Thursday, February 21, 2013

Arizona Lost Dutchman Marathon Review

Lost Dutchman Marathon
February 17, 2013
Michael & me with "Jacob Waltz" ... AKA "The Lost Dutchman"
Apache Junction, Arizona
25th Marathon Completed

Runners: 384/full, 889/half
Course: BEAUTIFUL!!!  Gold Canyon to Apache Junction along Apache Trail, fairly challenging 1052' of descent  mixed with rolling hills
Temp: 46 at the start, 60 at the finish
Wind: 5 ENE
SWAG: Thick medal, Long Sleeve Tech-T
Food: Bananas, Oranges, Bagles & GU at the beginning of the race throughout course, great post food including burritos
Volunteer Support: Good but sparse
Water Stops: Good, needed more sports drink
Crowd Support: Very sparse
Time: 3:28:59
Pace: 7:58/mile
Place: 35th/384 Overall,  7th/32 in 40-44 Age Group
Total Experience: 1 2 3 4 5

Runners huddled by fires in front of beautiful Superstition Mountain before the 2013 Lost Dutchman Marathon

    - Maybe the most beautiful marathon course I've ran, watching the sun come up on Superstition Mountain was amazing
    - The first 6 miles are ran on a dirt road through the desert mountains
    - Staff was VERY accommodating and helpful the whole weekend, handing out sunblock & bandaids pre-race
    - Unique pre-race environment with runners huddled by fires at the base of the mountain on the desert floor
    - Convenient shuttle from hotel to starting line
    - "Warm-Up Bus" parked at the starting line so runners could relax in heated area before the race
    - One of my favorite race shirts so far with a great logo
    - Host hotel kind of in the middle of nowhere at the Gold Canyon Golf Resort, but very nice
    - Probably did a little too much hiking and not enough resting the three days before the race in Arizona
    - On pace for PR until I hit the hill at mile 22 and just shut it down and coasted to finish
    - Several Arizonians I talked to said this race was, "The Real Arizona Marathon"
    - Got to meet Rachelle from Running For Trevor ... she's a little Speed Queen!
    - Simply a great small race with only a few minor areas of improvement - could've easily rated it a "5"

Finisher Medal & Race Shirt
Left: 2013 Lost Dutchman Marathon Finisher Medal
Right: Long Sleeve Technical-T Race Shirt

Pool at the Pointe Hilton Tapatio Cliffs Resort in Phoenix, Arizona
Long Weekend in Arizona
(Michael and I also used this trip as a short vacation, following are some of the photos ... the rest of the marathon review is at the bottom)

My wife love-love-loves vacation.  Any shape or size ... she's all about it!  So when we decided to run a race in Arizona, a place that neither of us had ever been, we decided to make a long weekend out of it.  And the fact that there was a 40 degree temperature difference between KC and the "Valley of the Sun" sealed the deal.

We flew out of KCI on Thursday morning and spent a few days in Phoenix before heading over to Apache Junction, just East of the metro area.  We tried to see and do a lot of different things, but Phoenix a huge city, and 4 days wrapped around a marathon didn't give us time to do everything we wanted.

Our weekend began at Pointe Hilton Tapatio Cliffs Resort in West Phoenix.  It was a very nice resort catering to golfers and people that wanted to lounge by their beautiful pool.  Michael qualified for the latter.  The only downside to the resort was that it was built on the side of a cliff and the paths "to and from" seemed to be at a 45 degree angle.  It really seemed to burn a lot of energy just walking back and forth to the room.  But it was definitely a distant second to the hiking we did the few days before the race.

Hole In The Rock natural red-rock geological  formation at Papago Park in Phoenix, Arizona
There are a ton of beautiful hiking trails around the Phoenix area near the base of the mountains.  Michael and I went out exploring with the intention of light "nature walks", but often soon found ourselves climbing some of the incredible rock formations, including the red-colored natural geological formation, Hole In The Rock in Papago Park.  The sun setting on the red rocks really made them glow.

View of the valley from Hole In The Rock
Idiot finally at the top ... now how do I get down!
Two very inexperienced mountain climbers, err hikers

At Hole In The Rock, I thought it would be a cool thing for a 44 year old man, with no rock climbing experience, to climb to the top.   I mean, there were a ton of young folks doing it ... how hard could it be ... right?

So I started climbing and got about 40 feet from the peak before realizing I was too high without a rope or any kind of safety equipment.  And I kinda started panicking a little.  My heart was racing as I turned around and looked down ... which I don't think you're supposed to do.  I seriously didn't know how I was gonna get down without falling and started praying, "God, please don't let me die here!" over and over.  I can't remember being that scared in a while. I could actually hear a couple of people on the ground pointing and saying "Look at that guy, that's too steep!"   I quickly realized that going up on the face of a rock is apparently a lot easier than coming down.

But I tried to relax, and think, and look for another path that wouldn't allow me to slide to my death.  I slowly made my way down and two girls about 30 feet below me were like, "Oh my gosh are you okay?"  I was pretty wobbly legged and embarrassed, so we left shortly after that.  But at the top, I made sure I had Michael take a picture of me ... just in case it was my last.

Michael on a short trail near our resort in West Phoenix
We also took about half a day and went through the Desert Botanical Garden of Phoenix ... and it was amazing.  I've lived in the Midwest all my life and seen about every deciduous tree there is, but the cacti and desert plants on display in the garden were incredible.  At first glance, the desert appears brown and dead.  But when you take a closer look, you learn that there are many wonderful living things there.

One of the coolest things about the Desert Botanical Garden was the The Four Seasons exhibit by American artist and film maker Philip Haas.  There were four separate sculptures created from natural elements representing winter, spring, summer, and fall.  The photo on the right is the sculpture that portrayed winter.  But to be honest, while we were there, winter in Phoenix seemed to consist of perfect, sunny 78 degree afternoons.  So in actuality, instead of a menacing look, the sculpture should be smiling while he soaks up the sun.  I mean if you wanna experience winter, follow us back to the Midwest and get about 16" of snow this week!


Valentines Day was a few days before the race, so I took my Sweetheart to a nice dinner and we enjoyed a perfect evening in the desert.  During our trip we also snapped a quick picture at Phoenix Municipal Stadium,  the Spring Training home of the Oakland Athletics.  There are currently 15 Major League Baseball teams that hold Spring Training in, and around the Phoenix Metro area.  We arrived in town the day Spring Training started for all Major League teams, but we didn't have time on this trip to visit any other parks ... which killed me.  We'll definitely have to go back for that.

Nighttime entrance to Pointe Hilton Tapatio Cliffs Resort

The creosote bush (pictured above), is a green leafy plant that thrives in desert heat.  It is often confused with a petroleum product by the same name used to preserve railroad ties and telephone poles throughout the U.S.

My beautiful bride in the setting sun

(Pictured above) Michael & me at Phoenix Municipal Stadium, winter home of the Oakland Athletics.  We tried to get by our Kansas City Royals Spring Training complex in Surprise, but just didn't have time .... but GO ROYALS!!!

The view from our marathon resort the day before the race - Gold Canyon Golf Resort in Apache Junction, AZ

While at a Phoenix park (left), we were visited by these black and white Ring Neck Ducks.  There were several Mallards there as well, but these guys stood out with their beautiful gold eyes.  We spent some time relaxing at this park before heading to packet pick up, and finally to Apache Junction for the marathon.

(End of the vacation section ... now back to the marathon review)

Legend Of The Lost Dutchman
The legend of the Lost Dutchman is a tale that dates back to the 1800's.  The "Dutchman" was Jacob Waltz, and he was actually a German immigrant.  Waltz was a prospector who reportedly found a large gold mine hidden in Superstition Mountain, a group of mountains commonly referred to as singular, just East of Phoenix in Pinal County, near Apache Junction, Arizona.

Apache Indians were the first to find gold and become familiar with the mountain range.  However, Spanish Conquistadors later followed and attempted to mine gold from the area, know today as Gold Canyon.  The Spaniards requested help from the Apache, however the Indians were afraid of Superstition Mountain because of the "Thunder God" believed to dwell there.  The Apache held that the "Thunder God" protected the gold and brought swift justice to those attempting to steal it.  During the period when the Spaniards were mining gold from the area, there were several reports of missing and brutally maimed mine workers who sometimes later showed up decapitated  reinforcing the stories.

Superstition Mountain near Apache Junction, AZ ... home to the legend of the Lost Dutchman
Don Miguel Peralta was the first Spaniard to find gold in Superstition Mountain.  The area where the mine entrance was said to be located was near a very distinct rock formation pointing straight toward the sky.  Peralta thought it looked like a Sombrero, so he named it "Sombrero Mine".  Others nicknamed it "The Finger Of God".  Later, prospector Pauline Weaver named it "Weaver's Needle".  Today it is referred to by all three.  In 1848, the Apache had grown tired of the Spaniards pillaging their gold and massacred Peralta and all of his men.  The mine was unexplored for many years after that.

Gold Canyon Golf Resort
Around 1870, Jacob Waltz began prospecting in the area with, Jacob Weiser, a partner he had met while working at another gold mine.  It is believed that around this time, Waltz and Weiser found a lost gold mine because over the next two decades they were seen spending gold nuggets throughout Phoenix.  It's unclear how they discovered the mine, but the most accepted version is that they saved the life of Don Miguel Peralta's son in a bar fight, in which he revealed the location of the mine as a reward.

After Waltz and Weiser had been frequently seen and were known around the Phoenix area, Weiser suddenly disappeared.  The most commonly held belief is that Waltz killed him.  Waltz was believed to have killed  another man who came upon his claim as well.  During those years, Waltz would disappear for weeks at a time and then come back into town with the most pure gold nuggets anyone had ever seen.  He would simply ride off for a while and then return with saddlebags full of gold.  When asked where it came from, he would always give conflicting stories, never giving up the location of his private mine.  However, near his death in 1891, he confided in his romantic interest, Julia Elena Thomas, the location of the mine.  The way he described the location perfectly described the "Finger Of God".  He promised to take Thomas to the location, but died before he had the opportunity.

Even though potentially a murderer, Jacob Waltz, or "The Lost Dutchman", is one of the most revered and famous prospectors of all time.  But over the years, there has been a lot of death and misery that has beset those looking for his gold.  Several have died while looking for the treasures that are believed to remain there.  And even today there is a story in the Phoenix news about some hikers that are missing who were believed to be looking for "The Lost Dutchman's" gold mine.

Packet Pick Up, Gold Canyon Lodge, and Pre-Race
Michael at our favorite store ... easy girl, it's not Disney World
After spending a couple of days vacationing in Phoenix, we got down to the business of the marathon.  The host hotel for the race was the Gold Canyon Golf Resort, located near the base of Superstition Mountain in Apache Junction ... or AJ, as the locals call it.  I'm not a golfer, but apparently it's a very highly rated golf course by Golfer's Digest.  That being said, the resort was a stark contrast from where we had stayed the two days before.  It was nice, but definitely a lot smaller and it seemed like we were out in the middle of nowhere, about 40 minutes from the Phoenix Airport.

The resort staff was very helpful and got us settled without much trouble.  As with the first resort, the hike back and forth to our room was a hilly adventure, probably burning the remaining glycogen stores in my legs ... before the race.  But we made the best of it. There were also three adjoining restaurants that had a nice selection of food.  But there were only enough servers for one of them, so all of our meals were really lengthy.

Packet pickup was held at one of our favorite places on the planet ... ROADRUNNER SPORTS!!!  We've purchased a lot of running stuff from their online store over the years, and didn't realize until recently that they have retail locations.  This one in Tempe was home to Packet Pick Up for a couple of days before the race.  There was also an additional Packet Pick Up and Expo at the race location in Apache Junction the actual day before the race.  (Free plug for - we obviously try to buy local when we can, but there are times when pricing and selection limit those options.  I really encourage  you check out Roadrunner Sports - it's were I get all of my shoes.  Typically you can combine their already low prices with an online coupon for huge savings)

Michael chatting with Race Director Grady McEachern
Michael ran into a little snag while gathering her race goodies at the store.  She had ordered a small race shirt, but all they had left were mediums.  She emailed one of the race directors, Grady McEachern, who responded immediately, and promptly set aside a small for her to be picked up the next day at the Expo in Apache Junction.

Not only that, Grady met her at the Expo when she was picking up her shirt and apologized for the mix up.  I thought that was really awesome.  I'd heard how this race really had a personal touch and was very runner friendly, and right off the bat Grady and his crew made that claim a reality.  Thanks Grady!

One of the other "personal touches" that Michael enjoyed, but kinda pissed me off, was her pre-race rub down she just had to have from local "Massage Guy".  One of her hips was tight and sore so she jumped on the table for a quick stretch.  Now, I'm really not at all the jealous type, but this guy got my wife in some really weird positions right there in front of everyone at the Expo.

Then, to make matters worse, his buddy "Hair In A Pony Tail Massage Guy" came over to check things out.  Was that really necessary?  Chief ... eyes on your own work!  Don't you have some towels to fold, or some want ads to search for places offering slightly manlier employment or something?  I mean, Michael and I both get leg massages all the time from our friend Christa who is awesome.  But two things ... Christa's a chick,  and her hair is shorter than "Hair In A Pony Tail Massage Guy" ... or, the creepy gawker.  I'm not sure why this made me so mad, but I was pissed for a while about it.  I have absolutely no problem with my wife getting a massage from a man or woman, I just don't want to see it.  And I definitely don't think we need "Hair In A Pony Tail Massage Guy" standing there drooling.  Michael, of course, had a good laugh a me over the whole thing.

Take a picture it'll last longer Jack Ass!
After checking out the Expo for a while, we went back to the resort and relaxed with a nice meal.  Even though the service wasn't the best at the resort restaurant, it was really nice not having to leave to grounds.  Plus, parking there was a bit of a headache, so not having to move the rental car was great.

After a quick nap, I went down to the pool, which Michael had no trouble finding.  She of course, had been camped there for a while under the incredible desert sunshine.  Later we drove into town to make sure Michael knew exactly where to park at the Rodeo Grounds for her Half-Marathon the next day.

Traffic was a little backed up on the highway leading to town.  Apparently the Arizona Renaissance Festival was being held a couple of miles from there.  I'm not a big fan of those things, but apparently this one is huge and attracts folks from all over the area.

For dinner I was able to round up my standard grilled chicken and pasta.  I also had a baked potato and chick peas.  I had really tried to manage my diet well over the previous few days of vacation, and not just go crazy with food.  I felt like I was at a decent race weight or this one and not bloated with tons of vacation food.  After that, we stopped by Walgreen's to pick up a couple of last bottles of Gatorade and then it was off to bed for an early 4:00 am rise and shine.

The Race ... A Great Day In Apache Junction
Michael and I woke up early, got our race gear around, and of course then we ... Pre-Race Danced!!!  I'll let you in on a little secret ... I don't particularly care for the Pre-Race Dance.  I can't dance.  And it's not really dancing ... it's just standing in dance positions and waiting for the camera timer to go off.  It's really the little lady's thing, you see. But the few times I haven't done it, I ran really poorly.  So dance we did!

One of the nice things about staying at the marathon host hotel (which I rarely do) is they usually help you you make it to the starting line on time.  The Lost Dutchman Marathon was no different.  The race is a point-to-point run that begins 26.2 miles from the finish line near Peralta Trail Head.  And there's no way to get to the starting line other than the shuttle bus.  The race had several pick up points for the shuttles, but ours was literally right outside our hotel door.  It was very convenient and one less thing to think about on race morning.

In sticking with the theme of being a very runner friendly race, one of the race directors was walking around the lobby of the Gold Canyon Golf Resort offering runners sunblock and band aides for nipple guards.  I think he approached every runner individually just to make sure they had what they needed.  It was a very nice personal touch.  He told everyone that many runners didn't think about the little things, but because of the dry and sunny desert conditions, most runners needed them before the marathon was over.  And he was right.  There was not hardly one leaf of shade on the entire course.  If it were ran later in the day, or later in the year - the sun would've eaten you alive. At 10 in the morning, near the end of  my race, I could already feel the sun bearing down on my balding dome. But overall, the conditions were awesome.

Pre-race campfires at the 2013 Lost Dutchman Marathon
Winter in the desert mountains is not like the winter most of use endure, but it can get a little chilly.  As we approached the starting line area on the shuttle bus, it was about 43 degrees.  And that's when I noticed one of the coolest things I've ever seen at a marathon.  On the ground, adjacent to the port-a-potties, were several small campfires next to square pieces of carpet where runners could relax and keep warm before the race.  It was amazing.  All of the campfires created a beautiful early morning glow in the desert mountains.

Beautiful pre-race starting line at the base of Superstition Mountain
All the runners gathering before the race literally formed a small, tightly-knit community huddled around the fires swapping stories of previous marathons and snapping pictures with friends.  In fact, with the exception of Boston, I don't think I've ever seen as many cameras as I did before this race.  A couple of other runner oriented details were plenty of oranges, bananas, bagels, and coffee - and also an additional heated bus parked beside the fires in case you wanted to get out of the elements for a little while before the gun went off.  It was just another nice touch.

And as the sun began to illuminate the morning desert sky, we got our first up-close view of one of the peaks of Superstition Mountain.  And it was amazing!  During the first few miles of the race, the sun painted each and every crevice of the mountain range for a kaleidoscopic of brilliant color and texture.  It was the most beautiful race-day sunrise I've ever seen.

2013 Lost Dutchman Elevation Chart ... 1,052' Elevation Loss ... 561' Elevation Gain
The first six miles of the Lost Dutchman Marathon are ran on a very well maintained dirt road only about 15' wide.  It's barely wide enough for two cars to pass.  It's a winding, mostly downhill path that takes you through the desert mountains just a few feet from rocks, cacti, and tumble weeds.  It's a true desert trail.

Michael got a great picture of me crossing the finish line!
At mile six, the race turns to blacktop roads.  I wouldn't really call this a "difficult" course, but it was definitely deceptively challenging.  Coming out of the mountains was of course a net decline.  In total, there was over 1,000 feet of downhill.  If you've ran a downhill marathon, you know it can be almost as challenging as an uphill run.  The downhills make you feel like you're not working, but it takes a collective toll on your quads and saps energy. This downhill portion was also mixed with three long uphills.  The first two were about 3.5-4 miles long, and the last was a 2 mile ascent.

The staff along the way at the aid stations were really great and encouraging.  They even had oranges and bananas at a few of the stops, as well as GU and plenty of water.  The only minor criticism I have of the race is it would have been nice to have a little more sports drink at the stops.  It seemed like mostly water, but other than that they were great.  There were also a ton a photographers from Action Sports there, so I'll be excited to see all of the running pics with the mountains in the background.  The crowds were almost non-existent, but it was a smaller race and the scenery more than made up for the lack of supporters!  However, the folks that were there were very encouraging and cheered us on.

Tired and cramping ... but with medal #25!!!
Even though the course was a little tougher than I thought it would be, I actually ran really, really well.  Despite basically hiking most of the two days prior, I was full of energy, my legs felt really fresh, and I averaged about a 7:19/pace from miles 10-21.  It was a lot faster than I had planned on running, and I was actually on pace for a PR until I hit the last set of hills at mile 22.  At that point I slowed way down and couldn't hold my PR pace.  After I lost sight of my PR, I just dialed it down even more and enjoyed the rest of the run. (I'll post a full breakdown of my race stats later for you nerds like me who enjoy that sort of thing) I've said it before, and I'll say it again ... once I realize I'm not gonna PR in a race, I have A LOT of quit in me! But I came across the line with a comfortable 3:28:59 that served as a great training run for my upcoming ultra marathons.

After the race I was exhausted.  The extremely dry conditions and 65 degree temps for the last few miles had really dehydrated me.  During my ultra training, I've been eating a lot of salty potato chips while running to balance out my electrolytes. So immediately after the race I began looking for something salty.  I was really fighting cramping worse than I had in a while.  My abs cramped when I bent over to sit down and it hurt like a banshee!  Plus, my lower quads were really starting to feel the effects of running downhill for over 1,000 feet.

Michael had ran her Half-Marathon and even brought the camera to take a few pictures of me crossing the finish line, which was really sweet.  When I finally recouped enough, we snapped a couple photos with the race mascots ... an old miner pretending to be Jacob Waltz, and a mule.  It was pretty cool.  Michael and I got several cheesy photos of course.  I mean, there were props ... and a camera, so, well ...  We also sat for a while and chatted with the girl who was the 2nd woman overall.  She told us it was her first marathon she ever ran!  What a speedster.  She asked me how I did, and even though I had a solid day, my time was a little embarrassing compared to her.

Ugly dude & two cute girls, my wife and Rachelle from Running For Trevor
Back at the resort I took a little nap, and you guessed it ... Michael reclined by the pool.  But later that night we had yet another highlight of the trip.  We got to meet one of our favorites ... Rachelle of Running For Trevor!  It was awesome!!!  She just happened to be in the area running the IMT Arizona Half-Marathon, so she and Michael worked it out, and we all met for dinner with her and a couple of friends at Cheesecake Factory in Mesa.

We had a great time visiting and Michael and I were blown away by her finishing time in her Half-Marathon.  I'll let her share the time with you, but suffice to say this young lady is a SPEED-BURNER!!!  But more than that, if possible she's even more sweet in person than she is on her blog.  She's a wonderful person and it was an honor getting to meet her!

I think our short vacation to Arizona came just at the right time.  We both needed a little break from work and the weather in the desert this time of year is perfect.  We've been really blessed and fortunately have the ability to take little trips like this every once in a while.  And the trip to Phoenix and Apache Junction, Arizona to run the Lost Dutchman Marathon is one that I'll remember for a long time.
... be great today!


  1. Ahhhh!!!! What an awesome vacation, and to get to enjoy some nice temps is the frosting on the cake. Good job on your marathon time! I can only dream about that.

    HOW COOL to get to meet up with Rachelle. She lives in my neck of the woods and I get to see her occasionally as well at a few local races. Unfortunately though I only see her back side. She is truly one speedy little lady!!

    You and your wife are so cute together! Please come to Utah and run here! I would love to meet you guys!

  2. I heard there was a cactus that looked like a "package". Not like a pancake flipper but a "package". I read through the whole thing and not one mention of it.

    Yours Truly,

    Disappointed reader

  3. I ran LD two years ago, and thought it was pretty great. Surprised after all these years that it is still so small!

    Great job!

  4. I really enjoyed reading this and am so glad you and Michael had such a great vacation. You two work so hard and really deserved a getaway to explore and just spend time together.

    I cannot stop laughing about the massage....too funny!

    Fantastic race for you. It was by no means an easy course and you ran really well. That has got to feel good! You have a PR in you in the marathon and you will have your glory day. Hopefully when it happens it will be that much sweeter because you have worked that much harder for it.

    It was an absolute pleasure to meet you both. I am so glad we were able to make that happen.

  5. wow on your climbing that rock, sounded insane! Glad you made it down okay lol. Awesome that you made it to Phoenix Stadium - I stopped by there when I was in Phoenix for the Fiesta Bowl last year. Always wanted to go to Spring Training, but likely will never be able to with being an accountant. Did you make it to Scottsdale? That place has a great downtown. I thought Phoenix/Scottsdale was interesting - I think the extreme summer heat, and lack of weather that is at least diverse would be too boring to live there. And sounds like it was a great race!

  6. This is by far the best review of the Lost Dutchman Marathon I've found on the internet thus far - thank you so much! :) My husband and I are planning to take a "runcation" to Phoenix in 2016 to run this marathon - this is a longshot, but do you remember the restaurant you ate at for Valentine's Day? The outdoor restaurant setting and sunset in your photo above are beautiful! We'd love to eat at that exact place, if you don't mind sharing what restaurant it was? Thank you so much again!


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