Sunday, September 20, 2009

TOU Marathon - Complete

I ran the Top of Utah Marathon this morning. I am both elated at my finish of my first sanctioned marathon and disappointed because I bonked at mile 22. My original goal time for this race was 3:30, but then I thought I could Boston Qualify and focused more on 3:15. I had set a strategy to hit that goal and for the first 20 miles was well on pace to get there. My splits for the first 19 miles of the race were:
Miles 1 - 19: 7:33, 7:23, 7:28, 7:24, 7:31, 7:30, 7:36, 7:22, 7:29, 7:30, 7:40, 7:29, 7:33, 7:19 (end of the big downhill through the canyon), 7:23, 7:26, 7:30, 7:38, 7:52.

Mile 20 – 8:18: things still were ok even though I was feeling tightness in my legs. I had some uphill and it was hot, but I was still moving and had BQ in sight.

Mile 21 – 8:09: thanks to some short downhills and flats I even picked up a little.

Mile 22 – 8:52: here’s where things started to break down. I was losing all of my energy and it was all I could do to keep any semblance of a pace.

Mile 23 – 10:04: this was a full on BONK. I’ll go into the reasons for all of this later, but at this point my ITB in my right knee hurt and I walked through the aide station and even walked for a short distance on stupid hill.

Mile 24 – 10:18: almost in tears and fearing I might walk the rest of the way in all I could do was grit my teeth and make some mental decisions. It was after this mile that I “refused to quit” and to finish this thing properly.

Mile 25 – 9:32: I started running again. I found that running was better for my IT Band than walking because I could control my form better, thus reducing the pain. My general belief for running has been, “if I can get to a point to where I have 2 miles left, I can finish the race”. And that’s what I was determined to do, no matter the time.

Mile 26 – 9:48: regardless of some downhill on this mile I was still barely moving. I had no energy left. All I wanted was to see my wife and give her a hug.

Mile 26.2 – 9:24: the home stretch where you can see the finish. I wasn’t sprinting like others or throwing my hands up. I was just looking for my wife, who I never saw. Sad.

As I crossed the finish line and they removed my timing chip and gave me my enormous medal I made my way to the drinks and turned to my left and saw Emily. I hobbled over and wrapped her up and broke down. Tears came (I’m not afraid to admit it) because I was happy it was over, because I was sad I came up short of my overall goal, elated that I completed such a huge goal of finishing an actual marathon race, but more than anything, because she was there to see me finish and to hear how proud of me she was. That will be what I am most grateful form.

As to the bonk. There are a number of possible reasons I’ll site and then I’ll give the real one (in my opinion). First, I spent the last two days ill and only had two meals in 48+ hours. Second, my wife was supposed to grab me a banana off the counter when we left my cousins this morning. She misunderstood me and thought I was telling her I was grabbing one and we didn’t realize it until we were almost to the drop-off. Not to worry, I was going to meet two of my friends at the bus loading area, except they never showed. I guess they forgot where we were going to meet and caught one of the busses on the corner. I had no breakfast before the start of the race and had only a gel 15 minutes before the guns went off. I had three gels during the race, but with that and Gatorade and water I just don’t think it was enough. But the real reason to me is this: I simply didn’t take enough time to train at distances over 18 miles at marathon pace. I’m willing to take the responsibility for myself and simply say I came up short. I’m ok with that. Over the summer I was focused on other things that while were difficult, didn’t require a fast pace for an extended period of time. And I’m ok with that. I can live with the fact that I just ran a 3:31:19 marathon without having run more than 13 miles at marathon pace.

Here are a few photos taken at the finish line.

Thursday, September 17, 2009

My First Sanctioned Marathon

In two days I will run in my first sanctioned marathon, the Top of Utah Marathon, in Logan. I've run in a couple of other races that weren't as longer, but harder because of the climbing involved. I've also run marathon lengths on a couple of other occasions, but in none of these have I run the full 26.2 miles at marathon pace. My biggest worry is whether I will be able to maintain the pace I want to run for the full distance. I'm not worried about finishing, I just want to do it in my goal time of 3 hrs 15 min. Keep your fingers crossed.

Sunday, September 13, 2009

Wasatch 100

On Friday, September 11 I had the opportunity to help a friend who was running the Wasatch 100 ultra-marathon. For those unfamiliar with this race or this type of racing the Wasatch is a 100 mile trail race run through the Wasatch Mountains on the east side of the wasatch front, starting in Kaysville and ending in Midway, UT. This particular ultra-marathon is almost 30 years old and is run by up to 265 competitors every year. It is one of the more difficult 100s in the nation and is considered one of the four 'grand slam' ultras to do. Because of its difficulty the race organizers put a 36 hour cap on finishing it. Upwards of 40% of all entrants don't finish. Those who do; well, you can imagine how they feel when they are done.
Heading down Bald Mountain
Many racers will have crews to help that at certain points of the race by providing a change of clothes, food, or other types of care to help get them moving better. They will also utilize pacers. In road marathons pacers are common to help runners maintain a certain speed for such a long distance, but in an ultra-marathon pacers are generally just there to give the racer someone to talk to, help keep their spirits up, and mostly just to keep their mind off of what they are doing. Running for 24+ hours straight is hard enough, doing it alone would make it much harder. I had the opportunity of helping my friend Davy Crockett run in his 2nd Wasatch 100. He did it the first time in 2006 in just over 34 hours. This year he wanted to finish it in 28 hrs 30 min. I got to pace him for 14 miles, from Big Mountain aid station to Lamb's Canyon aid station (comprising miles 39 - 53 of the overall race). This is a challenging section because it is during the hottest part of the day on an exposed ridgeline and through a sweltering valley. Davy was tired and dehydrated when I met up with him, but he was still in good spirits. We had a good time trying to catch and pass other runners. We were successful in catching quite a few and only got passed by 2 over the 14 mile stretch. Half way through our leg together we came to Alexander Ridge aid station. Davy took a short break to rehydrate and eat some snacks. While we joked everyone else there looked like living death. We got out of there fast.
The 2 mile long hill from Alexander Ridge. This was a tough section.
I left Davy at Lamb's Canyon aid station, but would help crew him at two other stops along the way, once at the top of Millcreek Canyon at 8:30pm and the other at Brighton Ski Resort at 1am. Davy would go on to finish the race in 28 hrs 33 minutes, right around his goal time. It was an awesome experience for me as I learned a ton about running ultras and also how to help others do so. My congratulations go out to Davy and the work he put in. It was a great time.
Davy at Lamb's.