Close to infinity porta-potties....still long lines.
At 5:50 in the morning, I had dropped of my sweats, a water bottle and a half eaten bagel to be collected at the finish line in four hours. I had pulled up Strava, queued up my music and waited in a massive cluster of people for the starting gun. At 5:59, I started Strava and hit play. The gun went off 30 seconds later, and no one around me moved. It took three minutes to cross the start line. The music, temperature and taper were all perfect, and I felt great. So great, in fact, that I decided to run my body instead of the course and thereby abandoned my race strategy, which was to hold back.
Although it was a big mistake from a strategy standpoint, it was well worth it. Never in my life had I felt so good for so long while running. The endorphins were surging, the planets aligned, the world was perfect for about eight miles.
My wife and coach made me promise that I would hold back. I thought I was. I did not carry any way to tell how fast I was going, and the speed felt pedestrian. All of the literature suggests that you should hold back to finish strong, but that would have come at a cost that I suppose I was unwilling to pay. The trade-off for the early euphoria was an eight mile bonk that slowed me down to occasional walking pace from mile 18 to 26.
The other critical, strategic mistake was to have heavily favored trail miles to asphalt miles. I had not run more than 13 on asphalt prior to the marathon. When I sign up for my next marathon later today I will make sure I get at least two 20 mile asphalt runs in a few weeks prior. Trails are still way better.
It was not until after the race that I looked at my splits and realized what a big strategic mistake I had made. I PR'd (personal record) everything up to a half marathon. I had a 22 minute 5K for heaven's sake. That is way too fast for me for a marathon, but it sure felt good.
Conditions were perfect. The temperature was in the low fifties for the first half marathon. As I turned down the canyon at about mile ten I was faced with an unexpected head wind. Janae Jacobs (Hungry Runner Girl) reports that the wind "was so strong that everyone I talked to finished about 10 minutes slower than their training predicted." Janae had a tough experience and still qualified for Boston. Her report is worth reading.
Having some experience with distance events (Lotoja, Desperado Dual, etc), I had my wife meet me at about mile 21 with a fresh pair of comfy shoes, clean socks, a banana, otter pops and a full sugar Dr. Pepper and a caffeinated accel gel. I had already downed two accel gels, sport legs, salt tablets and Excedrine at the start then again at mile 13 (less the Excedrine). I ate one otter pop, had two swallows of Dr. Pepper and was shooed away by my coach. The socks and shoes were sublime. My mom came with my wife and helped swap my timing chip to the new shoes. The old ones were Altra Torins. They were great, but I was starting to get a few hot spots. I switched over to Altra Olympus' and thought I was running on the moon. They were dreamy.
Mom helping move my timing chip over to the other shoes
I had been plagued by low back pain for two days before the marathon. A chiropractor at the expo said that there was not much that could be done and to just run.
My low back started to tighten as I hit the first hill at mile eight. I adjusted my stride to compensate. That has left me with some residual soreness that I don't think I would have had otherwise.
At 5:30 that morning, I saw our old friend Sherisa Snoddy. We used to live near her and her husband Bill. They are both avid runners, and it was great to see her. I need to run with Bill soon.
I am looking rather chipper for 5:30 AM
I got passed by Sherisa at about mile 20. She was on her way to finishing at her four hour goal.
I crossed the finish line 4:11. That was eleven minutes slower than my goal. I don't fell badly about a slower than expected finish. I came in 15th out of 57 in my division. The finish food was great. They had creamies, protein drinks, cinnamon rolls, chocolate milk and other great food. It was there that I saw who looked to me like my old friend Stan Villalobos.
Stan trying to avoid getting salty from my sweat stains
I was not sure, so I said nothing. Later when I was standing in line to get a glorious massage, I saw him again and yelled "Stan!" He recognized me immediately. We hugged and caught up.
Stan is a spiritual giant. We had overlapping ecclesiastical responsibilities when we both lived in Arizona. Whenever we dealt with difficult issues, Stan always seemed to come up with solutions that had spiritual sanction. I looked up to him then and still do.
Later that day at Walmart, after consuming a philly cheese steak sandwich, I happened upon running legend John Bozung. I first heard of him in cursed tones as some of my ultra friends spoke of the hell that is Bozung Hill. John is the founder and directory of the Squaw Peak 50 Ultra. The hill is gnarly. It took my very fit friend 45 minutes to run one mile up the hill. John holds the current world record for consecutive months running a marathon. It is somewhere close to 300 straight months. How cool is that? I hope to interview him soon.
I really, really, really want to get into St George. If anyone has a connection, I will be eternally grateful.