Deseret News Classic Marathon
4:51:33 - 5 AG
As I continue to train for my next (international) marathon in Asia I figured I needed to run at least one long training run. However that has become very difficult in the brutal heat & humidity of a FL summer. So I tried to find another ‘cool weather’ marathon I could run as a training marathon. That goal was not easy with the heat wave across the US and the ridiculous cost of air fares these days. I finally settled on a marathon in Salt Lake City, UT. I ran this race 20 years ago and I remembered it being very cold at the start of the race on top of a mountain. This choice had an added advantage. Since the race was run on a Wed as part of ‘Pioneer Day’ celebrations (also a Mormon holiday) I would be able to run a 2nd marathon in Morgan, UT on Sat.
I arrived in SLC on Tue afternoon in time to pick up my race packet and meet a friend, Galen Garrison, for pasta dinner. Galen moved to SLC from Tampa less than a year ago and I was curious to see how he liked UT? We enjoyed a nice pasta dinner and conversation about UT and running.
The weather has been unusually hot in UT this summer with highs above 100F and lows only in the low 70s. The race started at 5:30am at the top of Big Mountain (7500 ft) in the Wasatch Mtns about 20 miles east of SLC. Runners had to catch a bus at 3am to take them to the start line. Twenty years ago I remembered several camp fires at the start line to keep runners warm in temps that were close to freezing. This year the temps were in the low 60s on top of the mountain and runners stood around in shorts and singlets. My goal was to finish under 5 hours when I figured the temps down in SLC would be in the high 80s. The course was advertised as a ‘fast, downhill course’ that started at 7500 ft and dropped 3200ft to finish in Liberty Park near downtown SLC. However I knew that they conveniently forgot to mention many BAHs (Bad Ass Hills) that had to be climbed along the way.
The race started on time and the course dropped about 1000 ft over the first 6 miles. Even with the altitude it was easy to run a 10-minute pace. I noted several thermal layers as we dropped through the first 1000 ft. For a few minutes it would be warm and then we would pass through a cold layer where we would be much colder. I passed mile 5 in 48:56 and a split of 9:50. Then we reached the 1st BAH near mile 6 that climbed about 500 ft over the next 2 miles. I managed to run part of the BAH and then wisely decided that since I would certainly have to walk some of the BAHs I might as well start right now. I reached Mile 8 in 1:26:01 and a split of 13:22. Daylight broke as we approached mile 10 in 1:47:14 and a split of 11:08. I could finally read my watch. I passed the Half in 2:18:48 and knew w/o any doubt that the 2nd half would not be that fast. I hoped that I could run the 2nd half in 2:30? I passed mile 16 in 2:50:26 and a split of 11:00 and that was a downhill section so I was not surprised when my legs started to tire on another BAH at Mile 18. I ran/walked that mile in a split of 12:21. I could feel or sense a ‘wall’ approaching but I hoped to delay a crash as long as possible. And we were lucky because the skies were overcast which kept the temps from climbing as rapidly as they would have if the sun had not been blocked. The temps stayed in the low 80s. I passed mile 20 in 3:36:55 and a split of 11:59 but on the final BAH at mile 21 my legs had nothing left and I had to start walking. A painful/frustrating split of 13:06 and I was broken. At that point my legs felt like they had been beaten with a 2X4. The next 2 miles were a gentle downhill and I struggled to run 1 mile and walk 1 minute. When I reached mile 23 in downtown SLC in 4:12:21 and a split of 11:47 my legs were totally trashed and I had to go into survival mode. I knew that I could finish under 5 hours even if I walked the final 5K so I continued the strategy of run 1 mile and walk 1 minute. The final mile shared a route with the ‘Pioneer Days’ parade and the cheers of thousands of spectators helped to keep the old legs shuffling to cross the finish line in 4:51:33.
I have many negative comments about the race but the most positive comment I have to offer was the free 15-minute massages that were available at the finish line. Both hips were tight and very sore from the constant pounding of the hills and I appreciated a massage that helped to alleviate some of the pain.
Sadly the hills had really trashed my legs. I was concerned about how sore they would be the next day and if they could recover in time for the 2nd race on Sat? I got my answer the next morning when I tried to get out of bed – and couldn’t move. Both legs – from the hips to the toes were tight and sore and I couldn’t walk w/o pain! I called the spa that had provided the massage after the race and luckily they had a location close to the hotel and an opening at 10 am. I hobbled or as I like to describe it – I ‘waddled’ like a penguin to the spa and had the masseuse work for one full hour on both hips and quads. Then I returned to the hotel and spent 30 min in the hot tub. The legs felt better but unfortunately as soon as the muscles cooled down they became stiff and sore again. Now I started to doubt if I would be able to run on Sat. I ‘waddled’ around SLC for the afternoon as I visited Temple Square and the Mormon Temple and Tabernacle before heading north to Ogden.
As soon as I checked into the hotel I enjoyed another hour in the hot tub before going to dinner. At least now I could waddle w/o pain but I still couldn’t walk. It wasn’t looking good. I forced myself to walk/waddle along the historic main street in Ogden and enjoy a nice dinner. On Fri morning the legs were not much better. I could walk with minor pain but could not run. I figured even in that condition Maddog could walk/run the race on Sat but it would be very ugly, painful and slow. But I had two major concerns:
So I wisely made a decision to skip the race and enjoy a nice dinner with a beer and allow myself lots of time to waddle through the airport on Sat so I could return home ‘to lick my wounds’ and recover.
Thus it appears that my days of running back-to-back marathons on consecutive days are over – maybe I can still do consecutive weekends? But at least I survived and will get to run my next race in Vietnam in Sept.