Thursday, May 17, 2012

June 9, 2012 Utah Valley Marathon Preview

Utah Valley Marathon

The Course

The marathon starts at about 6200 feet and ends at about 4800 feet. For those of you not skilled in math, this means much of the course is downhill. I’ve done quite a bit of training on hills—uphill and downhill. I’ve matched the degree of descent as best I could on training runs. Because I run up before I run down in training runs, the marathon course is much faster than what I’ve been running, so my 3:19:09 time in the 22-mile run may not be an accurate indicator of what I can expect to run on June 9.

There are three significant uphills, according to the elevation profile. After a good six mile descent to start, there’s about a mile of flatness and a slight incline for two miles. My long training runs have included a five mile ascent at about mile five, with three of the first five miles downhill. There looks to be a fairly steep, but short (that’s relative) ascent at miles 12 and 16. Miles 18-26.2 are mostly downhill. I have been training downhill. The last four miles of my long runs have been downhill. Every other mile of most of my shorter runs and some of my tempo runs have been downhill.

The only thing I haven’t prepared for is the altitude. I remember running at 6200 feet last June and I thought I was going to die for the first half mile, which was uphill. Once the descent started, it was all good. I’m going to head up to Mt. Charleston next week, and run six miles downhill from about 7700 feet to get a feel for the start of the race. Does anyone want to come pick me up afterwards and drive me back to my car?

The Weather

The average high at the start in Wallsburg, Utah is in the high 70s. Since the race begins at six in the morning, I won’t be dealing with the high temperature. I’m guessing it’ll be closer to fifty degrees at the start—a little chilly for this desert dweller, but better than heat stroke temperatures. By the time I finish in downtown Provo, it will probably be in the 70s, barring an unfortunate heat wave. Since the run is in a canyon, I’m guessing there’ll be ample shade. I’ve run a 10-miler here before there but I don’t remember it too well, other than it was very enjoyable.

The Scenery
Bridal Veil Falls, Provo Canyon

Provo Canyon is beautiful.

Marathon Plan

I have slightly less than four weeks to go before the marathon. I’ve come up with a race-day plan. Those of you with more experience are welcome to chime in and offer your advice.

Race Strategy

I will drink water or Powerade at every single stop. I’m considering bringing electrolyte tablets just in case. There’s Gu at certain stops too, but I’m going to bring a couple with me in case they run out. I finished my 22-mile run at a 9:02 pace. All I needed to do was finish the remaining 4.2 miles in 41 minutes to break four hours. I could have done it, although it was tough going and I took a few short walk breaks the last few miles.

Because the actual marathon course is faster, more scenic, and cooler, I’d be very disappointed if I didn’t break four hours, especially considering the extra mental and psychological boost you get from fellow runners. That being said, I’d be OK with a four-hour time. I’d be thrilled with a sub 3:50, ecstatic with a sub 3:40, and out-of-this world delighted with a sub 3:30.

That being said, my official goal is 3:49:15 or 8:45 pace. It's fast enough that I'll finish in the top half of a race, something I've never done, but slow enough that I'll finish alive.


  1. Sounds like an awesome marathon. I dont have any race day strategies for you and honestly I haven't given it much thought. I guess I better start planning. I think you will definitely have a sub 4 hour race.
    With my marathon being just a couple days from yours, it's been great reading about your training.

  2. That sounds like a great course, and those inclines are actually a good thing. Top of Utah was downhill for literally 15 miles and I paid for it when those 15 miles ended.

    My only advice is to seriously rein yourself in at the start. You will feel like a god--but it's how you feel in the last bit that matters. You have a good plan--remember it when you are tempted to hammer those first downhill miles.

    My fingers are crossed for you!

  3. I agree with Terzah.....keep a lid on the speed for the first half at least..stay to your sub 4 pace. (adjusting for hills in first half vs 2nd half).

    Then gradually open things up after mile 16 or so to get whatever less than 4 you can get.