I never thought that running a 10k and 5k on the same day at altitude separated by an hour was a good idea. But, in the spirit of team cohesion and never one to shy away from an interesting challenge, I signed up for the Denver Double Road Race with trepidation; I’m no fool, these events are hard individually.
Running races at altitude presents several challenges. First, there is the obvious lack of oxygen up here. Second, my ribs are still not 100% which compounds the problem of less oxygen. My rib cage just is not quite up to the task of working that hard. Of course, I do not help matters by going as hard as I can for as long as I can and then hanging on for dear life until the finish line with my abdomen and sternum burning.
I just cannot seem to shed my desire to be competitive and go fast and run hard. It makes no sense to me to sign up for a race and then trot through it; so, I do these races knowing that there are limitations to what I can do and there will be some level of discomfort. I make this choice because it is better than sitting on the couch and looking up the results later.
With no experience in racing this type of format, I really did not know how to approach it. In the end, I ran the 10k like it was the only event and hoped that I could run the 5k at least as fast as my 10k average. Here are my three 5k splits: 18:06, 18:54 (ouch, I blew up big time) and 18:13. The second 5k of my 10k was atrocious, attributable to breathing difficulties stemming from poor pacing the first two miles and the aforementioned rib issues. I am constantly amazed at how easy the first two miles feel and how shitty the last two miles feel in a 10k. I constantly preach about good pacing, but I still have yet to master pacing in a 10k.
After the 10k, the race organizers set up a recovery area replete with chiropractors, massage therapists and foam rollers. There was a lot of food on offer – gels, bars, donuts. Yes, there were donuts. And, yes, people scarfed them down. I overheard numerous conversations that went like this: “Did you see the donuts? I’m going to get one or three and eat them for my recovery.” I wonder how they fared in the 5k?
After the 10k, I jogged a mile easy and then ate a Power Gel, drank some water, took some Salt Stick capsules (sorry, have to shill for the sponsors; I only have a few left) and sat on the floor dreading the 5k.
My warm up for the 5k consisted of 5 minutes of easy jogging, a single stride of 10 seconds and a trip to the Porta-Potty. Lining up at the start line felt like deja-vu. It was hard imagine running the course one more time.
The first half mile felt like crap. Then, my legs loosened up and I actually started to feel good. I started thinking to myself that this wasn’t so bad and got lulled into a false sense of security.
There was a hill before the 2 mile marker. It wasn't too big, but suddenly it felt like Everest. My hip flexors ached and my breathing was shallow. The last mile I just hung on and tried to slow down as little as possible.
All in all, the Double was “fun”. Perhaps next time I would skip the 17 mile run two days before; but then again, I probably won’t.
When it is all said and done, it is possible to run fast when your legs are dreadfully tired.