In a word: ugly.
As I mentioned in postings leading up to the American Discovery Trail Marathon--which was held on Monday, Sept. 7 in Colorado Springs--I live and train at sea level, here in Washington, DC. By contrast, 'the Springs' is over 7,000 feet above sea level. When I say I'd feel winded after a long flight of stairs, I'm not kidding. The elevation made a huge difference and it was felt from mile one of the 26 mile race.
What started out at 8-minute pace gradually rose to a semi-comfortable 8:30 pace. By mile 14 I was averaging 8:30 overall (meaning the last couple miles had slid into 9-minute range). The wheels fell off this apple cart by mile 16 and by mile 17 I needed the meat wagon. Perhaps ugly is an understatement. It was a battle of attrition, a fight for the willing, replete with multiple instances of self-questioning: why am I doing this to myself?! This is beyond painful!
To back up, the reason it hurt so bad was the thin air. Here's why: at elevation there are less oxygen molecules per cubic milliliter of air. By contrast, at sea level where the air is thick, there is a lot more oxygen in each gasp of air we take, so we don't need to breathe as hard to get the oxygen into our lungs and muscle groups. For it is this "oxygen deprivation" (the relative absence of oxygen molecules) that creates muscle fatigue and cramping and eventually leads to the gasping, panting, and the hands on knees position to which all athletes are painfully familiar. When the air is then, there are less oxygen molecules per inhalation, meaning you have to take 1.5-2 full breaths for every breath you would take at sea level. The increased respiration rate eventually leads to an increased heart rate, as the breathing and the beating go hand in hand. Over a long enough time line (such as 26 miles) this leads to increased fatigue--both muscular and cardiovascular. Consequently, at altitude, mile 16 mentioned above felt like mile 22 usually does at a sea level marathon. Therefore, the dead man shuffle I'm usually reduced to at mile 22 came much earlier and I was in a fist fight over the last 10 miles, instead of the last four miles.
I crossed the line in 4:12 and was totally and completely wiped out. (Note: this was 30 minutes slower than my slowest time previously and was 40 minutes slower than my fastest time of the campaign!) Colorado Springs was difficult, but in a way that was very different from the previous seven marathons. It was almost like comparing apples and oranges. I took 10 days off afterwards (off from running, not from cardio) and only recently began jogging easy. The recovery time is getting longer and longer after each of these ten marathons.
I'll do 60 minutes tomorrow and will get back into the swing of things next week. I still need to see Natalie at Schrier Physical Theraphy to get back in alignment (and therefore alleviate this knee and low back pain) but I also need to get my sleep, diet and training back on line.
This is a hectic time of the year for me with NFL placement, college recruitment, client maintenance, and now marathons and fundraisers. The good thing is that we can see the light at the end of the tunnel...even if it is rather faint. Marine Corps Marathon is now one month away (to the day) and I am hell-bent on beating Mayor Adrian Fenty, who unceremoniously passed me at mile 25.5 of last years MCM and mile 23 of the National Marathon, which was the third of ten marathons in this campaign and was held her in DC this past March. He's in good shape this year, so I'd better get back to it, and quick!
That said, I'd better run...
Eight down. Two to go.