Saturday, June 11, 2011

Deadwood Mickelson Trail Marathon 2011 Race Report

Once again I ran the Deadwood Mickelson Trail Marathon, this year was the 10 year anniversary of the race and the number of runners reflected this although it's still a fairly small race. There were 396 marathon finishers in addition to relay and half marathon runners.
Once again the race organizers had done an excellent job and the volunteers and spectators along the route were awesome.
The morning of the race was chilly, everyone got bussed from Deadwood to the starting line 26.2 miles away in Rochford . Most were waiting in the shadow of mountains at 7:30AM for the start, and while everyone as expected were i great spirits you could tell most were slightly chilled.

8AM and we finally were released! The first mile or so is on highway to a point of turnaround, then there's a few hundred yards of running opposite runners before merging onto the Mickelson Trail which is an old railroad turned hiking trail. The whole trail is well over 100 miles and the section chosen for the marathon is about as good as it gets for a scenic, straight forward trail run.

Five minutes in the cold is forgotten, 10 minutes in and you're now in sunshine and beginning to get warm. Before heading for the buses I heard a radio forecast expecting the area to hit 90 degrees and blue skies.

Coming from my 3:45 finish in Brookings I set an optimistic pace for the first half which is a gentle uphill with next to no relief. I remembered from 2010 how exhausting it is to run for two hours uphill and knew getting to the half marathon mark would be tougher than a regular 13.1 miles that usually doesn't even feel like a chore.
It didn't take more than 30-40 minutes before the sun began heating the runners and the heat began being felt as it sucks the energy right out of you.

 The first half turned out to be a bit tougher than anticipated. I hit the half marathon mark in roughly two hours, but feeling tired already. But another mile and the rest of the race would be mostly gentle downhill running with the exception of another mile of climbing at mile 19 or so.
The second half was exhausting. From mile 19 and the uphill I began taking walking breaks which I hadn't expected. Walking became more frequent as the miles passed and towards mile 23 I was expecting to be looking at a five hour marathon finish. It felt like the sun was sucking energy right out of my body. And every aid station saw me drinking two or three cups of water. There were good conversations with other racers, but the seemingly shared consensus was that this was not a race to set personal bests but rather the concern was simply to finish.
It was one of those experiences that leaves me questioning the whole running concept and makes me think that I've now done what I needed to do and might not really want to run ever again.
I remember smiling at the photographers, but looking through the published pictures, I'm not seeing any smiles in the later pictures. I have been speaking with my wife and friends about what it's like to complete a marathon like this one and it's difficult to put into words. Because the second you cross the finish line you can't wait to do it again. I guess it's sorta like saving up for something for 26 miles and then finally buying it and not having any debt if that bad analogy makes sense. You're suffering through an experience that at times makes you question your path, only to have the reward wipe away all doubts and re-affirm that the path is exactly the one you belong on.

Sunday the 5th was a long day in the sun. It left me with sunburns on my back, I suspect a level of dehydration and fatigue. But it was also a really special accomplishment. I'm guessing it was about as hot as it was for my 50 mile race last year in the same area. I have felt disappointed in my finish time of 12 hours, but feeling how the heat drained me during last weeks race helps me put into perspective how rough it actually is to be out in the sun for 12 hours and cover 26.2 let alone 50 miles. So a bit of mental therapy in that area.
So, rough race but very happy finisher. The finish time turned out to be four hours and 26 minutes, by far my slowest marathon, but I felt I gave it my all. The challenge is naturally to improve what it means to give my all. I finished in the top 25% where my time at other marathons place me in the middle of the pack. I'd like to think this means it was a tough race for everyone. Had I completed in 3:45 like in Brookings some three weeks ago, I would have finished in 30th place which is an unusual result for an almost four hour marathon.

Finally, what could I have done different? The only thing I would have done differently would be to eat more the day before and on the morning of the race. I ate primarily fruit and I'm pretty sure I didn't eat enough. I don't think I could have been drinking more leading up to the race as I was eating a lot of fruit as well as drinking a lot of water. But I peed the morning of the race and then not until the following morning in spite of all the liquid I had taken in before, during and after the race.
The Merrell True Glove shoes worked like a charm and overall I felt prepared.

Now comes the question of what to do next. It's tough to not begin toying with the idea of another go at the 50 mile ultra marathon and I have some training benchmarks loosely defined that will help me settle on what to do next. But I'm not quite ready to share what they consist of.


  1. Wow man, that sounds like a tough race!!! Congrats on finishing in the top 25%, thats good!

    Ive noticed all my race photos make me look like Im having bad gas issues...

  2. I thought it was just me. This race was tougher than expected. Last years was my first marathon. I finished a couple minutes under 4 hrs last year and that put me at 77th or so. This year, I was hoping for 3:45. I pulled off a 3:51 and it nearly killed me but put me 3dth overall and 3rd in my age group so I could tell it was tough for everyone. Good work at sticking it out. In the end it was hotter than the marathon I did in Texas (but that was Feb).

  3. Great job man, Congratulations to you ! It was a great race report, thanks for sharing. Nice pics too.