortly after our photo, we wandered to our corrals and I said good-bye to Amanda.  I then had to take the required self-portrait.

Don't those people behind me look so thrilled?  They're amazed at my self-portrait capabilities.

Finally the race started and eventually I found myself crossing the start line (last corral = a heck of a lot of waiting around time).  A fellow Half Fanatic that I was standing with, Cheryll, kicked off and I began my 2 mile warm up.  I don’t know what it is, but for the first 2 miles of any distance that I do, my shins absolutely kill me.  I always know when I hit the 2 mile mark because the pain goes away and my pace picks up.  Perhaps it takes 2 miles for my body to realize that I am actually serious and just gives up trying to make me stop.  Whatever the case, the first 2 miles and the point from mile 9 to mile 11 are killers for me.  I’d love to figure out how to get past all that nonsense but for now it’s a pretty good mileage indicator.
The race wound through City Park and into the Denver Zoo where we were greeted by this sign:
Not many animals were out (they’re smarter than the average half marathoner) but I did get to see pelicans, a monkey, a Canadian Goose and her goslings and energetic volunteers with creative signs like “There are only 500 wild Somali Asses in the World. These are the kind of asses we want to keep around.” The volunteers and the signs made the time go by quickly and I found myself enjoying the zoo.  I generally don’t like zoos but this was peaceful, pretty and a good distraction.  Before I knew it, I was coming out of the zoo, hitting mile 3 and ready to get down to business.
I had a pretty decent pace going.  Even with the shin pain for the first 2 miles, I was between 16:15 minute miles and 16:40 minute miles.  I was actually on pace to hit a personal best.  I was excited at that prospect and I think it propelled me onward.  Good music, a beautiful sky, amazing volunteers and I just kept plugging along.  Sweat dripping down my face, my feet starting to swell and pound against my shoes (I really need to get some summer shoes) and I was still plugging along.  I said “thank you” to every volunteer, every policeman, that I encountered because they were keeping me safe and on the right path.  And then I saw the fire station ahead.  The course actually wound THROUGH the station and I was promised a cornucopia of topless firemen, just waiting for me to give me a high five and a wave.  But when I got there, no half-dressed firemen awaited me.  Just fully clothed public servants wishing, I’m sure, that I’d hurry up so they could close up their station and get on with their day.  I was highly disappointed.  But it didn’t slow me down.  They were out there, I was out there, and we were all smiling.  So off I went, no visions of six-pack abs pushing me along but knowledge that at the end I could get a beer and take off my damn shoes silently charging each step.  My pace was good and I didn’t feel like I was dying – a big improvement over the last time I ran this course.
My nemesis on a half marathon course is Mile 9 and my inside voice.  They collaborate together effectively to slow me down and make me doubt myself and this time they came on strong.  I hit mile 9 and my heart sunk.  I still had a little over 4 miles to go, the sun was beating down on me, the water stations weren’t close enough together and I could feel my toes being pounded to a flatness that only comes from smashing them with a hammer repeatedly.  I hate Mile 9.  But I pressed on.  My pace didn’t really suffer and I figured that if I could get to Mile 10, I’d still be ok.  I turned up my music and tried not to concentrate on the pain that radiated from each toe as each foot hit the ground.  I set my sights on someone to pass and made it my mission to get by him.  When I passed him, I found a new target.  And then a new target.  And then a new target.
I was just focusing on a new person to pass when my wandering eyes came across an oasis on the course.  There, before my befuddled and amazed eyes stood my half-naked firemen!  Yippee!!!  They didn’t lie to me afterall!  I just had to get a picture.  I mean, really.  Who wouldn’t?


Amanda had the best idea, tho.  She fainted and had to be revived…
Spirits lifted, I continued on my course.  My pace suffered, tho.  I jumped up to an 18 minute/mile pace and I never thought I would ever finish.  I have the consolation in knowing, however, that only one person that I passed (Cheryll) passed me again.  So there’s that.
I finished the Colfax Half Marathon with a time of 3 hours, 47 minutes and some odd seconds.  My 28th half marathon and the 8th race I’ve run in Colorado.  I’m pretty sure that if I get some “summer” shoes, I’ll mitigate the 5k crash at the end.  That and train.  I suppose if I put a little effort into it and trained I could knock my time down.  But I don’t seem to have the attention span to seriously train.  Cause there’s always something shiny to distract me.



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