Tuesday, September 27, 2011

Top of Utah Marathon RACE RECAP!

Uhhhh...sorry about that?

I kinda dropped off the face of blogger planet for a while.  Not sure why.  I've been reading...just didn't feel like writing, which is super odd considering that the topic I needed to write about was a topic that I have a whole lot to say about--that's right, the fact that I RAN A MARATHON.

Let's just say that one more time:


Okay, I've determined that no matter how many times I say that (whether out loud or in my head) it still doesn't feel real.  Just like I can comprehend running 26.2 miles, I also can't comprehend the fact that it is actually possible and that I'm one of the crazy people in the world who have done it.

Did you know that only 0.13% of the population has ran a marathon?  Not bad company, if I do say so myself.

Anyway, let's start at the beginning shall we?

Running Roommate and I drove up to Logan, Utah together on Friday.  I was kinda freaking out the entire time.  I was doubting my training, doubting my abilities, and doubting my knee.  I could not believe we were actually less than 24-hours away from starting (and hopefully finishing) a goal we set out to achieve so long ago.  I gotta say...this race SNUCK UP ON ME.

We checked into our hotel and headed to the expo.  It was a small expo, but there were some booths that held our interests.  We got our bibs and headed out for a quick dinner at Costa Vida before going back to the hotel and trying to sleep.  I was so anxious, but eventually fell asleep after checking the weather for the umpteenth time.  It called for a mostly clear race with a rain storm ending at 7 am and clear skies for the remainder of the day.  The rest started at 7 am, so this was going to be perfect for me.
Expo Time!
Got my bib--feeling way too real!!

3:30 am came and the alarms went off.  I woke up with nervous butterflies, but just committed to the tasks at hand: get dressed, get fueled, and get ready to go.  I had laid out all my stuff the night before, so it was a pretty mindless morning.  I decided to check the weather once more.  In the short 6 hours we had slept, the weather had taken a turn for the worse.  Instead of clear skies, it now called for a 55% chance of rain at 10 am.  I wasn't too worried about it.  An hour of rain isn't really much to stress about, and the 55% chance wasn't that high.  I figured it would be a bit of a drizzle.

Spoiler alert: I was dead wrong.

Anyway, we loaded up our stuff after choosing to bring rain jackets "just in case."  Rather than waiting for the hotel shuttle, we opted to walk the 3 or 4 blocks in the dark to the finish line.  I have never seen so many buses lined up!  It was a sight to see!  After passing dozens upon dozens of buses, we made it to the loading line and hopped on the steamy bus.

I'd just like to state for the record that the bus ride from the finish line to the starting line of a marathon is about 40 minutes of pure torture.  PURE TORTURE.  Driving the course of the race on race day can really screw with your head.  It seemed SO LONG.  And the conversations on the bus were also super intimidating.  Not only are you super tired that early in the morning, but watching the road pass you by and realizing that this bus is going to drop you off at the top of a mountain pass and you have to RUN back to the finish line is horribly daunting.  I was having severe regrets on that bus; particularly when we were in the canyon and I kept thinking "okay...I know it is 14 miles from the start of the race to the mouth of the canyon...we HAVE to have gone 14 miles already" and then having the bus continue driving for another ten minutes.

Holy. fetch.

Anyway, we got to the starting line and it is raining.  I made a quick port-a-potty stop, and then headed to the heat tents.  The rain wasn't too dramatic, but it was enough to make you want to hide in the heat tents.  (Side note: ALL races should have heat tents--such a beautiful thing!!)  RR and I stayed in the tents for a while, but then nature called (again!) and I headed up to make a final port-a-potty stop before the race began.  As can be expected, the lines were loooooong.  Once I got to the potty, there was less than 5 minutes until the race start time.  Thank goodness for chip timed races!  Anyway, while I was in the port-a-potty it started raining so hard that it sounded like it was hailing.  I was SO tempted to just stay in the port-a-potty forever and just not come out.  No race.  No rain.  Just me and the port-a-potty.  You know that you've got  the panic when you are willing to hang out in a port-a-potty all day just to avoid the race.

But alas, it was not meant to be.  I sucked it up and made my way down to the starting line.  I was SOAKED before I even got there.  All the runners were drenched and looking around at each other like "is this really happening?"  Yep.  It was so happening.  I lined up next to RR, we said some last minute pep talk stuff, and then we got ready to run.  At this point I was so ready to run because I was starting to get really cold and wanted to generate some body heat!  So, I guess the rain was good because it made me want to start the race?
Soaking wet already! (And RR isn't freakishly pale, I promise)

They started the race in waves.  Since I am not a super speedy runner, I was set in the back (quite happily). After about a two minute delay, it was our turn to cross the starting line and finally RUN.  RR and I said our goodbyes, and set off for a long journey.  I was feeling good, the rain had let up, and I just settled into a comfortable pace and tried to enjoy the scenery (without tripping like I did at the Timp Half!).

As you probably saw from earlier posts, my IT band pain had flared up on my last training run before the marathon.  I was really nervous about it, but I had taken good care of it and let it rest for a week.  I have enough experience with the dumb thing to realize that at some point it was definitely going to rear its ugly head, but I was hoping it would wait until the last half of the race.


It showed up at mile 1.5.  Not encouraging.  I had 16 miles of downhill left to run on (which aggravates the issue), and then another 10 miles to run after that.  I knew I was in trouble.  I said a silent prayer and hoped that I had the mental strength to push through and finish when my physical strength decides to disappear.
This was a *bit* discouraging to see.  Logan, here I come!

Miles 2 - 5 were pretty uneventful.  I was drinking gatorade at every aid station and fueling (taking a Gu) every 3 miles.  I have had issues in the past on my long runs with my energy fizzling so I decided to up the fueling on race day.  Overall, I think it was good decision.  However, taking over 5 Gus in one day is disgusting.  Just an FYI.
Cups, anyone?
Gorgeous scenery!
Runners stretching for MILES!
I had settled into a rhythm and just absorbed the sights and sounds of the race.  I love watching the runners and seeing the new views when you round a corner.  It makes the time pass by more quickly.  I was worried about the dark clouds hanging out in front of me, but figured it couldn't get much worse than what we had been through at the starting line.


Around mile 6, all hell broke loose.  Seriously.  Lightning was flashing and thunder was reverberating off the canyon walls (favorite sound ever?  YES).  It was a little unnerving to be so close to the lightning.  I was worried they would call the race.  Rain was coming down in sheets and in a matter of less than a minute, I was soaked from head to toe.  My so called rain jacket?  Not so much water proof as "semi-water resistant."  That's a nice way of saying I might as well have been wearing a sham-wow.  I was soaking up the water!  

Then it started to hail.  Slowly at first, and then it was coming down hard.  It was more than a little bit unreal.  I couldn't help but laugh.  All the runners around me had these looks of complete confusion, shock, and humor.  What else could you do but laugh at the situation and keep running?  I tried to take a video of the hail, but my cell phone did NOT do it justice.  Trust me when I say it was about 5 times worse in real life:

(Also, forgive the poor video quality.  I was a bit excited--I love me some bad weather.)

The hail stopped by mile 7, but the rain continued until about mile 11.  My jacket was so soaked that it was beginning to hinder my movement, rather than help so I took it off.  I had opted to wear a tank top because I'd rather be too cold than too warm, and so I was left to run in the cool temps with less than ideal gear.

By mile 11 my knee was in pain.  I was worried about being able to finish the race, but I was determined to push through it.  I decided to just focus on making it to the the next aid station.  They were spaced two miles apart (on all the odd numbered miles), so they became a way for me to focus on short term goals that add up to to long term success.  The aid stations were well managed, and the volunteers were STELLAR!  They were drenched just as badly as we were, and they weren't running to keep themselves warm.  They met each of us runners with smiles and cheers.  Total rockstars!

At mile 14, I finally escaped the canyon and was met by all the spectators.  The canyon was closed to spectators, so most of them were waiting at the mouth of the canyon to cheer their friends on.  One of my coworkers was there (with a cowbell!) and it was highly encouraging to see a smiling face who knew my name.  I took a quick bathroom break (stupid nervous race stomach!) and stopped for some photos.

I look happy.  That's cuz I was.
Luckily, the rain had calmed down by this point.  It had dropped down to a mere drizzle and there was hope that the storm might leave us alone.  There was a mean looking dark cloud to the south of us, but I was hopeful that I would be able to outrun it.  I'm rather ambitious, yeah?

My coworker wasn't the only spectator waiting for me at mile 14.  My wonderful WONDERFUL husband was there to ride with me the rest of the way!  He had brought his bike so he could keep my company on the remaining difficult miles.  I was SO glad to have him by my side.  I love this man more than I can say!

So happy to have him next to me!
Top of Utah Marathon 147
Thumbs up at mile 15--glad to be out of the rain!
Miles 14-15 went by quickly now that I had some company.  I told Hubster about the craziness of the hail, and he couldn't believe what we had ran through.  At one point he asked me how far I'd been, and when I looked at the garmin it said something like 15.6.  He turned to me smiling and said, "At this very moment, you have ran farther than I ever have in my entire life."  He was so proud of me.  I couldn't help but add, "yeah...and I still have another freaking 11 miles to go!!"  That got a laugh out of him!

At mile 16 the dark cloud caught me.  Apparently I'm not a very fast runner.  Who knew?  Anyway, what we had experienced in the canyon was chump change to what this dark cloud brought to us.  You seriously could've hooked up a hose and sprayed it at me and I wouldn't have gotten wetter.  The hail was coming down so hard that it was beginning to hurt.  It was managing to bounce into my shoes.  I can't say I have ever had hail stones in my shoes while running.  Definitely a first for me.  Finally it became so bad that there was no choice but to seek shelter. Hubster and I found a random house and hid under the awning for a bit.  Unfortunately for me, after waiting a whopping ten seconds I could feel my knee starting to tighten up and I knew I couldn't stay any longer.

I waved goodbye to Hubster (he wasn't dumb enough to follow me out into that mess) and told him I'd see him in a little while.  The next couple of miles were absolutely insane.  Surreal.  I can't even describe how nuts it was to be running in those conditions.  And awesome.  Did I mention it was awesome?  I really do love bad weather...I kinda felt like I was dancing in the rain, but instead of dancing I was running.  It provided an EXCELLENT distraction to my pain, and kept me going.

Unfortunately, Hubster was unable to get photos of me during the absolute craziest portion of the weather.  It was just not a good thing for cameras--WAY too wet.  He did get some a few minutes before it really went to town, and they look crazy enough.  Just know that when you see these photos, it got a LOT worse for all the runners a few minutes later.  :)

Determined to continue through the weather
It's a bit cold!
It was at this point that I also encountered an older woman with a sign pinned to her back that said something to the effect of "I'm running this marathon in honor of my son, born and died on this date in 1993.  Families are forever."  It's a good thing it was already raining.  I swear those were just rain drops on my cheeks...nothing else.

Miles 16-18 were a blur.  The rain was nuts, I was running through puddles that were inches deep, and my arms were sore from the hail pelting me.  At the aid station on mile 17, I ran into Hubster's parents.  They had bright smiles on their face and had made me a poster to cheer me on.  I was SO touched by their enthusiasm.  Seriously, they always make me feel like I am their own daughter.  I am truly blessed with awesome family.

Hubster had caught up to me at this point which was a good thing.  From mile 19 on, my knee was a complete joke.  The weather FINALLY let up at mile 20ish, but by then my knee was so painful to run on I was literally choking back tears.  Lots of screams in order to push through the pain and keep going.  Not gonna lie...At mile 21 I was seriously worried I wouldn't be able to finish.  My knee joints were locking up and I could feel the joints grinding on each other.  By this point I was tired and I just wanted to walk for a while, but every time I walked it hurt.  But switching from walking to running hurt even more (seriously...nearly pass out pain!).  However, after one or two minutes of terrible pain, it leveled out and I was able to continue running without as intense pain.  Too bad I was so tired that I couldn't stop myself from walking every now and then.  It was a terrible cycle!!

Running Roommate had caught up to me around mile 20, but a bathroom break stop for me (again!  body fail!) had her passing me.  I spent the rest of the race trying to catch up to her, but realized in the end that I just didn't have the power left in me to get it done.  I was so proud of her for having such a strong race!

At mile 24 the sun came out--the first time on the entire course!  With it, my spirits lifted and I felt a surge of energy.  I was able to keep running (except on the blasted hills).  The pain subsided to a manageable level, and I KNEW that I would finish.  Even better, I knew that I would finish before 5:30 which had been a goal I didn't think I would reach.

The girl next to me?  Her face sums up most people's thoughts on the weather...
The sun might be out, but I am still drenched!
Hubster left me at mile 25 so that he could see me cross the finish line.  For the last mile, I hung back and talked to the 5:30 pacers for a while.  They said that this was the hardest race they have ever paced.  They were super nice, and way excited for me to be running my first marathon.  After a couple minutes of chit chat, I told them I was going to go on ahead and finish strong.  

I ran to the mile 26 marker and couldn't believe I was almost to the end.  Once you hit mile 26, the course makes a 90 degree left turn and you are suddenly running through the finish line.  I have to say--it was absolutely unreal to see that finish line.  So many different emotions ran over me--pain, pride, triumph, disbelief.  It was phenomenal.  I KNEW I would finish.  I ran towards that finish line with all the gusto I had left in me (admittedly, not much).  My family was screaming my name and I could see the finish line with my time ahead of me.  I was so determined to make it to that darn finish line that I didn't even see the photographer to my right.  Oops?

Dude on the right TOTALLY got ignored by me...
I crossed the finish line at 5:26:50.2.  The time was 12:34 pm (which is awesome).  At that moment, I accomplished something that was so unbelievably difficult to me that two years ago I didn't even think it could be done by me.  I watched a friend cross the Top of Utah Marathon line in 2009 and was blown away by the thought of runners that had been out there for so many hours.  I didn't think it would be possible for me.  And yet, two short years later here I am crossing the same exact finish line.  Absolutely surreal.

Running Roommate was waiting for me with her finishers medal and a HUGE smile on her face.  She had crossed just two minutes before me.  How fun is that?
This is, by far, my favorite photo of the year.
I could NOT have done this marathon without her.  Even though we didn't run side by side, she was with me the whole way.  Her encouragement got me to the starting line, and kept me going at the end.  I cannot say how much I love this girl!  She is truly amazing!!

Also amazing?  Hubster.  His support along the way was fantastic.  He kept my going when all I wanted to do was curl up in a ball and never walk again.  He kept me smiling, and made sure I was okay.  I am lucky to have him as my very own!


Overall, I still can't believe I ran the darn thing.  It was crazy!!  26 miles is SO FAR!!!  But it made me realize that we really and truly can achieve whatever thing we set our minds to.  Bodies are seriously amazing.

Looking over the entire race, I can see only a few areas where I can improve for next time (IF there is a next time).  One, I lost nearly 13 minutes at the port-a-potties.  Darn my upset stomach!!  Two, I probably shouldn't run injured.  Yeah...that's a good idea.  Three, I should give myself some flex time in my training schedule to allow for injuries and unexpected rest weeks.  Lessons = learned!

Also, here's a quick look at my splits.  I can't help but post it...not because it is relevant but because it is the longest list of miles I've ever ran.  Who knows when else I'll be able to post something like this again?

Mile 15 = potty break.  Mile 20-21 = potty break.  Joy.  

One week later and I am still in a post-marathon daze.  I really can't believe I did it.  If I didn't have the photos and the marathon medal I don't think I would believe it!  My knee is still totally screwed up, but at least I know how to fix it.  I'm going to rest the dumb thing like crazy, and take ibuprofen like a totally druggie.  And of course stretching and foam rolling--always super important.

Next up for me is Ragnar Las Vegas in one month.  It's my last big race of the year, and I'm looking forward to tapering down my mileage.  I think I want to focus on smaller distances and work on improving my speed for now.  I just seem to get injured too much on the long distances!  :)

I'm also currently part of the 10 in 10 challenge over at Keeping it Off!  I'm with a group of 15 lovely ladies who are aiming to lose 10 (or more) pounds over the next 10 weeks.  I plan on incorporating the strength training program from Jillian Michael's Making the Cut book...now I just have to get a gym membership!

I'm also getting my body fat tested this Friday.  Should be interesting to see where I am at compared to earlier this year.  Wish me luck!  And again...sorry for the delay.  I needed some time to absorb what I had accomplished before I posted.  Apparently I am slow to absorb (unlike my lovely rain jacket!).  :)


  1. I love love LOVE this recap and I am SO happy for you!!!!!! I better see that medal when I come visit!!!!!

  2. You don't even know how awesome it was to read this. Girl this was inspiring and I was hooked on every single word. I actually wanted it to be a story that would never end...I could have read it for hours and hours. You are incredible..you pushed through pain, the crazy weather, etc! I am in awe of you...you were much more mentally tough than I could ever imagine being and met your goal! I am SO proud of you. Please lets plan a time to get together and celebrate :) Also...hope to see you in Vegas!

  3. Wow, what a great race recap! Thanks for sharing!
    You are so inspiring!!!

  4. Tears in my eyes I'm so excited for you. The pride you feel (and should feel) is inspiring. Great job. Amazing recap!

  5. Absolutely incredible! You described the whole weather mess perfectly. Finishing your first marathon is a huge accomplishment. And when you add the crazy weather and your crazy knee that makes it even more awesome. Way to go!

  6. So cool!!! You are a MARATHONER! Love your recap. Your hubs is awesome!

  7. MARATHONER!!! How awesome for you! You are so mentally tough to be able to keep going in this race!!

  8. You're a MARATHONER!!!

    I loved reading every single word, and I can't believe the weather you dealt with!! You have no idea how inspiring you are, and you have made me believe that MAYBE someday it will be in my cards too. :)

  9. I just caught up with your blog. WOW YOU RAN A MARATHON!!! CONGRATS!!! You should be so proud of yourself. That elevation gain scares the crap outta me.