I’m always up for a good challenge, so lucky me, I got to run the Park City (Utah) Marathon Saturday. The course starts at 6,450 feet above sea level, spends 16 miles climbing to 7,250, then drops back down to 6,450. It’s a difficult run, to say the least. The altitude is a significant problem, and the hills are extremely tough. I headed in hoping to break 3:40 with a solid run.
I felt fairly decent heading in. It was a short week for me, a Saturday marathon following a marathon the previous Sunday. But I didn’t run much this week and my legs felt OK. I didn’t fear or dread the course like I might have in the past. But I knew it was going to be a long day.
My plan was to run hard, but conservative, until we peaked at 7,250 feet. I kept an elevation window on my Garmin so I could keep an eye on our progress. For the first several miles, we went through a series of rolling hills, never really getting much higher than 6,550. I started getting anxious, because I knew the longer we waited to really start climbing, the steeper the hills would be.
Along the way, I thoroughly enjoyed the scenery. Following Humpy’s Marathon in Anchorage last week, it would have been easy for me to be unimpressed with Park City. But this course was pretty nice. I’d put it up there with the best I’ve run this year. It’s a ski resort town and I didn’t see a single thing that didn’t look nice. It was very green, extremely sleepy and peaceful.
About 1/2 the course, maybe a little less, was on either gravel or a single-track trail. So that, combined with the altitude and climbs, made it a very tough run. But it was a very nice, peaceful run. I’d highly recommend it if you’re not afraid of a challenge.
Anyways, we finally started climbing pretty well somewhere a little after mile 10 or 11. Temperatures were fairly cool for most of the run, but we were exposed for a good chunk of it and the sun started peeking out about halfway through. The last three miles before we peaked were a fairly solid climb and it started to get pretty difficult. I held on pretty well getting to the top — I think one thing I’m getting good at is running through pain, even if the speed isn’t all there, so I handled this pretty well.
I was excited to hit the turnaround because I run well on downhills. I moved for a couple of miles and passed some folks, but we faced a ridiculous climb at mile 18. It was probably 1/4 mile and it must have been a 20-degree incline. When I turned the corner and saw that, I knew it would be a killer. Everybody else was walking it, but I ran (well, shuffled), because I hate trying to start running after walking. My shuffle was only good for a 15 minute/mile pace — that’s how steep it was!
Once I got through there, I started to run out of steam. I’d thrashed myself getting to that point, and there was no air to breathe. I kept going as hard as I could, which wasn’t very hard. I really wanted to come in under 3:40. I think this course adds 25-30 minutes to your time, especially if you don’t have the altitude experience.
We were exposed for most of the last 8 miles and it started getting fairly warm. I kept my eye on my progress and knew I was fairly close and by about 23, I figured I’d end up within 20 seconds of 3:40, either way. Once I hit 25, I didn’t look at my overall time or my pace or my heart rate. I just ran to the finish. I really enjoyed the run, but I was really glad to cross the finish line and stop moving!
I stopped my timer and got some fluids in my system before checking my time. I wanted to take a minute to not worry so much about my time and catch my breath after completing a good, hard run. I finally took a look, and I went 3:39:40. I was pretty happy about it. Nothing I’m going to do back flips over, but I feel like I ran well, fought hard, and gave it my best shot. I have no shame in this run.
And really, when I compare it to how I did at the Grizzly Marathon three weeks ago, I’m pretty pleased. That race was challenging with climbs and gravel roads above 4,000 feet, and my 3:35 there was actually decent. Today’s course was easily 10-15 minutes slower than that one. I’ve worked fairly hard on my speed in training this month and I think I’m starting to run a little better, even if the times don’t reflect that.
I did some different things to manage my nutrition during the race today — I have a few target races coming up and I want to try to delay fatigue. So, I guess I’m happy with this one. Individually, I’m comfortable with how I ran. But beyond that, the Operation Jack train is still rolling.
I’m starting to run out of time, but I’m really starting to get excited to think about the fact that I had an idea and I went after it and I’m doing everything I can do get it done. Nothing feels better than running yourself into the ground working as hard as you can.
So, 39 down, 22 to go!
I forgot my camera in my motel, so I had to use my phone. That’s why the picture is terrible.