Sunday, October 08, 2006

Saint George Marathon Report

The Facts
Finish time: 3:40:52 – a PR! No doubt helped by the downhill course
Average pace: 8:25
Place in field: 1240/4761, just outside the top 25%
Place in gender: 950/2731, 35% of the guys were ahead of me
Place in age group: 152/384, 39% of these M45-49 beat me to the finish

The 30th Saint George (Utah) Marathon Report
This was my ninth marathon in 3 years and it has me stumped in more ways than one. Maybe I’ll figure it out as I write this report.

I turns out that Lisa was able to get away from work on Friday so that she could join me. St. George is just about a 5.5 hour drive from the LA area and somewhat difficult to fly into so I had planned on driving. When I had booked the hotel back in June, I found the cheapest place I could close to the race start. I was a little worried that the room would not be wife worthy. It turned out to be fine, nothing special and certainly not on par with Mandalay Bay where we stayed for the Las Vegas Marathon, but comfortable and clean. Our drive to St. George was smooth; free of traffic congestion, accidents or construction.

At the expo I picked up my gels. I was forced to switch over to Clifshots since PowerGels have gone to the 4x sodium formulation. Clifshots was going to be offered on the course as well. I have used them in the past so I was pretty confident they would get me through with no stomach issues. The expo featured a neat display of all the t-shirt and medal designs over the 30 years history of the race. I think the first race had a total of 42 finishers. It has grown a little. The 4761 finishers this year was the largest yet.

One thing that had me stumped for this marathon was a time goal. SEAFAIR was all about breaking the 4 hour barrier. Where was I going to go from there? Of course, Boston Qualification is my next big goal, but a 3:30, even with a downhill course seemed like too much of a stretch. Couple that with the hip ache and I didn’t really know where I should aim. Of course this week, being the end of the taper, the hip or more precisely the glute muscle flared up on Monday as bad as ever. I tried not to worry about, chalking it up to taper madness and pre-race jitters. I ultimately picked up a 3:40 pace band at the expo and tucked it into my Fuelbelt pack. Our group of Cruisers and friends, 10 in all, decided to take part in the pasta feed at the expo rather than looking for a restaurant in St. George. It was just spaghetti with vegetable marina or meat sauce, salad, roll and cake. All you can eat for $8, simple but satisfying. We sat around and talked for quite a while and ended up meeting Spencer. He was there solo from Ogden, UT running his first marathon. He picked our brains. I hope we shared wisely.

Race morning or I should say race middle of the night came after a somewhat restless sleep. We had set 3 alarms to make sure I didn’t over sleep. Lisa gave me ride over to the finish and went back to the hotel for couple more hours of sleep. SGM is point to point so we had to catch buses at the finish line to take us to the start. They were giving away incentives to ride the early buses from 4:00 to 4:30 a.m. I missed the cutoff by one bus.

The starting line is at an elevation of 5240 ft. The finish line is at 2680. All but 2 miles of the course is straight down State Route 18, so it was interesting to ride the bus up and up to the start. Man, was it cold at the start. They were predicting temperatures in the mid 30’s. The sky was clear and we enjoyed a full moon. There were portapots lined up on one side of the road and camp fires along the other. There must have been 40 or so fires. They were a very welcome addition to a marathon start. I was somewhat concerned about checking clothes. I had never done this before, but I definitely needed sweats while we waited for an hour and a half for the race start at 6:45. Even with the sweats, I shivered uncontrollably whenever I wasn’t near a fire. Ten minutes before the race start I peeled them off and put them in the bag they gave us, threw them in the Uhaul truck. Nothing to it. I donned a garbage bag at that point for warmth.

About that time they played the National Anthem and everyone stopped where they were in respect. I could hear many people singing along. It was a cool moment by the light of the full moon. As soon as it was over it was back to the last minute frenzy of ditching extra clothes and lining up. I lined up along with Cathe from our group right between the 3:40 and 3:45 pace groups.

After that familiar sound of the horn we were off. Three minutes to cross the starting mat. The start didn’t catch me off guard like it did in SEAFAIR. I thought I might stick with the pace group for awhile but because it was dark, they were off and not easy to see. I had been warned to start off easy, to not let the initial downhill miles pull me out too fast. I decided I didn’t need the stress of trying to follow along, so I ran my own race with the aid of the pace band. Cathe and I ran together for less than a half mile before we got separated, she was shooting for something less than 4:00.

I ran the first mile still in my garbage bag at 9:11, well off the 8:24 pace. It was far too early worry about it. I was confident of making it up later. I ditched the trash bag and it was really great running weather, even in a sleeveless shirt. I had planned for the later miles as we descended into the valley and the day warmed up. The expected high at the finish line was 80 degrees.

Mile 2 clocked off in 8:34. This put me just about a minute behind pace. Again I wasn’t really too worried at this point.

Mile 3, was the first water stop. The water stops were located at mile markers throughout the race. It would be Mile 4 before I got another gage on my progress. By mile 4 the sun was up enough that we could see well. Up to that point there were these little green glow stick beacons on the side of the road to mark the way. They may be there for other reasons but it was still cool. I hit Mile 4 in 33:36, just 11 seconds off pace. The last two miles were run in 8:00 pace. I was on target but it was still too early to get excited. I had yet to hit the uphill section of the course.

SGM is a net downhill course. You hear all kinds stories about the downhills. PR’s are set on the downhills. But dang the course is not all downhill. There are uphills and plenty of them.

Mile 5, I missed the marker again. Mile 6, I was at 49:22. Nearly a minute ahead of schedule, but still no uphill. Mile 7 – 57:02, 1:45 ahead of schedule. I was happy to have gained back my slow start but Mile 7 marked the beginning of the hill, the Veyo hill, the really big mile-long hill. I’d done hills last time and trained hills, so I trucked on up.

I missed the Mile 8 marker. The course flattened somewhat but continued to climb through mile 11. Finally at Mile 9, I caught the clock at 1:16. I had only lost about 30 seconds halfway through this uphill section. My pace had slowed to 9:30.

I missed Mile 10 and 11. Finally at Mile 12 I had the presence of mind to get my time again. I clocked those three miles at 8:23 pace for total time of 1:41, only about 15 seconds behind. I was actually pretty proud for not losing more time on the uphill. In SEAFAIR I used a hill adjusted pace chart. Here at SGM I had to try to maintain a consistent pace to be able to judge my progress. So far, so good.

Mile 13 was downhill and finally I got two consecutive mile splits. Mile 13 in 8:09 for 1:41:25, still 15 seconds off pace. Still no worries. I was about this point in the race that I realized that even though I was on goal, I wasn’t having any fun. I was just blah, there was no joy, no inspiration. I even thought to myself that if Lisa had shown up offering a ride I would have taken it. I couldn’t really understand why I felt like this, but I kept running on.

Mile 14, missed the marker. Again. Do you see a trend here? Mile 15, I was at 2:05:46, 9 seconds under pace. I had run those last two miles at 8:10 apiece. Mile 16, you guess it, missed again. Mile 17, I was at 2:21:30. This gave me a 1:15 cushion on the goal pace. I had run those two miles at 7:53 pace. Mile 16 was a good mile for me. Because of the course design in a canyon there are very few places for spectators to easily access the course. Mile 16 in Snow Canyon was the first real display of support other than volunteers. I high fived as many kids as I could. This boosted my mood.

Then things went into the unknown again. I missed Mile 18, 19, 20 and 21. Was I on goal, was I behind goal? I had no idea. There was no lack of uphills from 16 to 20 so I didn’t know if I’d maintained or not.

Finally at mile 22, I hit the marker at 3:04:29. I was 15 seconds ahead of goal. Only 4 miles to go and I had no cushion to spare. After 5 miles of not really knowing how close I was to goal, I was overcome with emotion. Could I keep going?

Mile 23 and 24, ugh. How do I keep missing the markers? I know since many of them were right at the start of the water stop, I would be so focused on getting my fluid, I missed hitting my watch nearly half the time.

Mile 25- got that one! I was at 3:30:17. I was 22 seconds in debt on the goal time. All I could think was just keep going. Don’t slow down. Since Mile 22 my right quad was aching badly. The downhill had taken its toll. The good thing is my left hip/glute was doing fine. At mile 24 the course enters the town proper so the crowd support picked up as well. Up to now we had been on SR-18; one long stretch with no 90 degree turns. Once we entered town we had to make several turns. I couldn’t remember quite how many. After the first two turns I was sure that the finish line would be just around the corner. Nope! One more corner. Finally, those balloons. I knew Lisa would be here somewhere in the crowd, but I focused all that I had on getting to those balloons. She called out to me, but I couldn’t make out her voice.

I missed the 3:40 by less than a minute. But, I had set a PR by nearly 12:00. Physically I was beat but I never felt like I hit the wall. I ran strong to the end. I just can't imagine being able to go much faster especially without the aid of the downhill. 10 more minutes and I'm Boston bound. I've got to believe that I can do it.

SGM does not supply split times. I was at 13 miles at 1:49:25 running 8:05 miles at the time. I estimate my half marathon time to be 1:50:14, which puts my second half at 1:50:38. That’s about as close to even splits as anyone can ask for! First time that’s ever happened. Thank you, downhill finish. I think I’ll split the difference for the Phedippidations World Wide Half Marathon.

The Dean Corollary
Dean Karnazes was at SGM running the 21st of his 50 marathons. One of my goals was to beat Dean to the finish line. This seemed doable. He had announced 4:00 finishes as his goal. At the 7 mile mark I had to make a stop at a portapot. When I jumped back onto the course, there was Dean. I trailed him to about mile 10 where he stopped to get some water. I kept on going and didn’t see him again for miles. I thought I might actually get to the finish first. At mile 17, Dean passed me up and I just couldn’t keep up with him. Dean finished in 3:20:04. My wife ended up talking to him at the exit chute for a couple of minutes before I got there.

Other Interesting Tidbits
Cathe ended up qualifying for Boston while Dorothy got 4th place age group in the F65-69.


kivster said...

Darrell - let me the first to wish you a congratulations - so that's how someone blogs a race! From reading it I felt like I was almost there running with you. Sounds like you ran a great race and I am so glad that your hips held up. I am sure that if you were totally healthy you would have your BQ.

I have been having the same problem that you had during this race lately - I can't seem to really enjoy my running - just seem to be counting down mileage. Not sure why this is - but it couldn't have been too bad for you - you never hit a wall!

Btw, that's an amazing time, I wish I could do that speed - I am wowed by all you real runners - I am merely a jogger, apparently.

Congratulations again, maybe I can catch you at one of your next 43.

Robb said...

From one old man to another - Darrell...congragulations!! What an incredible race for you and so cool that you set such a massive PR. That's the best! I am impressed mister. Good job bud.

Joe said...

Darrell, awesome race. Mega congratulations on the major PR! Well written report as well, you captured so much of what it was like. I was with you all the way.

In particular, it is very cool that you didn't hit the Wall. At SEAFAIR, you managed to not walk at all. Here, your training and pacing allowed you to not bonk at the end. This is a huge accomplishment and I am impressed and happy for you.

I'm also thrilled your hip held up. I was concerned for you about that.

I look forward to further thoughts about the odd mood you found yourself in early on. Seems unlike you, especially in a race you targeted for so long. Perhaps the combination of early hour and/or cold??? The shivering doesn't sound like any fun at all and no way to enhance the Pefect Fall Marathon Experience.

Good job, Darrell!! Hope you and Lisa had a good time together!! And I love the characterization of the motel as "wife ready"!! Know exactly what you mean!!!!

Wes said...

Great race report, and an even better race. I just don't see how you can't get that BQ. I know you got it in ya. I think we all get tired while running at some point, mentally, physically, but you helped the positives win. Very very impressive. Well done!

Sarah said...

Congrats on a great race and on smashing your PR! I enjoyed your report. That's interesting about the uphills at SGM. I didn't know they had them!

ShoreTurtle said...

Kudos to you! I enjoyed your race report. Congratulations!

Anne said...

So glad the race went as well as it did. I've heard great things about that marathon and after reading your account, well,...maybe....

Anyway, congratulations on the PR. That's quite an accomplishment!

jeffem said...

Excellent job Darrell! Sounds like you were strong to the finish. Now let yourself recover a little and think about which one is next!

Lisa said...

time to change your title!!!

You did great in St. George, and I'm sure your BQ is on its way.


Danny said...

Well done!!! (Congrats on the new PR!)

time to change the title again...

robtherunner said...

Awesome race Darrell! I think 3:30 is definitely in your sights. It might take the right race to get there, along with solid training, but I have no doubt that it is fully within your capabilities. You might want to start researching hotels in the Boston area for 2008.

rice said...

Wife worthy hotel. I love it..

Great run.


PLANET3RRY said...

I was a little worried that the room would not be wife worthy.
You mean the bed would accept quarters?

Note to Self: Don't obsess about Mile markers.

Outstanding job Darrell! 12:00 PR... that's a damn good race! 10 minutes? You only need to shave 10 and 7 seconds and you are in Beantown!

Raceday Strategy: Don't stop at portapotties... be like the pros... Go on the Go!

backofpack said...

Hey great report and great race! I miss mile markers all the time. I'm with you, I don't know how that happens!

Rae said...

AWESOME Job!! That's a ton of time shaved off since SeaF in just 3 or so months!! Great race & great race report!! How does this one rank in your list of marathons? You're going to have to tell us which ones are the must dos!