The Mesquite Tri-States Marathon was held on December 7, 2013 on one of the coldest days in many years in the hills and valleys of Utah, Arizona, and Nevada. Snow and ice was clearly evident at the start and the runners were wearing everything from 5 layers of clothes and ski masks to… well, nothing but shorts and compression socks.
I was somewhere in-between the two extremes. Fortunately, the run quickly went downhill to warmer climates:
Unfortunately, some first time marathoners didn’t realize that those “little” hills at the end were actually quite deadly: Occurring so late in the race and being dwarfed by the beginning height, the gradient climbs destroyed more than one runner’s legs. I passed several folks walking on the hills near the end of the race, their legs unable to power up the climbs.
The course is deceptively hilly. Additionally, most runners don’t realize downhill running is actually brutal on the knees.
All of which lead to my own problems during the race.
Mesquite, NV is a short one hour and fifteen minute drive Northeast of Las Vegas, NV. Since my wife and I have never entered the Valley of Fire Park, we took the opportunity and, with our Jeep, explored some of the paths less travelled. Some of the amazing photos from the trip can be found on my Google Plus Valley of Fire Album (containing only those photos Google Glass and my Nexus 5 managed to acquire. The good photos will be found on Wicked Innocence Photography). After spending the day exploring the Valley, we headed to the small town of Mesquite, NV to check in for the race.
Like most small races, the “Expo” was held in a meeting room at the Holiday Inn Express. For those runners with little race experience, the low-key and small atmosphere of the room should have set the tone as to what to expect during the race. Simple and spartan, the “expo” was a joyous easy “Get in and out” affair.
After receiving our T-Shirt, my wife wanted to know if it would be okay to go to the start to get some start-line photos (as we didn’t want to interfere with any hired photographer). It was then we learned the original photographers decided to no-show as “There weren’t enough runners.”
My wife volunteered, and became the “Officially Un-Official” photographer for the marathon. With no extra help, the wrong lenses for the camera, and no experience with people wearing so much clothing (she normally shoots boudoir photography), she knew she had a marathon challenge ahead.
We went to bed early, both of us nervous for the following day.
My morning meal consisted of a peanut-butter bagel, FRS, a nutrition bar, and a banana. My wife? I think she ate half a banana.
We met our fellow runners at the Holiday Inn Express at 5:30am. While waiting for the busses to arrive, we continued chatting with a marathoner by the name of Riley Horn whom we’d met during checkin. My goal was to finish. His goal was to finish. We had much in common.
After a quick stop at the washroom, the busses arrived and finally departed at 6:15am for the start. I drove behind the busses to make sure I didn’t get lost.[pe2-image src=”http://lh6.ggpht.com/-3762pTowDTI/UqPLwzPHxEI/AAAAAAAAXdQ/y_8rZesHcHg/s144-c-o/20131207_061813_300.png” href=”https://picasaweb.google.com/107115638528262904267/MesquiteTriStatesMarathon03#5954827171561718850″ caption=”#throughglass” pe2_img_align=”center” type=”video” alt=”20131207_061813_300.mp4″ ]
It was cold but not as cold as I expected. I quickly (thanks to having our own car at the start) shed my long johns and toque, wandered off into the bushes for another nervous pee, wandered back to see my wife taking photos of Andrew Crockett and group with unfinished business who were running in memory of his father – who was going to run a marathon but got cancer and passed away before he could finish. Andrew and his group were running in memory for his father (and all finished).
I moved to the back of the pack where I found Riley again. We shared a few comments, and suddenly… Oh wait the race was on!
I watched my Heart Rate closely, keeping it firmly in Zone 1 for the first 30 minutes of the race. Although my pace was faster thanks to the downhill, my heart rate remained low and I wanted to give my muscles plenty of time to warm. By the half-way point, my muscles were warm and I was still running at my goal pace despite having to make one stop at the Porta-Potty (managing a record-breaking pause of less than 1 minute). In fact, at 13.1 miles, I was 8 minutes ahead of my previous PR.
But I knew it wouldn’t last. On looking at the elevation profile, I had seen the “little hills”. Sure, they looked little, but I also noted where they came in the race.
I would lose that lead as my legs fatigued and the hills began to add to the torture. Sure enough, the hills came along, but I told myself to keep running. No matter how slow my run became I knew it was faster than walking.
There was little to no crowd support until the very end. Some runners were lucky enough to have significant others driving along the course cheering their loved ones onward. Riley’s wife was distraught at first when she couldn’t find him, but was there at the most critical part of the race and ultimately made all the difference in the world.
But the volunteers at the Aid stations were there until the very last offering water, gels, M&M’s, and other goodies even to the last runner.
I’ll take enthusiastic volunteers over spectators any day.
I heard one runner complaining to a volunteer about the lack of “calories” at the Aid stations, and that they trained with far more calories for the race. Obviously unprepared, this runner could have used some bits of advice to make any marathon experience more enjoyable.
- If you trained with a particular type of nutrition, don’t expect the race to provide it to you. Additionally, even if you trained with the gels you expected to be available, if you’re not one of the lead runners: Don’t expect there to be any nutrition left by the time you get there. The bigger the race, the more likely this will be true. The smaller the race, the more likely the aid stations will be fewer and far between. Carry “in-between” snacks.
- Complaining to a volunteer during the race does nothing but convince the volunteer not to be there again next year. (Besides, considering the weather, we were all lucky ANY of the volunteers showed up!)
- If you want calories on the race: Learn to carry them with you. Better to take them back home than to be lacking them in the middle of a marathon.
- If you’ve trained for a marathon, you’ve probably trained carrying your own water. Do it during the race. There are many reasons for this, such as if you’re running a Rock ‘n’ Roll Marathon or any race by Competitor Group, you don’t want to get poisoned by their supplied water or have the race run out of water. Besides, you’re supposed to race as you trained. So carry your own gels. At least a few.
- If you’re not running to win or in the top third, don’t rely on others to provide your necessities during a race. That is simply not smart racing.
- Finally, you never know who might be able to help: I had an extra Clif Bar. A more positive or questioning query might be overheard by a nearby runner and, as we are a supportive bunch… You never know who might have extras to share. Most of us “experienced” runners do – and help those less experienced.
In the end, I managed to finish 4 minutes ahead of my last PR. Although my “speedy” finish was a PR for me, my ride was still out on the course doing her best to capture the photos of the “Underdogs”. So, not wanting to stand around and get cold, I began walking back along the course. Cheering on my fellow runners as they approached the finish line, I kept walking toward the last place I saw my wife taking photos. Although I knew I probably wouldn’t make it, I figured I would at least continue to the last AID station and help the volunteers until I saw her again.
Thankfully, about a mile and a half from the finish, a Volunteer stopped to wonder why I was walking the wrong way on the course. After explaining my journey, she asked: “Do you want a ride?”
“YES!” I said eagerly and jumped into the front seat.
Naturally, less than 30 seconds later, my wife passed but recognized my frantically waving arm outside the window.
Now it was time to drive. My wife still needed to get as many photos as possible before the end of the race. So, we drove back and forth looking for runners in all the scenic spots we could. I learned my wife was distraught with her initial photos as her setup was incorrect causing some wonderful pictures to become fuzzy from the cold.
We determined to capture as many good photos in the last part of the race.
After driving back and forth, back and forth, back and forth, and…. back and forth, my legs began to complain about being stuck in the seat. Shortly before that, we learned Riley was the final remaining runner for the day.
At the 5km mark to the finish, Riley was gracious enough to allow me to walk/run with him toward the end of the race and work out some of the lactic acid building in my muscles. We chatted amicably and worked hard to meet the deadline for the race. It was going to be close.
After 5 minutes my legs decided they didn’t want to walk, either. My HR actually sky-rocketed to the same beats per minute as if I was running a 9 minute mile. I told myself the walk/run would do me good later. It was time to push on.
Fortunately, the time went quickly as Riley and I chatted. He was obviously reaching a limit; But I reminded him that the next day, he wouldn’t even be able to remember that moment, so press onward.
He did, and cresting the final hill, it was time for Riley to have his moment of glory. He finished his first marathon to waiting arms of his proud wife.
Mine was there, too, smiling and taking photos.
My legs were much happier sitting in the car the second time.
What’s the recovery meals after a marathon?
- Pizza. Goat Cheese Mushroom Spinach Pizza. Yum!
- A Casein Chocolate Milkshake (with added ice cream for yumminess)
- Chocolate Milk
- Chips and Salsa (Flax Seed!)
Ya, probably not the best… But I earned what I ate!
This video was made with Google Plus “Auto-Awesome” pretty much automatically from the photos/videos taken from the race. Not exactly what I would do, but cool anyway.
[pe2-image src=”http://lh4.ggpht.com/-8p4hfFM6J-E/UqVcHpW8P1I/AAAAAAAAXoo/Gmlk9ng-EGI/s144-c-o/AUTO_AWESOME_MOVIE_1_20131207_205545.png” href=”https://picasaweb.google.com/107115638528262904267/MesquiteTriStatesMarathon03#5955267368698265426″ caption=”” type=”video” alt=”AUTO_AWESOME_MOVIE_1_20131207_205545.mp4″ pe2_img_align=”center” ]
Gallery[pe2-gallery album=”http://picasaweb.google.com/data/feed/base/user/107115638528262904267/albumid/5955267055609812993?alt=rss&hl=en_US&kind=photo” ]