Monday, October 19, 2009

Running Through Denver

I knew something was up when I got in the elevator and turned around only to see Dick Hoyt standing behind me. I did a double take just to make sure I hadn’t lost too much sleep from traveling on a Saturday to mistake someone else for the man with one of the biggest hearts I’ve ever encountered. As he spoke to a lady beside me I knew, without a doubt, it was really Dick.

I said a quick hello, but was too awestruck to actually get a picture (and I hate bothering people for things like that when I see what my boss goes through). “What could he be in town for?” I thought, as I strolled through the lobby of the Sheraton Denver last Saturday.

Then I saw my people milling around the lobby. Yes, you know your people wherever you go. You all know what I’m talking about here. They have high quality running shoes, they wear spandex and running zip up fleeces, and they have the body type that could go out and run 10 miles on a whim.

The guy at the front desk didn’t help me out at all when I asked, “So what’s going on here in town? An athletic event? Marathon perhaps?” He just gave me a blank stare and said “uhh yeah, I think the Denver Marathon was today.” Now 4pm, I was all dressed in business attire and on my way to see one of my favorite speakers of all time in the financial realm – Suze Orman- at the opening session (who was AMAZING by the way - two words - ROTH I.R.A.). I have to admit I was a bit bummed I had just missed the marathon. Not that I would have ran, but it would be fun to see it and cheer at least. "O well", I thought, I had places to be.

After the evening’s events, I ran into a couple of “my people” in the elevator. I asked them how it went today and they responded “Oh..We’re doing the half marathon tomorrow.” What..! It’s tomorrow! Really?! I inquired about the start location and thought about running my long run around while watching the marathoners pass by. It was only 8pm, and I still had plenty of time to get some rest and be up by a 7am start time. After seeing the mass exodus from my hotel lobby at 6:35am, I knew I was headed in the right direction. I had my MP3 player, two gels, my phone and a smile on my face. People were everywhere, music was blaring, and the nervous anticipation could have been cut with a butter knife. Then I started to get a crazy idea…what if I just ran…ran with the rest of them. I would have loved to realize this was going on a bit earlier so I could have registered and officially entered. No time for that now, it was time to decide what was going to happen here. I wanted to run so badly I could taste it.
It was 5 minutes to the start, the helicopters were buzzing overhead, and as the national anthem sang I stood along the highway looking at the faces of those who were about to do their first marathon. It was a combination of complete petrification and utter elation (a face I actually know pretty well).

The gun went off and I started running a bit further up along the course as 10,000 people crossed the starting line. When I saw the 4:00 hour group I couldn’t help myself, I just jumped in the middle of the masses. I know it wasn’t the smartest decision, or even the right thing to do, but I didn’t think…I just acted.
After a few miles of warm up I started dropping the pace per mile. It was like a wall of people but I snuck along the side making up ground. I saw the 3:30 group, the 3:20 group and it finally thinned out.

I didn’t take anyone else’s water, or Gatorade or gels, because I didn’t feel like that was for me (ok, well, maybe like one cup). You know when your body just doesn’t feel right…well, that started happening about mile 6 and I didn’t even think about the altitude change. I was pushing so hard and barely running 6:30-6:40 pace. Eventually I couldn’t even hold that (it wasn't until much later it occurred to me - helloooo Mcffllyyy it's the MILE HIGH city - aka ALTITUDE)! Needless to say, when 13 miles came, I was ready to cool down and run back to my hotel. I peeled off on a side street and avoided the finish line about 400 feet away.

Let me say I am in no way endorsing banditing, or saying I made the right decision. I’m not overly happy with myself for doing it, as I understand why race fees are in place and that I should have spent the $100.00 to enter and have an official time. I promise you that if I would have realized the race was going on I would have paid, in full, to be a participant like everyone else. If this situation ever comes up again, I think I’ll make the right decision and stay strong. In this case, being in a strange city where I thought I might have to do my long run on the treadmill because I didn’t know the neighborhoods or their safety for running in partial darkness, influenced my decision greatly. Knowing my people were out there to run running alongside each other, encouraging each other, was just too much to handle. We all make mistakes, and I would consider this one on my part. Just to acknowledge that I do believe in doing the right thing - I'm going to write out my check and send it in with a note explaining what happened and an apology. It's the right thing to do even if I didn't get all the perks of being a "real racer." I don't want to start a trend of people thinking that I think this is totally cool. I strait up don't..(although it is the closest thing I've ever done to something illegal so I did have a little high for those first few miles thinking I might be tackled at any moment by a race official or police officer).

So, that was the start of my time in Denver. The rest of the day my legs ached and I still had to walk around in heels, which was not the smartest move (in addition to my morning decision). The conference was exceptional, and I interacted with so many wonderful people on both a personal and professional level. I learned so much, got some credits (and even ate some great sushi).

The first two days I was there it was 80 (that’s right, I said 80), so I high-tailed it to our 5th floor pool deck to make some much needed Vitamin D for an hour over lunch. It was a pretty cool place to have a pool deck right there among the skyscrapers.
Now I’m flying back, most likely without my luggage due to a 10 minute plane change, to good old Pittsburgh, PA. I hear its 60 degrees at home and it was snowing as my plane left Denver this morning, so I think there might be a two hour long bike in my future this evening.

The goal is to finish out this week’s workouts with some real diligence and get a great long ride/long run in this weekend (while relaxing and catching up with friends). I feel like I’ve been working for 9 days strait even though this conference was a great investment in me and my company (but it is really hard to not have a weekend).

I really want to nail next week’s workouts too and then, let the taper begin.
Will I make it? gosh, I hope so.

Hope everyone had a great weekend/week!

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