Tuesday, October 6, 2015

St. George Marathon Review

I arrived in Las Vegas Thursday morning. This was my first trip to Sin City. I am not a gambler, nor a fan of bright neon lights and big crowds, but this airport was only two hours from St. George, rather than six from Salt Lake City (St. George has its own airport, but the flight involved a lot of time consuming transfers). I decided to stay one night just for the experience and also I have been dying to see  The Beatles Love Cirque du Soleilshow ever since it premiered. I rented a 4-door Toyota Yaris from Firefly. It was tiny, but since it was just me and my little suitcase, I didn't need a lot of room.

My hotel, New York New York, was on the Strip about ten minutes from the airport. There's a Statue of Liberty outside as well as a theme parked sized roller coaster. I checked in and picked up my show ticket. The lobby is half casino and half replica of downtown New York City. There were cobble stone paths lined with New York restaurants like Gonzalez y Gonzalez and Shake Shack. I asked for a room on one of the lower floors of this behemoth and as luck would have it, it was the same floor as the fitness center. I decided to use the treadmill instead of figuring out a remote location that I would have to drive to and then once there, avoid rattle snakes and mountain lions (it is no secret I have a so called "irrational" fear of being attacked by wild animals while running).The treadmill had a working television attached so I watched two episodes of Sex & the City which made my easy 6 fly by. This was a big treat because most treadmills with monitors that I have used, the TV never works.

I thought I would have enough time to take a nap before the Beatles show, but my television in my room was not working and it took forever for the engineer to come up and...plug it in for me (I can see you snickering). I went downstairs and had dinner at one of the hotel restaurants, Il Fornaio. I was already carbo loading so I ordered the capellini pomodoro with a nice Chianti (Insert creepy slurping noises). It was delicious! I drove to the Mirage and parked in their free garage (Most of the big hotels have free parking garages which is great! Even New York New York, where you would think if they were going for authenticity, they would have meters or restrictions everywhere).

Ready for my date with 100 acrobats
on a flying trapeze!

My seat was literally in the last row of the second tier, but the theater was so small, it actually was a pretty good seat. How was the show? I really can't put into words what an amazing spectacle it was. The beauty, creativity, colors, set design, costumes, athleticism, talent were all awe inspiring. This was my second Cirque du Soleil show (I took the kids to see Ovo on Randall's Island in 2010), so I was expecting something great, but this really exceeded my expectations. And the music! If you are a Beatles fan like me, you will not be disappointed. The soundtrack is all original vocals, but remastered and updated just enough to be in sync with the young cast and breathtaking choreography. I highly recommend this performance. It's worth the trip to Vegas.

The next morning I was up early, despite not having a bunch of children in bed with me. I ordered pancakes to the room which were only $8.95, but if you want coffee, they make you order a whole pot which was also $8.95.  Annoying. I could only consume half the stack and then went about checking out. Google Maps said St. George was only 1:52 away which would have me arrive by 11am. Perfect.

Virgin River Gorge on I-15 North

I checked into the Best Western Abbey Inn in St. George. There was a sign in sheet for marathon wake up calls.  I signed in for 3:45am (yikes!). They also gave each runner a goody bag with snacks and water. I dropped off my bags in my room and headed to the Expo at the Dixie Center a few minutes away. The Expo was large and bustling. I picked up my bib easy enough and then sat in on a couple of lectures/Q&As, First Timers and Elites.  I particularly enjoyed the latter. There were five elite runners, two women and three men, all local.  They each told their stories about how they started running, how their running evolved, their PRs, and their hopes for this race. One of the women is a 49-year old mother of seven (Yup! We're in Utah!). She explained how she started out as an average runner (Her early times matched up to mine) until she decided to hire an elite running coach who brought her times down to the 2:50s. I found this fascinating... I wanted to ask all of them questions, but I had to boogie.

The last thing I needed was more running
crap. Oh wait, is that a black visor?

It was getting late and I wanted to run an easy 3 on the end of the course. I wound up doing just 2 because one of the roads was busy with traffic. I'm glad I did this, though, because the next day I knew what to expect that last mile. The temperature was 89 degrees, but it was 4pm. I kept my fingers crossed that we'll get lucky with cooler numbers the next morning. I went back to the hotel, showered, and then headed back to the Dixie Center for the Pacers lecture and the pasta dinner. The 3:45 pacer talked about the pacing strategy for all of the pacers. They will take into account the severe downhills, as well as the uphills, particularly the Veyo volcano. This was reassuring. I had my Maclin race specific 3:30 pace band, but I wanted to start off with the 3:35 group for the first 9 miles. The food (spaghetti with either a vegetable red sauce or Bolognese) was decent, not as good as Il Fornaio, but definitely better than the Mohawk Hudson River Marathon "pasta" dinner (I feel a little badly that I always refer to this meal as the worst pre-race dinner, but then I think about how it really was the worst and the guilt subsides quickly). I also wolfed down a roll. I was officially a giant ball of carbohydrates.

That is a shiny roll on top of the plate,
not a pickle.

I woke up at 3:45am the next morning thanks to my iPhone alarm, the room alarm clock, and the three wake up calls from the front desk.  There will be no sleeping in. I got dressed and tried to eat the plain bagel I brought with me from New York (I'm pretty sure they don't know how to make bagels anywhere else). I could only choke down half of it. I grabbed my throw away fleece and Gatorade, and put three gels down my sport bra, one in my Flip Belt, and one in the zippered compartment in the back of my shorts. I also taped my pace band around my wrist which was unnecessary since I completely ignored it throughout the entire race. I went to the lobby and went outside to wait for the hotel shuttle that would bring us to the park where the buses were. It was warm, but I suspected it would be a lot colder at the start, 5,000 feet above sea level. The shuttle dropped us off at the park where there were hundreds of runners waiting to board the school buses. The line moved quickly. The bus ride to the start was about 30 minutes. We took the route that we would be running on in the opposite direction. I was thrilled to see many porta-potties every couple of miles. Speaking of which, I popped two Imodiums exactly an hour before the start. Fingers (more like legs) crossed. 

It was still dark out and I was right about it being much colder at the start. I think it was around 45 degrees. I got on line for the porta-potties (where I unfortunately dropped one of my Gus on the floor - gag), did my business, then made my way over to one of the many bonfires.  These were great and kept the runners nice and toasty until we started lining up. I found the 3:35 pacer, a young, attractive guy who was quickly swarmed by mostly young women. This tall brunette complained that there was no 3:30 pacer so that's why she was going to go with this group. And also because our leader was a cutie, I'm sure. Suddenly, the starting area was beginning to look like a stampede in the making. I got separated from the pacer. Great. 

And we were off. Soon after we crossed the starting mat, the crowd thinned out. I would run by feel until I hopefully found the group again. And boy did I feel great! We were going downhill, but it didn't seem like it at all. I was averaging 8:00 miles. Right at that first mile, I lost another Gu. This one slipped out from my sports bra. I stopped to pick it up, but thought I would get run over so I kept going. I caught up with the pace group and made sure to stay close to the leader. I noticed that we were still running 8:00 miles which is a 3:30 pace, not 3:35. He should have been 12 seconds slower. Hmmm... We passed an aid station and I made a point to stop at every one as per one of the elites from the lecture. Pacer guy did not stop. He kept moving, and fast. Shit! I hustled to catch up to him again. The miles were ticking by super quickly which was a nice surprise. I worried that since it was a point to point race, it might feel longer than say, an out and back. As we approached the Mile 7 aid station, I ate my first Gu, "lemonade" flavor. I put lemonade in quotes because it tasted more like warm, thick, slimy, overripe shitty lemons (sorry Gu, but it's just my opinion). I probably should have taste tested one before I stocked up on them for this race. Yuck! I grabbed a water at the station and lost the group again. I'll catch up. I could still see his sign in the distance. But in front of him, I could also see the volcano. I still felt good. I asked the guy next to me if we were actually going to climb to the tippy top, but he pointed to a road that went 3/4 up on the side. Oh, that's not so bad, I foolishly thought. We began our ascent. About halfway up my arms were aching. Really? This never happened to me while running! Like they were exhausted. So weird and annoying because I'll probably need them for the rest of the race. My breathing was labored, too. I expected this since we were at a high altitude compared to south shore Long Island which is pancake flat. This incline never seemed to end. In fact it was about 4 miles until it flattened out. I'll just walk a little bit...

Proof of life?

I started running again and at some point passed Tall Brunette from the 3:35 pace group. She was walking alone. The group was still nowhere in sight. Oh well. I hit the half marathon marker at 1:49:01 and swallowed my second Ew, I mean Gu. The course began to get steep again at Mile 15, except this time downhill. We ran into Snow Canyon which was absolutely beautiful. 

Snow Canyon
(photo from runningahead.com)

We hit another hill at Mile 19 which was smaller than Veyo, but I still walked part of it and "ate" my last gel. I couldn't bear to eat any more after that. I felt like I had sugar flowing through my veins. At Mile 20, I waited for the "Wall". It never came. I was tired and my legs were totally shot, but I could still force myself to keep going. Don't get me wrong, by Mile 22 I wanted to stop, but I didn't have to. (Hanson's actually worked!) At some point I even stepped off to the side to do some lunges. My quads were that sore. We were headed back into the city of St. George and the crowds were getting bigger. Someone gave me a purple ice pop! Yay! Somewhere around Mile 24, a kid was giving out ice cold miniature bottles of purple Gatorade. Yes, thank you! I took a cold, wet towel from someone else. I finally made the last turn onto 300 West and saw the finish line up ahead. Hallelujah! I tried to speed up, but when I did I started to gag. Lovely. They even memorialized the gag in my official marathon photos! Awesome! My official time is 3:34:44. A PR and my third BQ! I didn't hit my A goal of sub-3:30, but I wasn't too disappointed. I'm getting closer. Plus, with all the walking and lunging I did, I think my time rocks. I wound up having a negative split by 3:18. I finished in the top 18% overall out of 5,464 runners, top 12% out of the women, and top 11% in my age group. 


Thank you nice hotel lady for taking 
this picture AND picking me up from
the finish line in the shuttle van
that I fell out of on my first attempt 
of stepping in. Marathon legs.

Here are my splits:
     Mile 1  - 8:16
     Mile 2  - 8:04
     Mile 3  - 7:42
     Mile 4  - 8:06
     Mile 5  - 8:02
     Mile 6  - 7:51
     Mile 7  - 7:59
     Mile 8  - 8:23
     Mile 9  - 9:06
     Mile 10 - 8:16
     Mile 11 - 9:01
     Mile 12 - 8:27
     Mile 13 - 8:01
     Mile 14 - 8:14
     Mile 15 - 7:41
     Mile 16 - 7:41
     Mile 17 - 7:48
     Mile 18 - 7:47
     Mile 19 - 8:42
     Mile 20 - 7:55
     Mile 21 - 7:40
     Mile 22 - 8:05
     Mile 23 - 8:09
     Mile 24 - 7:42
     Mile 25 - 8:27
     Mile 26 - 8:04
     Mile 26.52 - 9:30

I forgot to turn my app off immediately at the finish line. Map My Run says I ran 26.52 in 3:36:21 at an 8:10 pace.

Next marathon? I'm taking requests....


  1. "...and of course I'd like to thank the Emerging Runner for supplying those bootleg race photos where he timed the screen capture perfectly to prevent the overlay from covering your face as you threw up at the finish line."

    Sounds like an experience of a lifetime - you are definitely in race adventure mode. Congratulations, of course, for your rockin' time. I only wish Gus could have been there, but sadly you left him to die on a disgusting Porto-Pottie floor...

    1. Sadly, I picked him up and put in my Flip Belt in case of an emergency and I got desperate.

  2. Incredible! Congrats!!!!

    1. Thank you, Elle! You did amazing on your first marathon! Sub-4 on a first attempt is pretty awesome. Enjoy it :)

  3. Back to green I see. Circle of life...