Wednesday, October 5, 2011

St. George Marathon Recap

A Runner's Ramblings: Volume 6; 35th Edition 
501.5 miles raced, 7480 meters swam and 202.3 miles biked in 2011
Race: St. George Marathon
Place: St. George, UT  
Miles from home:  300 miles
Weather: 60-80s; bright sunshine

Sometimes when you go for broke, you break.

Fortunately, nothing on me actually broke at the St. George Marathon on Saturday. But my desire to break my marathon PR was definitely far ahead of where it should have been, logically-speaking. I knew deep down I was not trained properly enough, not rested enough and wouldn't be running in weather cool enough to try to run fast but thought I could will myself to a new PR nonetheless. That said, I won't be the first to bite off a little more than I can chew in a marathon attempt and I damn sure won't be the last.

However, while the attempt itself needed to be forfeited during the race, I was extremely pleased that I was smart enough to realize the day did not have to be one where I limped across the finish under some false pretense of bravado. I did not need to leave my entire effort out on the course. Why? The goal was not to just run semi-fast or break three hours or try to tick off some little-known box on a checklist I invented for myself after the fact.  The goal was to break the PR I had set in Ogden in 2009 with this being my first attempt to even do so in two years. When it became painfully obvious that was not going to happen, pulling back and focusing on the remainders of the goals I have for this years (which may include another shot at a marathon PR) made far more sense.

When I had the desire a few months ago to make St. George my PR attempt, I definitely thought I would be spending more time at my home resting and training prior to the race. Unfortunately, circumstances and life get in the way of even our grandest plans. To begin with, a few trips were necessary in the past few months to my hometown to help take care of personal matters which definitely did not help my training at all, either physically or mentally.  However, as I stood on the starting line of the St. George Marathon, a thought came to mind that I once told a friend. We cannot get to the finish line if we do not make it to the starting line.  Here I was on the starting line. I might not get the PR, but I was going to give it a try.

First 7 miles:

Any jackwagon who thinks that the St. George Marathon is an all-down course has obviously never run it. Then again the ability of people to parrot information they hear with no actual proof is a hallmark of the human race. Without a doubt, the first 6 miles of this race have an excellent net downhill, where, if you run it correctly, can give you quite an advantage over the rest of the course. I had consulted a few friends who had run the race and using a spreadsheet that factors in the coefficient of the uphill and downhill portions, had worked out what I wanted to run for every mile of this course. Not trusting my memory, I printed out the piece of paper, taped it up and pinned it on my singlet for reference throughout the race.

The first 7 miles of the course present about 700 feet of elevation loss total.  There are, however, three small rises in these first first 7 miles that are surprising if a runner goes in feeling it is an escalator ride to the bottom.  The times I wanted to hit for these first 7 miles, with my actual time in parentheses, were as follows:

6:31 (6:27)
6:23 (6:28)
6:08 (6:11)
6:01 (6:13)
6:16 (6:25)
6:16 (6:02)
6:16 (6:11)

My goal was, at the bottom of the infamous Veyo Hill starting after the 7th mile, was to be comfortable and at a time of 43:51. When I hit that 7th mile, I was only 9 seconds off of that and feeling great.

To mile 11:

This next section of the race presents basically the most uphill and most challenging mental portion of the race.  After having the benefit of some delicious downhill for 7 miles, this is what runners face in less than one mile.

For me, I did not care if I was supposed to slow down to a 7:01 or not, I was going to slow as much as I wanted to in order to get up this hill and feel good.  In fact, at one point, I decided to walk for ten seconds just to catch my breath and gather my senses.  I felt vindicated in doing so when I lost all of about 15 feet on the people in front of me who were still running up this beast.

When I hit the 9th mile, which is still up hill, I had only lost 30 seconds off my desired pace from both my walk break and the hills I had been running.  The sun was beginning to crest over the mountains to our left. I remembered thinking I just wanted to get to mile 10 before it started to bake me fully.  I was quite pleased that it was not nearly as hot as forecasted but it was definitely warm.  In fact, it was only a few miles later when I poured a glass of water over my heavy and rivulets of salt went into my mouth did I realize how hot it was and how dehydrated I had been.  But right now I felt great. Delusion is good sometimes.

As I passed a runner wearing a St. George Running Center singlet, I could see she was in serious pain.  I told her to keep her chin up and she responded "Thanks, Dane! I love your book." When I whipped my head around to say thank you, I could see she was already in tears.  She was obviously not just tired. I asked her if she was OK and she could not get out a coherent sentence she was so distraught.  I wheeled around and ran back to her.

Amber was her name and she inquired whether I had some ibuprofen. I told her I unfortunately did not but that there was a medical unit right up the road. I could tell that she was a trooper but there was obviously something wrong with the way she was dragging her one leg.  It looked like her hip was killing her. We talked for a few seconds and I tried to console her and let her know that sometimes the best run we do is the one we don't. Think about the long term benefits of the short term decisions we make. I then left her, hoping she would make the right decision. (At the end of the race I saw Amber again. She had indeed made a very wise decision and pulled out at mile 15. I reaffirmed that she made an excellent decision based on how badly her race was going and she seemed perfectly fine with her choice. I am sure it burned at the time and will burn still more until she races again, but she knew she was right in living to run another day.)

Addendum: Amber has since go on to win St. George and ran a 2:40!

As I came up to the final portion of the uphill, I had lost a few more seconds from my retracing of steps and the continual upward jaunt but was ready to pour it on. The sun was now fully over the mountains and the shade was gone.

To mile 15:

These next four miles sealed my fate for the St. George Marathon. Even with the beginning of some of the best downhill of course, I simply could not get my legs to turn over. The next four miles had me realizing that not only was my goal of 2:45 gone but so was any PR at all.  I hit the halfway point at 1:27 and it was all downhill in the bad way from there.

I do remember at mile 15, as we turned the corner, seeing an absolute beautiful view of the vista below me. Without a a doubt if I had been in full race mode, I would have not seen this. I would have seen the road in front of me and nothing else. But as each mile slipped by and I could tell I was completely robbed of energy needed to run what I wanted (run a 7:05 when I needed to run a 6:08, for example) this was the reality of this race. It was now just me needing to run 11 more miles to get to the finish and start planning the next event.

To the finish:

The rest of the race was more of the same.  Me surprised I could not effectively run downhill, something which has always been my strong point, while more and more people streamed passed me. I became a cheerleader for the runners as those I did not know, and a few I did, pushing them forward to what was hopefully a good day for them. I know, however, for many it was not. With the leaders being quoted as saying that they were dumping water on their heads at mile 2 to stave off the heat and times across the board being slower for elites, average joes and back of the packers, this was a tough day for many.

For me it was tough because I knew I had so many friends rooting for me. I know, like so many others, that those who care about you will support you even on your bad days, but you never want to let them down. However, I knew I could be happy with my race in the long run because I lived by one of my principles of running. I'm aware I am never going to be the fastest person out there but if I can, I will always be one of the smartest. It is hard to run with your head and not your heart but  it is something I have to do sometimes.

Chalking up this race to experience only, barely halfway through was very difficult to do.  But it was the intelligent thing to do. A month ago, with my foot killing me after the Mesa Falls Marathon, I did not even think I would be running St. George at all.  However, in the next few weeks, as it seemed to heal enough to allow me just an inkling of hope to shoot for a PR, I figured I would go with it as far as I could.

On this day, my best was not enough to accomplish what I hoped for.  But I know someday soon it will be.

1 comment:

Ancient Chinese secret said...

Sorry to know that; but just FYI that if you going to run New Jersey Marathon next May, you will likely to run a new personal best. The race course is dead-flat and I broke 3-hour for the first time this past May. I think you should run that race as your PR trial.

I just read your 2008 Tucson Marathon review ( Thanks for the insight; I will be in Tucson this December.