After I ran the St George marathon in 2005 I came up with a 2 year plan: run the Utah Grand Slam in 2006 to gain a lot of marathon racing experience; run the 2007 Boston marathon; take a shot at a sub-3 hour marathon at the 2007 St George marathon. I knocked out the first 2 goals without too much of a problem and only had 1 left. After Boston, I decided to take a break from focused training for a while and only use a 12 week training program for St. George. I maintained decent mileage during the summer and set PR’s in a couple of 5K’s, a 10K and a ½ marathon. Once my 12 week program started, I never really got into a groove. After missing one of the biggest planned training weeks due to illness, I started having my doubts about sub-3. I ran another ½ marathon and got another PR but it was not as fast as I wanted it to be to give me the confidence to go for it. I decided to take training up another notch and ran 4 weeks without a day off. I averaged 75 miles per week and started feeling good Ran one more 5k heading into the taper which wasn’t as fast as I expected and took a blow to the confidence. All my shorter race times predicted close to a sub-3 hour marathon. Some predictors were just over 3 hours and others were just under. Finally decided that since there was not a secondary goal I was going to go for the sub-3 and accept the crash if it occurred. I even painted “Sub-3 or Bust” on the back of my car window before the drive to St George just to put a little more pressure on myself.
I slept well the night before the race and I felt better physically and mentally than I have before any other marathon. Took one of the later buses to the start line so that I didn’t have to sit around in the cold. About 10 minutes before the start of the race, I stripped down, vaselined up and headed to the elite starting corral. Only stood around for a couple of minutes until the bullhorn went off indicating the start of the race. Everything seemed to be perfect.
Because of the nature of the course, my plan was to run a little faster than goal marathon pace for the first 6 miles, give some time back on the climb up Veyo and the smaller climb through Dammeron Valley. Wanted to hit the half in 1:31 and run a 2 minute negative split.
For the first 7 miles I went completely by feel and ignored the mile splits. I averaged 6:35/mile which was 10 seconds per mile faster than I planned. I felt good and well in control of my pace so I wasn‘t concerned about going out too fast. The eighth mile includes the climb up Veyo. Ran this in 7:28 which is exactly what I planned. The next 4 miles include the climb through the Dammeron Valley. I averaged 7:04/mile through this section which, in hindsight, was a little slow. It felt like it was getting colder and I was worried that I was starting to dehydrate. Heard the same comment from another runner so I figured that I was alright. Started to pick the pace up again and ran miles 13 and 14 in 6:39 and 6:40. Hit the half in 1:29:20 which was 1:30 faster than I planned. The strangest part of the race to this point was that the miles seemed to be clicking by faster than any race that I have ever run. In fact, when my Garmin beeped and I went to check my mile 8 split I was actually on mile 9.
Miles 15 and 16 are my favorite miles on the course because they have big downhills and fast splits are exactly what you need mentally at this point in the race. My splits were 6:15 and 6:08. I really struggled through miles 17 through 20 last year so I was kind of expecting the same. I felt a lot better this time although I started to experience the first bouts of extreme leg fatigue at mile 19. Despite the tired legs, I averaged 6:38/mile for the 4 miles. At this point I started doing a million calculations. If I slow down to 8:00/mile, can I still finish under 3 hours? If I continue the same pace, how fast will I finish? Of course at this stage in the race, I’m sure that none of my calculations were right. Hit mile 21 in 6:14 and I started to feel it. My pace no longer felt smooth and my legs were burning. I start to feel a head wind and a few people pass me. I really think that the wheels may be falling off because my hands are starting to tingle and this is the first sign of the wall for me. As the wind picked up, I realized that I was in no man’s land. I see a small group of runners ahead so I surge to catch up to them. It seems that the surge shook loose whatever was holding me back because I suddenly felt a lot better. Mile 22 split was 6:38 and I was ready to open it up for the rest of the race.
Hit the next miles in (surprisingly) 6:21, 6:25 and 6:20. With the 1.2 miles to go I start to lengthen the stride a little and let go. Ran mile 26 in 6:17 and the last 0.2 at a 5:45/mile pace.
Finish Time: 2:53:46
First Half: 1:29:20
Second Half: 1:24:26
Overall Place: 129/5,154
Gender Place: 106/2,926
AG Place: 31/465
I am completely shocked with my finish time. I honestly thought that I would be lucky to sneak under 3 hours. The only regret that I have about the race is the almost 5 minute negative split. The second half of the race was only 30 seconds slower than my half marathon PR which was on a notoriously fast course. I would have never predicted that I could run the second half that fast. Looking back, I really don’t think that there is anything that I could have done differently. Now I have to figure out my plan for the next 2 years.