Sunday, December 12, 2010

I Did it My Way: A Tucson Marathon Race Report

December 2005 I ran my very first marathon right here in Tucson. At the time I weighed in at 225 pounds down from a high of 310 pounds. My time for that first marathon effort; 4:50:55. That earned me 90th in my age group, 612th out of the men and 912th overall. I trained hard for that marathon, or at least from my perspective back then I trained hard. I also tapered and came in rested and ready to go. After the race my legs were beaten to death. I hobbled over to our car with the GeekGrl helping me each step of the way. We then drove to a Circle K and the GeekGrl bought two 10-pound bags of ice and we went directly to the friend’s house where we were staying and I took an ice bath. We drove home that very night. It was a painful drive.

I began running in March of 2005 only because I wanted to do a local sprint triathlon, the Jay Benson. I hated running, HATED it. In all the sports I had ever participated in growing up running was the punishment. When I was in the Marine Corps we ran in formation and it was a duty; lock-step: “low-righty-leauft we love to double time!” I never learned to just run, to love running. It’s too bad because running is such a beautiful thing, such a natural human activity. It’s what children do freely, laughing and smiling all the while. However, since those first meager, painful, dreadful little two mile runs back in the spring of 2005 I have learned some things and put in a few thousand miles.

What have I learned? Well, as I recently told a group of ultrarunners, I learned how to run like an idiot.

It wasn’t until December 2007 when I finally learned to “put the fun back in my run” at the Las Vegas Marathon when I did my first marathon dressed as Elvis and coincidentally, or not, I ran my first sub-4 hour marathon. During that run as Elvis I wasn’t doing anything special but having a good time, saying, “Thank you, Thank you very much” to all the aid stations, slapping hands with the cheerleaders and giving cheering spectators the famous Elvis point. It was at Las Vegas where I learned that I really didn’t need to be TOTALLY serious about my running. In fact, I learned quite the opposite, that I probably ran best when I wasn’t very serious; at least during a race.

My next step forward was ultrarunning. Not only did it introduce me to trail running but it introduced me to what it REALLY means to hurt during a run. Ultrarunning taught me what it is to persevere, to dig deep, to exhaust every resource that I THINK I have and still keep moving. In short, ultrarunning helped me excoriate my ego and get the hell out of my own way.

These days I’m running pretty much however the mood takes me. Sometimes I run too slow, too long, too fast and every once in a while, too short. I do some races just to run with the GeekGrl and some races I go out too fast just to see how long it takes me to blow apart. In August this year I finished the Leadville Trail 100 then in September I ran the Turtle Marathon, the Do-Wacka-Do 50K and the Rio Del Lago 100. October I ran the Duke City Marathon, the Javelina 100K and set a new 10K PR at the Great Pumpkin Chase. Just last weekend I set a new marathon PR at Death Valley and the next day I renewed my marriage vows with the GeekGrl during the Las Vegas Marathon; once again dressed as Elvis.

Any serious runner would advise this is just too much running too close together to do well. Like I said, I’ve learned to run like an idiot which, I suppose, explicitly make me not a serious runner.

On December 12th 2010 weighing in at 203 pounds I ran the Tucson Marathon in time of 3:28:13, 5th place Clydesdale, 14th in my age group, 93rd out of men and 112th overall.
I qualified for the big game, I qualified for Boston. The record shows I took the blows and did it my way!

Tuesday, December 07, 2010

I Do, Twice! A Death Valley and Las Vegas Marathons Race Report

This past weekend was an incredible experience. I renewed my vows with the GeekGrl AND set a new marathon PR AND completed my first back-to-back marathons! Not necessarily in that order.

The weekend began with a flight to Las Vegas where the GeekGrl and I met up with Form and JT for a quick breakfast before packet pickup at the Las Vegas marathon. We gathered up our luggage and rental car and called Form for a breakfast recommendation and shortly thereafter we all met up at Hash House A Go-Go. Oh my god that place is a giant feed trough of comfort food. I had the Ft. Wayne Hash and it was delish and clearly provided me with what I needed because the very next day I ran a new marathon PR.

Yes, it is true; unbelievably the Death Valley Trail Marathon stands as my new marathon PR! This was just one of those rare days when everything felt perfect and everything went perfect. With a time of 3:40:34 I beat my Ogden marathon time by 6 minutes 3 seconds. Ogden is a road marathon and is mostly downhill and my Ogden PR has stood for two years. Death Valley has a massive downhill beginning about mile 12.8 and lasting to the end of the race but before you get to the downhill there is 2394 feet of climbing in an almost continuous climb. The descent is unbroken and will utterly destroy your quads if you are not prepared.

At the starting gun lots of people took off ahead of me and after about a mile I could see a pretty good crowd stretched out in front because the trail was a continuous uphill. I’m not sure just how many people were ahead of me at the beginning of the race but it was a good third of the runners. Within two miles, however, I began passing people and didn’t stop until I crossed the finish line.

I’d have to say my favorite part of the race was shooting down through the narrows of Titus Canyon. There was this one guy who looked to be a particularly strong runner. I had been going back and forth with him all morning mostly because he seemed to be running with one particular woman for at least the first six or eight miles and then he took off. I caught him again near the top of the climb just before entering Titus Canyon because he was taking a few pictures. At the top of the canyon he put away his camera and started running. I went ahead and took chase and within a mile or two I had caught up and was running just a couple yards behind. He must have heard me behind him because he sped up. I thought I’d just try and hand on as long as I could. We ran stride for stride through the narrow, winding canyon for about four miles and then he started to slow just a bit. I pulled alongside him and he accelerated a bit but then slowed again as soon as I fell in behind him. I pulled alongside him again and pushed the pace. I looked at my Garmin and said “Only 5K to go” and he said “Good, I thought we had more like 4 to 6 miles left. He then faded back and I did not see him again until after the race. It sure was a blast though racing through a narrow canyon right on the heels of another competitor.

Death Valley is definitely an interesting race. I would say this is a must do marathon. It’s kind of costly for an “old school” marathon but old school it is, small, friendly and based more on scenery than seeking flat and fast or some venue where you can cram the greatest number of people.

The next day the GeekGrl and I were in Las Vegas to renew our vows at the Rock-n-Roll Las Vegas marathon. The R-n-R Las Vegas stood in stark contrast to the Death Valley marathon. At Death Valley there were about 240 participants whereas Las Vegas had about 30,000. Death Valley had aid stations about every five miles and there was no trash to be seen whereas Las Vegas had aid stations every mile and you practically waded through a sea of discarded cups and gel packets at each aid station. Death Valley was on trail with plenty of room to either open up and run or just enjoy the scenery whereas Las Vegas was in the middle of the city and despite being on the strip for half its distance there wasn’t much to see and you had to keep your eyes fixated on the massive crowd you were “running” in.

It really was a good time going through the Run Through Wedding Chapel and both the GeekGrl and I were surprised at how poignant the ceremony ended up being for us but as marathons go I would have to say that we are both well past the ability to garner much real enjoyment from a massive marathon with tens of thousands of people. I mean, I had a good time but that was created by my experience of the wedding and what it symbolized about my marriage, about my reflections concerning my marriage and the adventures the GeekGrl and I have had and just the sheer joy of running. If anything the marathon itself was a distraction to my good time.

Anyway, I won’t dwell on the negatives; ultimately I had a fantastic time and am exceedingly glad I planned it all out. The experience of vow renewal during a marathon is unparalleled. The experience of running two marathons in one weekend is painful but very satisfying.

Now I have to complete the Tucson marathon this coming weekend to get my three marathons in three states in nine days. That will be interesting. I went on an easy four mile run today with a friend and it was slow but went ok. I don't think I'll be setting any records at Tucson but then again, you never know. Tuscon is, after all, the National Clydesdale marathon championship and a downhill course so I have plenty of motivation to try and do well and it is on a course that suits my specialty.