I have really been slacking on running races in 2012. I mean prior to yesterday, my most recent running race was the Chicago Marathon last October. I had originally been registered for the Colorado Marathon this past May, but due to the unforeseen Vitamin D fiasco of 2012 I dropped out of that race. Which then brings us to June, and my first race of 2012 – the Garden of the Gods 10 Miler.
My friend Britt and I signed up for the race a few months ago, and I was immediately excited. Running through the Garden of the Gods sounded like a blast, and I had plenty of time to train! Except then life kept getting in the way of training, and all of a sudden last week I started worrying that I was going to be a tad unprepared for this race. Although I’ve been busy playing ultimate frisbee, bouldering and going to CrossFit, I have not been seriously running. My weekly average has been maybe 12-15 miles. That’s it. And since the majority of those miles have been on flat terrain in Denver I decided that I was just going to have to look at the Garden of the Gods as a fun test of my natural running ability. I in no way felt actually prepared for this race.
Britt and I left Denver on Saturday afternoon to stay at our friend Molly’s house down in Colorado Springs. Molly is actually running the Triple Crown Series, which starts with the Garden of the Gods 10 Miler and concludes with the Pike’s Peak Ascent. I’m totally doing it next summer! Anyway, we picked up our packets, walked around downtown and got fro yo, and then drove the course to see what we were going to be in for the next day. The answer? Hills. Lots of hills.
Is there any part of this course that’s not a hill? No.
After the drive through the course scared the living daylights out of me, we headed back to Molly’s to cook dinner. I mean okay yes, I’ve been to Garden of the Gods several times, but when you look at the road and think about actually running through the park it gives you an entirely new perspective. Luckily Molly gave me some cooking tasks, which kept my mind off of things. I peeled all of the shrimp for our pasta, and, for those of you that know how little I cook, that was a pretty big deal for me.
There are three things in life for which I will wake up before 6 a.m.: skiing, hiking and running races. After eating breakfast, Britt, Molly and I made it to the starting line in Manitou Springs with plenty of time to spare. Weather wise it was around 60 degrees at the start of the race, and we were chilly standing around before the race began.
We all lined up somewhere in the middle of the pack, but when the race started we were boxed in pretty badly. I wanted to get away from the crowds, so I separated from Britt and Molly and found myself at the one mile mark in 7:50. I did not have any time goal for the race other than hopefully breaking 1:30, but 7:50 pace was definitely a little too fast. However I had obviously already committed to running a stupid race by that point, so I just decided to go with it.
The first five miles were full of some pretty brutal hills, and you know since I was running a stupid race I tried to take full advantage of downhills and then survive on the uphills. Given how unprepared for hills I was, I’m not convinced this was a terrible strategy. If I had a Garmin watch it would be pretty entertaining to look back at my paces. I probably averaged 7:00 minute mile pace on the downhills and close to 9:30 or 10:00 minute mile pace on the uphills. I mean I’ll be completely honest, I walked five times during the entire race. I knew it was going to be a long day of battling with the hills when I had to take a 10 second walk break on the hill at mile 3.
The course started in Manitou Springs at the town park and headed out one mile into the Garden of the Gods, looping eight miles through the Garden of the Gods and finishing with the last mile back into the park. It was without a doubt one of the prettiest road races I have ever run. My favorite part of the course was when we ran right by the Kissing Camel rock formations on the sidewalk through the park.
After mile 5, I finally felt settled into a pace. The rest of the race went by pretty quickly, until the the final hill right before mile 9 at the Balanced Rock. I maybe had to take another 10 second walk break because by that time my legs were completely shot. The last mile back into Manitou Springs felt long, but finally I crossed the finish line at 1:25:20.
I was happy about that time because for the Pike’s Peak Ascent you have to run under a 1:30 to qualify for Wave 1. Although I’m not running the Ascent (this year at least!), that gives you an idea of times on the course. I think it’s impossible to compare the Garden of the Gods 10 Miler to any typical 10 mile road race because of the hills and elevation. For some more statistics, I was the 79th woman to finish out of a field of around 660 women.
Molly, Britt and me.
Molly and Britt ran really great times too, so at the finish line we had a lot to celebrate. We celebrated in style by going to Adam’s Mountain Cafe with Molly and her family for brunch. My new running motto should probably be, “Will Run For Brunch.” The thought of our 9:30 a.m. reservations at Adam’s Mountain Cafe definitely kept me going around mile 4 when I was dying a painful death up a hill.
What’s next for me?
I have a pretty fun summer and fall full of races coming up! I’m running in the Epic Mountain Relay in July from Colorado Springs to Crested Butte, the Wild West Relay from Fort Collins to Steamboat Springs in August, and the Golden Leaf Half Trail Marathon in Aspen in September. I also realized yesterday how much I miss running, so I am probably going to add the Aspen Backcountry Trail Marathon in August to the roster. I’m not sure if it’s going to be possible to pull off the training for a trail marathon in the next two and a half months, but hey we’ll find out!