Friday, April 7, 2017

Lost Dutchman Marathon (2/19/17)

Short version: 

I ran my fifth marathon in February and killed it! Scroll down for some pictures, or keep reading for the long version recap :)

Long version:

When I turned the big 4-0 in June, my parents gave me the very generous gift of a destination race of my choice. I wanted a cool-weather race, and with three of the five of us working a school calendar, our options were limited.

We settled on The Lost Dutchman on Presidents' Day weekend outside Phoenix, touted as a beautiful course with perfect weather. Brad, Eryn and I registered for the half marathon while Mom and Dad signed up for the 10K.
Meantime, I spent months and months training with Eryn for October's Portland Marathon. Because of Eryn's IT band injury, we missed our time goal, and I felt a bit unsatisfied. So I toyed with the idea of bumping up to the full marathon in Arizona and putting my training to the test.

Organizers describe the marathon course as "challenging", but I read tons of reviews that also said it was the most beautiful course they'd ever run. Sounds fun :)

I held the idea loosely, not committing until the very last minute. But I still did all the requisite long runs through our unusually snowy/icy winter - some on the treadmill and some in the snow (18 miles in the snow. I only fell once!) - along with some speed work. Because I knew I already had the mileage base, I focused on speed for the first time in a marathon training cycle.

Just before the race, I finally pulled the trigger and changed my registration from half to FULL! 26.2 desert miles, here I come!

As the weekend drew near, first we heard the forecast was for HOT! Dang it. Then we heard the forecast was for RAIN. Dang it. Then I realized it was higher elevation than I'm used to (I run at almost sea level here in Tigard). Hmmm... not sure if that will make a difference. So, again, I held it loosely and planned/hoped to just have fun.

We flew down early Saturday and then drove to Apache Junction Multi-Generational Center for the expo.
Arizona is a much different place than where I come from:
The little expo was cute!
Cactus (and a hitchin' post)! Not the usual scenery for my runs!
The view of the mountains behind the expo. Hoping those clouds don't dump too much rain:
The forecast was for beautiful weather Friday and Monday but lots of cloud and rain on Saturday and Sunday in between. It basically poured all night before the race. I knew the first 6 miles were on a dirt road, but I was assured by a local at the race expo that it shouldn't be too muddy because of the kind of rock/dirt they have there. HA!

Good thing I'm from Oregon, where I run half the year in cool rain and with soggy sneakers! NBD.

The 7 a.m. race was a point-to-point course with no parking at the start. The last shuttle bus left at 5:45 a.m., and the drop-off location was about 40 minutes from our hotel in Chandler. Plus, Arizona is an hour ahead of us that time of year, so it was a very, very early wake up for me!

Brad drove me to the drop site and then headed to the start of his half marathon. I think he took a nap in the car before his race!

It was a dark, bumpy bus ride up, up, up the twisty dirt road we'd soon be running down.
Normally, blazing fire pits keep racers warm and occupied between the bus and the start of the race. But since the ground was yucky and rain was pouring, there were no fires this year. Major bummer. BUT - thankfully they'd arranged for the buses to stick around so we could stay dry!

I did get out to use the porta potties, but then it was right back on until I had to get out. There was no line, but it was also so dark that I had to use my phone to see the vacant/occupied signs.

Waiting and getting psyched:
Eventually, it was time. Not the amazing sunrise I was promised:
We started at 2,330', and clouds obscured all the views. Basically, I saw nothing.
I did notice that the parking lot wasn't too muddy. It seemed that the water was filtering through the little rocks. Maybe it wouldn't be too bad. Then we walked a short distance to the starting line, and I saw mud - LOTS of mud.
Ready to go!

It's a very small race with just a little timing mat in the mud for the starting line:
At the last minute, I tore off my Dollar Tree poncho and ditched it as I started my 26.2-mile trek.

The course starts with 6 miles downhill:
That's supposed to be the amazingly gorgeous section, but the clouds covered any view of the valley. I was passing cactus after cactus, but because it was so, so, so wet and muddy, I really had to watch my feet instead of the desert landscape.

I know you're not supposed to go out too fast in a race, trying to "bank" your pace for later slowdowns, but I also knew the first part of the course was all downhill. So my plan was to run it hardish in the beginning and take advantage of the terrain. I pushed but didn't go crazy because I knew there were still 20+ miles to go after that!

An awesome woman I met at my second marathon was also running the Lost Dutchman. Melissa caught up to me in the first few miles, and we ran together for a bit. It was so fun to have a friend out there on the course :)

I didn't care for the course in general, but otherwise, the race was very well organized and put on. One criticism I have is that a bus (maybe more than one, I can't remember) was making it's way very slowly down the narrow, muddy road while we were still on it. I'm sure their contract was up and they needed to get back to the barn. And maybe things were different this year because they kept the buses around for shelter. But that bus crept up super slowly and then finally passed and then took forever to move on. Meantime, I was sucking in diesel fumes while chasing it down the hill. Getting all the buses down the hill before they start the race would be a much better idea :)

I was thrilled when we finally hit pavement! So happy to be off the mud and on solid ground.

There was an aid station and a group of spectators standing in the pouring rain to cheer us on. That was awesome! The volunteers and spectators were the best part of the race by far!

Unfortunately, Eryn's back was not cooperating, and she decided not to race. (She's since had surgery on her herniated disc and is on the mend!!!) Instead, she drove the rental car and caught me in several places on the course. I first saw her about mile 8.5 when we turned off the highway into a residential area. 

In areas where it doesn't often rain, there is no infrastructure to deal with the rain. So instead of nice storm drains to carry away the water, liquid just pools in low spots. It's hard to see, but Eryn captured me doing a balance beam routine on the curb on this corner:
The water looked to be at least ankle deep on both sides of the curb! I'm just glad that happened at 8.5 while I still had some strength left :)

This section of the course was harder than I expected. Because I seem to do better when I just wing it, I opted not to drive it ahead of time. The small-scale elevation profile didn't indicate that this was nearly as hilly as it was. Plus, there was some headwind.

I'd ditched my gloves at the bag check, and when that wind started up, I regretted that decision. Wind + wet = cold. Fortunately, I saw Eryn again around 12.5, and she graciously gave me her stretchy gloves. THANK YOU, SIS!!!

Around mile 15, we rounded the corner back onto Highway 60. More cars were now on the road, which was down to just one westbound lane. I was leapfrogging with traffic, and it felt really funny to be running down the middle of the highway in the rain, passing cars. I felt a bit conspicuous.

That second highway stretch seemed to go on forever. I was really glad to turn off, but then the rollers and the wind hit. At mile 17, I turned due east and right into a stinging rain pelleting me in the face. It was quite unpleasant. After Brad completed his half marathon, he was going to meet me on the course. I was contemplating throwing on my rain jacket if I saw him, but fortunately this section was short, and I soon turned north and out of the headwind.

And then I saw Brad!

I had just met up with a nice guy from Boston. He has a goal of running marathons in all 50 states, and he was asking if he should do Portland or Eugene. I advocated for Portland - it's awesome!
Side note: He ran the entire 26.2 in a garbage bag. This was NOT an unusual sight at the Lost Dutchman. People in Phoenix apparently didn't have rain gear and literally ran in plastic ponchos and trash bags - lots of people!
Look at those rollers. Rainwater filled the dips in many spots. I was totally soaked, so it was NBD at that point. This was around mile 20:
Mom and Dad, fresh off their soggy 10K, along with Eryn, were waiting for me on the mile 22.5 corner. They gave me a nice boost and said I looked strong.

Around mile 22 or 23:
This is me hurting pretty bad. I was doing well, but my legs were just getting so tired. My hip flexors were rebelling and not enjoying the forward motion. I pulled over here to complain a bit to Brad:
Then it was time to finish it off!

I didn't see Brad or family for the final few miles. I tried to keep moving - tried to keep my head in the game as my body begged to stop.

I turned left onto Lost Dutchman Boulevard and knew the end was near. These two miles were long and gray and rainy. It was time to be done. I was warned that there was a slight hill right at 25.5 - perfect timing. But my saving grace was that I could see it was DOWNHILL on the other side, and I could hear the finish line to my right:
I motored up the hill, which was a bit bigger than I was anticipating, and then pushed hard on the other side, passing several people. I turned right into the park, and the finish line looked a million miles away. But I knew I was close, and I kicked as hard as I could. See that lady in the white jacket? I caught her and left her in my dust!


Yeah, baby! DONE!!! Celebrating a 5-minute PR!!!!
So very, very, very glad to be done.
The obligatory photo with the covered wagon:
My checked bag, which I left on the bus at the starting line, was waiting for me at the finish. There was also lots of water, snacks and goodies. If the weather had been nice, I would have hung out in the park. But I was wet and cooling down very fast. Time to boogey :) Knowing it was going to rain, I brought a full set of clothes for the drive back to the hotel.

My Numbers:
According to my trusty TomTom GPS watch, I finished in 4:41:44 - a 10:43 average (26.28 miles). My official time is 4:41:41. My previous PR (Portland, 2013) was 4:46:04 - a 10:52 average.
  • Mile 1: 9:42
  • Mile 2: 9:44
  • Mile 3: 9:59
  • Mile 4: 9:48
  • Mile 5: 10:05
  • Mile 6: 10:11
  • Mile 7: 9:53
  • Mile 8: 10:05
  • Mile 9: 10:38
  • Mile 10: 10:54
  • Mile 11: 10:35
  • Mile 12: 11:19 
  • Mile 13: 10:14
  • Mile 14: 10:09
  • Mile 15: 10:18
  • Mile 16: 10:40
  • Mile 17: 12:12
  • Mile 18: 11:37
  • Mile 19: 12:1
  • Mile 20: 10:45
  • Mile 21: 10:51
  • Mile 22: 11:37
  • Mile 23: 12:27
  • Mile 24: 11:29
  • Mile 25: 10:19
  • Mile 26: 10:35
  • Mile 26.28: 9:41 
I am so very happy with this! I know I positive split the heck out of this race, but I knew those first miles would be way faster than I could maintain. And slower miles represent hills, walking through aid stations, a little extra walking toward the end, and short check-ins with family members.

I kept my eyes off my GPS for most of the race, just running by feel. But in the final 10K or so, I started watching a bit. Knowing a PR was close helped me push through the pain at the end.

So how'd I compare to the rest of the field? WELL...

I placed 118/251 overall (small race!), 35/113 F, 4/23 F 40-44 - that's FOURTH PLACE in my division!!! WOOHOO!!!! And here's a new category for me: 14/64 F Masters. HA! :)
The Verdict:
I did not love this race. The weather caused me to miss the promised pretty parts of the course, and the rest kinda sucked. While the cool rain was an unexpected bummer, I think I definitely ran stronger than if it had been hot and sunny. It was disappointing to run another stormy race, but I really do my best in cool conditions. 

The race was very well organized, and the volunteers were amazing - some of the best I've ever experienced. All aid stations were well stocked with aid and helpful, cheery people - except the station at mile 24, where most of the teens were hiding inside a school bus. I think they'd had enough of the rain. But the XC team at mile 13 was especially encouraging when I was struggling. I think they were singing :) The logistics were excellent, from the expo to the shuttles to the start and finish. Very impressive.

As for my performance, I am thrilled with my results! I trained hard through challenging winter conditions, and seeing that work pay off - physically and mentally - is incredibly satisfying. I'm especially happy considering the course was much more difficult than I was expecting. I definitely feel accomplished!
A huge thanks to my family for giving me this wonderful birthday gift and, as always, for supporting me through my training and preparation.

Marathon No. 5 in the books! BOOM! :)

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