This was the third of five marathons that I am running as part of the Utah Grand Slam. It’s been 5 weeks since the last marathon and the next one is in 4 weeks. A calf strain presented itself after the last marathon. It took me a week to realize that it was an actual injury and not the usual post marathon soreness. Knowing that I had 3 marathons in the near future, I had to somehow balance running and rest. I had to put in enough miles to maintain some level of fitness but not so many that I didn’t give the injury a chance to heal. I could only get in about 40 miles per week with no real quality workouts. Since my training was less than stellar, I had no choice but to treat this as a training run and just enjoy myself. This is a pretty small marathon (300 marathoners, 40 half marathoners and 24 marathon relay teams) and is one of the few chances that I would ever have of picking up an age group award. Convincing myself to run this at a slower pace was really difficult because I knew if I pushed myself, I had a chance at bringing home some hardware. I estimated that the course itself was about 5 minutes slower than average and I would give myself another 10 minutes so 3:30 was the goal finish time. My strategy was to start at 8:00 min/mile, give back 30 sec/mile on the hills between 12 and 17 then make up the difference the next 8 miles which were downhill and hold on the last mile which was slightly uphill.
Woke up at 3:30 on marathon morning to thunder and lightning. Hopefully this would be a typical summer storm and only last a short while. My wife and son wanted to accompany me the starting line and meet me at various points of the race. We all headed out the door at 5:00 a.m. and got to the packet pick up at about 6:00. This is the first marathon that I have run where the start and finish lines are at the same place. It was nice to be able to drive right to the starting line. It was a little windy which worried me. After almost missing the start due to a slow port-o-potty line we were off promptly at 6:30. Miraculously, the wind stopped and it turned out to be perfect running weather – temperature in the 50’s and clear skies.
Miles 1-7 (Avg Pace 7:35/mile)
The course starts with a short uphill then quickly drops for an extended downhill. This was great except we have to finish on this same route going the other way. I was not looking forward to the return trip. Pushed a little on the second mile but was feeling very comfortable. It was here that I started thinking about bagging the “training run” idea. The next few miles were rolling hills. We would go from asphalt to dirt roads to bike paths. Mostly ran by cow pastures which smelled wonderful. I was maintaining a steady pace and felt like I was holding back a little (just as planned).
Miles 8-11 (Avg Pace 7:40/mile)
At about the 9 mile mark I started thinking that my lack of training was going to catch up to me. I was feeling fine but my legs felt a little off. Not hurting at all just not firing on all cylinders. Also, I was trying to make a conscious effort to back off a little before the start of hills. There was a group of runners ahead of me that included a couple of people from the Grand Slam and a couple of runners that I knew where in my age group. I couldn’t decide if I should stick with them or let them go. Of course my competitive side won out and I made sure they stayed within striking distance.
Miles 12-17 (Avg Pace 8:11)
This is the difficult part of the course. The first few miles were a gradual uphill. I love running uphill and usually do relatively well. The only problem is that running uphill aggravates my calf injury. I was concerned about how my calf would respond to this section of the course. Everything felt good so instead of worrying about it, I just ran comfortable and in control. I was able to catch a couple of guys that I had been trailing for the last few miles at about the halfway mark. At mile 15 we turned into a neighborhood and started some serious climbs. We would climb a little then we would get a break followed by another climb. The kicker was at mile 16.5 where there is a nasty climb until mile 17. We peaked at 7,041 feet and for the first time I could feel the altitude.
Miles 18-24 (Avg Pace 7:39)
Miles 18 and 19 are mostly down hill and I think that I got a little excited. My pace was a little too fast but I thought that I had conserved enough energy early on to hold it for the rest of the race. The course goes through an outdoor shopping mall which was very confusing - lots of twists and turns. Hit the bike path again and I couldn’t see anybody in front of or behind me. I started to think that I took a wrong turn and was lost. Eventually, I could see somebody in front of me and realized that I was on the right track. Somewhere around the 20 mile marker my calf started to ache and I decided to not push it any further. I could see a guy a few hundred yards ahead of me and couldn’t see anybody behind me. The way I was feeling, I new I didn’t have a chance to catch the guy ahead so I backed off the pace a little and hoped to hold my current place. Miles 20-24 were very lonely. It’s a long straight away on a dirt road with nothing to look at but the cows. The guy ahead of me was gapping me and there was a group behind me a couple of hundred yards and it felt like they were closing. I had a pretty good idea that they were in my age group so I had to do my best to hold them off.
Miles 25 & 26 (Avg Pace 7:45)
I walked through the last aid station, glanced behind me and realized that there were a couple of runners closing fast. My feet were absolutely killing me and I was starting to feel numb which means that the wall was near. Just focused on putting one foot in front of the other. A runner passed by pretty quickly. I was relieved to see that he had a yellow bib indicating that he was a relay runner. With only 1 mile to go, I started to push again. Crested the final hill and all that was left was a short downhill to the finish line. As I approached the finish line I called out to my son and told him to run in with me. I wouldn’t do this if it would interfere with any other runner but since there was nobody in front of or behind me I thought that it would be alright.
Final time: 3:21:24
Overall Place: 13/302 (after the cheater who entered the race at mile 17 was removed)
AG Place: 4/22 (my last race in the 30-34 age group and I’m happy to get out of it)
Grand Slam Standings: I dropped from 6th to 7th. Before the race, I expected to drop to 9th because the runners behind me are more accustomed to multiple marathons so I was happy with only a 1 place drop.
I didn’t run this race all out but definitely pushed harder than I planned. I was a little disappointed with my low energy the last 6 miles. Even though I would have liked to place in my age group, I was 7 minutes behind 3rd place so even if I gave it my all, I wouldn’t have placed. I was really happy with how my calf and knee felt. I haven’t felt like much of a runner the past 5 weeks because of the calf pain. I ran mostly pain free today and only have moderate soreness now. I feel a lot more confident in what I can do in the next 6 weeks.
For a race with only 300 marathoners, the organization was amazing - from the information on the website to the incredible volunteers on the course. The course was beautiful and I had a great time running it.
Next up: Top of Utah Marathon September 23 which will be my first race in a new, slower age group.