Sunday, July 14, 2013

Devils Lake Marathon - Ben's Perspective

I have to thank Andrew Irwin for letting me borrow his waterproof camera for the race, and apologize for the quality of the photos. It is a tricky endeavor to take pictures while running on a trail, but it is fun to have a chronicle of sorts. Even so, I did not attempt to take pictures while running downhill.

Here is Joy and I before the 6:30 start of the marathon at the Devil's Head Ski Resort near Baraboo, Wisconsin. There were quite a few marathoners, maybe about 150 or slightly less. I chatted with several runners, and everyone was pretty cautious about the course.

Essentially, the first three miles of the race were a constant uphill climb on a single-track. We got into a line and walked up. It was tempting to push a little faster, but I knew this was in my best interest. After the climb, I got to see Joy at the first three aid stations (Roadkill, Steinke Basin, and Lake Aid). At the Lake Aid (mile 9.8) she brought me a burger and I had a quick meal.

After the Lake Aid, the course climbed up the East Bluff Trail on the east side of Devil's Lake. This was a good climb, but we mostly walked up, which allowed me to digest some. One fun aspect of the race was that the 50K and the 50Milers were all on the same course. They started an hour earlier, and did a 4.8 mile loop before starting on the marathon route. That allowed the 50K folk to finish with us, and the 50Milers were with us until we turned for home at the 20.5 mile mark. Trail marathons are fairly social, and it was fun to chat with different runners.

I got my picture taken at one of the overlooks on the East Bluff. The views were impressive. (Since I thanked Andrew for the use of the camera, this picture reminds me to thank Erin for use of the water belt.)

Looking back towards the Lake Aid station gave some perspective on how much elevation we had gained.

A view looking southwest from the South Bluff. We were all very thankful that the sun was mostly obscured until maybe around 11:00.

The South Bluff aid station had quite the view! We stopped for re-hydration and to get some pictures. This marked one of the higher elevations of the run. From here, it was almost all downhill into the valley. It felt like we went down forever, which was somewhat worrisome, because we had to come right back up that hill later in the race.

I tried a self-portrait after leaving the Bug Pit aid station. I was most worried about this part of the course in the valley and out in the open. The sun typically zaps my energy, but it was clouded over. I made sure to eat a lot at Bug Pit both times that I passed it. At this point (approximately mile 17) I was feeling cautiously optimistic. I still felt strong.

I always think about something my dad said when I was little. We were biking together, and we passed a runner. He told me, "That's what you call a runner's smile." I was confused because the runner wasn't smiling. "Exactly", he replied. (I was feeling happy and thought I had a pleasant expression on my face. Hmm... It seems ironic, because I see my dad's expressions in my face at times.)

This photo was taken right after the previous two. The hill in the center of the photo is where the trail is headed. We hit the woods at the bottom of the hill and started to climb. This was the last Big ascent left (there were many smaller hills remaining. I walked up most of the hill, but I ran when I caught up to people to pass them. I got to the top feeling good. At the top, I ran into a friend I had made earlier in the race. She had gotten ahead of me for a while, but I caught up to her and we ran together for a while. That helped pass the time. We got to the Steinke aid station (mile 20.5 for me) and I was getting even more excited. I had not hit the wall yet! I ate a bit and then hurried on. It was mostly flat to the next station. I made good time, although still walked the small hills. I headed off on my own with maybe five miles left. The last aid station (Roadkill) was with 4.2 miles left, which was essentially 1.2 miles up and then a 3 mile steep descent. With approximately 4 miles to go, I caught up with a gentleman and fell in behind him. As is customary on a single-track, he asked if I wanted to pass. I declined and told him I would let him know if so. I didn't think I could have passed him. He set a good pace and was running up all the hills. I decided to keep walking up the hills, but to try to still keep up with him. We started the crazy three mile descent. It felt like going down a ski run, with jagged rocks, roots, and trees to dodge. It took a lot of focus to keep your feet underneath you. We both past lots of runners, and I just kept drafting him. We got to the bottom of the hill and almost done. There was a short uphill stretch in the sun, which I decided to walk. At the final stretch, I caught up and past my compatriot. I am not a competitive person, but it was exhilarating to have such a sustained and hard-fought battle. I finished with a time of 5:27:28, which is very slow road marathon time, but I felt like it was my best marathon performance. The best marathon time was 4:09, which tells you a little about the course. As far as lessons learned, I felt like the compression socks did make a difference and kept my muscles fresher. I continued to learn how important eating is for me while running. Fueling and hydration go together hand-in-hand. I stuck with my strategy of taking it easy early, which can be challenging. I also think I won't ever train for a marathon again. I didn't really run anything further than 10 miles leading up to the race, and I think I was better off for it.

1 comment:

Megan said...

Nice job Ben!! The course looked neat and had some great views!