Sunday, May 19, 2013

2013 Ogden Marathon Race Recap - Ogden Utah

On Saturday May 18th, I ran the Ogden Marathon in Ogden Utah.  This was my 9th marathon and I've been training for it since February, if not earlier.

During the week, I had felt some sort of a twinge in my posterior tibial tendon.  I have had tendontitis with this before and was sort of worried that it would be a factor.  I am glad it wasn't and in fact I didn't feel any problems with it but it had been in the back of my mind for most of the week.

I left Friday night right after work and headed up to Ogden.  For my friends in the midwest, traveling through Salt Lake City on a Friday night isn't that bad... and I made the trip in less than an hour, despite going through a major city during rush hour (it would like going from Skokie to Joliet on a Friday night -- good luck on doing that).

The weather had been threatening rain for the past two days and when I got up there it was overcast and windy.  Parking at the expo was kind of crazy, but I managed to find a decent spot.  The expo was at the Union Station -- a museum for guns and trains.  Most of the exhibitors were inside but despite the inclimate and threatening weather, there were some activities outside as well.  I figured this was going to be a semi-small marathon, but I was impressed with the number of vendors.

After picking up my shirt and goody bag, I headed on over to IHOP.  It wasn't very busy and I knew what I was getting.  I toyed with going to Golden Corral but I knew I'd over eat and for a runner, there is nothing better than carbo loading on pancakes.  I wish I had done a bit more research into what to eat for dinner because Ogden does sport a nice downtown area with some unique eateries that would've been worth visiting.

I stayed at the Comfort Suites and despite the hotel being a good distance from the race start the place was filled with runners.  The room was pretty nice -- it wasn't cheap either, having paid close to $100 for it.  Desk area, two queen beds, nice bathroom -- it was quiet and comfortable.  They did have a free shuttle to the race, but not one on the way back.  I toyed with the idea of taking it and bumming a ride with someone on the way back (I was solo) but I decided to drive myself to the race start rather than bothering a total stranger at the race.

I hit the hay at 9:15 or so and slept half way decently until about midnight where I tossed and turned for about 75 minutes.  I had 3 alarms set to go off at 3:45 which woke me up out of a dead sleep.

When I woke up I looked outside and saw that it was raining -- from the looks of it hard.  I thought about bailing on the race, but after all the training, money and effort, I figured heck... I can bail out if it is really bad...

I ate cereal, drank some Powerade and assembled my gear and left the hotel at 4:20.  It was about 5 minutes to the race site and already people were filling up the parking lots.  The rain was a slow spitting drizzle and it wasn't really that bad.  Luckily I had bought some 33 gallon garbage bags and made an impromptu poncho out of one.  I gave some more to people in the parking lot and after a 5 minute walk boarded a nice tour bus.  They wanted you on the busses by 5AM and I was there in plenty of time.

It was about a 45 minute bus ride to the top of the canyon (elevation 5500 feet).  I wish we could've sat on the bus until the race start (7:15) but after a long, windy drive they dumped us unceremoniously off at a cow pasture (minus the cows).  It was like some refuge camp where everyone was huddled around smokey bonfires.  The rain was intermittent but mostly a dull spit / drizzle.  I found a place close to a bonfire, sat down with the 2500 other runners and made friends. You can look at the field here,

My poncho was working great and while it was chilly (probably low 40's) I was comfortable and warm.  The field was muddy, but not sloppy and there were some left over cow patties so I sat on my gear bag.  The bonfires were smokey, so it was like smoking a pack of cigarettes before the race started.  My clothes and sinuses smelled of hickory smoke for the rest of the day.

I wish I had brought my collection of garbage bags up there.  There were a lot of hapless souls that I could've helped out....

After 90 minutes of sitting around, the race started promptly at 7;15.  At this point, the rain picked up.  I put a sweatshirt in my gear bag and decided to go with: shorts, shoes, a t-shirt, a wind breaker, my garbage bag poncho, a winter hat, and two sets of gloves (a cheap throw away pair and some good ones over it).  I am glad I went with the double gloves -- my hands were largely warm the entire race.  My race bib was attached to my shirt, so anytime I went through a camera area I had to lift up my jacket & poncho to expose my bib so they could get my number.  Hopefully they got some pictures of me.

The first 3 - 4 miles of the race were absolutely gorgeous.  You are running by state parks with a rambling stream next to you.  Lots of trees and lush green foliage.  It was also largely downhill on a service road.  I started out at an 8:45 pace that started to dip into the 8:30's thanks to the fast downhill start.

After 4 miles you head out into farm land.  There are some rolling hills here that seemed mostly up rather than down.  Attentive readers will recall that I ran a 30K race a few weeks out here so this wasn't new territory for me.  In fact, I was kind of bored with it and I felt like it was work at this point of the race.  Despite slowing down a little, I felt I would make it up once I hit the top of the canyon.

I felt comfortable even though I could feel like my pace was starting to suffer.  For some reason my forearms were burning and I was fighting a growing cramp in my shoulder.  I think I was super tense because of the weather -- wondering if I was going to go into shock from the cold / wetness.  I also think I am going to have to find another hydration system other than my camelbak.  I love how much water it holds, but I don't think it allows me to run naturally and I think that was largely the reason why I was hurting.

By the half way point, my shoes were soaked and my running shorts felt like a wet bathing suit.  I looked longingly at the busses for the relay teams and thought about bailing on the race -- but I wanted my medal and I didn't want to have a DNF.  Once you quit once, it gets easier to quit in subsequent races and I didn't want to set up a pattern.  I kept telling myself at least it wasn't hot.  Unfortunately, by mile 10 my pace had really suffered and people were passing me.  At about mile 15 or so, the 4:00 group passed me, along with my dreams of a sub 4:00 marathon.

I reached the top of the canyon and here is where the downhills really started.  There were a few portions that were fast downhills, and it wasn't painful, even for someone who's legs were shot.  I had hoped to pick up my pace to the low 9's again but my legs and spirit weren't responding.  For some reason, I couldn't get my gear and at this point I was just trying to finish.  I felt hydrated and I was eating gels regularly... I guess it just wasn't my day.

The canyon section of the race were the best views of the course with towering canyon walls and even a waterfall. You can trace the area on google maps by going here.

After doing about 8 miles the course dumped you off onto the Ogden bike trail.  I expected this to be a dull section of the run, but I was mistaken.  There was actually some decent crowd support here and the twists and turns of the tree lined trail made it fun.

I was getting passed left and right at this point, and I was just in survival mode.  While I wasn't passing many runners, I was passing walkers.  I am guessing my pace was down into the low 11's or upper 10's.  I just didn't have it today and whether I had gunned through the first few miles too fast, the weather, or I was just undertrained, I am not sure.  Either way, I was frustrated but counting down every quarter mile made kept me going.

When I finished the race it looked like they had an awesome spread of food and drink.  Unfortunately, I didn't want any part of it.  I was tired, wet, buzzing on caffeine and sore. I kept moving and this was one of the few races where I didn't feel nauseated.  I pounded a coca cola (wonderful!) grabbed another for the road and made the half mile walk back to my car.  It was still raining and with teeth chattering I managed to find where I had parked.

I took a super long hot shower and hit up the Layton Golden Corral for my usual celebratory meal.  I sucked down at least 5 Arnold Palmers and ate a decent buffet.

Overall, I am disappointed with my time.  This course had a nice downhill profile (1500) and I was hoping to crack 4 hours.  I felt like I was trained well enough to achieve this.  I think some of my negative thinking got the best of me in the early miles and worrying about the rain and cold sapped my energy. 

Today I have the usual soreness but I've certainly felt worse post marathon.  I had some twinges in my achilles in the last mile but nothing to show for it today.  My right knee is a little tender, but overall I am in good shape.  I have some serious chaffing on my nipples (as expected -- imagine 4 hours of a wet technical shirt rubbing against them) and some redness under my arms (probably from the CamelBak straps).

The race was well run with some excellent food / water stops.  I'd definitely recommend this race for those looking for a beautiful, well organized marathon.  The 90 minute wait before the race wasn't very good and if it had been a torrential rainfall it would've been an absolutely miserable experience.  Hopefully they address that.

You can see my splits and tracking here: (bib #12874).  Also should have pictures posted of me (you can see me running with my garbage bag poncho).

Here are some of the photos I took:

The Expo
Me: exhausted, wet and cold after the race

The medal & shirt

Notice the clouds over the mountains.  Yup, that's where I ran

Where marathon legends eat!

Monday, May 6, 2013

The Trip home from Vernal

I'll admit, on the way to Vernal, I was in a hurry. I wanted to get my bib, check in the hotel and eat so I didn't make any stops.  That didn't stop me from appreciating what I saw on the way up there.  I was tempted to stop and take pictures or check out the views but I didn't.  On the way back, though I did stop by a ton of places of interest, snapped a few pictures and checked out the scenery.  It did take me an extra 30 minutes or so to get home, but it was worth it.

One of the first places to check was Starvation State Park.  I didn't actually go into the park, but along highway 40 there is a viewing area.  So I pulled over and got some pictures:

Outside of Heber City is Strawberry Reservoir.  Amazingly enough it looked like there was still ice and snow on the water.  The temperature also had dropped from the 70's into the low 50's while there.  I think I saw signs that said the elevation was roughly 8000 feet.  There were plenty of hiking trails too and it looks like it might be an interesting place to take a CamelBak and try and do a long run.  Also, this was only about an hour from Salt Lake City...

The trip back home was pretty uneventful.  My ears were ringing pretty good though from all the elevation changes.  Going through Park City always does that to me.  The two cities we passed through look like something you might find up in rural Wisconsin and I was wondering what people do for fun out there.  Definitely an agricultural lifestyle as I saw plenty of farming suppliers.

Enjoy the photos.

Vernal Utah / Post Race Activities

After running the Dino Half Marathon I decided to take a tour of the Vernal area.  Vernal, to me, appears to be sort of a tourist trap designed to celebrate its history associated with Dinosaurs.  There is a lot of ancient history here.  Over a hundred million years ago, the area was much like Florida: covered in lakes, rivers and swamp lands.  It was home to many dinosaurs.

While today it is a haven for fossils and there is no end of celebration in Vernal over this fact.  Just about everything in the town has some dino like attribute to it.  It reminded me a lot of like a desert Wisconsin Dells but without the swimming pools.

After the race and cleaning up / eating, I headed out to Steinaker State Park just a hop, skip and a jump outside of town.  This is a beautiful area with a massive reservoir used by boaters and fishers and those just looking for a scenic place to hang out.  I have attached the pictures below:

After spending a few minutes there we headed over to Red Fleet State Park.  I had read that you can see actual dinosaur tracks in the rock out there.  It was amazing at how fast the scenery changed as we drove there -- sprawling canyons and panoramic vistas.  Almost like something out of a postcard.  It reminded me a little bit of how Arizona must look like and it was like giong to a different planet or traveling back in time. 

They said the hike to the tracks was challenging and it was mid day, I had a half marathon in me and I was the only one willing to do the 1.5 mile hike.  I walked about .5 mile of the way and the trail certainly got hazy and rough so I headed back.  I was disappointed but I didn't want to get lost and I only had so much water with me.  I think I have had someone else (two heads are better than one) I would've made the venture. 

However, I did get a ton of photos of the area:

After exploring the canyon, I headed back to Steinaker and was going to walk on the trail, but it was closed for repairs.  I still wanted to do something before making the trip back to Salt Lake City, so I had a coupon for the Utah Field House of Natural History State Park Museum and decided to give it a go.  For $5, it was worth the tour.  They have a ton of exhibits and an interesting movie to start things off which shows where and why archaeologists are looking for fossils in the area (from the looks of it, it doesn't seem that hard to find them).  It took a little over an hour to go through the museum, but worth the price of admission.  There were a ton of other runners there taking advantage of their coupons as well.  It seems like everyone in town was wearing the green shirts given at the run.

Dino Dash Half Marathon

This past weekend (5/4/2013), I ran the Dino Half Marathon out in Vernal, Utah.  I have been itching to go out to Vernal for a while, having heard that the area was absolutely stunning.  Having a half marathon to run made the trip worthwhile.

From Cottonwood Heights, the trip takes just under 3 hours and runs about 175 miles.  The road there is mostly 2-lane highway with the obligatory passing lane thrown in.  Traffic wasn't that and you pass through 4 sizeable towns: Heber, Dueschne, Roosevelt and of course Vernal.  The route there was stunning -- to say the least and I will dedicate a post specifically for that.

I stayed at the Holiday Inn Express in Vernal -- great hotel -- a little pricey but worthwhile.  I had dinner at the Wingers Bar and Grill (sort of like Hooters without the scantily clad waitresses).  I was unsuccessful in locating the local Italian restaurant and decided to keep things simple.  I had rice, Mahi Mahi, steamed vegetables and plenty of complimentary popcorn.

The race started at 7:30 but I had to be at the Maesar Elementary School by 6AM.  So I was up at 4:45AM eating Life cereal by the handful and sucking down Gatorade.  I had no problems getting to the race site (thanks Google maps) and even led a fellow runner there. 

I boarded a really nice bus and soon enough I was driven to the race start -- some 13 miles up a canyon.  We were dumped off at about 6:30 and had to sit and relax for an hour in a campground area.  Unfortunately, for the 300 or so runners at the race, they only had 3 porta-potties. 

It was chilly up there -- and I mean up there -- starting elevation was at 7000 feet. I am guessing the temperature was in the upper 30's. Luckily I had worn sweats and a sweatshirt so I was comfortable but several of the others hadn't thought that far ahead and there were many shivering runners.  I made some friends as we exchanged stories about other races we had done.  The talk of the town though was the cool medals we'd receive if / when we finished.

Normally I have problems with elevation but today I didn't have any problems whatsoever.  No light headedness or ringing in my ears.  I felt a little sluggish, but I attributed that to the cold.

The race started exactly at 7:30 and we took off.  I put my sweats in the gear drop and ran with one glove (I lost one), shorts, and a technical t-shirt.  I had been debating on whether to run with the sweats, but I am glad I didn't... by mile 2 I was sweating and we had gotten into the sun.

The first 3 miles or so is all downhill - and fast.  I was hoping to run 8 minute miles, but with the fast decline I was nailing 7:30s and feeling very comfortable doing so.  If you look at and look for N. Dry Fork Road, Vernal Utah, you can see some of the pictures of the surrounding canyons... just awesome red rock canyons surrounded by lush vegetation.

I was doing pretty well and I figured I was in the top 25 or so.  I wanted to run a little slower, but it was almost impossible to avoid being pulled down the road.

There is a small climb around mile 4 or so that looked like worse than it was but I was well on pace to having a really good race.  The first 8 miles are down hill but I noticed the sections of downhill were getting less and less and my pace was normalizing back to an 8:00 min / mile.  Then mile 9 through 10 was moderately uphill -- nothing serious but I felt it.

After mile 10, my pace took a huge hit.  I was in the flats and the scenery had changed from towering canyon walls to residential farm community.  I was probably running 8:30's - 8:45's and my once speedy legs felt rubbery.  This was a common complaint after the race -- that people's quads had been beaten up so badly with the 1500 elevation drop in the first 9 miles that it was hard to get rolling again.

I finished in 1:43:20, 5th in my age group, about 22nd overall. I would've finished 4th but this was a chip timed event and the final burst that I used to keep my lead off two guys that had dogged me the last mile wasn't enough of a cushion (I think I lost 4th place by 2 seconds).  That is the downside to chip timed events -- if someone starts behind you, you have no idea how much of a lead you need.  Not that it matters much -- just an ego thing.

Overall, I felt pretty good about the race.  I would've liked to have run faster, but coming off of a 30K from last week, I liked what I did.  It is also a nearly 7 minute improvement over my Summerlin race.  So now I begin my taper for the Ogden Marathon.

The post race festivities were pretty good -- your typical water, Gatorade, chocolate milk and some fruit.  For $50 I got my money's worth on the event -- the shirt was nice and the medal of a Stegosaurus was certainly worth the trip.  I chatted with some people afterwards and went back to the hotel after I realized I was out of an age group award (I probably would've won something if they had 5-year increments instead of 10).

I did hit up Golden Corral afterwards (yes they have one in tiny Vernal).  It is an older one but the food was still decent.  I didn't do the damage I normally do there -- for some reason my appetite was supressed...

The next day I was somewhat sore from my run, mostly in my quadriceps.  Also, my biceps were sore -- I think the last few miles I really was using my arms to try and push myself forward.  My achilles was  alittle sore post-race, but I seem to be no worse for wear.