St. George Marathon -- my fourth crack at this race and the first in four years. A little bit of heaven, a little bit of hell--most of it around mile 18, but more on that in a moment. Or just skip down to the part titled "the Race" and avoid all the self-indulgent jibber jabber.
For context, although this is light years from a PR performance for me, it's one that I am proud to own for a lot of reasons. For starters, at this time last year, I was in the midst of a five month lay-off from running due to chronic plantar fasciitis that stubbornly refused to heal without giving up on running altogether and without, finally, the work of a gifted physical therapist. I rode the bike, worked out on the elliptical, etc. I maintained something like a base--but not really a running base. Just sort of a general "fitness" base. The lay off and the PT were also good because it allowed me to address the wide range of biomechanical issues that had led me into so many injuries in the last couple of years; ankle, hamstring, knee. Having refused to take a week off here or there to deal with injuries, and instead try to simply run through everything; I ended up with five months off. Not what I had set out for.
Last year around the beginning of November I started to run a few miles at a time--by spring, I could run 7-8 miles pain free and do so a few days a week. That's all I really wanted after so much time off; just to be able to get in a decent run a few times a week and run socially with my friends. On a lark one morning, I entered the St. George lottery just to see what would happen. To my surprise I got in. I didn't tell anyone for over a month as I considered whether I actually wanted to try to do this race.
Slowly my mileage climbed so that I could run 10 miles easily, then 12 then 15. At the beginning of August I finally committed (mentally and physically) to trying to run this race. Boy was that an adjustment! Suddenly, I had to transform my casual, social running schedule into actual training! Fortunately, my friend Lisa was in the same boat arriving late to training for this race, and it was great to have a training partner that was on the same page.
I put in some miles, topping out at only 60 or so miles a week. I had wanted to reach 70; but you can only ramp up from 25 mpw so quickly. I ran a single half marathon, which was fine but unspectacular. I ran regular Tuesday track workouts that definitely helped with leg speed, but didn't help much with the marathon endurance. I ran a total of zero long tempo runs. I strung together a few tempo miles. I did very little downhill specific training. Running was a priority, but I had to make it fit with life. We bought a house; kids in new schools, working insane hours, etc.
A couple of times I looked back at my blogs from 2007-2008 to see my workouts and I wondered who that person was--did I not have a job? Well, I doubt I'll be able to commit to training like that again any time soon. And I don't necessarily want to. I'm happy to let those days stand for themselves and keep on forging a path so that running continues to fit in my life on terms that work. And that is the attitude I brought to this race; it won't be perfect, but it will be honest. After all, you can't fake the marathon.
So my goals were necessarily modest this year because I had so little information upon which to base any conclusions. First goal was to run 2:55 or faster; second goal was to run 3 hours; third goal was not end up in the medical tent trying to meet goals 1 and 2.
Ok, so yeah, THE RACE.
First, I am continually impressed by how incredibly well organized this race is. They make every aspect of it seem easy and it makes so many other races look like amateur hour by comparison. That is one of the things that has kept me coming back--it's just really well done event.
The Start -- it was cool at the start, but not cool enough to assure me it wouldn't get hot once the sun came up (and it did). It was nice to see a few friendly faces in the corral -- folks I knew would blow the doors off this race. Got to chat with eventual winner Fritz. What an amazing year for him, and to think it's been with less than 100% health. Stoked for him. Anyway, the whole scene reminded me of the old days. I did my best to get things moving in the porta potty, to little success and I would pay for that later.
Finally, it's time to get to the starting line and just like that we're running. Here's how the miles went:
- 6:32 -- nice and easy to start. I did a nice job of running within myself and not getting caught up with any movement in the field in these first miles.
- 6:43 --a little climbing, a little slower. No problem.
- 6:26 -- pace feels easy even though I have had very little running at that pace over distance in my "training."
- 6:19 -- Hey, maybe I can run in the 2:30s after all?
- 6:24 --body feels good, taking the first of 5 gels here.
- 6:11 -- there's no denying it; I am pretty amazing.
- 6:13 --Veyo is in sight. I will hold pace.
- 7:07--Or not. Just trying to calibrate my pace to the hill.
- 6:48--topping out on Veyo and starting to remember how long a marathon really is.
- 6:34--I'm at ~1:05 for ten miles, firm 6:30 pace. Feel good, but 6:30 takes a little more effort now.
- 6:56 -- this is a tough mile, long steady climb to a cresting hill. Resisting urge to try to speed up.
- 6:33 --back near pace.
- 6:20 --I am at ~1:25 for the half marathon. That was sort of a wake up call. I was happy with the pace but also thinking, wait a minute -- do I really have the legs to run 2:50 or faster?
- 6:25 --At the moment the answer is yes.
- 6:18 --the big descents are here, but I'm chatting with a guy from Texas. No effort to apply the gas pedal and accelerate -- just coasting.
- 6:03 -- the last "fast" mile. Will be a distant memory soon.
- 6:20 --fiddling with sun glasses and eyeing the overpass in the distance that marks the boundary to hell.
- 6:21 --surprised that I'm holding this pace, it won't last. At the end of this mile is where I feel the wheels start to come off. Lack of training beginning to reveal itself.
- 7:04 --chips are cashed, I'm done. Wall is hit, I'm toasted, done. It all happened so quickly. Wow.
- 6:44 --this is a steep descent, I should be cruising but can't get my legs to do, well, anything.
- 6:39 --more prime downhill real estate being wasted.
- 8:02 -- I head into the aid station and realize, very suddenly, that I should use the porta potty very quickly. I do so. It takes about 1:15. I have never stopped at a porta potty during a marathon, ever. The fact that I did so is evidence of both my body being a little unprepared and my willingness to put personal comfort over results. Felt much better.
- 6:56 --getting passed now by tons of runners. I wondered when it would start happening, and this is where. Right here. I was passed by 23 runners in the last 7.5 miles. I passed three. Stats don't lie.
- 6:57 --setting myself up for the longest 2 miles ever. On auto-pilot. Trying to surge here and there to get my body to change gears but I only have one gear and it is the same one I've had since mile 19.
- 7:13 --hmm, wouldn't it be great to be done right now? Yes, yes it would.
- 7:39 --the collapse is complete. At least I am continuing forward momentum, I guess. Glad to have the finish in sight. 1:36 for the last .2. Got to see my wife and boys as I head to the finish line. Glad to see 2:55 on the display. Great to hear the crowd cheering; so glad to be done.
So there you have it. I suppose what is most evident is the total lack of training that would do anything to support me after mile 18. But I'm not sure I would change anything. I got exactly the result I deserved. And considering all of the ups and downs that I have taken in my running over the last few years, I am thrilled with the final result (if not the unspectacular way it came together in the last few miles). Congrats to all who ran today, there were some amazing performances.