Ran the Top of Utah Marathon today. It was my 19th overall marathon, and my 8th TOU. I would like to get into the 10-year club, but it probably won't happen, at least for a while, since we are moving out of the state. :-(
Got up a 4:20AM (slept like a rock, travel does that to me). Went to go make the standard oatmeal & fruit breakfast, but found out in an untimely manner that we were out of oatmeal. Again, the perils of traveling all week and coming back to an empty pantry. So I improvised: breakfast of two poached eggs, vanilla yogurt, 2 peaches, and grapes, plus coffee of course. I usually would not mess with eggs and dairy on raceday, but whatever. I eat this stuff everyday, so it shouldn't hurt right? (it didn't, stomach was fine all race).
Drove down to Logan; it was raining. Bleh. But it was not cold, so that was okay. But rain is no fun, plus we usually don't get a tailwind when it rains. Eventually the rain let up...temporarily.
Parked my car, then took the bus up, it was one of the later buses. Still raining off and on. Got to the start line finally, then found the magic bathroom (I will not lend a description this time, as the secret is getting out). Spent the last 30 minutes chatting, warming up, and more potty stops. Was feeling fine, although it's always hard to tell until you really start racing.
I was told the previous day that the returning champion, Sammy Nyamongo, had canceled, and that he would have been my best competition. Kind of a bummer, as my take on competition is, "the more the merrier" (slightly less edgy than "bring it").
But in any case, the plan was to go through the half in 1:08:00, and then see what happens. I had a lofty goal of breaking the course record of 2:16:35, and 1:08:00 is actually a bit conservative for that, but I figured if it was really "my day", then I would find a way to get it done the second half. But I didn't want to risk blowup, and DNF'ing a winnable race. A more realistic goal was 2:18:00, and then sub-2:20 would be good if that couldn't happen.
Weather was looking fantastic, as the rain had let up and temps were great, but about 5 minutes before the race started, we got a sudden downpour. Everyone scampered off the start line and into the nearest tent. I've never seen anything like it at a race of 2300 people! I ended up at the edge of an aid tent, and took advantage by applying some vasoline that was sitting on a nearby table. Chaffing could be bad in rain like this.
Then the rain let up again, right when it was time to start. They shot off the muskets, and away we went. Sure enough, no one went with me off the start line, and it seemed that I was to run this thing solo. Fortunately, I pace pretty well in a marathon, and don't mind running by myself. It means good tangents if nothing else.
Mile 1 ended up being a bit fast, 4:58. I wanted 5:10-5:15, so I dialed it back a bit. Mile 2 was 5:16, and then Mile 3 was 5:10. I felt good about this pace, and tried to keep it going down the canyon.
It continued raining off and on throughout the entire race. I thought it actually felt pretty good, as there was no wind, and it was not too cold either. The only downside was not having a canyon wind. But I kind of liked it, and it also made for some really beautiful visuals (low clouds and mist coming off the mountainsides), plus the wonderful smells of sage and autumn foliage. Yes, this is the kind of stuff I think about during a marathon. But it was truly an outdoor sanctuary, easy to worship God in this kind of beauty.
Anyway...Mile 4 was 5:12, then 5:15 for Mile 5, and 5:12 for Mile 6. 10K in 32:10. This was really the pace I wanted, and it felt pretty sustainable. I figured at this point that everyone was already several minutes back, kind of odd to think about. I had a police motorcycle escort though.
Mile 7 was another 5:12. Mile 8 includes the big downhill coming off the little dam, right about the half marathon start, and it was a 5:07. Followed it with 5:13 for Mile 9. I knew I would have to pick it up at some point to go after the course record, but I was not sure if I could handle a faster pace. So that was looking not-so-good, but at the same time, I would be quite happy with a 2:18, which was where I figured I was really heading.
Grabbed the Gu at the Mile 9 aid station...and then promptly dropped it! I was starting to fish for the Gu I had stashed in my glove (for this very situation...it happens a lot), when I heard footsteps behind me, and a boy huffing and puffing, holding out the Gu I had dropped. Yes! Thank you Mile 9 Aid Station Dude! Best aid station worker ever.
Despite slowing down over the Gu incident, I still managed 5:15 for Mile 10 (10-mile split of 51:54). Then 5:14 for Mile 11, 5:11 for Mile 12, and 5:09 for Mile 13. 1:08:02 for the half marathon. I was encouraged by my last couple splits, but still feeling that 2:16:30 was not really in the books.
Did another 5:09 for Mile 14, and exited the canyon onto Hollow Rd. 5:11 and then 5:19 for Miles 15 and 16, respectively. The 5:19 was a pretty significant drop, and not a good indication. This is a stretch of road that usually benefits big-time from the tailwind, which was not there today.
Tried my best to hit good splits for 17 and 18, before I got to the Millville Hill. Split 5:16 for both of these miles. Not bad, but I really needed to be at 5:10 or under.
The race turned odd for me, and really went downhill (figuratively, not literally), on the next mile, going up Millville Hill. I was cranking what I thought was a good pace, feeling good on the long uphill, but the Mile 19 split was 4:31. What?? In my oxygen starved brain, I figured they just put the aid station and mile marker a block ahead (although TOU never messes this kind of thing up). I was expecting 5:30.
Mile 20 is another slow mile, as the hill grinds on. 5:44 for this mile, and I was quite displeased...although I was expecting an even slower split to offset the "short" previous mile.
Right at this point, near Mile 20, one of my police escorts pulled back to inform me that we all missed a turn, and cut the course by a short amount, about 1.5 blocks total, which explains the missing 60 seconds on Mile 19 (apparently someone had radioed him). Say whhaaat?? I was a bit baffled, as I've run this race 8 times, plus I made the maps. But that's what happened: the cops led, and I followed (tunnel-vision by that point in the race). There was no volunteer there, and the course markings were not visible to me due to the wet road. (I'm partially color-blind, can't see certain types of contrast...seriously).
So...it all made sense as I thought about it, but now I'm worried about losing $1500 due to a blunder...on a race that I figured I was winning by 10 minutes. As Bill the Cat would say, Aaack!
Fortunately, the police guy radioed Bob Henke, the race director, who cleared it for me to make up the distance elsewhere (keep in mind we didn't find out about the issue until 2 miles past the point). However, it took about 15 minutes for all this to get figured out, and I'm still trying to run the race the whole time, fretting about the situation. These were not good miles. 5:24 on the downhill into Providence (Mile 21), then 5:42 for Mile 22, and 5:44 for Mile 23. These 5:40-ish splits were partially due to physical slow-down, but probably as much stress and lack of focus than anything (my head was elsewhere, but my feet just kept plodding forward).
So I was greatly relieved, obviously, when I received word near Mile 23 that this issue would not result in a DQ, but by this time I was in "just finish the darn race" mode. When we got into River Heights, the cops took me on a little out-and-back, one block in each direction, and then I resumed on the course. So this added on two full blocks, which is a quarter-mile, and made up more than I had chopped off. Not my finest moment, but these things seem to happen occasionally when you're in the lead! I will say that I'm very grateful to the Top of Utah management for finding a solution, real-time, and making sure I ran a full marathon distance (plus some).
Mile 24 was 7:04. This included the block out-and-back, so still 5:40 pace. Then 5:38 for Mile 25, and 5:44 for Mile 26, which has some uphill. 1:14 for the final 0.2, and I pretty much just plodded it in, didn't have much left. But I tried to enjoy the moment, as again, this is probably my last TOU. It was bittersweet in that regard, and I have a lot of memories from this race. Felt like I was saying "goodbye" to TOU during the last 0.2.
My final time was 2:20:30. It was a solid time, and I'm very pleased with the win above all else. It gives me even greater respect for Hobie Call's course record. It may be broken someday, but not today and not by me. I thought I should be able to do a 2:18, and it was a little disappointing to break my stretch of sub-2:20s, but I'm okay with it all. Mostly I'm grateful to God for this life and being able to run, and will never take a race like this for granted. Winning is always awesome. Running is a gift, and I hope I can keep doing it for quite some time.
Glen Tucker took 2nd, with 2:30:54 (PR), followed by James Moore (2:33:53), Sasha Pachev (2:34:15), and Nate Clayson (2:36:08). Nice job to bloggers, Top 4!