I put in for the St George Marathon lottery back in April feeling like I should be able to beat my last years PR time of 2:58. Last year was my best running year and I pr'd at every distance I ran but felt like I had peaked a month or 2 before the marathon and had slipped a bit. Last year's race also had very hot conditions, the hottest start on record in the 35 years of the race. I figured if I could get back in decent shape and luck out with some better conditions, I would have a good chance. The problem is that this whole year has been a struggle. Every time I have put together a few good weeks of training, I have ended up with some kind of minor injury that puts me right back where I was. 2 steps forward and 2 steps back.
In the last 8 weeks I have only averaged running 17 miles per week with the highest being 25 and going back 14 weeks I averaged 22 miles per week with only 1 week over 30 miles at 33. I really didn't do any workouts and my 2 long runs were a 15 miler and a 17 miler that was intended to be a 20 until my knee [IT Band] flared up and I had to walk home. That was just 16 days before the race so it didn't give me a lot of confidence that it would allow me to make it 26 miles.
If I would have been signing up for this race any time in the last 2 months, I don't think I would have. But we already had hotels booked and my wife's sister from Illinois and her husband were in St George visiting with their son and we had some plans with them in Zions Park for Friday so my wife and I and our 2 sons went down to make a 3 day vacation of it.
I guess that is enough on the whining. We had a nice time on Friday doing some hiking in Zions Park the day before the race. The conditions for this race were perfect. It started out nice and cool with a great tailwind that ended up lasting at least through the first half. Exactly what I had hoped for when I had signed up. Too bad I had no fitness to take advantage.
As the race started I just tried to keep the pace feeling very easy. I knew this could get really ugly in the later miles. I didn't know what to expect so I didn't have a very definite goal for this race. I was hoping to at least get under 3:30 which is my BQ time but figured I would have to run a ways and see how the pace felt and my goals may change as the race went on. The 3:05 pace group went by right off the bat and it was really hard to make myself let them go but this race was going to be mostly about survival for me today. This was by far the least prepared I have ever been for a marathon so I was sure I would be hitting the wall big time. When I got to the beginning of Veyo Hill at about 7.3 miles, my overall pace was at 7:10. It was mostly downhill to this point but the next 5 miles are uphill so I figured my overall pace could still be 7:30 or less by the half, that would be good. I tried to stay relaxed going up Veyo and the rest of the uphill and just go as slow as I needed to not let it feel too hard. I ended up hitting the half at about 1:37:32. Overall pace at 7:27. My right calf had started to tighten up on me at around 9 or 10 miles [like it did last year] then around 14 miles my right hamstring from my butt all the way down to the back of my knee started to tighten up. That was a bad sign this early. I really hadn't felt all that great since about the first 4 miles but at the same time the pace felt like I could maintain it for a while. I was holding back a lot on the downhills knowing this is worse on my IT Band. I was walking through all the aid stations and after the half I was also stopping to do a quick stretch.
Around mile 15 I realized I was running just ahead of the 3:15 pace group. After about 3 miles they passed me at an aid station. I felt like I could go with them but I was feeling it more and more and still had a long way to go so I watched them disappear into the distance over the next 3 or 4 miles.
3:15 seemed to be gone and I figured I still had a big blowup likely coming somewhere after 20 miles. I also was aware that if my IT Band flared up, I would probably be reduced to a walk within a mile or two. It was kind of nice though not being near as worried about my time as I normally would be. Each mile after 20 I was surprised that I really wasn't feeling any worse than I had since the half. After passing mile 23 I actually started picking up the pace a bit and started passing a lot of people. After I hit 24 I realized that I was feeling better than I ever had at this point in a marathon and it kind of pumped me up mentally. I hadn't run a single mile under 7 min [even on those 3 or 4 with big downhills]. I decided I would run this last [much flatter] mile under 7 for my fastest mile of the race at 6:59 then finished the last .22 at 6:02 pace.
I finished in 3:15:30. Almost caught back up to the 3:15 group and passed tons of people that last 2 miles. Many who I remember passing me earlier. I felt better after the race than I ever have after a marathon. That last fastest mile was still 1 second slower than the same mile last year when I had a big slowdown on the last 2 miles.
I felt pretty good about this one under the conditions. To steal a term from my wife's nephew who is an avid cyclist that we visited with while down there, I'm calling this my "Off The Couch Marathon". It's not like I was doing nothing but compared to the training I normally do, it almost seemed that way. I think if I would have had last years fitness with these conditions today I would have easily run 3 to 5 minutes faster. Last year not only was it much hotter but there was a headwind most of the way after the 8 mile mark. I noticed a couple of others that ran nearly the same time as me last year that ran 2:54-2:55 this year.
On the drive down to St George Friday morning, a wheel bearing on our car started making noise. I figured we would have to take care of it when we got home but it got much worse in a hurry. After the race we went to an O'Reilley Auto parts and I changed the wheel bearing in their parking lot borrowing some of their tools. I was amazed that I was able to squat down under the front of the car for nearly an hour just 2 hours after running a marathon. At the hotel that evening I didn't give a second thought to going up and down the stairs and we played a little tennis that night. The next morning I had some sore muscles but they loosened up when we went back to Zions and did another short hike.