September 26, 2009

Top of Utah, 2009 (#24)

When: September, 2009.
Me, Tom, Bill and Kristin

Recall: Tom sets PR only one week after Lotoja!
Overall: Still one of my favorite marathons.
Rating: Remains 5/5 carbs

Starting Line at Hardware Ranch

I didn’t know what to expect going into TOU 2009. With record cool temperatures, summer 2009 provided nearly perfect running weather allowing me to log enough long runs to feel good about running a marathon in September. In fact, I felt good enough to dare imagine setting a PR or even breaking four hours. However, I can’t run Top of Utah Marathon without Tom who would be coming off the 206 Lotoja bike race only a week previous. Plus, his hamstring had been giving him problems. So how would he feel? Would his legs hold up? There was no snow in the forecast, like in 2000, but there were warm temperatures. Eighty degrees, in fact. I’d rather have snow. In the end my approach to 2009 Top of Utah was the same as I have with most other marathons; just an extra long run with a medal at the end. My goals were realistic and practical; finish and don’t die.

Blacksmith Fork Canyon

I ditched work Thursday afternoon and flew from Indy to Salt Lake passing through Denver. Paige and Lorin were gracious enough to put me up for the night and to get me to Logan Friday afternoon in time for dinner at Firehouse Pizza with more of the family. After dinner it was time to pick up our race packets which always include, among other junk, a T-shirt. Out of the previous four TOU marathons I’ve run, there had been only one T-shirt worth keeping and that fact remains. This years long sleeve, bright orange T-shirt will not have a place in my clothing rotation, except maybe on Halloween if I go as a pumpkin or short carrot. I don’t understanding it. TOU has a great looking logo but they don’t use in on their shirts or finishers medals.

Elevation Chart for Top of Utah, Ogden, and St. George Marathons

Friday night, sleep can easy as did waking up – at 2:00 a.m. I was so awake I was ready to run then but I laid in bed for an hour, feel asleep for another hour, and back awake with a slight stomach ache at 4:00 a.m. Bill and Tom showed up the Twin PIne Ranch around 5:00. Kirstin would be meeting friends and riding up with them so we three brothers drove to Merlin Olsen Park to board a yellow school bus. The night before and on the ride up, the topic of “race” strategy came up without any decision except to play it by ear.

Predicting victory at mile 16.7...
(Photo by Bob)

We got to Hardware Ranch just after 6:00. When the sun showed itself, we could see it was a beautiful, cool morning that says, summer is gone and fall is waiting at the finish line. Black powder rifle fire started the race and we crossed the starting line about a minute later. The excitement surrounding any marathon makes it easy to start out faster than planned but the downhill slope at TOU makes it even easier. After the first mile it was obvious that I wouldn’t be able to hang with Bill and Tom who were pounding out sub 9 minute miles, which is my speed limit. A 9 minute per mile pace over 26.2 miles gets you a finishing time under 4:00 hours so I decided to stick to that. Bill and Tom were taking advantage of the 18 miles of downhill, and a brisk tailwind. The scenery was beautiful, as expect and I was loving it. I get a little frustrated when my iPod tore a hole in the tiny side pocket of my running shorts and begin to slide down my leg. I caught the iPod before it feel free but had difficulty in pulling it back up through the pocket hole. Meanwhile three fit young Turks in green running shirts were playing a game of sprint one mile, walk, repeat. I would pass them during their walk and they would pass me during the sprint. Odd.

Paige, Polly, and Bruce - who is pushing me away - at mile 18
(Photo by Molly)

No moose were spotted on the descent of Blacksmith Fork canyon but the gorgeous scenery reminded me that I was not in Illinois. I drank Gatorade at very other aid station and swallowed some gel at mile 8. The further down the canyon I ran the stronger the tailwind became which was great for not just the additional propulsion but its cooling effect as well. My time at the halfway point was 1:57. Spot on. The cheers from the crowd at the mouth of the canyon were a welcomed change from the solitude of the canyon. The first familiar face I spotted by Adrienne in her car just past mile 14 followed by Bob who was patrolling Hallow Road on his bike. Bob updated me on Bill and Tom who were at least 5 minutes ahead of me. Go Tom! Go Bill! Bob snapped a few pictures and peddled off to look for Kristin. Somewhere along Hallow Road a short developed in my right earphone. Arrgh. That small annoyance didn’t last knowing I was closing in on mile 18 where I’d find an energy bar, Dr. Pepper, and a great group of fans. Thanks for Paige, Molly, Polly, Bruce and the rest of the family and friends for the support. That was exactly what I needed. Until mile 18, I was maintaining a 9 mile per mile pace but started to feel tightness in my stomach so I didn’t eat the energy bar. After leaving the gang at mile 18, I nixed the iPod in favor of the sounds of nature. The hope that a walk jog strategy would provide some relieve to my stomach was unfounded. I must have had a look of consternation on my face during one of the walking periods in Providence causing a fellow runner blurted out, “Hang in there. You can do it.” Okay, thanks, I thought very sarcastically. It’s not like I haven’t done this before. I don’t mind anyone cheering me one but when they say things really personal, like they know you, it bothers me. Fortunately, I was able to chuck just down the road when I over heard a husband or boyfriends’ comment to his running partner. “I only wish you felt as good as I do.” Oh, that should really help her.

Hanging out with the family at mile 25
(photo by Bob)

It was great to see Sam at mile 21. She kindly offered me a DP but I declined and asked if she’d take my hat, iPod and power bar. I could only walk the next 2 miles and partly with a family practice physician from Hill Air Force base who was running his first marathon. He was dress in his orange TOU long sleeve T-shirt and long running pants. While it wasn’t as warm as I had expected it was definitely too warm for long sleeves and pants. I told him about Bill, GB and running TOU in the snow in 2000. He was impressed with Bill’s miraculous recovery. Ironically, we were almost passing Lisa Schupe’s house at the time.

Polly and me at mile 25 with an emergency vehicle lurking ominously in the background
(photo by Paige)

The switchback part of the course in River Heights is my least favorite and I debated if it was worth walking the final 4 miles against taking off my number and cutting through River Heights on a direct route to the Tabernacle for a ride home. With my number off I decided to give running another try with limited success. Plotting along I made it to the hill down into Logan and turned west on 300 South towards Main Street. As I approached the intersection of 200 East a runner ahead of me was yelling at the driver of a truck attempting to make a right turn onto 300 South. His tirade consisted most of F-bombs along and its corresponding single finger, hand gesture. As I ran through the intersection, I caught up to Mr. F-bomb just before the truck was able to turn right and drove right past us. I asked, “What was his problem?” pointing to the truck. “He was honking at the runners and spectators. Here we are out busting our humps doing something he’d never do. You know, something healthy and positive and that guy has a problem with it.”

Somewhere between mile 25 and the finish

After walking up that disturbing little hill between 100 and 200 South, I jogged to the Tabernacle where I was once again greeted by family and friends. It’s a great feeling to have people who know you cheer you on. I could have stayed longer since my first two goals (sub 4 hour and new PR) were unattainable and my third goal of finishing was fairly certain. Where the course turns south on 100 East a loud mouth man with good intentions told me how good my form was. Smooth he said. What? Don’t mistake slowness with smoothness. Going slow does not make for good form. Good form is found is a fast form. I would have rather heard him say, “You look good,” even though I know he would have been lying. I saw Paige, Molly, Polly and Bruce walking back to their car just after I crossed Center Street but I kept moving knowing I only had about 3 blocks to go. Then it dawned on me. I had no idea what my time was. I was using my iPod as a timer, which was with Sam, and I hadn’t really noticed the clocks on the course. I realized I had no idea what my time was but was pleasantly surprised when I made the last turn and saw the time near 4:20 rather than 4:40 or more! I jogged the last tenth of a mile looking for familiar faces in the crowd. Towards the finish line I saw Shelly and then Laura and Clark. Settling on finishing 49th in my age group, I stopped and high-fived Clark and Laura just feet from the finish line. It was worth any 48th place prize money I may have missed out on.

At the finish line
(photo by Shelly)

Bill soon found me in the crowd and told me the excellent news. Tom broke four hours! Animal.There I was hours earlier wondering how Tom’s legs would hold up and he goes and runs a sub-four hour personal record! Well done, squire! I don’t care how much Bill, Shep and Kimball motivated him over the last 5-6 miles, he still had to do it on his own two legs. Impressive to the maximum.

"After you"

Looking back maybe I shouldn’t have had the BBQ pizza the night before (but it was really good). Or, maybe I shouldn’t start marathons at altitude. Or, maybe I should get new ear phones before each marathon. Or, maybe I should reinforced the pockets in my running shorts with duct tape. Or, maybe I shouldn’t wear a red shirt when I run marathons. Or, maybe I should just shut up and train harder so I can run like Tom. And Bill?