Sunday, October 4, 2009

St. George Marathon - 3:19:24

I did it....Qualified for Boston and broke 3:30 and PR'd. I did not know I had a 3:19 in me though. That really feels good, so good to have something positive after all the training and running and injuries and disappointments of the year (as my blog can verify).

I really enjoyed the race, from the moment I crossed the start line to the finish, it was by far the most enjoyable marathon I've ever done. I never got to that extreme fatigue stage that I usually do and no Injuries or cramps. I got to say the 3 week taper and rest probably was the difference. Turns out the relay legs instead of a long run 3 weeks out worked out well too. Also running with the Garmin was a big help, I could constantly monitor my pace and speed up or slow down trying to stay between 7:30 and 8:00.

Pre Race...

I did not enjoy the pre-race. I tossed and turned the night before, filled with anxiety and worst case scenarios running through my head. I don't think I ever actually slept a wink. The alarm went off at 4:00 and I was up, thank god I did not have to lay there and worry any more, I think that is the worst part for me, the night before. I got on a bus around 4:45 and took it up to the start around 5:15 an hour and a half before the race. It was really hot on the bus, so I was peeling off layers and gloves, but nobody else was, so I thought, maybe I have a fever and am sick. Ha more anxiety. We get off the bus at the start and it's 33 degrees with 15 mph wind from the north. Cold! They set up bon fires every 20 feet or so and light them for runners to stay warm. Reminded me of a bunch of hobos around a fire, only about 100 different groups. I went in and out of the fire area when I got cold. I was shivering and thinking how my muscles would be tight and I would have a bad race. There was a cool announcer there who gave a lot of St. George marathon facts and kept us entertained. The porta potti lines got long and merged into the fire circles. I did not do a bag check, those lines were long too. Instead I wore old clothes and disgarded a layer before the race and during it. I took some gu 15 minutes before the start and went to the woods to use the bathroom. That was another weird circumstance, men and women in the woods peeing before the race, no shame because you gotta go before the race, kind of a bond that runners have with each other.

Pre Race Dawn, outside the Hobo Village Fires warming the runners

The Start...
I got in behind the 3:40 pace group, mainly because it was the easiest spot to get in, but also because I wanted to start slow. The race starts and it took about 4 minutes to cross the start, but could pretty much run at pace at the start. Unlike Dallas last year. It was dawn, so there was some light but not a lot, still cold, but it felt good to be running finally. People were tossing clothes to the side along the highway. Some people had plastic bags and were tearing them off and leaving them on the road, which was bad because runners were tripping over them and you could not see. A guy behind me started yelling out load to not leave the bags in the road. The 3:40 pacer had gotten ahead of me with the other runners entering the course from the sides. I caught him at about 2 miles. I missed the first mile split, but caught the 2nd one 15:42 perfect.

Miles 3 - 7
These miles roll down hill and it was getting light. I shed my headband and put my gloves in my pocket. I got into a good pace and felt good, easy to do this early in the race. I tried not to let my pace go faster than 7:30, keeping it under 8 was no problem at all. I knew there was an uphill section ahead, so I wanted to bank some time. I also wanted to catch the 3:30 pace group, who started way ahead of me. I finally caught them about mile 5 and ran along them for a while. They were doing about a 7:30 pace which surprised me, that fast that early. The guy said he was making up time for the slow start, when he got to mile 5, he said too fast and they slowed a bit and I pulled away. I thought. I better not see that guy again or I'm in trouble.
Each mile mark had porta pottis, a sign and a big Silver Star balloon so they were easy to spot from the distance. The Odd number mile markers from 3 on were also aid stations. The road is mainly straight so you can see pretty far ahead most of the way.
I was banking time with a sub 8 pace, that I might need later. As long as I didn't burn out or hurt something. I had a couple minutes above pace at the 7 mile mark.

Early in the race, after shedding a couple of layers.

Miles 7 - 13
Just past mile 7 there is a huge hill climb, the largest of the race for about 1/2 mile it is steep, not mt evans steep but steep. I was ready for it. Jill had run this race last year and told me about the course several times as we have run together over the year. I wanted to stay around 8:30 and average 8 over the mile. I passed a lot of people on the hill. Several people were walking it, which surprised me for the pace we were running. The altitude was around 5000 feet so it was great for me, maybe not for flat landers. When you get to the peak of the hill it dips down but continues to climb and dip through mile 13. So you give back 500 feet that you got from the first 7 miles. My pace was averaging 7:50 - 8:15 on those uphill miles, so I did not bank much extra.

Feeling good about half way through

Half way
At 13.1 I was at 1:42, only 3 minutes ahead of pace. The good news was the uphill was over and now there was a lot of downhill ahead. As it turned out I ran the 2nd half in 1:37 so a negative split by 5 minutes. I was confident I could do 3:30 if I did not get injured.

Since the road is closed, a lot of people put up signs on the road for family and friends, that was kinda neat. Also amazed at how much clothing was discarded along the way. I left a hoodie sweatshirt, a long sleeve shirt, gloves and a headband myself. At various points there are cross streets where fans would be to cheer. But for the most part it was just us runners. One thing I like about it is, only marathoners are running, not halfs or relays, so we were all doing the same thing.

Miles 13-20
This section was very pretty with some neat rock formations and contrast. This was also a fast section, my pace fell below 7:30 but I was holding it comfortably, trying not to go too fast. I met a lady Christie from Evergreen, she was very friendly and chatty. Her 2nd St. George. She was fast on the downhills and I would catch her on the uphills. I talked to her on and off as we met up with each other. As it turned out we finished within 2 seconds of each other on the chip. At the aid stations they were giving out icy hot in paper plates that you could grab as you ran through. I grabbed some and put it on my calfs as I ran, just in case. They also had Vaseline and nurses and medics, very good support. As were the water/gatorade with food and gel at some. I took gu at 5, 9, 15, 21, probably could have used one more at 23.

Chasing Christy from Evergreen, she was friendly, chatty and knew the course from running it before. We finished 3 seconds apart on the chip time.

Mile 20-23
I had heard from Jill and others that it really drops in elevation from mile 20-23. You can see St. George in the distance and know you are a 10k away. It got fast on this stretch for everyone, I tried not to let myself go too fast, but did not want to restrict my quads too much, they were starting to ache, as was my right knee, runners knee, I had some problems with it last winter. I was reminded of Denver, seeing all the runners cramp or come up lame. I was 8 minutes ahead of schedule with 6 left, so I started getting confident in reaching my goal, but cautious about an injury. One guy in particular I remember pulling up lame and cussing and stopping, I could feel his frustration, I had been there 1 year ago.

Fast Downhills after Mile 20, my feet hardly touched the ground.

Mile 23 - 25
These miles were fun, as the road flattened out some and you ran into town. Lots of spectators. It started to get a bit hot on the wide streets of St. George. I did these miles under 7:30. I started to back off and coast in and enjoy the last part without injury or worry, then realized I was within range of 3:20. My Nemesis from last year. Could I really break 3:20. If I held 7:30 for the last 2.2 miles, I could.

Getting Close in town, St. George, UT

The last mile seemed long, I felt slow and fatigue was setting in. I was ready to finish, but I was also excited. I was definitely on pace for a sub 3:20 and wanted it, even if I pulled up lame and had to walk across I decided to go for it. It seemed to take forever to get to the finish, a few turns and then a long stretch of about a half mile at the end. I could see the balloons, the crowd cheering. It was great. I always have calf cramps at the end of the marathon just before the finish. I tried to focus on my pace and legs, not to push too hard and cramp. Right at the very last, my right calf shot up with a cramp, about 20 feet from the finish. I pulled up and limped through, but the cramp died as soon as I stopped. I did it. 3:19:24. I was so happy. I just stood there kind of stunned. A medic asked me if I was OK, I said, "Yeah, I'm just stunned".

Home Stretch at St. George and Finish. Chip time 3:19:24

Post Race
I was so happy. I went through the shower/mist area to cool off and then headed to the post race. Nice post race area. Ice cream, food, soda, fruit. Runners only allowed. One guy was passed out there with a crowd around him. Scary, they ended up taking him away in an ambulance. I went to the results tent and they printed out a sticker with my time 3:19:24. I was so happy. I sat down and ate my ice cream and soaked up the sun and thought about the long journey it took me to get here and qualify for Boston.

Post Race Smiles - Felt so good to reach this goal!

I was stranded at the race, there was no shuttle back to the hotel that I could find and it was a mile and a half walk. I eventually started walking and regretted it. I hurt everywhere, quads, knee calfs, feet, blisters on my little toe. Miserable. I stumbled across a nice lady and her kids (5 of them) in a min van. She had just asked another guy walking if he wanted a ride and he said no. So I asked her for a ride to the holiday inn, she said OK and I got in (turns out she knew the other guy she offered a ride to). The van was full of kids, the mom said they were from salt lake. They were all so nice, asking me about my race and if I PR'd and qualified for Boston. Their dad had just run it. They dropped me off at my hotel and I could not wait to get a shower and send out text messages to family and friends about the race..

St. George Marathon 2009 Online Results

Garmin Watch Data for Marathon


  1. Congratulations, Dennis! Way to go! I loved reading your updates and relived the course I, myself, BQ! Very, very happy for you. Next time, get there late so that you literally have 20 seconds to get out of the porta-potty line and get to the start line; then you don't have to be a hobo sitting around the fires :).

    Go and register for Boston, Baby!

  2. Well done, Dennis. Glad you finished, exceeded your expectations and didn't get hurt. Nice consistent pace on the Garmin. Have fun in Boston.