I usually would never schedule two races so close together....but my buddy Korey was running McDowell Mountain too, and I really needed some redemption after my fail-fest up in Flag.
Seattle Marathon ( Nov 24 2012 )
What can I say, the Seattle Marathon is one of my favorite races. It was the second marathon I ever ran, I've run it four times in a row and I've gone from struggling to a 5 hour finish to easily putting up a respectable time. It's pretty much the race I have come to measure myself against over the past few years. Most importantly the race comes at the end of an always wonderful week in the Seattle area with my Grandparents who always come and cheer me to the finish.
This year was definitely unlike any other. In the past I've always been pretty nervous, unsure of how I would perform and nervous about the notorious hilly section in the last 5 miles. Things are different since I've been running ultras....the hills at Seattle that once seemed daunting are now little bumps compared to some of the monsters I have to climb (see McDowell Mountain 50 miler for more on this). I went into this race confident and expecting to PR, although only by a few minutes. I had a general goal of running a comfortable marathon and then moving on to the 50 miler two weeks later.
|I finally get a good action shot at this race|
McDowell Mountain 50 Miler ( Dec 8 2012 )
After my failure at Flag I knew I needed to redeem myself but just couldn't see how. It took me most of October to get right after my injury which left me with just shy of a month to train until Seattle. I pretty much figured there was no time for another Ultra in 2012. This really bummed me out, if you ask anyone who I've talked to about Flag the DNF didn't sit very well. Korey told me he signed up for McDowell Mountain on December 8th. I followed the advice I usually give people about races "just sign up and deal with the consequences later".
December 8th was an early morning. I was staying about an hour away from McDowell Mountain Regional Park so I had to get up around 4:15, get my stuff ready, have some coffee, go out there, and then get settled for the hour before the race. Just before 7am the RD, Jamil Coury, lined us up and gave us the pre-race brief which he finished up with by telling us "I ran this course straight through a few weeks ago, I did it, so can you" .... I had to laugh because only a few months ago he won the Mogollon Monster 100 and is a really great runner.
Anyway we were off through the the cactus land that is the Sonoran Desert. I kept an easy pace and fell in with a few people. I had a pretty set plan for this race and made sure to stick to it. Hammer Gel approximately every 30 minutes plus eating food at aid stations. I got this advice from my friend Siobhan who I met at the Bull Run 50 Miler in April. This plan work In addition to that I made a point of avoiding both my Ipod and drinking Mountain Dew until the mile 29 aidstation. I didn't want to get bored of my music or get too wired on caffiene and crash and burn.
I wish I had a lot to say about the first 20 or so miles but I really don't. We all took off, Korey ran out front with the leaders and Dallas blazed by me a few minutes later. After that the next few hours were mostly steady pace. I talked with some people for a while, enjoyed the views of the Superstition Mountains and just took it easy. Unfortunately I could tell my legs weren't exactly fresh...its not like I really tapered for this race but oh well! The only big climb of the day was from mile 19.5 to 22 and it was only a 1300 foot climb. It didn't seem that daunting and Korey and I had even been laughing before the race that it couldn't be as tough as the climbs in Flag or even at 3 Peaks. We should really stop laughing at things... Korey was coming back my way in third place as I went through mile 18, I asked how he was doing and all he said was "that hill is a bitch!" ......Korey is known for running up most hills no big deal....I knew trouble was on the way.
I pulled into the aid station at mile 19 or so and looked out at the road up to the top of the mountain which was adorned with several cell towers. This is when I figured out why this climb was so bad....there were no switchbacks....at all.....the road went straight up about 3/4 of the way....took a right.....stayed level(ish) for a while...then took a left and went the rest of the way.....The people at the aid station were telling everyone looking at the mountain "hey the complaint department is at the top"..... I power hiked the best I could up the mountain which definitely had sections with 20% grade ... Dallas came ambling down past me at one point laughing saying "Hey! Use those arms and legs man!" ....he was right arm pumping totally helped.... at one point another runner passed me with a GoPro asked me to say a few words to the camera and then said something about me being a "Billy Goat" ..... it's funny now but at the time I was too tired to be amused. When I reached the top a guy named Nate was sitting there marking down when everyone arrived. I looked at him and simply said "I really hate Jamil right now!" he just laughed and said "Yeah when I heard this climb was part of the race I was really confused....and then I saw who designed the course and it made sense!"
|Most of the climb was steeper than this....|
I let out a quick victory cry and started working my way down. Down was certainly faster than up...but I still wouldn't say there was much running as it was still crazy steep and I was feeling a little drained. Eventually I worked my way back down to the aid station which was at mile 25, fueled up, ate and headed out.
It was starting to get hot....I started pouring some water on my head .... the next 4 miles was a steady climb through the Sonoran Preserve which was really awesome....even if it was slow going for me....while the climb up the mountain hadn't hurt my energy stores too bad it really did hurt my motivation and at times I just couldn't really force myself to run. Eventually the trail turned down and I looped back into the aid station I had just been at twice in a row at mile 29..... I was really excited.
I took out my Ipod turned it on then looked to the aid station volunteers and said "Tell me you have Mountain Dew!!!!". I had two small cups and then flipped on my Ipod and took off. The next few miles had some climbing and some down hill but I got a good stretch of running in. I still didn't have too much motivation so there was totally some walking...but hey I never claimed to be fast at the 50 miler. After the aid station at mile 33 things turned up. The next 6 or so miles were all down hill and all on non technical terrain. Good music was playing...it was finally cooling off and in what felt like not too long (it was still a long time) I rolled into the aid station at mile 39. Things turned a little down hill after this my motivation problems came back and the trail went back to some rocky single track that I really just didn't just myself to push it on. So I just took what the day gave me and when night started creeping up around mile 44 I pulled out my headlamp and flipped it on.
I rolled into the last aid station which was at the start/finish and ate some food and prepared for the last 5 miles. Larissa was waiting for me and asked "Hey, how are you feeling" apparently I got a grim look on my face because she said "oh....bad question" ...She did let me know that she was going to get me a pizza while I took care of the last 5 miles. I angled my headlamp down towards the ground and shuffled off.
The last 5 miles was not very much fun....it was dark...I kept banging my toes into rocks....and the loop section we were running is pretty much a snakey figure eight. I kept thinking I was lost then I'd see another race marking and think "ok sure" after a long slow haul (there was lots of out loud swearing here) I made my way over the top of the ridge and saw the finish again...then the trail turned to the right....then I ran into a sign I had seen about 35 minutes earlier and a bunch of wrong way signs! Ahhh...what! I knew I had made a wrong turn so I turned back and realized that about 300 yards earlier I had missed the correct turn off.....it was about 1 more minute until the finish! I rolled in at about 12:52. Larissa helped me over to a chair next to a heat lamp and quickly brought me my bag-o-stuff I had prepared for the end of the race....I was getting cold fast so I pulled on a pair of pajama pants, put on a fleece and removed my shoes. Nick Coury was there and he brought me over my finishers pint glass and congratulated me on the finish. After that I got into the car and deliriously ate some pizza and drank from a giant bottle of ice tea.
Overall not my best race, real motivation issues....but I never once seriously considered quitting.....and the recovery is going really well! Oh yeah...Korey...that speed demon won the whole thing and erased a 15 minutes deficit in the last 5 miles.....rock on man you are awesome !
Jamil and Nick Coury put on really good races....and they seem to have marking these things totally locked down....anyone in the southwest should strongly consider one of their races!