Having never directed more than 1 race at a time, I have no idea how Joyce manages to keep track of 5 races at the same time on the same course. The Running From An Angel races included a 50 mile, marathon, half marathon, 10k and 5k option. I opted for the 50 Mile race and began my day promptly at 6:00 in the morning along with 43 other hardy folks out in the Nevada desert.
This race was beautiful. There was plenty to see and look at for the 25 miles until you reached the turn around on this out and back course, and coming back gave you a different perspective and let you notice things that you didn’t see on the way out. I carried my cell phone with me and stopped to get pictures pretty regularly along the course, especially during the first 40 miles. My wife was also taking pictures and video for the first and last couple of hours.
Above is the map of the course, which begins near the Southern end of the map and then proceeds Northwest up Lakeshore Drive until you take a right onto Northshore Drive. After about 15 miles you turn around and reverse the process.
Mile 1: 8:32
Mile 2: 8:09
Mile 3: 8:36
Mile 4: 8:18
Mile 5: 8:41
Mile 6: 9:21
The first 5 or 6 miles came before the sun rose. Traffic was pretty light, so I probably didn’t need to wear my headlamp or my blinking tail light, but I did anyway. Pace was dictated by terrain and I moved along pretty easily.
From the start, one guy rushed out into the lead and we assumed that it was a marathoner getting an early start, but it turned out to just be Akos Konya running 50 miles in the same average pace that I ran my first marathon. We couldn’t see him for more than a quarter to a half mile.
Within that first half mile, I met Glenn Leavitt, and we basically ran the first 25 miles together. I stopped pretty often to take pictures and took more time at the aid stations than he did, but I’d usually catch back up to him pretty quickly after that.
A couple of other guys ran ahead of us, and we had company for 3 or 4 miles from Reinhold Pototschnik, who unfortunately had very little English. He ran away from us around mile 5 or so, and wound up finishing the race with an average of of 7:54/mile.
Up To The Half Marathon
Mile 7: 7:43
Mile 8: 8:55
Mile 9: 8:57
Mile 10: 9:29
Mile 11: 7:32
Mile 12: 8:48
Mile 13: 8:09
I didn’t see many animals during the race. Around mile 7 I heard a pack of coyotes as I was running around a hill, but once I got to the other side I saw them across a river some distance away. (Judging distance in the desert is impossible for me.)
As I came into each of the ultra aid stations, I snapped a photo of myself with the volunteers. The photo above was actually taken by my wife near mile 9, and the volunteer (Liz Sottile) had no idea that I was giving her rabbit ears. She got a good chuckle when I emailed the picture to her though. My wife stopped off and volunteered for the next couple of hours at this aid station before heading to the Hoover Dam.
The aid stations in the race were pretty good. Every 4 or 5 miles throughout the course there were ultra stations, which included water, HEED, pretzels, PB&J sandwiches, e-caps, potato wedges (with salt buckets), coke, bananas, and probably a few other items that I’m not recalling off of the top of my head.
Other than a dozen pretzels (taken 3 at a time on 4 separate occasions) I mostly ignored what I wasn’t carrying myself.
I refilled my water bottle and I drank some of the HEED, but otherwise didn’t really feel as though I needed what was offered.
On the way back, there were also marathon aid stations set up that had water and HEED. That meant that there was somewhere to fill up every couple of miles in the last 10 or 12.
Leading into mile 10, there were some pretty strong headwinds. We didn’t have to deal with it for more than a mile or so before you make a right turn and go by Lake Las Vegas, which is one of the few genuinely green areas that you see.
The wind picked up again and got pretty brutal for a few miles late in the race, but for the most part we had no troubles with the weather whatsoever.
The Drop Bags
Mile 14: 9:56
Mile 15: 7:57
Mile 16: 7:47
Mile 17: 8:39
Mile 18: 8:21
Mile 19: 8:16
Mile 20: 10:15
Other than taking photos, there weren’t very many reasons to stop between the marathon turn around point at 13.1 and the drop bags 6 miles further on.
About half a mile past the drop bags I was attacked by a piece of shredded tire.
The wire embedded in the rubber got tangled in my sock, which made for a few interesting steps before I could stop and get it away from my ankle. Thankfully, it never broke the skin.
I did find the “Speed Limit: 50” sign along this stretch to be particularly humorous for some reason; I don’t know why. It tickled my fancy, though, so I snapped a photo.
Helped along by a slight downhill before hitting a climb leading up to the drop bags just past mile 19, Glenn and I kept up a pretty good pace.
At the starting line, you get to leave a drop bag that was carried to the aid station at mile 19.1 or so. I’d left a few things in there that I thought I might need, but I wound up ignoring most of it.
It took about 3 miles to figure out what was going on, but as I was running towards the drop bags station I began to notice this annoying clicking sound. It sounded as though it was coming from my shorts, but I could not imagine how my cell phone or a gel packet could be making that noise.
Any time I slowed down or twisted to look at my back pockets the noise would stop, which definitely delayed my realizing the actual problem.
What was happening was that I never cut the ends of the plastic tabs for my timing chip off so they were sticking straight up from my foot. Every time I took a step, they would bang on the timing chip and make the funny noise. When I changed my stride to figure it out, they wouldn’t hit in the same way.
So for my first trip by the drop bags, the first thing that I did was to cut off the excess from the plastic tabs that held my timing chip to my shoe.
Of course, it turned out to be my shoelaces that were hitting the chip and not the tabs, but the noise didn’t bother me for the rest of the race since I at least knew what the problem was.
The only other thing I used my drop bag for was to refill my water bottle with hornet juice. The reason I had scissors to begin with was so that I could open the pouch pour the powder into my bottle without wasting time trying to tear it. I ignored everything else in the bag until my 2nd trip through 12 miles later.
While chatting with the folks at the aid station, they asked how many 50 milers I had run. When I told them that this was my first one, they seemed surprised that I looked so good.
My theory is that if you don’t look good and aren’t enjoying yourself 19 miles into a 50 mile race, then you probably didn’t train or else went out way too fast! I told them to look for the differences when I came back at mile 31.
The Turn Around at Mile 25
Mile 21: 8:46
Mile 22: 9:18
Mile 23: 8:35
Mile 24: 9:01
Mile 25: 12:15 (Officially: 3:37:03)
Glenn and I knew that soon we were going to see the guy that had taken off fast at the start wasn’t running the marathon as he hadn’t turned around and passed us already.
Akos passed us right at mile 21.75.
My guess had been that if he’d run a steady pace from how fast he’d gone out then we would see him between mile 21.5 and mile 22. When he went by, Akos was 6½ miles ahead of us! He had run 28.25 miles at that point.
Reinhold passed us a mile or so later, followed by the other two guys that had been ahead of us.
At mile 25 there was an aid station where they took down your number and your turn around time.
I’m not sure exactly what mine was since they haven’t updated the official results to include it yet, but I hung out and chatted for a few minutes before starting to move along again.
Glenn decided to stay at the aid station a little longer, so I figured that he would catch up.
He decided that he needed to back off a little though and I didn’t see him again until after we finished.
(Un)Officially My Slowest Marathon
Mile 26: 8:38 (Marathon: 3:50:41)
Mile 27: 8:45
Mile 28: 9:25
Mile 29: 8:57
Mile 30: 8:28
I tried to get a picture of all of the 50 Milers as I passed them. I did get a photo of everone ahead of me, and I got a picture of most of the folks that I passed after I had gone through the turn around. Most of the folks were more than happy to get their picture taken.
Almost all of the women had big smiles for me, and most of the guys seemed to be enjoying themselves as much as I was. A few even stopped, recognizing that my excuse for regular walk breaks was a good excuse for them as well.
Just after the turn around I saw a guy hiking with his dog off on the rocks to the side of the road. I yelled over to him that that terrain looked much more fun than the road was. Had I not been running a race or had more time on my vacation, there were numerous places that I’d have liked to have gotten some hiking in.
He yelled back to me that it was fun but he was only going about 2 miles. When I looked down at my watch, I’d been going for 25.2 miles.
A mile further in, I passed a piece of tape on the road that told me I had run for 26.2 miles. I’m not sure what my marathon mark was in the 50k that I ran, but that was probably in the mid-3:40s.
The first marathon distance of my 50 miler is now officially (in an unofficial way) my slowest marathon! I crossed that line in 3:50:41, and I felt great.
Nobody But A Crow
Mile 31: 11:08
Mile 32: 9:10
Mile 33: 9:38
Mile 34: 10:11
Mile 35: 10:22
Mile 36: 11:18
Mile 37: 11:52
When I returned to the drop bags, I still felt pretty good.
The sun was shining pretty brightly now, so I took a few minutes to reapply my sunscreen.
That done, I refilled my pockets with a few more packets of gel and got moving again. Of course, I forgot to refill my baggie of gummy bears, so they didn’t last much longer.
From here through the aid station at the marathon turn around, I didn’t pass near anybody other than a crow that was watching me from the side of the road.
I could see somebody coming up behind me in the distance, but we were basically running the same pace so he never caught up to me on this stretch. Every time I turned, there he’d be, and that’s how it was for at least 5 miles.
This stretch was easily the most difficult part of the course.
I was warned going into the race that things would get bad between miles 35 and 40, but that once I got to mile 40 they’d improve and I’d be all right once I worked through it.
That warning wasn’t too far off of the mark.
Nothing was particularly bad on this stretch, mind you.
By mile 20 I had blisters on both feet, but they didn’t hurt. They just let me know they were there. My lower back was starting to get a little tight, but it never started to hurt and my shoulders remained nice and loose all the way through the finish. My neck and arms felt fine.
The only part of my body that hurt were my legs, and by around mile 33 they were pretty damn sore. Since there was nobody to run with or pass or even wave to in the distance, my sore legs kept trying to get my attention.
I was beginning to get a little dehydrated along this stretch. My clothes stayed dry since my sweat evaporated so quickly, but I was starting to have a small amount of difficulty keeping up the correct level of water intake.
I managed to distract myself by deciding when to take walking breaks. I no longer had any 50 milers passing in the other direction, so I didn’t have that excuse to stop. I did take a few photographs, but the majority of the terrain here looked pretty similar to the way out and I wasn’t too inspired by it.
I did get a cool shot of a beehive and of a big pile of rocks that were all broken up. The beehive is basically a large bit of sandstone with nothing around it that’s been scarred by centuries of wind and rain.
Going Down Is So Much More Difficult
Mile 38: 11:19
Mile 39: 12:23
Mile 40: 12:18
Mile 41: 10:16
Mile 42: 9:08
Mile 43: 10:49
The marathon turn around came at a perfect time. I had rationed out my water over the past few miles, and then I finally ran out.
Thankfully, I went around a hill a quarter mile later to find the aid station where I could refill the bottle.
It was while I was stopped at the aid station that Joe Galope caught up to me after having been chasing me down since the drop bags.
This was Joe’s 81st race that was marathon length or longer, and we ran together and chatted for about 2 miles. At that point we came back near Lake Las Vegas, which had a pretty steep dip down to the river before climbing up to the 40 mile marker.
I decided to walk down the hill, and Joe decided to walk up the other side, so we parted paths at this point. We would pass each other a few times before the end of the race but we never ran together again.
After passing through Lake Las Vegas, I started to get passed by the smarter and/or more experienced 50 Milers that had gone out a little easier and would ultimately wind up beating me to the finish line. Everybody was very supportive, though, and it was cool to see guys catching up and passing me.
I also started to catch up to some of the marathoners that were at the back of the pack, so combined with the additional aid stations and the new volunteers there were plenty of new faces to keep you going.
It didn’t really affect me, but most of the ultra stations seemed to have been cleaned out by the marathoners on our way back. Other than Liz’s station at mile 41 (where they set some supplies aside for the 50 milers), it seemed as though there was no coke and very few food items available at the stations.
This didn’t bother me, as I was only taking HEED and water and those were plentiful all day, but a few of the people around me were disappointed.
Around mile 42 or so I saw my wife drive by on her way back from taking the Hoover Dam tour. I smiled and waved and figured that I would see her pretty soon.
About 20 seconds after she passed me, though, I heard a lot of honking and when I looked back I saw that she had pulled into a side road to turn around and another car that had been behind her was zooming off.
Everybody seemed okay so I didn’t worry about it for about a mile, but then Erin kept not passing me and cheering me on so I started to worry about what exactly had happened.
The first couple of women (Anita Fromm and Jeri Ginsburg) caught up to me for the first time along this stretch, and along with Joe I’d trade spots with them a few times in the last 8 miles or so.
Jeri and Anita would catch up to me when I walked through an aid station, and then I’d pass them back or catch them as they took a walk break. I had seen Anita’s husband pretty regularly as he drove by every few miles to cheer her (and the other runners) on so I could always tell how close she was by how frequently he was passing by and stopping.
The Final Stretch
Mile 44: 9:56
Mile 45: 10:13
Mile 46: 11:09
Mile 47: 7:51
Mile 48: 7:56
Mile 49: 8:58
Mile 50: 7:04
My wife finally appeared in the last few miles to cheer me on. All that honking earlier was because the guy that was tailgating her didn’t want to slow down for the runners and was mad at her.
After she let him by, she went back to the aid station to help out some more before coming back to cheer for me. I walked with her for a minute or so, and then she ran back to the car as I ran for the finish line.
I was looking forward to those last 4 miles. Erin kept stopping to cheer me on and take a few pictures and video, the end was in sight, and I felt exactly the same as I had 10 miles earlier with the exception that I was pretty sure that things wouldn’t feel worse.
Checking my watch I was pretty sure that I could finish in under 8 hours, which I thought would be pretty respectable for a first attempt at 50 miles. I’ll admit that I was also really looking forward to the food at the finish line, which had gotten good reviews from last year’s race.
Bringing the pace down under 8 minutes was tough, but I managed it for a few miles before slipping back up near 9 minutes for the second to last mile.
I’m not sure exactly what my pace was for the final mile (as my Garmin wasn’t 100% accurate with the mile markers) but it was definitely in the low 7 minutes since I didn’t stop my watch for a good half minute after finishing.
Running down that hill to the special events beach was so much easier knowing that it was the last downhill stretch that I had to worry about. They had the marathon time on the board as I came through, but it was easy enough to add 2 hours and see that I had made my sub-8.
Time For Food!
Net Time: 7:47:26.81
Gun Time: 7:47:28.00
Overall: 6 / 45
M 20-29: 1 / 5
Avg Temp: 50.6°F (48.2° – 53.6°)
Avg Wind: 11.1 mph (8.1 – 18.8)
The post race spread was worth the price of admission!
I sat down at a picnic table and was lucky enough to have Erin there to get me as much food as I could bring in.
There was hot vegetable soup, bagels and bread (and a toaster to heat them up with!), coffee, tea, hot chocolate, PB&J, pasta salad, apples, bananas, oranges, fixings for s’mores…
There was something for everyone no matter what your craving.
I caught up with some of the people that I had met on the course, chatted with the race director, and got a really cool prize for winning my age group before heading back to the hotel.
The award was a piece of granite in the shape of Nevada with the specific award painted on the front and a place to hook it to the wall mortared to the back. I like these hand-made custom awards that some of the smaller races can give out.
While I don’t plan on being out in that area again at any point in the near future, I would definitely run another race put on by Joyce Forier and put on by Calico Racing. She does a great job.