"Never limit where running can take you"
- Bart Yasso
I've heard Bart say this a lot and I think they're words to live by...assuming you're a runner. If you're not, it really makes no sense.
I didn't have a race on my calendar this weekend. All of that changed while we were packing for our trip to Salt Lake City on Thursday night (Translated: Jo was packing while I screwed around on the Internet). I discovered that there would be a road Marathon in Layton Utah (20 minutes away) on Saturday and they were still taking online registration.
As always, I was on the fence about doing ANOTHER race, but Jo insisted that we sign me up right away. Who am I to argue? I just go with the flow...
My logic suggested it would make a great training run for the Oil Creek 100 AND double as a recovery run for my 50 mile training run (also for Oil Creek) from last weekend. The whole idea was simply too genius to pass up.
We flew in Friday morning and headed directly to packet pickup.
Now...this is a road race. Which means there is likely to be a few road runners there. Which also means there will be a lot of people talking about Hal Higdon, heart rate monitors, GU, training cycles, and tapering. All of these topics bore me. So I'll just keep to myself.
This is a point to point race, which is a bonus. The first 10 miles take place on Antelope Island, which is a state park in the middle of the Great Salt Lake. It's wild and remote, and also home to several hundred buffalo. After leaving the island, we transition onto the causeway that takes us 7 miles across the lake, then we run through a rural area before heading into the finish. Sounds pretty cool for a road race.
The race started at 6:30 (still very dark), but we had to be on the buses between 4:30 and 5:00 for the shuttle to the island. No spectators allowed, which means Jo can go shower and meet me at the finish.
4:30 and ready to go!
Headed to my big yellow Limousine!
The bus ride out was interesting. There was a lot of nervous chatter about the race. People exchanging stories about their training and their expectations. It seems nobody slept the night before due to all the nervous energy and anxiety.
I wanted to say "Yeah...I never heard of this race until 36 hours ago. I slept like a baby after killing a 6 pack and eating pizza last night. Sooooo...you trained for this?"
Anyway...I kid. Running a marathon is really hard.
The bus dropped us at the start line, which was on a two lane road in the middle of the island. It was pitch black and 52 degrees. There was one gas heater set up. 52 degrees is really nice running weather...when you're running. It's not so nice when you're in running clothes and NOT running. We were crammed around that heater like a litter of kittens looking for a tit to suckle. This went on for over an hour while we waited. I used every last bit of civility and patience I had during that time.
The race started right on time, and I'm sure we were all happy to get moving.
My plan was to turn my iPod on, and switch my brain off. I was just going to run at an easy pace and get my miles in without regard to my finish time. Coming off the VC 50 miler a week prior put a hurting on me. I was just going to let my legs dictate the pace.
Two mile into the race, I saw a huge herd of buffalo on the slope above the road. It was still dark and I could barely see them moving around in the distance. I was bummed not to get a better look at them, because I had never seen them in the wild.
Our first aid station came at mile 3, then every 2 miles after that (all the odd numbered miles).
View after passing the 3 mile station. Still pretty dark.
I was running well, but at a leisurely pace. I enjoyed the landscape and stopped frequently to take pictures and generally behave like a tourist.
View of the Wasatch just beyond the lake.
More...Salt Lake and the Wasatch beyond.
View, looking back to the start.
At mile 3, I saw a large group of mule deer above the road. Like the buffalo from earlier, they were too far off and it was too dark to get a picture. It was a cool scene nonetheless.
Then at mile 5ish, I saw 3 large antelope running at full speed from the lake, headed toward us. I've seen antelope several times in the past and noticed that they either stand perfectly still, or they go full tilt! These over sized goats can run faster than any animal I've ever seen in the wild, but I'm not convinced they really have a plan. They just run.
These guys seemed to follow me all day. Turnabout is fair play!
Sun finally rising over the Wasatch.
Near mile 7, the road rose up and curved to the right. From where we were running, I could see a small herd of buffalo on the slope below the road. They were more than a mile off, but they weren't going anywhere. I made mental note of the location but lost sight of them because of how the ground drops off from the road. So I left the road and crept over the hill and found them just below me. I snapped a few pictures and carried on. DISCLAIMER: If leaving the road during the race is a violation of park or race rules, I didn't really do it. This race report is strictly for entertainment purposes and nothing herein should be taken as factual.
Not a great picture, but they were there!
More buffalo near mile 9
These animals are huge!
After spending 10 miles snapping pictures, and occasionally running, we were leaving the island. Running on Antelope Island was probably the coolest experience I've ever had in a road marathon.
Starting out on the causeway, I was feeling good and enjoying the run. But I knew this next 7 miles across Salt Lake would be a challenge. Nothing but water to look at on both sides of the road and there was an odd smell that seemed to be a mix of sulphur and salt. Not a great smell to be sucking into your lungs for 7 miles.
However, I did think it was a cool experience to run across this section of the lake. But 3 miles would have been sufficient.
View looking back toward the island
After leaving the causeway, we turned off and began to meander through a farming area outside Layton. This is like a lot of road races I've done in the rural Pennsylvania area, except there were no rolling hills like we have back there.
This section had a lot of REALLY LONG straight sections and became pretty boring after a while. I was still running well, but losing focus and was just ready for it to be over.
My right calf had been tight for a few miles and my left hip flexor was sore. These are just symptoms from a 50 mile race with 10,000' of vertical gain from 7 days prior. While I wasn't worried about injury, I also didn't want to provoke anything. I slowed to a very easy pace and kept running.
When I passed the 25 mile mark, I kicked it up a bit and held a steady pace for the last mile of the race. In a rare move, I was actually wearing my Garmin, so I knew exactly what my finish time would be. I planned to run an average of sub 10 minute miles, assuming my body was cool with that. And that's exactly what I did. Nice and easy the entire way.
Coming to the finish
Crossing the finish line in 4:13. Nowhere near a fast race, but not bad for a training run and picture taking tour.
As soon as I finished, I gathered my medal and Jo met me at the end of the chute. I immediately said "OK then...let's go!" We were gone within a minute of my finish. I did what I set out to do, so it was time for a cold beer and a shower.
The race itself really is pretty cool and I'm glad I ran it. I'm not a huge fan of road races, but it's good to mix them in on occasion for conditioning purposes. Trails can soften you up over time and if that happens, injury is just around the corner.
The race had great volunteers and organizers and I hope it does really well over the years. This is the third year and they seem to have their act together. They should be proud of what they have here.
I can talk all sorts of smack about ANY road race, so take it for what it is. I enjoyed this run far more than most. Especially Disney. I hate Disney.
Now that I finished this race, I'll spend the rest of my week out here on hill training at elevation. The Wasatch is the best venue for just such a thing. Then I have a couple of easy weeks until the Oil Creek 100. It's going to be an amazing time with all of my best running friends, especially when I kick ALL their asses!