Open water swimming is a contact sport.
Apparently, so is running, Runnin' o' the Green.
Here's your all important history lesson. The last time I ran this race was in 2006. It's ALWAYS cold. The course is difficult. It was never crowded.
That was then. This is now. This race (a 7k btw which is about 4.34 miles) used to be running only. Now, it's open to walkers AND they have a 2.2 mile walk.
That means that it's no longer a little race. WOAH. Registration winds for blocks. At 20 minutes until race start, the RD makes the announcement that althought they are thrilled that so many people came out, they are now at capacity and everyone standing in line (several HUNDRED people) will not be able to race.
Next....this race is always COLD. Yesterday it was 60 in Denver. At the start of the race, it was 90% humidity, 20 degrees with a wind that would just take your breath away. We were expected snow, but it didn't show up until I was driving home.
I trained for this race. My goal which might seem conservative or crazy or just plain weird to some was simple. I wanted to beat my time in the 4 mile race that I did in Nov.
The secondary mission was to set my pacing plan for my half marathon training. As you all know, my BIG goal of the year is a half marathon PR which happened 7 years ago....at sea level....at the age of 35.
But I digress.
People started lining up early....mostly to keep warm. We tried to follow the fine example of the Penguins (as in March of, not 'ockey). Everyone had to take their turn on the outside of the circle to warm the people on the inside.
When on the inside, I found 3 other women. We started talking and sharing goal times. It just so happened that we all had very similar goals. One woman was from Florida. She had just moved here. We decided to pace each other. She was probably in her early twenties, so I made sure that she understood to keep going if I fell off the pace.
When the gun went off, it took us about 5 minutes to get to the start. With all the bustling, I lost my new found friend. Then, I saw her camelback. My goal was to keep her in my sights.
Lemme say one thing....I've never run such a crowded race before. It never calmed down. There was never a time where I felt that I could just bust a move. The downhills were particularly frustrating because (as you know) I am training for a trail race and have learned how to take the hills pretty fast.
That was the frustration, but the good was that maybe it forced me to slow down in the beginning and hit a negative split on the return. At one point, I had to stop completely and walk for about two minutes. I couldn't get around the guy with the stroller, the lady with the 3 dogs, the three little girls and mom running holding hands (how freaking adorable).
Still, I was having a good time. I knew my face was completely windburn, and my green beads kept hitting me in the face. But what better way to spend a Sunday morning.
That's when I realized that I had lost my little friends. I figured that they are probably so far ahead of me (with getting stopped and all) that I was just going to try to re-gain my lost time and try to hit my goal.
As I round mile 3, I notice the camelback! She is only about 20 feet in front of me all the way over to the left. I was feeling really good (tired, panting, cold, sore, but good). I decided to push it and see if I could pass her.
A few minutes later, she pulled up along side me and said, "I can't believe you just blew past me. You think I'm ok with that?"
I started laughing....but I think it came out like some kind of grunt at this point. We round the 2nd to last corner. We round the last corner. She says "Kick it!"
With 30m to go, I realized that there was a WALL of people right at the finish. I look at my garmin which already read 4.6 miles but I'm beating my pace. I'm not going to run all this way only to not make my time because of a line.
Camelback turns to me and asks "Is that a wall of people?"
We are running. She's running. I'm sprinting to keep up with her. With the wall right in front of us, we both see a tiny itty bitty opening. We make a mad dash for the opening and slam our feet down onto the timing mat and exactly the same time.
I didn't see camelback after that.
The flood of people engulfed us and I saw her being pulled off to the left.
With the storm overhead and the buildings of downtown Denver as a backdrop, my garmin wasn't accurately reporting distance, time, or pace. Official results aren't in yet.
I'm SURE I beat my goal time. I'm sure of it. But I don't know yet.
I made my way over to the water station and got my t-shirt. My beads were wrapped around my neck like some sort of choker, and now that I had stopped running....I realized how truly cold it was.
I head toward my car and looked up at the sky just in time to see the first snowflakes falling.