Desert Racing Part 1 – Unofficial Marathon by Lisa Gonzales
This was supposed to be an epic running weekend for me. It didn’t turn out quite like I’d hoped and I’m still a little unsure of how I feel about it.
I didn’t work on Friday so I’d planned on leaving around noon so I wouldn’t have to drive in the dark through Death Valley and I could see what the landscape looked like. Well, that didn’t work out because my apartment complex decided to change my flooring on Friday and they didn’t finish until after 1 so I didn’t leave until 1:30. When I left my refrigerator and stove were still in the living room and I’m hoping they moved them back otherwise all my food will be bad.
There wasn’t much traffic so I was making good time. Then I saw flashing lights in my mirror. Damn it. Yes, I got a ticket and I never drive fast usually. So I ended up being even later and I was hoping this wasn’t a sign of how things were going to go for the weekend. Ha!
The desert was pitch black and the rode was just a two lane road so it was a little scary and I was nervous about breaking down or getting lost but I eventually made it to the hotel and checked-in. As I was leaving registration, I turned around and I recognized someone in line behind me. It was Joshua Holmes from Run It Fast (@bayou and @runitfast on Twitter and here on Facebook). I introduced myself to him and then left to put my stuff in the room. As I was carrying my stuff in, Joshua came by and we made plans to eat dinner together. So I dropped off my stuff, notified the family that I’d made it and headed back down.
The Furnace Creek Ranch has a restaurant, saloon, and a cafe. We decided to eat at the cafe. We had a 20 minute wait and sat outside. The night was beautiful and clean and a little cold. When we got to our table, we ordered (black bean burger for me) and talked while we waited. I noticed the man at the table next to us was wearing a Leadville jacket and looked closer and realized it was the FatCyclist! (@fatcyclist). When they got up to leave, I asked if he was Fatty and introduced myself. A little later, he came back and asked to take a picture with me. So last weekend, I got to meet Macca and this weekend I got to meet Joshua and Fatty. I am a total running geek, I know, but is that not cool or what!
So dinner was good. Good food and good company. Later that night I was thinking how if my day hadn’t gone awry, I probably would have gotten there early, grabbed a sandwich to eat in the room, and not met some very fun & inspiring people. Things were looking up!
I set the alarm for 4:30 and went to bed about 9:30. I slept pretty well that night. I woke up on time, ate, and started getting ready. I checked Twitter first and then finally checked my email. That’s when the things really went south. There was an email from the director that the race was cancelled. Cancelled! I swear I thought it was a mistake or a bad joke. How could it be cancelled? The director said it was because of extreme high winds along the route. It hadn’t seemed windy the night before so I couldn’t wrap my brain around it. I got ready anyway and headed down at 6 to check in to see what was going on.
At check in, we found out it was true. It was cancelled. We still got shirts and bibs but it wasn’t happening. I immediately started thinking about what I should do. I’d planned on running a marathon and that’s what I intended to do. I just didn’t know how or where. I finally decided to just head out from the hotel and run on the roads. It wasn’t the race I’d planned and certainly not the views I’d planned but I needed to get in 26.2 miles. I figured if I ran out 6.5 miles and then came back, I could refill my water bottle and hit the restroom at the hotel if I needed to. But that meant I had to be back before check out at 12 so I hit the road.
The run out wasn’t a whole lot fun. It was pretty windy and it tried to steal my hat quite a few times and there were a couple times when it blew from the side and pushed me so I was running diagonally but it wasn’t too bad. I did get to see the sun rise over the valley and that was beautiful. The road wasn’t very well traveled which I liked but also made me a little nervous. That was another reason I didn’t want to go too far from the hotel. If something happened, I didn’t want to be too far from help. Or get lost. Which I’ve been known to do. After I turned around on the first loop, I heard chimes. I thought “Oh my god it’s not even hot and I’m hallucinating in the desert!”. Then I realized it was my new phone telling me I had a message. Ha! It was a message from Joshua saying that some of the runners where going to go ahead and run a modified version of the race. Dang it! But I was too far to get back in time. I saw the caravan of runners go by me and some of them waved and honked. I waved back and kept running.
The run back after the turnaround for me was pretty nice because I had a great tailwind. Sometimes, it was even pushing me along. I figure the winds were about 30-40 mile per hour headwinds with some higher gusts. I still think they could have had the race though. As I got closer to the hotel, I heard bells and I thought it must be my phone again so I ignored it but it turned out it was a cyclist and I had to apologize for being clueless! Doh! Anyway, I made it back to the hotel, dropped off my jacket, refilled my water bottle, hit the restroom and headed back out. I was feeling pretty good but I have to tell you that I was thinking of calling it quits at 13.1 miles. I thought why not? I could so an easy run and then race hard at the R&R. But no, I signed up to run a marathon, I was going to run one! So out on the road again and back in to the wind.
I felt good as I started out for my second lap. It was still cool and the wind felt good but my head was playing mind games with me. You don’t have to run a marathon today. People will understand if you bag it at 15 miles. No one’s watching you, just walk a little. Seriously, what nut runs a marathon on her own? I gotta be honest and say that I almost gave in and quit at 15, then again at 20, and…I was seriously considering stopping at 22 miles. But once I hit 22, I thought “What’s 4 more?” and I kept going. My legs felt good. My left foot was bothering me a little because of the road camber I think but otherwise all other systems were good.
So I made it back to the hotel and my watch said 26.05 and I had to run around the parking lot til I reached a marathon. I looked down and it said 26.22 so I crossed my “finish line”. My first unofficial, unsupported marathon. I had my own mini celebration but it cut it short so I could shower and pack before check out time.
After, I checked out, I sat in the lounge chairs in the sun on the patio for a while, grabbed a bite to eat in the cafe (comfort food – meatloaf, mashed potatoes, corn, and a roll…yummy) and headed out to Vegas and the expo to pick up my bib for the R&R. The whole drive to Vegas I debated whether or not to bump up to the marathon for Sunday’s race. I still hadn’t thought to much about the race cancellation but I was bummed not to have one more official marathon for the year. Dang it.
The Expo was CRAZY. So many people and it felt like I had to walk forever to get there. I got my bib & shirt and got in line to switch to the marathon. But I eventually decided to stick to the Half and left to explore the Expo. The only thing I really wanted to see in there was if they had any bibfolios and to stop by the Altra booth (@altrazerodrop). I saw Jeremy there and talked with him for a bit which was a lot of fun. I never found any bibfolios so I actually made it out of the expo without spending a dime! Miracle!
After the walk back to the car, I was pretty tired and ready to get to the hotel but it took me over an hour to get out of the parking garage. Insane! Made it to the hotel, checked in, went out to find some food, and then finally kicked back about 8.
Long, long day. Not the day I’d planned but not a total loss. I have some regrets but it is what it is. One good thing about the day was that the run wasn’t as fun as a real race and there was nothing to keep me from quitting, I DID NOT QUIT. I did not walk. I did what I planned to do. I think that was a good training run for the 12 HR. At least I’m hoping it was.
[originally posted on Lisa's blog Run Like a Coyote]
Read the 2nd Part of Lisa’s Weekend Adventure: Desert Racing Part 2 – The Strip at Night