September 16, 2012

2012 Top of Utah Marathon

Final stretch of the TOU marathon!
Yesterday I won the Top of Utah marathon in 2:22:12. This was my 4th marathon and first time breaking the tape in first place - it felt good!

Below I've posted my recap and lots of photos... Here's some more links as well - Fast Running Blog race reportFull Results  - Herald Journal Newspaper Article (this is pretty good, they do a great job of covering local running races... although I'm not a professional despite what it says in there!) - Herald Journal Photos. My pre-race thoughts and plan for the rest of the year can be found in Friday's post.

OK - here's how the race played out...

Some crazy guy sprinted off the starting line like a madman, but that only lasted for about 30 seconds. Then I found myself in the lead with Jon Kotter (who I figured would be my primary competition) and Steve Shephard right beside me. Steve ran w/ us for about 3 miles, then it was just Jon and I for a long time. I wanted to come through the halfway point somewhere between 1:09 and 1:10. I figured that was fast enough to run a quick time if I felt great, but I wouldn't be risking a major blowup either. 

Running down the canyon was honestly pretty boring (like a well-run marathon should be in the early miles). I just tried to settle into a rhythm and run good tangents. It seemed like Jon was content to follow whatever pace I set. I could sense that his breathing was a little more labored than mine was, but he is a really, really tough racer and competitior - so I wasn't taking him lightly by any means. I had a race on my hands.

Splits until the halfway point were: 5:16, 5:15, 5:14, 5:10, 5:21, 5:17, 5:18, 5:13, 5:17, 5:26, 5:22, 5:12, 5:16. The half-marathon split was 1:09:14. Perfect.

We came out of the canyon and I saw Andrea for the first time just past 14 miles. She handed me a gatorade bottle, which was my first fluids of the race. Yeah, not ideal, but I blew through all the aid stations too fast and missed all the cups (not that I can drink out of them anyways). Andrea was all over the course - she wasn't allowed to bike w/ me, but she still got to 8 different locations over the last 12 miles and handed me drinks and words of encouragement everytime. As always, I owe a lot of my success in general to her support and influence, but today she also played the very specific and important role of keeping me somewhat hydrated. I didn't drink much in terms of quantity during the race, but the frequent sips in the later miles were enough to get me through.

Back to the race, miles 14-16 were 5:17, 5:19, 5:22. My right hamstring started to lock up a bit somewhere around 15 miles and that got me a bit worried because that could be a problem (ask Andrea, or Ryan Hall) if Jon made a move. I backed off the pace and bit tried to keep the effort level relaxed. The focus shifted more to racing than worrying about time at that point. I started to think about when I would make a move and decided I would wait for an opportunity on the upcoming hills. Miles 17 and 18 were 5:28, 5:28.

The police escort managed to not lead us off the course like they did to Paul last year, and a little past 18 miles we started to climb the big hill. Jon told me that he was tightening up and couldn't hold the pace anymore. I guess that's what happens when you run the Alta 8K the week before TOU :-) Jon is a great guy and awesome runner, and we slapped hands and wished each other the best. As I pulled away I told him that I hoped I didn't see him again until after the finish, but at no point over the next couple miles did I think the race was over... I was definitely worried that he might find a second wind and come back. So I tried to build a lead up the hills, running miles 19 and 20 in 5:36, 5:37, then back down mile 21 in 5:29.

As I went past the TOU 1/2 finish line in Providence, I thought about how much nicer it is to just run hard for a little over an hour. I could sense that although my pace was slowing down, my lead was also increasing. I went into "DON'T BLOW UP LIKE BOSTON AND PHILLY" mode (aka no miles over 6:00) as I wound my way into Logan. Miles 22-24 were 5:43, 5:46, 5:43.

Just after mile 24 Andrea yelled out "Hey! You're winning a marathon!" and it sort of hit me that I was going to win the race. I knew I wasn't going to fall apart if I maintained the same effort level, and while my hammy was tight, it was manageable as long as I didn't have to sprint.

Going up Main Street, I got a boost when my friend Adam's daughters were jumping up and down cheering "Go Jake Go Jake!" That put a huge smile on my face because they are pretty much the cutest girls ever. Miles 25 and 26 were 5:47 and 5:44. I felt like I could have gone to another gear, but I also just sort of wanted to cruise in and enjoy the victory.

I came around the corner and started to look for the moose. Earlier this week Andrea found a stuffed moose at DI and we had a plan that I would carry the moose across the finish line (like Meb K carried the flag at the trials/olympics) if I was winning (because TOU's logo is a moose). Well, I was winning so I wanted my moose! With about a tenth of a mile left I saw my friend James running towards me to the left of the finishing chute and he smoothly handed it off to me. It was a lot of fun crossing the line, breaking the tape, and pumping the moose in my hands. Everyone in the finishing area got a kick out of it. I was all smiles. Final time was 2:22:12.

I immediately got my hamstrings wrapped in ice (they are feeling OK now), then had fun watching everyone else come in. Lots of excellent races from several of my friends. It made me really happy to see a lot of them have good days. I couldn't believe how deep the women's race was, with the top 5 all breaking 3 hours (including Rachelle w/ a 2:58!!!).

I'm happy with the results today. Anytime you win a marathon, you can't really complain. There are some things I know I could have done differently in training this summer that would have made me stronger over the last 10 miles of the race, but I didn't want to make this a super hard training cycle. I wanted to put myself in position to win TOU and run a good time, which I did. I know I can go faster than 2:22, and I will. This wraps up a solid summer - 1:06:03, 15:17, and 2:22:12 in the past 3 weeks - I'll take that.

Some quick additional bullet points I want to get down...

-I took about one-third of a gel during the entire race. I opened 2 packets but really didn't want much of either. I know I need to get better at this in the future. Andrea thinks that part of the reason I fade at the end of marathons is due to lack of calories (both at breakfast and during the race itself), and I agree with her. But for today, I was willing to take my chances and not risk upsetting my stomach. That's why I love the half-marathon, you don't have to worry about that kind of stuff at all.
-Weather was cool and perfect. That's primary reason I was able to get away without drinking much. In the two warmer and/or humid marathons I've run, staying hydrated has been a challenge. 
-I'm not really a great downhill runner. But that's OK. The big ones in the future are going to be on flat courses anyways.
-I am extremely fortunate and lucky to have such an amazing support system and group of friends in Utah. Thank you everyone for all the positive thoughts and encouragement!!!
-The Fastwitch 6 is an amazing shoe. No feet issues at all. In fact, I didn't even feel the need to take my shoes off afterwards, and we walked around for quite a while.
-Moose trophy = awesome!!! 

The start
Jon (#3) and I right before the start
Mile 14
~16.5 miles into the race
Around 19.5 miles when I started to break away
Crossing the line w/ the moose!

With Allie and Rachelle - who finished 3rd and 5th, respectively
Top 5 men
In addition to this moose trophy, I took home a cool $1500 for winning this race

When they give you bib #1, you have to perform up to that level!


  1. Replies
    1. Thanks Christie and congrats to you as well on the PR!

  2. Amazing!! Congrats!! Your pictures are always so beautiful!! Question for you, what is a tangent? "I just tried to settle into a rhythm and run good tangents."


    1. Thanks Kristen!

      "Tangents" are basically the shortest distance between two points on a curve or turn. In a race that has a windy road, you can end up adding on some distance if you simply follow the way the road gradually turns. Courses are measured using the shortest distance possible (the reason most people end up measuring courses "long" on their Garmins). Running the tangents takes some skill and experience. I feel like I am getting a lot better at it.

      This page has some graphics that display what I am talking about...

  3. Awesome! You are just so deserving of breaking that tape and it is so fun to relive it all. Even though I wasn't there to see it the pictures make me feel like I was right there celebrating with you. Andrea is getting very good with the camera and I really appreciate all of the pictures. Thanks so much Andrea!

    Lastly those pictures of the deer are really sweet!

  4. this is fantastic! congratulations!!!
    great pictures!!!
    You won a marathon!!! that is huge!!!! bravo to you!

  5. Awesome job! Looks like you got in a strong effort without pushing it over the edge. If you're looking for fuel ideas, check out some of the gummies made by the different companies. Pouring gel in small water bottles may also work as well. I had some stomach issues with gel but once I put it in a water bottle, it digested much easier. It also made the water thicker, which settled in my stomach more easily.

    1. Yeah I need to play around w/ the gel/drink mix idea. I've seen others do it before. Its a good idea... thanks Scott.