Where do I even begin with a race as epic as the St. George Marathon? I’m warning you: this one is long and boring. I will not be offended if you leave now. 😉
About a week before the marathon, I went out for an easy 2 ½ mile jog. That sounds so ridiculously easy, right? Wrong! It was one of the hardest runs I’ve ever done and I felt like my legs were made of led. My confidence dwindled momentarily but I reminded myself that nobody feels great during taper and if I’m super exhausted, it means I trained hard and need rest. So rest I did!The week of the marathon, I only ran 7.5 miles total before the race. That’s it. No cross-training, no yoga, just one easy jog of 3.5 miles and another run of 4 miles. I take the taper very, very seriously. Running the week before or even two weeks before a race will NOT provide any benefits, it will only tire you out. So short and sweet is the way to go.
I flew into Vegas on Thursday after work and Brittany so kindly drove to Vegas earlier in the day to meet me so we could drive to St. George from there. She’s seriously the best. When we finally got to Utah, I was hungry for some dinner and guess what I found! Café Rio! I’ve heard about this place from Janae and Christina and I’ve been dying to eat there. It did not disappoint but holy cow, it was a lot of food! I left Café Rio stuffed and sleepy.
We checked into our super fancy hotel, the Days Inn (ya jealous?) We both fell asleep almost instantly and I had the best sleep ever! It was such a beautiful thing because as we all know, two nights before the race is the most important sleep.
Brittany really wanted to go to Zion on Friday since we had a full day and not much to do so I obliged. After all, she came all the way to Utah for my race. We went on a little hike and I stayed back towards the end because I didn’t want to tire my legs out. I let Brittany do some steep hiking and I just enjoyed the incredible views. Again, I take resting super seriously! No strenuous hiking the day before a race.
Eventually we made our way back to St. George and to the expo where I picked up my bib and some gels for the race. The expo was packed and the energy levels were through the roof. You could feel the excitement in the convention center. It was already 5:30 or so by the time we finished getting my stuff and I was ready to go back to the hotel and take it easy. Rather than having to go get food at a restaurant, I paid the ten bucks and got a plate of pasta from the pasta dinner at the expo and took it back with me. It was the perfect plain and simple pre-race dinner and made life easy.
I went to bed around 9 p.m. because this race calls for a 3:30 a.m. wake-up call. Shuttles actually start leaving at that time but I didn’t get to the shuttle until around 4:50 a.m. I wanted some time to enjoy a cup of coffee before heading to the start. The shuttle system was extremely organized and efficient and I didn’t have to wait too long to get on a bus.
My seatmate on the bus was an older gentleman who had run the St. George Marathon 23 times with a PR of 2:24! I was beyond impressed with him and it was kind of neat hearing his little tips and tricks as we drove the course to the start line. He gave me some confidence and had me really pumped up to the point where I changed my goal and texted Brittany from my seat: “I’m going for a sub 3:20.” My original goal was just a 3:23.
It was freezing cold at the start line because it’s at about 5,500 ft. They had tons of fires to keep runners warm and offered us foil blankets as soon as we got off the bus. I sat by the fire and chatted with some really nice people (hi Mandy!) which helped to pass the time. I ate my bagel and Honey Stinger waffle and before I knew it, it was time to line up.
The first half of the St. George Marathon is much harder than the second half. There are some rolling hills and then the big mama hill at mile 7 in Veyo. This one is steep and although I was told it was a mile long, I’m pretty positive it was 2 miles. I knew I would need to take it easy on the hills to conserve my legs for that second half and all the pounding of the downhills. I was told if you take the hills too hard in the first half, your legs will give out and you won’t be able to take advantage of the second half.
I started off right on pace for what my original goal was but I felt really good. I had to pee from the first stride and I knew that was going to bother me for 26.2 miles but I just had to accept it. I should’ve used the porta-potty before the start but stupidly, I didn’t and so I sucked it up. I was going for a PR which meant no bathroom breaks along the way.
I don’t usually check my Garmin very often because if I’m running at the right effort level, I should be on pace. I found myself running much faster than I anticipated but with an easy effort. When hills would come along, I’d keep the same effort as on the downhills which meant slowing down of course, but when I looked down at my watch, I wasn’t actually going very slow at all. I could hear people around me breathing heavily but my breath wasn’t labored one bit. Even though I was ahead of my intended pace, I decided not to slow down because I knew I wasn’t working too hard. If it felt hard, I would have put the brakes on. I know how detrimental it can be to go out too fast.
Mile 7 came and I saw Brittany on the side lines with a sign. I was flying at this point and I had just passed the 3:15 pace group. I was super excited to see a face I knew in the crowd but I wasn’t getting excited about passing the 3:15 pacer just yet because it was so early in the game. I knew they’d pass me on the Veyo hill ahead and they certainly did. Seeing Brittany out there definitely motivated me to work hard on that hill and just kill it the rest of the way. I wanted her to be proud of me at the finish (even though she swears she’d be impressed and proud if I walked the whole thing.)
I didn’t let it phase me as the 3:15 group slowly passed by because 3:15 was never my goal. Yeah, it would be pretty cool if I ran that fast but sub 3:20 was the goal. Even 3:19:59 would have sufficed so I just chugged along. For a girl who doesn’t love hills, I dominated that Veyo hill! It was twice as long as I anticipated but I got over it and kept ahead of pace. There are more rolling hills until about mile 14 and then the fun starts.
I LOVE me some downhill so I flew down those suckers and basically passed everyone along the way. I would slow down on the uphills and keep a consistent effort and then I’d fly again. The sun was out by then and it was starting to warm up significantly.
Mile 18 came with another hill but luckily, the nice man on the bus told me all about this so I was prepared for it. Again, I just stayed strong and got up the hill at a really good pace. I was definitely tired at this point and that hill was tough but I knew I still had gas left in the tank, which is always a great feeling.
Mile 20 came and went and I couldn’t believe I was already into the last 6 miles. How could it be that I still felt this good and was almost done? I had only taken in a total of one gel the entire time (not recommended!) because I really struggle with fueling during races. I had half of one and half of another at two different times. I can never get a whole one down. I had water at every single aid station and Gatorade at every other station to stay on top of hydration. I eat a ton the days leading up to the race because of how much I struggle with fueling during the race.
Somewhere after mile 20 I caught up to the 3:15 pace group again but I was running faster than them so I just cruised on by. Again, I didn’t get too excited because anything can happen in those last few miles but I was starting to realize that a sub 3:15 might be possible if I really pushed because the pace group started ahead of me in the corral and they were now behind me.
I thought of Janae more than once because I know how hard she trained for this race and her health got in the way of her coming out and getting her sub-3 hour marathon. I was so bummed for her and it made me even more motivated to do well. It was a pretty profound reminder of how lucky we are to be healthy enough to run marathons. The ability to run is a total gift! Don’t take it for granted.
Mile 23 came and that’s when the pain finally hit. I had already felt my feet tear in various places back at mile 18 and somewhere after mile 20 and I knew they were bleeding but if you’ve read this blog for awhile, you know that’s just par for the course. I’ve never finished a race without bloody feet so that was to be expected and I am already a pro at enduring that. It’s the other kind of pain that is really hard to endure. This end-of-the-marathon pain is kind of hard to explain. It’s like fatigue mixed with a feeling of your muscles and tendons being destroyed. Everything feels dead and mentally it starts to really get tough. The thought of giving up and slowing down suddenly creeps in at this point and you have to work really hard to not let it take over.
For me, I knew I didn’t get enough fuel leading up to those last 3 miles and I knew it was going to be all guts to the finish line. I really didn’t have much left physically. I felt like I was limping along at this point and moving in slow motion but occasionally I’d check my pace and I was still moving along nicely despite how I felt. By this point, I was set on not letting the 3:15 group pass me again. If I made it this far, I was not slowing down for anything.
I can’t even really explain those last few miles other than really painful and pretty ugly. I saw a friend, Olivia, who lives in Utah and came out to cheer me on with her husband right before the finish line and that was just the boost I needed to get to me to the end. I started sprinting the last 800 yards and it was brutal but I passed everyone until I crossed the final timing mat.
I knew I ran a sub 3:15 but had no idea by how much. I practically collapsed at the finish. I got my medal and hobbled over to the porta potty immediately because remember, I had to pee since the start!
I saw Brittany shortly after and she told me my time because she’d received text alerts. 3:13:11. I was in shock. I needed to sit down. I felt nauseous and completely exhausted so I just took a minute before reconvening with Brittany, Olivia and her husband. All I could think about was a shower and a nap.I can honestly say that I left nothing on the course. I gave this race my everything and I have zero regrets. Knowing you worked your absolute hardest is such a rewarding feeling. I’m pretty proud of myself. I’m also insanely grateful to have had people out there cheering for me on the sidelines as well as virtually. It helps a ton and it means so much to me.
So, that’s the end of my ridiculously long story about how I ran a 3:13:11 marathon. If you’re not bored to tears, clearly you’re a total running nerd like me. Either way, if you made it to the end, you deserve a freaking cookie! This post was a marathon in itself!I will have to write another post about my training leading up to this race because I’ve already received a bunch of questions. My previous PR was a 3:29 so this was a serious jump. I have some ideas about factors that played a significant role and I’ll share them all with you in a future post. I’m also learning a lot through my run coach certification course that gives me some scientific understanding and an explanation for why certain training components are so effective and why others are not. It’s all really good stuff so stay tuned!