(Warning: This is one of those novel-size entries (probably my largest ever and that's saying something), but I figured it was worth the extra time/effort to type so I could look back on a detailed account of this milestone in my running career. That's one upper hand FRB has on Strava. It's more about the experience vs. the stats)
Wow. What a day. My first marathon is behind me now. Didn't get to bed at 8 like I wanted to, was asleep by 9:30. I woke up at 1 am and tossed and turned for a while then got up drank some water and took another melatonin and slept soundly till my 4 am alarm. Ate breakfast and was out the door at 4:30. Made it onto the right bus and on time! Half hour ride to the start line where it was extremely cold and stood by a fire barrel for like half an hour until it was time to warm up. Weather was beautiful, not a cloud in the sky! The warmup was just joggin around the small area we were confined to and back and forth on a short dirt road. I didn't really feel nervous at all, not like in most of my races in high school and just shorter races in general. Maybe it's just the atmosphere. Or maybe it was because I knew I needed to be calm. Pretty soon it was time start and I barely got my drop bag in the truck! Saw my buddy Michael Scott Peters (next year's USUSA President) so that was a nice surprise. Before I knew it I was off and running in my first marathon!
I was really surprised at how fast some people went out. It made sense for elite guys like Riley Cook and Ben Van Beekum but even Michael was out of sight in no time and he told me his goal was a 3:15. I was on about sub-2:50 pace the first few miles! All I could think the first mile or so was how this was it, I was really in a marathon and was about to go farther then I had ever gone before. Crazy. Luckily I had drilled into my mind in the prior week that I was going to go out super relaxed and not mess it up because of jitters. I think I did a really good job with that. I just felt super relaxed and not really putting out any added effort then just to run smooth and calm. At the same time, I was panicking a bit; my knee pain was back after a few days of pain-free running. The first 5 miles had a lot of downhill and seemed to go by quickly. My splits were 6:36, 6:45, 6:38, 6:36, 6:46. The next three were still ~50 ft/mi of drop but my pace evened out to 6:51, 6;52, and 6:51 for these miles (goal pace). This was where I noticed a lot of people passing me but I just kept a cool head and had faith that I didn't need to go with them. I took the gu I had with me at mile 8. I think I took water at all of the aid stations except one where I took gatorade and the first one where I didn't take anything at all.
Miles 9-15 were slower, obviously because this was all the rolling "hills" going around Pineview Reservoir. The knee pain was basically gone by the end of this stretch. I also started to feel the first signs of fatigue right around there (mile 9). Not terrible, but I could sense it. Again, just made sure to keep a cool head. I really freaked out for a split second when I had the feeling I get when I have one of my dreaded heart palpatations that slow me way down, but then I felt like normal again. Very odd. This happened twice. My theory is that they actually did happen but the effort level was so low that they kind of slid under the radar. The support at the half way point from all the volunteers was awesome. I came through in just over 1:30 (1:29 on my watch but pretty sure they had it right). I'm glad I only saw my time though because it was encouraging to see that I was just under but not too far. It would have been diffent mentally if I had seen a 1:30 split. Pretty much was just going back and forth with a few people at this point. Two miles later I hit the big hill which luckily had been brought to my knowledge the night before my my aunt and uncle. It was no biggie and I actually caught a group of three and ran with them or a few minutes. To my surprise I could see that I closing hard on none other than Michael Scott who was way ahead early in the race. It was nice to talk to him for a sec about how we were feeling. My splits for these miles (9-15) were 6:55, 6:53, 6:59, 7:00, 6:57, 6:51, and 6:57 on a mostly flat but net uphill section. Had my watch on a setting where I could only see the distance, time and pace the mile that I was in. Really helped in take it mile by mile.
At this point I couldn't help but think about the wall that everyone talks about, usually between miles 18-22. Just bracing myself I guess. For two slightly downhill miles next to the reservoir I kept thinking the canyon was right around the corner, but it didn't come as soon as I thought. Well I was speculating about when I would hit the wall, and it seemed like other people were finding it themselves. I started to pass some of the people that had passed me around miles 5 earlier in the race. Finally hit the canyon and the abrupt downhill was a shock to the legs. Mile 18 dropped 128 feet and was my fastest split of the race, a 6:29. Started to feel really tired, but kept on picking people off here and there. One woman in a Utahrunning.com singlet blew by me but other than that no else passed me for the rest of the race. I had been looking for gels at aid stations for the past few miles and missed it at both that had them, silly me. The canyon is 5 miles long and the downhill was starting to give my quads a real pounding. Also as it got later and I dropped in elevation it was getting hotter. But I was passed the the typical "wall" miles and figured it was completely fine to be hurting, which I was. But not slowing, not a piano carrier. Miles 16-23 splits (big hill to bottom of canyon) were 6:43, 6:51, 6:29, 6:45, 6:53, 6:50, 6:32, and 6:31.
Exiting the canyon I was surprised that the course traveled under the highway instead of crossing it. It was nice and cool in the tunnel though. By now I was passing alot of half marathoners in the back of the pack. They were never in the way though and most of them offered encouraging words which I appreciated. I was hurting but not in a bad way. Effort level was balls to the wall but I was doing maybe 6:40 pace haha. But it was pretty flat. Running through the Dinosaur Park was awesome because I had a cross country meet there my senior year. Super nostalgic and I almost felt like I was just running another 5K for a minute. But the real focus was keeping the momentum going and getting to the line in one piece. My shoes had been feeling really thin for a while and my feet were taking a beating. It was awesome getting within a mile of the finish, right around the Ogden arch thing and thinking "I've got one more mile left, I've done 25 of these today". Also I knew enough to know that as long as I maintained my pace then I would break three hours, which was my ultimate goal. Although I was a little bit closer than I thought so I'm glad I kept pushing and didn't relax. My breathing consisted up short high pitched gasps, just like in the half marathon. Honestly it didn't feel too much different from that. When I hit Grant Avenue and had a straight shot of seven blocks to the finish, I was so happy. I just focused on using good form and driving my arms in a forward motion with good turnover of the legs, which surprising still had some bounce in them. Final mile splits (24-26) were 6:40, 6:51, and 6:52 with 6:52 pace for the last .2. Probably the most painful part of the race from a purely physical standpoint was running by the temple with 3 blocks to go. Right after that was when I could make out the finish line and before I knew it I was there. Took a big leap over the line and pumped my fist, all with a big smile on my face. Finishing was the greatest feeling ever. So exhilirating to be done running after almost 3 hours nonstop, and knowing that I had achieved my goal.
So I guess I never did hit the wall. If I did then the pace would have dropped off rapidly. For me obviously it was hard the last 6 miles but it only got harder in a linear fashion. I attribute my ability to stay strong in the last few miles to my training, and the thought of achieving my goal in front of family. It was also nice to have the checkpoints where I knew my mom was getting notifcations of my progress on her phone. I also finished 1st in my 16-18 age group which was a secondary goal I guess. Afterwards the stiffness in my quads began rapidly to set in and before I knew it I could barely walk! Even sitting down on the grass was challenge. Waited a while for a massage but it took to so long so I just got my award (which also took a long time) and left about 3 hours after I had finished. What a great day! I could not have asked for a better experience at my first time marathon.