Sunday, May 13, 2012

Grand Valley Marathon (Race Recap)

Saturday, May 12
Marathon #8
Colorado Marathon #2
Palisade, CO
Weather - Sunny, 50s at start, 70s at finish

I don't really remember what made me sign up for the Grand Valley marathon, other than I didn't have another race that weekend, it wasn't very expensive, and I felt like I needed one more "long" run before I head to Peru. I roped my friend Ruth into coming out with me, and at the last minute, J agreed to come so that A could also come. I didn't pack until the night before, but settled on a tank from Run Pretty Far, and the aquamarine pace setter from Lululemon. I knew it was going to be a crazy hot day, so I didn't want to wear dark colors.

Unfortunately, due to the new job, I wasn't going to be able to leave until after I got off work. As I was leaving downtown, it was drizzling and 38 degrees. Hard to imagine that where I was going to be racing in 12 hours, the high was going to be 81 degrees. Headed home to load up the car and meet up with Ruth. We needed to eat dinner before driving, so we stopped at Applebee's on the way out of town. Blackened chicken penne again!

Traffic wasn't too bad for a Friday, but the roads... well, a picture is worth a thousand words. This is what it looked like 35 minutes into our drive when we stopped for the dog to use the bathroom.

This is what it looked like about 30 minutes after THAT:

Hard to believe that it is the middle of MAY with the weather like this:

Anyway, although I had been religiously checking the weather all week to see what I would be racing in, it never occurred to me to care what the weather would be like in the mountains. I was super glad that J had come along and did all the driving. I don't see well at night and I absolutely HATE driving in the snow. Thanks to the weather and our late start, we didn't get to Grand Junction until almost midnight. It should be noted that I again managed to pick a super ghetto hotel. This one didn't have cockroaches IN the room, although there was a decent sized one running toward the door when we go there. Should also be noted that it was 63 degrees. At midnight. Crazy Colorado weather.


Alarms went off at 5:00. I had maybe managed 4.5 hours of sleep (at best), and I wasn't too thrilled about the early wake up. We got dressed, and the four of us headed out the door for the 20 minute drive to Palisade where we needed to pick up our packets.

We found the starting area with no trouble, and walked over to get our stuff. We are told that they have NO shirts, but we are welcome to buy one. ?? Um. Are you getting more? No. WTH? (This is seriously a huge pet peeve of mine. I registered TWO months ago, I should get a shirt. Their response - it is not us, it is the shirt company, they screwed up our order, all we have are the upgraded tech tees, not the cotton tees. I FAIL TO SEE HOW THAT IS MY PROBLEM). Anyway, luckily, that was the only really annoying thing of the race, so I can get past that. We paid the $2 each (down form $10 they were trying to get us to pay), and headed back to the car to drop off our stuff. We wanted to keep our jackets a while, so J and A stayed at the car while we cycled through the line. Wait. No line. (LOVE small races). Chatted for a few minutes with a Maniac, then headed back to the car to drop off our jackets and get a pre-race picture:

Bathroom line took about 4 minutes. I love small races. I ate a half a banana and took a picture of the start. Yes. This is all the people. Marathon started a half hour before other distances. My guess is that there were less than 50 of us, but official results aren't up.

Another race with no official starting line. We lined up at the middle white line, counted backwards from ten, and off we went. In my head, I planned on running with Ruth as long as the pace felt good. She currently is a faster half marathon runner than me, but she doesn't really distance run, and this was her first "real" marathon finish.

It was a tad chilly the first few miles, but I didn't mind because I knew it was going to be crazy hot later. Checking my watch, we ran a bit faster than I wanted to the first 1/2-3/4 of a mile. I was monitoring pace more closely than Ruth (she is known to "chase" early on), and I pulled back a bit. We settled into a comfortable pace, and enjoyed the scenery:

None of the roads were closed to traffic, so we had to run on the shoulder:

We had a gorgeous sunrise over the vineyards (I've lived in Colorado most of my life and really had no idea that we had parts of the state that are famous for peaches and vineyards. I've learned a lot in my travels):

This woman in the purple shorts is running her 132nd marathon. She also sang along (loudly) to her iPod the ENTIRE RACE. I love happy runners!

Most of the course was "near" the river, but only the first 2-3 miles were we actually able to see it.

The first aid station was at mile 3. I was impressed. Gatorade, water, pretzels, hand sanitizer, and a potty. Sometimes smaller races really get things right. The hardest part of the "out" part of the course came at the base of mile 4. A 195 foot incline over about a half a mile. Up a windy road (again, not closed to traffic). We jogged the bottom part and walked to the top. I wasn't going for time in this race, and I really wanted to save energy. Next aid station was at mile 5 at the top of the hill. The course would flatten out, and we got back into a good pace. The road seemed to stretch on forever along the vineyards, and it was getting HOT.

Somewhere around mile 6-6.5, we saw this awesome cow/windmill/giant antler with a sign that said "smile," so of course we had to get a picture. I didn't notice that the smaller/wordier sign is advertising "Sunny Dale's Nudist Colony." Ruth spent the next mile talking about it, and I had no clue what she was referring to until I went back and looked at this picture. Hilarious.

Next aid station was mile 7, they also had GU, Clif bars, red vines and life saver soft candies. I have never seen such great aid stations in anything other than an ultra. And for such a small group of runners! All the volunteers were so friendly too. We both stopped to use the bathroom at mile 7, and got passed by 4-5 runners. It would take the next 10K or so, but we passed all of them again by the halfway point.

The course was all road, which you might think was boring, but we saw a lot of cool things in people's yards. I mean check out this HUGE fish made out of license plates:

The course was an out and back, and we didn't see the first runner heading back until we were at about mile 10. 10K behind the first runner? Not too bad. All the runners were super friendly and were congratulating everyone else. We encountered another large uphill we weren't expecting around mile 11, which meant a bit more walking. It was getting hot, and I was getting thirsty. My legs were still doing pretty good, but I was starting to wonder if I was going to be able to actually run the second half. Around mile 12, Ruth tells me her goal is to run with me most of the race, and then she was going to "smoke" me at mile 25. I told her, "great! If you have it in you!"

We finally get to the turnaround, and head back. It is SUPER hot. I was really happy I had decided to wear a hat this race, as it was absorbing most of my sweat. I at least wasn't dealing with getting sunscreen in my eyes. We passed about a half dozen people right at the turnaround. Three people were just walking, and I hadn't seen them on the way out. Turns out there was an early start option for people who didn't think they could finish in the 6 hour time limit. Who knew?

Around mile 14.5, I could tell Ruth was getting really tired. There was a tiny hill and she was wanting to walk and talking about needing to use the bathroom, and her knee was hurting, etc. I asked if she minded if I went on without her. She said she didn't mind, so off I went. I was feeling GREAT at this time. The next couple of miles went by pretty fast. I passed two people before I even got to mile 17. And had two more in sight. So many people were walking. I understood why. It was HOT. Which for me meant that I was drinking too much at the aid stations to keep hydrated, but that was giving me cramps. Things started to fall apart for me around mile 19.

I started walking 30-45 seconds every 5 or so minutes. I was still passing people, but I wasn't feeling very good about it. There was no shade on the course, and I was running alone. That is the one downfall of small races. If I don't have someone to run with, I am much more likely to "give up" and walk more often. I passed two more guys between mile 19 and 20. Then I head around the corner, knowing I was about to hit that nice 195 foot decline:

I felt great in that downhill mile. There was a lot more traffic on the way down, and it didn't seem to matter if I was running with or against traffic, it seemed like every 5th car was just irritated with us being on the road, and I was pretty surprised I never got hit. The course WAS really pretty:

I hit mile 23 of the course, which was supposed to be the last aid station. I passed a guy wearing neon green shorts, Vibrams, and had a handlebar mustache. He was also walking and eating chicken. Off the bone. I swear this was NOT a hallucination.

I saw these cool balancing rocks up on the bluffs:

With two miles to go, I saw "sweaty grey shirt guy" up ahead. I keep getting cramps and walking, but I really wanted to pass him. At the 5K turn around, an additional aid stations had been set up with water. I took a cup, and he was right in front of me. He kept walking at the aid station, and I made my move and ran past him. I tried to  maintain my lead. I was so tired and hot though! I know it was probably super obnoxious, but every time I stopped to walk, I turned around to see how far behind me he was. If he looked to close I would start running again.

I knew the course was measuring a tad long, but then I finally saw the corner into town, and I ran for the finish line, hoping grey shirt would not be able to catch me at the end. J forgot to get a picture of me crossing the line, but I made up for it by getting pictures with A. She doesn't get to see me race that often, so this was pretty special.

Chopper wanted in the picture too!
A and Chopper
I didn't want to sit down after finishing (on the curb) because I was afraid that I would not be able to get back up. I paced up and down the street by the finish line, guzzling water, waiting for people to cross the line. It was crazy to see some people cross SO LONG after me when I had only passed them with a few miles until the end. One guy (neon green shorts, chicken eating) actually walked across the finish line. Not sure if he was injured or not, but certainly not something I've ever really seen. Ruth crossed the line around 5:33, a new PR for her!

Considering my overall lack of training the last few weeks and the heat, I am pretty satisfied with my time. It is my slowest road race to date (I do not count Great Wall marathon in my road race stats since to me it was 1/2 obstacle course, 1/2 run).

Bib #945
Official Time - 4:49:56
Garmin Time - 4:49:44
Garmin Distance - 26.39 miles
Garmin Pace - 10:59
Mile 1 - 10:08
Mile 2 - 10:27
Mile 3 - 10:22
Mile 4 - 10:18
Mile 5 - 11:59
Mile 6 - 10:32
Mile 7 - 10:34
Mile 8 - 12:31
Mile 9 - 10:25
Mile 10 - 11:10
Mile 11 - 11:20
Mile 12 - 10:38
Mile 13 - 10:30
Mile 14 - 11:15
Mile 15 - 11:18
Mile 16 - 10:28
Mile 17 - 10:51
Mile 18 - 11:12
Mile 19 - 10:28
Mile 20 - 12:02
Mile 21 - 11:06
Mile 22 - 10:42
Mile 23 - 11:17
Mile 24 - 11:24
Mile 25 - 11:59
Mile 26 - 10:54
Mile 26.39 - 10:26

Love the medal!
A wanted to be in a picture with "the girls"
We walked to the car to get our money, then headed back to a cafe by the finisher area, where we had lunch. I had a beer and the best bacon/green chili burger EVER.

I managed to doze off for about an hour on the way back. We stopped after a few hours of driving to stretch our legs and enjoy a few more minutes of the warm weather before entering the freezing rain on the other side of the tunnel. A was happy to see the river:

Overall, this was a great race. Four years running, and it still is not a "huge" race. About half the field were people from out of state, and again, other than the shirt issue, it was inexpensive and well organized. Four hours is a "tad" far to drive, but I think if I could convince someone else to go with me, I would go back and run it again.


  1. Ran this one in 2010 ... first thing that came to mind was that hill. Nice little race, glad you had a good time. And jealous as heck of that burger ... I at at Taco Bell back in GJ. You win!

  2. This marathon may have the most interesting sites combined with some of the most beautiful in one shot...congrats on another marathon!

  3. Congratulations! It's so pretty there!

  4. you can see the heat by the 'fogginess' of some of the race photos--- my phone does that a lot too. Definitely looks like one of your more scenic races!!

    Burger looks amazing(obviously w/ the bacon)

    Lastly- thanks for posting the site you got that shirt--- i'm slightly obsessed with it.

  5. Looks like a really pretty but hard run. Great job passing people even when it was so hot.

  6. Congrats! I've been joking that my first half marathon on May 19th it will be a blizzard. This made me think of my joke :)

  7. The town and your pics remind me of "Radiator Springs" in the movie Cars.

    So glad they had lots of treats at the aid stations, so very important.

    When are you going to stop using

  8. Oh, look. Snowpocalypse, light version.

    That's super pretty. I wish you had more oxygen, so I could run there.

  9. weather in CO is insane to me. and i love the shirt you ran in-so cute. i don’t know if i could ever do a marathon that small. love your determination. looking forward to this weekend!!

  10. Congrats!!! Beautiful pictures!!

  11. Awesome!! Thank you for sharing another race recap!! My friend is moving to CO this summer and I immediately thought of races I might want to do now that I have a place to crash!!

  12. wow.. i just came across your blog and love reading about each place and race! what a cool idea :)
    i'm your newest follower


  13. Nudist Colony? That is a crack up! I love all of the roadside pics. I had no idea this was such a small race. I had it pictured as just running through vineyards from whatever I read online. I was thinking about doing it last year but - like you - I also didn't want to go alone. I ended up doing Steamboat in June instead because my BRF came with me to do the half. Anyway. Great job!


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