Reduce Speed Ahead

Virgin River in Zion National Park

Virgin River in Zion National Park

If somewhere out there a course exists to qualify for the Boston Marathon that is faster than St. George Marathon, I would love to run it. This was my second time running the St. George Marathon and I must say it is one where the miles can quickly pass and then before you know it the finish line is just ahead. I’d say you could probably knock a good 10, maybe even 15, minutes off your PR on this course. The starting line is 26.2 miles out-of-town in the high desert. We are bused out at 5 AM in the morning to something resembling more Burning Man than marathon: bonfires, loud music, people running off to the bushes, etc. Unlike those who suffered through the downpour last year, this year we had ideal conditions. Although it is always cold at the start (wear something that will keep you from freezing that you can leave at the start), the skies were clear and the temps climbed nicely as the sun came out to greet us. But even with the sun in our faces, I don’t think my lips thawed until mile 9. A good pack of probably 30 or 40 runners followed my 3:10 pace balloons through the early miles, up the Veyo climb and along the gradual climbs to mile 13. The pace was solid the first half and we nailed the half marathon point at 1:35 exactly. Nice pace! There were some slower miles and a couple faster ones but that first half felt just right. And if you’ve run this marathon before, you know what a screamer the second half can be. As we passed the clock at mile 13.1, I gave the thumbs up to the group and said “Now hang on to your hats because this second half can be fast!”

Even with my foot on the brakes and heeding the “Reduce Speed Ahead” signs along the road, the second half can be too fast. It felt like the miles were too close. I’d pass one mile marker only to spot the next mylar balloon mile marker bouncing in the wind up ahead. I had a great group of runners – even a Clydesdale – running strong along Snow Canyon and into mile 20. As we started to descend into the outskirts of the town of St. George, I sent the group on ahead as they were all running strong and I needed to watch the pace the last few miles. At mile 25 I picked up another runner who was struggling the last mile and he hung with me for a bit then had a second wind to the finish. If someone is trying to qualify for Boston and they see me and those 3:10 balloons roll past them, it can be like a kick in their butt. I know the feeling so I always try to shout something encouraging as we come upon one of those runners.

Nicole and Dylan were waiting after mile 25 and Dylan came running out on the course to give me a hug. I gave him “It’s a great to see you hug” then headed toward the finish and tried to video the last few hundred yards of the race. I apologize for the shaky video. I came in just under 3:09 and shared high fives with much of the group. Everybody had big smiles and some sore quads.

Around noon, we connected with my dad and Jody and then we all crammed into our P.T. Cruiser rental car and drove out to Zion National Park for the rest of the afternoon. Had a good time seeing the sights and taking the river walk up the canyon. We didn’t have too much time so maybe we can go back and climb Angels Landing and hike further up the canyon. Here are some pictures of the trip: http://www.flickr.com/photos/mncook/sets/72157622439959389/show/. Also would love to visit Bryce when we have more time. As it was, we had to have the rental car back in Vegas that night and then we flew home the next day. The great thing about the Utah marathons is that they run on Saturday so once you have finished, you still have the rest of the weekend. Although we could have skipped the whole Las Vegas part. The appeal of smoke-filled drunken casinos has seemed to fade. As we wandered the streets and hotels of Las Vegas, Nicole and I wondered why so many people, and families with kids, choose it as their destination. Exactly. What were we thinking?

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