Wednesday, September 17, 2014

Big Cottonwood Marathon Race Report

Let's get it out of the way: I blew up. Not in a good way. My finish time was 4:21:01, 56 minutes from my goal.

Here are my splits with commentary.

Mile 1: 7:58 - It was crowded at the start and I was content on taking it easy the first mile. If only I'd have continued to take it easy, I'd be able to walk right now.

Mile 2: 6:55 - I had no idea I had run mile 2 this fast. I hardly looked at my watch the first 15 miles. I started about 20 seconds behind the 3:25 pace group and had to catch up.

Mile 3: 7:08 - I settled in to a nice down hill rhythm, just slightly ahead of the 3:25 pacer.

Mile 4:  7:15 - I really had no idea I was going this fast. I just knew the pacer was still behind me.

Mile 5: 7:25 - It was at the end of mile 5 that I realized I wouldn't be able to keep up this effort and be able to finish. I had a choice to make: (1) Slow down and finish with a pr comfortably; or (2) Go for the BQ, knowing there's a high probability things were going to fall apart.

So little time together this marathon!
Mile 6: 8:42 - I did slow down a little and allowed the 3:25 pacer to catch up. I then saw an open port-a-potty and made a dash for it. It was my first and only restroom stop, which would be 6 fewer than the last marathon.

Mile 7: 7:33 - I'd fallen over a minute behind the 3:25 pacer, but I could still see her. I was feeling better after using the restroom and opted to go for it.

Mile 8: 7:55 - The course sloped up a bit and leveled out for this mile. I was still over a minute behind the pacer.

Mile 9: 7:40 - Still going strong.

Mile 10: 7:25 - Not only was I running tangents well but I was running on the left side of the road, which technically wasn't part of the course, in order to make up time.

Mile 11: 6:47 - The course is really getting steep and I 'm really getting stupid!

Mile 12: 7:33 - My stomach was giving me serious problems for about 5 miles, but I knew I needed calories, so I grabbed half a banana and forced my self to eat it over the next half-mile.
An actual race photo of me around mile 12.
 Mile 13: 6:47 - Apparently, the banana helped. I was about 10-15 seconds behind the 3:25 pacer, which was about how far behind I was when I crossed the start line. I should never run a mile this fast during a marathon.

Mile 13.1: I ran the first half in 1:37:44, a 9-minute pr. Even the hill adjusted time of about 1:43 (based on where the pacer was) is a significant pr. Chances are when you set a pr on the first half of a marathon, it's not going to end well.

Mile 14: 7:33 - I remember giving a little girl and her mom a massive side-5 at some point. I was out of control. I also remember trudging down a steep section and thinking to myself that I would probably pay for it.

Mile 15 7:50 - I'm coming out of the canyon just behind the 3:25 pacer.

This is how I felt at mile 15. Little did I know...
Mile 16: 8:35 - The first mile out of the canyon was fine. It was a pretty good hill, but very similar to the one I run on Tuesdays with the Wild Bunch Runners.

Mile 17:10:10 - I thought the hill was going to end, but it didn't. It was during this mile I realized 3:25 was not going to happen, so I pulled off to the side, walked for a minute, and gathered myself. I felt that if I could average 10-minute miles the rest of the way, I'd still crush my pr.

Mile 18: 10:40 - I would not run a 10-minute mile the rest of the day.

Mile 19: 13:05 - Won't this hill ever end?!?! I did see Darth Vader at mile 19 handing out water. I stopped at the aide station to make sure Darth Vader really was there and snacked on some oranges. Some may be leery about accepting water from Darth Vader, but I figured if Darth Vader wanted me dead, I'd be dead. And, to be honest, at this point, death didn't seem to be that bad of an alternative to running the remaining seven miles.

Mile 20: 11:00 - It was during mile 20 I calculated that I could average 11-minute miles the rest of the way and still crush my pr.

Mile 21: 14:45 - That wasn't going to happen.

Mile 22: 13:16 - I calculated that if I averaged 11-minute miles I could finish under 4 hours, maybe. My head was a little foggy.

Mile 23: 15:59 - Numerous times over the previous 5 miles I had thought about tapping out and lying down in the grass. This urge was never stronger than when the 4-hour pacer passed. He was about a 103-years-old. Good for him. The only thing that kept me going was the knowledge that my car was right next to the finish line and I needed to get there, so why not walk the course.

Mile 24: 15:50 I think I actually jogged about a half mile here. I put my arms up and walked like a zombie for a little bit.

Mile 25 15:35 - This is where Jeremy showed up in jeans and sandals. He asked how he could help. I just said, "talk to me." From this point forward I did the jog two telephone poles, walk two telephone poles marathon shuffle. It was so nice to have a friend there to help me finish.

This woman on the left (although, not Jeremy) could have paced me while picking up litter, too.
Mile 26:16:39 - It was a slow jog from telephone pole to telephone pole, slow enough to allow Jeremy to pick up trash on the course.

The End. Once I reached the 26-mile marker, I started to jog again. I allowed myself to enjoy the moment. I was weeping. I do at the end of marathons, regardless of time or how I feel. I kept muttering, "I'm not a quitter! I didn't f-ing quit!" over and over.

I crossed the finish line, ripped off my bib immediately, was startled by some kid putting a medal around my neck, and slumped down on a cot as a mysterious woman hung a cold, wet cloth around my neck.

I just sat with my head in my hands, feeling guilty that I'd inconvenienced my family by training all summer and by taking off for a weekend to run a marathon.  And all I had to show for it was a crappy marathon time.

Will I ever qualify for Boston?

Probably not. But I'm OK with that.

This is how I looked after crossing the finish line.

Thursday, September 11, 2014

Big Cottonwood Marathon Preview

In two days I'll either be ambling my way to a Boston qualifier or in the crouch position, sucking my thumb in a port-a-potty.

The Goal

The Goal is simple. Run the marathon in 3:25 or less. I included several factors when determining this goal: (1) The elevation profile; (2) The fact I've completed two marathons; (3) I turned 45.

Let's start with my age. I am now 45. That means my Boston qualifying time has gone from 3:15 to 3:25. I'd like to thank my parents for having intercourse late 1968, allowing me to be born in July of 1969.

This is not my first marathon. I was just happy to finish my first marathon. That led to a conservative and enjoyable 2nd marathon, which I finished with a 13-minute pr and a negative split. I am confident I can not only finish this marathon, but finish comfortably. Been there, done that. Therefore, if I end up going out too fast and completely fall apart...oh well. If I truly give it my all, I can come to grips with a DNF.

The most important factor in determining my goal is the elevation profile.

Need I say more?
The Plan

There is no plan. I'm simply going to find the 3:25 pacer and become his shadow. When he runs, I run. When he grabs water at an aide station, I grab water at an aid station. When he eats, I eat. When he takes a dump in the porta-potty, I take a dump in the porta-potty. In the same porta-potty. At the same time.

I will execute this strategy until I look like this:

or feel like this lady on the left:

The truth is I feel strangely confident. I gotta feeling I'll be feeling more like this:

Wish me luck!

Friday, September 5, 2014

Big Cottonwood Marathon and Qualifying for Boston

I visited Salt Lake City in August, 2013. While there, I did an Internet search for some local hikes to take my family, many of which began in Big Cottonwood Canyon, which led me to Google "Big Cottonwood Canyon." Not only did I learn of several awesome hikes, I learned of a marathon that starts at Brighton Ski Resort up Big Cottonwood Canyon taking place in September.

It was at that moment I formulated a plan to qualify for the Boston Marathon. It involved running the 2014 Big Cottonwood Marathon.

So what made me think that a 4:00:55 marathoner, who missed qualifying by over 45 minutes think he could qualify for Boston? (1) I turned 45 this July, making my time 3:25 instead of 3:15; (2) Check out the course profile!

But isn't that cheating?

No. If the Boston Athletic Association says it's a qualifying marathon then that's good enough for me.

But isn't that kind of taking the coward's way out?

No. If the Boston Athletic Association says it's a qualifying marathon then that's good enough for me.

But doesn't it seem unfair?

No. If the Boston Athletic Association says it's a qualifying marathon then that's good enough for me.

Since we're on the subject of fairness, let's talk about genetics. Is it fair that the ideal runner's body, according to author of Racing Weight, Matt Fitzgerald, is the exact opposite of my body type? Yes, apparently, because the God deemed it so.

If God says it's fair that I got the genetics of an out-of-shape shot-putter then that's good enough for me. In order to level the playing field, for us squatty-type runners, he made mountains and canyons we could run down.

Here's a family picture from 2005. We're not exactly a genetically thin family.
I'm the one holding my daughter. My father and two brothers are next to me.

But, come on, it's not a real marathon. You could roll down that thing.

If the Boston Athletic Association says it's a qualifying marathon then that's good enough for me. Besides, have you ever run 15 miles down a steep canyon? I have. It's not as easy as it looks.

So you're seriously gonna count that as your BQ if you somehow finish in under 3:25?

Look, I have five kids. FIVE!!!!! Cut me some slack. And besides, If the Boston Athletic Association says it's a qualifying marathon then that's good enough for me.

Tuesday, December 31, 2013

LVTC Half Marathon Recap

Let's not mess around. I set a new pr of 1:46:58.

The Three Sisters

The goal was actually 1:45, but at mile 5 when I realized the next 1.55 miles consisted of the Three Sisters, I changed my goal to setting a new pr, previously 1:49:17. For those of you not familiar with the Three Sisters, they're really steep and really long, at least they seem long. The three set of rolling hills last about 1.25 miles. They're too steep to run down, so it was basically a 2.5 mile stretch (out and back course) where running was very slow.  I averaged between 9:30 and 9:50 on this stretch. I don't have the exact times because my GPS didn't start working until mile 7.

If the course would have been like I thought it was, I would have easily broke 1:45. If it had been a flat course, I could have broke 1:42. I might just do my own half marathon time trial in February, but I'm not really sure what that would prove.

The Sisters on the way out.

Here's a good shot of the Middle Sister. The Last Sister's steeper.

The Race

The first two miles were uphill, which meant the last two miles were downhill. I'm not sure what I ran the first two miles in, but the last two miles I ran in 14:15. That's pretty speedy for the last two miles of a half marathon (for me at least). I then enjoyed three miles of down hill. That was nice. By mile 4--there were some hard to spot mile markers along the course--I was well under an 8:00-mile pace. Then came the aforementioned Three Sisters. I finished the first half in 51:15, about a minute slower than I had planned.

Then came the turnaround. And the Three Sisters.

I still felt strong, but there's only so fast you can run up three gigantic hills. I stopped and walked momentarily on each of them. Following the Three Sisters came a steady 3-mile uphill slog. I was disciplined and focused. I had run this portion of the course before and knew what I could do. The 1:45 mark was out of the question with four miles to go, but I knew I could shatter my previous pr, also set on a hilly course last November, but nothing like this one. The final two miles were tough but fun.

I was happy to be done!
 My Fitness

Despite sputtering a bit a couple weeks before the race, I was in the best shape of my life, having completed 51 runs of 10 miles or more during the year. There was no bonking or any such thing. Nobody passed me the last 10 miles. It was a small race. I passed seven people, five the second half and three on the last mile (ha!). I got stronger as the race progressed.

The Competition

This was a Las Vegas Track Club event. The quality of runner was very high. I finished 18/41 overall, 17/26 among men (only got chicked by one runner) and 2/2 in my age group. To put this in perspective, last November I ran two minutes slower on a less difficult course and finished 89/1100. It was good for me to race with accomplished runners this year. I plan on running this again next year (only $25).

OK, I places 2/2 in my age group, but I'm taking the medal!

I'm gonna rest. I've found a fast downhill marathon in September. I think it's time I qualified for Boston.

Thursday, December 19, 2013

LVTC Holiday Half Race preview

The 1st annual LVTC Holiday Half Marathon takes place on December 21, 2013. Here’s a little race plan and preview.

The Course

Although the course is an out-and-back originating at Equestrian Park in Henderson, it’s certainly no walk in the park, even if you completely bonk at mile 10 and roll down the hill to the finish line. I mapped it out on so I could get the elevation profile, which was unnecessary since I used to ride my bike there three or four times per week.

Throw in the fact that I work less than five minutes away, running the course was no problem. It starts at Equestrian Park and goes up hill for 2.2 miles. Not a crazy up hill, but steady and relatively steep. It then heads down for 4.35 miles, at which point one must turn around or risk running up the Three Sisters, which could lead to extreme pain.

The course begins at 2083 feet, goes up to 2310 at about 2.2 miles, shoots down to 1717 at the turnaround and then goes back.

The Plan and the Goal

There are some steep hills—up and down. My uphill pace needs to be 8:30. My downhill pace needs to be 7:30 to reach my goal time of 1:45. I actually think I can do it faster.

I did a practice run a couple Saturdays before the race, attempting to mimic the last 6.55 miles. I did a three mile jog downhill and then started a 4.35-mile climb, followed by a 2.2-mile descent, finishing in 52:15. If I could run the last half of the race in 52: 15, I’d shatter the 1:45 mark.

However, I ran part of the course twice, and the hills on the actual course are steeper than the hills on my practice course. I did a 6.5-mile run on the course last Friday, giving a decent effort over what would be miles 10, 11, 12. I ran a pretty steep mile 10 in 8:17. It was a steady, straight steep. Mile 11, on the other hand, was much more difficult. I ran it in 8:53. Mile 12 was fun. I did it in 7:00 flat.

The grade was 3% on the two uphill miles, although the second one seemed a lot steeper. There is a stretch, the first 1.5 miles after the turnaround, that’s steeper.

I’m going to shoot for an 8:45 pace on the 4-mile uphill stretch at the turnaround and a 7:15 4-mile stretch on the same downhill.

The Training

I have done 51 long runs this year (10 miles or more). I’ve done 24 long runs since September 1. I did nine in November and three in the first 10 days of December. The half marathon distance, therefore, is not at all intimidating. For that reason, I’m focused on finishing fast.

I usually go out conservatively and cruise to the finish line, passing hundreds the last half. I negative split my last half marathon and my last marathon. I enjoyed those two races, setting prs in both. I’m not going out conservatively this time. I’m starting fast and finishing fast. If I crash and burn, I crash and burn. I need to really see what I’m capable of doing.

Final Thoughts

I’d like to point out I’ve set prs in the 5k, 5-mile and 10k distances over the past month-and-a-half. I fully intend on shattering my prs in the 10-mile and half marathon distance, despite the crazy hills.

By the way, happy holidays from my clan!

Wednesday, December 4, 2013

Should Races Be Held on Christmas Day?

I read a really annoying article on Runner's World today about the increasing prevalence of organized running events on Christmas Day and whether or not there should be.


What does it matter to me or anyone if someone wants to hold or run a race on Christmas Day? People need to stop sticking their nose into other people's business. Although I have no plans to enter a Christmas Day race, I'm not going to tell you not to. Also, what do these anti Christmas Day organized running events want to do about it, anyway? Make it illegal? Protest? Some people just need to get a life.

How can you possibly have a problem with this?
To recap: If you want to run a race on Christmas Day, I hope it goes well. If you don't want to run a race on Christmas Day, don't.

Christmas Commercialization

These are the same people that whine about Christmas being too commercialized. Is it? I don't know. I choose not to participate in much of the commercialization. If you think it's too commercialized, then stop going to the mall and stop watching so much TV. I find Christmas commercials annoying, so I don't watch TV other than football (Speaking of football, all you Buckeye haters better wise up and recognize The Ohio State University Football Buckeyes).

It's really not that hard.

By the way, save your self righteous, anti Santa Claus bull crap for someone else. I worship Jesus, too. I love Jesus. I have been a missionary for Jesus. But if you wish to emphasize Santa, that's your own darn business. And buy me a gift while you're at it.

This pretty much captures the spirit of the holiday

To recap: If you want to go hog wild and make Christmas all about buying presents, go ahead. If you don't want to make Christmas all about buying presents, then don't, and God bless you.

Black Friday

Since we're on the subject of people who think they know what's good for everyone, Let's talk about Black Friday. I have no idea why anyone would want to go shopping on this day and I certainly don't know why anyone would want to shop for pre-Black Friday sales on Thanksgiving, but apparently somebody does.

This doesn't set well with some people. These people, too, need to get a life. If someone wants to shop on Thanksgiving, why do I care? And if a store wants to open and offer great deals on Thanksgiving, go for it. I'm not going, but if you are, pick me up something good.

I'm bringing this guy with me to Wal-Mart

To recap: If you want to shop on Thanksgiving, good luck. If you don't want to shop on Thanksgiving, then don't.

Friday, August 9, 2013

Rock to Pier Race Report: I Won!

OK, there were only four people in the race. I still won, though.

Distance: 6.07 miles
Time: 47:32
Pace 7:49
Place: 1/4

There was an actual Rock to Pier race two days before. If I'd have run that--the conditions were similar and the course was exactly the same. I may have had a bit stronger of a head wind when I ran, but we'll give the racers the benefit of the doubt.

Hypothetical Place: 157/1052
Hypothetical Age Group Place: 6/32

The Competition

It was the 7th time I've run this race, the 5th as part of a family reunion event and the first time I won. By the way, I set a pr by 2:27. Because I run this race every year, I use it as a fitness gauge. Needless to say, I'm pleased with my improvements.

The other contestants were my brother-in-law Parry, who beat me three years ago. He finished last this year, about 10 minutes back. Then there was Leslie and Tim. I'm not sure how I'm related to them, or more accurately, I'm not sure how my wife is related to Leslie since it's their family's reunion.

I figured I would win this year. There were no returning champions and Tim and Leslie had never run six miles before, although Tim, a very fit, athletic and handsome man in his twenties, had run a mile in around five minutes, so I knew I'd have to have a substantial lead by the last mile.

I'm going to treat the rest of this blog post as if someone cared about who won. It will be pretentious. I may indulge in self-importance. I may not.

The Race

When the race began, I kind of forgot it was a race, probably because there were only four of us, the starting line was a line in the sand that I scratched out with my foot, and there were only four of us. After about 20 seconds I remembered I wanted to run fast and that I wanted to win the race, so I sped up.

I was immediately concerned because I was breathing fast but it didn't seem like I was going fast, so I took a peek at my watch and saw I was going at about a 7:20 clip. For me, that's fast. Too fast. That was the first and last time I looked at the speed section of my GPS. I finished the first mile in 7:32. Tim and I were running together.

I  slowed down to a comfortable, fast pace, figuring my superior aerobic capacity would, in the long run, trump his superior speed (not to mention his physique, overall fitness, and good looks).

At the end of mile 2, I approached the section of rocks, a section that slowed me down last year because the tide was in and I had to run over a rocky section. This year I was in luck. Tide was out and I could continue to run at a comfortable, fast pace. I ran mile 2 in 7:52. There was about 15 feet of separation at this point.

There have been many a Rock to Pier family reunion run when the person I needed to beat was 10-15 feet ahead, so I knew exactly what my opponent was thinking. It's something like, "I'll just hang as close as I can and maybe he'll slow down and I'll pass him farther up." I also know that that's a lot easier to think than it is to do. I also knew I wasn't going to slow down. I also knew I was going to win.

I clocked miles 3 and 4 at 7:51 and 7:52. The lead was getting bigger but Tim was still too close for me to relax too much, but I was starting to tire and slowed down just enough to make sure I had something for the last mile. I knocked out mile 5 in 8:00. I almost felt bad for not accepting water from my kind of aunt and uncle, who had kindly came out to cheer us on and give us water, but there was no way I was going to waste time drinking water on a 6-mile run when it was below 60 degrees.

With a mile left, it was apparent I wasn't going to be caught, but I took no chances. If he was going to beat me, he was going to have to turn in a 5-minute mile. And if he turned in a 5-minute mile, I would have accepted my defeat with grace. I ran mile 6 in 7:51 and the last .07 at about the same pace. I came across the line about 1:20 ahead of the next finisher.



  1. Gotta love the mile splits: 7:32, 7:52, 7:51, 7:52, 8:00, 7:51. It's amazing how much easier it is to pace on a flat course. The first mile was a little fast and I purposely slowed on mile 5 to make sure I had something left, just in case. Four miles at pretty much the same pace is mathematically pleasing.
  2. I was happy to hear, via my mother-in-law, via Facebook that the second place competitor was taking the race seriously.
  3. I can run faster than this. Although beach temperatures are ideal and the flat course is nice, it's a little tougher running in sand than it is on pavement. That's probably why my calves were mooing the next day.

Will I Ever Qualify for Boston?

Probably not. But I'll keep trying.