Maria's Hoover Damn Marathon 29/10/11

Ed: Most people train months for marathons, Maria just pops down for the Hoover Damn Marathon whilst on holiday!!
Me & t’other half were on holiday in Nevada (mmm warm!) and decided to do this at the last minute – so I didn’t have my VRUK vest with me. I wore the Helsinki t-shirt as at least it’s green!
He did the 10k, I did the marathon. Sunny, warm, hilly (even more than Sussex, which Cherryl and Anna will remember from this spring) starting early in the day (7am) – I thought it would be good practice for Comrades. Ha.       Ha.       Ha.
Oh, and there’s a Thai place in Vegas which has lots of tasty vegan options. I would not, however, recommend getting a takeaway from there the evening before a race. Whoops. Luckily, although the race was pretty small, they didn’t stint on portapotty provision! Oh deary deary me…
We started at sunrise down by Lake Mead and had a steady 2.5 mile climb up to the cliffside trail where the railway line used in the Dam’s construction once was. The rails are gone but the path is still there and it goes through six huge tunnels until you pop out at the top of the Hoover Dam carpark, giving you a fascinating view of the dam complex itself. Forget about tiddly little British railway tunnels – these were as high as a church nave! As you ran into them there would come a point where the light would catch the little puffs of dust kicked up by the runner in front, almost as if each step was a tiny explosion, a magical effect. Of course this played merry hell with my Garmin which decided I’d covered nearly 28 miles by the end (felt like it as well!).
Aid stations were regular and well-provisioned – water & “Heed” (a revolting but effective sport drink) and bananas & oranges, also some crackers etc. I mainly stuck to the water, Heed (holding my nose to drink didn’t help!) and bananas. I had one segment of orange and it disturbed my stomach (more than it was already suffering from the combination of Tofu Laarp and a marathon!), so that confirmed the effect I’d noticed at Comrades – leave the oranges for everyone else! The bananas caused no problems (phew).
On the day there was a 10k, half marathon and marathon – the latter was pretty small (only 97 finishers) but as the races all overlapped and it was an out and back course you were rarely lonely. I was just toddling round so I would talk to the other runners as we went along.
One guy, Larry Macon from San Antonio, Texas, seemed to know everyone. 
“Looking good!”
“Hi Larry!”
“How are you today?”
“Hi Larry!”
etc etc.
I ran and chatted with him for a while and it turned out that not only was it his 796th marathon but he is currently the record holder for most marathons in a year! He was full of fascinating stories and I really enjoyed running with him before (possibly thinking of my other half patiently waiting at the finish, having finished his 10k a good while ago!) he urged me to push on.

If you check out the official event photos (linky) there are a couple of us coming out of one of the tunnels, chugging along quite cheerfully. 

A couple of other runners also deserve special mention – the chap with a pumpkin hat and the “pi” symbol on his t-shirt, who won the Hallowe’en fancy dress competition (mmmm pumpkin pie…) and Giovanni the retired marine, who ran the whole thing (the marathon) in fatigues and boots carrying a full-size flag on a heavy wooden staff. He was raising money for “Wounded Warriors” (like the UK’s Help for Heroes). The longest he’d run in his boots before was only 10 miles, so he was pretty relieved to find that he could get to 20 and beyond without horrific blisters.
So…, I sound very chirpy but actually it was pretty tough – very much a case of “be careful what you wish for”, as I did a lot of plodding along in the heat feeling not 100% well, very good practice for Comrades! Ha! My chip time was  5:22:41 which put me 69th out of 97 (but first and only Brit home :D). Bear in mind that the average finish time was 4:51. As the day wore on it got hotter and although the marshalls were uniformly encouraging, the out-and-back stretch of concrete path through desert scrub which made up the last few miles were very quiet and I found myself rather unmotivated! The finish line was a welcome sight but extremely low-key. The upside, as it always is for small races, is that each runner gets cheered home individually!
After I’d finished there was plenty in the way of fruit and other stuff being dished out free (in the shade) for the runners.
A well organized race, and the same people do others in the region throughout the year. They are expensive to enter, though, by UK standards (a lot of US races are for some reason) though you get a nice longsleeved tech tshirt and a good standard medal.