ST GEORGE MARATHON
Nutrition: I ate almost exclusively bagels all day yesterday (Friday) before the race. Ben and I had done a quick shake out run and then headed to Einstein's to grab a baker's dozen each. I had 2.5 bagels for breakfast. I snacked on another two during the day and also had a turkey bagel sandwich for both lunch and dinner. I supplemented the sandwiches with rice. I also snacked on French bread, Honeystinger waffles, and a Ucan bar. For breakfast this morning I had a serving of Ucan and another waffle, and then a final serving of Ucan 45 minutes before the race.
Strategy: Race! I wasn't worried about times, splits, paces, etc. I wanted to run off of feel and do my best to compete for the win. I had been asked several times "Are you going to win?" I responded basically the same way each time, "I don't know it's a stacked field with several good runners. But if I don't win, whoever does is going to have to run a very fast time, because I'm running a very fast time". I had three mantras going into this. One, race with confidence, knowing I had put in my best training block ever. Two, don't have any fear at all if you see a crazy split or pace on the watch. Three, make good, tactical decisions determined by me and not what others do.
Pre-Race: Ben's Dad was kind enough to pick me up and take Ben and me to the bus loading zone. Thanks Mr. Van Beekum! The bus lines were really long and it took quite awhile to load. Luckily Ben and I arrived just after a quick 15-minute downpour and avoided getting wet. Temps were warm, already in the 60s at 4:30 a.m. Ben and I rode up and I was tired as could be on the bus. I had a hard time keeping my eyes open. We arrived to the start hit the portables and chatted with several friends (Fritz, Butler, Keate, Mike, Bobby, Matt, Metler, Bryant, etc.). I didn't take a single step of a warm up.
Race: The race started a tad late. The field was incredibly stacked for a local, Utah race. As Nate Krah put it, "It's everyone you hope to not see when you go to a race". Basically every elite runner in the state that races regularly minus Hales, Richardson, Holt, and Costales (and those four all raced two weeks ago at either Top of Utah Marathon or Xterra Trail Champs). As the race started my first thoughts were "Oh man maybe I should've at least warmed up a little". My legs felt really stiff. But they loosened up pretty quickly. My second thought was "Oh no, I have to pee". Luckily that sensation went away by mile 6 or 7 and I never had to stop.
During the first 10k there was a lead pack of six: Bryant (2:15.56 course record holder), Metler (3-time champ), Fritz (former champ), Kotter (former champ), Hawks (pro trail runner and marathon debutant), and me. During this first 10k Kotter was very chatty and he and I talked on and off for a lot of that first 10k. We joked about timing our pit stops, so we both didn't try to use the same portables. Bryant made a move around mile 4 or so to either quicken the pace or get a gap. The rest of us closed it and he filed into the back again. At mile 7 he made another move and this time got a gap. It was right where the elite bottle grab was and while the rest of us went to the other side of the road to get our bottles, he skipped the aid station and picked up the pace. Everyone but me seemed to get their bottles ok. There were too many of us and not enough volunteers I guess and no one handed me my bottle. Kotter kindly offered me some of his, but it was Gatorade and Gatorade and my stomach don't get along. So, I politely declined.
Miles 1-6 splits: 5:28 5:25 5:10 5:06 5:09 5:00 (all manually taken splits off course mile markers)
We had come to Veyo and the monster hill in the race. Bryant had about 15-20 seconds for a lead. Kotter, Hawks and I had broken a bit from Fritz and Metler too. Halfway up the hill I got a little gap on those two and was in sole possession of 2nd place. That only lasted for about a mile and they both caught back up. Hayden went to move on by and I attached on and drafted off him for a little bit. There was some headwind here in Dammeron Valley. Kotter I think fell off again just as soon as he had caught back up. After drafting for probably an unfair amount of time, I moved up and offered to lead for a bit. But that only last about a half mile until we got to the bottles at mile 11. Here I had my Ucan gel attached to my bottle. I slowed down a tad to try and get that down. I had mixed it a little too thick and it was tough to swallow without water (I had dropped my bottle already not wanting to carry both items). So I nursed it over the next two miles and Hawks got a gap on me and also closed to within 10 seconds of Bryant. At the half I was 1:09.27 and I think Bryant was 20 seconds up and Hawks maybe 13-15.
Miles 7-13 Splits: 10:32 (two miles; one down into Veyo and one going up the hill), 5:27 5:20 5:37 10:35 (two miles; one gradual up and one down)
I was feeling pretty good and I was ready to roll. Going back to my mantras for the race, the decision was made to run the Dammeron hills with as little effort as I could while still maintaining contact with the leader. There is no reason to push this part of the course when you have all that downhill coming up. I started to focus on my downhill running form and ran off of effort. I didn't make any ground up on those two until mile 16 or so. At 16 Hawks looked to be slowing, and sure enough he started looking back often and I was gaining a lot of ground. I passed him at about 17.5 miles and he seemed to try to come with me, but it didn't last. Bryant on the other hand was still running very strongly and I hadn't cut into his lead at all. I crossed the 30k mat and imagined I could hear the virtual cheering that my friends and family were surely expressing when they saw my 30k split and place. This gave me a mental boost. I knew if I could get up the hill after 19 and get to mile 20, I'd be ready to close like a freight train. I had legs, I had lungs, and I had determination.
Miles 14-20 Splits: 5:13 4:56 5:03 5:03 4:57 5:14 5:21
Ken and Janae were running up the course and they were positioned just after mile 20. Ken had the gap timed at 18 seconds. So I had only cut out two seconds over the last seven miles. I opened up and really got after it. I closed 8 seconds in mile 21. During mile 22 the lead vehicle informed me the gap was 10 seconds. At the 23 mile marker I made the pass. Bryant said good job to me and I said you too and then I was in sole possession of first. He didn't put up much of a fight to come with me. But he also didn't fall far behind. I felt I had a comfortable lead and for the first time imagined that I would win. But then at mile 25 I hit a wall! My legs felt fine, but I think I either ran out of glycogen or was dehydrated or the heat was getting to me (temps had risen to mid-70s). Whatever it was, I felt terrible! I couldn't even think clearly. I actually considered walking, thinking hey I could do a 10-minute mile and still maybe break 2:20. I passed my Mom cheering with 3/4 mile to go and she said "He's 10 seconds back and closing fast". This scared me bigtime. I thought oh man I'm going to lose this in the final mile. I had nothing in the tank! But I dug down as deep as I could and left everything on the course. During the final stretch I was mumbled out loud to myself "You can do it, you can do it, you can do it" I willed my complaining body to keep going. I had no energy to celebrate; I crossed the line and laid down on the ground. The race director tried to help me up and I just asked him to let me be. He said ok but in a minute he'd have to get me moving. Bryant came in 2nd place in 2:16.46, 37 seconds back.
Miles 21-26.2 splits: 4:46 5:15 4:58 4:55 5:07 6:20 (last 1.2 which is 5:07 pace). Last 10k in 31:37.
It was a great day and so many people ran well! Huge shoutout to my training partner Benny Van! A two-minute course PR for him. And another huge shoutout to Bryant. That guy broke down the barrier of what we thought was possible at this race with his record-setting performance in 2013. After that day, low-2:20s wasn't enough. We had set our sights higher knowing it could be done and Bryant was the one who showed us it was possible. He also ran another extremely courageous race, basically going out at same pace as 2013 in worse conditions and not as much training under his belt. He is a trememdous marathoner! Several others ran so well, congrats to all.
Post-race: Every marathon in this state should attend a STG award ceremony and learn from the best. I was showered with prizes! A trip to Japan? check $750? check Treadmill? check Garmin watch? check. And tons of other gifts and gift certificates. They also give awards ten-deep, which contributes to their competitive elite field and is the main reason STG is the biggest stage in the state for road racing.
Thank yous: I owe thanks to so many people for helping me along the way. My wife and kids for putting up with my crazy hobby. My parents and siblings for support and sometimes babysitting for races/runs. My training partners, the Ogden Crew, but especially to Ben this time who was with me at every early morning insane training session. To John Starett, who has basically become a coach to several of us on the Ogden Crew and who challenged us to take on more marathon-specific training and to tackle monster workouts. Thanks to Utahrunning.com and Generation Ucan for support. Thanks to several others on here and on Strava for vocal support as well. I love our Utah running community!
Next up: Some time off (gasp) and then a little light training for Japan in Nov!
Article and video interview link