5:29:XX Finishing Time
Saturday, December 1st, 2012
Location: Titus Canyon Road from Beatty, NV to Death Valley, CA
Distance: 26.2+ miles
Weather: high 30’s in the beginning and low 70’s at the end
Start Time: 8:45 AM
Terrain: jeep tracks over desert, mountain and canyon
Size: 200 Runners
I signed up for this race last year maybe in January. When I saw the description on the website detailing the race as being a point to point marathon distance that dropped from a mountain peak to the bottom of Death Valley I knew I wanted to do it as my choice big race for the end of the year. I had been to Death Valley about 18 months prior for hiking and carousing with a friend and fell in love with the area; I’ve always had a longing for the desert. The race description also said the weather could be extreme and this excited me as well since I veer away from the cold and rain most of the time; I’m usually the type to sit indoors with a book and read since it’s never raining or cold in Los Angeles.
As the year progressed I slowly started running longer and longer and relatively faster and faster, playing with race distances and paces of all sorts, all on trails and even doing a hilly trail marathon a couple months prior to the this one to test the waters. What I found through all of this is that I enjoy running hard and that showed in placing in my age group in both my first very short distances on trails in small sized races and then later attempting to run hard during the aforementioned trail marathon dry-run. Needless to say, I can’t run a marathon distance race hard yet without completely falling apart about half way through. So, I took that result with caution into this race I did Saturday.
I used my iphone to track some of the paces but, it ended up dying maybe 3/4 of the way down the canyon so I’ll summarize the race effort and highlights by landmarks, elevation or aide stations:
Miles 1 - 9 starting at about 3500’ and climbing to 5000’ with an 11’30” average pace… These miles were cold miles for me! Thankfully, they weren’t rainy or windy but, the windbreaker I brought served me well for about 30 minutes after start until I warmed up a bit. The temp was barely hitting the 40’s by the time the sun poked through the clouds and I shuffled with some ultra looking running folks to get in a slow rhythm as I looked ahead and at the horizon with the mountain getting closer and closer. At one point I asked someone, “When are we going to start climbing?” and they looked at me like I was an idiot and said, “we have been we gained about a thousand feet.” I replied with, “Oh, I think I may have trained wrong.” I’m not even sure of that was the right thing for me to say as my training was all over the place! All I knew was that I felt good but, I wanted to go out slow to not repeat what happened last time - falling apart a couple hours in.
Miles 9 - 12 drops a couple hundred feet then climbs about 500’ to a pass to peak above 5000’ with great views of Nevada behind us and Titus canyon winding down to California is front of us. As soon as I got to the first downhill I tried to test my downhill race pace and immediately cramped in my calf and hammie on my right leg and stopped and walked the next 1.5 miles to the top and pondered what to do. I thought, hmm this a complete repeat of my last trail marathon but, knew it wouldn’t prevent me from finishing if I can just slam down salt somewhere at an aide station. (Despite being cold I was still managing to sweat like a pig, I always do.) At the top of the peak I took a 5 minute break to stretch and piss (clear piss) and take photos, talk with some loli gaggers like myself at that point and then run comfortably down the hill without problems beside what I think was slight elevation sickness?
Miles 13 - 15 Nice and easy downhill running at about 9:45 pace, slightly outside of my comfort zone. I arrived at the mile 15 aide station and this one finally had food. Oh yes, thank you lord. I had been trying to eat gels but, the taste made me feel sick so even though I was holding them down about once every half hour I was not enjoying them. The local high school track team had laid out halved bananas, chexmix, drinks and some other sweet things which, didn’t appeal to me. I ate bananas and chexmix with complete ease and noticed they also had salt tabs so I took 2 and hung out for several minutes and my nausea from the altitude or electrolyte depletion was slowly going away.
Miles 16 - 20 This was a mind f*ck portion of the race, haha. I knew these miles would be weird anyways because of the proximity in the distance but, on the ever continuing downhill through the beautiful and tight canyon, I had a really hard time staying in a running rhythm and engaged in walking/jogging/running shifts. My ideal way to go down the mountain was to run it but, I could feel it in my legs that that wasn’t what my brain wanted me to do. At this point some of the buddies I had met were well ahead of me doing there constant slow pace. I felt more comfortable going into a running stride for one or two minutes and then jogging for about three then walking for about five. It sounds odd but, that felt soothing on my legs. A couple times I would latch onto some fast finishers and ride with them a little ways. One fellow was doing four minutes running followed by one minute walk breaks and we played leap frog for about 30 minutes with friendly conversation. Another guy i ran with was a steady european who seemed to not want to chat. He was in the zone! So, I politely jogged with him to the mile 20 aide station.
Miles 20-23 Walked alone for a while and then ran a bit with a guy who was struggling ahead of me and we ended up parting as he was walking more than I wanted to.
Mile 23-Finish AHHHH the end of the heavenly and hellish canyon finally came, there is photographer, and another aide station with kids looking bored at this point and some people giving encouragements. I took another break and looked down into the bottom of the sandy valley with open views and put one foot in front of the other and got chic’d by three different fast finishing women. I congratulated them. They were serious and I wasn’t about to give them a fight. ;) The buses for the rides back to the meet up area seemed to be getting further away instead of closer as the minutes passed but, finally they came and I was able to run the last mile in at a steady pace. I ate and drank more and did a whole bunch of stretching, even tried to run with long bounds to see what it would feel like and the right leg cramped a wee bit and I laughed and then laid down after I stopped feeling overheated and propped my legs up on a rock for 15 minutes to let the blood flow out or whatever happens.
Overall great race but, to be honest I want redemption, I’m planning on doing it next year to handle it like boss, a steady boss with a faster time.