Tuesday, October 16, 2007

Slippery When Wet

Denver Half Marathon Race Report

Editors Note: This is going to be a long post, so grab a cup of coffee, sit back and relax with your feet up. Tell your secretary to hold all calls and ask your boss to come back at a better time.

I was the only runner not smart enough to wear long sleeves.

I stood with the huddled masses, shivering at the start as the rain drizzled down around us. It was 41 degrees and I was leaning close to the other runners, soaking up as much of their heat as I could. As we breathed into our hands and bounced to keep warm it struck me as ironic that only a week ago runners in Chicago were faced with overwhelming heat and not enough water. In Denver there was so much water it was falling from the sky.

I was stuck at the back of the pack on account of my bladder deciding that it was too full just minutes before we were called to the start. I can see the 9 minute pace corral way up ahead of me but I can’t get to it. It’s OK because my race strategy is to run at a slower pace for the first 4 miles and put myself 2 minutes behind the required pace for a sub 2 hour half marathon. After mile 4 I intended to pick up the pace and make up those 2 minutes over the next 9.1 miles.

The gun goes off and a minute later I’m shuffling towards the start I put my headphones in and select my Denver Half Marathon playlist. I eventually cross the start and immediately find myself leaping over discarded sweatshirts, pants, rain jackets, ponchos, trash bags with arm holes, and even a pair of underwear. I guess they were chafing someone. It only takes a mile for me to become completely soaked which is a relief. I enjoy running in the rain, it’s just the initial getting wet part that sucks. Now that I’ve got that out of the way I can focus on my race.

At 3 miles I check my watch and find that I’m already 2 minutes behind the pace for a sub 2 hour marathon so I begin to increase my tempo. At this point I’m quite happy about the slow start as I have NEVER been able to start a race slowly and then speed up, I’m apparently more of a start-quickly-and-fade guy.

Just past Mile 4 Cheer Team Vanilla is waving, yelling, taking pictures and ringing those annoying cowbells. Who got those things for them? Not only did they stand out in the rain and meet me at the finish they were also willing to carb load with me the night before. Way to take one for the team. Shortly after this point my bladder (which I’m thinking about having removed) decided that it needs to be emptied again, but it will have to wait.

Having already run through the first two water stops without taking any liquids I decide that I had better grab some at mile 5 despite my bladder’s continued pleas to be emptied. By mile 6 I’m running through city park, where I am no longer sheltered by the high rise buildings. The wind is biting through my wet clothes and I pretty sure that my nipples could cut glass at this point. I check my watch and I’m only 1 minute behind a sub 2 hour pace, which means that I’m making up time nicely. I reach out to take a Clif Shot and the girl hands me three. I glance at the flavor to see what I’ve been handed and it’s Vanilla. It may sound stupid, but cold and wet and 6 miles deep into a half marathon I felt like it was a sign. It was like the sun was bursting through the clouds and angels were singing “Hallelujah! Hallelujah!” Only there was no sun, only rain. I downed one of the shot gels, put one in my pocket for later and tossed the third one back towards the girl who’d handed it to me.

By mile 7 I wasn’t paying attention to my MP3 player, I wasn’t thinking about how cold or tired I was. I was simply weighing the pros and cons of peeing my pants. The fact that running can put you in a situation that allows you to even consider this as a viable option is probably grounds for quitting. My shoes were already soaked, and if my shorts would have been wet enough to hide it I would have probably just peed myself.

I reached mile 8 and had almost dropped back to 2 minutes off the pace again. I was extremely disheartened and began to doubt my ability to finish in under 2 hours. Mile 9 had a couple of tough uphill sections and I felt sure that my pace had fallen again. The rain and cold got to me and I decided to stop and pee in Cheesman Park. Hoping to take no more than 15 seconds I found a nice bushy tree, I ducked under the branches and... Holy Shrinkage Batman! 45 seconds later I was back on the course and feeling much better.

‘Come on Vanilla’ I told myself, and yes I actually said Vanilla instead of Ian, because I was trying to remind myself that I’d have to blog about how I failed. I don’t know if it was the fact that I was carrying 7 less pounds of urine or if the 45 second break recharged me, but I was running strong. There was a hill at mile 10 but I didn’t even feel it, I was passing people like they were volcanic lava. I passed mile 11 without looking at my watch, it didn’t matter, I was just running. I grabbed a Gatorade and splashed it up my nose and down my front, it didn’t matter. I was running, I was Forrest Gump.

At mile 12 I did look at my watch: 1:50:06. All I needed was a 9 minute pace. I felt like I was on the verge of achieving my goal. I was willing myself to the finish. With less than a half mile to go I was only conscious of my legs as those weights beneath my hips. I crossed the finish line and stopped my watch at 1:59:42. Initial feelings of disbelief turned momentarily to elation and pride before giving way to uncontrollable shivering and icy pain.

Tomorrow I’ll have some more pictures and more on the post race thaw. Update: Here

37 comments:

  1. Congratulations!

    I'm glad the cons won out in the peeing the pants debate.

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  2. Good job!

    Looks like everyone had a good time.

    Have the cowbells disappeared yet?


    ...

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  3. You go girl!

    *ahem*

    I mean: very manly race report, nice work!

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  4. Congrats on the sub-2 awesomeness ... though you decided against it, peeing your pants would have made a good 'how to' post ... meanwhile Cleveland 2, Boston 1.

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  5. What an awesome race!!!! You had a plan and were able to stick to it. Just think...if you get that bladder nonsense removed you would have been in there under 1:59 even!

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  6. Yay, great story! Congratulations on breaking two hours. :)

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  7. As always great race report and awesome job with the sub 2 hours. I hope to hit that next year.

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  8. Great report and awesome running. I'm hoping for weather somewhere in between Denver and Chicago. Great job in cold and rain!

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  9. CONGRATS! Those were seriously the coldest hours of my life. I can't believe you were in a Tshirt and shorts. I thought my arms were going to fall off.

    When the race was over I immediately ate 2 of the free hot dogs just b/c they were sort of warm. I still feel cold.

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  10. Yeeeee Haaawwwwww Vanilla!! You were this close *insert me making a pinching gesture* to having the most perfect race. What made it "this close" instead of "the" perfect race? You totally needed to pee yourself :P

    Awesome job homie!!! You made us proud!

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  11. Congrats on the time -- and on finding the perfectly placed bush in need of the extra watering.

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  12. Oh, why didn't you pee your pants that would have made this a way better story. And really underwear at the start line..I wouldn't even know how to get them off that quickly, I mean I usually don't toss them till like mile 12 and that's after peeing my pants...wait no.

    CONGRATS! Great race, even in the chill.

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  13. you've got to love a heart-warming story about challenging weather, a PB/PR and peeing! it's enough to make any runner cry :)

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  14. You're wife and kids are so freaking cute!

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  15. Congratulations and well done! Just as well you stopped for a pee otherwise I bet you wouldn't have done it under 2 hours!

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  16. Nice report, but I'm still having a hard time getting past the fact someone left their underpants on the race course. Thanks for giving me something to ponder on my run today.

    And I love the sign you got with being given the Vanilla shot. Love moments like those.

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  17. You peed in Cheesman Park.

    My favorite wedding pictures were taken in Cheesman Park.

    Thanks for ruining my pictures.

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  18. Thanks for the awesome race report. It was well worth the wait! But between you and Amy, I'm starting to wonder about this running thing. It sure seems to involve a lot of potty issues. I think for my first race I'll wear Depends and/or request that they place porta potties every mile!

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  19. LOVED your discussion of the half. I don't mind too much rain during a race, but not at that temperature.

    To go from 'long post' to 'Holy Shrinkage Batman' is such a sublime transtition. Glad your soon-to-be-removed bladder didn't stop you from noticing the finer points. Sorry, the puns write themselves.

    And I've never tripped over anybody's underwear on a race course, either, that's a new one. Honestly, that's something you don't forget. Very funny.

    Again, thanks for sharing! Good job on the 1:59, too.

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  20. Looks like Lei came the closest to predicting your time. I guess she figured you'd pee on the run.

    congrats on your great race.

    I heard Chicago is letting any Denver runner that was too wet or cold to run next year for only $105.

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  21. Sweet! Nothing like NOT PEEING YOURSELF and making goal time! (Although making goal time with enough time to stop and pee, BUT peeing yourself anyway would have been a much better report.)

    Glad you made your goal, had a great race, and have thawed out (I guess???)

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  22. It's so impressive babe! I keep thinking about it. I really want that medal- you'd better sleep with it.

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  23. Enjoyed the report. Great run. Glad you hit your goal.

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  24. Great job!!!!!!!!! Way to hit the goal....cant wait for pics!

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  25. Congrats Ian and way to go Vanilla! Sub 2:00 hour is very impressive, especially in the cold and rain - that can really slow you down.

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  26. Congratulations! Great race and an even better report.

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  27. "and if my shorts would have been wet enough to hide it I would have probably just peed myself."

    ...That my friend is why you wear dark black shorts with black spandex underneath!!!!.....or so I've heard :)....honest it's just sweat!!!!

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  28. Congrats on your finish and your sub-2 hour time! Excellent work.

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  29. At least as a guy you had the bush option! Convenient outdoor peeing is really the only sensible reason for the whole penis-envy phenomenon.

    Great post, btw--usually when people talk about their races I read the first sentence or two and then skip to the end to make sure nothing tragic happened so I don't make an embarassing comment faux pas, but this post was way too well-written to skim. And congrats on your time, most impressive!

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  30. WHOOOOOOOO HOOOOOOOOOOOO - sub 2 hours! You're my hero. That is going to be my goal for my next half.

    I am a little concerned about the undies left on the road. Undies? Really? I hope they were clean.

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  31. congrats Vanilla! HooRah!

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  32. awesome Vanilla...you run smooth...like butta...or like vanilla ice cream!! congratulations!

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  33. Congratulations on your sub-2 half in some very challenging conditions. I'm glad you figured a way around the full bladder issue. Isn't it amazing how much faster you can run when you are empty!

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  34. Great job on your half!!! Hitting the time goal is sweet!!!!!!!!

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