Race report for Top of Utah Marathon.
Last night I listened to the wind and rain as I tried to tame my nerves and get some sleep. I wondered what the course would be like…how wet it would be. The early morning started with a bus ride up to Blacksmith Fork canyon. I hadn’t been on a yellow school bus in years. Once there, I hit the porta potty and headed to the warming tent. As we closed in on the starting time of 7 AM we all lined up in our self-selected corrals. I found the 3:40 race pacer and decided to stick with this group. My goal was a 3:39 marathon and figured I would try and hang with this crowd. Come to find out that one of the race pacers had run this race 5 times before, so I placed my trust in him as he said they would go out fast on the downhill section (14 miles in the canyon) and bank that time against the hills that would hit us between miles 18 – 22.
As we stood at the starting line, it began to pour! Huge drops of rain. I was glad I changed out of a tank top into a long sleeved dry fit shirt. We stood and shivered in the semi-darkness until the gun sounded.
I tucked myself behind the race pacers (we had 2 of them) and about 20 others shooting for a 3:40 time. The race pacers did a great job the whole way. Giving us pointers on what was ahead. I’m glad we “banked” some time on the downhill section.
I stuck to my gel plan of 5,9,13,17, and 21 miles. The last gel at mile 21 was a tough, tough one to gag down. However, I’m glad I did…more on that later.
It rained for almost all of the 14 miles in the canyon. It was an intermittently heavy to light rain, except when it hailed on us. Two good things came from a rainy race, dehydration for me was non existent and my shoes got cleaned. There was so much water that at one point water squirted from our shoes with each step. Oh, did I mention we had thunder and lightening as well? We did. Thankfully it was far off in the distance. Someone said that the half way point of the Top of Utah marathon is at mile 18 and the other half, the remaining 8.2 miles is the second half. That is a true statement for this race.
We finally made it out into the Logan, Utah valley and the rain pretty much went away. I kept pace with the race pacers especially as we hit the hills (miles 18-22). They weren’t really steep, just long, like 1/2 mile hills. Just steep enough and long enough to wear you down. I was really glad I was using pacers on this race. Otherwise, I’m not sure I would have been able to hang in there during the hills.
Around mile 18 I was feeling pretty good and told myself, “You’ve got this”. However, a few miles later I would begin to wonder who ‘got’ who…me or the race. One of my mantras is “nose over toes”, which keeps my running form in check. At the end of the race, mentally all I could muster was “Nose. Toes.” For some mental reason, “over” was too much to say in my head. Maybe because “over” has two syllables whereas “noes and toes” each have one.
As the race progressed our 3:40 posse began to dwindle. We did pick up a few runners who went out too fast and we caught them. They tried to hang with us, but most couldn’t.
One poignant part of the race in our group occurred around mile 22. One of the ladies who had been really strong began to falter. I could hear her breathing becoming labored and soon the labored breathing became sobs. A bystander ran along side her for a bit and tried to give her some encouragement. I don’t know what happened to her as I didn’t see her from that time forward. It really tugged at me.
At mile 23, fatigue was starting to set in and my thighs were starting to burn. But I only had a 5K to go. At the mile 23 water stop, I grabbed a cup of water and tried to swallow on the run (well a slow jog). The water went up my nose and I gagged. Right then, I knew my body wasn’t going to take in anymore liquids unless I was at a dead stop. So I decided to run the remaining 5K water stop free. As we completed mile 24 our group was far enough ahead in time that we could run 8:40s and make the 3:40 mark. The pacers grabbed some water, but I kept running. My last gel from mile 21 seemed to kick in at this point and I picked up my pace and was able to hold it for the rest of the race.
I have to give all the credit for the last 2.2 miles to my Marathon Nation training. All those long runs where the last 2-3 dreaded miles are at a quicker pace paid off. From mile 24 to the end of the race I passed runner after runner, until the very end when a man blew by me like I was standing still. At that point with about 30 yards to go I was redlining big time and there was no way I could have met that challenge.
As I said earlier in this post, my goal was a 3:39 marathon. Can you believe this? I clocked in officially at 3:39:00 – flat. No, I didn’t stand just before the finish line and wait. It was purely coincidental.
I forgot to mention that I had family at this race. My son and his wife surprised me at mile 22. He yelled “dad”, which I’m sure got the attention of several “dads” in the race near me, but I looked up and saw him and we “high fived”. With three blocks to go, my parents, or rather my mother yelled my name and said, “You’re almost there. Tree blocks to go!” And as I made the last turn to the finish line two of my daughters and my wife yelled my name and waived.
This is my third marathon and the first one where I had family there…on time. The other two marathons crowds and parking go in the way and they missed my finish. It really warmed my heart to have them there this time and on time.
This will be my last race for a while. In 11 days I’ll be having foot surgery to correct a bunnion. That will take about 4 months to heal. I had the same surgery on my right foot, now it’s the left foot’s turn.
I was pretty much on the shelf from the end of last November through about mid May this year with no running (I did cardo and core work while I waited for my foot to heal). What has amazed me is the base running I did all of last year helped this year. I am actually in better shape right now with only about 550 miles of running this year compared to the 1200 or so I had at this time last year.
So, a big kudos out to the Marathon Nation family and Coach Patrick for a new PR for me.