I ran in the Utah Valley Marathon.   At the last minute I entered this marathon, feeling that I had recovered enough from a good finish at the tough Squaw Peak 50-miler just a week ago.  I thought it would be an interesting experiment to see how I can do.  Besides, all the trails were soaked from all the rain this week and a nice road run down Provo Canyon would make sense.   It would also be a nice last long run before Big Horn 100 on Friday.

I ran in this Marathon last year in its first year.  This year, it looked like it had 10 times the number of entrants (about 800 or so) and now is becoming a new major marathon in Utah.   The course started way up Provo Canyon, near the dam at Deer Creek Reservoir.   The right lane of the highway was blocked off all the way down the canyon for the course.   Then it went on some city roads and eventually joined up with the Provo River Parkway, a paved trail the follows the beautiful Provo River all the way to Utah Lake.  From there it went through a maze of neighborhood roads for six more miles and ended up at the South Town Mall at the south end of Provo.

The first half of the marathon is fast because of all the downhill, but the second half is pretty tough and slow because of all the twists, turns, ups and downs as it passed under major roads.  I think this marathon is 5-10 minutes slower for me than the Ogden Marathon which is mostly a straight shot down the canyon.

Busses took us up the canyon to the start and I tried to keep warm near the barrel fires as everyone arrived.  I was able to meet several fastrunningblog bloggers including Tarzan and Smooth.  

My goal for this race was to come out uninjured, and treat it like a training run.  I expected that I could finish at least in 3:45.  But I knew that once the competitive juices flowed, that I would probably press it harder, especially with the initial huge downhill over the first ten miles.  Caution would be essential.

The gun went off and away we went.  Sure enough, I went out with the top-30 runners.  The first mile was a gentle uphill which wasn’t too bad because our legs were fresh, but then the nice downhill came and I kicked it into gear, passing several runners.   I struggled for the first few miles because I just wasn’t warmed up yet.   The sore ankle behaved itself.  I really only felt it when the road sloped to the right.  My splits for the first six miles were:  6:57, 6:32, 6:48, 7:25, 7:26, and 6:56.  I think the only major hill was at mile 5 and I concentrated on pushing the pace on that.

But by mile six, my calves were complaining.  This always happens in marathons.  I didn’t want to risk a muscle pull so I backed off the pace.  I had finally warmed up and the quads were saying, “faster, faster!”  But the calves were say, “whoa, Nelly!”   By changing my foot placements I could change the pressure on the calves and that seemed to help keep them lose.

My next four miles splits down the Canyon were 7:20, 7:38, 7:38, and 7:48.  Small groups of runners started to pass me.  The course then went by the River Bottoms on a road behind some huge houses.  My splits for miles 11-13, were: 7:57, 7:59, and 7:57, pretty consistent.  I was bummed out that I couldn’t keep a 7:30 going.  I had the strength but the calves didn’t want to do that.   The right calf really started to get tight, so I finally quickly took two Succeed! Caps (electrolytes) and within two miles it felt much better.  I could not feel any bad effects from running Squaw Peak 50 a week ago.  My half-marathon split was 1:37:02, not bad for me.

Elite injured runner, Michelle Lowry was out on the course cheering us on.  I recognized her by her crutches on the ground.   She yelled great words of encouragement to me both times I saw her.  I sure hope the doctors can finally figure things out to get her healed.

The course then made some weird gyrations near University Parkway, going back and forth and around a shopping center.  It finally joined up with the Provo River Parkway.   I did fine at first but once the trail started to dip below roads I started to struggle.  There were two other runners near me, one in orange and one in red.   They were both starting to use walking spells and then run at about a 7:15 pace.   I kept my steady pace going and would almost catch up, but then they would run ahead.   Eventually I passed them for good as their walking spells increased.   My splits for miles 14-16 were: 7:36, 7:42, and 8:02. 

I had my first split over 8 minutes. Around mile 16, the wheels started to come off my race.  I could start feeling the effects of Squaw Peak 50.  It became a significant struggle to keep my pace going.  I took gels and that helped a little.   My splits for the rest of the Parkway by the river (miles 17-20) were:  8:13, 8:54, 9:00, and 9:10.

We now were dumped out onto roads near Utah Lake.  Before the race, I wisely drove this section of the course so there would be no surprises.  This was a good mental strategy.    The final six miles were a terrible struggle.  The gas tank was just running on empty even though I took gels which came back up and out a couple times.  My hips started to hurt badly from last week.   I was just hanging on for dear life.  I didn’t want to croak.  At that point I hear sirens.  “Great, they are coming for me.”  I looked at the clock and knew a PR (sub 3:24) was out of the question, and soon a sub 3:30 was not likely.   I set my sights to at least break 3:35, which would be another Boston Qualifier time for me.  My final splits, miles 21-26 were:  8:55, 9:24, 9:26, 9:25, 9:25, and 10:14.  I believe I saw fellow ultrarunner Leon Deitlaf pass me in the last mile or two.  I just couldn’t keep up. Dang, I just can’t beat him in marathons.  So close this time.

I finished in 3:33:11, in 58th place, 7th in my age group.  Our age group was pretty bunched up, five ahead of me finished within nine minutes before me.   Recovery was rough.  I really gave it all I got without injuring myself.  For the next 15 minutes I had to lie on the grass to find my strength again.   It came back and I enjoyed watching finishers for the next hour.   My 4th road marathon was in the books.