Death Valley Double Century and LA Marathon

the short:
1. Saturday Death Valley double century in 13.13, Jack and I were in the top 10 fastest times (wtf?).
2. Saturday night drove back to Los Angeles, arriving at 4am.
3. Slept 1.5 hours.
4. Ran a 4.57 marathon (2.20/2.37 split).
5. Ate two burritos.
6. Slept 16 hours.
Why: To try train for upcoming long races. And they just happened to fall on the same weekend.

the long:
double

We rolled into Death Valley Friday afternoon, which is a first. Usually we don’t get there till 1 or 2am, which Morgan, Jack, Stacy and Megan did, keeping Swarm! tradition alive. Chris Kostman joked about all 20 of us staying in the one free room that the volunteers got. It probably seemed that way, with about 15 of us cooking dinner outside the room. Lee Mitchell, ultra-cycling legend, was perplexed by our presence. You all here for the ride? Yep, almost all of us. The double or the single? Most are doing the double. Wow, great!
Some of us camped, some actually had paid for hotel rooms and only six of us slept in the free room.

 

Saturday morning we tried to get a group photo, but some of Swarm! had to be at the Badwater checkpoint, some wanted to get in the early start for the double and the century riders were getting ready for their later start. As feared, Jack set a vicious pace to the first checkpoint, 17 miles away. I was blowing up. Him and I managed to stay together till Jubilee Pass, where he easily dropped me. I still passed a couple people going up, but was also passed on the long down hill to Shoshone that was plagued with head winds. Saw Jack as he was leaving the turn-around point and Jesse had caught me as I was leaving. The out-and-back gave us an opportunity to see how our other rides were doing.

After climbing back over Salsberry and Jubilee, the head and cross winds really kicked in. That’s the desert. Jesse, a Bullshifter rider and myself managed to bridge up to a couple of other groups just after Ashford Mills and got a paceline going. At one point there were 8 of us, all taking turns in the front battling the wind. Then the group split in half, then suddenly it was just me and one other guy. My stomach and legs were feeling better and we rode past a couple more groups before finally arriving at distant Badwater. Budge, Luz, Jen Diamond, Morgan, Max & Sasha (who DNF’ed the century on the tandem cause of Sasha’s f’ed up knee) were all there. And Jack! He had just flatted. It was the lunch stop, but we barely hung out before him and I left together.

 

This route is tricky in that the 150-mile checkpoint is at the start/finish (picture on left is Kiecker and Paul before the last 50 with Signey who had finished the century). It’s real easy to stop and not do the last out-and-back to Stovepipe Wells. Five of our riders did not make the cut-off time here and were not allowed to continue on (but two tried! Props to the ‘old guys’ for the punkest move of the weekend). I think they all would of made the overall cut-off and were only delayed to here because of the crazy head winds. When the sun went down and the full moon came up it was so bright we could see our shadows! The last twenty-five were tough, due to the aches and pains that arise from the first long ride of the year. I’ll spare the details of Jack’s ass pains. Some clif shots with caffeine (after two months of almost zero caffeine consumption) made my stomach unhappy. When I finished I just laid in the grass. It was the most out of it I possibly have ever been after a ride.

Our team chefs (the century riders) had made some gnochi that I pushed down before showering and coming back to wait for our other double riders to finish. We hung out with the guy who rode the fastest time of the day on a fixed gear. Not the fastest time on a fixed gear, THE FASTEST TIME. On a 48-16 yet. Yeah. He ruled. Was real nice too. Congrats to everyone who rode their longest ride, whether it was 100, 150 or 200. Thanks to everyone who helped cook, drove, etc. It was a team effort and I am stoked to of been a part of it. Also see Luz’s pictures and Kiecker’s write-up.

The drive back luckily, was uneventful. Tried to sleep, but with 3 of us crammed in the back it didn’t work out so well. I’m also one of those people who is so concerned about the driver falling asleep that I feel the need to stay awake.
When we got into the house, on the kitchen table was the map of the marathon. I looked at it and sighed. It was 4am. Morgan said, ‘Look Matt, if you didn’t do it, no one would think less of you.’ Not doing it never seemed like an option, which I think made it easier. After putting on all my running gear, I took a nap sitting up on my couch. Disorientation barely describes what I felt when that alarm when off. Holy shit. I’m going to do what?

Marathon:

The new route for the LA marathon is a point-to-point from Universal City to Downtown, which makes bike transportation difficult. I opted for the train and hopped on at Beverly/Vermont only a 20-min walk from our place. Cyclists may look funny in spandex, but there is something about runners or being at running events that makes me feel real out of place. Maybe no matter the bicycle event, it is still a part of the broader bicycle culture, a culture I am comfortable functioning in, as opposed to a ‘running culture’ which is still undefinable to me.

I’m off the train and on time. Glad to see some anti-war group handing out stickers which many people have put on their shirts or bibs.  In the ‘corral’ I ended up next to two bearded, bare-foot guys. One, I learn, is Barefoot Bob from runningbarefoot.org. I asked if it was a requirement to have a beard to run barefoot. Others asked him the typical, annoying questions that he answered with a quick wit that kept me amused till the race started.

The start is anti-climactic after standing around for 45 minutes. I’m tired as we start to climb the back of Cahuenga Pass. Unlike cycling, there is no free ride and the downhill into Hollywood is brutal, but my legs feel better then they did on my last training run. My brain not so good. Around mile 8 I pass 6th/Hobart and I toss my long sleeve shirt in a bush to pick up later. Looking for Morgan or someone from the house, but can’t blame them for not getting up after 4 hours sleep to see me run by. The halfway point eventually shows itself and I have retained enough analytical ability to do some math on my time/pace.

Not that my entire mental state is healthy. For no reason I would take serious emotional dives, almost into tears. Unexplainable. Not in a ‘running is horrible I need to stop’ way, but in more of a nihilistic, depressing, ‘the love of my life just dumped me’ way. As if physical or mental exhaustion was exposing the emotional ends of my cognitive functions. I knew what I was getting into and, the best I could, welcomed the ups and downs.

Last year I walked the water stations and still ran a 4.04 in my first marathon. Now I was finding myself walking well past them with little motivation to run. My calves, quads and ankles are all aching so I stopped to stretch occasionally. I saw a guy throwing up on the bridge back over the LA river from Boyle Heights and I gave him some props for letting it all go (I don’t what that guy ate, but it looked like an entire Indian buffet), but he was less stoked than I. The math I am doing in my head at every mile is making less and less sense as I get closer to the end. But I care even less. When we reach downtown I find it incredibly odd that all the spectators are blocked off from the route by these giant 10-foot tall fences. It seemed so out of place, like we were in a ring or some sort of cage. I unceremoniously cross the finish line: 4.57.

Again I don’t take the medal (something else to throw out next time I move) and again the post-race refreshments are crap. Some round bread, bananas and shots of OJ. I don’t know how anyone who paid $100 for this race thinks that is okay. Hobble to the train back to our neighborhood where Morgan meets me with a bike. We coast down to get some burritos with Budge, Luz and Megan. Everything is surreal and I feel super hot. Did I drink enough water? I know I didn’t eat enough burritos so I eat two. At 4pm I go to sleep, only waking up once to have some toast before sleeping till 8am. Good weekend. Thank you to everyone who made it happen.

Doing these events back-to-back will hopefully prepare me for Norseman, which will be my first attempt at an iron-distance triathlon. And this is my first public commitment to it.

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