Utah Valley Marathon. I'll try to keep this short, yet somewhat entertaining. All-in-all, a good race. I met my time goal, and came up just a little bit short for the win, but am okay with how it all went down. Good day to run.
Got about 3 hours of sleep due to kids not wanting to sleep, and then me waking up about every half hour. Got up at 3:00AM, ate a bowl of oatmeal with a banana and drank weak motel coffee. Read Running Times until Clyde and the StG boys swung by to pick me. Once at the start, we had over an hour to blow, but chatted with a lot of people, used the potties, and the time passed pretty quick.
Weather was about perfect: upper 40s at the start, little to no wind, clear skies. I've gotten lucky with my last two marathons!
My goal for the day was to compete for the win, and also to break 2:20 for the time bonus. I knew the race would have good competition, which would be fun. There were two Kenyans from last year, including the returning champion, plus some good Utah runners in Bryant Jensen and Jake Krong. And that's pretty much how it played out.
The race started right on time. I wanted to go out at a pace that felt okay for my body, and didn't force anything the first few miles. My body decided to use that opportunity as warmup, and I was okay with that, just letting the lead pack of Bryant and the two Kenyans go, and enjoyed chatting with Clyde and Jake. First mile was 5:47, which was slower than what it felt like, but I figured we'd pick it up. It's a long race. Mile 2 was 5:29, followed by a 5:00. Not sure where the 5-flat came from.
We had a little pack for the first couple miles, but after Mile 3, Jake and I had separated ourselves out. Despite, the 5-flat, the leaders still seemed to be pulling away. And they continued to do so for the next few miles as well. But not a hole that we couldn't dig ourselves out of!
Mile 4 was 5:16, and then a 5:23 for Mile 5. This upper part of the race (I have no idea where we were, just somewhere in Utah), had some fast downhill stretches, but also a lot of rolling hills...more hills than I expected. I thought the whole first half of this race was actually quite challenging, and the second half a bit faster. Good negative split course, if the first half doesn't wear you out too much! The first 8 miles are very beautiful though, my favorite part of the race despite not being the fastest section.
Dropped a 5:13 for Mile 6. The leaders looked to be about a minute up. Jake and I still working together from behind, and somewhere in here, I decided it was time to narrow the gap (don't remember exactly where).
5:24 for Mile 7, then 5:33 for Mile 8. Took a Gu at Mile 7. Again, way more uphills than I expected. But the leaders were definitely coming back now, although I had dropped Jake and was now working alone. But seeing the leaders come back was enough positive feedback to keep it moving, despite slower miles splits. I figured if I was 1:11 or under at the half, then sub-2:20 was still doable, although I would have liked to see 1:10 or just a little under.
Mile 9 had a major hill, and it was 5:46 for the mile. I passed one of the Kenyans on the hill to move into 3rd, and he was dropping pretty hard. But then used the downhill to surge to a 4:52 on Mile 10, and this is where I finally caught Bryant and the eventual winner, Hillary Cheruiyot. Once I caught them, I was able to settle and recover a bit, but the hills just kept coming. I was feeling a little frustrated, as I just wanted to get in a rhythm and roll. But the hills were manageable, and I was feeling okay. Not great, not especially fast, but strong enough to keep it up and hope for better things in the second half.
Mile 11 was 5:08, then 5:35 (lot of uphill), then 5:15. Came through the half in 1:10:16, and I was somewhat relieved. A few more 5:15 miles, and we'd be under 2:20 pace. Still had a nice pack of three. I threw a few tester surges here and there, and Cheruiyot responded immediately to each one. He looked good.
Once I got to the half point, I knew the course pretty well, from last year, and knew it should be a flier, with a few decent uphills here and there, but mostly great, runnable downhill. I was looking forward to really getting moving, and hoping my legs were ready, and fit enough to handle it. I was feeling decent, but that can change in a hurry during a marathon.
5:18, 5:12, and 5:30 for the next three miles. The slower split for Mile 16 was expected, as I remembered that hill for last year. Still the three of us in a pack. Keep rolling, still have work to do to get that sub-2:20!
5:10, 4:58, 5:14, and 5:17 for Miles 17-20. That's more like it! Took my second Gu at Mile 19. Then 5:21 for the final mile in the canyon. We dropped Bryant around Mile 17 (apparent he was having shoe problems), so it was a two-man race to the finish. Kind of a repeat of last year. Cheruiyot was still responding to everything I threw at him, and with 5 miles to go I was weaking and getting into "hang-on mode" rather than being able to throw that killer surge that I wanted to do. I was even starting to doubt if I could close well enough to get 2:20.
But despite not having the spunk in my legs, Mile 22 was still 5:17, followed by 5:20 for Mile 23. Still running shoulder-to-shoulder with Cheruiyot, still anyone's race. I wasn't sure how I could either win this, either have Cheruiyot suddenly fall apart (not likely, but definitely possible at the marathon distance), or sum up some strength for a hard half-mile kick or so at the end, and hope that nothing happens between now and then.
My watch ran out of memory at this point (still had Boston on there for some reason, maybe for the warm fuzzies), but I'm pretty sure Mile 24 was about 5:30. Despite not feeling spunky, the course is fast enough here to keep rattling it out.
Right after Mile 24, Cheruiyot won the race. Well, actually he won the race when he crossed the finish, but he made the decisive move to win right here, and the man had it in him. He pulled ahead of me by about 10 seconds during this mile, although I split another 5:20, or near there. I don't think there was much I could do about it. He was saving it up for that point, and I was just trying to keep my legs moving at the same pace.
During the last mile, I knew still I had a really strong shot at sub-2:20 and the time bonus, and was also hoping for a sudden slowdown by Cheruiyot. Maybe he played his card too early? So I drove as hard as I could, and ended up with 6:05 for the last 1.2, which means Mile 26 was near 5:10 or a little under. But I could not close whatsoever, and he maintained or even slightly increased the gap. I finished in 2:19:28, 2nd place overall. Second half was 1:09:12, so a negative split of just over a minute.
Hats off to Cheruiyot. I don't mind getting beat if I know I ran as well as I could, didn't have any physical or mental collapses, etc. He had that extra gear to win. I think I ran a good race, about as good as I can hope for, considering mileage of 60-ish miles/week since Boston. I'm glad I had a good winter base, as that surely helped!
Ended up taking home $1300 for my efforts, my second-best ever payday. Can't complain about that! And our St George Running Center team won the team competition, so that was nice icing on the cake.
I'm glad I ran UVM, not sure if I'll do the full marathon there again, but it was a pretty course, and it was nice doing an in-state race without the pressure of qualifying. And it's always wonderful and a blessing to be able to run the distance, at any speed.