On Saturdays, our family enjoys going to Cracker Barrel from time to time. Since the Escalante Marathon was on Saturday, we move one of our favorite Saturday activities to Friday and had breakfast as a family in Springville.
As I said goodbye to my family, my girls wished me a good race. I’m starting to get the sense that they know what I’m doing when I go off to races for a few hours (or a day in this case).
The drive to Escalante was uneventful, but it was very enjoyable. I have always loved driving, traveling highways with such rich history. I-15 used to be the old U.S. Route 91, which…well, actually, I may have taken a bit of liberties with “rich history”. I just looked up I-15, confident to find a rich history, but found none. Either way, I-15 is a highway and I traveled on it. And enjoyed it. All of that is true.
Once I arrived in Escalante, which I quickly decided was far from the reaches of proper medical assistance, I drove over to packet pickup, but only one person was there. This person was very friendly. In fact, this would become a pattern that I’d notice over the next 18 hours. Everyone in Escalante is friendly. Google it.
After picking up my packet (the t-shirts hadn’t arrived, yet), I headed over to the Circle D Eatery to see what I could eat, that would profit the next 26.2 miles ahead. I arrived and was almost the only person in the place. But a friendly (see?) waitress led me to a table, where I sat, agonizing over the menu for the next 20 minutes.
I’d look at an item (like a cheeseburger) and then Google “cheeseburger and pre-marathon dinner”, only to find that the one thing that sounded good was a recipe for death. Ok, no cheeseburger. I moved through item after item, all of which were rejected by Google with warnings. Until…
I saw the Alaskan Salmon plate. It was about 18 bucks. I never spend 18 bucks on Alaskan Salmon in Escalante, Utah. But this was an important race. I’ve given up Dr. Pepper, all sodas, most foods that I’ve come to love for the last 15 years. So yeah, I’m gonna drop 18 bones on fish. Try to stop me.
It was delicious. Tasted so good! Worth every bit of damage done to my checking account. I will order this exact-same plate, the next time I run the Escalante Marathon.
After I finished, I paid, then drove down to a grocery store. I cased the place, looking like a criminal, when, in fact, I was looking for food that would be good to me in the morning. I ended up with a bag of bagels (tragically they are not sold in singles), strawberry cream cheese, and a banana.
I then drove back to the Padre Motel, where an argument had broken out next door. (This arguing between a man and a woman would continue, on and off, through the evening as I tried to sleep.) I arranged my running stuff (I am very particular about this on the night before a race), climbed into bed and ordered my brain to let me sleep.
And it did. I woke up at 11 pm, used the bathroom. Apparently, my neighbors had finally fallen asleep (or maybe something more sinister happened), because things were quiet. I went back to sleep.
At 5:30 am, my alarm woke me up. I dressed, took my stuff out to the truck, walked back inside my motel room and made sure I’d cleared everything out.
I drove 1 mile West of the Padre and parked my truck at the Escalante High School. Boarded my bus, made sure to sit in the cool section (toward the back) and settled in. I chatted with a couple of my closer seat-mates, while desperately trying to ignore the hills, the insane and frequent hills and the endless ride that a marathon bus ride always is. I ate the bagel and banana that I really, truly did not want to eat. But I know better. I am a seasoned marathoner, now, with 7 races behind me, all of which contain dozens of mistakes that I am learning from…including a brutal St George Marathon with a lack of nutrition.
We left the bus and lined up at the starting line. A gentleman, who loves his town, exhorts us to pay attention to the scenery and not just blast down the trail without taking in a beautiful view. A countdown began. Only to be stopped by a woman, who asked that she be allowed to tie her shoe. This is allowed in a small marathon, where only 42 finishers will be recorded. Then a final countdown.
And a canon goes off. And here’s how it all unfolds:
Within about three minutes, we’re all spread out.
Miles 1 and 2: Slight uphill. I had heard it might start out with a bit off uphill, even though the elevation profile shows down (those charts always mess me up).
Miles 3-5: I feel good. My breathing is weird, but that’s ok. I’m a couple of minutes ahead of my race bracelet, which has my projected (and optimistic) splits, which I will adhere to, for at least 12 miles.
Miles 6-10: Still feel good. The up and down of hills is amazing, and I can see how my legs are going to get hammered. Ugh…is that my IT Band, again? Not killing me, but it’s knocking on that door.
Miles 11-12: I’ve settled into a great pace, keeping about a 8:45 average.
Miles 13-15: Mile 13 brings everyone’s first big challenge, and we struggle up a pretty decent hill, which lasts for what I’m guessing is over a mile. Significantly harder than Veyo in St George Marathon, but me and a girl and another guy push through. Taking some chances on this hill. Will my energy deplete? No idea. I want to PR. Must take this chance. I remember to trust my hilly runs up to Paradise, California, which I’ve taken over the last couple of weeks. Keeping an 11 minute pace on this hill. I crest the hill and decide to skip the break and keep running. Feeling pretty darn good.
Miles 16-18: Ups and downs, with a final challenging hill. More brutal than the last. It is so tough, I can’t take more than little steps and ran at a 14 minute pace. At this point, I call it a day and walk the rest of this hill. I can walk a 15 minute pace and decide that the energy saved might benefit me later. The jury is still out on whether this is a good call. I take note that, as soon as I hit 18, I’ve run my farthest distance this year. The Murdock Canal 17 miler had this year’s honor, up to this point. I feel like I’m swimming the course. I think this, because I’ve been eating a ton of fish this month, and it seems relatable. Keep in mind- I am a cloudy thinker in races. I stretch my IT Band a couple of times. Each time, it seems to do the trick for a mile or two.
Miles 19-21: I feel…really good. I compare how I feel to last year’s St George and know that all of the things I’ve done this year have paid off. Bigtime. I have energy. My body is holding up. My back, shoulders, hips are all holding together nicely. Dang! There is bruising on my right, top foot. I keep pulling the tongue of my shoe back in place for about 10 seconds of comfort. This will eventually bruise my foot.
Mile 22: First real signs up breaking down. I feel tired. My body is now starting to break down. Things ache and I’m anxious for this race to end.
Miles 23-25.5: I am in trouble. I’m walking way too much and I’m out of energy. I start to run, but can’t figure out if I keep walking because I’m tired, or just hurt too much. When I realize I don’t know the answer, I start running again, but have to stop after 1/5 mile or so. I repeat this exercise for the duration of this race.
Miles 25.6-26.2: I can see the pavilion. I start to run, again. It must be a 10 minute pace (which is awesome, I decide), and I keep this pace until I cross, by myself, the finish line. Not once on this course have I stopped realizing how beautiful the run was. Gorgeous course.
4:40:32. This is a PR for me, on the hardest marathon course I’ve been on. This year has paid off and I’m definitely in the best shape of my running career.
One of the race organizers asks if I’ll be back for this race. I’ll be back.
I’m happy. I’m in a good mood. I feel relatively good. I’m able to talk with people, smiling.
I head back to the truck and sit down. I start the engine and point north on I-15.
Driving home, the entire way, I start planning my next marathon.