The Connection Runners + [running man]

Winter Harvard Gulch Beer Mile Denver - Part 1

This is part one of four, please stay tuned for the other next installments of this race report.

I committed months ago to this run so even though I was tired, over-trained, sluggish, fatigued from not sleeping due to the horrific front-range winds last night, and exhausted from the past few weeks of super intense racing, I figured I'd stick to my plan and how well I could do.

The bike ride over to the race was cold to say the least. I forgot my gloves and was too distracted with my pre-race thoughts to go get them so I didn't even realize that I was without my gloves until I stopped at the liquor store. Upon arrival I realized my second and complete rookie mistake: I had forgotten to buy beer early and leave it out so that it was warm. It's common knowledge among beer-runners that warm beer is much more chug-able than cold beer. But given the temperature (high 40's) I thought that the cool temperature of the beer might not affect me. Little did I realize that mistake would come back to haunt me when I took the straight away after the second turn of my second lap...

The beers store was fine. People were buying beverages and I was anxious. I waited in line behind some people - one of them bought a bota box. But I was calm and collected. My good old friend Coors Light would be mine within a few transactions. I bought my beer, walked back into the cold, and got back onto my bike. The bike ride there was good. I was passed by several cars, none of which were notable.

I got there a little early. The bike ride was a little faster than I thought it would be. I thought it would take me 30 or 45 minutes. But it only took me like 20. I became worried that I was stressing my quads too much, but that I could work out the burn with a little stretching and appropriate warm ups. Kircher got there about the same time as me. We made nervous small talk while we waiting for the rest of the field to arrive. I cracked a Coors Original because the nerves were getting to me and hoped Kircher wouldn't notice how nervous I was.

I don't know what his game plan was, but he started playing mind games: "ran an 18 miler yesterday...in show shoes...at 8,000 ft...in 2 feet of powder...couldn't pull of the win...gonna kick some ass today..." but I didn't let it get to me.

I stood around while the competition arrived. I didn't stretch or walk too much to save my energy. I channeled my focus towards consumption - there were going to be some fast guys out there giving it their all and I knew I wouldn't be able to out run them. So if I had a chance, it would be through chugging faster than them. My pre-race beer was going down smooth, a good omen if there ever was one.

After waiting around for what seemed like forever, the field was assembled, the nervous energy was built, and we were ready to race. I was focused. Ready to run. Ready to lay it all on the line. I hadn't put in months of training, slogs through the mountains, hill repeats, speed workouts, and 20+ mile runs over the weekend to flake out now. Jaime and Patrick could feel my intensity. I believe it scared them. It was raw. Palatable. They started hedging: "I already ran this morning and have been sleeping on the couch since", "I put in a good 20 miles this morning."

You know what I say? Hog wash! If you're serious, you don't pull that crap moments before the most intense race of the year. When you're serious, you just put your faith in God that he can protect you throughout the race and provide you with the strength to finish.

I remained focused and kept my head in the race. Before I knew it the official was shouting "3...2...1...go!" and we were off. I heard the crisp crackling of beer cans. I grasped my glorious Coors firmly in my left hand and with my right hand pushed the tab into the top of my can. Foam bubbled up, just like the excitement in my chest. I bought that yellow can of ambrosia to my lips and started sucking.

I was only half way done when Kircher threw his can of PBR (as if he could be less serious?!) into the garbage can and took off. While I chugged, I could see him find his stride amidst belches and gastric discomfort. "Pace yourself! Don't let him get to you!" I said to myself. I took a minute to get a breath and started guzzling again. I was almost done when Jeremiah finished his can and took off. His long hair was flowing, his stride was elegant, and he was cutting through the head-wind like a warm knife through butter.

Kircher had at least 50 meters on Jeremiah, who had at least 10 on me when I ran out of that sweat nectar. My Coors can found its way to the bottom of the trash can and I was off. Within a few steps, I realized that Patrick had finished at the same time. I looked over at him. We were neck and neck. He had the look of winner. A true champion who has proved himself on other courses. I could see the fight in his eyes. But I wasn't going to let that get to me.

Every two or three steps, I felt the carbonation bubbling up. With several mighty eructations I hit my stride. Patrick fell behind me and Jeremiah was in my sight. After my first 5 meters, I could tell this was going to be a good day. Jeremiah stayed strong and I tried to reel him in. During the first turn, I stayed tight to the inside. Patrick wouldn't cut me off there!

During the second turn, I kept my distance from Jeremiah, figuring that I'd reel him in over the straight. In the midst of the second turn my feet started to slip. The dirt track was wet! It was mud! This was going to be EPIC!

We made the second turn and kicked it up a notch. Jeremiah was really pushing it and I realized that he was having a touch time with the mud. Thankfully I've spent a lot of time on Boulder's trails leading up to this race. So mud was my friend. Although it was slick and I was working hard, it didn't phase me - I mean, psychologically!

I knew that the next 100 meters would be definitive. I caught up to Jeremiah and sat on his heels, waiting for the right moment. Just about when we hit the third turn, there was a dry patch! I kicked and took the inside lane. Within a few strides I passed Jeremiah. We chatted a bit, but we were both working hard so we didn't say much. I wished him luck and I was off. That was the last I'd see of him until we ran three more laps.

By the time I had completed my third lap, Kircher was well into his fourth. How could I make up that time?!?!?! I know he had the game to take it all the way in. He'd put in the time, the sweat, not to mention we were on his home course. This was going to be a run to the finish.

"Take your time. Find your breathing. Push when you find the space." Kircher entered the drinking area while I was finishing up my 4th turn. I could see him crack his beer and started chugging while I hit the straight. He casually began talking to his groupies. Hubris! "My time to shine!" I thought as I came into the aid station/drinking area. I reached down to grab my second Coors Original and opened it. It happened so quick. I must have been so focused that I didn't even realize what I was doing. I was pushing really hard. I believe I had what Yiannis Kouros calls an "out of body experience" - when he working so hard during a race that he appeared to himself to be outside his own body.

Kircher finished his beer and took off. But I was communing with the divine and about to give the effort of my life...

Stay tuned for the next three installments of the Winter Harvard Gulch Beer Mile Denver 2012...