2016: Running Year in Review

2016 was a great year. Here are some of the highlights and lowlights from my running.

Miles ran: 2024.4 miles in ~227 runs

2016 was my highest mileage year by far, surpassing the 1359 miles I ran in 2015 by nearly 50%. In January Cyndi and I made the goal to run 2016 combined miles during the year. We hit that on November 11. About that time, I started increasing my weekly mileage to prepare for a new training regimen. I soon realized I could hit 2016 miles solo, and sure enough I hit it on December 30. I couldn’t help squeezing in 8 more on New Year’s Eve.

Miles raced: 140

My 2016 race schedule was similar to 2015, but this year I did a mid-summer relay instead of a half marathon, and an October marathon instead of a 50k. I’ll be starting off 2017 a little heavier with a 20 miler in January (weather permitting) and a half marathon in March.

Races completed: Ten

  • Three marathons
  • Two half marathons
  • One 8 miler (~12k)
  • One 10k
  • One 5k
  • One 1 mile time trial
  • One relay — about 16.5mi over three legs

Worst training run: 20 miler on 3/4

My second 20 mile training run of the year was rough. One month earlier, I had completed a 20 miler and finished strong in the last couple miles. On this run I bonked really hard at mile 17. It served as a reminder that I needed to eat right and bring sufficient fuel for long runs. It was a bit of a wake-up call to me and shook my confidence as I was training for a marathon.

Best training run: 21 miler on 4/29

My confidence was restored in late April on my last 20+ miler before running my spring marathon. I didn’t hit the wall, I picked up the pace in the last third of the run, and everything seemed to click. It gave me a nice confidence boost before my marathon as this run was at a Boston Qualifying pace.

Most awesome training run: Pi run on 3/14

10+pi miles with 1x2mi and 1xPi mile intervals.

Best race: Layton Marathon

Just about everything clicked for me at the Layton Marathon. My pace was solid, and I actually accelerated during the second half. I didn’t hit the wall. I was able to finish 1st overall after passing the leading runner at mile 22. It ended up being a new PR. The one thing that went wrong was I had to take a bathroom break, but that wasn’t enough of an issue to ruin my race.

Running towards the end of the Layton Marathon
Running towards the end of the Layton Marathon
Runner-up: Famous Idaho Potato Marathon

The Famous Idaho Potato Marathon was the one that got me into Boston and my first sub-3:00 finish. I stayed right on my target pace and I was able to have a decent finish.

Honorable Mention: Zeitgeist Half Marathon

My performance at the 2016 Zeitgeist Half Marathon was a little slower than my expectations, but I ended up winning, so I can’t complain!

Worst race: ?

I really didn’t have a race that was a disaster for me. I didn’t get lost in any races this year — like the Idaho Falls Half Marathon in 2015. I didn’t have a big bonk in any of the marathons I ran — like the Newport Marathon in 2015.

The one race where I didn’t quite hit my target time was the Zeitgeist Half Marathon, but it was still a solid race and the circumstances were a little unusual (I didn’t have any other runners within sight to push me at the end).

Most memorable experience: Ragnar Wasatch Back Relay

I’m still not sure if I like running in relays, but they are definitely memorable. It was fun to be able to run Wasatch Back with my wife, Cyndi, and spend some time with her and a few crazy guys in our van. I’ll never forget sleeping in the van because everyone was too tired and confused to get out and use our sleeping bags. I made some new friends and I’ll get to run with them again this year.

2016-Ragnar-Wasatch-Back_Exchange-6-Cyndi-and-Blake

Summary

Overall, 2016 was a spectacular running year for me. Once again I was blessed to not have any significant injuries during the year. My training went really well and I was able to run several races and improve my times. I qualified and registered for the Boston Marathon, which was my top goal.

I’m hopeful that 2017 will be a great year. So far I’m signed up for a marathon, 20 miler, half marathon, and two relays. I’m sure I’ll fill in the gaps!

Race Report: 2016 Clark County Turkey Trot 10K

For the past few years I’ve had the tradition of running the Clark County Turkey Trot in Vancouver, WA. This year the tradition continued.

Unfortunately the weather was not very cooperative this year. I’ve had good luck with Thanksgivings in Vancouver, WA, but this year it was rainy every day we were there, including Thanksgiving. Nevertheless, Cyndi, Paisley, Cosette, Fielding, Kara, Breeana, and I all laced up and headed out early on Thanksgiving morning to do the Turkey Trot. I was the only one signed up for the 10k. The kids were all signed up for the 5k, and my wife and sister-in-law also ran it so they could provide real-time support for the kids.

Huddling to keep out of the rain
Huddling to keep out of the rain

The Clark County Turkey Trot course was pretty much the same as it has been, with a slight alteration of the start and finish to make it more of a straight-shot and spread out the finish from the snacking area. This was a good change for sure.

I lined up near the front of the pack. I hoped to win but was unsure what the competition was like. I also hoped to beat my 2015 time of ~37:27.

Once we started there were a few guys that really took off. I reeled in a couple of them after a half mile or so, but I was still in 3rd or 4th. They looked strong and there was no way I could hold that pace for 10K. My first mile came in at 5:51, and that was about as fast as I was willing to go. I hoped to settle somewhere under 6:10/mi.

There were lots of puddles and combined with the rain it made for a very wet race. I was pretty wet not long after starting. Fortunately it wasn’t very cold, so I could get away with a short sleeve shirt and gloves.

As we came up to the 5K turn-around at Mile 1.6, the guys in front of me began coming back. I had forgotten about the 5K, and I was very happy to see all the runners ahead of me turn around so that I was left in 1st place for the 10K. I was still feeling good, but now the pressure was on.

Cosette at the 5K turn around
Cosette at the 5K turn around

The next couple miles were pretty uneventful. I hit 5:50 for Mile 2 and then 6:04 for Mile 3. At the turn-around I grabbed some water. I had a decent lead on the next runner of perhaps 50-100 yards. There are tiny hills (more like bumps) during miles 2-4. It was nice to have some changing terrain to push up or coast down.

I hit 6:05 for Mile 4. I was very happy with my pace and that I was holding at sub 6:10 this far into the race. It’s interesting to me that I have started to be able to naturally find the right pace to run — whether it’s a 5K or 10K or even a marathon.

Around Mile 4.5 there is a sharp turn and an opportunity to see how close the next runners are. I was hoping to look back and see no one, but sure enough there was a runner maybe 40 yards back. I tried to pick it up a notch so he wouldn’t catch me. It scared me that there was someone that close behind this far into the race as I wasn’t sure I could out kick him.

Soon I came upon the 5K walkers. The main issue with the Clark County Turkey Trot is that the out-and-back course is on a fairly narrow trail. It’s enough for ~4-5 people to walk side-by-side, but when you have walkers coming and going it can easily fill up the route. This results in a lot of weaving, dodging, and running on the grass/mud for those of us trying to make a good time.

That said, I realize that this isn’t a “PR course” Turkey Trot. I try to be respectful and I understand that it’s really not a big deal.

Due to the walkers, I couldn’t see if the runner behind me was closing in or not, so I just went as hard as I could given the weaving. I did see my wife running with our 5-year-old, so it was fun to give them a yell.

The walkers eventually thinned out and I was able to finish strong. Miles 5 and 6 were 5:57 and 6:02. I ended up finishing in 1st place with a time of 37:04.

Full results: http://resultsdb.com/results/ClarkCountyTurkeyTrotResults2016.pdf

I was happy to see my 9-year-old daughter Paisley waiting for me at the finish (from the 5k). She was able to run the whole way and I was very proud of her (and she was proud of herself).

We waited for everyone else to come in. We ate donuts and hot cocoa and the kids got to hit the pinata.

Fielding with a pocket full of pinata candy after the 5k
Fielding with a pocket full of pinata candy after the 5k

It was another great Turkey Trot and a fun way to start the holiday.

Race Report: 2016 Zeitgeist Half Marathon

On Saturday I ran the Zeitgeist Half Marathon for my fifth time. I love running Zeitgeist, and I’ve seen some steady improvement since I first ran it in 2011:

Year Time Overall Place
2011 1:45:44 126 / 1012
2013 1:39:56 35 / 902
2014 1:35:09 18 / 633
2015 1:28:44 8 / 554

As you can see, my times have improved by a few minutes every year.

I’ve also noticed the decreasing number of runners at Zeitgeist every year. I think this is generally due to more races in the Treasure Valley taking some runners away from this race. This year was the inaugural “Onward Shay” marathon, which I expected would take more runners away. However, the Zeitgeist organizers did more promotion and even revamped their website this year to slow the decline in participants — they actually ended up with 660 finishers.

There are a few things in particular that I like about the Zeitgeist Half Marathon.

First, it has a nice course. The course is a loop, which I generally prefer over point-to-point or out-and-back courses. Loops allow you to see more than an out-and-back, but also don’t have the logistical annoyance of a point-to-point. The course is challenging, with two large hills. The first rises about 600 feet from the start — most of the ascent takes place over 2 miles — before descending into the town of Hidden Springs. Then the next hill rises about 475 feet, mostly in a 1.3 mile stretch. Many runners are forced to walk the final 100-200 yards as the hill steepens at the top. After peaking at Mile 8.3, the course descends back down about 900 feet over the next 3 miles and finishes on a slightly rolling 2 mile stretch, with one nasty little bump with about a quarter mile left.

Zeitgeist is well organized. Picking up your bib on race morning is fast and easy. You can expect coffee, hot cocoa, and bagels. They also have a unique, tasty lunch once runners are done. This year it was sweet potatoes, potatoes, pasta, french onion soup, and apple crisp.

I also appreciate the timing of the Zeitgeist Half Marathon. It takes place on the first Saturday of November as the racing season is winding down. It’s usually my last significant race before the long winter (although I usually do a shorter Turkey Trot as well). I’m pretty worn out by the time Zeitgeist comes around and I’m not in peak condition, but it’s still a chance to get out the door and run hard on a cold morning.

Unlike some years in the past, this year promised to have some decent weather. It ended up being 43F at the 10am start, rising to ~55F by noon. It was sunny with only a little breeze.

This year I was joined by Cyndi and my father-in-law, Jerry. After a babysitter arrived, we headed out to Eagle, ID to grab our numbers and get racing.

I was pretty worn out after completing the Layton Marathon four weeks before Zeitgeist. The third week after Layton, two weeks before Zeitgeist, I was feeling lousy and I couldn’t get in a great workout. I was obviously trying to rush my marathon recovery a bit too much, and it showed. Luckily I had a decent run on the Monday before Zeitgeist, and another decent run on Wednesday. I decided to do a couple miles less than planned to aid recovery. I felt pretty confident going into the race.

In 2015 I finished Zeitgeist in 1:28:44, which was faster than my 2015 Robie Creek time of 1:31:10. Zeitgeist is probably a little easier than the Race to Robie Creek, plus there are ~7 months between the races in which runners can improve (Robie takes place in April). Since I broke 1:25 at Robie this year, I hoped to do Zeitgeist in <1:24:00. Last year at Zeitgeist I had a calf issue that slowed me down, so I expected I could improve by ~5 minutes. I set up a race plan that would get me there. My main concern was my lack of recovery time since running the Layton Marathon and my lack of hill workouts. I hadn’t ran any hills since late September. Actually, I really hadn’t done many hills all summer. I hoped my hill neglect wouldn’t hold me back too much. If I could get 1:23:xx, I figured it would put me in the top 3-5 or so spots, depending who showed up.

I felt good race morning. I was well hydrated and had plenty of energy. I did some warming up before race time and I felt like I was ready to go. I wore my tank top and gloves as it was unseasonably warm. I lined up for the race in the front near the start line.

Running the Zeitgeist Half Marathon

Mile 1: 6:10

The race started at 10am and we headed out pretty fast. One younger looking runner took the lead and I fell into ~2nd place. A guy named Chris introduced himself to me and said he had seen me on Strava. I had seen his name too, so it was nice to meet him. He was targeting sub 1:30 and we wished each other luck before he fell back a bit. I moved into first place between Mile 0.5 and Mile 1. My target for the first mile, which is pretty flat, was 6:10-6:15 and I hit it right at 6:10.

Mile 2-3: 6:54, 7:18

Right before Mile 1 the course turns left and the first big hill climbs into the distance. Around the turn, another runner caught up with me and passed me during the next half mile. I didn’t know his name at the time, but it turned out to be Matt, another runner I had seen post some fast times on Strava. We ran pretty much together until about Mile 2 when he started to put some distance between us. I thought about going with him, but decided to run my own race. I wanted to climb the hill at a 7:10 pace and I was right in line with that target.

The hill gets steeper as it gets higher, so my pace slowed down a bit, but I was still working hard. The hill peaks at Mile 3.1 and I was right around my target as I crested and started heading down. It’s always nice to reach the top of a hill.

Mile 4: 5:38

Matt was putting more distance between us, but I kept up pretty well on the downhill. I pushed hard on the downhill, but I was a little out of practice. As I mentioned, I hadn’t done much hill work recently. I hadn’t done fast intervals either, so my legs didn’t want to move as quickly as they needed to. I still clocked a 5:38 on the 4th mile which included ~50ft of uphill and ~250ft of downhill.

Mile 5-7: 6:00, 6:37, 6:44

During Mile 5 the hill peters out and the Zeitgeist Half Marathon course turns into Hidden Springs. I came off the hill pretty fast and kept up the tempo. Matt was about 20s ahead of me at this point. As we made some turns in Hidden Springs I began to slow down a bit. I was starting to feel the burn and get a little light headed. I was eating some Gu Energy Chews and actually ate them a little faster than planned to help keep my energy up.

Mile 6 begins to climb a small hill, and although I was slowing down a bit I felt like I was starting to close the distance on Matt. Mile 7 continues on the hill and has a small peak and downhill. I grabbed a cup of Gatorade and began to prepare for the big hill coming up. I wasn’t sure how hard Matt planned on hitting it.

I was now a little behind my target as I had hoped for a 6:10 pace at this portion of the race. However, I was still running my own race and I was still feeling ok. Due to the extra burn I was consuming more Gatorade than I otherwise would have.

Mile 8-9: 7:21, 6:33

The following 1.3 miles are the hardest portion of the course — a steep, winding incline. Right when we hit the bottom of the hill I began gaining on Matt and I passed him perhaps a quarter mile up the hill. We exchanged a few words of encouragement. I looked back and couldn’t see anyone nearby.

I attacked the hill pretty hard, aiming for a 7:30-7:45 pace. I was able to hit my pace, and I even felt decent at the top. I looked back at the top and couldn’t see anyone behind me. There’s a curve before the top section, and Matt hadn’t come around it yet (or at least I didn’t see him). This gave me a boost of confidence, but I knew it was still a long way to the finish line.

I accelerated off the crest and started making my way down the long downhill portion. There was an aid station around Mile 9 and it was fun to come into it in the 1st place position. I’d never led in a race like this before. Now I was just following the police escort with no one in front or nearby behind (as far as I knew).

Mile 10-13.1: 6:02, 5:51, 6:17, 6:28, [5:23/mi pace]

I pushed down the hill for the next two miles. My target was to be under a 6:00/mi pace and that’s about where I was. At another aid station before Mile 11 I looked back again and couldn’t see anyone. By that point my legs were starting to cramp up and I was getting a little worried. Around Mile 11.5 there’s a very slight uphill and I slowed down. I tried pushing my pace, but it was difficult to motivate myself. I worried a bit about someone coming up behind me, but I was sure that I could move into a higher gear if that happened.

It was fun to be leading and some spectators and even passing cars cheered me on as I ran alongside the road.

Finally I got over the nasty little hill around Mile 13 and I just had the last stretch to the finish. The announcer broadcast my arrival and several people cheered me in. I finally was able to speed up a bit in this last little stretch.

I finished in first place! This was exciting for me as I hadn’t experienced it many times. When I finished in first at the Layton Marathon, I was mixed in with a bunch of half marathoners, so no one even knew I was the first marathoner. Crossing the line this time was better since there was only one race going on and the spectators knew I was the first finisher.

I was really surprised that I won. This was the slowest Zeitgeist first place time in recent history, for sure. I just happened to capitalize on a slower year. But that was fine with me!

My time was actually a bit slower than my target. I just didn’t have the gas to hit my splits in the middle of the course and the end of the course. Honestly, it also didn’t help that I didn’t have anyone right in front or behind me for the last 5 miles. My final time was 1:25:19.

Post Race

I was happy to be done and I awaited the next few runners that came through and congratulated them. Second place was a high schooler and he finished about a minute behind me. Chris ended up 3rd and Matt finished 4th.

After 5-10 minutes, I started jogging back down the course to meet up with Cyndi. I found her about 1.5 miles back, and then I finished with her. It was a good cool down and forced me to get a few extra miles in.

She was going fairly strong for her last couple miles and we passed several people. She just missed the 2 hour mark, but she improved a few minutes over Zeitgeist 2015.

We awaited Jerry and he came in at about 2:15, placing 2nd in his age group.

We all grabbed some food and awaited the awards. Unfortunately, they wait a loooong time before handing out awards. They didn’t start until about 2pm, which was 2.5 hours after I finished. In hindsight, the wait was not worth it as we could have just picked up our trophies another day. I guess for those that were having fun drinking beer it may not have been too bad, but if you have five kids at home with a babysitter, it’s just not a fun wait. That was my one complaint about the overall organization of Zeitgeist.

That said, the blown glass trophies are pretty cool.

Overall, the 2016 Zeitgeist Half Marathon was a great experience and it was awesome to win. I’m grateful I’ve had such a great year. I know it can be gone in a flash, with one wrong step or one weak tendon.

Hopefully I can keep improving and drop my time next year — whether or not I get first place.

Year Time Overall Place
2011 1:45:44 126 / 1012
2013 1:39:56 35 / 902
2014 1:35:09 18 / 633
2015 1:28:44 8 / 554
2016 1:25:19 1 / 660

 

Race Report: 2016 Layton Marathon (1st Place!)

The kids had a couple days off of school in October for some reason, so we decided to take a trip to Utah to visit some family and friends. Utah has a plethora of marathons, so as long as we were in Utah I figured I should sign up for one. The Layton Marathon’s date and location fell nicely within our trip plans. I debated whether I wanted to interrupt training to run a marathon, but ultimately I decided to pull the trigger as I know I have a long winter training season ahead of me and I really wanted to do three marathons this year.

The Trip

Cyndi, our five kids, and I drove down to Utah after work on Wednesday night. We arrived at my brother’s house after midnight and I got to sleep around 12:40am. Of course, the kids were up before 7:30am (they had slept in the car) and I wasn’t in my own bed, so I didn’t exactly sleep well. I did a 4.25 mile recovery run with a few striders that morning. Then we went to the BYU campus (our alma mater) and walked across campus in search of a geocache. We stopped at the science building and the Bean Museum as well. By the time we were back at our car I was pretty exhausted. I caught a 5 minute nap at home, but that was it.

Walking around the BYU campus a couple days before the Layton Marathon
Walking around the BYU campus a couple days before the Layton Marathon

Thursday evening we headed to our friends’ house to play games until about midnight (I lost our game of Caverna). Then our 16 month old decided not to sleep, so once again it was a not-so-restful night. I told Cyndi I couldn’t do a walking tour that day as I wanted to have some chance at a decent marathon on Saturday. Luckily we found a good deal on a bounce house place, so we let the kids play for a couple hours while we mostly relaxed and watched. We then ate lunch at Costa Vida and I ate WAY too much (my full chicken burrito, 1/4 of Paisley’s burrito, and a little of Cyndi’s salad). We ate dinner at Grandma’s and I tried to take it easy, but I still ate too much given the large lunch I had eaten. We headed to my cousin’s house and I topped it off with a couple chocolate chip cookies. I also lost by one point in a competitive game of Settlers of Catan — complete with the Cities and Knights and Seafarers expansions.

My cousin lives right by Layton, so we stopped at packet pickup before we got there. Packet pickup wasn’t too fancy — I got my shirt, my bib, a couple granola bars, and some safety pins. There wasn’t actually a packet with decent coupons or anything special.

Fortunately the baby slept well on Friday night, so I got almost 5 hours of sleep. I was counting on caffeinated Clif Bloks at this point.

Layton Marathon Race Morning

The alarm sounded at 4:10am and Cyndi kindly drove me to the bus pick up at 4:45. We could have used a little more guidance on where the buses were going to be, but we figured it out and I was able to hop on the first bus (which I like to do for first bathroom access — especially after engorging myself the previous day).

At this point I will note that the Layton Marathon website isn’t too great. It is pretty bare bones and confusing to navigate. It left off some information like whether there would be a bag drop-off and if and where gels would be handed out on the course. Not too big a deal, but it was probably my main organizational complaint.

The bus left at 5am from Layton and headed out to Antelope Island. After a long ride it dropped us off on the east side of the island. It was pretty chilly outside and I made a mental note to dress warmer for my next marathon. I was wearing shorts, jogging pants, a tank top, a long sleeve shirt, a hoodie, knit gloves, and a beanie, but it wasn’t quite enough while waiting over an hour in the cold. The race volunteers fired up a generator and a big electric heater, but I didn’t feel like huddling with a group of 30 people. I was a bit cold, but I wasn’t shivering at least. Anyways, I milled around and used the port-a-potties three times. I chatted with a couple people, including one younger lady that was running her first marathon. She asked me for tips and I gave her two (which I have learned by sad experience):

  1. Don’t go out too fast.
  2. Drink plenty of fluids — more than you think you need.

As race time approached I stripped down to my tank top, shorts, and knit gloves. It was really cold, but I knew I’d warm up pretty quickly.

I was secretly hoping for a PR — perhaps a pace of ~6:45/mi to beat my PR of 6:48/mile. However, I was concerned about my lack of sleep and how my recent training would translate into marathon performance. I’d clocked a lot of miles recently, but my last marathon, Morgan Valley Marathon, was just over two months before. I finished in 3:00:08 at Morgan Valley, so I hoped I’d do better at ~1000 feet lower altitude.

The Layton Marathon Course

The Layton Marathon course starts on the east side of Antelope Island in the Great Salt Lake. The first 10 miles of the course follow the east coast of the island with the Salt Lake to the right and a ridge rising to the left. On the slopes you may see some herds of Bison grazing. The vegetation is dry and mostly brown. The first 10 miles include some light rolling hills, most of which are probably beneficial since they work slightly different leg muscles on the inclines and declines. There is one notable hill that rises 200 feet or so.

At Mile 10 the course turns right and for the next seven miles it follows a causeway across the Great Salt Lake. Note that the lake is not a normal lake — it is really shallow and the water recedes quite a bit from its highest levels. The causeway is straight and flat. Around Mile 17 runners are back on the land and run the rest of the course on large, straight roads, some of which have a gentle incline. Initially the roads are among farms and marshland, but eventually the course starts hitting suburban areas before finally turning to the last stretch near a school and park.

Running the Layton Marathon

Miles 1 to 4: 6:57, 6:40, 6:40, 6:50

The race started right at 7am and I took it easy for the first half mile — clocking in above a 7 minute pace. I didn’t want to go out too fast like I normally do. I was surprised how much I was able to control my pace as I usually have to really restrain myself.

A runner named Caleb took off ahead, and there were two other runners near me: a lady who I passed within the first few hundred yards, and a guy named Eddie. I introduced myself to Eddie and we talked a bit. He’d done several half marathons but no full marathons — this was his first. His best Half time was 1:23, so I thought he could potentially be under 3 hours depending on his training regimen. However, I asked if he’d done any “long” runs like 18 or 20 miles and he said he hadn’t. He usually just does 10 or 12 miles per day. That’s still a lot of mileage, but I wasn’t sure if that would give him the endurance required to do a 3 hour marathon. I told him I’d be right around 3 hours if he wanted to stay with me, but after 2 or 3 miles I slowly pulled away.

I hit a couple 6:40 miles which is right where I wanted to be at this point in the race. My 4th mile was a bit slower at 6:50, but still in a good range for a 6:45 average. There were some herds of bison to our left which was pretty cool. I also saw several mule deer prancing around the side of the road, across the road, and up the ridge. I was closing in on Caleb, who was leading in 1st place.

MILES 5 TO 8: 6:40, 6:47, 7:03, 6:58

Mile 5 and 6 were right in line with my target average. The gentle rolling hills were nice — flat enough that they didn’t overwork my legs but inclined enough to mix it up. The view across the lake was pretty nice. The sun was rising over Layton and the whole Wasatch Front, and it was cool to see.

I caught Caleb at some point around Mile 5 and learned his name. He hadn’t done a marathon in a couple years. I was amazed to hear he’d done a 35 mile training run just two weeks prior! That either meant he would have plenty of endurance or he’d be a little burned out. He got through the water stations faster than me, so I would lose a little ground on him only to gain it back within a few hundred yards.

Starting at Mile 6 there is a 200 foot hill. We both charged up it at a decent pace of just over 7:00/mile. It didn’t feel too strenuous to me, so I was OK with that pace. Besides, I’d recently done some hill training, so I was somewhat prepared for it. Mile 8 was on top of the hill and Caleb and I were still together. I thought I could potentially make a move on the downhill, although I knew we had plenty of miles left to jockey for position.

There were a couple bison right next to the road somewhere around mile 8. They are huge! Frankly, I was a little concerned. Fortunately none of them charged us. One of them actually started thundering away when we approached it.

MILES 9 TO 12: 5:52, 6:33, 6:45, 7:47

I took the downhill pretty hard. Well, I didn’t actually exert myself very much, but I didn’t hold back either. Downhill is a little tricky: your mind wants to slow down, but if you do you’ll actually do more damage to your quads than if you just roll with gravity. I passed Caleb on the downhill portion and clocked a nice sub-6 mile, followed by another fast 6:33 mile as the hill petered out.

Caleb passed me back right after the downhill and put 20 yards between us. He was now getting some nice cheering from his parents (presumably) who were leap-frogging us every couple miles. They were friendly and cheered for me, too, but not as much as for him 🙂

After Mile 10 we turned onto the causeway and suddenly I needed to use a port-a-potty. This was uncalled for. Only one other time have I taken a bio break during a race, and that was my 3rd marathon (Salt Lake City) back in 2004! Really though, I wasn’t too surprised given my binge eating the previous day. Still, I was mad at myself, especially given that I was within 20 yards of 1st place.

I knew there was a port-a-potty at the Mile 11 aid station, and the closer I got the more I needed to use it. I was worried that there would be some volunteer in it or some other issue. To my great relief there wasn’t. I was able to get in and out in exactly 1 minute. (Sorry if this is Too Much Information, but such issues can really affect overall performance!)

Back on the course, I knew that I had plenty of time left to catch Caleb. I looked behind me and couldn’t see anyone, so Eddie wasn’t a present concern. It was actually kind of nice to have a 1 minute buffer with the leader so I could run my own race.

MILES 13 TO 16: 6:43, 6:50, 6:41, 6:46

My watch was at about 1:29:00 at the half way mark. This meant that I was right on pace for a PR if I didn’t hit the wall, and that includes my break.

I then had a thought occur to me: while eating too much the day before cost me a minute break, it also meant that my muscles should be chock full of glycogen. I should have all the energy I needed to PR and then some! I liked this line of thought, and I began to push a little harder.

I started passing the half marathon walkers. I cheered some of them on and they did the same for me. This gave me a welcome distraction and also made it harder to see where Caleb was at.

Around Mile 16 I was really starting to feel good and I began to gather some speed.

MILES 17 TO 21: 6:37, 6:40, 6:36, 6:37

We got off the causeway and back to land right around Mile 17 and now I was cruising. I did a sub 6:40 mile. During Mile 18 there was a turn and I could see Caleb ahead. I began to think I was closing on him. It reminded me of one of my best 5k races in high school when I just stared at the back of the 1st place runner’s shirt. (I passed that runner for the first time in my life after 4k, only to be passed back a couple hundred yards later.)

Caleb was still a ways ahead, but I was trying to do a sneak attack. I tried keeping half marathoners between him and me in case he looked back. He never did though, he was just focused on his own race. Kudos to him for leading the race for ~20 miles and maintaining a great pace.

My mile times were awesome at this point and I was feeling good. I was really closing in on Caleb and I hoped to pass him after the Mile 21 aid station. This would let me take my slow water break and then have a two mile stretch before the next one. It worked out just how I wanted. I was only a couple dozen yards behind him at the aid station.

MILES 22 TO 26.2: 6:39, 6:42, 6:46, 6:47, 6:30, ~5:38 pace

During Mile 22 I finally caught Caleb and passed him. I passed him going fast because I really didn’t want to have to go stride for stride with him. My pace was still pretty healthy at this point and I did another sub 6:40 mile.

Then the course started to incline a bit and my legs started to tighten up. I didn’t hit The Wall, but I could definitely feel more resistance. I didn’t know how close behind Caleb was, so I kept pushing. I also realized that I had a good shot at a PR, although my watch was off by ~0.2 miles so it was difficult to tell exactly how good of a PR opportunity I had.

Running towards the end of the Layton Marathon
Running towards the end of the Layton Marathon

My main ambition now was to secure a sub 2:58 finish. The final few miles felt pretty good overall. I didn’t let my pace get too slow. The last mile felt great and I tried to pick it up and leave everything on the course.

There’s only so much you can do at this point in the race, but I was ecstatic to be running at a ~6:30 pace for the last mile! Finally I could see the finish line and I sped up even more, doing a sub 6:00 pace for the last few hundred yards.

Final stretch of the Layton Marathon
Final stretch of the Layton Marathon

It was nice that there weren’t many half marathoners for my last quarter or half mile (they were spread out), so it was just me and the finish line. There was a small crowd at the finish and they gave me a good cheer. Cyndi was also there and it was great to see her. I sprinted into the finish and was happy to see that I got a new PR of 2:57:07 on my 16th marathon+.

Crossing the finish line of the Layton Marathon
Crossing the finish line of the Layton Marathon

AND FIRST PLACE! My first 1st place finish at a marathon. I’d gotten 3rd a couple times and 2nd once, but never 1st. It was pretty awesome.

I liked the medal as well.

The 2016 Layton Marathon medal
The medal I received from the 2016 Layton Marathon

Post Race

Cyndi and I milled around as we waited for the awards ceremony. I took a little walk and tried to stretch out a bit. About 10 minutes after finishing I got that post-marathon-I-want-to-throw-up feeling, but it dissipated and I was able to eat half a PBJ and drink water.

Wearing my Layton Marathon medal
Wearing my Layton Marathon medal

I saw Caleb come through and chatted with him. He did great and it was nice to meet him. I’ve never had someone like that to compete with during a marathon. He had hit The Wall around the time I passed him I think, so he finished in 3:03. That was fantastic for a second marathon and I’m sure he’ll improve a lot in the future.

Layton Marathon podium
Shaking Caleb’s hand at the Layton Marathon podium
The Layton Marathon awards podium
The Layton Marathon awards podium

After the awards we headed back to my cousin’s where I showered. As we walked away I saw Eddie finishing up around 3:50 and we cheered him on. We gathered the kids and hit the road for the 5 hour trip back to Meridian. I drove for the first three hours then had to take shotgun so I could stretch my legs out.

Overall it was a great experience. I was satisfied with my time and especially my place. Despite being a small marathon, there were no significant issues: the bus left on time, the aid stations were well stocked, and they gave awards to all age groups. The course terrain was fast and the scenery was pretty good. I would happily run it again.

Layton Marathon finish line photo with my plaque
Layton Marathon finish line photo with my plaque

4000 Miles to Boston

Today I was accepted into the 2017 Boston Marathon. While I’ve known for a few months that I would likely get in, receiving the acceptance email has re-stoked my excitement and commitment. It has been a long road since I first dreamed of Boston — a 4000 mile road, as a matter of fact.

On October 5, 2013, I ran the St. George Marathon with my father-in-law, Jerry. This was my seventh marathon; however, I hadn’t run a marathon since the Hoover Dam Marathon in 2009, so I was unsure what I was capable of. The fast course and my preparation combined for a new marathon PR: 3:24:53. After the race, I realized that I could potentially get my time down enough to qualify for the Boston Marathon some day. For my age bracket I would need a 3:05:00 to qualify.

The following year I had mixed results. I had some knee pain in December 2013 which meant very few miles. I was still able to drop my PR to 3:21 at the nice Phoenix Marathon course the following March. I experimented at the Utah Valley Marathon in June by going out fast on the downhill, but it led to a huge bonk and a lot of pain.

Then in the summer of 2014 my exuberance led to a couple injuries. First I strained my calf. Then, after my calf recovered, I strained a tendon in my foot. I still managed to run the St. George Marathon again in 2014, but I had to take it easy due to my sore foot and I got 3:34:18. I took training fairly easy through December 2014.

2015 was a great year. I trained hard all spring without injury and I thought I was on track for a sub 3:05 for the Newport Marathon in May. However, I had some knee pain in the two weeks before the race and then I bonked again and only squeaked out a 3:13:48. Although it was a nice PR, it was a big disappointment as I was really hoping to qualify.

Nevertheless, I trained hard over the summer and was able to finally qualify for Boston at the Mt. Nebo Marathon on September 5 with a 3:04:18. I was ecstatic! However, my hopes were dashed when the Boston Athletic Association lowered the cut-off time from 3:05:00 to 3:02:32 and my registration was rejected. Despite the big disappointment, I still PR’d in every distance 10K or more in 2015, so it was definitely a banner year for my running. I also fit in the Foothills 50K Frenzy in October — my first time running more than a marathon.

After a light December 2015 to heal my calves and knees, I hit it hard again in January 2016. Again I had an excellent winter/spring training regimen, doing three quality runs per week and two or three cross training days. I waffled on which marathon to run, but ultimately selected the local Famous Potato Marathon, which has a pretty nice, slightly downhill course. My marathon went as well as it could have, and I achieved a new PR of 2:58:15, breaking the 3:00 barrier and securing a nice Boston qualification cushion. I ran the Morgan Valley Marathon in late July and nearly broke 3:00:00 again despite the more difficult course (high elevation) and a smaller taper.

Finally September rolled around and I was able to register for Boston on Friday, 9/16/16. I awaited confirmation anxiously all weekend and checked my email like a crazy person. This morning (Monday) the confirmation came through. I was elated and relieved.

I looked up how many miles I have run since the 2013 St. George Marathon: 4000 miles exactly! (OK, 4000.19 miles.) What a number! In addition to the 4000 miles, which took 493 hours 19 minutes, I’ve also done a few hundred hours of cross training.

The cumulative miles and marathons I've ran since setting my sights on Boston
The cumulative miles and marathons I’ve ran since setting my sights on Boston

I think back on all the early mornings, running in the dark, running in sub freezing weather, on icy roads, driving by myself at 4:45am so I can run on a hill, etc. I’m not sure why I do it. Something about the challenge and trying to get a little faster and a little better. Trying to achieve whatever goal is next. At one point I thought that once I made it to Boston I would relax and scale back my running. I doubt that now.