St George Marathon 2017

by Joanne on October 14, 2017

This is the most scenic and easiest marathon I’ve ever run and there has been 26 of them to rank.

Coming from upstate New York, this wasn’t going to be a quick weekend run. No way were we passing up all the scenic byways of Utah.  We had 3 ½ days to soak it all in and that, we found out, was no where near enough time. We did our best however, arriving in Vegas Thursday afternoon, a quick visit with family then headed out to Cedar City, UT for an overnight at a slightly higher elevation than St. George.  I was concerned about the altitude and if it would affect my run.  Since we were only there for 2 days prior to the race, there wasn’t much acclimation time.  What I did want to find out is whether I would be breathless during a short shake out run, done the day before a marathon.  There wasn’t much I could do if I did feel bad and honestly, a marathon runner isn’t likely to feel the effects of high elevation in just two short miles.  I had planned on doing all I could to run my best at a higher elevation by taking iron supplements 3 weeks prior to St. George. I also ate iron rich food of the meatless variety such as dark dried cherries, a lot of spinach and other greens.  Water was also a priority in this dry climate.

We arrived at the B&B in Cedar City around 6 pm Thursday night.  The Anniversary House was a cute little house tucked just off the main street, accessible to anything one might want to see in Cedar City.  The Shakespearian Festival was in full swing, unfortunately we hadn’t planned enough time to enjoy it.  We ended up eating a late dinner at a local chain restaurant then falling asleep pretty quickly with the fireplace on in our room.  It was warm, cozy and conducive to a restful sleep.

Friday morning was my scheduled shake out run of 2 – 3 miles.  I ran 2.11 miles at about a 9:21 pace and felt good. The weather was cool, 50 degrees, no wind, and the streets easy to run.  Breakfast at the B&B was at 8:30 am.  We enjoyed the conversation for an hour with the other guests.  Breakfast was mixed fruit and a frittata topped with cheese.

We met up with Teddy and Richard to enjoy a scenic, casual drive along UT-56 to intersect with UT-18, the marathon course.  It took us about 40 minutes until we turned onto 18.  About 10 miles down the road, we saw the logs sitting ready for bon fires the next morning.

The starting line was busy with folks setting up lights, banners, etc.  The course is simple. It is straight down UT-18 with only a few turns once you get into St. George at about the 24 mile point. As we drove, the landscape enveloped me. It was gorgeous. The multiple colored mountain formations, the rolling terrain and the majesty of it all!  The few inclines that we were to run certainly didn’t seem like much of a challenge during our drive.  I had confidence this was going to be one of my better marathons.

When we finally arrived in St. George, we had lunch next to the convention center where the expo was held.  Green salad, bread, grilled shrimp, focusing on more carbs than protein. The expo seemed small in comparison to some but offered enough for the runner to fuel up or gear up if needed.  By way of marathon specific apparel there wasn’t much.  I got the finishers long sleeve shirt in my race packet but wanted something else. No short sleeves seemed to interest me so I opted for a really nice St. George fleece lined, wind, water proof jacket.

The rest of the afternoon was spent in the pool and arranging race gear, food, water, gels for the next morning.  We had dinner reservations for 6:30 at the Cliffside Restaurant but bumped them up to 5:45. We were seated outside overlooking the city. It was amazing!

Unfortunately, I was with 3 guys who couldn’t appreciate the height.  We ended up moving in doors but still had a nice view.   Dinner was good, not outstanding, just good. I had shrimp again, no wine, and ended the meal with coffee which was cold.  Back to the room for me and back out to find a place to watch the game for the guys.  I fell asleep by 9 pm while Ted, Rich, and Teddy went to Wild Wings.  They found out that they were limited to one drink if they didn’t order food. This was the law in Utah: restaurants are not bars so if you don’t eat, you don’t drink more than one alcoholic beverage.

RACE DAY

The alarm went off at 3:15 am.  I ate a Clif Bar and washed it down with water. Wandered back and forth in the room until 4:10 when I left to walk to the buses, 1 mile away.  I wore compression capri with a tank. Toss away items included sweats, zip up fleece, and a heat sheet from a previous marathon. I brought my own gloves even though they were giving them out as runners got off busses along with heat sheets.  At about 5:45 am, I snacked on ¾ of a honey waffle and ¾ of a banana.  At 5:30, I had a 5hour Energy shot to get things moving.  Even though I was wrapped up in my gear and tried to get near the bon fires, I was still cold. It was about 43 degrees at Center City, the starting line. As time moved on, the bon fires got smoky and stung my eyes, took my breath and stunk up my hair and clothes.

When I started running, all I could smell was smoke until I ditched my fleece at 6 miles.  Many porto potties at the start and the lines were short. The problem was the shivering while waiting to use the porto.

The start was delayed for a late bus. This seems to happen every year.  I positioned myself between the 4 hour and 3: 45 pacer and when it was time to go, ran easy and relaxed. I knew after the 13 to 14 mile point the hardest climbs would be over. We started running in twilight with many lamps along the first part of the course to guide us.  It wasn’t long before I saw Vejo Volcano at 7 ½ miles.  Running that long run up didn’t feel bad at all. I focused on even effort and was done with it before I knew it. Someone said the course would roll for the next 4 ½ miles. I didn’t remember that from the day before and to be honest, can only remember 2 distinct hills.

My training was perfect for this course.  I ran gentle rollers until 6-7 miles when I ran a 3 mile climb.  My elevation changes, maximum climbs and downhills in training closely replicated the marathon.  When training for this course that is important.  It is a series of long climbs and long declines that the legs need to be ready for and not so much quick ups and downs.

I controlled my pace throughout this marathon.  I let the down hills take me with no forced effort and ran strong and controlled up hill, using my arms to help power me up when the legs felt tired.

1st Half Splits:   8:55, 8:57, 8:34, 8:40, 8:33, 9:40, 8:09, 9:30, 8:55, 8:39, 9:02, 8:48, 8:29   – average cadence for this race was 179.

2nd Half Splits:  839, 8:49, 8:16, 9:17, 8:25, 8:53, 8:41, 8:13, 8:35, 8:32, 8:05, 8:31, 8:25, and 2:28 for .2.

Finish time:  3:48:49, pace 8:44.  My goal was anything under 3:50 so my BQ would be 20 minutes better than my required qualifying time.  Did it!!!

It seemed as if I ran down hill for almost the entire race.  It was only at about the 22st or 23nd mile that the intense urge to be done with the race hit me.  I soon got over it and found a second wind and ended up having to slow myself down.   I crossed the finish line feeling good.  In fact, 2 hours after finishing this race, we took off to Zion National Park and did some hiking for 2 hours.

St. George Marathon should be on everyone’s bucket list.  It’s a well organized, scenic, net downhill race that enables anyone who has the potential to BQ get it in this race.  Not a lot of communication for the race even on social media.  The runners guide has to be downloaded from the site and is pretty much the same as the previous year. Consistency is good right?  As for spectators, don’t expect the course to be lined with folks cheering you on.  They were spotty but that’s because the route is straight with few intersections.  When running the last miles, the spectators come out to cheer runners through the finish line.   There are 17 aide stations, plenty of potties along the course.  3 spots offered gels, there were oranges and other edibles handed out as well.

Another terrific feature of this race is the way the stats are presented summarizing your race. Check this out:

Let me know if you’ve ever run St. George or if you are going to next year.

 

Joanne

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