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.

1 comment:

  1. You guys write the best race reports!

    Congratulations on smashing your PR on a difficult course. Good luck at Tucson!