Well another Ogden Marathon in the books, and another cold, rainy, and this time windy day. This marathon has had the worst weather lately. We're due a gorgeous day next year!
I have to start with a little background on me and the Ogden Marathon. I've lined up for this race three times prior to today. All three times I had aspirations of placing top 3 and finishing in the mid 2:20s to 2:30 range. In 2011 I threw up at mile 14 and again at mile 18, cramped severly in the canyon, and dropped at mile 24. In 2013 in poured rain and I ran just terribly. I had no physical excuses, I just didn't have it that day. Last year, I threw up again at mile 16 and again at 18 and 21-22 and ended up in the medical tent. This race has OWNED me. Which is a tough pill to swallow when it's your hometown race.
This year, I was determined to beat this course. Not only was I going to beat my nemesis (Ogden Marathon), but whether I won the race or not I was going to beat its record. If I wasn't going to win, whoever beat me was going to have to beat that record, because I was going to beat that record. It would be the perfect revenge against the course that has destroyed me every time I challenged it. This race was always more about me versus the course than it was me versus the field of runners.
The crew all met up pre-race at the buses: Ken, Ben, Denver, Matt, Bryant, Wolpert, and me. We also saw Mike, Bobby and their crew from Utah county there. The weather downtown before loading the bus was excellent. No rain, no noticeable wind, it was really quite calm. Spirits were high and excitement was in the air. Once we got up to the start, there's a 90-minute wait for the race to start. A light sprinkle started, which wasn't a shock as the forecast called for 30% chance of light rain. I had prepared for this with a tarp for us to sit/lay on and a mylar blanket to cover us. The rain steadily increased and wind from the West picked up. The weather was getting quite ominous. Staying warm was getting harder. The pickup truck for the bag drop let people sit inside for awhile and Ben, Ken, and me actually set the tarp underneath the large pickup truck and used it as shelter. 45 minutes before the race I drank my Ucan I had brought up with me and then took one more trip to the restroom. By now it was raining a lot and the wind was 5-10 MPH headwind. I couldn't believe it; it was deja-vu of the last two times I've run this race. How does it rain every year?
The race started and Bryant barely made it to the front in time. I was worried, but he got there just in the nick of time. The field was quite stacked: Anthony and Bryant with their PRs in the 2-teens, me, Ben and Ken in the best marathon shape of their lives, and Montana man, Collin Fehr, who we learned after such research ran a 1:05 half against Brett Hales last year at American Fork Half Marathon. The wind was strong enough that I suggested we take turns leading and drafting. I took mile one and then we were gonna switch each mile. The splits on course were all over the place, so I'll just post Strava splits at the end (splits don't mean much in this terrible weather anyway). I have to believe the markers were off because they'd been blown down or away and probably just set up sporadically where people found them. Bryant led mile two and Anthony mile three. Montana man introduced himself to the rest of us, "Howdy boys, I'm from Montana. The name's Collin". I knew I liked this guy immediately! So, the stage was set a pack of four runners up front in the lead.
Mile three, Anthony took his turn leading. Mile four I wasn't sure if Montana man was interested in our working together as he was just off to the side a bit, so I went to lead again. But Anthony stayed on my side instead of tucking behind and then took the lead again. Anthony ran a courageous race! He basically led in the headwind from here to mile 9. He got a small gap at times, but then we would catch back up. The conditions weren't very conducive for getting gaps. I was happy to draft behind Bryant and Montana Man as we yo-yoed back and forth behind Anthony. Around Pineview we had a heavy crosswind and were anxious for the canyon, hoping for shelter from the wind, but ironically these miles from 9-13 were some of the calmest of the race, weather-wise.
On the rollers in this section, I got the slightest of leads on a hill. Anthony worked up beside me, but I could hear his breathing and he was laboring. I internally checked how I felt and my breathing was fine; I felt good. I then glanced over my shoulder at Bryant and he looked smooth, but also seemed to be breathing harder than me. Finally, how was Montana doing? He was 2-3 feet back and looked to be laboring. I concluded I was feeling the best at this point, and the first thought of hey I can win this thing crossed my mind. But I reminded myself that there was a LONG ways to go. Part of me wanted to move a bit here and test my theory, but prudence won over and stuck to my plan. My plan for the first half was a three-step plan: patience, patience, and patience.
We approached the halfway point and crossed in 1:11:27. Bryant was with me, Montana was a second back, and I'm not sure if Anthony was there or not. He had to be at least within seconds, but I really don't know for sure. I do know that he and Montana were not within sound anymore over the next mile. Just after the half, our friend and crew member Jon, was there cheering. We approached the hill at 14 and this massive gust of wind pounded us. I looked back at Bryant who was now a step or two back and said, "Are you freaking kidding me? Come on!" He shook his head and we were both in disbelief of the weather. Nothing close to this was ever in the forecast.
On the hill I gapped Bryant without trying to, I feel it was more him slowing down than me speeding up. I pulled out my UCan gel here and nursed it over the next mile. Which turned out to be perfect timing, because after mile 15 mother nature reared her ugly head! Gusts of wind picked up and pelted me with rain. Little raindrops traveling at 40-50 MPH hitting your bare skin feels like needles! It hurt badly. I thought it was hail, but it was just rain traveling very quickly with ferocious velocity. It was here that I knew the course record wasn't going down. Nobody could run that fast into this wind! My nemesis saw that I had a slight lead and was feeling good and it was not going to let me off that easily. Miles 16-19 were the hardest miles I've probably ever run in my life. There was a 20-25 minute stretch where it honestly felt like running into a Hurricane! Speaking with several people after the race, this time window hit everyone at the same time regardless of where you were on the course. Slower half marathoners, like my father said it was worst in the canyon. Guys running in the 3-hour range said it was the worst right after the half. People running 4 hours said it was terrible on the East side of Pineview. For me it was miles 16-19, just before the canyon and including the first mile of the canyon (the fastest mile of the race in normal conditions).
It got so bad, that I honestly thought they may cancel the race; get everyone to shelter. And although it would've robbed me of a chance for victory, I totally would've understood the decision. I came through the aid station at mile 17 and it was complete carnage! Cups everywhere, flying in the wind. Tables knocked over. Canopies pinned up against rocks from the wind. Volunteers taking shelter in their cars. One stuck their head out and asked if I needed anything. I replied no and they rolled their window back up. I forgot to mention, but at 15 aid station I wanted water to wash the Ucan down. As the volunteer handed me the water I tried to grab it, but my fingers were so cold even with gloves, that I couldn't wrap my fingers around to clench it and it just fell straight to the ground. I also couldn't get my hands to push the split button on my watch, so I didn't take any splits again until 19.
At the spillway at the top of the canyon I saw my friend Tyler Call. He took some photos and it was a boost to see a familiar face after what were the worst miles ever. I turned at the spillway, glanced back expecting to see Bryant 20-30 seconds back, but saw no one. Ok, this is it! 8-mile aerobic builder and you will win the Ogden Marathon. The worst of the storm calmed a bit at mile 19 and the headwind slowed to 15-20 MPH, which normally would be something to complain about. But today, it was a RELIEF. I started the half marathoner weave. I thought I'd have a lead biker by this point, but no one ever led me. I was left alone to navigate the 4-wide half marathoners here and later on the parkway.
At mile 21 I saw Dave. He had run up the canyon to cheer. When he saw me in first place, he let out a shout and got really pumped up. This made me unexpectedly emotional. Dave more than anyone knows exactly the misery I went through last year, here at this very spot. He passed me last year right here while I was throwing up. It was the lowest of lows. And now here at the same place he saw me and it was the highest of highs, I was winning the Ogden Marathon. He pumped me up bigtime and got me moving. I left the canyon for the parkway and ran under the tunnel at Rainbow, which was flooded. No big deal, my feet were already socked. Emerging on the other side, it was like someone flipped a switch. The rain stopped, the headwind ceased. It was as if my nemesis, the Ogden Marathon course had given up. It had thrown every thing imaginable at me and I had persevered. It finally conceded a victory to me; the score now Ogden Marathon 3 Riley 1.
I was able to get my splits back in the 5:20s and finished strong. I turned the corner at Grant Ave which I had turned so many times before in our training. I looked for my family and saw my bro in law first and then the others. I swerved over to that side of the road, high-fiving everyone. I was so tired, but so happy too. I'd made it through atrocious weather and I'd won. I broke the tape and then was just tired. My body kind of shut down. Some volunteers helped me a bit, and wanted to take me to get warm. But, I told them I couldn't leave the area until my boys finished. I waited and waited and no one came. Finally, ten minutes later Montana Man came in. He said he thought Anthony had dropped and wasn't sure what happened to Bryant. 5-6 more minutes past and Harrison came in. Harrison is a great young man from Ogden who put some serious miles in this spring and ran very well. Right after that Ken came in. He was struggling; his body had shut down miles earlier. But he made it. Ben never came; we later learned he and Bryant dropped.
No one will ever understand that 20-minute stretch of hurricane conditions that didn't experience it. Yes, the rest of the time was bad too, but my word that 20 minutes... Whoever managed to finish this race today will never forget it as it was likley the toughest race they've ever endured. Hats off to all that ran and huge shoutout to the volunteers braving those conditions; true soldiers. And again huge thanks to my family and everyone else intrumental in helping me accomplish this; you know who you are!
Link to article in the Standard.