Well, it’s all over and done with. My final (sad) time was 5:12:42 – better than 2 years ago in San Diego by about a minute and a half. But I felt like a million dollars as I crossed the finish line this time; it was an entirely different experience Saturday and I couldn’t be happier with the end result. (Well, of course I could – I really wanted to come in under 5 hours but it just wasn’t in the cards.) I didn’t immediately want to set fire to my running shoes, and I didn’t feel like I needed to fall over in a heap on the side of the road.
My alarm went off at 4:10 am, and I got up, got dressed, pulled my hair up and put on some sunscreen. The sky was still dark when I left at 4:40 but I could see there was a layer of cloud cover, but no rain. We have had rain for the past week, and we finally caught a break on race day.
I drove down to 25th Street and parked just up from the Ben Lomond hotel, where the buses were waiting to take us up to Huntsville. I hopped on and we were off. I ended up sitting next to a guy who lives next door to a couple that teaches skating at the ice rink I coach at, so we chatted a bit about that and he told me he had run this course the year before. It was nice to get some insider info from someone who had already run this race. We got dropped off at 5:30 (race didn’t start until 7), and made our way into an incredibly muddy field where there were firepits going to help keep the runners warm during our wait. It sucked that we had to get up there so early, but they had to have the canyon closed by 6 or 6:30 and needed everyone shuttled up to the start well before then.
I drank a couple cups of water, and made sure to use the bathroom (twice!) before the race started so I wouldn’t have to stop. (Unfortunately, I did end up having to take a quick pit stop around mile 8, so I lost about a minute of time there; but I knew I wasn’t going to last another 3 1/2 hours.) The race started about 10 minutes late, but before I knew it we were off! I wasn’t really feeling nervous or anything, which was probably a good thing. I ran the first 7 miles all between 10:40 and 10:50, and crossed the 7 mile mark at 1:15:19, with an average pace of 10:46. I had taken my first Gu at Mile 6, and planned to take one every six miles from here on out.
The run down the canyon at the beginning was nice and cool; the sun was still behind the clouds and it was chilly and humid out. We came out at the bottom of the canyon and started to make our way over to Pineview Reservoir. It was so picturesque, and I wanted to stop numerous times to take photos of the snow-capped mountains behind the green grassy pastures, horses and cows dotting the landscape in front of old rustic barns. But, I didn’t. I was lazy. I even thought to myself, “You are going to regret not taking any photos.” And I do. Oh well.
I started to slow a bit as we started to make our way north towards Eden. There were some small rolling hills and I could feel my pace slowing a bit. There was a pretty good sized hill, and there were lots of signs saying “It’s all about the climb!” and “Almost to the top!” Well, yes, that may be so, but this was a blip on the radar compared to the hill we had to climb starting at Mile 14. The sun was coming out and it was starting to get warmer. I crossed the half marathon timing mats at 2:25:46, an 11:06 pace for miles 7 – 12. I remember thinking to myself, how am I going to do this one more time? 13.1 miles down, 13.1 left.
This is where things fell apart a bit for me. I got to the bottom of the hill at Mile 14, and I was just not feeling it. I walked up the majority of the hill, and I could not even fathom how I was going to run another 12 miles. The sun was getting hot, and I was feeling a lot of hip aches and pains. My legs just felt like crap. This section of the course felt like it was never going to end, we just kept going up, and up, and up. Finally the bridge over the spillway was in sight, and I knew I was about to see the second downhill portion of the race. There were a bunch of people cheering here and mentally that helped a little bit. I think it was around Mile 18 at this point, and I hit that mark at 3:37:05, a 12 minute pace at this point. It was kind of frustrating to see that time, knowing that I had run a 20-miler in that same time three weeks ago. We were going downhill at this point, but the wind was funneling through the canyon and we were running straight into the wind. I remembered my Swedish Fish I had packed around this point, and even though I’d taken 3 gus so far, these sweet treats really perked me up. I’m so glad I packed them!
The second canyon didn’t feel like it was very “downhill” to me, especially with that wind. It was beautiful though, with the rushing river and waterfall at the bottom. I passed a volunteer around Mile 21/22 who was rubbing Icy Hot on runners, and was about to dismiss it and then turned around and got some put on the backs of my knees. What was really hurting was my hips, but it seemed to ease a little bit of my pain to have that Icy Hot on my legs.
This is when things got kind of weird for me. I started running around Mile 21.5, and came out at the bottom of the canyon. We shot out onto the Ogden River Parkway where I do a lot of my running, and all of the sudden I got my second wind. There were so many people cheering along the parkway, and I was RUNNING again. Like a 9:20 pace. Unfortunately I couldn’t sustain it for the whole time, and I did a bunch of run-walk stretches along the parkway. Mile 23 I crossed at 4:33:10 (11:53 pace for the miles 18 – 22), and I knew the text message system was supposed to send a text out to Nick to let him know I had 5K left. (It didn’t actually work though, but mentally I thought he knew I was on my way and I kept charging ahead.)
I tried to hold on to my little microbursts of energy throughout the last 3 miles as best as I could. I got to the end of the river parkway and crossed Washington Blvd, and headed down to Grant, where the final 1 mile stretch led us down to 25th Street. I was turning onto Grant when I saw Nick on his bike. I was sooo happy to see him. He rode with me for about a half a mile and then the barriers were coming up, so he had to leave me, but I gave it all I had and sprinted past as many people as I could to the finish. 5:12:42 final chip time, running a total of 26.42 miles (apparently I don’t run the tangents very well.)
I got my medal and walked into the finishers area. I felt like I couldn’t stop smiling. I know I didn’t PR by very much, but I felt like I finished so strong and finally got that Marathon Experience everyone talks about. I felt really good afterwards – I even joked about running another one in a couple of weeks. I just felt happiness and contentment. I may have dawdled a little during the hilliest part, but in the end, I gave it everything I had and finished with a great big smile on my face. I think it was the last three miles that really made my race so positive. Overall, it was a beautiful route, and the volunteers and race support were SO amazing. If I ever get the gumption up to do a marathon again, I would run Ogden again in a heartbeat.