Thursday, April 28, 2011

Salt Lake City Marathon Race Report

On April 16, Tom and I ran the Salt Lake City Marathon. The only reason we ran it was we didn't get into Boston. We decided back in October when we didn't register quickly enough for Boston that we would be sad the weekend of Boston if since we weren't running the coolest marathon ever, so we decided to run SLC since it was the same weekend.

I felt prepared and faster than I have for previous marathons. I had gotten in speed work and hill work and lots of tempo runs and long runs and long runs with fast finishes, and I had high expectations. My fastest marathon to this point was St George 2009 (3:30:54). And I felt great at the end of it. I expected more from myself in Salt Lake. I wanted to break 3:28 so I would have a good chance of getting in to Boston 2012. To do that I would need to run just under a 7:56 pace. I figured I had it. My training said I had it, my mind told me I had it, Tom told me I had it and the pressure of Tom's dad telling us he already has the condo reserfved for Boston told me I had better have it!

The morning of the race, we woke up early drove to the start to drop off Tom's dad for the bike tour and the rain started to come down. I panicked. I don't run in the rain. When it rains, I run on the treadmill. Tom, on the other hand did 3 of his 4 long runs in the pouring rain. He didn't care that it was pouring. I did so I prayed. I'm not really sure if that is an appropriate thing to pray for, but I've run 1 marathon in the rain when the pressure to qualify for Boston weighed heavy on me and I didn't think I could do that again. So whether it was appropraite or not, I did it and my prayers (and probably many others') were answered. The rain subsided. Phew!

We got to the start in plenty of time and I started looking for my training partner Aimee. She didn't want to get up as early as we did so she was going to ride TRAX to the start. I never did find her, so that was a bit disappointing but I figured I could still do it with out her.

Tom and I started right at the start line because the start consists of 1500 marathoners and 6000 half-marathoners. I did not want to get stuck trying to maneuver around that many people. It was fun to start at the front and be among the real racers. There were a couple of Kenyans and some really fast looking girls with really nice legs. I not ashamed to admit I love to look at runners' legs and envy them.

I kissed Tom and the gun went off. I anticipated Aimee catching me in the first few miles so we could run the rest of the race together. I gave up on that about 10 miles in. The pace felt great for the first 10 miles. The course is a little annoying in that you run with the half-marathoners until Sugarhouse Park (mile 4 I think). They skip the park and the marathoners run a loop around the park. You rejoin the half after the park, but now instead of running with those who are about your pace, you are running with some who are a mile behind you. It was difficult to keep pace. I learned to identify the marathoners from the loop in the park and we kind of stuck to the center of the road and I just paced off of them and tried to ignore the half-marathoners.

We left the half again and I was feeling good. I was ahead of pace, but not by too much. I found a few runners with whom to keep pace. I hit the halfway mark in 1:42:40 and felt pretty strong. I had been taking Hammer Nutrition Perpetuem Solids and they seem to be working. I drank only water at the aid stations because I hadn't trained with Powerade. I knew there wouldn't be any solid nutrition at the aid stations so I brought 6 Perpetuems and 3 Clif Bar Shot Bloks with me. Potential of 300 calories over 26.2 miles. Not a ton, but I always have stomach issues so I figured this would be all I could handle.

The faster and slightly downhill first half started to get to me by mile 16. My quads were starting to feel the strain of the downhill. I just told my self to keep pace to 17 and then a 5K to 20 and then the last 10K to the end would be easy since many of my long runs I picked up the pace for the last 10K.

Mile 17, average pace 7:50. A little fast, but hopefully enough buffer to get me thorough.

Mile 20, 7:54 pace, I'm not sure I could do it. My legs were killing and I just kept telling myself I trained for this. Whenever the words "I can't" entered my head, I replaced them with "dig deep". It didn't work. I was spent mentally and physically. I pathetically watched my pace on my Garmin as my goal slipped out of reach. Each mile got harder and harder. Miles 21 and 22 were around 8:30 pace. Goal still in reach. I hear Aimee yelling for me from behind. She caught me in Liberty Park and looked strong. I tried to keep with her but that lasted about 100 yds. "I'm done," I told her. She tried to encourage me, but obviously she had her own goals and my run turning into a shuffle wasn't going to help her. I watched her slowly disappear and told myself, my original goal of 3:27 was gone, but I could still get 3:29:59. I only had to run 7:59s.

Miles 23 and 24 were just over 9. That goal out of reach now as well. I had to stop and stretch and walk. I was so grateful for awesome fans to cheer the runners on and set up their own aid stations with bananas and oranges. That helped a bit. I also succombed to some Powerade. I had to work hard to get down any more Perpetuem, they are a bit chalky.

Miles 25 and 26: pathetic. I'm run walking now and really struggling just to get to the next block or the next light. My pace is over 10:00. I try to ignore the watch and just finish, but deep down I still want a 3:34:59. I do my best. I recatch a girl who ran with me pretty much the whole race. "I wondered where you were," she said. "I'm done," I said. I tried to keep with her when she passed me again, but really I had nothing left in the tank. My legs were on fire. I was digging as deep as I could.

At this point we are running with the half-marathoners again (the slow ones). I had to dig deep just to pass them.

Before mile 25, at an aid station, a volunteer informs me I only have a mile left. Really? I think. My watch is telling me I still have 1.5 miles and the difference between 1 and 1.5 miles at this point in a marathon is huge. It is like the difference between and sprint tri and an Ironman. I didn't put much merit in her words, but deep down I hoped she as right. She wasn't. The last half-mile was brutal to say the least. I don't know downtown Salt Lake very well and I know the finish is close, but don't know exactly where it is. Finally I enter the Gateway, and I can see the finishline. I muster as much energy as I can to get into that line in a blistering 8:30 pace for the last 2-tenths. I'm a little embarassed to admit it, but I couldn't just let a 3:30+ half marathoner sprint past me into the finish chute. But I made it. Not in my goal times 1 or 2, but at least I made it under goal 3. Official finish time: 3:35:54.

Tom and Aimee await me with huge smiles. I get to them and collapse. As much as I love Tom he was not very sympathetic to my pain and agony. He makes me get up, walk through the refreshments (and it is a long walk). He keeps offering me food, but all I want to do is lie down and die. Probabaly 5 people come up to us and ask if i'm ok. "No" I want to say, but politely I smile and say "I'm fine." Finally we get out of the food and I think I can lie down and die. But No, Tom won't let me. He makes me walk more to find a chair. Really? I don't care if I am dying in the middle of the festivities, please just let me die in peace and not on my feet. As we near some tables and chairs, an essentail oil lady asks if I want a rubdown. Yes Please!! I collapse into the chair and she rubs my legs with oil and explains it'll help the inflamation, pain etc etc. I hope it does something.

10 minutes of sitting, and I am actually feeling like I might survive. I stomach a little bit of food. And am able to get up to talk to Aimee (who rocked it in a time of 3:27!!).

Tom tells me his bittersweet story. He PR'd, but missed breaking three hours by less than a minute. Darn bathroom stop in Sugarhouse Park. I'm still so proud of my man. 3:00:51 and 16th overall!!

All I can think at this point is I need to find another marathon to do so I can get into Boston. I am seriosuly fretting about it. Luckily the 10 minutes in a porta potty gave me plenty of time to fret in peace. (The rest of the bathrooms visits during the day weren't as relaxing, but I will spare you the details, but I have got to figure out something. It is worse than childbirth).

Just a few days later, I signed up for the Utah Valley Marathon on June 11. It is supposedly the fastest Boston Qualifier in the state. Wish me luck!

Click here for some glorious pictures (please explain why they chose to photograph us at mile 23?)


  1. What a great story. I could feel your excitement, your hope, and your agony! And I do wish you luck at the Utah Valley Marathon! I'll call you when I'm in St. George this coming week so we can get together. I hope your mom's planning on it, too.

  2. I LOVED the race review! You described the agony of the last few miles perfectly. It sounds miserable and fun and awesome with another dash of miserable. You guys are amazing - way to go!