Last Saturday morning Tanya and I rose before the sun to drive out to Apache Junction, AZ to run the Lost Dutchman Marathon. Until to a few months ago we had never heard of the Lost Dutchman. We found out about this race through the National Black Marathoners Association( NBMA). This event was going to be the site of the groups annual get together marathon. Since this was their first year at a relatively close event to the West side of the country, we decided to drive out. We arrived at the multi- generational center in Apache Junction around 11:30am. Runners World has rated the "The Lost Dutchman Marathon" in the top 10 small town marathons. The hospitality was evident and the community was very involved. After picking up our race packets, we had the opportunity to meet Tony Reed. Tony Reed is the president of the NBMA and is the only African American to run a marathon on all 7 continents. We then meet other members of the NBMA one being a fellow and accomplished ultra-runner Fred Davis. It was also a pleasure to meet Maurice who will be stepping up to the 50 mile distance later this year. After chatting with others, Tanya and I decided to go out for a drive and look at the landscape.
Thestart of the race begins in the Superstitious mountains. They actually bus you to the start and the course runs back to the city of Apache Junction (a point to point course). The marathon is not advertised as a trail marathon, but the first 8 miles are on trail and then later in the race another 2-3 miles of trail. Hey, running trails are what Tanya and I love best, we were excited. But should we wear trail shoes or road shoes? We decided on road shoes.
I thought the landscape was incredible, the Arizona desert is so alive and full of plants and wildlife. I knew the mountains and the beauty of the desert was going to make for a great place to run in the morning.
Tanya usually prepares all of our meals, even when we travel to races. But we decided to attend the pasta dinner being offered by the race. I see why Tanya prepares our meals, the food was less than spectacular, but I tried to think of it as only fuel for tomorrows run. When I say the pasta was over cooked, I mean it was over cooked! I guess the pasta dinner host didn't realise people are running a marathon tomorrow, and would like to get to bed early. I felt like I was at a persons house who did not get much company, and they were doing everything in there power to keep you there. Games, Games, Games, what the hell is going on, I need to sleep Man! I guess I would have had fun if I was a kindergartner. 8:30pm finally out! Time to get some sleep and be up by 4:00am to catch the first bus up to the start.
Morning came quickly, but we comment to each other that we slept well, and felt rested. Eat breakfast, and get mentally focused to rock and roll. Though we had only run the Rocky Raccoon 100 mile endurance run 2 weeks ago, we wanted to push the limit today and see what our bodies had. Tanya had actually run a 1/2 marathon the week previously and placed 1st in her age, so she was primed to see if she could run a sub 4. Neither of us had run a marathon distance race in quite a while. My recovery had been good from the 100 miler, so I also wanted to see what was in the ol' tank and see if I could also push a sub 4.
When we arrived at the parking area to catch the bus to the start, we where surprised at how warm it already was. The ride took about 30 minutes to get to the start. What a nice setting, the backdrop was incredible. Mountains, huge cactus, and the race organisers had mesquite fires burning to keep the runners warm. Which we thought was a nice gesture, but the smoke was a bit overwhelming, just what our lungs needed before running a marathon. So we found some chairs away from the smoke and just relaxed and enjoyed the cool morning and the surroundings. At 6:40 Tanya and I began our warm up, which consisted of us taking an easy jog back and forth on a side trail to the start line. During Ultras the first few miles serve well as a warm up, but in a marathon when going for time you need every minute. So its best to warm-up as close to the start of the race as you can. Like in boxing you want to break into a good sweat.
As we headed to the starting line, we gave each other a kiss, and planned on not seeing each other until the finish. We decided to run our own race, and not worry about the other.
The sun was beginning to brighten the landscape as the starting gun was fired (BAM!) and we were off. It felt good to be running lite, I usually carry a hydration pack or carry water bottles in my hands. But today nothing but a few gels to keep me rolling, and hopefully enough of them.
The course had overall loss in elevation, which I felt lended it self to possibly running a fast race. The first 6 miles were on trail and I felt very comfortable, I knocked off mile one in a 9:08 pace. To run what I wanted a 3:55 I would have to average a 9:00 min pace. The pace felt so easy, the air was so clean and temperature was just right. For the first four miles I stayed right on 9:00 minute miles.
During the 5th mile I saw two runners ahead of me who I had recognised from dinner. They looked like they had a good pace going so I ran next to them and introduced myself. John was a marathon veteran with over 120 marathon finishes, and Lissa was a marathon newbie, this was her first. We began sharing stories and settled into a nice pace, pulling the next three miles off in 8:37's. As we approached mile eight we ran into Tanya, I introduced her to them. I walked through a water stop and then lost those three as they pulled ahead. Back on my own.
We had just made the transition from the trail to the road, and where heading up a slight incline, when I decide it was time to make a pit stop (pee break). I stepped to the bushes to do my business, but when I started to run again my left lateral knee began to lock up. It was the weirdest thing. It just did not have any strength, and it hurt a bit too. So I started walking, and even that felt uncomfortable, I began to glide and with in a 1/4 mile the feeling went away (whew). My pace slowed to a 9:00 min pace. The way I was feeling knew I needed calories. But I only had 2 gels, I downed one and just prayed they had more on the course.
The next couple of miles I was able to keep the pace up and steady, but if I tried to surge my knee just felt unstable. I needed calories bad. I believe the 11 mile aid station the volunteers were handing our gels. Thank you! I took 4 ate 2 and shoved the other 2 into my pocket.
New man! my energy came back and my pace quickened. For the next seven miles I felt good, I felt strong. Though I had accidentally stopped my watch for about 2 miles, and didn't know my exact elapsed time I still felt a sub 4 was possible. But then at mile 18, I felt a quick and sharp pulse high in my left glute that stopped me in my tracks. It was not painful, I just felt as if I had lost control of my left leg. Every time I put pressure on my left leg it felt like it wanted to give out. It caused me to limp. My mind was buzzing, had I run to hard only 2 weeks out from a 100 miler, had I torn a muscle, what was it? For the next mile I tried to feel and work this unusual feeling out. I changed my gait, and then as quickly as it came it was gone.
Mile 23 almost home, by this time I had made up a little time and caught up to Lissa. She was feeling it but still looked strong. There was a short steep hill at this point called "The Wall" they actually had a fake brick wall at the top that we ran through. Symbolizing just that "hitting and running through the WALL"!!! Lissa and I ran up the wall together, I gave her some words of encouragement; but I was feeling strong and slowly pulled away from her.
The last 3.2 miles where a blurr, I pulled everything together and focused on maintaining a 9:00 minute mile pace. I just wanted to get to the finish line. Keep moving, Keep moving, Keep moving. I turned the corner and there it was push it, push it, push it.
There ahead of me was the official clock, Run through the finish! I had come up short 4:07:07. I had run harder today than I had run in a while, though I didn't go under 4 hours, I was extremely pleased with my time. I learned how much more I have in my tank, and how much faster I can run. Tanya was at the finish line to greet me. She had also run a good run she went under the 4 hour barrier with a finishing time of 3:54 and finished 3rd in her age group.
Tanya and I had a great experience meeting and running with the NBMA members, and we look forward to seeing them and all the others who love this incredible sport of running.
Be safe out there, and run "FOR the HEALTH of IT".
I love riding off into the sunset!