Pilot Hill Take 2

The Pilot Hill 25K Classic in Laramie, WY was the first race I ran after moving to Colorado (What have I gotten myself into?). I missed it last year due to injury and the Quad Rock rescheduling, but I decided to give it another go this year on June 11. I felt like I had roughly the same fitness as I did in 2014, but I felt like I could run uphill faster… which is helpful considering this race has a 6.5 mile long climb.


My friends Nick “Professional Fell Runner” Clark and Stephen “Steve” Pretak took the lead, with another guy on their heels, followed by “Cookie” Mike Neal and Rob “Sexy Hermit” Ragfield. I pulled away from Cookie Mike on the climb (thinking he’d probably catch me on the descent), while the 3rd place guy fell back a bit. I caught up and passed #3, but he hung close enough that we reached the 9000 foot Pilot Hill summit at roughly the same time. While he stopped for a drink of water I drank from the bottle I carried with me. This gave me a good gap on him, but not enough of a lead to be comfortable.



I hammered the descent. When the course straightened out a bit I could see Pretak (#2) off in the distance. He wasn’t really gaining on me, but I wasn’t really gaining on him either. I never looked back to see whether #4 or Cookie Mike were catching me (looking back is a sign of weakness to the people chasing you). Fortunately, I had run fast enough to hold them both off.

I finished 3rd place in a time of 1:53:08. This was technically a slower time than my first Pilot Hill, but a small change to the course added about ½ mile, so I did run a bit faster. This was the first podium finish I’ve had in a race in the Mountain Time Zone. The first six finishers were all from Fort Collins, though I didn’t know the eventual fourth place guy.

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This was the second week we had our new RV and now the second race we’d taken it to. After the race we took the long way home by way of the Medicine Bow mountains and camped on Saturday night at one of our favorite places: State Forest State Park.

Quads Rocked

For the second year in a row the Quad Rock 50 mile race (back on May 14) was the race I focused on for the entire first half of the year. And for the second year in a row the race didn’t go quite as I’d hoped.

My training was good (not great, but good). On the Tuesday before the race on Saturday I had a sharp pain in my knee that cut my run short. I hoped it would go away quickly, but it did not. By Thursday I was worried. I even tried to run on Friday (I never run the day before a big race) and I only made it a mile before the pain set in. Now in full-on panic mode, I shaved my legs, kineseo-taped the hell out of my knee, and dropped from the 50 mile race to the 25 mile race. If I was going to run through agonizing pain I’d rather do it for 4 hours than 9-10.

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Photo by Melissa?

When the race started the next day I felt no pain. And not just for the first couple of miles as I expected, but for the entire 25. No pain. None. Of course, had I known that would have happened I would have run the 50… but I had no reason to expect that would happen.

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Photo by Erin Bibeau Photography

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Photo by Melissa

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Photo by Ryan Quinnelly

Only racing half the distance I was expecting means I felt compelled to run much faster. The three long climbs up the mountain were slow, but the rolling sections and the long descents I really pushed the pace. I lost track of how many times I thought to myself I’m going way too fast, I’ll never be able to hold this pace. For the most part I did, except for the climbs. The second climb went slower than the first, and the third climb was really slow. That’s me: good for 1½ climbs.

My local rival Cookie Mike passed my on the last descent to finish just ahead of me. I finished in 3:56:46, good for 12th place. I was hoping to break 4 hours.

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Photo by Melissa

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Photo by AJ Cohen

Recovery was fast and the mysterious race week knee pain never came back.

Horsetooth Half

It’s been 12 years since I’ve run a road half marathon. To be honest, it’s the race that scares me the most. It’s short enough that you have to run really fast, but it’s long enough that it will hurt a lot to do so. Of course, April’s Horsetooth Half is not a typical road half marathon. The two big hills in the first two miles make for 600 feet of climbing. It’s a pretty brutal way to start a pretty brutal race.

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Colorado kept things interesting by dumping a few inches of super wet snow on us overnight. The course was plowed, but there was a lot of water out there. My friend Stephen drove to my house and we ran over to the start line as a warmup.

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Photo by Melissa

That would be the last time I’d be in front of Stephen that day. He went on to win the race. It was his first half marathon.

The race was delayed a bit on account of traffic backups. Once we got started I eased into the first climb, with at least 30 people ahead of me. By the top of the first climb I was closer to 15th place. 7:16 for the first mile.

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Photo by The Coloradoan

Next came the harder climb. 7:31 for the second mile. Once over the top came a nice gradual downhill and I really ramped up the pace, passing a few more people. Things were going well. I did tempo runs on this hilly road all winter long, so I felt well trained for this part of the race.

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Photo by Erin Bibeau Photography

Down the steep hill at the north end of Horsetooth Reservoir I started to ease up a bit and the guys I had been running with pulled away from me. One more guy caught up with me and passed me around Bingham Hill.

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Photo by Monnier Photography

Finally, I reached the easy part of the course. The last 5 miles are a very gradual downhill on the Poudre Trail alongside the river. This should have been where I really excelled. Every time I pushed the pace up to where I thought I should be I was very uncomfortable. As soon as my concentration broke I slowed down 15-20 seconds per mile and felt like I could run all day. Then I’d speed up again. Then I’d slow down again. I spent very little time training to run that kind of pace, and the lack of training really showed. I just couldn’t run fast.

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Photo by Melissa

A couple of guys passed me on the finishing straight. I finished 13th place overall, 12th man, 1st 35-39 (old) man. My time of 1:24:13 was technically my fastest half marathon race (on a hilly course at elevation), though I actually ran 13.1 miles of last year’s Loveland Marathon in 1:20:34 (but that was entirely downhill). It was good, just a bit slower than I thought I’d run. But I’ll take it.

Run Through Time

The Run Through Time Marathon in Salida, CO is kind of a big deal in this part of the country. In mid-March it’s really the first long distance trail race of the year. It seemed like everyone I knew was doing it. Melissa really wanted to go to Monument Valley the following weekend, and since she was injured there was some talk of me doing that race instead. Fortunately her injury healed up, so she was able to do the race she really wanted. And at the last minute I was able to jump into this marathon in Salida.

All my best marathons happen with when I decide to run them at the last minute.

I scouted out a few places to camp the night before the race. Being mid-March with sub-freezing temperatures at night, one would think there wouldn’t be much competition for camping spots. But in Colorado there’s always competition for camping spots. I really had no idea what to expect. Complicating matters was the fact that we arrived to a campground along the Arkansas River after dark and we had trouble finding our way around. We eventually made it to a campsite. In the morning we discovered it looked like this:

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On the way to the race we were treated to a glorious view of the sunrise hitting Mt. Shivano (14,235 ft).

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Once at the race I saw what seemed like every single person I know in Colorado. The course started with 2-3 flat-ish miles near town before heading up into the mountains.

Photo by Melissa

The start was fast and the competitors spread out pretty quickly.

Photo by Melissa

Will ran the kids race.

Photo by Melissa

After 5 miles of up and down (more up than down) the climbing started in earnest. I felt like I may have been struggling early on, but once I hit the steep part of the climb people started coming back to me. I passed two friends who had started out faster than me.

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Photo by ???

I hit the halfway turnaround at the high point on the course (~9,000 ft) feeling ready to rip the descent.

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Photo by ???

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The way back down the mountain went well for a while. Then we turned off the nice wide Jeep road and onto a twisty, freshly cut mountain bike trail. I had to slow quite a bit. There were a few places with deep snow where I had to stop and look around for a while before I spotted the trail. I thought for sure a ton of people would catch up and pass me at any moment, but that never really happened. There was one person who passed me on the way down and it turned out to be a guy I knew. The trail got easier with about two miles of downhill left. The marathon runners merged with the half marathon runners at that point, so I had to do quite a bit of passing in the last two miles.

Of course, it couldn’t be easy. On a switchback I happened to see my friend Pete just behind me and closing fast. I had to haul ass down the rest of the trail to stay ahead of him to the finish line.

Photo by Melissa

Photo by Melissa

My time of 3:47:40 made this my fastest trail marathon ever (just barely). I had a few minor problems, but things mostly went well for me. I did the race in the midst of a heavy month of training with essentially no rest before or after (this wasn’t an A race), yet I managed to run pretty strongly.

Running in 2015

I got way behind on my training log, so I hadn’t actually seen this until just now. Notably, December 2015 had my highest mileage day, week, and month. Ever.

Month Workouts Total Dist Avg Dist Total Ascent Avg Ascent
January 27 274.15 miles 10.15 miles 34486.2 feet 1277.27 feet
February 10 86.31 miles 8.63 miles 12141.1 feet 1214.11 feet
March 12 57.27 miles 4.77 miles 12320.9 feet 1026.74 feet
April 12 96.01 miles 8. miles 14028.9 feet 1169.07 feet
May 17 128.92 miles 7.58 miles 19814.3 feet 1165.55 feet
June 15 183.07 miles 12.2 miles 28361.2 feet 1890.75 feet
July 24 281.46 miles 11.73 miles 43619.1 feet 1817.46 feet
August 26 252.57 miles 9.71 miles 29024.9 feet 1116.34 feet
September 22 167.85 miles 7.63 miles 15629.9 feet 710.45 feet
October 25 184.11 miles 7.36 miles 14208.3 feet 568.33 feet
November 27 211.72 miles 7.84 miles 36867.1 feet 1365.45 feet
December 20 285.14 miles 14.26 miles 10399.6 feet 519.98 feet
Total 237 2208.57 miles 9.32 miles 270902. feet 1143.04 feet

Running 2015 12

Racing Arizona

Across the Years 24 Hour Run

Melissa and I took the plunge and signed up to particpate in the Across the Years 24 Hour Run. Ever since completing the Never Summer 100K in July I’ve felt mentally prepared to try a 100 mile race. Sure, 100 miles is much, much longer than 100K, but Never Summer is a brutally difficult course. An easy 100 mile course probably wouldn’t take me a whole lot longer (relatively speaking) than the 16 hours it took me to cover that mountainous 100K.

Well, it didn’t really work out to run a 100 mile race the rest of the year, but there was one more chance at New Years: Across the Years. It’s not a 100 mile race, but rather a 24 hour timed event. The course is easy–a 1.05 mile loop that’s 85% dirt/gravel. I should be able to run 100 miles in 24 hours. I was confident I could.

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I know a lot of people who have run 100 miles. They all have the same advice for first timers: start slower than you think you need to. I knew this advice and I was thinking about it in the early hours of the race. The problem is, I really had no frame of reference for slower than I think I need to go. So I started at a comfortable pace–a pace I felt I could maintain all day. My heart rate was super low. But my pace was a bit quicker than I expected. I made a few concerted efforts to slow down, but every time I tried to slow I accidentally sped up instead. After a while I just went with it.

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The result of my “comfortable pace” running was that I covered 50 miles in the first 8 hours of the event. This was too fast. I almost certainly wasn’t going to run 100 miles in 16 hours and there was no chance I could possibly run 150 miles in 24 hours. So why was I running so fast? It didn’t feel fast. In retrospect, my running pace was probably okay, but I should have spent more time walking, which would have slowed my average pace and left a little life in my legs. As it happened, I didn’t walk a single step of the first 50 miles. Big mistake.

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After 8 hours it was starting to get cold so I put on some warmer clothes and I walked a few miles. My legs were tired now, and I had 16 hours left to go. The sun was setting and I settled into a pattern of running a few miles and walking a mile. As much as my legs hurt, the extreme cold weather was bothering me more by this point. The temperature dropped to 22˚F during the night. I had been training in colder weather at home, but there’s a big difference between 22˚F when you step out your front door and 22˚F after you’ve been running for 12 hours. This was just about the coldest I’ve ever felt in my life. I had to wear my winter coat (on top of my running jacket and long sleeve shirt) when I was walking. All the food and drinks I had sitting out froze solid.

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After the initial rough patch with my mileage in the early 50’s I came back to life in the late 50’s. I had another rough patch in the early 60’s before coming back to life. I had another rough patch in the early 70’s and again in the early 80’s. By the mid 80’s I was getting close enough to 100 that I was able to stay motivated to keep going. I was doing more running and less walking. My knees and hips hurt when I ran, but my ankles hurt when I walked. Since it hurt either way I figured I might as well just run.

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I feel like I’m a lone survivor
forgotten in a dark and deadly world
and on my own, I walk alone
to see the sun again I’d give anything

I passed the 100 mile mark around 20h30m. Now I had 3h30m for bonus miles. I was moving slow. I hadn’t had a very good idea of my placing all day since the live results I could see all included people who had run previous days. When I passed 108 miles I suddenly moved into 1st place. Well okay then.

I did the math and figured I could finish with 112.33 miles. I reached that mark with 15 minutes to spare, but I really put everything I had into reaching 112. I couldn’t muster the will to cover one more mile, despite having time to do so. My body was done a long time ago, but my mind took over and kept me going. Once my mind was out of it I was done.

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Prior to the race my biggest concern was simply staying awake for 24 hours, but that was never really a problem. I did crash pretty hard after the race, dozing off and waking up periodically throughout the next day. Participants can run the 24 hour event on any of six consecutive days. In the later days one man and two women ran farther than me so my final result was 2nd place male. I ran on day two and Melissa ran on day four. She put in an incredible effort and ended up with 100.78 miles. It was a triumph for both of us.

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Melissa and I discussed our races more in depth in this interview on the Ultra Ordinary Running podcast.

Cyclocross 2015

Cheyenne Cyclocross Series #1

Cross season started for me with a very low-key event up in Cheyenne, WY.  The first race of the Cheyenne Cyclocross Series had about 15 people total show up for beginner/intermediate/advanced men/women/junior races.  The organizer decided to just have everyone race at the same time.

One guy started fast.  I caught up to him and passed him after half a lap or so, then I was alone at the front for the rest of the 35 minute race.  One guy finished half a lap behind me, while everyone else finished more than a full lap behind me.

So, reasonably good start to the season.

New Belgium Cyclocross #1

This was a much bigger race than the last one.  It takes place on a very rough (made for mountain bikes) course.  I flatted out of the race after a quarter of a lap.  Nobody there was the slightest bit interested in helping me out.  I’ve never felt so unwelcome amongst a group of cyclists.  This was a horrible experience.

This pretty much sums it up

Cross of the North – Friday

Cross of the North preview Cross of the North preview

Cross of the North came week after the Blue Sky Marathon.  I did well at this race last year on a different course.  This course didn’t suit me quite as well (bumpy, loose dirt, off-camber, few straightaways), but it was fun nonetheless.  I started in the last row (which precluded any chance I could have had at a good result).  I rode hard.  I passed people the entire race.  I worked my way up to 9th place.

Photo by Melissa

Cross of the North Friday

Cross of the North – Sunday

I actually had a really good start for a change, and moved up a lot during the first part of the first lap.  Then somebody rode right into me, knocked me off my bike, and dropped my chain.  By the time I had fixed my bike and remounted 22 people had passed me and I was even farther back than I was at the start.  I rode hard.  I passed people the entire race.  I finished 22nd (the exact number of people who passed me after I got knocked off my bike).

Photo by Melissa

New Belgium Cyclocross #2

This race went much better than my first attempt at New Belgium, which is to say I finished.  But it wasn’t without incident.  I was very far back at the start and I was stuck behind people the entire race.  This is a course that is not well suited to, you know, passing people (or peddling, for that matter).  I had moved up quite a bit then on the very last lap I tripped over the barriers and fell flat on my face.  I got up quickly and didn’t lose any places between there and the finish line.  It was embarassing.

Indy Cross

I was visiting the midwest in late October and a friend of mine talked me into a cross race in Indianapolis (then he didn’t show up).  The race was fun.  It was raining and the all-grass course was super-slippery (everyone went down at some point during the race).  At the risk of sounding like a broken record, A bad start left me far back in the field, I passed people the entire race, I finished unremarkably.


Blue Sky Marathon

My performance at the Blue Sky Marathon last year was a bit of a disappointment. I was able to handle 1-1.5 good climbs, but after that my legs were toast. On the 3rd climb I slowed to a crawl.

This year I’m not quite as fit as I was last year, but I feel like maybe I’ve been doing better at climbing. I haven’t necessarily been climbing as fast, but I feel like I can at least get through 2-2.5 good climbs before I start to crumble.

So the first big climb in this year’s race went a lot like the first big climb in last year’s race. I held back a bit on the uphill, let loose a little on the downhill, and found myself in a pretty good position around mile 10 before heading out on the Blue Sky Trail proper. I passed the half marathon around 1h45m or so (only a few minutes slower than I ran at the Black Squirrel Half Marathon), right about where I wanted to be. I hoped to run between 3:30-3:45, preferably on the low end but I’d settle for the high end.

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Photo by Terry Grenwelge

The second climb went okay. Not great, but okay. I definitely had more left in the tank as I rounded the loops at the south end of the course and headed back toward the finish line. I walked nearly the entire Indian Summer climb on the way back last year. This year I was determined to run, even if it was slow, I would still run. It was a struggle, but I did it.

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Photo by Erin Bibeau Photography

The final 5 miles were a bit strange. I slowed down. I wasn’t exhausted. I hadn’t bonked. I simply couldn’t muster the courage to push myself any harder. Rather than run fast and hurt I simply chose to jog it in and stay as comfortable as possible. That’s not the choice I usually make, and I’m not super proud of it.

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Photo by Melissa

I finished in 3h50m, which was 12 minutes faster than last year, so it wasn’t a complete shit show. But I was well off my desired time. Maybe one of these years I’ll get it right at this race.

This was the 4th and final race in the trail race series put on by the local Gnar Runners race management. As it happens, I was the only person to complete all four this year. Since the Never Summer 100K was new this year, I guess I’m the only person ever to complete the so-called Gnar Slam in a calendar year. And since I’m the only person to ever complete the Gnar Slam, I have the de facto record for cumulative time of the four races (until someone beats it next year). Here it is:

For a grand total of 33:12:55.

September 2015


I raced well at my A race, the Black Squirrel Half Marathon. Then I quickly followed that up with a C race, the Loveland Marathon, which I jumped into 36 hours before the start. This race went quite well, but it really beat me up. All my previous races this year I’d maybe take a day or two off and start training hard again. After this downhill road marathon I didn’t feel good running for at least 10 days. So that threw off my training a bit, but I began to pick up steam again by the end of the month.

Photo by Terry Grenwelge

Loveland Marathon

Baby rattler

Baby rattler

Red next to black is a friend of Jack

Blue Sky training running


Paramotoring at sunset

Month Workouts Total Dist Avg Dist Total Ascent Avg Ascent
January 27 274.15 miles 10.15 miles 34486.2 feet 1277.27 feet
February 10 86.31 miles 8.63 miles 12141.1 feet 1214.11 feet
March 12 57.27 miles 4.77 miles 12320.9 feet 1026.74 feet
April 12 96.01 miles 8. miles 14028.9 feet 1169.07 feet
May 17 128.92 miles 7.58 miles 19814.3 feet 1165.55 feet
June 15 183.07 miles 12.2 miles 28361.2 feet 1890.75 feet
July 24 281.46 miles 11.73 miles 43619.1 feet 1817.46 feet
August 26 252.57 miles 9.71 miles 29024.9 feet 1116.34 feet
September 22 167.85 miles 7.63 miles 15629.9 feet 710.45 feet
Total 165 1527.6 miles 9.26 miles 209427. feet 1269.25 feet

Running 2015 9

Quad Destroyer

Loveland Marathon

What are we doing this weekend? I just saw in the newspaper that the Loveland marathon is on Sunday. Maybe I’ll do it.

It was a typical Friday afternoon at Casa de Ragfield. My last road marathon I decided to run three days before the race. This time I left myself 36 hours. What could possibly go wrong?

I was feeling good coming off my first decent race of the year at the Black Squirrel Half Marathon the previous weekend. This race has been in the back of my mind for a while, but I’m not sure I ever really seriously considered it. It’s downhill. And I don’t mean it’s 400 ft of drop like the famous Boston Marathon, it’s almost 3,000 ft downhill. The course starts in Estes Park and follows US-34 down the entire Big Thompson River Canyon before the final 5 miles of rolling hills going into Loveland. The finish line is a 15 minute drive from my house.

Big Thompson River Canyon


Mama black bear + 2 cubs

There are two things to keep in mind about running downhill:

  1. You can go really fast.
  2. You will completely destroy your quadriceps muscles.

I think the longest continuous downhill I had ever run is about 9 miles. I think the longest continuous downhill I’ve ever raced is 6.5 miles. This race had 19 miles of continuous downhill, and about 23-24 total.

I tried on various costumes on Saturday, but the potential of really warm weather by the end frightened me a bit into staying pretty conservative.


It was still dark when the race began at 6:00 AM on Sunday. I didn’t wear a headlamp–nobody did. The first few miles out of Estes Park were a bit dodgy. The first uphill mile was 7:24–my slowest mile of the day. The second downhill mile was 6:10. There were three guys way off the front (I couldn’t even see them), and by the time we reached the start of the canyon I had caught up to and passed the rest of the fast starters. So I was in 4th place, where I would remain for the rest of the race. I didn’t see another competitor for nearly three hours.

The early miles were great. I was running fast, though still holding back as I wanted to make absolutely sure I didn’t blow up too early. The temperature was cool, I almost wished I had worn gloves. The traffic on the highway was very light at that time of day.

Mile 7 I accidentally ran in 6:02. This was faster than the 2nd mile of my recent 5K race. I got to thinking, Wouldn’t it be wild if I ran a sub-6:00 mile during a marathon? How crazy would that be? Well the grade became steeper and mile 10 I ran in 5:58, followed by 5:58 for mile 11, and 6:02 for mile 12. I had just run a sub-18:00 3 mile stretch in the middle of the marathon.

Loveland Marathon

Loveland Marathon

Now, it wasn’t all kittens and rainbows. It was around mile 10 that I started to notice my quads were beginning to hurt. I was hoping that wouldn’t happen until at least mile 16-18. The road soon became more shallow and I backed off the pace a bit, though I was still running most miles around 6:10-6:20. I passed the half marathon mark at 1:22:00. This was a new half marathon PR for me.

Somewhere around this time I heard some noises up above me. I looked up and saw three bighorn sheep climbing the canyon wall.

It was around mile 16 when the noticeable pain in my quads turned into full blown serious pain. My legs were killing me. With 10 miles still left to run I felt like I was 40 miles into a hard 50 mile race. I began to dread every step as each one just brought more pain. The canyon became less steep and I began to slow a bit, creeping up to 6:25 pace.

Once I reached the bottom of the canyon I was faced with the dreaded mile 20, which contained the first significant uphill after an awful lot of quad-crushing downhill. I had to work hard for that 6:56 mile. I was so not enjoying this.

Loveland Marathon

The downhills hurt and I was slowing down. The uphills hurt and I was slowing down more. After a few miles of rolling-to-slightly-downhill terrain, mile 25 had another big uphill. I had completely broken by that point, running another 7:24–this one much more painful than the first.

As soon as I crested the hill I saw another runner about 50-100 meters ahead of me. That’s strange, I didn’t see that person on the way up the hill. I actually lifted the pace to try to catch up, even though I figured it was a long shot. Then the person stopped to walk, and it slowly dawned on me, this person was not in my race. After passing a few more people I realized these were people finishing the 10K run that was taking place simultaneously. So I wasn’t going to move up any more positions.

Loveland Marathon

Will and Melissa were at the finish line to cheer me on. I finished in 2:48:46 (2:48:43 chip time). This was an 8 minute PR on what was a very fast and incredibly painful course. I finished in 4th place (there were cash prizes for the top three finishers, so I was out of the money).

The obvious question about this race is how much faster is this course than a flat course? The answer is a little complicated.

My average heart rate for the entire race was 151. I wasn’t running hard. At all. I’m still burning fat (as opposed to carbs) until 148-150. I could have done the entire thing breathing through my nose. Yet I still ran a faster time than ever before. So, on one axis, this course is significantly faster than a flat course–upwards of 15-20 minutes.

My legs, on the other hand, were hurting by mile 10 and were completely trashed by mile 16. I had to run through so much more pain and discomfort than I typically would in a marathon. For example, my last road marathon I ran 2:56. In that race my legs felt comparable at mile 22 as they did at mile 10 in this race, and at 24 where they did at 16 in this race. I spent a lot of time out there suffering. This absolutely slowed me down.

Finally, there’s the small matter that this race takes place at high elevation, starting around 8,000 ft. That will further slow things down compared to a race near sea level.

Weighing these factors I’d estimate that for me (a runner a fairly strong cardiovascular system, and slightly weaker leg muscles) this course was probably 10 minutes faster than a flat course near sea level. If you have strong legs this course could be even faster for you.

Loveland Marathon

My Strava records only cover my time living in Colorado, but still it was pretty cool to completely sweep the PR boards with this race.