My goal for the Lost Dutchman was 4:20. My previous best was 4:40:13 at the Mohawk Hudson River Marathon last October and I was hoping to better that. I was determined and I hired a coach (Jason from Strength Running) to help me make that happen.
And it did!
But first, the details...
The Lost Dutchman is in Apache Junction, Arizona. I have family that lives in Arizona but they live over an hour away so I had planned on picking up my sister and my niece and we would all stay in the host hotel. I drove over on Saturday thru an insane rain storm. It was pouring and windy and so not fun to drive in. It wasn't supposed to rain on Sunday but I was a little worried that the start of the marathon would be a muddy mess. The first 6 miles of the marathon was on a dirt road and could make it an adventure.
We got to Apache Junction in one piece and mostly dry, went thru the expo so I could get my bib and my goodie bag, then checked into the hotel. We picked up some groceries at the store and sandwiches at Subway and then played Yahtzee until it was time to go to bed.
On Sunday, I woke up at 4 after a restless night and ate my pre-race breakfast (2 mini bagels, a banana, and some Gu Brew). I dressed, packed my drop bag, and left at 5:10 to catch the bus to the start. We drove out in the dark to the Peralta Trailhead. It was no longer raining but you could see water spray up from puddles as the bus went thru them. There was no moon and it was a little surreal to see the landscape with only the bus' headlights. The saguaro seemed to be watching us like ghostly desert sentinels. The atmosphere got even better when we arrived at the trailhead. They had dozens of mesquite campfires going with mats around them to keep us warm. What with traveling on a school bus and the campfires, I felt like a kid on summer vacation. They even had hot chocolate waiting for us (and coffee, tea, & water). I was looking for the marshmallows but alas there weren't any. I have to say that was the best race start I've experienced so far!
After hanging around the campfire for a while, I packed up my drop bag and dropped it off and then hit the port-a-potties. They had plenty so we didn't have long waits.Then at 10 to 7 they had us gather at the start line and we all made our way over.
The gun went off a little after 7 and we were off through a beautiful, but gray desert landscape. There was a little mud but we were mostly able to find paths that weren't too bad. Like I said earlier, the first 6 miles were dirt and mostly downhill and I planned on taking it easy.
I think I did okay in not getting caught up in the excitement. I wanted to make sure I had enough in me to get through all 26.2 miles running. I told myself as we started out that I didn't care how slow I ran, but there would be no stopping and no walking. No excuses, no "deals", no compromises - just running! So, I ran at my easy long run pace thru this section and my splits were still pretty quick (around 9:15/9:20). I was a little worried I'd done them too fast but I just couldn't run any slower.
After we hit the road, it continued downhill and then the course flattened out for a bit before heading uphill. The rest of the course was rolling but there weren't any major hills. Still, I knew that I didn't want to attack any hills so I tried to just relax and not worry if my time crept up on them. Around mile 10, we went by the hotel and my sister & my niece were out there cheering for me. The crowd around them joined in and all the cheering gave me a great boost. I was feeling really good at that point.
Right after that, I realized that my shoe was a little too loose. I decided not to stop because I thought as the race went on, my feet would swell and it would be fine. That would come back to bite me later!
The section after the hotel went through a residential area and the crowds were sparse. I am okay with small crowds because I'm more of a sight seeing runner and the views as we went back up into the hills were great. There were some huge houses in there! And anyway, the aid stations more than made up for the lack of crowd support and going thru them was always a little pick me up with their cheering and encouragement. I wasn't taking anything from the aid stations because I was carrying my own Gu Brew and Honeystinger waffles but I made sure to thank them anyway as I was going thru. Their encouragement was plenty appreciated.
So miles 10 through 17 were pretty uneventful and kind of passed in a blur. I was feeling a little tired as we went up the next hill (miles 18 & 19) but I was ahead of my target goal so I didn't stress about the creeping times as I slowed. There was a little out and back to just past mile 19 and then we would turn and head for the finish. The rest of the course I knew since the half marathon and marathon shared the last 6.5 miles and I had done the half marathon last year. I knew after that, there was just one more hill and psychologically, I always get a burst of energy after a turnaround. As we went by mile 20, I decided to look at my Garmin to see where I was and it said I was at 3:13. I did a quick systems check and felt like I could definitely make 4:15 and that's what I set my sights on. I didn't turn on the afterburners or anything. I just made sure my pace didn't drop.
At mile 22, I felt a blister on the end of my middle toe! The loose shoe had come back to haunt me. It didn't cause a change in my gait so I didn't stop or slow down. After a while, I was even able to forget about it. Whew. By then, we were on the last hill before the finish. With a headwind (which felt kind of good) but my legs did not appreciate it. It felt like the universe was making sure I really, really wanted to reach my goal. Like it was putting little hurdles in my way to make sure I worked for it! But finally, I reached The Wall! No, not THAT bad wall. Someone in the race committee had decided it would be fun to put a fake brick wall up at the top of the last hill. And they have a photographer waiting to take your picture as you go thru the wall! It's become a tradition for the race. You grumble about how it's not funny while you are running it, but you know what? I knew after that, it would only be two miles to the finish and I knew I was going to make my goal. So while I was tired and grimacing, it also felt good to "break" thru the wall.I did one last system check and everything was still a go. I was ready to finish the race and celebrate!
Which is, of course, when I tripped going thru an intersection! The trooper who was directing traffic there laughed and told me not to lose it now. Luckily, I didn't fall but I reigned it in a little bit so there would be no more mistakes so close to my goal!
Then finally, I was at the last little bump. Once I was up that and around the curve, it was downhill to the finish with a tailwind. As I got closer to the finish line, I saw the clock and knew I was going to beat 4:15! I gave a little burst of speed and took one big leap to land across the finish line in 4:14:26! Woo! I was practically dancing a jig. :) I couldn't believe I had actually done it. It didn't feel real until I saw my official time.
The After Party
I got my medal and some water and got my picture taken with my medal. Then went thru the food line and grabbed some grub. They had the regular stuff - fruit, pretzels, bagels, chips, cookies. And they had burritos. I didn't think I could eat a burrito but I grabbed a little bit of everything else. I was starving! A few minutes after that, the wind got even stronger and colder and it started to rain. I got my drop bag and got my jacket from my sister and the three of us headed to the car to get dry and warm. On the way back to the hotel, we stopped at Garage Pizza. Mmmm, that pizza tasted good! After that, we went back to the hotel to rest and so I could put my legs up. They actually felt pretty good. They were tight but not too sore.
For dinner that night, we went to the Mining Camp Restaurant to celebrate. It's a fun restaurant where you eat "family" style on benches in a hall off of tin plates like miners ate in the old west. It was all you could eat and they had bbq ribs, chicken, ham, baked beans, cole slaw, green beans, bread, and oatmeal cookies. Me and the bbq ribs got along just fine. Oh, were they good. Actually, it was all good and the perfect way to end the Lost Dutchman Marathon.
The Lost Dutchman puts on a great race. If you ever want to experience something unique and you don't mind a lack of spectators, this is the race for you. It felt like an adventure and isn't that why we run? For the fun and adventure? And I have to say again that the aid station crews were awesome and very encouraging. And the spectators that were there were fun and encouraging too. Even the horses came out to watch us. Or maybe shake there heads at the crazy humans running by!
My official time was 4:14:26. I was 10/27 in my age group, 78/191 women, and 263/525 overall.I have a few more thoughts about the race but this will do for now. PR, baby! I still can't believe it...