Friday, June 22, 2012

Utah Valley Marathon Race Review

Editor's Note: The URL for this blog is  The author's time for the Utah Valley Marathon is 58 minutes away from being fast enough for the Boston Marathon.  This is probably not the first time you've been mislead by Internet claims.
Let’s start with the good. I finished. It took 4:12:54. It was about 23 minutes more than my goal time and about half the field passed me in the last three miles, but I didn’t care and I still don’t care. I was extremely happy when I finished and I’m extremely happy now.

I'm awesome
That being said, it definitely was not a peak performance. I made a lot of mistakes.
  • I'm too fat.  183 pounds is a good weight for regular people, but not for marathoners (I'm 5 feet, 10 inches).
  • I started out too fast. Not a huge surprise, since everyone starts out too fast in their first marathon. The crazy thing is I consciously tried not to go out too fast, but I did. 
  • The race start area was a bit chaotic. Between port-a-pottie lines and U-hauls backing up and buses barreling up the canyon, I was completely out of my routine. 
  • I was having stomach issues. Part of the pre-race chaos stemmed from stomach issues, issues caused by nerves. It was my first marathon, after all. 
  • I got no sleep the night before. The last bus left at 4:15. I went to bed at 9:30. I left my bed at 10:30. I went back to bed at 11:30. I stared at the ceiling until midnight. I woke up at 1:00 A.M. I stared at the ceiling for 15 minutes. I woke up again at 2:00 A.M. I stared at the ceiling for 15 minutes. I woke up at 2:55 A.M. I never fell back asleep. 
  • I didn’t sleep enough the entire week. My mama was in town (I'm blaming my slow performance on my mom?  That's weak). It was the last week of school, a hectic time for teachers. 
  • I didn’t drink enough the day before. When you’re driving from Las Vegas to Provo (a 5-hour drive) with five kids (9, 6, 4, 2, 10 months), the last thing you want to do is have to urinate every three miles. For that reason, I drank very little the day before. Even though I drank at every single water stop and multiple times at some, I was still peeing rust afterwards.
There were some other things, out of my control, that may have slowed me down.
  • The hills—as one might expect—were a lot more daunting in person than they were on the website elevation profile. 
  • There was a headwind. I’ll be honest. The headwind didn’t really bother me, although every other person I’ve talked to who did the race complained about it. I didn’t think much of it. Of course, just because it didn’t bother me doesn’t mean it didn’t slow me down.
More random positives
  • I’m a competitive person, which is why it’s so surprising how uncompetitive I was during this race. At no time did I ever feel I was competing against anyone but myself. I never tried to real anybody in. I didn’t feel bad after anyone passed me (and there were literally hundreds who did). I was just so appreciative that all those people showed up to support me as I attempted my first marathon. Some even gave me stuff to drink and eat (My Boston Marathon veteran wife, by the way, suggests that if I had been more competitive I wouldn't have embarrassed the family by getting chicked several hundred times). 
  • I don’t know who the Utah Marathon Pacers are, but they deserve a hardy pat on the back. I used them at a couple different points to get my legs moving again. Unfortunately, I couldn’t keep up with them for more than a few miles each time. 
  • Whoever decided to put creamsicles at the end of the race deserves an award—a Nobel Prize or something. I ate four of them. And let’s not forget about the chocolate milk people. Heavens to Mergatroid! I chugged about five of those. I also wolfed down a couple of oranges and pounded five or six cups of Powerade.
These are two of my five kids enjoying a delicious creamsicle.
The Actual Race

Miles 1-7. 58:35. This isn’t as fast as it seems. The first seven miles were mostly downhill. I felt good. The top of my foot began to hurt at about mile six.

Miles 8-11. 36:19. Miles 8 and 9 had some serious hills. Once I got over them, I settled in at a pretty good pace. I tried the sideways run for extended periods going up the steeper hills and was pleasantly surprised at its effectiveness.

Miles 12-13. 20:05. I started feeling pretty bad for some reason and slowed down considerably. The curvature of the road didn’t help matters much and there was some hilliness and headwinds. Luckily there were numerous porta-potties set up for the half marathon. The pit stop added a minute-plus to my mile 13 time.

Miles 14-16. 27:18. I stumbled out of the port-a-pottie and felt pretty good. I was at slightly under 1:57 at the halfway point and latched on to the 3:55 pacer for a couple miles. I slowed at mile 16. My right Achilles had started to hurt prior but it had stopped by mile 16. Mile 15 would be my last sub 9-minute mile.

Miles 17-20. 40:30. I had lost the 3:55 pacer by this point and was hurting significantly. I knew if I made it past the last uphill around mile 18 that I would finish. The expected burst at mile 18, unfortunately did not happen.

Miles 21-23. 28:12. Two things occurred as I passed the mile 20 milestone: (1) I ate some Gu and pounded half a banana; (2) The 4:00 pacer jogged by. I had a decision to make. I could either slog it out and finish at around 4:05 or I could go for 4:00 or flame out. I went for the glory. The most enjoyable 2.5 miles occurred here. I felt strong. I felt happy. I had not run into the infamous wall at mile 20 like everyone said I would. I felt myself tire just before the 23-mile mark right before my family cheered me on. Mile 23 would be my final sub 10, 11 or 12-minute mile at 9:55. 

Miles 24-26. 37:50. I hit the wall right after passing the 23-mile mark. Every cell in my body wanted to quit. My left quad started cramping up. Half the field passed me. I even stopped to walk two times for about a 100 yards. But I kept going. I was too tired to do anything but set one foot in front of the other. I knew I was going to finish and I no longer cared how long it would take. The words of Dean Karnazes inspired me forward: “If you can’t run, walk. If you can’t walk, crawl. Just don’t quit.” Luckily, I didn’t have to crawl. Both walks were very short. I took short strides to prevent the quad from locking up.
This is mile 23. That's my baby on the right.
The last .35. 4:19. You can strategize all you want about running tangents and all that crap, but putting it into practice is a different story; hence, I ran 26.35 miles. There were two chutes at the end. Those who ran the half marathon to the left; those who ran the marathon to the right. When I entered the right hand chute, I was the beneficiary of a burst of energy and a sense of exhilaration that I do not recall ever experiencing. I could have cared less about my goal time, who beat me, whom I beat, who was watching. I raised my arms triumphantly, crossed the finish line, bent over (I may have wept for a few seconds), and shouted as I pulled at my shirt. I couldn’t believe I had actually finished. I was just so proud to have accomplished a goal that had been in the back of my mind for over 15 years.

I did reach one goal. I had never finished in the top half of a race before. I was 866 out of over 2,059 entrants. I finally finished above the mediocrity line. Next time I’ll finish in the top half of my age group.  

Looks like I'm still running from mediocrity. 


  1. Whoo hoo!

    Congrats on a solid finish! Considering how fast you went and how late in the game you did well and learned a ton for next time. You don't mention the temps...?? They have a huge effect.

    The marathon is complicated and hard to optimize compared to short races.. But the flip side is that any finish still feels pretty darn good 8)

    Gradually you will put all the elements of training and racing together and get the fastest time your body and mind have in you. That will be the frosting on the cake(s).

    Re: the sleeping the night before...that's a problem a lot of us have's the day before the day before's sleep that I try to optimize.

    Anyway, enjoy the post-marathon glow...... you'll know your hooked when you sign up for the next one ...8)

    1. Thanks Paul. The temps were near perfect. It was definitely a valuable experience.

  2. Yes, added more knowledge into the hopper! You'll continue to refine and improve.

    Congrats on the upper 50th percentile!

  3. I'm just catching up with this after a long week of traveling for work. CONGRATS!! That's a wonderful first-time marathon time, especially given the bonk (and I do appreciate you not whining about the headwind, but it probably DID slow you down). Your description of this race reminds me a lot of how I felt after Top of Utah last year: slower than I wanted, bonk, but I was still elated at the finish line.

    Now you know what it's all about, and you can regroup.

    1. Thanks Terzah,

      I was up in Boulder a couple Saturday's ago. My family and I went up Boulder Canyon and then to Chataqua park. What a great place.