But Mousie, thou art no thy lane,
In proving foresight may be vain:
The best-laid schemes o’ mice an’ men
Gang aft agley,
An’ lea’e us nought but grief an’ pain,
For promis’d joy!

— Robert Burns, 17851

 The Layton Marathon

This race was excellent from start to finish.  Slightly less awesome pre-start, but nothing really worth complaining about.  (As I mentioned yesterday, they were very good at communicating with runners, so it’s sort of one of those you-can’t-complain-if-you-don’t-love things…)

We actually saw the buses caravaning over a highway overpass exactly as we passed under it, and they followed us right up to Ellison Park where they were scheduled to whisk us away to the start line over on Antelope Island no later than 5:00 prompt.  So no standing around waiting in the cold for me!  Right on that bus.

Now, there’s not many roads on the island.  The marathon runs along the main road, which follows the eastern shoreline.  Yet somehow, our bus driver, of the lead bus, made a wrong turn and ended up somewhere on the interior of the island, possibly where the ranger housing is.  And he ignored or didn’t hear us saying there was a loop to double back to the main road, so we made a k-turn on a narrow road in the dark in the rain.  And four more buses followed us.  And . . . then we overshot the start line, in part because we got there before any staff or volunteers, but the driver turned around and dropped us where we ought to have been a few minutes later after some staff arrived, turned on the flood lights, and fired up the job site heater they had rented.

We looked at it as some bonus time on the bus before stepping out to wait in the 40 degree drizzley dark.  No complaints there, except that our bus didn’t have a functional heater.

Yeah, we all fit through that arch...

Also on my bus were five guys from Fort Collins, CO, out to break the world record for the fastest linked marathon time. Their target was sub-3, which I think would have scored three of the five of them the top male awards.  According to my wife, they finished in about 3:06, still breaking the record by 20 minutes, but not quite top of the field here in Layton.

The start line, once staff and volunteers got it all set up, featured a pop-up tend to shield us from the light drizzle and trap some of the heater’s warmth, plenty of water, some fruit, and these elecrolyte gels that apparently require 13 ounces of water to digest2  The porta-potties were plentiful, but being a start line, everyone needs them at once.  And to his credit, the race director held the start gun ten minutes to give everyone who was waiting in line a chance to get through the bathrooms.  That was a first.  I suppose it could potentially screw up someone who was timing their visit with the expected start gun, but that seems unlikely.

And so, somewhere around 6:40 this morning, just after the drizzle called it quits, we were off.  Through a very narrow start arch.  Ten miles of Antelope Island, seven miles of causeway, and 9.2 miles of rural and suburban Utah.  We started in the dark for about six miles before the pre-dawn broke and allowed us to see the kind volunteers who were offering up water and Powerade.  The field was fairly thin and the views in every direction were spectacular.  We shadowed the coastline up to causeway, then it was straight on ’til morning for another seven miles.

Just shy of Mile 10

Initial landfall was in a relatively rural community, where off in the distance I spotted a few guys in what I thought were camoflage fatigues.  I figured the local National Guard or similar group was either sponsoring a water stop or helping the police out with an intersection.  Then I noticed the guns.  And the game cart.  It’s not often that guys setting off for a day of hunting cross paths with a marathon, is it?

Once we got in to the suburbs, the crowds picked up a bit.  While I’m certainly not a must-have-cheering-people-to-enjoy-my-race kind of person, it’s always nice to see people who are having fun watching the race and cheering on people they don’t know.  Two such people turned out to be holding signs advertising their yard sale, but were screaming and waving them at runners as if they expected people to take a break to go check out their awesome collection of galoshes3.  In their defense, the road was half open to traffic as well, but it caught me as amusing nonetheless.

The big finish was back in the aforementioned Ellison Park, with a big, festive inflatable finish line, water, more PowerAde, fruit, big slices of whole grain bread4, and a finish corral that ran right in to a stage area for awards complete with tiered platforms covered in gold, silver, and bronze material.  Fancy!

Overall, great views, great volunteers, great support, a great race director, and a great time from start to finish.  From a race organization perspective, it was absolutely awesome.

My Layton Marathon

My performance, however, a somewhat different story.

I started off feeling awesome, actually having to remember which beep meant slow down and which beep meant speed up on my watch5.  Those first few miles I was actually looking forward to mile 5 when my target pace speeds up6 and it would stop beeping at me to slow down.  The whole time on the island I felt like I could hold 7:20 miles forever, even up and over the one hill.

After the initial starting line shuffle, I settled in more or less with a group of five or six guys going about my pace, then after mile five, picked it up a bit and caught up with another couple of guys that comprised the next “pack.”  I was feeling strong for this whole time and tried to just hold a steady pace, which resulted in actually passing a few more guys before the causeway.

I think I slowed a bit when I hit the causeway, maybe just because of the change of surface or the slight difference in how the wind was hitting me, but was able to maintain my target.  Between miles ten and twelve I caught up with and passed a few guys targeting even 7:30 splits, which seemed to be right on target for my 3:15 finish.  It seemed like the first thirteen miles had just flown by when we passed the remnants of what was the half marathon start corral.

Somewhere in the next few miles I started catching up with the tail end of the half marathon, and that’s where I completely lost momentum.  At first I thought it was all in my head; maybe I was just psyching myself out because even my “slow” pace was still faster than the rear pack half marathoners, so while I was passing them the lack of other marathoners near my pace for context threw me off?  This was my accepted theory when one guy caught up with me and greeted me with a fist bump – I fell in line behind him and was able to maintain a faster pace for a few miles before I left him behind at a water stop and never saw him again.  Without the “running buddy” I started slowing again, and even when a second guy caught up and passed me after we hit the mainland, I couldn’t find the strength to repeat the effort.

I wasn’t winded.  I wasn’t sore.  I just suddenly felt like I had no power in my legs.  It was surreal and very very frustrating.  I don’t think I went out too fast in the beginning – I’ve done that before and think I know what that feels like – and this wasn’t it. I felt like I was maintaining the same level of effort, yet I was going slower; looking down at my watch to see I was in the pace zone derisively labeled “TROT.”

Post race, in discussing it with my wife, I narrowed it down to two possibilities.  Or, more likely, a combination of the two.  First, all through my training, I’ve never really maintained my target pace for the long runs.  I might just not physically be ready to pull of a 3:15 marathon yet.  Second, and I’m putting a little more stock in this, even though it is a bit of the find-something-to-blame-other-than-yourself mentality, is that I broke rule number one of race day: don’t eat or drink anything new.

Duh.  I set aside the unknown-to-me electrolyte gels they were offering, but I didn’t use the same disciplines with the PowerAde at the aid stations.  There was water and PowerAde every two miles, starting at mile 3.  And I took PowerAde at almost every one of them out of some unsubstantiated fear that I would dehydrate and not realize it if I didn’t.  Because of the cool weather, I suppose?  Dumb.  Dumb.  Dumb.  I never drink PowerAde.  I’ve been doing my long runs with water and maybe a Gu or one of my wife’s fuel morsels.  Even when I get back from a long training run, I replenish with Propel Zero, or maybe some V8.  So then on race day I decide to drink full-sugar PowerAde every two miles?  Sooooo stuuuuupid.

Whatever the cause, it was what it was.  Fortunately, even when I started slowing down, I had already banked enough seconds on each mile to be close to a 3:10 overall pace, but as each mile passed I saw that time bank dwindle.  When I came around the bend to the finish and tried to give it an extra push, I saw that a PR was not to be.  I had eaten all my time up in the last ten miles.

But I’m not beating myself up.  I had a great time, my wife was at the finish line with balloons and a poster7 to celebrate the completion of my tenth marathon, and there was a delicious carrot cake at home to supplement the celebration.  And my final time was only a couple of minutes off my PR, so I know a new PR is within reach this fall.

After all, I’m registered for three more of these things before New Year’s.

Show 7 footnotes

  1. To a Mouse, on Turning Her Up in Her Nest with the Plough.  Did you ever notice that anything you think you know as a modern reference turns out to be a Robert Burns poem from a couple hundred years earlier?
  2. So, yeah, I left those behind.
  3. Seriously.  I could see at least twenty pair lined up on the sidewalk.  Who collects that many galoshes in their lifetime?
  4. BRILLIANT!  Such a better idea than pizza.  But I certainly needed more than a six ounce cup of water if I was going to try to eat the whole thing.
  5. And when I say “my” watch, I mean my wife’s watch which I was wearing today because mine’s in the shop.
  6. I set myself a 5/15/10 plan for a few different finish times, with a 3:15 finish as my ideal target.
  7. Okay, she actually left them in the car so they didn’t get wet in the rain while she waited for me, but they were there nonetheless, and a great surprise to brighten my spirits!