I will write more when I have time later, but the short version is that I am excited that I was finally able to run a full marathon without anything resembling a crash. I felt really strong even during the final miles of the race, and I negative split the race by over 6:00 (1:14:02, 1:07:58). I am happy with second place, but I wish that I would have gone a little faster the first half, because I think that it would have given me a better chance to catch Ian at the end of the race to win it. I had 2:21:59 by my watch, and the announcer called out that time as I crossed the line, but the official time was 2:22:01. Officially 58 seconds behind the winner.
Ok, so here is the rest of it. I drove down on Friday evening before the race, and I slept just a little ways from the start line, courtesy of some friends of ours who offered us the use of their trailer. I was woken up early Saturday morning by music, and the race announcer as the first busloads of people started arriving at the start (note to self: If I ever camp at the start of St. George again I need to camp a little farther away). Anyhow, I warmed up, made wonderful use of the bushes, and went to line up at the start.
The race starts and Ian Hunter immediately races to the lead. The rest of us sit back and relax as we go through the first few miles. In hindsight, we probably went a little slow during the first 3 miles. After about 2 miles Seth Wold took off to catch up to Ian, and I sped up just a little so that I wouldn't loose too much ground. I went through 3 miles in 16:57. At three miles I sped up a little more because I realized that I was going way too slow, and I hit the next 3 miles in 16:00 (32:57 for 6 miles). During this period of the race I was running with Dave Holt, with a group of guys tailing off of us and drafting off of us. It was somewhat windy, so no one else wanted to lead, but I did not want to go any slower than I already was because I didn't want to fall farther behind Seth and Ian. I made it to the eight mile mark as I headed up Veyo hill in 44:21 (11:24 for the last 2 miles). During the next few miles I lost sight of Ian and Seth, and the pace seemed to lag as well. I know that my effort stayed the same, because I was checking my heart rate regularly during these miles and it was consistently in the low 170's but the pace seemed to slow. I think that I might have hit a little more wind during this section of the race in addition to the rolling mini hills as you go through dammeron (I think that the wind may have slowed my finishing time by about a minute as I evaluate my effort in comparison to the speed I was going). I took my first bottle at the 11 mile marker, took 2 miles to finish it off, and then hit the half-way mark in 1:14:02.
Since I had finished off my drink I decided to push the HR just a little higher than I had been keeping it in order to drop the guys drafting off of me. The Same guys that were drafting off of me when I was running with Dave Holt were still on my tail. I pushed my HR up to 173-174 for a couple minutes, and at the first indication that the pace was speeding up every one of my drafters fell back. I then dropped my HR back down into the 170-171 range where I had kept it for most of the race up to this point (although it was a little lower during the first few miles). I hit 14 miles in 1:18:36 and followed this up with miles splits of 5:09, 5:15, 5:11, and then 10:38 for 2 miles, (one of those two miles was uphill) and a 5:11 to make it through 20 miles in 1:50:00.
During the 14th and 15th miles I was trying to get a feel for how far back I was from Seth and Ian since I had lost sight of them just past Veyo. I was getting responses ranging from 2-3 minutes depending upon who I asked. Based on Some quotes from Ian I read in the newspaper it looks like Seth was the one pushing the pace during those middle miles, and they must have picked up the pace a fair amount, so they gapped me while I was content to keep my effort even. However, despite what happened during those middle miles, both Seth and Ian eventually started to come back to me. I first caught sight of Seth at about 17 miles. I was gaining on him so slowly that at times I wondered if I would ever catch back up to him. Mile after mile I watched as the gap got smaller and smaller. By the time I hit 20 miles I was sure that I would catch him (I could not tell at this point that it was Seth I was catching up to, as both Ian and Seth were wearing similar jerseys). I made it to the 22 mile marker in 2:00:21 (10:21 for 2 miles) and at this point I could almost smell blood. I was trying to not get too excited, and I kept telling myself that I needed to wait until 23 miles to really push the pace. By now I could tell that it was Seth I was gaining on, and despite my attempts to not push the pace I was speeding up ever so slowly. Then, as I came down one of the hills I realized that I could not only see Seth, but I could see Ian as well. At this point I lost it and I decided that there was no point in shooting for second place if I wasn't in it to win it. I floored it around 22.5 miles, and I caught Seth and passed him right at the aid station at 23 miles. I knew that I would need to hold that pace to the finish if I was going to have any shot at catching Ian.
However, it was not to be. I made it from 22-24 miles in 9:52 (2:10:13 total time) but by the end of the 24th mile I was already gassed. I felt like I had nothing left in me. My HR had averaged 180+ bpm after I sped up, but I could not maintain the intensity any longer, and I slowed down to about a 177 average. Once I slowed down, I soon found that I felt strong again. I did not feel like I was crashing, and the pace still felt solid. I knew that I could not catch Ian, but I also knew that I was going to have no challengers for second place. All that was left was seeing if I could pr in the half-marathon during the last half of a full marathon. I needed to cross the line in 1:21:55 if I wanted to equal the pr that I set at the Provo River Half in August. I made it through the 25th mile in 5:20 hitting that mark in 2:15:33 and I averaged about 5:18 pace from there to the finish, crossing the finish line with a time that by my watch changed from 2:21:59 to 2:22:00 right as I crossed the line, giving me a 1:07:58 second half to the race, missing out on my pr in the half by 5 seconds, but still posting a negative split of 6:04. During the final miles of the race I was able to time the gap between Ian and myself at one of the turns, and although I don't remember exactly I believe the gap was about 1:20 with about a mile and a half left in the race. The final margin was 58 seconds from him to me. During the last mile I also had a slight mishap, as I started to get disoriented, and for some strange reason I thought that I needed to make a right turn when I needed to turn left. I drifted over to the right side of the road and almost turned into the big orange barrels blocking the road. The police officer that was shadowing me turned left and gave me a funny look as I realized that I was about to go the wrong way, and I turned back to the left and continued onward. This probably cost me about 2 seconds on my final time. I will need to make sure that I do not overthink things in the future as a mishap like this could mean the difference between running a trials qualifier and going home with nothing but a good time if I am right on the bubble.
Thinking back on the race, if I were to change just one thing I would have gone out a little faster. I feel that I went out at too slow of a pace the first 3 miles because I was afraid of being too aggressive and going with Ian due to my tendency to crash in past marathons. If I would have stayed with Ian during those opening miles I do not think that it would have hurt me during the later portions of the race, and even if I still maintained an even effort during the middle miles and was gapped when Seth started pushing the pace harder, I would have had a better chance to make up the gap on Ian when I began my charge later on in the race as I would have never gotten as far behind. Anyhow, I am excited to have finally put a real solid marathon under my belt, and I am excited to have placed so high in a marathon of this size against some solid competition that included the 3rd place finisher from St. George a year ago, Ian, Seth (who won both the Ogden and Utah Valley Marathons), the winner of the Ikijawa marathon in Japan, and a couple more strong runners. I feel like this is a great point to build upon as I keep working towards qualifying for the Olympic Trials.