Monday, June 16, 2008
Deadwood Marathon: Gambling or Running?
I do like gambling and I do like running. So therefore the Deadwood Mickelson Trail Marathon was perfect for this Fat-Boy. A great ol' gamblin' town and trail marathon. How much better can it get?
Gail and flew into Billings on a freebie. Then drove the 300 plus miles to Deadwood for the race. We took our time and enjoyed the great scenery of Montana, Wyoming and South Dakota. We spent one night at the base of the Bighorn Mountains thinking of those that will soon run the 100 mile race there next week.
Deadwood is a great piece of history. An old mining, gambling and male entertainment town in the 1800's and early 1900's. It is set in a gulch (they love the word gulch as its everywhere in SD) in the Black Hills it was built on the gold rush of the time. Our hotel was right on main street. I had some points built up from recent hotel stays so I ordered up a free suite. Gail and I were quite surprised when we got the "Safari Suite". Whooo-hooo! It was a corner room with fireplace, jacuzzi tub and kitchen on the second floor overlooking all the action in Deadwood. For Free! It was at the Holiday Inn Express if anyone wants to know and it was great!
On Saturday went to the expo which was small but sufficient for our needs. Then got our food supplies for our pre-race breakfast. We went to the pasta dinner up in Lead (no Bret its not "LED" its pronouced "LEED") and just drove around checking out the geography.
Race morning we drove about a mile to the bus pick up site. Waited 20 minutes and hopped a bus some 20 miles to the start line. On the bus we met a couple of women from Boise who drove all the way to do this marathon. They were great and invited us to go trail running with them in Boise sometime. I love chatting with people on these bus rides to the starts
This is was about the only complaint I really had on this race. They dumped us all out in a dirt parking lot in the mid 40 degree weather for over an hour near the start! Everyone was chilled quickly. Many folks climbed up the side of the gulch (see!) to get into the light of the rising sun. Poor Gail's "Raynaud's Syndrome" kicked in and her fingers got real painful.
Soon we hiked a few hundred yards up the road and off we started at 8 AM. The race went about a mile or so on pavement. We then did a little loop and hit the Mickelson trail, a railroad bed that has been turned into a 108 mile trail through the Black Hills. For the next 12 miles we cruised uphill for about a 1200 elevation gain (allot for marathoners, wussy for Ultra folks) as we followed a gorgeous stream. We would pop out of the hills into huge grassy meadows and then back into Pine forests. The elevation was a bit of a factor as we started at 5,200 feet and hit a high of just over 6,400. It did have a light to moderate "wheeze" factor at times. I felt pretty good until about mile 10, then I was pretty much ready to dump this constant climb. So I put on some tunes (70's and 80's head banger of course") and took my mind off my breathing. As many of you know I have just recently joined the masses in using an Ipod, The think what I like best is I don't hear how hard I am breathing, therefore I push a tad bit harder.
Aid stations were great and had to be every 2 miles. They were very smart as they had signs on one side of the trail that said "Power Aid" and then "Water" on the other side. So you didn't have to guess which fluid was where. Everyone one was super at every station. I just hand carried one bottle so I refilled about every six miles. I just would grab a pitcher of water, refill and off I would go. I did my usual Gel every 1/2 hour bit. Problem was with no drop bags I had to carry nine gels, plus my ecap every hour. I think my shorts were dragging the ground with all that weight.
Weather was perfect once we got into the race. Mostly sunny and temps in the low 50's. We did get some headwinds at times which did get a bit chilly, but overall it was great conditions for running.
At mile 13.1 I checked the Garmin and I had a 2:11 split. I was shooting for a 2:10 or better as the second half is downhill. So I was pretty happy with that time. Could I do a negative split? I have only done that one other time and that was in Kansas with the wind blowing 20 mph in my face during the first half. At mile 14 we hit the summit and started down. At first I was disappointed that my speed didn't pick up much. The miles between 10 and 14 I was running 10:40' s or so. Mile 15 was 9:12 so it did pick up a tad. I didn't get sub 9 till mile 18. At that point in the race a thunderstorm that had been paralleling the course finally hit us. I was snow grains and a very cold rain. It did give me quite a chill and the trail got pretty muddy for a bit. It actually gave me a emotional boost as I had decided to wear my trail shoes and gaitors for this run. So I could plow right through the water as many other runners had to zig zag around the mud. We had one climb around mile 19 for a mile or so but nothing bad. At the mile 20 aid station we took a hard right and got off the old rail bed. It was a steep downhill section and very fun. Many marathoners were walking this section. I just cranked the volume on tunes and let her rip down this section. I blew by 10 runners or more in this section. Trying to say "how's it going" to everyone. I had my fastest lap of the race here at an 8:10 pace. Wheeeee!
We then picked up the main trail again through just a beautiful gulch (see!) with a roaring stream going through it. I love geology and there was plenty of rock formations to look at on this run. That down hill blast really got me going again and I felt really good so I decided to push it. Over the next six miles 9:09 was my slowest pace with most around 8:40. Going downhill to the finish is very sweet. I probably passed another 15 runners over this next 5 miles or so. My hammies had hurt pretty good at the half point so by now the Ibuprofen I had taken was kicking in nicely, that is no pain! These last few miles followed a road as we got closer to Deadwood. I was working hard but I was sure having fun. Never felt this good the last miles of a race. I crossed the finish at 4:15:01. I shook the RD's hand and told him it was a great race. Negative split of 2:04 on the backside which was awesome for this old man. They gave out a great medal, huge ol' thing that weighs a ton.
I headed over to the refueling plant but they didn't have much to offer. (Weak spot of the event besides the freezing start.) I hung around and chatted with a few Maniacs and then picked up my drop bag. I was feeling so dang good! So I figured I would power walk back up the trail and cheer on everyone else that was finishing. I would run into Detour and we could run together the last few miles. Well about mile 24.5 I met my "Wonder Woman" coming around a corner with a big smile on her face. I jumped behind her an ran off towards the finish. I had gotten a bit stiff and she was really moving. We chatted a bit but I wanted her to enjoy her finish and race the way she wanted. Yeah, by mile 25 she kicked in the after burners and I was having a hard time keeping up with her. The last couple hundred yards I dropped off and let her cruise down the chute to the finish.
We met a bit later and Gail was doing good. We both were pretty happy with our times for this course with the elevation and grade. We caught the bus back to our car and called it a day. Shower, coffee and then a huge buffet for dinner and then "ooo la la" the "Safari Suite! Ha!
Over the next few days we cruised to Sturgis, Mt Rushmore, Crazy Horse and a few other places. We had a great time on this trip and saw some parts of the country that I have only flown over. I highly recommend this marathon to all. Even you trail runners that think a marathon is just a warm up for something farther, this is a great race.
So whats up next? I think it will be Sauvie Island marathon on July 4th. That is if I am back from Denmark in time. Last year I pushed hard on this one and blew up. I was shooting for sub 4 hours but the heat killed me and many others and I was walking by mile 20. Maybe this year? No sub 4 I am sure as I have done zero speed work but maybe sub 4:10 would be fun. But who cares how far we go or how fast. Let's just go have fun!