Monday, November 23, 2009

Mesquite Marathon Recap

A Runner's Ramblings: Volume 4; 23rd Edition
583.9 miles raced in 2009

Race: Mesquite Marathon
Place: Mesquite, NV
Miles from home: 338 miles
Weather: 40-60s; clear and windy


The race reports that are the toughest to write are those which follow a complete and undeniable failure to reach any of your desired goals. Unfortunately, this is one of those reports.  There is no way to sugarcoat it, and for all those who wished me good luck on my attempt to set a personal best, I am not going to drag it out: I did not make it.  Did not even come close.  But it is in our failures that we learn the most about ourselves.

Like, no matter how much I hydrate, if it is sunny, I am screwed in a marathon.

I have run two of the races the Mammoth Marathon folks have put on and have heard lots of great things about others they have  created from other runners.  When my schedule permitted me to try my hand at setting a new PR here at the Mesquite Marathon, I was really looking forward to it.  At first blush, the course seemed to favor my strength-downhill running, with a course that had a vast majority of downhill running in it.

My only concern was that too much downhill in the beginning would wear my legs out and that if the sun was out in force, the lack of any discernible cover would render me immobile.  But there was nothing to do but run the race.

First 10K: 6:02, 6:22, 6:13, 6:12, 6:16, 6:21 (38:46)

With a race start time of ~6:30 AM, I was glad that we would at least get a full half an hour of running in prior to the sun cresting over the nearby mountains to our east.  Unfortunately, as Mesquite is the easternmost city in the United States in the Pacific Time Zone, starting at 6:30 AM, actually made it 7:30 AM on the lonely Highway 91 we started at in Utah.  Yep, the race starts in Utah, goes through Arizona for  vast majority of the race before winding through the city of Mesquite itself to finish in the shadow of a casino.  But all that mattered right now was dealing with the first few miles.

When the sounding "go" was given, a pack of four runners jetted out to the lead.  One, Walter Brown was a fellow I had met on a few occasions and just recently had run a 2:31 at the St. George Marathon in October.  Two of the other runners were the 3rd and fourth place finishers of the Top of Utah Marathon, finishing within seconds of each other in the 2:28 range.  The fourth runner was unknown to me but he looked just as fast.  As such, I knew that any chance of taking the victory in this race and getting my third such win in a Mammoth Marathon (having won their Little Grand Canyon Marathon in 2008 and Little Grand Canyon Half-Marathon in 2009) was slim to none and slim just walked out the door.  No matter.  I was here to set a personal best.

As I let the four-pack quickly disappear, I soon fell into step with one runner who I would spend the majority of the rest of the day with: Justin. We watched as a few runners passed us on this downhill section and spoke about holding it in check as best we could.  Justin was shooting for anything around 2:50 and so I figured we could keep each other company for a while and hopefully not shoot ahead like a few other runners were.

After a few miles went by, and no less than 10 other runners had zipped by us, we began to reel in each one of them one-by-one.  What we were happy about was how our paced was not quickening but rather there's was slowing.  I have mentioned this in my other recaps of Mammoth Marathon races but it bears repeating, unlike other races where the mile markers count up mile markers, races done by this group count down. So after 385 yards of running the first sign runners saw was "26 miles to go".  Therefore, when we hit "20 miles to go" I could see what my 10k split was and was quite pleased with my time.

To the Half: 6:30, 6:27, 6:34, 6:14, 6:37, 7:07, 6:57 (1:24:30)

As the precipitous downhill eased into a more gradual one after mile 6, it almost felt as if it was completely flat.  On top of that, the sun was now fully shining and the shadow we saw ahead, cast by  the mountains, always seemed to stay about a mile ahead.  Fast we may have felt, apparently the rotation of the Earth is faster.

As we ran through the first few aid stations we noticed there was only one volunteer at each one.  We figured this would cause a problem later on as the rest of the runners came through. We were already having problems getting our own drinks as and this was when there were only three of us in close proximity.  Another problem compounding this was that the cups were plastic.  Having directed my own marathon where those in charge of purchasing cups did not follow my instructions and bought some plastic cups for some aid stations and some smallish Dixie cups for others, I cannot be too angry with the directors of the race with this oversight.  However, if there is one thing that MUST happen in a marathon is to make sure that you just good-sized, paper cups for your aid stations.  It is just imperative.

Also on this day, on consecutive miles, I had to come to a dead stop to get the drink I needed from the table as the volunteer didn't adequately respond.  I LOVE volunteers but the number two thing that a race must do is properly instruct them on how to do their job.  Even if they simply stay out of the way and let the runners grab what they want, that is better than having just one cup in their hand.  But I digress.

Justin and I approached the last of the runners in front of us who was not part-jet rocket engine and fell into step with him.  We asked how he was feeling today and he sort of blankly looked in my direction before realizing I had just spoken to him.  He then said, as he pointed to his ears.  "Sorry. I'm deaf."   While it would be unfortunate for Justin and I not to have another companion to talk to on the race, we appreciated this other runner, Scott's presence nonetheless.  Even when he would speed up right before pictures were taken to appear as if he were beating us.

That said, on more than one occasion, Scott would veer to the right side of the road to hug a turn.  We had been instructed that while traffic was light out here in the middle of nowhere, the course was indeed open.  More often than we would have liked, Justin and I cringed as a car approached from the rear and Scott never heard it coming.

I knew there was a hill on this course right after mile 11 and again at 12.  I thought I was ready for them.  But after cruising up the hill at 11, the one at 12 took some serious wind out of my sales.  When I clicked my watch to look at my time, I had crested the hill in a fairly decent clip.  But I wondered if I had paid too steep a price in trying to get to the summit.

Hitting the halfway point at a time where, if doubled, would just barely give me a personal best, I got a sinking feeling in my gut.  I think the previous hill and the bright sun were beginning to take their toll.

To Mile 20: 6:49, 6:50, 6:55, 7:50, 7:26, 7:10, 7:22

While I was not ready to throw in the towel just yet, the next few miles, on virtually flat terrain, made me realize that I might need to re-evaluate my goals for the race.  When even a huge downhill at mile 15 did not put me into the low 6 minute miles again, I knew I had to set a different goal.  Here, Justin began to pull away from and I wished him the best.  A monstrous uphill at mile 18, which never seemed to end, made me realize I probably had two options:

1. Slow up a bit and run a 2:59 to get a sub-3 in Nevada
2. run that elusive 3:02 which I have never once run.

Recovering from the tough hill, I knew I had one more hill to go at mile 20 and with two decent miles leading up to it, a sub-3 seemed all but guaranteed.  While I could not get any closer to Justin and the fellow who was hearing-impaired, they were not getting any further away.

To the Finish: 7:29, 8:19, 9:47, 8:40, 8:42, 8:47

Coming down the last hill in the race, I was feeling pretty good.  I had been passed by a chap wearing a BYU outfit and he looked like your prototypical cross-country guy.  Tall, thin, long hair, and skinny calves.  He echoed my sentiments of a tough course and while I was loath to let him go, I had no energy to chase him.  As he pulled away from me, I could still see Justin up on the horizon.  We were entering Mesquite and I knew there were a plethora of turns ahead.  I just was hoping to keep them in sight and maybe make a push in the final 5k.

Suddenly, I felt spent. Completely.  I headed into an aid station about half a mile later, almost in a zombie-like trance.  One of the Race Directors was actually manning this aid station (as had another back earlier in the race- really cool stuff to see them out there doing all they can to make the race work) and he asked me: "How is it going, Dane?"  I answered: "I have had better days" and drank a glass of water, a glass for Powerade, ate an orange half and a Twizzler.  Easily spending 30 seconds not moving, I simply stood there trying to get the energy to move again.  I hated not, at least, walking forward, but I knew I had to regain my composure or I would not have been able to continue onward.

Having run the last two miles of the course the day before I knew what was in store for me.  Ignorance is said to be bliss but that is not the case in a marathon when your energy is waning.  Being able to picture what was ahead, I was able to keep my mind on the prize: another finisher's medal.  I knew I would see the casino and hotel, which acted as the finishline, in the distance but would have to run past it only to once again run past it in the other direction before finishing next to it.

Pushing forward, I now had only one goal: make sure I get a Boston Qualifier and better my previous marathon time in Nevada.  The first was only slightly in jeopardy and the other would have required me to crawl as in the now defunct Silver State Marathon I ran a 3:22. Stumbling homeward, I was able to finish in a time of 3:07:22 and take 9th place overall.

I was pleased to hear so many others had also found the course and the weather to be challenging.  Yet somehow, the winner of the race, Mario Macias, ran an unbelievable 2:19. (Then again, after finding out his name and researching his results, I saw he ran a 2:18 at Twin Cities back in early October.  This, of course, only makes his time slightly less impressive.) 

The woman's leader, Erica Schramm, finished a few minutes behind me in 3:11.  As we spoke I found out that she was a holder of a 2:54 marathon PR and she too was surprised how rough the day was for us runners.

I met a plethora of new and interesting people at this race and continue to believe that some of the nicest people in the world just so happen to be runners. While I did not even come close to my stated goals for the day, my one unwritten rule of hoping to find at least one person whose story continues to inspire me was met many times over.

And, women could do tequila shots using the salt on my face as well.  So I had that going for me.


Chad said...

LOL about the tequila shots. I too sweat salt. Trying to just keep on top of replenishing is a challenge. What do you do?
Too bad about your non-pr, but not every race is our best, right?
Good job in being out and working hard!

Jason said...

Love the posts Dane. Looking forward to running a marathon on an overcast day!

Nicole said...

Hi Dane! I met you tonight at the Atlanta Marathon Expo and I want to thank you again for allowing me to send you the money for the book (still can't believe you let me take the book). Your kindness has made a positive impact on my life, as well as my daughter's life. I will tell everyone that you are truly an awesome person with a great attitude. I have started reading the book (and now your blog) and you are really an inspiration...I will forever chase my dreams!!

Cheri said...

It never ceases to amaze me just how tough the sun can make a race. I too had less than stellar marathons this past year and due largely in part to the sun and it's heat. I love how during the race you re-aligned your goals each time you felt a previous set goal would not be reached. Excellent job on staying positive.

Dane said...


Hydration is a problem we must all deal with on a personal level. I just know that if it is 65 or above, it is time to re-evaluate the goals.


Overcast rocks!


Glad to be an inspiration and hope I can continue to do so!


Re-evaluation when things are not good must be done or it will be walk time!