As I mentioned in a previous post, my objective for the 1st event of the TRIPLE CROWN SERIES at the GARDEN OF THE GODS was to put forth a solid effort , NOT RACE. Preparation for the run was nearly flawless. Pre-race massage two days before, check. Easy bike and swim the day before, check. In bed the night before at 10 pm, check. The morning of the event, I even got a great warm up on the two miles or so from my house to the start. Talk about convenience! Arriving at the event hub in Memorial Park with an hour before go time, I met up with Tim Bergsten, the PIKES PEAK SPORTS running team, and over 1500 fellow runners.
Amidst all the socialization, there was one key encounter that I credit (or blame depending on how the 50 mile race goes Saturday) for upending my strategy. When I told one of the race volunteers, Paul Doyle, about my plan, he returned: "Oh why are you doing that? Go all out. You have PLENTY of time to recover." Peer pressure is a powerful thing. And this, coming from a guy who is also running the San Juan Solstice in 6 days and ran 35ish miles of the Ring the Peak adventure the day before, was all it took for me to abandon my conservative approach for a far riskier gameplan.
"Ready...start...go" echoed over the megaphone, and off we went. In my head, I figured a 60 min race was probably the very best I could expect on this course. With that in mind, I decided to shoot for a time around 65 minutes- still a very solid effort but not a "puking gatorade and gu as a volunteer places a medal around your neck" kind of effort. I also made a point to be the passer of other runners on the uphills and not get bent out of shape when I was the passee on downhills (still trying to salvage my legs from at least some soreness for race to come). In this endeavor, I was largely successful, with the exception of the last descent from balanced rock and the relatively flat push to the finish. Over the course of the race, I looked at my watch twice. Once at the halfway mark (32 minutes) and again at the finish (63 minutes). And, with the help of a post-race massage (that's right, 2 massages in 3 days!), I deem the race as a success in terms of maximizing effort and minimizing soreness.
Looking back on the day, I realize I've never experienced such a sea of familiar faces at a race before. The pre-race vibe at any event is usually a uniquely energizing phenomenon. This, in part, may be due to the sheer number of likeminded masochists who enjoy a good suffering at sunrise. But even when measured against races with over 20,000 runners, this race, in many ways, stands out from the crowd. Knowing so many other runners, their stories, the struggles they've faced, the sweat they've put in, their aspirations for the day, made the crowd of over 1500 feel like family. And while racing is often synonymous with competition, there was an overwhelming sense that we were all rooting for everyone else. Given the current atmosphere of the NBA and NHL playoffs, as well as most competitive sports where one team is applauded as champion and the other condemned as failure, this was particularly refreshing.
As I've been celebrating the Coloradoan lifestyle for just over a year now, I'm finally starting to understand and appreciate the awesomeness of the our running community! THIS IS HOME!