Running with the Devil Marathon adventure report
So I thought I’d write my race report while it’s still fresh in my head. That and the fact I called in sick and have some free time to put my thoughts on paper. I’ve always had a fascination with the Badwater Ultramarthon,135 miles trough Death Valley in the middle of summer. Sounds like a good time to me. It’s not that I’m gluten for punishment I’m just looking for my breaking point. After reading the course description “Most race organizers go to great lengths to ensure their races are held in ideal running conditions; 40 degrees, light breeze, overcast. Many aim to make their courses flat and fast, or even downhill to facilitate runners to smash their PR. Not this one! Held in summer in the middle of the day thru the dry Mojave Desert, athletes will be challenged to contend with extreme heat and unrelenting rolling hills as they traverse this spectacularly scenic course” I knew I had to give it a shot.My own little Badwater.
I stumbled upon Calicos’ race sight late last year in an attempt to choose a marathon other than Rock and Roll Arizona for the 3rd time. Running with the Angel was in Lake Mead and being a smaller marathon, it was much cheaper. For $150 I got two nights in a hotel and my race entrance. I signed up and headed to my first Nevada race. It was a fun, but tough course, and I fell in love with the smaller marathons. It was also described as the sister event to the Running with the Devil. Its ran on the same course just at different time of the year. Fast forward to Friday June 25th and I was headed back to Lake Mead.
I’ve had a pretty solid first six months of 2010. Six marathons, a 50k, 50 miler, and a R2R2R two day crossing of the Grand Canyon. I had no worries of coving the distance but knew with a 10am start and average temp of 114 this wasn’t a race I could just show up for. Living in Phoenix affords me plenty of opportunities to get some heat training in. I logged more than half of my weekly 50 miles at 4pm. I did miles of running up National mid day to try and prepare for tough conditions and the heat; testing the best outfits and cooling techniques. I settled on a long sleeve cotton t-shirts and shorts. The cotton shirt acts like a swamp cooler keeping the sweat close to your body and actually keeping you cooler. The dri fit shirts we usually run in actually do to good of a job pulling the sweat away from your body. I was informed that the trick to staying cool was staying damp.
Bumper to bumper traffic sucks!!
After the five hour drive I got to the hotel just in time to check in, grab a couple beers, and meet some new friends. There is a 50 mile option and the Ultra runners are pretty easy to pick out. It’s a hodge podge of race shirts and most of them have some type of alcohol in hand. Beer, wine, mixed drinks; you name it someone had one. We got to chatting and I was invited to the buffet with a group of eight mostly from Texas. They were all Devil regulars that meet up at different races throughout the year. We headed to the Buffet and it was seafood night. Since I’m still on the vegetarian kick I ordered an omelet with fries, toast, and hash browns. They all had plates of crab legs. I asked one of them why anyone would eat something like that the night before a race and the response I got: “Because it looks good”, good enough for me. We chatted and then decided to head down to packet pick up which was 15 feet away.
Seafood buffet the day before a race?
I checked in and picked up my number saying a quick hi to Joyce the Race Director and then headed off to throw some money into the slot machines. Around 8 I headed up to my room and forced myself to watch TV until midnight.
Best packet pickup ever
Since the point of the race was to run in the heat, the marathon didn’t start until 10am. I couldn’t sleep past 7 so I headed down to gamble some more then drove 5 miles into town to grab some breakfast and a toothbrush.
Never know till you ask
I got down to the race start 9ish and parked twenty feet from the start. The 50 milers had gone out at 7am and there was also a 5k option so the park was full of excitement. People were covered in sweat and proudly sporting their finisher medals. I was meeting Mitch, A friend I had meet at Angel in Jan and who I have run 5 different races with this year already. We chatted and milled around until the 9am weigh in.
Weigh in and a cool down pool
We were required to weigh in and show that we are able to carry the minim amount of required water. Our weight would be checked at the halfway point. Depending on a percentage of body weight lost, there could be consequences from being forced to wait until we regained the weight all the way to being pulled from the race. It all started to sink in as we headed over to the starting line. The last 3 years the temp has averaged 113 and the predicted high was going to be 105. I had been making comments about how we should get a partial refund due to the cooler temps which I knew would come back to bite me in the arse.
Just before the race started
As we lined up I saw just about every running outfit you could think off. Your normal running outfits all the way to people covered head to toe in white get ups.
Mitch even had a handheld mister he planned to run with. Joyce gave us some final instructions about the course and the seriousness of the race. She ended with “so basically just don’t Fuck around” and a few seconds later she said go and we were off.
I had expected the heat but had completely forgotten about the hills. It’s close to 3000 total feet of climbing over the 26.2 miles. I have since looked back at my comments from the Angel race and all I had written down was “holey hills batman”. One of the guys took off like a bat out of hell. He was tall, very tall and in basketball shorts and a baseball cap. We all laughed and said we’d see him in a few miles. A group of 5 of us seemed to be around the same pace and ran the first 3 miles together. Mitch said something about not feeling it as we rolled into the first aid station. I was one of the few that was wearing a camelback so I really didn’t need to resupply. I dipped my handkerchief in the cold water and was off again. The rest of the group needed to refill on the water so I just settled into my own pace and kept on moving alone.
Passing the first aid station
I was slowly picking off people and was about a mile from the turnaround when the tall guy went past me going the other way, He was walking but we was still in first place. Another mile and I counted that I was in 10th or so. I made the turn and refilled my water and weighed in. I was the same 185 pounds from the morning. Sweet, I was doing great and started wondering if I could make the top 5. I made the turn at 2:03 which was pretty good for my planned 5hr race. I had gone 3:46 two weeks before at the San Diego Marathon so I wasn’t surprised at how good I felt. It was also all uphill the first half so I was ready to fly back with thoughts of maybe even going under 4 hrs.
I started the trip back and realized that even know I was the same weight, I had weighed in at the turnaround with a full camelback on. I’m not sure how much it weighed but I know I couldn’t lose more than about 7 pounds before things would start to really go south. I couldn’t figure out where everyone was from the first pack I had ran with. It was almost 2 miles before I came across them. I wondered how I had put almost 3.5 miles on them in just under 2 hours. I had kept a strict eye on my pace and I was picking people off because they were slowing down. Two miles from the turnaround there is a big hill before you get back on the main road for the ten mile jaunt back to the finish. There was a hottie in front of me and I was working hard to run her down. But damnit, she just wouldn’t walk enough for me to reel her in. Just as I was about to catch her I would have to take a short walk break and off she went. Damn her, lol. Right before the turn I ran into Mitch. He looked great but said he was going to walk it in. He was just passed the 10 mile marker so I was about six miles ahead of him. I wished him luck. He’s run over 60 marathons so he knows what he needs to do. There was a bucket of water at the turn and I wiped down my face and body and got my top wet.
Ten miles to go
It was a three mile run until the next aid station and that’s when things started to go downhill. I had run almost all of the race up until that point and I started to go downhill pretty fast. I never was really hot but my stomach started feeling funny. The downhill never really came and it started to really heat up. This race was just another training run for a tough 50 mile race I have in three weeks, so I decided that I’d shut it down and take it easy. I usually have a walk/run plan as most of these races have been training for my ultra marathons. I can run the entire marathon but when you have a 55 mile run week you can’t really afford to miss any time to recover from running hard for 26.2 miles. By mile 20 I was in survival mode. I’m not really sure what happened but I was going south very quickly. My stomach felt weird and it was hard to take full breaths. My top was bone dry within moments of getting it wet and it started to get windy. I passed the turnaround for the half marathon and finally started to see people again. I had been playing leap frog with the same guy since the turn around but wasn’t sure why other people weren’t catching up to me. I ran into Casey who was running the half and we ran half a mile or so together. I needed to walk again and just decided I was going to walk the rest of the way in. I really felt weird and the hotter it got the less I seemed to be able to eat. I took in about double the calories I would in a normal marathon but the energy still wasn’t there. The last six miles only had one aid station and I started to really get scared. I sat down on the side of the road as I could tell I was going downhill fast. It didn’t make me feel any better so after 30 seconds I got up and managed to make it to the aid station. I asked if I could sit down as they replaced my warm water with ice. I was crappy, tired, and pissed that they didn’t have cola on the course. Flat coke can do some amazing things and as I sat there all pissy they asked if I needed anything. I said, “I sure wish you guys had soda” and one of the guys opened a cooler and pulled out a couple of two liters. I guess sometimes you just need to ask. I sat in the aid station for five minutes with my feet up sipping on the coke. I contemplated dropping out but decided there were enough people on the course if something went wrong I’d survive. As I went to stand up I noticed that my legs were covered in goose bumps. I figured it had to be from the wind on my sweat (I later found out that it was a sign that my body was shutting down and using its energy to cool my core). It was a long mix of run/walk to the finish line. At 26 miles you make a left turn and head down the hill to the finish. The guy I had been playing leapfrog with was all of the sudden running back towards me. He asked if this was the right way and I told him “yes”. I knew he had been working hard to beat me but with the turnaround he had run back to me and now we were even again. I told him to get going and he looked at me funny. He got the idea and as he ran in front of me he thanked me. I told him he had worked hard to get in front of me but it wasn’t going to be a free ride so he better get his ass moving; he smiled and took off. I have a rule that I don’t pass people in the last .1 mile of a race. If I can’t find the energy to pass you in the race, I’m not going to go flying past you in the last seconds. I ran through the finish line in 5:08ish and grabbed my metal. I had planned to head back out as I needed some more miles for the weekend but that definitely wasn’t an option.
I grabbed some fruits and drank everything I could find for the next ten minutes. I sat down and chatted with some of the other racers. 20 minutes after I finished I weighed in and was still down 11 pounds. I usually take six or so Advil in a race just to take the edge off. I’ve been chastised about how bad that is for your kidneys, so I decided to not take any for this race. I was in quite a bit more pain than usual but it was a different type of pain. All I can say is I felt really hung over. I’m not sure how to describe it but something definitely wasn’t right. After an hour I jumped in the car and decided to drive back to make sure Mitch was alive. I heard that a few people dropped out including the tall guy who was winning. I found Mitch with six or so miles to go. I talked with him and he seemed to be doing ok, so after a quick stop to thank the volunteers at the last aid station I headed back to the hotel. I grabbed some food and took a warm shower and headed down to the bar. Around 8 pm my friends from the 50 miler and Mitch all started to come back in. I was well on my way to tipsy land. Next thing I know, it’s 3am, we are on our 3rd Jaeger bomber after two martinis and who knows how much beer. I headed back to the room to grab my chap stick and decided to call it a night.
I found out the next day that it took Mitch 10 hours to cover the marathon course. He was up all night getting sick. One of the guys from the Texas group had to pull out at mile 37 of the ultra marathon and get an IV. My 5:09 was good enough for 11th out of 39 finishers. I was only eight minutes out of 5th. It looks like a few dropped so even though I had a rough day, it wasn’t as bad as some of the others.
I will say it was another exciting adventure; I met some new friends and was able to work hard at another goal. I don’t know that I have a desire to do another heat race anytime soon. Thankfully endurance athletes are blessed with short memories.
Next up, Headlands 50 in San Francisco on July 17th.