Sunday, April 22, 2007

SLC's Real Marathon

Which Leg Beater?
There were two marathons taking place on 4/21 in SLC. One where you could pound the pavement for 26 miles and lose a few hundred feet of elevation, surrounded by a 1,000 people. Or the real marathon where you could dance on the trails above SLC, take in roughly 6,500' vertical with stunning views of the Wasatch front while being surrounded by your friends. I chose the latter.
This is a local "club run" where the competitors don't wear numbers and don't pay an entry fee. Last year it dumped about 2' of fresh snow the Thursday before, then warmed considerably by Saturday. Let's just say it produced an epic day. Usually the winning times are in the low 4 hour range, but on that nasty day the winning time was just under 5 hours. This time around the weather was slightly better only sprinkling the hills with about 6 inches of snow on Wednesday and by Saturday the trail was in perfect condition.
Sam, Peter and I arrived at the start, chatted with friends, and got our stuff ready. Karl was there, fresh off his win and course record at McNaughton 100 miler the week before, supporting Cheryl and her first attempt at this marathon. 8am approached and the race director gave a detailed description of the course, consisting of "go do a ten mile loop over there then a sixteen mile loop over there, ready set go". I had decided that I wasn't going to get stuck in the middle this year so I went out with the leaders and settled in to a comfortable pace. by the time we were midway up the first climb it was Brian, Chuck (who was only doing the first loop), Kevin (who had just run Boston the Monday before!) and myself. It was really nice to run with these guys as we chatted and the miles just flew by. We completed the first loop in about 1 hour 44 minutes, which was about 20 minutes faster than anything I had done in training. I had a goal of finishing under 4 hours 30 minutes and this put me on pace to accomplish that. As we left the aid station/starting area it immediately starts climbing back up and I quickly realized that I was going to have to slow down a bit if I wanted to reach my goal. Kevin and Brian went on ahead and I noticed that there was a guy closing on me from behind. He eventually caught me before the next aid station at about mile 17 and put some distance between us. At this point I just focused on my time goal and resigned myself to hold on to my current 4th position.
After the final aid station the course overlaps itself a bit and this is where I saw Karl and Cheryl running together. I shouted some words of encouragement and looked down at my watch as I started my way up the final canyon and it read 3:34. This was about 4 minutes slower than what I had set as goal at this point but I was happy none the less. The canyon climbs gradually for about 1 1/2 miles where you then leave the trail and hit a beast of a climb I affectionately call Uncle F#@ker. I cannot claim that I named it, that credit goes to my good friend Leo, but I can say I have a better understanding why it has that name. You see, not only is it appallingly steep, but it has about 3 false summits kind of teasing you like a mean Uncle. My mantra on this climb has become "just keep moving". Just after I left the main trail I found the guy that had passed me earlier and he didn't look particularly well. We chatted for a bit and I found out his name was Elliot and he had never done this course before. I offered him some food which he declined, then we started climbing my favorite Uncle. I kept running my mantra through my head trying not to look up at the false summits. After about 20 minutes I glanced back and noticed that Elliot was a fare way back, being overtaken by someone else in a red shirt. Now I looked at the top and focused on getting there without falling apart. Once I gained the summit I started down the 4 mile rocky ridge that leads to the finish. I glanced back a few times to make sure that red shirt wasn't gaining on me and I couldn't see him. I was still pushing for my time goal and I knew it would be close. I made my way down through the parking area and headed to the finish line at the RD's house. I hit the driveway in 4:34, 4 minutes off my goal. No matter, it was great day in the hills running around with friends. Kevin ended up coming in ahead of Brian who suffered from a golf ball size blister on his heel for the final descent. After I arrived Leland came in, then a few others I didn't know followed by Peter then Sam. I was a little puzzled when I saw Karl coming in by himself a short time later but realized what was going on when he pulled out the camera to get some finish line pictures of Cheryl. Congratulations to all that finished the real marathon in Salt Lake, see you next year!

No comments: