Tuesday, October 6, 2009

Finally Got a Good One

I traveled to SLC on Monday of race week, with the intention of getting some acclimation to the altitude, and I think that worked pretty well, though you can never know for sure. I was steeply into my taper mode by the time I arrived at altitude and only ran twice during the week. The first time was a run out the door of Jennifer and Scott’s apartment on Tuesday morning, out Foothill then up Sunset toward the Hogle Zoo before turning around and returning for a total of about 5.1 miles. Lots of up and downs on the run which was good. My lungs burned a little to start then seemed to get used to the thinner air. Then Wednesday afternoon I ran with Byron at the Smith Fieldhouse in Provo. The track is about 1/6 mile and we ran around and around for an hour, no idea how far we went but I felt good and Byron ran slow for my benefit.

There were complications this week, from a deal I have been working on for three months and has still not closed. Lots of tense moments made worse by me being out of town, even though I had good cell phone and internet connections. But we got most of the issues done and out of the way by the time I got into the car with Clint and headed down to St. George on Friday afternoon, although I was on the phone as we took off and Clint drove the first while until I could get off the call and switch so he could study.

Running with me in the marathon were Clint (more about that later), Byron and Marci, Elaine, Daryl and Eric. Cheryl and Nathan were entered but had to drop out from injuries. (It turns out there is no truth to the rumor that Cheryl broke her tailbone during a yoga class, but it was a wonderful story while it lasted.) Esteemed visitors at the finish line were Scott, Jennifer and Jane, Stephen, Nathan and his four boys, and Becky. Walt and Helen stayed behind in Woodland Hills to tend Byron and Marci’s kids and Kate. Dale Thurber, Daryl’s training partner, wasn’t entered in the race but came down with Daryl, drove him to the starting line the back way from Cedar City, then ran a marathon distance through the mountains while the race was going on, he was crewed by his sister and saw a lot of interesting country and wildlife. He ran about 4:15 and seemed disappointed by his time. I would kill for a 4:15.

We stayed at a motel in Hurricane and left at 3:30 in the morning to catch a 4:00 bus ride from the finish line to the start line. It was low 30s up there at altitude. There were lots of bonfires burning, probably about 50 and lots of Juans (Clint’s term for outhouses), but only one roll of toilet paper in each outhouse. Clint and I rode with Byron and Marci, and miraculously found Daryl. Byron and Marci bought us some airplane blankets at WalMart in Hurricane which really helped cut out some of the cold breeze. It was dark up there with a full moon which sank by the time the race started.

At the start of the race it took us 10 minutes to cross the timing mats, but the race computer measured our time exactly the same way as my Garmin watch did, within one second, so no complaints. I ran with a wallet, car keys and a cell phone. Everything else went into the drop bag.

Clint didn’t feel like he had trained enough for this marathon and he was probably right. His longest run going into the race was 12 miles. He has run one other marathon, at 4:45 about 5 years ago. My goal pace was 5:00, so we agreed that Clint would stay with me and dial 911 as needed. As I looked at the mass of runners in front of me trying to cross the starting mat I told Clint that I would never win this race. Quite a few people overheard me and were laughing out loud at the old man. Need some Southern hospitality out there in St. George.

Daryl ran the first 3 miles with us then took off at his own pace. Clint watched him longingly as he faded into the distance. I had a chart for my goal pace, and we were too fast the first mile then too slow the second mile. After that we pretty much stayed right on pace for the first half of the race. It seemed a little fast at first then seemed quite comfortable, even a little slow.

The first miles went by really fast. There were lots of interesting people to watch, fat, skinny, fashionable, nerdy, everybody turned out for the fun. Lots of funny signs too, but neither Clint nor I can remember what any of them said.
The first reality check was the Veyo hill, which started after 7 miles and was very steep for one mile, then a gradual uphill through mile 12. I ran halfway up the hill then decided to walk, though I still made my split for that mile. Somewhere in here I took a detour into the bushes but only lost one minute.

When I reached the halfway point I felt better than I ever have, whether during a race or a training run. The only major climb in the race was past, and I was in good shape. I was a little bit emotional that I felt so good but tried not to blather all over the course. I had told myself ahead of time that if I felt good at the half I would stretch it out a little bit. The average pace over the entire course for me was 11:23 per mile, and I started putting down some fast miles, getting as low as 9:27 on one of the splits, mile 15 I think. Reality started to sink in a little as we approached mile 18, a little more as we approached mile 20, but we were still going strong, passing hundreds and hundreds of walkers. I tried to stay hydrated and even ate a little bit of bananas and oranges, whenever offered. I was very confident and confided in Clint that I had dropped my goal finish to 4:45. Clint calculated that if we kept up the same pace (mid-10s) we would make it.

Clint and I talked about everything under the sun. We had a great time, then we weren’t talking anymore at about mile 22, as things started to get grim for the old man who was sure he wasn’t going to win this thing. I felt the first signs of fatigue back at mile 15, then my old friend returned, nausea. We kept going until mile 25 or so when the heat got me and I finally had to walk, a bit anticlimactic after thinking I would finish the whole thing without stopping to walk any significant distance. I walked the rest of the way in and Clint stuck with me. We walked all the way down the finish chute, much to the disappointment of all my fans, jogging only a few steps across the mat. My time on the Garmin was 4:58:30, and my official race time was 4:58:29, I finally broke 5 hours.

I misted off and got inside the runners area, but finally had to lay down and empty the contents of my stomach. Then my right calf cramped right under the shin bone. A couple of Army guys helped me up and into the tent where they took my vital signs, let me eat a popsicle then shooed me out. I did an interview with Scott, but found that I still couldn’t stand up without being nauseous. So I sat, and pretty soon the sun was too hot so I went and lay down in the shade (different spot from the first time), for about a half-hour then I was fine.

The real story in this race is Clint. He barely trained (he spent the summer applying for medical school, participating in a medical research team in Peru and getting engaged), yet was still capable of running faster than his first race. But he was a true champion, stayed with me the whole time, thank you kindly bud. Daryl in his first marathon since high school ran 4:15 on the dot. Marci ran about 4:19. Byron blew the lid off the course with a 3:47, almost half an hour better than his previous best time. Elaine despite all of the injuries she has been struggling with ran 4:00, re-qualifying for the next two Bostons. Eric, that sly devil, ran a 3:07 and said he was disappointed. I thought he was targeting 3:10 but apparently it was 3:00. It was his first marathon in 10 years; nevertheless, he also qualified for Boston by a wide margin.

This is a wonderful marathon, well organized and a great course. A great confidence builder and a good reward for a summer of hard running in the heat. Next up is the Texas Marathon on January 1.


  1. Thanks Mark, a great report. And good job to Clint too~ If you run it again I predict you will be messing more with 4:30 than 5. I hope I get in the Texas marathon. I am anxious to race again, three days later.

  2. Great post! And a job well done to all of you.