“What would you be doing right now if you didn’t have any of those responsibilities,” she asked.
“Well, after my third massage of the week, I’d get on a plane and head to your parents’ house in Estes Park,” I said.
Estes Park, of course, is in Colorado -- just 30 miles north of Boulder, the mecca of running. Actually, it’s 7,522-plus feet above sea level and it’s where I “officially” started my training for the Harrisburg Marathon on Nov. 12. For 10 days in July, I woke up every morning, drank some coffee with a water chaser before heading off on a 13-mile run over the first half of the Estes Park Marathon course.
If anyone has ever been to Estes Park in June and July, it’s easy to understand why these runs would be perfect. First, while sunny, the temperatures rarely range past 85 degrees with humidity below 20 percent. For Northeasterners, summertime humidity is a killer and is probably the reason why Gatorade was invented.
But aside from the weather and the 8-minute per mile runs, the hill work made me as strong as an ox. Actually, to call what I ran a “hill” doesn’t do it justice. Estes Park, as most know, is the headquarters for the Rocky Mountain National Park. With that in mind, it kind of changes the perspective of what we call a hill here at sea level on the east coast.
Every morning I ran a flat and rolling downhill first two miles before taking off on a four-mile climb (yeah, that’s right) that took me 45 minutes to complete on a fast day. At the apex, the run up the hill took me to 8,150-feet above sea level.
I’m convinced those 45 minutes up that four-mile stretch was the backbone of my entire training program. That’s why if I were financially independent, I would be out there running up those hills to sharpen up for Nov. 12.
Then again, Estes Park was hit with 7½ feet of snow on Tuesday. It probably melted or was quickly cleared away the next day, but I’m definitely not ready for snow running yet. It was a pain running in the rain and high winds this week – who needs snow?
Anyway, on to the week:
Monday – 24 miles in 2:42:20
It felt like it was 1998 all over again. I ran the entire time in the Brick Yards and Baker Field and I did not stop to drink... in fact, I didn't stop at all. It was a pretty good run, though I definitely slowed down at the end.
Tuesday – 15.3 miles in 1:47:34
Ran in a steady downpour. In the old days I would have waited for the rain to pass before running, but I don't have that luxury anymore. What happens if I have to race in the rain? Let’s hope for partly cloudy skies and 55 degrees on Nov. 12.
Wednesday – 17 miles in 1:51: 36
I wanted to run as hard as I could without exerting myself during the second half of the run. However, I could only go 6:10 to 6:15. I ran three miles (after 9.5) in 18:40, which is slower than I felt. Still, it was pretty easy to hold that pace. I hope I can do the same with 5:50 to 6:00 pace.
Thursday – 18 miles in 2:04:12
Tried to make my legs go faster, but they wouldn't do it. Despite the lack of speed, I ran strong and didn't feel bad -- just slow. Did a whole bunch of hills, too. I suppose I did repeats if you want to get technical about it.
Friday – 15.1 miles in 1:46:11
It was as windy as I can ever remember -- excluding that time in Boston in Feb. '98 when the gusts were 70 m.p.h. I woke up tight and tired and not really sure how much I had for a workout. Nevertheless, I kept it together for some decent hill work. I figured if I wasn't going to run fast I might as well get some strength work in.
Saturday – 18.2 miles in 2:04:16
Kept the same pace the entire time. Ran some more hills -- like yesterday -- and even overcame some stomach trouble an hour into the run. Three 2-hour runs in a week is pretty good. The plan was to get up early and go to a 10-mile race, but getting up early in the morning is easier said than done.
Sunday – 7.4 miles in 46:26
Wanted to run another 5k or 5-mile time trial, but my right hamstring was a little tight and I didn't get much sleep. Either way, I was able to keep the pace fairly up tempo. I even took my iPod with me, which is rare.
That’s 115 miles for the week. Three weeks to go – 11 more hard training days and 10 days to taper.
On another note, just for fun I’d like to run the Estes Park Marathon. The race has a nice web site packed with tons of info; such as the race is the “highest paved marathon in the world.”
I’m curious if there is a higher unpaved marathon?
After spending 10 days running the first half of the course, I’m really impressed that some badass named Anton Krupicka ran it in 2:45:02 last June. I’d like to see what Anton could do on a flat course like Chicago… it might be too easy for him.
So, yes, if I didn’t have a job, a mortgage, a car payment and all of that other stuff to worry about, I’d be in Estes getting ready. Every morning I’d go to Kind Coffee for a big cup of caffeine and a Clif Bar and then I’d head up those hills.
A return to sea level for the race would make me feel like one, gigantic lung.