I was originally not going to post a race report for my marathon last Saturday since it wasn’t a PR or even a goal race of mine. However, it ended up being my favorite marathon I’ve done (out of eight… five that were this year), so I wanted to share my experience with it. It’s a hidden gem, in my opinion, like quite a few of the Calico Racing events. This one was the Hoover Dam Marathon (that also had a half marathon and a 10k–all of the Calico events have multiple distances, typically ranging from 5k/10k up to marathon/ultra).
I signed up for this race as a supported training run. I knew it would be the morning following my husband’s Christmas party (read: alcohol, improper nutrition, heels, little sleep), but I figured it’d be good training. I also didn’t taper for it and it was just 2 weeks after my 50-miler. In other words, my expectations were low for my performance, but I LOVE Calico events, so I looked forward to it. My goal going into it was hopefully to get under 5 hours, but I’d heard the course wasn’t exactly easy (keep in mind the only times I’ve broken 5 hours have been on point-to-point courses with a net loss in elevation). This one had a little elevation change and was an out-and-back. It was also primarily on dirt/gravel, which I’d heard was difficult to keep footing on by someone who’d done the race previously.
Asa, my husband, signed up for the 10k, which started 2 minutes before the marathon. The 10k had a very small out and back which meant those runners passed back by the start line as the marathoners took off. The marathon turn-around point was the finish of the 10k. The marathon course consisted of two out-and-backs, but each time, we had to run almost a mile past the turn-off for the finish area before turning back around. The half marathon started 30 minutes after the marathon and consisted of one out-and-back.
I was pleasantly surprised with the course because the elevation profile looked like the first 3 or so miles were gradually uphill when they were actually gradually rolling uphill (which I preferred!). Due to the out-and-back nature of the course, there were was access to an aid station less than every 2 miles even though there were only a few stations set up. The scenery was pretty as we ran by Lake Mead and up onto an overlook where we got a different view of the lake. There were a handful of tunnels we ran through, which was neat. It was a bit disorienting because it was bright outside so the pitch black in the tunnels was sort of surreal. It was easy to see the light at the end of each one, but when I looked around, I couldn’t see any other runners or even my feet. I hoped there weren’t any rocks I’d trip on, but I was fine. My GPS didn’t like the tunnels at it always lost signal and then had a difficult time trying to calculate the distance in the tunnel, haha. At the turnaround was a great view of Hoover Dam.
The morning was cool, which I liked–41 degrees at the start which was “freezing” to Las Vegas people. I wore capris, a tank top, a light jacket, Christmas socks!, a headband with bells and reindeer antlers, and a jingling bracelet. In the car before the race started, I shook the bracelet and asked Asa if it was annoying, to which he responded, “No.” Then I asked if it would be annoying for someone to listen to for nearly 5 hours. He slowly smiled and just looked at me as if to ask if I really needed a response to that question. Of course that didn’t dissuade me from wearing the bells. I figured that I might motivate some people to run faster to get away from the sound.
Right after starting, I saw Asa and we ran together for a couple minutes. He said he’d run with me, before I convinced him he would NOT be running MY marathon pace for only 10k. I told him to run ahead, which he did. I continued running along at a little faster than an 11-minute pace and that felt okay. My calves were tighter than usual, but considering the amount of time I spent in heels the night before and the uphill sections at the beginning of the course. I felt fine and decided I was going to run a “comfortably effortful” pace for the race. Less than 5 minutes after Asa ran ahead, who would come up behind me but my friend Karla (the one who ran Badwater)! She seemed very energetic and I told her I was just running the race as a training run. She said she was running it as a training run too. I still don’t think she comprehends that she’s sort of like Super Woman, it doesn’t matter that she’s 20 years older than me, and her “training run marathon pace” is literally my marathon PR pace, lol.
Anyway, of course Karla said she didn’t want to run ahead. Her pacing plan was to run sub-10-minute miles on all of the flat/downhill parts of the course and just over 10 minutes a mile on uphill sections. She was thinking a 4:20 was doable. This was NOT my plan, lol. My marathon PR is 4:17. However, I chose to just run with her for a while. We talked a LOT and somehow I was running sub-10-minutes miles doing this. Time flew by. Karla and I talked about lots of stuff during the time we weren’t cheering on other runners. We even took a few pictures of each other along the way and have some goofy official race photos to show for our time together.
We made it to 6 miles barely over an hour 1:00:1x, which was way faster than I’d planned. Karla and I continued to run together until we got to about 11 miles and she finally decided to run ahead, lol. Not long after she took off, another girl caught up to me and wanted to run together for a while. However, I had to break it to her that she needed to be WAY ahead of me if she wanted to come anywhere close to her goal of 4:05. At that point we were at about 12 miles and already over 2 hours (barely, but not a course to run a negative split on). For the mile or so we ran together, though, we got on the topic of ultrarunning, and she got all excited that I run ultras, and it made me feel awkward so what did I do? I diverted the conversation to Badwater and how Karla ran it.
I think I officially made it to the halfway point at about 2:12, which registered as about 13.35 on my Garmin. I ditched my jacket at the halfway point because it was annoying running with it tied around my waist. I am a wimp with cold when I’m just standing around, but assuming my clothes aren’t soaked (like at NC24!), I stay pretty warm while running. I made the decision to slow down on the second half, primarily because I wanted to take some photos of the scenery.
During the second half, I ran a lot, walked some, and took quite a few photos. Some of the pics were blurry if I took them while running so I had to walk (or stop completely, like in the tunnels). But it was fun. One of the things I love about courses with out-and-backs is that I get to see lots of other runners. I knew a handful of other runners from other races I’d done. People seemed to like my festive apparel. I gave lots of high fives in the last quarter of the race. The volunteers were awesome and very encouraging. Even the race photographer is very interactive with runners.
In the final 3 miles or so of the race, I decided I was ready to be done with the race, so I sped up to sub-10-minute miles. My Garmin distance said 26.5 miles and my official finish time was 4:38:56. I was definitely happy with that. It’s still crazy to me that I can now get below 5 hours without putting in anywhere near maximum effort. I tried for YEARS to get below 5 hours and it never happened. Now, on a course that wasn’t known as “easy” (not saying it was super difficult either), I sort of goofed around, talked a lot, and took lots of pictures, and I still had over 20 minutes to spare. Of course I have to give some props to my running coach, Ian. He has enabled me to do things I was never able to do on my own. I am at a loss for words for exactly how to explain the impact he’s had on my running and ultimately my life, so I’ll just say he’s awesome.
So here’s a funny story about Asa’s race. After running ahead, he finished the 10k in 1:03:x. He then waited at his finish line for over an hour to see me go by. He waited until the last bus went back to the start line (since the 10k was a point-to-point course). He said he saw the 11-minute milers, then the 12s, and finally the 15s and got concerned because he didn’t know what happened to me. When I ran by the 10k finish area, I looked and didn’t see him, but I assumed he’d already finished and boarded a bus. Piecing everything together, we think we know what happened. Another minor detail is that there was a point, after rounding the corner of a wall at the parking garage where the 10k ended, the marathoners/half marathoners turns right while the 10kers might an abrupt turn left to the finish that was RIGHT there. The only thing we can think, based on never seeing each other and my 6-mile split with his 10k finish time is that he was RIGHT ahead of me. This would explain why I didn’t see him a minute earlier when I had a view of the finish line, and he never saw me run by. LOL. So as it turned out, we could have run together after all.
Getting to my point of sharing this race report… I highly recommend this event to anyone! It’s pretty, the course is fun, the social aspect with seeing lots of other runners is enjoyable, the volunteers are awesome, and it’s just a great event! I’ve never done another marathon that I would rate so high in all of those regards. The only areas I’d say it lacks in are crowd support and mega crowds. The race is sort of remote and pretty small (less than 200 marathon runners), but these are actually pluses for me. While people cheering can be motivating, I really don’t mind if a race has that; in this race, the other runners and volunteers provided more than enough motivation anyway. And I HATE megaraces, so I don’t see the small number of runners as bad at ALL. Plus, all runners get a nice tech shirt (this one has long sleeves) and medal. And I didn’t get an award at this race, but I can attest that the overall and age group awards at Calico races are always neat. The race director, Joyce, puts a lot of time into making them meaningful and unique (like my hourglass from my 12-hour race and my cactus from my 50-miler in the middle of nowhere).
In the age where bigger always seems to be better in racing, I can’t help but give a shout-out to local race organizations like Calico Racing. I’ve done 7 of those races this year and have no complaints about any of them. Another thing I love about Calico is that they “pay” their volunteers in credit toward future races–$10 an hour. How cool is that? Here’s their race web site, by the way: http://www.calicoracing.com
Now, here are some pics:
Thanks for reading and/or looking at the pics.