Monthly Archives: February 2013

lost dutchman marathon race report

On the heels of a nice 50k effort in Bridle Trails State Park last month, I looked forward to trying a faster event. My emphasis in 2012 had been on trails, and usually this meant fun, beautiful, but slower. Running a net downhill course in the Arizona desert might be just what the doctor ordered.

The Lost Dutchman Marathon is a smaller event that starts in the Superstition Mountains, east of Phoenix.  The name comes from a legend about a gold mine allegedly found by a a German immigrant in the 1880s or 1890s.  The legend comes from the fate of those who have tried to locate the mine – death and intrigue abound.  The thing that would bring me to Phoenix would not be gold, I’d simply heard that the marathon was nice event.

The trip would be a quick one. I would fly in the day before the race, and return the next evening. i usually like to have time to explore a bit. This time I wanted to keep the time away from home to a minimum. With luck, I would be able to shower before getting on the return flight.

So this is how I found myself in the sunny, 76 degree weather in Phoenix in mid-February. Coming from the grey Pacific Northwest, it was definitely different.

After landing, I headed to the race expo. After picking up my race packet, I drove into the mountains a bit , and then visited the Lost Dutchman State Park. There, I did a short hike, up towards Flatiron. Leery of overdoing things, I opted not to hike the incline there, instead wandering a bit amongst the plentiful cacti, before heading for some dinner. I was in my room by 7:30. While at the expo, I had learned that I would have to get up at 4am, in order to catch the shuttle to the start of the race. So it was a quiet evening for me – in bed at 9:30.

Four came early the next morning. I’d slept fitfully, not unusual the night before a race. I dressed, and grabbed my stuff, figuring I could eat a sack breakfast while waiting at the start. When getting the shuttle to the start, I began to see just how well-organized the event was. Three minutes after getting out of my car, our shuttle was underway.

The race starts near the Peralta Trailhead, about six miles from the road. While winding up the dirt road in a school bus, I passed the time talking to several other runners – some local, and others who had made the trip from other places such as LA and Tuscon. Everyone seemed to be juggling the same things – family, jobs, running. And all of us felt lucky to be riding this bus up this trail before dawn too.

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gathering at the start, warming ourselves by the fires

The Lost Dutchman Marathon gets big points for atmosphere. The scene when we got off the bus was pretty nice. There were warming fires all over the place, with bits of carpet laid out for us to sit on while we enjoyed them. Off to the east, the sun was coming up, shedding light on this warm gathering of marathoners in the desert mountains.

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shortly before heading out

Shortly before seven AM, we ambled over to the start, lining up and then heading out. For those first few miles, it was hard to keep a modest pace. We were running mostly downhill, and the dirt was packed hard, so I kept clicking off splits that were about a minute per mile faster than I usually would. More worrisome was the fatigue I felt in my legs, as if I hadn’t rested the, well enough in the days before.

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running through the start

I fell into a steady pace of 8:00-8:15 per mile, running next to a woman who had confidence in her pace. We ran like this for perhaps nine miles, not saying a word to each other. I thought that if I spoke, it would reveal just how labored my breathing was.

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early downhill miles into the sunrise

A couple of miles after we started running on the road, we struck up a conversation about how we’d each ended up there. Therace had been the sole member of her running cadre who’d not been injured, and who had not opted to do the half. She’d done LDM the year before, and had really enjoyed it. She and her husband lived just to the south, and had three kids. We talked about how challenging it was to balance family, other demands (in addition to being a mom to her three kids, she teaches survival swim classes).

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along peralta trail

We spent miles 10 through 19 talking before we ventured off to different paces. By then, I knew what the final miles would be like. I’d gone out too fast, and would be lucky to hang on at any reasonable pace. The trouble was, I was on pace to break 3:40. I’d not had a day like this in over three years. With 3:40 within reach, I couldn’t ease up – I’d really wanted to beat this time, if only to claim a personal best that I could count on .

The backstory on my PR : back in October of 2009, I had a good day running a race directed by a guy infamous for incorrect course length. I’d crossed the finish in 3:30 (a ten minute PR, which I didn’t really believe). “Are you confident in the course length?”, I had asked the woman at the finish. “Nah – it’s about half a mile short” she replied. I went back out and ran another half mile, which was still a PR. But I was never really sure about the time distance I ran that day.  I was determined to exceed the prior PR (3:40), and claim a more reliable one. So breaking 3:40 felt important.

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digging deeper to hit a goal

By mile 22, my splits had slowed to the 9:00 range. I was struggling to do 9 minute miles. That last 5k was wicked. We were on a long stretch of road with some up-and-down, and my quads screamed on the ups. I focused on my form – slight forward lean, midfoot strike, pushing back with my strides. All of this had seemed so easy and natural earlier.

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going through “the wall” just before mile 24

Mile 22 through 25 seemed to go on forever. Still, my rough math told me that 3:40 was still on the vanishing edge of possible, so I needed to keep running. I could see mile marker 26 ahead, following a long straight stretch, and dug a bit deeper. 

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running for the chute

But I am pretty sure I didn’t leave much effort untapped. When I made the final turn at mile 26, I couldn’t see the race clock until I was perhaps 20 seconds from the finish. I’d surprised myself.

I crossed in 3:39:24, a minute faster than my previous “official” PR.  I definitely felt the miles.  But I’ll take it.

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crossing the finish

charts and graphs for running geeks

The early fast splits come on the downhill trail.  And the slower splits come when we hit the uphill stretches.  To be clear, none of the uphill is significant – but there is a tangible difference after running 20+ miles when you start climbing (even a little).  Have to wonder how this would have looked had I actually done some structured speed workouts in the months ahead of the race.

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2000 + 12

 

This was an article written for “The Runner Mumbles”, Winter 2012-13 issue (the newsletter for the Eastside Runners).  It’s a reflection on my 2012 year of running.

On winter solstice morning (Dec. 21), I headed out for a run.  The sun was out, which made me forget the chill in the air.  I thought back to a year earlier, when I was running an improvised speed workout in Kirkland’s secluded Watershed Park as I wrapped up my training for the January 2012 Houston Marathon.  I didn’t know what to expect for the rest of 2012.

I did have some goals for 2012.  I wanted to run 2,000 miles for the year.  I’d moved up to nearly 40 miles per week in recent years and thought this would be a good year-long goal.

A group of friends planned to run a dozen marathons in 2012 (“12 in ‘12”), but while I was intrigued by the prospect of a marathon per month, I wasn’t sure if I could sustain the level of commitment needed to make that my goal.  I spend seven to eight hours running most weeks.  I run to relax. It needs to be fun, not just about ticking the miles off in pursuit of goals.

Now when I look back on my year in running, a series of stories flash through my mind:

  • Seeing a pajama-clad runner elbow a kid aside when they were both vying for the last chocolate chip cookie at the cookie bar – an excellent teach- able moment in delayed gratification from the night after running the Houston Marathon.
  • Running a race with my friend as she hit a new PR. There’s nothing better than seeing someone surprise themselves in such a nice way.
  • Talking with my daughter about my pre-race jitters before running the Chuckanut 50K in Bellingham – my first 50K in more than two years.  No matter how many of these ultras I do, there’s still always an element of doubt to running them.  My daughter, an aspiring singer and actress, told me:  “Dad, that’s exactly how I feel when I perform.” The next day, as I ran down a narrow trail in the snow next to a 200 foot drop-off, I drew inspiration from her courage and determination as she chases her own dreams.
  • Quietly hopping onto the “12 in ’12” bandwagon in my own way, by running three long races on three consecutive weekends. I began by spending some quality hours with friends running in the Redmond Watershed 12 Hour race, as several of them hit the 50-mile run mark for the first time. The next week- end I had an excellent time running a race in Soaring Eagle Park. On the third weekend, I completed the Green River Marathon again and enjoyed the recovery with friends at Alki Point, savoring oysters and sunshine.
  • Reading the course photographer’s blog post from the Taylor Mountain 50k in June, when he wrote that there was so much bear scat on the trails that he sang and clapped loudly as he hiked out to take pictures.  I discovered this after I’d already run silently and obliviously three times around the course alone, without even thinking about what I was stepping through.
  • Passing mile 30 at the Lord Hill 50k in July, when the guy I was running with jumped up and clicked his heels for the photographer.  I can’t do that, even before running.
  • Sharing dinner with my friend and fellow Marathon Maniac Bridget Waldron Steele a couple of nights before the Pike’s Peak marathon.  I learned that when you run above the tree-line, that’s where you earn your “big girl panties.”  Spot on!  Sadly, we lost Bridget just six weeks later to breast cancer – may she run in peace.
  • Running Pike’s Peak two days after my talk with Bridget and learning how hard it is to run when you can’t see the trail in front of you.
  • Running the Middle Fork 50k in September and making the mistake of thinking it would be easy, since nothing could be as difficult as Pike’s Peak. Crossing the river on a log 12 feet above rushing water was not easy.
  • Running the marathon at Fort Steilacoom in October with my friend Theresa, making the miles fly by.  We talked about life, kids, family and all sorts of great stuff.
  • Experiencing the Grand Ridge 50K as it threw a bit of everything at runners this year, including dry, balmy weather that turned to cold, hard rain.  My favorite part was running part of the way with a young XC runner doing his first marathon.  He was feeling the late-mile pain as we climbed back up the ridge at mile 22.  He’d already done something remarkable just by at- tempting a trail marathon, but he also managed to muster a great kick to the finish.  Awesome!
  • Getting to share many miles of the Wattle Waddle on Thanksgiving Day with our esteemed newsletter editor, Bob Wismer.  We talked about family, running dreams and politics.  As always, he was great company!

As I ran seven miles on that sunny Solstice morning in December, these memories streamed through my head.  I’ll always have running memories like these, even after the race shirts are gone.  Each time I rounded a corner on the familiar route, I thought about when I covered the same ground with friends, and sometime alone with just my thoughts.

As I finished, I clicked off mile 2000 for the year. Goals met, dreams chased, and miles covered.

post-race celebration with wine and cookies.pike's peak marathon - climbing "the stairs"Ft. Steilacoom-152 (ZF-4170-94698-1-003)-2

pictures by marathonfoto.com, Steve Sanders, and a waitress in Houston