Race Report: Utah Valley Marathon 2009
After 2.5 years of running and over a dozen ultramarathons ranging from 50K to 100 miles and two trail marathons, it seemed like a good time to try a traditional road 26.2 miler. The Utah Valley Marathon was a race of convenience for me, as we were visiting Utah at the time and the finish line was only a few miles from where we were staying. I hadn’t done any marathon-specific training other than two 10 mile tempo runs since my Sage Burner/Growler 50k trail race and 64 mile mtb race weekend 3 weeks ago.
Other people sometimes think that I would scoff at doing a marathon after having done ultras. Quite the contrary, I had total respect for the marathon distance and for those that run them. I knew it would be an entirely different experience from what I’m used to.
The race was very well attended for a second year event, with over 650 finishers. I am sure that the USATF certification/sanctioning and being part of the Utah Grand Slam helped those numbers. The packet pickup line was long and slow, but other than that the organization seemed very good and things went off smoothly.
Based on my recent recovery (still in progress) from injury and also the big race weekend and corresponding lack of long training runs, I hoped I would be able to squeak under 3:30 and set that as my goal. In the back of my mind I knew that if I had a really good day I could maybe approach the Boston Marathon qualifying time for my age group (3:20:59), but probably wouldn’t crack it this time around. No worries, this was a first attempt and I knew I would learn a lot from the experience.
My eyes popped open at 2:58 in the morning, and I got up 15 minutes later to start getting ready. I was happy to have slept very solidly, although only 4 hours. I rested as much as I could on the bus ride to the starting line, and hoped that we wouldn’t be pounded by the frequent rain showers that had been so prevalent over the past few days.
I warmed up and stretched out, happy to notice that my problem heel felt ok. I started very conservatively, logging my slowest mile right off the bat @ 7:49, overreacted a little with my fastest for mile two in 7:08, then settled into a very steady pace in the mid 7’s with my heart rate in the upper 150s.
My ultra training helped me the most in really dialing in my nutrition, salt, and fluid intakes. It all seems second-nature now, and makes a huge difference in keeping the energy levels up for a good steady effort. I didn’t feel the least bit fast, but I knew I had a very deep reservoir of endurance to draw on. I just had to keep going and not do anything stupid.
I hit the halfway mark in 1:37:43 with a 159 average heart rate. I had been taking my splits every mile, but didn’t ever look at them, choosing to run by feel and heart rate. Pacing was perfect so far. I would ask myself over and over – can you hold this pace to the finish? Most of the time I wasn’t really sure, but I was determined to try.
There were a few miles of twisting/up/down bike path to negotiate starting around mile 15. I upped my intensity through here and started passing people and would continue to do so all the way to the finish. I was hurting quite a bit for the last 5 miles, but I was surprised to still be holding on to the pace as well as I was.
It was a sweet feeling to hit mile 26 and take off with everything I had left with the cheers of the crowd propelling me to the line. I crossed in 3:14:55 which was good for 35th place, and was thrilled. Wow. I totally blew away my expectations and feel like I could have even gone a bit faster. I was very happy to get the “BQ” out of the way on the first try, and spent some time soaking up the scene afterwards. It ended up being one of the best races I have ever run in terms of even pacing and using what I had available to me on a given day. Sweet.
I nailed a perfect 33 second negative split to boot, running the second half in 1:37:10. It ended up taking a lot more work to hold that pace as my heart rate averaged 165 for that final section.