Days after returning from our back-to-back marathon trip to Idaho and Montana, I stumbled across another set of back-to-back marathons: UT and WY. Now an official member of the 50 Sub 4
marathon club (pursuing running a sub 4 hour marathon in all 50 states), I need to re-do both of those. I had run very rugged trail marathons for both of these states, clocking over 5 hours for UT and over 6 for WY.
I quickly checked airfare to Salt Lake City... it was reasonable. ...logistics of driving, packet pickup, hotels... it was doable. I mentioned it to Bill... he agreed. And before he could change his mind, I jumped, and booked the whole trip. Airfare, hotels, marathon registrations. Done.
I don't normally jump like this, but every once in a while, the excitement of an adventure takes over, and I sorta jump into the pool with eyes closed and THEN look to see if there was water in it.
My next run with training partner Dennis Hanna, I told about my trip. His response... "Are you out of your mind?" Hmmm. Maybe it was a bit much, but Dennis, aren't you the same guy who ran a 100K less than 3 months after triple hernia surgery? And aren't you the same guy who has run two 100 milers with me?
He scolded me for the next few miles. "You did 4 marathons in 9 days, you have a 50 miler the next weekend, and now you are doing 2 more marathons the week after that! 6 marathons and one 50 miler in 24 days." OK, when you put it that way... nope, I still don't see the problem.
I assured him that I only needed to run a 3:59 for both marathons. I assured him I would run by feel and not push too hard. I assured him I would be careful.
The rest of the run Dennis dictated my training plan for the week between the 50 miler and my next 2 marathons, and our strategy for the North Face 50 Miler.
We'd run North Face relaxed. Then I was told NO running on the Sunday or Monday after. I was allowed to swim both days. I was allowed to run/walk a slow 10 miles on Tuesday. Swim only on Wed. Dennis and I would run an easy 10 miles on Thurs. NOTHING at all on Friday. I agreed. Normally, I run 6 days a week, so having 4 days off in one week was not easy, but I decided to just listen to reason, and catch up on a lot of work.
In order to ensure we'd keep a relaxed pace at the Gore Tex North Face 50 miler, Dennis came down with a cold/flu bug. His sore throat and generally feeling of 'eh' dictated our pace. We finished in 11 hours and 2 minutes. About 30 minutes faster than our previous year. The weather was perfect, we ran much of it with some guys from the Detroit area, and really had a very pleasant day (except for the part of Dennis feeling kinda sick).
The following week, I completely adhered to Dennis' training plan. Although I did talk him into allowing me to run 5 miles on Wednesday.
The Big Cottonwood Marathon starts near a ski resort in the Big Cottonwood Canyon. It is a screaming fast course, dropping 4,000 feet in the first 15 miles. We started at 6:30 am, in the dark.
With all the discipline and control of a puppy chasing a butterfly, I took off. Barely able to see the road, not able to see my watch, running only by feel, the fast pace fueled the adrenaline, which fueled the pace. I covered the first 4 miles in about 27 minutes... a 6:45 pace. I felt like a cartoon character where my legs and torso weren't always together.
As the sun came up, I started to enjoy the gorgeous scenery of the course, and paused to get a few pictures along the way. Most were too blurry to share, but a couple were keepers.
The runners we allotted half the road, and the other half was
shared by a few cars, and groups of cyclists.
What? Cyclists? On this road? They were riding UP the road. UP! OK, now THAT is nuts!
Running fast downhill is FUN. It feels great. It feels like flying. I felt strong, and just kept hammering away. Occasionally, however, I would feel very sluggish for a few minutes, and it felt like running uphill.
Not sure if that was the altitude affecting me, or an illusion and we were actually running flat or uphill. I didn't worry about it too much, and just kept running, and enjoying the incredible scenery.
I got to the half way point in 1:31. My half marathon personal record is 1:32. That's just how wicked fast this course is.
Its blurry, but I had to snap a picture of my Garmin, showing 13.1 miles, and 1:31:something for the time.
About mile 15, we are done with the canyon portion of the run, and begin a completely different, but enjoyable course.
We have a short stretch on a busy highway connecting us to scenic residential and commercial areas through suburbs of Salt Lake City.
Though miles 15 to 18 were slightly uphill, I felt really strong. Maybe it was because we were now down below 5,000 ft? Not sure. I've been asked if I felt that altitude was a factor in these marathons out west. I can't really say for sure if I was affected, I didn't really feel any noticeable discomfort, but there certainly is scientific evidence that altitudes above 5,000 feet will affect your body. I guess I just can't say how much.
Around mile 20, I realized I had a shot of breaking 3:15. It would be close, and I'd have to keep pushing fairly hard. Not only is 3:15 a nice number among marathoners, it would also earn me an extra point in my 50 Sub 4 club, where the scoring system gives one more point for every 15 minutes under 4 hours. A 3:15:00 would earn me 8 points for this marathon. A 3:14:59 would score me a 9.
I kept pushing along, keeping an eye on my splits, tried to build a bit of a cushion for my 3:15. Though the course was nice, fatigue and focus on my goal preempted me from enjoying the scenery very much.
In the last half mile, the course needs to climb from a bike path in a valley, to a business park above. This short but steep climb killed my momentum, and I didn't have enough time to regain it. I finished with a 3:15:24.
I got my finisher medal... super cool looking. The middle part of it spins. The thing is huge... 4 inches across. Post race goodies included mini subs from Jimmy Johns, and the worlds best homemade raspberry bars. I tried to get a picture of those, but I ate mine before I could get the camera out.
Within minutes of finishing, my legs stiffened up, as is very normal after running a marathon. I started to wonder just how much I'd be paying for this effort in the following day's marathon in Wyoming. Downhills are fun, but are notorious for being quad-shredders.
That afternoon, Bill and I took a drive on the course so that he could see it, and we could get a few more pictures. I received gift certificates for Wasatch Running Center
and Market Street Grill
for being the second female.
So we did a little shopping, and had a very nice lunch. We headed up to Jackson, WY, stopping often so that I could stretch my legs.
I had jumped at this opportunity with out much thought. I had pushed harder than I had planned. I truly enjoyed it, but I can't say that it was very smart. But, if you don't end up doing something stupid every once in a while, you aren't taking enough risks. That's just the price of an adventure sometimes.
For those keeping score... I still have 26 marathon states, but now have 21 sub 4 hour marathon states.