Ran the St. George Marathon today. Short version -- 3:57:43, BQ by about 7 minutes. Long version:
My travel schedule has intensified to the point that I am gone more than I am at home, and my running has suffered. I quit posting here in April of 2016 but have been following the blog a little, nevertheless. I tried briefly last year to re-qualify for Boston, but failed at a last-minute attempt at Big Cottonwood, couldn’t handle the steep downhill and the altitude.
This training cycle has also been tough. Most of my workouts have been in Beijing, which is as hot as Houston in the heart of the summer, and stifling in the sun, can run only in the daylight there. Running started out slow after recovering from an injury earlier this year. The low point was a low heart rate 10-mile run which I couldn’t complete. But I kept going out and things finally started to coalesce the last month, to the point I felt it was reasonable to expect a SGM finish. I had two 20s and a 24-mile run under my belt. The last 20 was at 9:18 pace and the 24 was at 9:28 pace, almost good enough for the old BQ standard, 4:10 for me. Although the standard had dropped by 5 minutes, I thought I still had a shot. I had only one 70-mile week in the cycle, and plenty of sub-40 weeks, probably averaged about 45 miles per week. Much of it was due to the re-emergence of an old Achilles injury, toward the end of the cycle I could only run every other day, and I was not able to do much down-hill TM training.
In any event, two of my daughters (Jennifer and Christine) and I, along with my running buddy Wade, showed up at the start line on Saturday. Jennifer is an accomplished runner but running only her second marathon. Christine is a new runner, with one half-marathon and a 20-mile TM run under her belt. She is a return missionary with a ton of school, work, temple service and marathon training pressures on her plate; it was a miracle she could get to the start line. I am kind of the same as always, but with as many air miles as an astronaut and 10 extra pounds of weight. Jennifer was secretly hoping for a BQ and was pretty disappointed by the 5-minute drop (3:40 to 3:35). Christine was secretly hoping to finish. I know their secrets because I am their father.
Never found out why the race was late but didn’t mind too much. Took off my warm clothing too early, though. In the darkness I saw Captain America and went up and introduced myself to the legendary Tom Swift. He has probably run every SGM. After finding out later that Crockett was also there (his first run since surgery after he came in last February to run Rocky Raccoon here), I knew I was on hallowed ground.
Wade came up to pace me, he has been consistently faster than me all year and has been running at altitude and doing hills. I kept drumming into him that the way to run this course is to do nothing the first half. Just run, don’t really even look at your watch. We did, of course, but he ran slow for me. We opened up at 9:11 for the first mile then settled into a high-8 pace all the way to Veyo. Tried not to push it up Veyo and beyond, but Wade has a lot more terrain in his legs than me and we went faster than I would have liked. Veyo was under 10, and the rest of the climb under 9:30, which for my fitness level was probably a little fast.
At this point I was desperately seeking a PoP solution, finally found an open one on top and let Wade go. I got in there and it was wobbly. I told myself to have confidence in the race crew, but then I remembered the late start and thought confidence might be unwarranted. I was afraid of a rollover and an appearance on YouTube. No incidents, however; I got in and out in 2-1/2 minutes. Wade and the 4-hour pacer were out of sight and I was slow getting going again. My pace for the 10K to 21K split, including the stop, was 9:45, and my overall pace had slipped to 9:23 from 8:59. And I was tired, the altitude on the upper half of the course is a little too much for me; I was fearing a repeat of Big Cottonwood.
But I could still run, so I ran. The first part of the drop-off was not that fast, and my hip started to hurt about mile 15 or so. I took one Ibuprofen and it helped enough to keep going. Still, by the time I got to mile 18 I was tired, hot and hurting, ready to quit. My 24-miler got me through this stretch. Despite pain everywhere I was starting to loosen up and my splits were gradually decreasing until 8:30s were becoming pretty standard. I didn’t think I could keep it up, but I was greatly helped by all of the downhill in the last 10K.
I caught the 4-hour pacer at about mile 23.5 and Wade at about 24.5. He didn't think he would see me again. We ran together a while but he was having trouble by then and fell back a little bit, ended up finishing a few seconds behind me. I finished at an official 9:03 pace, 9:02 by my watch.
I ran into one of Jennifer’s buddies in the runner’s corral and she told me that Jennifer had finished in 3:27 and some change, which is a BQ open-category qualifier and a 7-8-minute BQ for her age group. She dropped her time 25 minutes from her first marathon a year ago, which was already a competitive time. She brought three friends with her, all from the same ward in Colorado Springs, and they all finished under 3:37. Plus, they left the fastest one at home. The company she keeps is fast and loose. She told me that she had followed my advice -- this course rewards patience and punishes over-exertion in the first half, particularly on the hills. I told her that she was the first of my five children to follow any of my advice. In return, she was kind enough to post this picture sequence on her social media, comparing strides in our respective primes:
Then we collected ourselves and joined my wife at the finishing chute to await Christine. She had been texting all the way down and we knew when she was coming in. She arrived on schedule, with a smooth, confident stride, 4:44, finishing 105/162 in her age group. It was unbelievable, have never heard of a first-timer doing that well on minimal preparation.
So Jennifer and I will be able to run Boston together in 2020. I told her I would try to get in good enough shape to keep up. I have to lose weight and get my miles back up to have a shot. It is difficult to get off a plane and onto a TM, but it is a possibility.
I don’t have mile-by-mile splits due to a Garmin that is on its last legs, but here is what the SGM website has for their splits: 5K (9:11); 10K (8:46, 8:59 cumulative); 21K (9:45, 9:23 cumulative); 30K (8:39, 9:11 cumulative), 42K (8:48, 9:03 cumulative)
Let’s be honest, this was not a fast day, but it was a family thing. I told my wife that running is important enough that good race days can become lifetime highlights. For me those highlights are simple: my first BQ in Richmond and Boston 2015. Today might qualify as well. I had a slow time but raced it all the way, got my goal and watched my daughters succeed. It was a good day.