Deadwood Mickelson Trail Half Marathon RR

Race Advice

 

I’m not sure where to start with this one.

The race did not go well at all, probably one of the most un-fun half marathon runs I’ve ever done.

Spoiler alert: I got a medal, so finished. I’m writing this, so did not die.

That’s pretty much where the good ends.

I finished with a chip time of 1:28 flat, results are

  • 21 / 1923 (top ~1%) overall
  • 20 / 575 (top ~3%) male
  • 5 / 66 age group
  • 6:43 pace

Last year my 1:25:12 put me at 11th place (would have been 15th this year) and the average half time was a 1-2 minutes slower than it was last year.

Note: Yes, my time is way way faster than the average (2:29 for this event), but it was much slower than my goal was for the run and my slowest “best effort” half since 2013. So while it was a good run by many standards, it was not what I would consider a good run based on what I was hoping for.


Brief description of the race.

The half starts at the midpoint of the full marathon, right on the rails to trails Mickelson Trail. There are times when you can even see parts of the old railroad! Other than two uphill sections and one fairly steep downhill section, you’re running on a gradual decline. I believe it averages out to a 2% decline. It’s not as fast as you would think because the gravel surface acts as an equalizer for the net downhill. There’s also always a risk of 13.1 miles of a headwind.

My Goals

At Fargo I had my iPhone in a belt giving me splits every half kilometer because I had a goal to hit. If mile 7-10 rolled around and I realized I was not going to hit my A or B goal I was going to jog the rest of the distance in to save my legs for this event. I nailed my B goal and felt better after that race than I had after any best effort half marathon. Thus I was hoping two weeks of recovery would lead to a faster half here.

Let’s split the event in to two sections.

The First 5.5 Miles

I could not have felt better.

There’s little to say about the first section.

I ran what I felt was well within my abilities at a comfortable pace. I was just going at a moderate clip and the splits kept ticking away at a pretty darn level +/- maybe 5 seconds.

Unfortunately I realized right away that my GPS somehow had an extra half kilometer on the total distance but the correct time. So the average pace was way fast but I think it was giving me accurate spits every km. IF these splits were accurate I was exactly on target PR pace and I felt good (that’s a bold and italic good, that’s how good I felt). It was seriously a moderate (not hard) perceived effort. Thus far I was exactly hitting my goal pace and feeling just like I did at Fargo.

It was going perfectly.

 

The Final 7.5 Miles

I’ve rarely wanted to quit during a race.

Like, actually quit.

But during the final stretch here I really had to talk myself out of it. I felt horrid and suspected I was not going to hit a result that I was happy with. The only reason I kept pushing the pace was because I didn’t actually know what my average pace was so far. There was a chance I was still running a respectable time.

The last 5 miles was not the good kind of pain or suffering when things are going well and you’re in the zone pushing it. This was the bad kind of suffering when things are going poorly and you feel like you’re barely moving forward but still running as hard as you can.

Below is roughly how the race went for me. Note that I had km splits during the race, but have converted the below to miles for the readers.

  • Mile 0 – We start with a climb and I take it fairly relaxed.
  • Mile 1 – I realize my Stava app has an extra .3mi on it so my avg pace is super fast since it has the correct time.
  • Mile 2 – I think even though the elapsed distance and avg pace is incorrect, the “last lap” time and avg pace is accurate. Unfortunately since I was getting km splits I could not easily check the distance with the mile markers.
  • Mile 3-5.7 – IF my phone is giving me accurate splits I’m exactly on goal PR pace and feeling comfortable.
  • Mile 5.8 – Second climb, I take it easy as I do all climbs during races. Mute phone.
  • Mile 7 – Downhill to the finish. Still feeling pretty decent and hoping for a good run.
  • Mile 8   – I’m really really sick of the constant gravel
  • Mile 9   – I’m really, really sick of the constant headwind
  • Mile 10 – I’m really, really sick of the constant sun
  • Mile 11 – I notice a blister on my arch, likely from the constant downhill. I’m sick of running.
  • Mile 12.0 – I hit that mile marker and start counting steps. 100 steps = 1 minute.
  • Mile 12.8 – Someone tells me a half mile to go. UGH
  • Mile 13.0 – So glad to be done!

My race went downhill with the course, but unlike the route, I’m not really sure when or why I expired.

The last half after the climb was totally different than the first half.

  • No shade
  • The cooling breeze picked up to a noticeable headwind
  • I should have tied my laces more snug. I think the constant downhill had my feet moving a bit within my shoes, resulting in a couple blisters.
  • The six miles of downhill (so far) were getting to my quads.
  • Being on gravel likely makes up for the net downhill elevation loss, but boy was I really getting sick of running on gravel. Every step is a bit less efficient than a pavement step. It’s easier on the legs, that’s for sure, but much slower.

There was no shade, the wind picked up from a “cooling breeze” to a noticeable headwind, the previous 6 miles of constant downhill were getting to my quads, and I probably should have tied my laces more snug than usual because I got a bit of a blister from my foot shifting forward thanks to the downhill.

 

Post Race.

It’s rare that I do an event, look back, and think “You know, I kind of wish I had skipped that run.” Even when I DNFed the Canadian Death Race after 35 miles and my wife had to pull over twice on the way back to our campground so I could throw-up and we arrived to the site after dark to find our tent had blown to the other side of the campground, I didn’t regret the event.

But this one, meh.

I could have skipped it or at least jogged it in and felt MUCH better after the race. A half or full marathon done at best effort is more of a traumatic event for your legs than it is a run. If I had cut it short I’d be able to restart training sooner for the 2016 edition of Run Crazy Horse 13.1, but now I’m stuck with my worst half in three years and sore legs.

So, what went wrong?

Hard to say.

After Fargo I felt fantastic. Never better after a half marathon. I expected to rest up and run faster two weeks later at Deadwood.

My pre-race routine was spot on, I’m confident me expiring during the second half of this event had nothing to do with nutrition or hydration.

I’m also fairly certain my pacing was not an issue. Assuming my GPS was giving me accurate splits I was running PR pace but felt quite comfortable doing so. It was not an effort that was too hard.

So, I suspect it likely comes down to simply under-estimating how much Fargo took out of me. I had about 6 miles of good running in my legs and then they basically shut down at that point and said “nope”.

What’s next?

Well, I’m probably not going to do another race effort run aside from maybe some 5k’s later this summer until the Crazy Horse Half in October. I ran a 1:26 last year and a 1:23 (pr) here, so I’m hoping I can best that.

I’ll likely be reducing my training volume for the next few months compared to the previous few months. Hopefully this leaves me feeling more fresh for track workouts. I’ll also be looking to do a better job of executing some more frequent long runs as well.

Oh, and a bit reminder

Please do not take me having a poor run as any sort of representation of the race organization or how well put on the event was.

I volunteered at the packet pickup the previous day and know the R.D., and she’s a pro at this. I have absolutely nothing negative to say about my experience with the actual race itself.

And you know, no matter how bad a race goes…


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