Garden of the Gods 10 Miles –> 2:08:15 YEAH!

9 06 2008

Ok – so … when you do the math, I was slower than my two latest 5 mile races. However, when you look at the map ( it’s completely different! 

I’ve been a bit nervous about this race. I signed up for it when I realized that I was not going to be going to the San Diego Rock and Roll Marathon after all. I was not terribly concerned about not going but wanted something challenging. Q had told me about it, and kind of warned me about how difficult it was, but I signed up anyway. Going in I was concerned for two reasons: 1. problematic knee and 2. problematic mental space.

The knee has been well documented in this blog. The week leading in to this race, I got a few good miles in and things felt great. I also swapped into my last pair of Brooks Racer ST-III’s. This does mean scaring up the cash to get two new pairs, but it was a good thing. The bottom of my right shoe was nearly worn off whereas the left was in fine shape. I’ve obviously been depending too much on the right. One of my neighbors, a massage therapist, took one look at me and said “Left side screwed up, right?” I’d not told her anything. As soon as she gets into her new digs, it’s the long process of getting my hips level again.

Headspace: This has been worse because my being off walking due to injury and selfishness of others really wears on me. My walking is my release from the world and probably one of the very few things I do completely for myself. A lot of messed up memories have been flooding back and I have been dealing with them as best I can. I might have to lop off other things in my world, but I truly realize how tied to my walking I’ve become. That is a good thing! 🙂

Sheila picked up the packets (a nice tech shirt & bib number only) for Q and myself. Julia was the fourth in the car and Sheila didn’t have her name at the time. My race number, 919, perfect for the dyslexic me!  4:45 AM my apartment parking lot was busy … Sheila coming in and Q and Julia there to pick us up!

The day couldn’t have been better for walking or running. It was San Francisco Summer Weather – temps in the low 50’s with grey cloudy skys and a threat of rain. When Q, Julia, Sheila and I got parked, we left warm layers in the car and went to get Julia’s packet. Well – Q, Sheila and I did … Julia kept bundled up! The three of us somewhat regretted the clothing left behind as we came around a corner and got hit by the wind. Q is very thin … it might have been my imagination, but I thought his teeth might be chattering a little with the cold. My hands were starting to go white. Of course, I *had* brought throw away gloves, but at the last minute left them in my bag because it was so warm! OY!

Julia had a huge line for packet. Q is really good about warming up before a race so had offered to take her things back to his car. Sheila and I wandered around and laughed at how no matter what our bodies see Port-a-potties and we’ve got to get in line. Everyone was really nice as this race starts off in a small park just off the main drag in Manitou Springs. I really like Manitou Springs … reminds me of Mill Valley, Hangtown (Placerville … up in the Lake Tahoe area) and the like. I’ve not spent a lot of time in the Colorado mountain towns just because of the condition of my car, and now the price of gas!

When Sheila and I had talked previously on the phone, she nervously mentioned that I really needed to just have fun at this race. It was going to be difficult for the two of us in different ways and she said “You get this Eye Of The Tiger look and you’ve got to relax!” 🙂 I knew what she was talking about. My last couple of races found my head in not exactly the right place and instead of being competitive in a good way, it was more damning to myself, even if I did well! As I was putting things together, I put a little fuzzy happy monkey sticker on my watch — he had a banana. It was to look at and remind me to have fun. “Whatever it takes, Lizzy!” laughed Sheila when I showed it to her.

The race started 15 minutes late – there was a *huge* line at the packet pick-up and for Port-A-Potty land. The ladies were started on one side and the men on the other. Also, this was unchipped, so my official time shows the 38 seconds it took me to get from the back to the front. Here’s the official Course Description (with my additions):

The course is on paved roads with one 1/2 mile section on cement sidewalks. The course is a loop-back through the spectacular Garden of the Gods Park on the west edge of Colorado Springs. The rock formations and surrounding areas are so unique and spectacular that they bring visitors from across America. 

It is AMAZING. The first time I went to Garden of the Gods was right after my dear friend Saul’s rather sudden funeral. He had loved the place. I wandered around and got lost. In fact, I was training for the Walt Disney World Marathon and actually tried to get my footwork right for racewalking here thinking “I wonder how one handles hills while racewalking.”

The course is quite hilly, in fact, there are few, if any, flat sections on the course. The elevation ranges from 6,170 feet to 6,550 feet.

NO POOP! They ARE NOT kidding here! There were a few feet that felt relatively flat but they were either coming off of a steep downhill going in to another hill or going from one hill into another! The thing most people don’t remember (including myself) is that Colorado Springs is higher than Denver’s 5680 feet. What had I gotten myself in to?

This course was first used in 2007. <snip> The start/finish line of the 2008 course has been moved 312 feet to the east, providing a wider start line … The short out-n-back between miles 7 and 8 has been extended by 312 feet to accommodate the tweak.

Tweak schmeak! That little out and back thing was the flattest of the hills! 🙂 I think every race I’ve done has a funky appendix!

Ok – so Julia and Sheila started together – speedy sneakers both and I kept moving toward the back. Personally I didn’t feel nervous, anxious or anything. I had done my warm up exercises, stretched slightly, got my blood flowing a little, and wished I’d had my gloves. Heart was very calm, eyes not popping out of their sockets. People were talking around me, but I just figured I’d do as well as I could and enjoy the day. No butterflies … Noticed a bunny hopping and playing just away from the crowd … brave bunny! (new yoga pose?)

As anyone who reads this regularly know – I have three grumpy areas with most local races: headphones and the volume/disconnectness of the wearer, dogs in races, and strollers.  The first thing I noticed was that there were relatively few people plugged in to headphones. The vibe in the crowd and through the whole race from my back of pack perspective was calm, friendly and connected. I also noticed there were … no dogs! Yup. Some folks came down with their family and the dog was left with the non-runner. Ah, then, this brings us to strollers. There was one and he and I played a lot of leapfrog. He kept to where he could and was far from pushy. He shoved that thing up the hills … more power to him! A really nice guy. So – for those of you who think I’m so hard and fast on my bias’ … grow up!

Getting Going: We started and there were some slight hills getting us to mile one. I paid close attention because this was going to be my ending where I knew I’d be tired. I figured that the worst part was actually going to be the last 1/2 mile because there is a little roll into the downhill leading to the finish. You can’t see the finish line until you’re almost on top of it. I also noticed that if I had my head together, I could work on cutting tangents through this part because the curves were easier for me to see.

Mile One: After we went under the freeway, we were entering the long hill going in to Balance Rock. Q had reminded me to “Just relax, Lizzy, and look at the scenery.” I was so far back that I was concerned with getting picked up, but I just kept spinning my wheels. 

Up to Mile Two: Up is the operative word here. The high school kids who were competing for money for their track program via best water stop had to use the theme of Greece. Gods and Goddesses, Animals and Olympics … here we go! The Animal House Aid Station was about mile 1.5 or something. Kids on top of the rocks wearing togas blessing everyone and cheering away. This was going to be fun.  You keep going up then the road splits to the right. There is a downhill here that swings into the massively huge maybe 3/4 mile uphill just before mile 3. Q had driven the course with me and I went down on Friday to double check it again. I could get on this part and had it well thought out. Coming back I was confused. I worked on my feet and checked in … all systems go.

Into Mile Three … Let the Games Begin: This was really cute. I knew this mile was the first of the huge uphill sections, but I found myself laughing. A couple of the kids had an archway with the Olympic rings on it and “Go For The Gold” on a sign. Well … when in Colorado Springs – gotta think Olympics! I made it a point to go under the archway thinking how fun this was. About 1/3 of the way into this mile was the aid station. I realized that they were mixing the Gatorade … STRONG. I have been having problems with keeping hydrated, so I wanted to make sure I was OK. This was going to be a HEAVY cocktail mix of water and ade! I’d not looked at the map really carefully but there was a turnabout at the corner before things started downhill. I thought we were doing the turn around on our way out, but it was after mile 7. Oy … that was going to suck.

UPHILL to Mile Four: Behind the mile 3 marker I noticed this guy who had been running right in front of me doing push-ups behind the sign. I noticed the guy because he had the elevation map on the back of his shirt and I was using it as a guide! It turned out that he had bet a buddy he would do a series of push-ups behind every mile marker sign. I saw him at every one until he got out of my sight after mile 8 … he jammed at the downhill and I did not. Coming out of the mile three, there’s more of a downhill that flips into the very straight longest uphill of the rae. I did pay attention between mile 2 and the bottom loop as this would be one of my longer uphills coming back. just as we were starting into the ascent, I stuffed a shock block into my cheek. I dry these things out so they’ll take longer to melt. I felt pretty good … and it was then we started getting lapped. As usual, I cheered everyone that went past. Bob Basse zipped on by! Go Bob!! 🙂  It was at this point where I spotted Q. He was out to have a good time with this race, and he didn’t look like his competitive self … but also not like he was in trouble. He told me later he was kind of afraid of seeing me because he thought I might be cursing him. Instead I was a happy little turtle cheering him on. PFEW! Julia heard my voice and cheered me too! People really appreciated the cheering and cheered right back to us. Hey – we’re having fun here, people!

Mile Five – it’s around here someplace, right?: The “heaven” aid station was right after mile 4 – not quite at the completion of the massive hill climb. It is, however, where the internal part of the race (that goes along the park’s concrete walkway) dumps out. I was hoping to see Sheila, but had to send a good vibe into the park and keep going. I knew that there was a nasty little uphill into a hairpin turn on the asphalt roadway which would start the decent into the park. I felt really good. My left knee felt terrific and my right had a little twinge, but was OK. I kept making sure my shoulders were pushed down and every time I felt nervous did a little biofeedback technique with my fingers. I was having a little problem with feeling in my fingers, but kept working it. It was going to be 1/2 a gel time someplace before mile 5. I was experimenting a little with my intake of things but carry my own water mix, so wasn’t dependent upon an aid station. There was a guy just before the curve and I remember saying “Hey is this the hairpin already?” he laughed and said it was. My lungs felt great, everying checked in … sure I was a bit sore, but I’d gone uphill for HOW LONG? I came down the backside and knew exactly where I was. Popped 1/2 a gel and turned left into the park.

Mile 5 marker … 😦 and Through the Park: Entering the park there was this biker with long hair. He reminded me of someone from a long time ago “Way to go RUNNERS!” ok … I was passing him solo and said “Um … what about Racewalkers … nobody thinks about us!” I teased. “AND Racewalkers!! Swivel those hips, Sassy Skirt!” I laughed and so did he. The park is actually beautiful. Mile 5 marker is inside it. When I got to the marker, I looked at my watch and I was at least 3 full minutes off my best 5 mile time … 😦 … but then, staring at the rocks, heard the dulcet tones of Coach Dave “Um … Lizzy … those were relatively flat, at altitudes you are used to and you’ve got 5 more miles … enjoy yourself!! ” If you’ve got to imagine things, there’s no better place to do it and knowing Dave’s compulsion for National Parks, this made a lot of sense to me. I kept to the edges of the path for some reason. There were some folks walking up that were doing a bible study and I wished them a happy Sunday. If you’ve got to do bible study, this is the most beautiful place to do it. I fell in love with the red rocks of Utah, Arizona, and Colorado when I drove through several times and I felt like I was given an extra shot of energy. I did catch up to some of the folks whom I’d been playing leap frog with and passed them on the curves. There’s a wall that is exactly knee height that I hugged … not the brightest thing to do as the slabs jut out, but so it is. Exit the park — Heaven Aid Station … noticed nobody still going up … I’m really close to the back.

The way back down past the mile 6 marker and in to mile 7 found a little knot of us who had been playing leap frog since maybe mile 3. It was really nice. We all commented on how amazingly supported this race was, how fun the water stops were and about how people make race friends. A couple of the gals said they were amazed at my relatively steady pace and how they were using the downhills to make up a lot of time. I didn’t get a lot of advantage from the downhills as I’m trying to keep in form through the whole thing. I might have broken here and there on the uphills but only slightly.

Coming out of mile 7 was somewhat ugly. I sort of knew where I was, but I couldn’t quite get my bearings. I’d seen people drop out due to issues prior to this point and they were bringing the van up to pick up stragglers. Oh my gosh I’ve never been *this* close to the back of pack before. I felt good, however! My energy felt really good – I’d only popped a shock blocks and 1/2 a gel. I decided to try to stretch my knees out a smidge. I had rocks in my shoes, but short of walking in gaiters, I just have to get used to it.  A couple of the big guys who had passed me early were having foot problems. I cheered them on and kept going. Zipping down next to me was my long-haired Bike Rider! “HEY Racewalker, You’re looking really good and strong!!” giggle! When I got to the turn around thing, I was really confused. As I say, I’d forgotten about it. I looked at the people I was facing going in and coming out and really not many looked like they were having much fun. Wow – I know I looked this way at the Bolder Boulder … I’d prefer to relax and have fun! 

The Archway Girls: Coming down to the mile 8 sign, there were the Archway Girls again. Back through the arches and another shock block snack. The course really was beautiful. I didn’t spend a lot of time looking around, but it was peaceful.  I didn’t feel like I was going very fast in this race, but I was stable … I think.

In to Mile 9 and I remembered we were going back uphill again. Aww poop! There was no time for even playful complaining of the hills. Just keep going. I met up with a nice guy who was asking a lot of questions about racewalking as running was just getting too painful and he was getting too slow. I was tired, but not beaten up. I am still working on keeping my energy relatively stable and, taking everything into consideration …. I really felt fantastic. I popped the last 1/2 a gel about 1/2 a mile before the mile 9 marker and kept going through Animal House Water Station …

The Last Mile: Wow … ok … it was a long downhill and I could work on spinning my wheels downhill and keep my form. What the heck? When it bottoms out, there’s a little uphill corner under the freeway and it rolls to the end. I was right that the last 1/2 mile was going to be a little rough. I did play with tangents as I watched everyone around me taking the outer edge. Ok … I came down to the finish feeling really good, but not exactly sure if I could sprint too terribly hard. Not exactly sure how much I had left in my legs. Long-Haired Bike Dude came down the hill as I saw the finish line “You go RACEWALKER CHICK!” giggle!!! Then I saw Sheila right before the finish line. She had this strange look on her face, but I wanted her to know I was perfectly fine “Hey Shee-ra … I’m doing great!!!” Turns out the funky look on her face was she wanted to scream “GO LIS” but the words got stuck in her throat!

I’d finished … I was a little behind the jog-walkers I’d been playing leap frog with but not by much. The downhills really gave them an advantage. It was funny that they said that I was stronger on the uphills … um … ok. The medal is a keyring, which makes a lot of sense. They can use them from year to year. This event only cost $35 to get in to and it’s getting larger. Sheila caught up to me after I got out of the chutes.

The only real downer was the post-race food was over-strong gatorade, sweet Welches drinks, and Domino’s pizza. The bananas were gone. Sheila was somewhat embarrassed when we got over there and she was directing me to bananas and all there were were boxes. I had a Clif 20 gram protein bar in my bag in Q’s car, so I was going to be OK.

Julia found us and thought Q was right behind. He wasn’t, but that was cool. We all found each other and he laughed about missing my coming across earlier than predicted … again! “I knewyou’d not take 2:30, Lis!!!” Even better was that he had a spare banana! He had enjoyed one and had debated about picking up the second … I hope he always picks up a spare banana in a race we’re in together! I took off for a bench to try to stretch my hamstrings. I guess that with everyone I know having tight hamstrings, I’m pretty adamant about keeping them loose.

It started sprinkling and Sheila, Julia and I were ready for a coffee fix … so we took off. There were still people coming in. People I knew had passed me at various times in the race. I guess I’d passed them. “Hey Q, there really were people behind me.” I commented before cheering them in. “Yeah, Silly!!!” he laughed.

The upshot: I really liked this challenge. It is a race that is all on either asphalt or concrete. It would have seriously sucked if it had been a hot and sunny June day!

–> 1470 total participants: 839 Male, 631 Females
–> My placement: Overall: 1418    Females: 595     Age group: 40-44: 97 of 102
–> three shock blocks through the race and one goo. Came back with 3/4 of both bottles full!

The Race:
–> Course: Hilly but really well supported. Bike medics everywhere and bikes and people on the corners.
–> Water Stops: The kids were AMAZING! I would definitely do another race with them at the water stops.
        Negatives: Cups REALLY full and Gatorade REALLY strong, but then again they were still well stocked as I came through the second time!
–> T-Shirt: Nice tech shirt w/o advertising. Gotta love it!
–> One Stroller … very nice guy … didn’t roll over anyone.

–> I’m not used to travelling with friends because I am so much slower than they are. Q and Shee-ra made it easy. Q having that banana really was a stroke of luck!
–> Julia is a new friend and really super trail runner chick! I look forward to doing more races with her there too!
–> I am being surrounded by friends who are supportive, optimistic and put up with me, my nervousness and funky sport well. They can’t fathom the thought of being out on a course as long as I am … and I am thinking about getting them tech shirts that say “Our friend Racewalks … but we love her anyway.” I love them all!

A definite to do again if it can be shoved into my schedule!!!




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