Death Valley Trail Marathon? For a 1st-timer?

Discussion in 'General Fitness' started by Oo, Dec 7, 2003.

  1. Oo

    Oo Guest

    Hi all,

    I'm currently entering the late stages of my Galloway schedule, and I have started looking at
    the Runner's World online marathon calendar to see which races are available. This will be my
    first marathon.

    I'm in CA and love the Death Valley, so one race in particular catches my eye: The Death Valley
    Trail marathon on 07 Feb 04. I read that this race has a steep opening, but that does not intimidate
    me as much as the fact that I have done nearly no running on unpaved surfaces. Considering this,
    would it be a "bad idea" for me to try as my first marathon? Does it have a relatively high
    difficulty?

    Thanks, OO
     
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  2. In article <[email protected]>, OO wrote:
    > Hi all,
    >
    > I'm currently entering the late stages of my Galloway schedule, and I have started looking at the
    > Runner's World online marathon calendar to see which races are available. This will be my first
    > marathon.
    >
    > I'm in CA and love the Death Valley, so one race in particular catches my eye: The Death Valley
    > Trail marathon on 07 Feb 04. I read that this race has a steep opening, but that does not
    > intimidate me as much as the fact that I have done nearly no running on unpaved surfaces.
    > Considering this, would it be a "bad idea" for me to try as my first marathon? Does it have a
    > relatively high difficulty?

    You've still got about 8 weeks. If you're serious about this, try to get in some of your long runs
    under similarly adverse conditions (the race course itself, for example). If you're not prepared to
    do that, you'd be better off with a race that matches your training conditions. IMO.

    Cheers,
    --
    Donovan Rebbechi http://pegasus.rutgers.edu/~elflord/
     
  3. Dot

    Dot Guest

    OO wrote:
    > Hi all,
    >
    > I'm currently entering the late stages of my Galloway schedule, and I have started looking at the
    > Runner's World online marathon calendar to see which races are available. This will be my first
    > marathon.
    >
    > I'm in CA and love the Death Valley, so one race in particular catches my eye: The Death Valley
    > Trail marathon on 07 Feb 04. I read that this race has a steep opening, but that does not
    > intimidate me as much as the fact that I have done nearly no running on unpaved surfaces.
    > Considering this, would it be a "bad idea" for me to try as my first marathon? Does it have a
    > relatively high difficulty?
    >
    > Thanks, OO

    I've not done the DVTM and have only done a few short trail races, but run predominantly on trails.
    So take that as a warning that I'm a beginner on a learning curve, but some experience thinking /
    planning / training for trail races ;) (Most of our trail races are in summer when I'm in field.)

    Short answer: It could be an excellent first marathon *IF* (notice the really big IF) you have been
    doing hill work and are used to carrying food / fluid with you. That is, have done more running than
    typical 1st time marathoners. There's still 2 months to train (actually 5 wks and taper), but
    registration is likely to fill soon (4-8 wks out).

    Other than that you're nearing end of Galloway marathon schedule and run mostly roads, you haven't
    given us too much background on your running. Is this using run/walk approach in your schedule
    and/or goal? Do you have years of road running and racing experience and have only judged progress
    by pace, rather than effort? Do you have extensive hill work in your training program? I'll assume
    yes / medium / some for answers.

    Some long-winded thoughts.

    First rule of trail races: enjoy the event and the environment :) I looked at some of the pics of
    the race, and it looks like it should be a lot of fun - a LOT more interesting than something
    like Badwater.

    Second rule: Forget about road-running paces. You will generally be a little slower on a gravel road
    compared with paved road. When you go up and over that hill at mid-course, you will be going even
    slower. Walking is not a sin. In fact, stopping briefly to look at scenery is not a sin. Some
    landscapes just take one's breath away.

    Learn to run by effort, rather than pace, if you haven't already learned that.

    Third: Don't expect the "amenities" of road races - course may be long/short, probably no mile/km
    markers, aid stations will be farther apart and possibly less well stocked.

    The course description says aid every 5 miles, and general statements by the race organizers suggest
    this race has minimal support, typical of trail races. [This is not something against race
    management - just something to be aware of. Our Alaskan trail races have none, usually. We bring our
    own food / fluid.] I noticed one runner commented that mile 15 was out of water when they got there
    - this is *not* good on race mgmnt's part. But plan accordingly. It doesn't sound like temperatures
    would be outrageous (30-70F, probably, from what I saw). But have a feeling for your hydration
    (+electrolytes) and possible time between aid stations, and whether you need 1 or 2 bottle waist
    pack or hydration bladder. Different people have preferences for what works for them, considering
    how much fluid you may need.

    Topography comments: http://www.envirosports.com/exec/enviro/Calendar.cfm?pageid=1060&TemplateID=62-
    &eventID=1064&publicationID=42

    "The Marathon climbs 2,300 feet in the first 12 miles, then descends 5,000 feet over the last
    14 miles."

    I looked at the course map, which has some relief indicated, but not contours. I'd get a contour map
    of the area or an elevation profile, if available. It looks like the first 1/3 is relatively flat,
    then ascends over a mountain, then back down. While they indicate 2300ft/12miles = about 200 ft/mi
    up, which isn't too bad, you may find it's 20ft/mi up for the first few miles, then 500ft/mi or more
    up when you get into the mountains. I don't know - I'm just guessing from the look of their map.
    Similar situation on way down - avg 360 ft/mi but I'm guessing there'll be steeper downhill
    sections. The fact that it's a "jeep" road (it looks like some of our regular roads ;) suggests
    there won't be any 50% hills, eroded gullies, etc.

    What I do where I can't mimic the course on my training trails, is try to identify the longest
    uphill and the steepest portions and about how long - either from topo map or scoping the trail.
    I'll then do (1) hill repeats (aerobic effort level, duration appropriate to how big the steep
    pitches are) on my normal trails that have slopes similar to the steepest portion and (2) long hill
    runs on trails or dirt roads that have similar amounts of uphill, even if a lower gradient. I'll
    alternate weeks for these workouts. I'm just a beginner so I try to cherry pick my training. An
    experienced trail runner would just be able to run a trail a include all that in there.

    Note that hill work consists of both up and down. Your quads will need the strength on the
    downhills. It is a net downhill course.

    The footing looks easy (at least what's in the pics I looked at) so the difference between trail and
    road may not be that big a deal. From what I saw, I think the hills, esp. the downhill, might be
    more of an issue.

    In my un-informed opinion, this could be a really great first-time marathon, esp. considering the
    scenery and lack of crowds - *IF* you do the necessary hill work, understand and execute energy
    management on hills, and don't mind carrying food / fluid (and have done it in training). Excellent
    scenery! If you're not having any problems with the schedule you're on and you're doing Galloway
    run/walk, then plan your walks for the extended or steep uphills rather than at fixed intervals,
    which are really only useful on flat roads. Practice this ahead of time on hills and gravel roads.
    Practice carrying all the gear you might need on the route. Be aware of the 6-hr cutoff, which I'm
    guessing is reasonably adequate for running or run/walking (probably not for straight walkers) the
    course, based on other cutoff times I've seen.

    If you expect coddling (=mile markers, extensive aid, cheering crowds), then I'd avoid this. (you
    sounded like you were probably looking for something out of the way anyway, but thought I'd add
    this note)

    It's also possible that it might be a little more than what you're ready for this year - it just
    depends on how solid your training is until now and whether you've been doing hills, carrying stuff,
    etc. It *will* take more prep than a typical marathon, but it doesn't sound un-doable for a beginner
    who puts in the training. And there's still 2 months to train. Or if it's too tight for this year,
    think next year. I'm not sure what other choices you were considering. We've got a marathon with
    almost 4000ft of hills in it (although various sized hills spread through the course, rather than
    one mtn to get over), and people do that as a first marathon. Most of the runners respect the course
    and do the training and have fun.

    Just as another note, if you go back and look at some of the race reports, you'll find the people
    that have done the homework for the topography of their course laugh at the hills in their races.
    Those that don't train appropriately get their butts kicked. And it doesn't matter what their
    experience level!

    Enjoy! It looks like it would be a blast if properly prepared for!

    Maybe some of the CA trail runners know more and can give you better ideas. Like I said, I'm just
    going by the course description and my observations, limited as they are.

    Good luck.

    Dot

    --
    "Success is different things to different people" -Bernd Heinrich in Racing the Antelope
     
  4. Doug Freese

    Doug Freese Guest

    Dot wrote:

    > Short answer: It could be an excellent first marathon *IF* (notice the really big IF) you have
    > been doing hill work and are used to carrying food / fluid with you. That is, have done more
    > running than typical 1st time marathoners. There's still 2 months to train (actually 5 wks and
    > taper), but registration is likely to fill soon (4-8 wks out).

    I took a quick look at the web page and I think the only concern might be the footing in Death
    Valley National Park. Is it hard packed, sand, etc.? This is the same area they run Badwater but
    they have aid stations every 3 miles and Port-a-potties. Ahem, no place to hide if one has to go.
    They do suggest you carry some fluid between aid stations. Elevation is less than 500 feet so it's
    flat and possibly fast. It does have a 6 hour cutoff which may be a concern.

    Again, the main concern is training on roads and racing on trails. The rest seems to be a wash.

    --
    Doug Freese "Caveat Lector" [email protected]
     
  5. Dot

    Dot Guest

    Doug Freese wrote:
    >
    >
    > Dot wrote:
    >
    >
    >
    >> Short answer: It could be an excellent first marathon *IF* (notice the really big IF) you have
    >> been doing hill work and are used to carrying food / fluid with you. That is, have done more
    >> running than typical 1st time marathoners. There's still 2 months to train (actually 5 wks and
    >> taper), but registration is likely to fill soon (4-8 wks out).
    >
    >
    > I took a quick look at the web page and I think the only concern might be the footing in Death
    > Valley National Park. Is it hard packed, sand, etc.? This is the same area they run Badwater but
    > they have aid stations every 3 miles and Port-a-potties. Ahem, no place to hide if one has to go.
    > They do suggest you carry some fluid between aid stations. Elevation is less than 500 feet so it's
    > flat and possibly fast. It does have a 6 hour cutoff which may be a concern.

    I think you've got the "Death Valley Trail Marathon" on 2/7/2004 confused with the "Death Valley
    Borox Marathon" which was yesterday. http://www.envirosports.com/exec/enviro/Calendar.cfm?pageid=10-
    60&TemplateID=62&eventID=1052&publicationID=42

    This is the one the OP is talking about, I'm pretty sure - at least it's on the same day ;) http://-
    www.envirosports.com/exec/enviro/Calendar.cfm?pageid=1060&TemplateID=62&eventID=1064&publicationID=-
    42 "The Marathon course climbs 2,300 feet in the first 12 miles, then descends 5,000 feet over the
    last 14 miles."

    This is north of the Borax one and Badwater (I've got both maps out - avoiding putting together a
    lecture for tomorrow ;).

    Much nicer, IMHO :) (or maybe there's some nice parts along Badwater that I've never seen pictures
    of, which could be)

    Take a peak at photo (most are from one location).
    http://www.brightroom.com/view_event.asp?EVENTID=2538 The footing looks pretty easy, unless this is
    an easy part of the trail.

    But reading previous runners' comments, I didn't see anything to suggest there were any nasties -
    just a nice honest marathon with some pretty nice scenery. He'll definitely have to post pictures if
    he runs it :) :)

    I also agree that the 6-hr cutoff could be an issue depending on the OP's background and training.
    That's interesting that this has same cutoff as the flat one - I wonder if the company has a thing
    about not having races longer than 6 hr? ;) I based my original comment on cutoff for Fall Equinox
    which has more single-track and more elevation, but broken up. I was thinking that was about 8 hr,
    but it's 10 hr (and I saw reasonably strong, but slow, runners finishing in 6 hr). The 5k of down in
    DVTM could be a nasty surprise for quads if not prepared = the final downhill may not be all
    downhill ;) OTOH 5k of down over 14 miles may not be as bad as 3k of down over 2.5 miles.

    Just another comment. It looks like it's the only access in that area, but it does seem to have
    vehicles along the route so there is an escape if needed. It's not like some of our races where
    you're in deep doggy-do if you have some injury.

    Dot

    --
    "Success is different things to different people" -Bernd Heinrich in Racing the Antelope
     
  6. Doug Freese

    Doug Freese Guest

    Dot wrote:

    > I think you've got the "Death Valley Trail Marathon" on 2/7/2004 confused with the "Death Valley
    > Borox Marathon" which was yesterday.

    How right you are. The though Borox was left off for brevity. Reminds me of the old commercials for
    "Twenty Mule Team Borax" laundry soap. I know different spelling but word association... :)

    > "The Marathon course climbs 2,300 feet in the first 12 miles, then descends 5,000 feet over the
    > last 14 miles."

    While 2,300 over 12 miles is not too harsh I would agree and suggest he not do this a first thon.
    This is a trail race and has all those others nuances like carrying water bottles, possibly trail
    shoes, gaiters not gators, etc etc.

    --
    Doug Freese "Caveat Lector" [email protected]
     
  7. Don Kirkman

    Don Kirkman Guest

    It seems to me I heard somewhere that Doug Freese wrote in article
    <[email protected]>:

    >Dot wrote:

    >> I think you've got the "Death Valley Trail Marathon" on 2/7/2004 confused with the "Death Valley
    >> Borox Marathon" which was yesterday.

    >How right you are. The though Borox was left off for brevity. Reminds me of the old commercials for
    >"Twenty Mule Team Borax" laundry soap. I know different spelling but word association... :)

    Same spelling, same chemical, Dot's typo. The twenty mule teams used to haul the borax out of the
    Death Valley area and send it on its way to the processors. There was a fellow named Reagan that
    was also associated, though a little bit indirectly, with Twenty Mule Team borax (Boraxo was the
    actual product name). Boron, the name of the chemical element involved, is also the name of a town
    in the region.

    Now back to running: :)

    >> "The Marathon course climbs 2,300 feet in the first 12 miles, then descends 5,000 feet over the
    >> last 14 miles."

    >While 2,300 over 12 miles is not too harsh I would agree and suggest he not do this a first thon.
    >This is a trail race and has all those others nuances like carrying water bottles, possibly trail
    >shoes, gaiters not gators, etc etc.
    --
    Don [email protected]
     
  8. Dot

    Dot Guest

    Don Kirkman wrote:
    >
    > Same spelling, same chemical, Dot's typo.

    :) Ooops, Freudian slip. Guess who was looking at some boron stuff for a
    lecture today. Now I'm wondering if the students got some trail race info inadvertently ;)

    Dot

    --
    "Success is different things to different people" -Bernd Heinrich in Racing the Antelope
     
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