Monday, June 6, 2016

Deadwood Nearly Killed Me

Just got back from my trip to the Black Hills of South Dakota. I would definitely chalk this one up to a GREAT place to visit, but I'm glad to be home now. While I was there, I got out to the Badlands National Park, Custer State Park, Black Hills National Park, Mount Rushmore, and explored all around Deadwood. Basically the entire state seems like its either part of some sort of park or is sectioned off as an Indian reservation.

Like most of natural things, pictures don't do the beauty of the landscapes justice (so I won't post any). But there were several times I looked out over the plains or up on the black hills, or the kraggy mountain tops of the badlands and was overwhelmed. My main interested was trying to get up close to some buffalo! I really can't describe the experience of being 25 yards from a wild animal (not in zoo) of that size.  It was surreal and just really cool.

     Wild Buffalo on the side of the road near Custer State Park

I stayed in the Bullock Hotel which was the location of where Seth Bullock and his partner had their hardware store warehouse. Bullock himself had plans to turn this into a hotel. I learned a ton about Bullock including how he knew Teddy Roosevelt and was even one of the Rough Riders in the Spanish American War! I enjoyed Deadwood and even gambled (and won 32 bucks!)

Here I am with Wild Bill Hickock and Jack McCall.

The race! Oh yeah, there was a race. I knew going in it was a trail marathon but didn't do any trail training at all. I'm in really great shape right now having just PR'd in the half last month and having PR'd in my 1/2 and full mile training times (way to be humble Adam) but this race kicked my ass in every way possible. There were a number of difficulties from the get-go:

  1. Soft surface: I haven't fully figured this out, but my body just hates soft surface. My theory is that since I'm roughly 200 lbs, I basically sink down into the soft ground and have to exert a great deal more energy to move. With hard surface, my 200lbs just bounces off the surface and propels me forward. Plus, I think the softer surface makes my foot strike change dramatically. This (i think) lead to...
  2. Ouchies: Nothing serious but I tweaked my shin while running last week and swimming didn't exactly help. I took a week off but it took just 2 miles for it to be aggravated. And while normally this pain would be a 1 or a 2, since my foot strike was different I had to do a lot more lifting of my foot (causing my soreness and irritating it even more). Did I mention this race was in June?
  3. Heat/Sun: For some reason South-Western South Dakota is in the Mountain Time Zone. That is good for getting more sleep, but what it effectively does is push the day an hour later. This means a 8am start really feels like 9am. This means warmer and sunnier. It was a big mistake of mine not to think about this. I didn't put on suntan lotion because I also thought that the race was mostly canopied (mistake number 2). At any rate, the first half especially was very expose and it was warm (albeit dry since the dew point was low).
  4. Race was not downhill the first half: I'm no genius. But close your eyes and read this ;) If there is a stream next to you for 13 miles, and that stream is flowing the opposite way as you, YOU MUST BE GOING UPHILL. If someone can give me another explanation (and there were no locks or anything like that). The race elevation has the race as downhill the first half and very down hill the second. I'll agree the second half is very downhill but the first half is not at all.
At mile 8 it became obvious I needed a new strategy. My time was exactly 1 hour which put my pace to be a 3:30 marathon. I didn't want to run for 3 1/2 goddamn hours given all the above. So I came up with a plan. It was to go really easy until mile 13 and then pray that the race report of being VERY downhill the second half was true. In the mean time, I would back off pace even more, concentrate on hydration and food, and get ready to essentially negative split the marathon (something I've never been able to do).

At mile 13, we reached the half marathon area. Several things happened almost immediately:

  1. The soft surface that was essentially a sand trap at a golf course turned hard. I thought it would since there were a ton of half marathon runners, but it was even harder than I had thought. 
  2. This was VERY good news for my shin (the surface along with some advil made it essentially a non issue).
  3. The trail quickly became very canopied. The sun wouldn't really be a factor again and since the dew point was so low, my body temperature started to come down.
  4. The trail was VERY downhill for the second half.
As a result, my heart rate started to drop, my mile times started to go down (by about a minute), and I started to use the energy I had saved. The result is evident in the chart below:

 For the first time ever, I negative split a marathon. Towards the end of the race, I started picking people off left and right. I always forget that if I'm hurting, chances are other people are hurting too. We were all running the same course with the same conditions. Since I have run 38 other marathons, I was just a little smarter. I went from 11th to 4th place overall.

I gotta say that I thought a great deal about Mohammad Ali during the race. If you recall, my best race (and maybe best time at one of these races) was in Louisville where I PR'd. Ali passed away on Friday while I was in Deadwood and I have been struggling to define exactly what he meant to me. I don't really have idols and I never had any connection to him. I'm not even really a boxing fan. As I ran the last mile in Louisville, I pictured him running with me and I ran a 6 minute mile. For this race, I kept thinking about him (especially those last 3 miles). I kept repeating to myself and then out loud: "To be a champion, you have to be defeated". I think this is what Ali meant to me most. He wasn't someone who won something and then lost it. He was someone who lost something many times and always came back again. I repeated this over and over again and I ran faster and faster. I felt he was cheering me on this race just like in Louisville and I'm happy to say that I PR'd for trail marathon. My last 3 miles were sub 7, which on a trail and after so much adversity, I am very proud of. I was completely defeated at the beginning of this race and by the end I felt like maybe not a champion, but someone who was able to accomplish more than seemed possible earlier.