Two Marathons in Two Weeks - Valley of Fire Marathon Recap
After breaking four hours at the Monumental Marathon on November 6th, I was ready to rest a little and then get set for my second marathon of the month. Coach Greg had worked out a recovery plan for me and I was sticking pretty close to the schedule. I walked and then started to run slowly until my legs were feeling back to normal. Fortunately for me, I am able to recover quickly after long runs and races.
My father in law (Stew) and I spent the week exploring the casinos, going to a comedy show, betting on sports and even going to a UNLV / Air Force football game. We visited Hoover Dam, Lake Mead and then drove around Red Rock Canyon the day before the race. It sounds like a lot, but I was sitting most of the time.
Stew and I woke up at 4:00am (Vegas time) and headed down stairs. I was shocked when the elevator doors opened and I was standing in what looked to me like the aftermath of a night club party. I must have looked strange standing there in my running gear!
Stew and I had rented a car and we drove about forty-five minutes outside of Las Vegas. We took the exit for the Valley of Fire State Park and drove eighteen miles in the desert. The sun started to rise and we could see the mountains in the distance. My stomach was starting to turn.
The temperature was perfect (45-50 degrees), but it was really windy. When we got to the park entrance, the park ranger told us that the marathon had been canceled due to a high wind advisory, but that I could still run the half. I was in shock! I had not come to run a half, I was there to run a full marathon! I decided that I was running the full course no matter what and we headed to the parking area.
And this is where the fun begins...
At 7:00am I lined up with about twenty to thirty runners and waited for the start (some of the other marathon runners started later, but we all had start/finish chips on). The other races (5k, 10k and half would start at 8:00am). I don't even remember how the race started, but we all headed into the canyons.
The first half mile of the race was straight up hill. It was brutal and I realized right off that this was going to be tough. The hill seemed to go on forever until I reached the top and saw the most amazing view! I was staring at huge red rocks shooting into the sky, it truly looked like a valley on fire!
Throughout the race I would continue to be overwhelmed by the sites that appeared before me. At every turn and at every hill top I was blown away with the vast beauty of this place. Unfortunately, my body was being ripped to shreds at the same time!
I made it to the turn around point and emptied my shoes of sand and rocks. I also had to tighten my shoe laces. I really had never run on so may hills and had no clue that my feet would be moving so much inside my shoes. I made the adjustments and headed back down the five miles to the end of the half.
The return trip was just as hard. Every downhill I had enjoyed was now a new challenge to overcome. I was still distracted by all the sights and felt incredible as I ran down each hill, but my legs were already starting to scream!
I made it back to the end of the first half and was wiped out. Stew was waiting for me with a full bottle of Gatorade. I stopped to drink it and blurted out, "This is the hardest thing I have ever done in my life!". I think Stew thought I was ready to collapse.
I had completed the first half in 2:15 (way faster than I wanted and I knew that if I didn't slow down I was going to hurt myself). The thought of stopping at the half way point had crossed my mind at around mile eleven and I knew if I stayed at the end for more than a few seconds I might not keep going. I cut the power to my brain and made the turn back up that crazy hill...
At mile fifteen I headed back off road again and was really starting to hurt. My calves started to cramp and I stopped to rub them out. I drank everything I had and took in more salt, then I just kept running. By the time I hit the road again I was past the eighteen mile mark and knew there was no turning back.
I ran down the hill and could feel my left hamstring cramping. I did the best I could to hold it together and just cut back my pace. I was not trying to beat a time, I would never be able to compare this race to any other race for a PB (personal best). This one was going in its own category (hell race, I mean hill race). The cramping faded for the most part and I was able to run the downhills and walk/run the up hills. I noticed this was what most of the runners were doing (much sooner than me) so I felt good about my chances of finishing.
The last five miles were by far the hardest part of the race, but I felt so good! My legs felt like crap, but I felt great! This was an adventure of a life time and I was going to finish it!
Why would anyone want to run two marathons in two weeks? Why would anyone want to run a marathon after spending a week in Las Vegas? Why would anyone want to run a marathon with so many hills that afterwards it would be hard to walk for a week???
Because its freaking awesome! That's why!!!