Wyoming Double Marathon 52.4 Mile

May 27th 2012:

After Zumbro 50 mile, I felt better. At least I had finally finished an event under cut off.

I am used to DNFing, I do it frequently. But after while DNFing gets really old.

I was beginning to wonder, am I really cut out to keep doing these extremely long endurance events?

Maybe I should back of to  doing something shorter and more main-stream?

Nah.

Some of the time I DNF because something happens out of my control, and it is my decision to stop. That kind of DNF I consider a good DNF. it was my choice. You know, as the old saying goes: DNF stands not only for “did not finish” but also for “did nothing fatal.”

But then there is what I consider a “bad” DNF.

Those are when I am forced to stop, not because anything  is wrong, or I am having a bad day, but simply because I am slow and missed a cut off. When many runners are going slow and miss a cut off, it is because they are having a bad day and probably should stop.

For back-of-the-packers like me, we could be having a really good day (as good as one can have while doing an ultra) and yet we still can be forced to DNF because of missing a cut off.

If something goes wrong, faster runners may have an hour or even a few hours to get the situation sorted out.

Back-of-the-packers do not have that luxury. We might only have a 15 minute cushion. If we can’t get our situation figured out soon, our race is over, even if we could ahve actually gone the entire way if we had a little more time.

Running ultramarathons is an entirely different event for us.

While the elite may worry about where they will place, the mid-pack sometimes will strive for a personal best on a certain course or at a certain distance, we back-of-the-packers are overjoyed to simply have the privilege of even finishing.

If we can’t finish under official cutoff, then we’re extremell grateful when those very rare race organizers allow us to go the entire way unofficially.

If we are made to stop, then we take pride in at least getting as far as we could.

Yes, our races are very different for back-of-the-packers than for many runners.

I was going to be pacing my good friend Dave Elsbernd at the legendary Western States 100 this-coming June. Dave is a faster runner than I am; I didn’t want to let him down. I had been doing more training than earlier in the year.

However, as with most ultramarathoners, I never ever feel as if I have ever trained “enough.”

I decided to register for a “training” run May 27th: the Wyoming Double Marathon.

The Wyoming Double Marathon is the oldest marathon and ultramarathon in the Cowboy State. The course  is located about 10 miles east of Laramie on hilly gravel and dirt roads in the Medicine Bow National Forest. It starts at 8,700 feet and  drops down to 8,000 feet at the turnaround. The marathon would one out and back, the double would two out and backs.

I intended only on jogging it  and had no specific goals in mind, other than to get in a good training run.

Although ultrarunners enjoy hours of running alone out in nature, it is fun to run along other self-described running “nuts” occasionally. After a while, we get to know other ultra-insane in our region and see them at events. Race begin to get a reunion kind of atmosphere as runners catch up on news and update each other on what is going on in their lives. Where our training is mostly solitary, races are definitely social occasions.

Plus, it is much easier to make used of aid stations during an organized race than to “go long”  entirely unsupported.   Once we begin doing extra-long training runs (over 30 miles), our back packs begin to get unreasonably heavy. Often we must hide extra water and gear in the bushes somewhere or in several places along our route. The race entry fee is well worth it.

Of course, if only I were faster, it might not be as big of a problem because I’d be done in 5 or 6 hours instead of 7 or 8.

Oh well.

Slow I am and slow I always shall be…. but I’m also extremely tenacious and determined as hell. That is more than many faster runners of shorter distances can claim.

One concern about this race, it is at a higher altitude than where I normal do well. I was slightly apprehensive by how I might do. It was only to be a training run, so how I did was not that important, but I was still apprehensive nonetheless.

I have congenital anomaly that prevents me from doing well at altitude. I get more short of breath than do most people at the same level of exertion.

There is no cure, more training will not make it go away and it is not life-threatening, however, it does prevent me from going fast.  It likely explains why I was one of the slowest kids on my high school cross country and track teams.

I loved running out in nature, even back then, but there was a suggestion by one of my coaches that if I had only trained harder, I would be able to go faster.

I know now that not ot be true, training improve performance but only to a point. Just as I don’t have the physique to be a power lifter, I won’t ever win any medals other than finishers medals at races.

But frankly I don’t give a $%^#$! what others think of my speed, or lack thereof.

I run for myself and no one else (OK I run for my family too).

Of course, how many of my cross country and track team are in their 40s and doing ultramarathons or even still running?

Probably not many.

Well, in an ultramarathon speed is way overrated anyway.

Still it would be really really nice to not have to always worry about thosed danged cut off times…

…if only I could be just a little faster…

The first part of the race went through rolling hills and meadows of the Medicine Bow National Forest. I had spent several weeks living in Cheyenne when I was a medical student and am somewhat familiar with the area. Of course, that was 20 years ago.

The slopes of the stream valleys were forested with spruce and aspen. Wildflowers were in bloom; the streams were backed up into ponds by beaver dams. There was elk tracks and other sign everywhere.

I am sure that if one came out here at night one would see many eyes staring back at you in the light of your headlamp.

Sadly, many of the conifers were dying from pine beetle infestation, as are most of the pine trees where I live in the Black Hills. Soon the Rocky Mountains will look much different, with few trees and much more open, grassy areas.

I did notice increased breathlessness at the start of the race and so I backed off down to my “100 mile” pace from my 50 mile pace.

This event was only to be for training, Western States was coming up in a few weeks. I couldn’t afforded to by injured.

The road left the stream valley and entered some open country. The wind blew and blew. This was Wyoming after all.

Whenever I visit Chicago, I have to chuckle; the “windy City,” is not so windy, at least not compared to Wyoming.

The couple of miles on the shoulder of the road with the wind blowing were not fun.

I am a trail runner, I HATE asphalt.

It was hard to get our breath with the wind blowing. Even though this portion of the course was relatively flat, between the wind and the altitude, some of us had trouble cathcing our breath.

We soon  left the pavement, but as we did, I thought: “too bad this is an out and back course, I wish I wouldn’t have to see this section more than once…”

In the distance, we could see the Vedauwoo rocks: unique granite rock formations called “hoo-doos”   and other outcroppings .

The name comes from the Arapaho word “bito’o’wu” meaning “earth-born”.

Vedauwoo is a popular area for rock climbing, hiking, mountain biking and camping, it is a fun place to run through as well.

These rocks are located a short distance off of Interstate-80 between Cheyenne and Laramie.

If you are are ever traveling this part of I-80,  Vedauwoo is definitely worth getting off the interstate for a short sight seeing, picnic or hiking trip.

The temperatures warmed in the mid day sun. We started at temps in the low 40s; many of us had to shed our warm outergarments along the way.

As I went back onto the paved sections I realized, “Hmmm… this was a headwind this morning and now the wind is in my face again as I go in the other direction, now how does that work?”

As I headed back down through the streams and valleys, I looked at my hand and realized that my fingers and hands were swollen.

A little swelling is normal, but not this much.

Sometime excessive swelling can occur from over -hydrating. However, in the thin dry mountain air, I was certain that I had not over-dranken.

Indeed, I was a little worried about being dehydrated.

I hadn’t peed for a while and it was dark when I did (this is more information than you want to know, but us ultrarunners play close attention to our bodily functions and we are not shy in telling others… or showing them).

Now this did concern me.

Was it a low-grade form of altitude illness? I had a slight dull headache, which I was attributing to being a little dehydrated.

Could it be mild altitude sickness instead?

I live at 3500-4000 ft so I am not a complete flat-lander, of course walking vs running at altitude are very different things.

I had never had anything happen like this in a race before, but then I tend to avoid events over 8000 ft because of my baseline altitude intolerance. I absolutely love the mountains, I just can’t go very fast when I’m up there.

Hmmm…I had several miles to contemplate what to do.

Should I keep going?

Or should I call it a day?

I did have a headlamp, in case I ended up slowing down on my second out-and-back. I had extra clothing so I came prepared…I could be out there half the night if i needed to and they didn’t pull me.

What should I do?

As I approached the 26.2 mile start/finish, I saw my car.

Dang.

That’s the one real disadvantage of loop or multiple out-and-back courses. Every time you get back to the start and finish area, the temptation for you to stop increases.

I saw my car and knew instantly what I should do.

If I stopped now, I could get back into my car, drive home and be home in time for dinner.

On the other hand, if I kept going, I would finish to full double marathon but afterwards I’d be so tired and it would be so late, I would have to get a hotel room in Cheyenne. I wouldn’t see my family until the next day.

So I made my decision. I would stop.

26.2 miles would be enough.

26.2 miles would be a good training run.

As I approached the start/finish area, the race organizers cheered, “You’re half way done! You’re amazing!”

To which I replied, “No I’m not amazing, I’m stopping.”

They asked, “Are you sure?”

“Yes, I am.” I said, “I’m OK, I just want to quit is all.”

“Well, then here’s your marathon finisher’s medal then…it’s amazing that you did the marathon…”

I didn’t think so.

I tried to tell them, I didn’t deserve any medals.

I had signed up for the double marathon not the single. I was a quitter today.

I should get nothing more than a big fat DNF- not a marathon finisher’s medal. Most especially for this my slowest marathon EVER.

But they gave me a marathon finishers medal anyway…

Yes, today was a good DNF after all.

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3 responses

  1. Teresa Verburg

    Great race report. I did this race two years ago with the same results. There was a cold wind along the paved section, and the fact that halfway was at the marathon finish line made it all to easy to stop. I was happy to go home with a marathon medal.

    September 3, 2012 at 8:30 pm

  2. You know, take the Marathoners Medal. You DNF’d the double…but you finished the Marathon Well. So it was not your goal? meh. you still did it. Can’t wait to hear more about Western States.

    September 4, 2012 at 4:04 am

  3. oooh AND, I have a new “coach” and I am looking at trying my first longer than a Marathon Distance. I’ve got a bunch of people interested so far, are you interested in this http://ironmasterschallenge.com/Home_Page.html It’s in PA, and its only a 50K but it has a nice generous cutoff time, and the area is gorgeous. And I might be able to swing my parents to open up their home for a bunch of us, maybe…

    September 7, 2012 at 4:29 am

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