Aug 22

2013 Hoover Dam Marathon Preview by Steve

I ended up doing the Hoover Dam marathon on short notice. I had recently run a marathon but RJ and his wife were coming in to town to run the Hoover Dam marathon. If I chose to run it, I would be doing so only 5 weeks after the previous marathon. I did it anyways. рџ™‚

Hoover Dam is a smaller marathon. Still, Joyce fromВ Calico RacingВ puts on a great race. The registration was nice and simple. Packet pickup was small but efficient.В

Even though the race was held in December. The Boulder City, NV weather was absolutelyВ perfect.

The weather along with the views made for a wonderful experience. The views of Lake Mead, the Six Tunnels trail, and Hoover Dam really make this a race to put on your calendar.В

The race starts out near Lake Mead and heads along the paved River Mountain Loop trail to the Six Tunnels dirt trail (also known as the Historic Railroad trail). You run on hard packed dirt through some very cool tunnels (they will throw your Garmin off рџ™‚ As you run along the ridge, you will get more views of Lake Mead. After the tunnels, you go down a switchback walkway (ugh!) and reach the turnaround at the top of the Hoover Dam parking garage. This is when you will get a great view of the Hoover Dam.В

You turn around and head back. This makes one lap. 1/2 marathoners head back to the finish and marathoners do another lap.В

Normally, I prefer when races don’t have laps. My favorites are point-to-point. However, I enjoyed the two laps on this race for two reasons. 1. The views are so good, you have to do them twice. 2. I was so focused on the race that on the first lap, I missed the view of the Hoover Dam! Fortunately, on the second lap, I made sure to get a good look.

This course is definitely worth it for a 1/2 or full marathon. If you do the half, make sure you don’t miss the view!В

The course has a good amount of elevation change and the switchback walkway was kind of awkward to run on. It isn’t a PR race (it definitely wasn’t for me) but that isn’t the reason to choose this marathon. The views are worth it. I have gone back to this location to run the trails again and still enjoy it.В

Jul 22

20 Miles is Worse than 26.2 by RJ


Occasionally someone will mention that they’ve seen me out running and ask if I’m training for something. When I tell them I run and train for marathons the conversation generally moves toward how awful or difficult or boring or impossible running 26.2 miles seems to them. What I can’t explain to them is that the marathon is more of a victory lap than a punishment. A victory lap for all of the hard work, dedication, time management, commitment to nutrition and regular sleep and perseverance through dark, raining, cold mornings for months and months. A victory lap for completing something that is awful and difficult and boring and sometimes seems impossible: the 20-mile long runs.

In my experience, the 20-mile long run is far more difficult than a 26.2-mile race. For while the marathon requires an extra 45 minutes to an hour (at my pace) or more of running, here’s what the 20-miler doesn’t have:

    • FamilyВ and friends cheering you on along the way or waiting for you at the finish line
    • Spectators cheering for those around you (but pretending they are cheering for you)
    • Good Samaritans holding signs that read “We don’t know each other, but I’m proud of you” at the point when you want nothing more than to quit but know you can’t. And won’t.
    • Bands/cheerleaders, even bad bands and girls half my age wearing WAY too much makeup — you know they’ll be there and you’re glad they are
    • Little kids giving high-fives to everyone they can
    • Moments that remind you how lucky you are
    • Regularly spaced aid stations
    • And if you train alone like I do, the camaraderie of others, spoken or unspoken, who are pushing themselves towards a similar goal
    • A medal, T-shirt, medical staff and general overall pampering at the finish line
    • The pride that goes along with walking (or limping if your prefer) around the rest of the day with your medal hanging around your neck for all to see

The 20-miler early on a Saturday morning is a lonely, grueling experience but it must be done. Multiple times even, depending on your particular training schedule. It’s not fun. It’s not glamorous. No one that sees you knows if you’re in mile 2 or mile 18. But it’s necessary. It’s the run when your mental toughness is put to the test. 26.2 miles will be more physically demanding due to the number of miles, but if you can mentally will yourself through your 20-milers you’ll be more than prepared for the physical challenge that awaits on race day.

Prepare for your victory lap.

Jul 22

2013 Pocatello Marathon Preview by RJ

I ran the Pocatello Marathon in 2010, 2011, 2012 and will run it again in 2013. It’s a greatВ
small-town race with a great atmosphere and offers everything you could want in aВ

First things first: The race organizers, staff and volunteers are absolutely top notch. All theВ
trains run on time, the aid stations are where they are supposed to be, stocked with whatВ
they said they would be stocked with, volunteers at each station are enthusiastic andВ
supportive and the finish line area is well organized and easy to navigate. And  although I’
ve heard a few people gripe about non-runners, including family, friends and kids, notВ
being allowed in the recovery area (where all of the food/drinks are), I contend this makes a huge difference in being able to move (gingerly) through the area smoothly. Top to bottom, this is one of the most well organized races I’ve participated in of any distance.

The marathon participants board charter buses at around 5am and are taken up to the starting line. It’s dark and we’re in the middle of nowhere when the driver pulls over to the side of the road, opens the door and declares, “We’re here, don’t leave anything on the bus.” The people immediately around me hadn’t run this race before and their general consensus was, “We’re where?”В

In 2010 it was partly cloudy and the moon was covered. We were in the middle of the Idaho wilderness at 5:15am. It was dark. The driver told us there was road about 50 yards from us. Turn right, he said, and then take the first right until you see the UPS truck (which took our drop bags to the finish line) at the starting line.В

The “starting line” was a farmer’s driveway. The line of portable toilets lined a sheep-pen and many (including me) sat down against the barn until it was time to go. Not exactly whatВ
I had imagined, but interesting, nonetheless. Lines form around the toilets, but nothing tooВ
bad. There’s music playing, bottles of water available and frequent updates about whenВ
the race will begin.В

It was still dark when the race started at 6:15am. As a pack we made our way down theВ
driveway and onto the road. The first 13 miles are downhill. All downhill. I wasn’t preparedВ
for that the first time. After a while I started to look forward to something flat, or even uphill.В
Just something different. That would come, but not for a while.

The sun eventually came up and darkness gave way to a perfect morning. Not a whisper ofВ
wind could be felt and the temperature was perfect. Around mile 7 I turned my music offВ
noticed a strange sound: silence. Miles from anything, on a closed road in a canyon.В
Except for the sound of shoes hitting the ground, it was pure silence. I kept my music off forВ
a while and just enjoyed the sound of nothing.В

Just before the halfway mark (and the start of the Half Marathon, which goes off at 8:00am)В
there’s an aid station, a left hand turn and then a slight rise, maybe a quarter to a half mileВ
long. It’s not much. The second half of the race consists of some light rolling hills. NothingВ
too extreme except for a pretty good hill from mile 20 to 21, but the rolling hills seemed toВ
roll “up” as we came back into Pocatello. The aid stations ware almost a mile apart duringВ
this stage, but the effect of running downhill for two hours starts to catch up with you throughВ
these rollers if you haven’t trained for it. The hill to mile 21 finished me off in 2010 (though IВ
made it a point to sprint the hill in 2012, no matter what that would mean over the last 5В

The final 5 miles into town are as flat as can be. The Idaho State University basketballВ
team always runs one of the aid stations during this stretch as does the local high schoolВ
cheerleading squad. There’s also spray misting machine set up and a few other blessedВ
locals who set up their own sprinklers on their front lawns.

The final turn always comes before I think it should, which is a welcome sight after 25.5В
miles and the final stretch to the finish line is tree-lined and shady as you run. The spectatorВ
support is great, the finish line volunteers are excited to see you and the shady grass parkВ
is a great place to collapse and relax for however long you need.

Pocatello is a race I ran for the first time in 2010 because it was on my way back fromВ
dropping my brother off at school, but I’ll go back for a 4th consecutive year in 2013В
because it’s a great event. In addition to the marathon, there’s a half, 10k, 5k and a shortВ
run for kids, all on the same course. It’s a great family atmosphere with plenty of food, faceВ
painting and other activities and it’s always held the Saturday before Labor Day, so youВ
have an extra travel day built in after as well.

Jun 29

2013 Seattle Rock ‘n’ Roll Marathon Recap by Steve

I ran the Seattle Rock ‘n’ Roll Marathon in 2013. It’s a fun large city race and part of the Rock ‘n’ Roll Marathon series. I had never been to Seattle before and it was a great way to see the city!

The marathon expo was also quite large. Brooks had a huge section as a major sponsor and did not disappoint. It was pleasant walking around and seeing what various companies had to offer related to running.

One thing Seattle is known for is rain. We got lucky on race day because it rained the days before and the days after but on race day it was a clear beautiful day!

The race was incredibly organized. Everything went smoothly. Dropping off your bags, getting in your corral, and finish area were all efficient. There were tons of port-o-potties too, which runners will appreciate! The aid stations were well stocked and in Rock ‘n’ Roll series style, they were full of enthusiastic and sometimes costumed volunteers. I like the fact that they had the bands but I had my own music so I didn’t experience much of that aspect. The various groups cheering, people giving you high fives, and folks holding signs were uplifting. The portion of the race with the veterans and soldiers killed in action particularly stirred my heart. The race itself was a great experience.

The course had some fun variety to it. You start at Seattle Center and make your way through the city to Seward Park. The park is beautiful and I could see Mt Rainier in the distance. From there, we made our way up to the 1-9, across the bridge, through a tunnel (who doesn’t love tunnels? besides my Garmin) and back. On the bridge, I could again see Mt Rainier across the water in the distance. Just beautiful. Then, we made our way back to the Seattle Center. The course map showed the race had some hills but I didn’t think it was as bad as the elevation chart indicated.В

The finish line was top notch. People can line up to watch their runner come in. I was so excited because I got a PR and was pumped to finish. The volunteers load you up with the normal race finishing water and fuel. A very nice touch was the cold towel handed to me. It felt glorious! They have an area for spectators to meet up with runners which helps keep things from getting clogged up. Then, after all this I went to do some tourist activities, like the Space Needle (after a shower, that is).В

This race was a great experience. I would do it again and would recommend it to others. I would also recommend the Rock ‘n’ Roll series. It can be a bit pricey but they put on a good race.В