Thursday, June 30, 2016

Running With the Devil Marathon: We ain't in Kansas anymore (or NY!)

Vegas is a fickle animal.  You travel (in my case, thousands of miles) to this strange little mecca in the middle of the desert, filled with gambling, alcohol, food, debauchery and every other kind of gluttony, topped off with heat so intense you could literally fry an egg on the shimmering blacktop.  So when my boss asked me to present at a conference in the city, I accepted with the curiosity to see such a place in action - a place that pretty much defined modern america to a T.  Oh, and I found a race 30 minutes away that took place the next day.  Cause that's what normal people do, right?  Run a a marathon in the middle of the desert in June?  Yes? Good.

The race took place Saturday - pre race was just hilarious.  I flew across the country Thursday, presented Friday morning, spent Friday afternoon with a co-worker walking the strip, wearing a tank top, flip flops, no sunscreen, drinking a margarita, and eating french fries.  In the 111 degree heat.  What, they were carbs, right?  Suffice to say I did EVERYTHING wrong pre race is an understatement, but at least I killed the booze by 4pm and we only walked 7 miles in said flip flops (yes I am rolling my eyes at myself).   Oh, and did I mention I did my presentation in heels and was rocking an excellent blister on my foot?  I amuse myself with my idiocy sometimes.
 Race morning, my alarm went off at 4am for a 5am departure to the desert - race was about 45 minutes of the strip.  Luckily?, I never acclimated to Pacific time, so I was up by 3:30, pumping and prepping.  as I opened the door of my bedroom in the air bnb we were staying at to take a co worker walked up the stairs to go to bed after a night at the casino.  We looked at each other and just laughed - what a defining moment of the dichotomy of Vegas.  Here he was, super happy that he had a great night out, drinking and playing poker and black jack for 6 hours, netting $50 and drinking for free for 6 hours.  Here I was, getting up at o dark o'clock to run an intense heat marathon in the middle of the desert.  It takes all kinds.  We said good morning/night, and I finished prepping - woke my insane but awesomely good natured boss up, who was my ride (seriously, he got up at 4:30 to drive me, how cool is that) and grabbed my pb bagel and coffee for the road,

The ride out was spectacular - after about 10 minutes we were headed for Red Rock canyon, where the race took place.  We were amazed at the stark contrast from the strip - here was Vegas in it's natural beauty, here was the reason I would visit this place.  When we got to the venue, I did my normal prep, stretched out, got my gear, and got ready to run.  The race required you run with at least 48 ounces of water, so I had my camelbak, a white hat, hoo rag for neck cooling, and plenty of 50 SPF in my goody bag.  Speed?  No way.  It was a small race - 65 people total, but super friendly.  You figure anyone dumb enough to run a race in 108 degree temps at least has a sense of humor about their mental state, so in a sick, twisted way, these races are somewhat of a social hour, since no one is dumb enough to try to PR in a desert marathon in June.  With some pre race chat about aid stations and heat exhaustion, we were off.

Miles 1-10....sucked.  I run a 4 hour marathon (yes, I am chasing that sub with all I own) so I figured, with my strong, yet slow base and the heat, I was looking at about a 5 hour marathon, or, an 11 minute mile.  So I took it easy and slow, which wasnt difficult, because at 7am, it was already 90 fucking degrees.  (Yes, the "f" bomb is appropriate here, folks).  Mile 1 clocked in at 10:44, which was...disheartening.  You naturally slow down in a race, so I was hoping to hold a ten minute mile for the first few hours.  Damn.  Miles 2, 3 and 4 were about the same - 10:30-11 minute pace.  The terrain was super hilly, water stops every 3 miles (I would have died without my camelbak) and you simply could not hold a comfortable pace without a walk break every 5 minutes.  I chatted with runners as we leap frogged each other, and seriously questioned my decision making to run the full.  The race was an "m" shape - out 11 miles, switchback 2.1, out 2.1, back the 11.  Mile 5 was allll downhill - lost 1000 feet elevation in one fell swoop.  I whooped as I actually ran down the curves, taking the beauty around me - felt like a mini grand canyon.  Then....I realized that what goes down, must come back up, and we would be hitting that delight at mile 21.  $hit.  Well, I'll think about that in 3 hours.  I hit mile 6 in 1:07 and realized I was probably looking at a 6 hour race.  Yikes.  I started chatting with a few guys that had been running near me, and we all agreed that this race was a special brand of torture fun.  One guy had DNFed it 4 times.  Yikes.  It was also obvious that out of all of the people I spoke with, everyone was either from California, Nevada or arizona...and used to running in this shit.  Oh, did I mention that in addition to the heat, we were now cruising at 6000 feet elevation?  You got it.  (Rochester sits at 500 feet).  No wonder I was sucking wind.  Yes, I am a moron.  So....10 miles in, doing my little run/walk, I sat at 2:12.  I was seriously wondering if I had it in me to keep this up for 4 more hours when a little angel walked into my life.

Mile 18.  We rock.
Miles 10-20:  Angel?  Yep.  His name was Steve.  He was a 50 stater...almost twice.  He had qualified for Boston several times, run a marathon on every continent, and was running his 122nd (no, thats not a typo) marathon.  And he was hurting.  Just like me.  With a dude that has run almost every marathon sub 4....I felt much better about myself and my course struggles!!  We decided to motivate each other as long as possible, which was perfect timing, as my Ipod decided to die right in the middle of Antiserum and Mayhem's "Hustle" which wasn't all that friggin motivating anyways.  So.  We trekked along to mile 11 checkpoint (yes, there were volunteers recording our bib's manually, this race was everything ultra) hi fived a few guys we had run with, then turned around.  And flew.  Apparently we didn't realize how uphill we had been going, so when we ran straight for 2 miles at a 9:00 pace we were so stoked!  Hit the halfway point at 2:47.  We turned around again to do the 2 mile uphill, but knowing the turnaround would bring better miles 15-17 made the interim so. much. easier.  So we got to know each other.  Apparently Steve, who had 5 kids, managed to scrape not one runner out of the lot, so he adopted me for 3 hours.  Hey, I was down.  We hit mile 15 without alot of pain, and coasted downhill again. netting mile 17 in 8:55, my fastest mile of the race (said no one, ever).  We decided to run walk as much as possible, since mile 21 was going to suck, and we hit mile 20 at 4:15.

Miles 21-26.2:  We topped off at the aid station and prepped for our hill climb at mile 21.  The dudes we had run with were long behind us, so we were reasonably sure we were either A- doing pretty well or B - almost DFL.  We revised our goal to 5:45, which felt odd decreasing a goal, since at mile 10 we were pretty sure we weren't even gonna finish (except we are stubborn like that).  Made it through the slog, ran most of mile 22, and hit mile 23 at 4:55.  At this point, we knew, even with our stupid slow mile 21, that a 10-11 minute pace was reasonable and we could go under 5:30.  So we played a game the last 5k, picking one sucker off at a time and playing games in the desert. It was oddly satisfying and actually fun - something I was seriously doubting hours before!  With a half mile to go, we decided to run it in hand in hand, finishing with a smile in 5:28, a 12:30 pace and probably one of the toughest races I've ever done (including Ironman).

After the race, we saw a few of the speedier folks (winning time was 4:30 for reference!) and grabbed something cold to drink.  I was amazed that my stomach had no issues during the race (thank you electrolytes) but food was pretty unbearable.  As we were celebrating, the RD came over and told me there was no award ceremony because people finished all over the place, but I was second woman in - HOLY CRAP, I came in second?  I was amazed.  In tri's I can usually place in my Age group, but NEVER in a marathon.  Epic.  I couldn't believe that after flying across the country, in wicked heat (it got up to 108) with my idiocy the day before.....that I not only finished, I friggin placed!  Sweet.

Post race...well, that was a mess.  We won't go into that.  Five days later I still feel it.  But would I do it again?  You betcha.  Now it's onto some speedwork to prep for the Syracuse marathon...I feel a PR, baby!!