Alternate Route (The Marathon Chronicles, Part IV)

02.3.2010 | 9:17 am

I wish the Tour de France — and all of the big cycling tours, really — would follow the same route each year. Now, I freely confess that’s probably a stupid wish, but I’ve got my reasons. To me, part of what makes a traditional cycling event a great tradition is that as much as possible of that event remains consistent. The approximate date, the rules, the incentives, and the course are pretty much the things that you can normalize, and so you should.

By having a different course each year, it becomes difficult for us to really compare the winner of one Tour to another.

But in pro cycling, that’s pretty much normal. Which makes me think: are there any other sports where the most-well-known annual event is actually a completely different event each year? I can’t think of any.

So, you see, that’s why I don’t ride in any of the Grand Tours.

On the other hand, each year I do the Leadville 100, which has seen two minor course changes — one having to do with bandwidth, the other having to do with safety — in the thirteen years I’ve ridden it. It makes an excellent yardstick of my fitness for the year.

And I like doing the same rides — whether road or mountain — several times each year, for kind of the same reason. Whenever I ride the Alpine Loop, I’m not just getting a good ride, I’m taking a ride down (but first, up) memory lane.

Same thing goes with Mt. Nebo. And Frank. And Squaw Peak. And Jacob’s Ladder.

And Tibble. Especially Tibble. When I found out that there’s some rerouting at the base of the climb, I nearly cried.

OK, I cried.

My point — and I’m as surprised to be making a point as you are — is that when I know and am planning on a particular ride, I think about that ride. I get to the point where I’m no longer looking forward to a ride; I’m now looking forward to that ride.

And any variation from it takes some getting used to.

Sometimes, of course, it can’t be helped. A road or trail is closed. Partway through the ride someone in the group has a massive mechanical. Weather or road conditions force the group in a different direction.

It’s OK, I don’t whine about it. At least not very much, and I try to conceal my whining behind semi-oblique sarcasm.

But still, it’s a bummer.

The Death Valley Trail Marathon: Rerouted

So if I get a little hangdog and have to adjust to the change when a group ride changes course, consider how I felt when I got the following email yesterday from the Death Valley Trail Marathon organizer:

Due to rain, snow and ice, the Titus Canyon Road has been closed by the Park Rangers. The event will be held on the alternate course along Westside Road. You can view the new course map online here.

The new course is a thirteen-mile out-and-back (as opposed to a point-to-point) on a dirt-and-gravel road (as opposed to in the beautiful wilderness of Titus Canyon), is almost perfectly flat (as opposed to twelve miles of climbing, followed by fourteen miles of descending), and the entire thing actually happens below sea level.

You know you are feeling disappointed when the most obviously exciting thing about a course is its peculiar altitude.

Now, I want to be clear: I am not angry about this course change. This is not the first time this has happened on this course, and the organizer went out of its way to make it clear in the sign-up: about a third of the time, weather forces a route change.

So again: I am not angry.

But I am bummed. Which means I have a decision to make.

Factors Considered

Last Saturday, The Runner and I ran 18 miles. I was tired at the end, but I was not demolished. I’m pretty sure that I can run a marathon this Saturday, and I want to try.

After all, I’ve been training for it for a whole six weeks. I don’t want to throw away all that preparation.

But do we drive eight-plus hours (each way) to do a flat dirt road marathon? Here are the things I’m considering:

  • The Bet: A couple weeks ago, more than a hundred of you gave me an excellent incentive to do this race: around $4000 worth of bets. The problem is, the premise of the bet is messed up now. I can still do the Trail Valley Marathon, but that marathon no longer has 2000 feet of climbing, nor does it have 5000 feet of descending. If, on the other hand, I do the modified version of this race, I think it will actually be harder for me; I was counting on that fourteen miles of downhill (and net elevation change of -3000 feet) to help my time.
  • The Alternatives: A marathon is 26.2 miles, and can be anywhere. A trail marathon is 26.2 miles on dirt, and can be anywhere. If we choose, I’ll bet The Runner and I could cobble together a trail marathon that is closer to where we live and closer in elevation gain / loss to what the original Death Valley Marathon was. Or we could pre-run the St. George Ironman course in its entirety. That would be helpful to The Runner, and with way more than 2000 feet of climbing, should easily satisfy the spirit of the bet.
  • The Scenery: Death Valley really is a place everyone should see. I was excited to show The Runner the Devil’s Golf Course, as well as the Artist’s Palette. Plus, the marathon actually goes through the Devil’s Golf Course, which I think could be a surreal experience worth having. On its own merits — if we had planned for this kind of marathon in the first place, in other words — this course might be cool to do.
  • The Drive: It takes at least eight hours to get to Death Valley. That’s a long drive. The thing is, though, I actually see this as a plus. A good audiobook can make a long drive a really great thing. (Audiobook fans: feel free to use the comments section to recommend an audiobook you’ve liked.)
  • The Cognitive Dissonance: There’s a good chance it will rain during the Death Valley Trail marathon itself. The strangeness of being cold and rained on in the hottest, driest desert in the U.S. sounds pretty interesting to me.

Honestly, I don’t know what to do. And The Runner is as stymied as I am.

By all means, Internet, share your wisdom with us. For we are baffled.


  1. Comment by Al | 02.3.2010 | 9:27 am

    Do whatever The Runner says and there will be no problems.

  2. Comment by Jenifer Kwasniewski | 02.3.2010 | 9:31 am

    Pre-run the St. George course. No brainer, unless it is a LONG drive away from home. In that case, make up your own marathon on local trails.

  3. Comment by Fat Cathy | 02.3.2010 | 9:32 am

    Ha! Al is right. But I personally wouldn’t want to drive 8 hours one way to do a race on a out and back dirt road. You should pre-run the St. George course.

  4. Comment by cbuffy | 02.3.2010 | 9:33 am

    I didn’t get in on the bet – so my vote doesn’t count.. but I would go for the St. G Ironman pre-run.. or just run your local trails. You’re right. 26.2 miles of trail marathon was the point – not necessarily the actual location. And St. G’s sounds equally challenging..

    Anxiously awaiting other’s audiobook suggestions. I’ve listened to everything my library has to offer, so I’m hoping for some good podcast suggestions!

  5. Comment by chad | 02.3.2010 | 9:35 am

    I think you should do it. It still sounds pretty awesome.

  6. Comment by Ryan in the Rock | 02.3.2010 | 9:46 am

    St. G Ironman pre-run….with the helmet cam

  7. Comment by dug | 02.3.2010 | 9:48 am

    are you kidding? damn the torpedoes! full speed ahead.

  8. Comment by Bob | 02.3.2010 | 9:54 am

    Al is a wise human.

  9. Comment by Nogocyclist | 02.3.2010 | 9:55 am

    Go pre-run the course for the runner. Then do the new route of this marathon during your July 4th vacation. The blog with video of this marathon would be very interesting!

  10. Comment by xtine | 02.3.2010 | 9:56 am

    St. George course sounds like the way to go. Though, like cbuffy, my vote shouldn’t count.

    As for audiobooks, I don’t have any suggestions, but I did manage to listen to a large number of This American Life podcasts on a recent road trip. They were all amazing. I highly recommend them.

  11. Comment by FixieFred | 02.3.2010 | 9:59 am

    Death Valley is still Death friggin Valley; no matter where you are running. Take your Orcas from Dante’s View down to Stovepipe Wells while you’re at it!

  12. Comment by MikeL | 02.3.2010 | 10:02 am

    Forget about the bets. You have got to do something you and the Runner will enjoy. If the rerouted Death Valley course does not work for you then find something else that does.

  13. Comment by fatbikeracer | 02.3.2010 | 10:02 am

    If you try to run that distance on flat ground, you will get hurt with a connective tissue injury that will never heal correctly. BAIL! Plus, there are no audio books on the planet worth listening to, what’s next are you going to read a movie? Sheesh. Might as well rotate your biopace sprockets 90 degrees and call them good for your knees.

  14. Comment by bikemike | 02.3.2010 | 10:08 am

    pretend you are running the whole race downhill, easy-squeezy. also run hard at first until you throw up, you’ll feel much better afterwards.

  15. Comment by CAGard | 02.3.2010 | 10:20 am

    An 8+ hour drive there would certainly be tough but the return trip would be even tougher thanks to the guaranteed punishment of the marathon. Pre-running St George sounds like the best option since it will involve some sort of roadtrip. Scouting the area would be helpful as well. However, doing what The Runner says is the right idea since she can drop you on the run like a bad habit.

  16. Comment by NYCCarlos | 02.3.2010 | 10:20 am

    My bet is good for a trail run marathon with The Runner on local trails (she is the official timer… not you) or for the new route at Death Valley… I think the St. George pre-run doesn’t really count in the spirit of the bet since it’s all road (isn’t it?). Let me know if you think St. George should count and tell me why, and I’ll consider it :).

  17. Comment by skippy | 02.3.2010 | 10:23 am

    Each year I ride the route of the “Giro d’Italia and the Tour de France” and I enjoy the “newness” of these routes although I have found that I am going down some roads from a different direction several times over the past 12 seasons! Variety is what brings these people from all parts of the world to the roadside , they come out to see the spectacle that passes before their eyes because of this variety. The Gallibier , the Alpe D’Huez and the Tourmalet can only be climbed from one direction or the other, certainly there are some Camper vans who park in the same spot year after year as they socialize with fellow cycle race followers!
    Can you imagine how boring the routes would be if they pass the same spot year after year. For me 12 times seeing the same families sitting in the same spot each year, wearing the same garments , eating the same feast , shouting the same encouragements! Instead of a pleasure it would be the stuff of nightmares! It would be like being a “hamster” on a treadmill!
    Variety is the spice of life and the Hype that the Media injects into our annual July expectations fills the websites to overflowing! The same route for an annual one day event is worth following year after year like the “Sydney to Surf Road Race” or the “New York Marathon” but even the “Tour of California” changes with the times. Due to Public demand it has grown and now runs on a different time frame. Regrettably it now clashes with the Giro d’Italia so that your Heroes including Lance look like they will be non starters.
    Fat Cyclist followers raised a huge sum of money for Livestrong some of which was donated to Haiti this past month. George Hincapie had a run last weekend as a fund raiser for Haiti and this coming W/end @adventurecorps is running an event for the same cause! Hopefully an offer to work for a Ski School here in the Zillertal will be taken up to contribute to the “Save the Children Fund”. Time to have “Skippy’s fan club” contribute to helping this sad cause.

    Discovered that clicking on the name of the commenter reveals their website so I don’t need to mention or any more!
    Fatty enjoy the run whichever route is thrown your way and the bets made will be good as I am sure they were made by believers in the cause!

  18. Comment by Tyler | 02.3.2010 | 10:32 am

    Fatty-go for the St. G pre-run IMO.

    Skippy-your thinly veiled attempts at linking to your page(s) is via comments here is getting a little tiring don’t you think? Maybe you don’t but I do.

  19. Comment by j2dahizzay | 02.3.2010 | 10:42 am

    Go Get em Fatty win those bets. Thanks for the discounts on your apparel.

  20. Comment by KanyonKris | 02.3.2010 | 10:45 am

    Death Valley, if only for the distinct scenery.

    Here’s the acid test: Think forward to having finished a local or St. George marathon run – will you be thinking you wished you would have done Death Valley?

  21. Comment by Randoboy | 02.3.2010 | 10:48 am

    RE: The Bet. Meh. I’ll pay up either way.

    RE: The Run. Choose the option that is more fun. You rarely regret fun.

    RE: Audiobook. Unabridged version of “Forrest Gump.” The plot is very different from the movie, and it’s just better in the audiobook format.

  22. Comment by Clydesteve | 02.3.2010 | 10:56 am

    Death Valley

    The Road by Cormac McCarthy

    (or Blood Meridian or All the Pretty Horses)

    They are are fairly light & cheery.

  23. Comment by deepbrook | 02.3.2010 | 11:01 am

    Audiobook: The Life and Times of the Thunderbolt Kid, by Bill Bryson

  24. Comment by NYCCarlos | 02.3.2010 | 11:01 am

    also… has anyone seen DZ’s wikipedia entry lately? apparently he was sponsored by Cheetos and Pampers in 2004, and was “asasanated” in 2010… who knew?

    love it.

  25. Comment by Eric W. | 02.3.2010 | 11:06 am

    My vote for a very entertaining and informative audiobook (even though it’s non-fiction) –

    In a Sunburned Country by Bill Bryson

    - it’s about Australia.

  26. Comment by Aaron | 02.3.2010 | 11:06 am

    I say, any excuse for a road trip. Go to Death Valley.

  27. Comment by Ashley | 02.3.2010 | 11:06 am

    Sorta the same, but different…

    I ran the Disney half marathon last month, and the conditions were NOT what they were supposed to be (Read: Sub 30 degree temperatures, rain-sleet-AND-snow). In Florida, to a Floridan girl, this was devastating. But I did it because I signed up and said I would. So I think you should do it. Especially since there are wagers involved. I can’t stand to lose a bet. The 8 hour drive will be an adventure, and I love a road trip.

    As for audio book recommendations–I read Stephen King’s Under the Dome in actual real book form, but my husband is listening to the audiobooks on his commute. And the man has never been so happy to be in his car, let me tell ya.

    Good luck with whatever you decide.

  28. Comment by the slow runner | 02.3.2010 | 11:08 am

    pre-running a marathon course twice = obsessive compulsive.
    the local trails – an acceptable alternative but it is a cop out
    go do the DVTM – death valley is amazing where ever you run. odd weather is going to make for good stories.
    then again, I have no bet in this…

    I assume “Dean Karnazes, ultramarathon man, confessions of an all night runner” is not out on audio book, so whoever is not driving has to read aloud.

  29. Comment by Wheels | 02.3.2010 | 11:16 am

    I’m with xtine on podcasts of This American Life. They’re all I listen to when traveling anymore. As well as I know you and The Runner, I feel very confident in this endorsement. You’ll laugh, you’ll cry, you’ll reference good stories in conversation, and want to discuss them with everyone you know. Check out the favorites on for recommendations.

  30. Comment by protoceratops | 02.3.2010 | 11:19 am

    Death Valley, no question.

    Amazing scenery. Westside Road is not the same course by a bunch, but DV is still DV, and it is still one of a kind. And you said.

    You didn’t reply to my (late) bet offer?
    So it’s still (off)?

  31. Comment by kolwave | 02.3.2010 | 11:28 am

    I went hiking in Death Valley over Thanksgiving 2009, so I vote DV! It’s too bad that you won’t be running the original route, but there are so many cool places to see nonetheless. Also, since you like steep ascents, be sure to check out the Ubehebe crater (700-ft deep). I’ve seen people literally crawl back out again.

    Also, the Bill Bryson suggestion is solid: “A Walk in the Woods” and “A Short History of Nearly Everything”.

  32. Comment by Peter Hall | 02.3.2010 | 11:28 am

    Maybe next time you could do the Tough Guy Challenge:

    Surely this would generate some fantastic blog stuff. Not that we hate you or anything. Actually the opposite is true.


  33. Comment by Foam Roleur | 02.3.2010 | 11:31 am

    I recently got into audiobooks myself, and highly recommend the following:

    1. Born to Run, McDougall – You or the Runner may have already read this, but if not it’s must. Will make you rethink running, and get you pumped for the event.

    2. The Sex Lives of Cannibals, Troost – hi-larious travelogue. I found myself looking forward to commutes, just to listen to more.

    Hope you have a great time, no matter what you end up doing.

  34. Comment by Terry Miller | 02.3.2010 | 11:34 am

    Definitely Pre-run St George. Out-and backs are the most boring routes in the world, unless the destination is worth getting to (i.e. a mountaintop, a great view, miles of awesome singletrack). Unless The Runner says otherwise, of course!

  35. Comment by geo | 02.3.2010 | 11:41 am

    Definitely go to Death Valley. Run below sealevel. Wear a scubba mask for a joke…

  36. Comment by Less Fat Mike - now just as Fat | 02.3.2010 | 12:07 pm

    If you like satire (after reading this blog, I think you might), might I suggest Pride and Prejudice and Zombies or Sense and Sensibility and Sea Monsters.

  37. Comment by dc | 02.3.2010 | 12:07 pm

    So, you see, that’s why I don’t ride in any of the Grand Tours.

    A different route each year is a major part in what makes Ragbrai special. You do lump it into the Grand Tours, right?!

  38. Comment by Double U | 02.3.2010 | 12:08 pm

    Pre-run St George and be happy. You might as well cut off your little finger rather than run a flat out and back.

    Atlas Shrug by Ayn Rand. Classic.

  39. Comment by KanyonKris | 02.3.2010 | 12:15 pm

    Clydesteve – were you riding up AF Canyon at 7 pm with lights? If so, you are hard core and Fatty is right to tell you to knock it off so the rest of us don’t feel bad. I was at Little Mill XC skiing.

  40. Comment by brian | 02.3.2010 | 12:22 pm

    I vote for doing the Death Valley marathon. If I were going to kill myself and run 26.2 miles I would want to do it in a real event. It would also be nice to have the support like the aid stations, etc.

  41. Comment by KanyonKris | 02.3.2010 | 12:24 pm

    In a Sunburned County – I agree, this would be a good road trip audiobook.

    Bill Bryson – I’ve read two of his books now. My guess is any of his audiobooks would be good. A Short History of Nearly Everything is one of my favorite books, but it’s long and sciency so not sure how it would work as an audiobook.

    The Road – I read the book but I imagine it would be good to listen to. dug liked the audiobook.

    Blood Meridian – violent and gruesome, if you want something light for the trip, this is not it. The Road is better.

  42. Comment by chelsea | 02.3.2010 | 12:24 pm

    come to austin and run the austin marathon! the 14th.

  43. Comment by centurion | 02.3.2010 | 12:28 pm

    Do Death Valley, it’s Death Valley after all. In a Sunburned Country is a good listen. Or any of the Harry Potter books. The narrator, Jim Dale, is wonderful, it will make the time fly.

  44. Comment by Apertome | 02.3.2010 | 1:01 pm

    Death Valley is what you said you’d do, anything else is a cop-out. ;)

  45. Comment by Lauren | 02.3.2010 | 1:11 pm

    I think you should do it this Saturday because that’s my birthday :)

  46. Comment by Paul H | 02.3.2010 | 1:15 pm

    Road Trip – Death Valley

  47. Comment by sharon | 02.3.2010 | 1:25 pm

    do it. you said you would. I want a picture of the medal. ;)

  48. Comment by Kathleen@ForgingAhead | 02.3.2010 | 1:29 pm

    First off, I love this combo of words: semi-oblique sarcasm. Nicely done.

    I vote for cobbling together a trail marathon or pre-run the St. George Ironman course. But then I’m not in on the bet so my vote doesn’t really count.

  49. Comment by Caspar | 02.3.2010 | 1:32 pm

    A weekend has two days………..Do both!

  50. Comment by Den | 02.3.2010 | 1:40 pm

    They bought their tickets, they knew what they were getting into!

  51. Comment by Fexy01 | 02.3.2010 | 1:44 pm

    Would you care for a little cheese with that whine? ;)

  52. Comment by brad | 02.3.2010 | 1:57 pm

    great audiobook: The Story of Edgar Sawtelle

  53. Comment by Mary from NC | 02.3.2010 | 1:57 pm

    OMG pull yourself together (virtual slaps to both sides of the face). Yesterday you couldn’t ride in the snow/fog/rain while other and today you are looking for excuses ALL over the place to NOT run the marathon this weekend.
    As a member of Fatty Nation, I am ashamed of you

  54. Comment by GJ Jackie | 02.3.2010 | 2:02 pm

    I guess it depends if you want to do an event or go for a run. One of the most cool things about doing an organized event is that you’re suffering with lots of other people.

    We all know you could run the distance whatever the locale, but where would you find the most joy?

  55. Comment by John | 02.3.2010 | 2:03 pm

    I think you can collect on the bets with any combination of trail runs – but a race is a race and a trail run with your friend (no matter how cute) is training.

    At mile 18 in Death Valley, if someone tries to pass you, you will grit your teeth, hitch up your rolls of fat, and try to go faster.

    At mile 18 on a self-supported trail run you’ll go ‘Oh look – a bunny!’

    So you could go do the St George course (and I would appreciate the intel… be sure to wear a GPS) – but you won’t be able to say you raced…

  56. Comment by Eric | 02.3.2010 | 2:07 pm

    Fatty –

    Al hit it with the first comment. Do what The Runner says. Decision made. ;-)

    If it were me, I’d either pre-run St. George or cobble together 26.2 miles around your place. 16 hours of driving for 26.2 miles of flat running would drive me nuts, audio book or not.

    Regardless of what you decide, if you finish under 4:39, you’ll still get my $25.

  57. Comment by TedM | 02.3.2010 | 2:09 pm

    I vote for Death Valley. Sharing the event with all of the participants makes up for a less than exiting route.

    My audiobook suggestion would be The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo by Stieg Larsson

  58. Comment by Clydesteve | 02.3.2010 | 2:11 pm

    KanyonKris – No, I was not really in AF Canyon at 7pm with lights – That was a joke – But I was in the foothils of the Cascades in Oregon at 7pm with lights, in crappy weather.

    And FWIW, on 2nd thought I agree with you about Blood Meridian – on audio, that just might cross the line to too violent & gruesome to be a good listen.

  59. Comment by Clydesteve | 02.3.2010 | 2:14 pm

    BTW, Fatty, I’m going hard core here – My bet was on the DVTM – you drop out & you owe my LSC HQ a $100 donation – read the bet & weep, Captain, O’ Captain.

  60. Comment by trish | 02.3.2010 | 2:17 pm

    I’m with Brian: DV is a “real event” and there will be “aid stations” that might come in handy. Also, unless The Runner is happy to stick with you for all 26.2–I know, why wouldn’t she be?–at the DV you’ll be able to say, go ahead, see you at the end, wave at me on your way back.
    The best advice came from the first commenter: do what The Runner wants to do.

  61. Comment by Frank | 02.3.2010 | 2:19 pm

    Reduce greenhouse gases, run from home!

  62. Comment by Abbie | 02.3.2010 | 2:20 pm

    I agree w/ Al…listen to The Runner. (I’m a girl…that’s why I know this to be your best option.) :)

    And to comment on your question “are there any other sports where the most-well-known annual event is actually a completely different event each year?”…the answer is the 4 majors in golf. Yes, the Masters is always played at Augusta, but they change the course. The other three tournaments (PGA Championship, US Open, and the British Open) are at different courses each year. That doesn’t mean a particular course hasn’t hosted the event in the past, but even if they have they change the course.

    SO…I don’t know how you feel about golf, but I would say they are all very different events each year.

  63. Comment by Mellow Velo | 02.3.2010 | 2:37 pm

    My only comment is that an organized race with spectators, food and water stations, other people and stuff to look forward to at the end is always WAY more motivating than doing any distance alone.

    Ask yourself where you prefer to be at mile 22, where many runners are known to “hit the wall.” What will you need at that moment to motivate you forward? Competition? Solitude? A happy runner? A post-race party?

  64. Comment by bubbaseadog | 02.3.2010 | 2:37 pm

    do death valley the twenty mule team did it,plus youll get to know the runner just a little bit better on a 16hour road trip. go for it and have fun..any book by harold robbins would be a good choice.

  65. Comment by Paul | 02.3.2010 | 2:58 pm


    Go (really)


    The scenery of Death Valley alone makes it worth it. Plus, there is always the intangible benefits of a road trip: the unpredictability, the shared experiences, the inevitable stories fondly recalled later.

    Plus, have you ever considered running a marathon by yourselves and having no one to cheer or be at the finish line? Proposterous.

    One year my wife and I – it was on our honeymoon actually – happened to be staying in a small town where the marathon course for Ironman Canada came through. We were waiting for a pizza pick-up and we went to see what the commotion was about on the other side of town. These people would stumble by (the fast, fit people had already passed long ago), then hit the turnaround point a kilomtere or so down the road, then stumble by again going the other way. The dreaded half-way ump of the marathon component of an ironman. Most were walking by this time, some very wobbly indeed.

    Anyways, there was a group of some teenagers who had the entry list with the names matched to numbers on the runner’s chests. One of them would read out the number, then the another one would look up the name in the book. When the person drew near, they would erupt in loud cheering, calling out the person’s name. The runner would sway, trying to focus, blinkling through the sweat and dirt, and peer myopically at the teenagers, trying to figure out with their addled, carb-depleted brain if they knew these people or not.

    But, almost every runner – once the shock had worn off – dramatically picked up their pace. Many started running again. Some were still running when they came by on the home stretch. The effect was startling. In a long race, the cheer factor and the knowledge that there are symapthetic people (also, drinks, treats, and masseurs) at the finish line cannot be discounted.

    I would highly recomend the Aubry-Maturin (Master and Commdander) series by Patrick O’Brian for audio books. Plus, there are 21 of them. Try them!

  66. Comment by Mike Roadie | 02.3.2010 | 3:02 pm

    It’s obvious!! It’s a sign!!

    STAY IN BED!!!!

  67. Comment by Judgement free zone | 02.3.2010 | 3:10 pm

    For me the answer is easy- run the course that will have all the other people running, not a marathon with just you and the runner. I want to hear about your experience, but also how your experience meshes with all the other people out there. It’s the difference between going for a bike ride and doing a bike ride event.

    I vote to go with the changed route for the marathon you signed up for.

  68. Comment by Scotty | 02.3.2010 | 3:36 pm

    Running a random 26.2 miles is no comparison to running an organized Marathon. Both are enjoyable, but they are different. I think you should make the drive and complete DVTM, that was the plan, stick to the plan. So… when are you going to RUN Leadville??

  69. Comment by James | 02.3.2010 | 3:54 pm

    You got to go do the marathon on the course its on. Runners are adaptable, flexible… Plus – probably a cool finisher’s shirt… a medal… an excuse to eat pasta in a foreign land… an excuse to have drinks after the race in a foreign land… loads of car time… shared suffering… the thrill and adrenaline of actual racing…
    Running 26.2 around the house is a long training run… if you want to do that you can do that any weekend… and you already pre-ran St Georges for the most part…

  70. Comment by tibiker | 02.3.2010 | 5:40 pm

    Not to pile on to your frustration/misery with re-routes, but I thought you should know that Clark’s trail has had a re-route recently. After you leave the woods, there is a switchback which takes you back into the woods and then another switchback which takes you up to the top of the trail. It’s only a couple hundred yards, but it’s going to mess up the Clark’s TT times for sure. Bummer huh?

  71. Comment by Alex | 02.3.2010 | 5:44 pm

    I agree with Al, Do as The Runner says. Unless she plays the “It’s up to you” card, at which point my vote (though it doesn’t really count) is for Death Valley. Sure the out-and-back course will be boring, but it’s Death Valley and as you know the scenery will different than what you’re used to seeing on your runs in Utah. And a supported event with aid stations is a definite plus.
    I also agree with whoever it was that commented on the bonding experience of a long drive. Could be a great thing for you and the runner :)
    As for the audio books, I strongly second (or is it third or fourth by now) the suggestion of A Short History of Nearly Everything by Bill Bryson. Like Kanyon said, it is a bit science-y but Bryson does a great job of dumbing some of the more complicated matters down as well as adding humor to what originally put you to sleep in your high school physics class.
    Another suggestion would be Wally Lamb’s The Hour I First Believed. It’s a bit sad but the story is gripping.
    Oh and one more, The Book Thief by Markus Zusak. A story of a little girl in WWII Nazi Germany told from the prospective of Death.

  72. Comment by bo | 02.3.2010 | 6:00 pm

    Stick with your commitments. Run Death Valley.

  73. Comment by VA Biker | 02.3.2010 | 6:04 pm

    Paul’s description (2:58pm) of nearly desperate runners at the turnaround is great. That’s, um, some real motivation there!

    Elden, I think you should either do the St. George course or the local thing. Either way, both you and The Runner get to see more of your (respective) kids this weekend.

    Haven’t done audiobooks yet, but check them out for my kid. The suggestion of Jim Dale and HP is great. I did check out the biography of William Shakespeare, but didn’t get around to listening…

  74. Comment by Philly Jen | 02.3.2010 | 6:34 pm

    Pre-run St. George, no question. Just make it a “photo finish” by having some of the Core Team there to take some snaps and verify your times. Bet they’d do it for some brats…

    Then do DV for real next year. Sub-4.

  75. Comment by stanaconda | 02.3.2010 | 7:44 pm

    Audiobook: The Life and Times of the Thunderbolt Kid, by Bill Bryson I laughed harder than any other book I have listened to. Do Death Valley or find another sanctioned(ish) marathon. I need validation and a t-shirt to make it real.

  76. Comment by Elizabeth | 02.3.2010 | 8:34 pm

    Skip the marathon, go for a bike ride instead. :)

  77. Comment by Anonymous | 02.3.2010 | 8:36 pm

    Go to Death Valley.

  78. Comment by Jennifer | 02.3.2010 | 8:43 pm

    You said you would do Death Valley.
    You made bets about doing Death Valley.
    Death Valley is still on.
    Rise to the challenge you set in front of us all. Don’t be afraid! I’m sure you can do the marathon! You are tough, you’ve been training, don’t be scared!

  79. Comment by Jen Gatz | 02.3.2010 | 9:13 pm

    Death Valley is where you hedged your bets. The race is still on, go!

  80. Comment by BamaJim | 02.3.2010 | 9:31 pm

    I’d go ahead and do the race, course change or not, but whatever you pick, I’m still good with the bet (which I still expect to loose, and will do so with a smile).

    I don’t normally listen to audiobooks while traveling, but I did enjoy listening to the Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy and The Restaurant at the End of the Universe with a friend (since lost to MS) while commuting to/from work. Would be somewhat more lighthearted than some of the suggestions (do you really want to listen to The Road while recovering from a marathon?)

  81. Comment by Dave M | 02.3.2010 | 9:53 pm

    Do it!!!!! Come it at < 4:20 something!!!! Get the money!!!

    Bonus…Have some T-shirts printed up saying…

    “I got rained on in Death Valley and All I got Was This Lousy T-shirt! (And 4 Large for LiveSTRONG!!)”

  82. Comment by Sasha | 02.3.2010 | 10:11 pm

    Aloha Runner & Fatty aka Skinny!

    I say I will support whatever event you decide to take. However, in my humble opinion, I like the idea of you doing a trail run marathon closer to home. I guess we would have to do it on the honor system. :) I trust you though and I know the Runner wouldn’t lie for you so I think that we are safe that you wouldn’t fib about your time. I think that doing that would be far more fun than doing an out and back marathon on flats (yuck). My favorite Alaskan marathon, Mayors Midnight Sun Marathon, has a 1/2 that is out and back and the middle of it is INCREDIBLY boring and flat. I would much rather have some scenery and some terrain than do an out anc back flat run, but that’s me and I am after all a reformed runner. :)

    Whatever you decide let us know. We are traveling back to Alaska on Saturday so won’t be able to get the results (if you post them) until Sunday.


  83. Comment by Sasha | 02.3.2010 | 10:12 pm

    Forgot to mention, I really like Dave M.’s idea about the t-shirt. :)

  84. Comment by Ken | 02.3.2010 | 11:26 pm

    Death Valley, I was planning to drive out and check out the race and see how you do. I am only a couple hours away.

  85. Comment by Eric Miraglia | 02.3.2010 | 11:39 pm

    Life is short: Run somewhere beautiful. Pre-run St. George, pick out 26 miles of the White Rim Road, whatever — and then go back and run the Titus route next time they don’t reroute the race.

    BamaJim is right that Hitchiker’s Guide read by Douglas Adams is the pinnacle of audiobook achievement. The Tales of the Otori are also very satisfying. Lonesome Dove is surprisingly good as an audiobook.

  86. Comment by sunnyhello | 02.4.2010 | 12:05 am

    If it were me I would choose Death Valley. I prefer to run alone and am damn picky about running places that are fun for me; a flat dirt road sounds like the least fun place ever to fun; but I love race day. I love being around 100s or 1000s of other people who are happy to be where they are, who are exactly where they want to be, who are all in the moment. When else does that happen?

    Also, don’t discount the possibility of marvels you have not imagined replacing those you had anticipated.

    But hey, it’s not me, it’s you. Follow your instinct and trust your legs. Whatever you decide to do, rock it as hard as you can, go wild & unmeasured, burn out your reserves, laugh out loud at some point, and have a blast.

  87. Comment by Bee | 02.4.2010 | 1:20 am

    I didn’t bet so my vote doesn’t count but if it were me, i’d do the pre run for moral support or a full run closer to home. The last time I tried to suck it up and do an event just bc I had signed up, I ended up crashing and breaking some important bones. The karma just isn’t w you in suck it up mode.

    But if you do go, I like This American Life too.

  88. Comment by Erwin | 02.4.2010 | 2:44 am

    I’ll second “Born to Run” – best book I read last year.

  89. Comment by Big Mike In Oz | 02.4.2010 | 5:48 am

    “It makes an excellent yardstick of my fitness for the year.” I think your whole argument falls down right there. I haven’t spoken to too many Euro pros but I’m pretty certain that they don’t plonk down their entry fee for the TdF as a means of comparing their fitness level with previous Julys.

  90. Comment by Cardiac Kid | 02.4.2010 | 6:27 am

    Not sure I agree with this. If the bet was to run Death Valley than wouldn’t it better to pay out the bet or give the money back and start planning for the next activity?

    Just kind of feels like you told us you would climb Everest but couldn’t get there in time so you’re going to climb the hill your back yard 10 times instead because you would still be climbing.

    Not really the same thing is it?

  91. Comment by TSchmidty | 02.4.2010 | 6:30 am

    Run Death Valley.

    Listen to Tishomingo Blues on the way. Not really Elmore Leonard’s best book but Paul Rudd does a fantastic job reading it. Clear enunciation and he really brings out the characters. Makes me wish he did more audiobooks, but I think movies pay a little better.

  92. Comment by Neil | 02.4.2010 | 6:41 am

    You know what to do you signed up for it. You may have mixed feelings now but when you are sitting in the Bikemobile heading towards Death Valley everything will feel just great, no regrets.

  93. Comment by Douglas | 02.4.2010 | 7:08 am

    You didn’t have all these conditions back when you were talking smak, run fat boy run!

    also would you like some whine with your cheese?

  94. Comment by Bicycle Bill | 02.4.2010 | 9:44 am

    for dc: RAGBRAI is not a race, or one of the “Grand Tours” — RAGBRAI is a week-long party cleverly disguised as a bicycle ride.

    Incidentally, here is a link to this year’s route.

    And Fatty — I think you should do the Death Valley course. From the sounds of it, there were a few other things you wanted to show the Runner while you were there anyway, so go for it.


  95. Comment by Trish | 02.4.2010 | 9:56 am

    Listen to The Memory of Running by Ron McLarty.

  96. Comment by GJ Jackie | 02.4.2010 | 9:59 am

    “like some whine with your cheese?” HA! Good one Douglas. I’m with you.

    BTW, I love Eric Miraglia’s (11:39 pm) idea about running 26 miles of the White Rim Road for the beauty factor, but don’t bother. It’s covered in SNOW. Crappy winter this year in Moab.

  97. Comment by allie | 02.4.2010 | 10:29 am

    When I was a senior in college, I signed up for the LA Marathon…I trained for and did the thing in complete secret. (Totally afraid that I would publicly fail) I have arthritis and knew I would most likely end up walking some of it..maybe not even finish when the course was open. Morning of the run, I woke up…drove the hour to start area. It began to pour rain…like nothing I had ever moved in before. It took 6:36:26 to complete the whole thing…drowned rats looked glamorous compared to me. I still remember the lady who sat outside of a KFC crying around mile 22–I looked at her and asked if she wanted to finish this thing with a new friend? Sure enough…we did it. Do the damn race that you signed up for…show the kids that we complete what we start. Love the podcasts on iTunes: The Splendid Table is fantastic if you love food.

  98. Comment by Lloyd | 02.4.2010 | 10:35 am

    Man up, or pay up.

  99. Comment by Joanie | 02.4.2010 | 11:46 am

    I like Al’s adivce. The first one on the list, as my husband name is Al also, and he would say the same thing, “do what ever the Runner wants” and it will be all good. ;-)

  100. Comment by Charles | 02.4.2010 | 12:17 pm

    1776 by McCullough

  101. Comment by cyclingjimbo | 02.4.2010 | 12:20 pm

    I think you only have two options:

    1. Do what The Runner wants to do (it took me awhile to figure out that answer for myself, but after 42 years of marriage I have finally learned my lessons – don’t be a slow learner).

    2. Run Death Valley – it’s what you signed up for and what you made your bets on. Most of your loyal fans seem to be favoring this option over any other course.

    If option 1 and 2 do not wind up being the same run, Option 1 wins. Your relationship with The Runner is going to outlast any marathon you will ever run, so whatever she wants wins. She is The Runner, and you, Elden, are the Fat Cyclist – this marathon is more about her than it is about you and your bets. For things cycling your word might hold sway (unless The Runner has a different opinion, of course), but for lots of reasons this time you need to yield to her. Get over it and ask her what she wants to do.

  102. Comment by Rob | 02.5.2010 | 8:19 pm

    Listen to SNOW CRASH by Neal Stephenson- it’s a *great* story on so many levels!


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