My two big races are over and I feel a great sense of accomplishment and relief. Back in January as I commenced my diet that resulted in 30 pounds of weight loss, I decided I needed a fitness goal that really challenged me. I have been running with my dog Buddy for the past 7 years consistently (6 days per week, 30 minutes a day), but had never pushed myself to something greater. As I talked to a few friends who had run marathons, I concluded that if they could do it, why not me?
I began training in February, but the cold and windy mornings made it difficult, not to mention that my serious calorie and carb restriction left me with insufficient energy to properly train. I decided to take a few weeks off of marathon training to wait for better weather and focus on losing weight. By the first part of April, I hit my initial goal of 30 pounds lost (roughly the weight of my three-year-old son) and I resumed my training. I remember after running my first 7-miler, I was sore for days and injured my Achilles tendon. I couldn’t imagine being able to run 26.2 miles!
But I was told that if I just logged the miles, I’d be able to do it. Over the course of 10 weeks, I went on 20 runs over 7 miles (with several in the 14-19 mile range). I ran mostly along trails such as the Jordan River Parkway (by Saratoga Springs, Thanksgiving Point and in Bluffdale/Riverton area), the Porter Rockwell Trail on Draper’s bench from the Point of the Mountain to Draper Park, and the Lehi trail from my house in Traverse Mountain to downtown Lehi. Since my training pace was about 11:30 per mile, these long runs took a great deal of my free time. But I really enjoyed the training, especially when the weather was good. I got the “runner’s high” also known as natural Prozac, and I got to see some beautiful scenery while contemplating my life (and memorizing my lines for my play by listening to a recording I had made of the lines on my iPhone).
During the training, I often had pains in my left knee, right ankle and right groin, but I pushed through the pain and my body strengthened. By the time I ran my longest pre-marathon run of 19 miles, my body was used to the distances and my recovery time was a fraction of what it had been after my first long run.
On Saturday, June 11, after 10 weeks of serious training, I felt ready for the Utah Valley Marathon, my first. I was so nervous. Could I really run 26.2 miles? Would I be sore for weeks afterwards? Would I be injured? Could I make it to the finish line in less than five hours?
That morning, I got up at 3:00 a.m., showered and put on my marathon gear, including my racing bib with timing chip and my $100 running shoes. I drove to downtown Provo and caught a marathon bus to Wallsburg, a tiny town Southeast of Deer Creek Reservoir. We arrived at 4:45 and huddled around campfires for an hour before beginning at 6:00. I started out with a 9:30 pace and I felt really good. The first section was gorgeous, the weather was ideal and it felt exciting to be running with all of those other racers.
As I approached the halfway mark in Provo Canyon, I realized I was on pace to finish in 4 hours and 21 minutes, or just about a 10-minute mile. That energized me and I pushed hard for the rest of the race. However, the last six miles on University Avenue in Provo were brutal. I was tired and wanted to slow down. But my goal of finishing with an average pace of less than 10-minutes per mile propelled me onward. And I thought I was on track to hit that goal until I realized that a marathon isn’t 26 miles, it’s 26.2. Realizing that I had to make up about 2 minutes over the last six miles was disheartening. It would mean I’d have to run each of the last six miles about 20 seconds faster than normal at a time when I wanted to slow down, not speed up.
At mile 24, I realized I wasn’t going to make it so I slowed down a bit. But at mile 25, I decided I would forever regret not making the final push. So I ran as fast as I could. I remembered the scripture from the Bible that I had read that morning:
Isaiah 40:31 – “But they that wait upon the Lord shall renew their strength; they shall mount up with wings as eagles; they shall run, and not be weary; and they shall walk, and not faint.”
I began whispering to myself the phrase, “Run and not be weary, walk and not faint.” Over the next several minutes, the whisper grew into a loud chant that helped me create a cadence for my faster pace. It energized me, so that when I saw the finish line, sprinted to it. My older kids ran out to join me in the last 200 yards and we finished the race together. My time was 4:20:57 with an official pace of 9:58 per mile. Just about one minute more total time, and I would have missed my goal. My last mile was my fastest, and I realized that the difference between hitting my goal and missing it happened in that last mile. That little additional effort made all the difference. What a great feeling I had that morning as I crossed the finish line and celebrated with members of my family. That afternoon, I treated myself to a full-body massage and a swim at Alta Canyon with the kids.
By Tuesday I had completely recovered from the soreness. I thought I would be sore for weeks, but since I had trained so well, I bounced back quickly. And that was good, since I had another serious fitness challenge awaiting me…
Wasatch Back Ragnar Relay
A friend of mine invited me to participate on his 12-person relay team in the Ragnar Relay Race just one week after my marathon. The entry fee is usually about $100 per person, but his company was covering most of those costs and they had a last-minute drop-out. He asked if I wanted to join and I agreed, not knowing fully what I was getting into. I didn’t run for five days, allowing my body time to recover. I did go swimming twice, played racquetball and golfed 36 holes, but no running!
The race began in Logan on Friday morning, June 17, but I was part of the second shift, so my race began at Liberty Park in thte town of Liberty in Odgen Valley. I was runner #11, so my leg of the 192-mile relay race wasn’t until about 6:30 that night. It was a brutal run on Trapper’s Loop on the road from Pineview Reservoir to Snow Basin Ski Resort. It was uphill the entire way with a 935 foot elevation gain over 3.2 miles. But I got it done and it felt great.
We arrived at Morgan High School at about 8:00 that night and laid out our sleeping bags on the grass by a nearby river. I attempted to get some sleep, but didn’t get much. At 11:00, it was time to load up for the next van exchange at East Canyon State Park. My next leg began at 4:50 a.m. Saturday morning and was 5.5 miles of relatively flat terrain around Rockport Lake, which I completed in a 10-minute per mile pace. This was after having sat in a truck for 4 hours while waiting for my teammates to complete their portions of the run.
We arrived at South Summit High School at 7:00 a.m. and I dragged my sleeping bag and pad into the dark and silent gymnasium where dozens of exhausted runners were slumbering. I slept hard for two hours and then woke up, showered in the locker room and ate breakfast. It was the best sleep and the most welcome shower I had had for a very long time.
My final run began that afternoon at 2:17, from the top of Wasatch Mountain State Park down into Deer Valley Resort. It was a 1735 foot elevation drop over 7.3 miles. It was a leg killer, but oh so fun because it was fast. I pushed hard and finished this extreme downhill leg in less than 9 minutes per mile. We then made our way as a team to the finish line at Park City High School where we all crossed the finish line together and got our medals. It was a great feeling!
We had a great team of really cool people. The scenery and weather were excellent. The only downside is that we didn’t get a lot of sleep and there was way too much time sitting in a van waiting for my turn to run (10 hours in between runs), but it was a blast.
And now I’m going to rest…