Because at about 9830198234 points during this race I wanted to give up on myself -- and at 9830198234 points during this race I wouldn't let myself do that. I fought for every mile, and every time someone tried to offer some sort of condolence, I realized that they were putting their own spin on my experience before understanding what I just went through. I gave everything I had during this race, and for that I'm so satisfied with my effort.
So please don't say you're sorry or feel bad for me & instead just read. :)
Naomi & I arrived in Salt Lake City on Friday afternoon and I noticed immediately I had a headache. I took an Excedrine, and after the expo & dinner I felt better. But on Saturday morning -- race morning -- I woke up with another headache and wondered if it truly was the altitude instead of being psychosomatic. I took another Excedrine for safe measure as Naomi dropped me off at the buses that brought me up to the start line.
Naomi & me outside the historic Union Station expo
I happened to be in the port-o-potty line as the staring gun was fired (awesome), and I got a late start with the 5:30 marathoners. My first mile was spent dodging, weaving, and starting off too fast to catch up with my pack. Dang it.
Just like CIM, I wanted to negative split this race, treating miles 1-5 as a warm up & doing pace miles or faster for the rest. When I started out too quickly, I tried to reel it in for a few miles to even that out and preserve some energy. I was able to slow it down without a problem -- but when it was time for me to pick it back up to pace miles, my legs wouldn't turn over. I have no other way to describe it except that I felt like my warm-up was my workout. My breathing was slightly labored and my heart rate felt okay, but really it just felt like I was working too hard to maintain what should have been a decently casual pace for me. I was running what would feel like 7:30 miles at sea level, but when I would look at my watch, I saw 8:30s. It was extremely disheartening. I felt like I was working my ass off and my paces were not backing up my efforts.
4: 8:065: 8:07
I told myself before the race to be realistic about altitude & to check back in with myself at mile 5 to assess how I was feeling. By mile 6 I found myself counting the miles I had left (not good so early on!) and thought about my backup plan -- slowing down, enjoying the scenery, treating Ogden as a training run, & signing up for a sea-level race a few weeks out. And that's when I decided to do that -- to just get the miles in and sign up for a different race.
But by mile 7, I convinced myself that I didn't dedicate so much time and money to come to Utah for a training run. So I was going to fight for a few more miles and reassess at the halfway point.
11: 8:29 -- water bottle refill
I hit the halfway point in 1:48, and I knew I was pretty far off from my goal. I was getting frustrated when looking at the paces on my watch, so I tucked my watch away and decided to stop looking at it. Instead I was going to run on feel and keep fighting at my race-pace effort. I kept going back & forth with myself on whether to push my body or back off and save my legs for another day. This happened the entire race.
15: 8:27 -- the Big Steep Hill & water bottle refill
I was unusually thirsty and taking water from my handheld every half mile or so, but I needed to start refilling at more stops since I was running out so quickly. Eventually I started refilling my bottle at every stop and I would also chug a cup of water while I was there. I was taking in a lot more liquids than usual, but I was kind of expecting that up at altitude. The sun was getting higher, the air was getting drier, there was very little shade and no wind on the course, and I was seriously doing my damnedest to hit anything under 8:30. Words cannot describe how hard I was working to do even that.
17: 8:23 -- water bottle refill
And then at mile 20, my stomach had enough of all the water/GU sloshing around & I made my first ever bathroom break during a marathon. There's a first for everything, right?!
20: 9:58 -- water bottle refill & bathroom break :(
Once we hit mile 24, the course switched from downhill pavement to a bike path filled with rolling hills (and even the occasional biker coming at us). It got congested as I caught up with the slower half marathoners/walkers, the last marathon relay point, and golf carts trying to get through to bring people to the medical tents. I dodged and weaved some more, just like how I started the race. At this point, my legs were completely dead -- after running for so many miles downhill, my muscles almost didn't know how to handle flatter ground. It was very hard to even stay upright.
This race was no joke -- I felt like an idiot for thinking a downhill race might make a marathon easier.
25: 8:56 -- water bottle refill
.35: 2:54 (8:20 pace)
I saw Naomi and her friend Aaron cheering me on as I approached the crowded finish line grandstands & I did my best to finish strong in front of so many people. I had nothing -- absolutely nothing -- left in me. I may not have PR'd this course, but I sure beat myself up by not taking the easy way out.
Overall this race was wonderful & I recommend it to anyone who wants to run a beautiful and very scenic route. The expo was charming, the swag was above-average (things you actually use in your race bag: Runners World magazine, Kleenex, pedicure set, Shot Blox), and the entire race was well-organized, efficient, and all the workers/volunteers were friendly. The course itself was breathtaking & a tiny part of me wishes I had brought my phone with me to snap some super blurry pictures of all the mountain scenery. Instead, the only way I can describe the gorgeousness of Utah is to tell you to run this race yourself. Just don't try to race it if you're not used to altitude or downhill running.
In short: This race was a total bitch for me. The altitude nearly killed me and I worked so hard to not give in. I'm satisfied with my finishing time despite the obstacles & I don't want people to pity me for not making my 3:30 goal. Sure, upon careful split analyzing, if I hadn't stopped for water or the bathroom, I would have bettered my current 3:35 PR... but I truly believe I took the breaks I needed in order to make it to the finish line. And I am okay with that.
A bit longer: I am confident I can sub-3:30 based on this training cycle and this race itself. Some rudimentary calculations of what this altitude race translates to at sea level say I'm capable of running much faster than what my Garmin showed. I personally learned that I'm capable of pushing myself even when my legs won't move & it's hard to breathe. If I can push myself to that extent under those conditions, I know can do anything... at least at sea level. :)
Marathoner x7Garmin time: 26.35 miles, 3:38:43 -- 8:18 pace
Official time: 26.2 miles, 3:38:43 -- 8:21 pace
Overall place: 384 out of 2,385
Gender place: 107 out of 1,179
A/G place: 22 out of 143
.35: 2:54 (8:20 pace)
Super huge thanks and massive hugs to Naomi for totting me around/keeping me company/motivating me/putting up with me this weekend! Despite how hard this race was for me, I KNOW you'll enjoy doing it next year. :) xoxoxo