The Rim Rock Marathon was an amazing experience, and probably one of my favorite races this year. Having driven through Grand Junction and Fruita to raft Ruby Horse Thief or Westwater Canyon in the past, I hadn't thought much about the Colorado National Monument, until this race. We anticipated doing well as a relay team and were hoping for first place. Compared to the top marathon runners, we anticipated being in the top ten or twenty. Up until this race, we had a solid training base and were ready to give a strong competition.
The race runs along the road, starting in Grand Junction and ending in Fruita, through the monument. I honestly can't tell much about the first 13 miles, though another runner told me that Duane would be looking at cedars and dirt the entire time. His leg involved about 2,000 feet of climbing. He maintained the top 3 position, when around mile 10, he took 1st place. I was warming up at the aid station, anticipating that he would finish around 1:50. I was able to see the 1st place position for 1/4 mile at 1:30. He kind've ran like Duane and seemed to be wearing the same clothing. At 150 yards, I was dumbfounded to see that it was Duane. My shock clouded my memory, and for a moment he needed to remind me to remove the timing chip and start running. In disbelief, I followed the lead vehicle, while dreaming about crossing the finish line in first place. After a short time, the excitement began wearing off. Knowing that much faster runners were behind me, I began feeling like prey running from a fierce predator. I lost first place at mile 4, but it was fun while it lasted.
While I analyzed our competition and worried about other runners taking my spot, I'd take short breaks to remind myself of how beautiful the Monument is and not to look down. The amount of dimension within the Colorado National Monument is amazing. From a distance, it just looks like another mesa. Up close, it has amazing canyons, monoliths and cliffs. This race boasted the most amazing views, making it one of my favorites. The Rim Rock showed the beauty we had hoped to see in the Canyonlands Half Marathon. Rim Rock had so much more to offer.
I have never had so many "fans" in my life. Many spectators and bicyclists cheered me on to the finish. I didn't see any other runners for the remainder of the race, and I crossed the finish line in third place. Finishing as the psuedo first female was a little awkward, though, in my mind, we were the first team. Crossing the finish line at 2:59:45, I was disappointed to find that the first place runner was on a male team. Duane and I finished as the second team overall and first in the coed division. Better luck next time, and I know there will be a next time.
I have never won a race. And I still haven't. But I was the first runner to come into the 13 mile transition of the Rim Rock Marathon and that was the first time I have ever been the front runner in such a competitive race. It was one of the coolest highlights of my racing history, one that I'm not likely to repeat, and the excitement of handing over the first position to Jaclyn was priceless.
At the beginning, before the race even, I was the only one totally underdressed--which is to say, I was the only one not dressed for a winter run in, say Waldo Canyon--in just shorts and a short sleeve technical. I've long since given up carrying water or even guu on these runs because they're so well supported that anything I need would be available. Still, the Colorado Monument is famous for having a different climate zone than Fruita and I didn't know that. Luckily, my half was under mostly clear skies, a light, cold breeze, and up one of the most gorgeous stretches of road I have ever had the fortune to run. I was counting on the breeze dying when we entered the shelter of the monolithic walls of the Monument and the furnace being stoked by 2000 feet elevation gain. I was fine.
Debating how to go out on the race had as much to do with the race Jaclyn and I I were going to be in the next day--the fourth leg of the Fall Series, in which I was defending my age group place from a runner who could easily catch the two and a half minute series lead I had-- and the fact that this race, a relay, was the culmination of a year long commitment that Jaclyn and I had made to run a half marathon a month. Finishing this race strong was our goal. So I went out solid. I wasn't up front, but I was far forward. As I passed each runner, I announced myself as a relay runner so that I wasn't egging on some unsuspecting marathoner. When the real climbing began about mile 2, I was in 6th place. By mile 7 I was in 4th. By mile 9 I was in 3rd. Most of the nine miles had been climb. Maybe 1 mile of coasting flats with a little down had been woven in. The 2nd and 1st place runners were within a long view and I decided that the Fall Series would end the way it ended; I was going for broke. The end of mile 9 was a climb and I took 2nd. I again said that I was a relayer and the response was muddled. It turns out he was a relayer too, but not an experienced distance runner. He said later at transition how much he appreciated what I said, but that at the moment he was totally confused by what I was saying, and had wondered why I was talking to him. When I took the first place position at the mile 11 water station, I was following the pace car for the first time in my life.
I spent the next 2 miles in the front and the conversation in my head was a mess. Another climb had me at my physical limit and the fear of the runner behind me kept me on edge. Turns out, the man I just passed would win the marathon, but when I came into transition, almost 90 seconds ahead of him, I was a hero. Jaclyn was waiting, but she was in so much shock that I had to remind her about getting the time chip off my leg. She took off so fast that I don't think she had ever started a race as fast. The excitement was contagious. That second place guy I passed at mile 10 transitioned with his partner who was almost 3 minutes behind. He said his partner was an experienced runner and a strong runner, but I told him and the crowd of other relayerers waiting for their teammate, that so was my wife. I told them she could win the whole thing. She didn't. Our team finished third in the overall, but for more than a couple of hours, I know that a whole bunch of people, inspired by my finish and the unknown x-factor that was Jaclyn, were cheering us on.
What a great day and we have learned that we make a great running team. We're running as a team at least once a year now, or so we've said to each other. I can't wait for the next transition.