Note on the course measurement/timing: Using the course tool, the course came out to 26.28, which I would normally consider to be close enough, but the stretch from 26 to 26.2 was clearly long (and could have been 0.28 given how long it took). Also my official time in the results is different from what I got on my watch. I know that they didn't start the race on time so that may have messed with things a little bit. Therefore my best guess is 3:02:04 for 26.28 (6:56 pace).
I had heard that there's a popular marathon in Southern Utah in October. It's got a few climbs but is a net downhill and some of the state's best runners show up. This year I finally gave in to peer pressure and signed up for the Escalante Canyon Marathon.
Although I am in the best shape I've been in since early 2012, I was not exactly marathon prepped for this race. I had done no workouts that would help get me through the last few miles. Therefore, knowing how much the race would beat me up, I wasn't sure about pushing it too hard and instead planned on cruising just fast enough to take second behind Jake.
That plan was not to be however as Gary Krugger, an experienced marathon who has run sub 3 in all 50 states, showed up. For perspective, at my last UT marathon (Ogden 2014) Gary ran 2:40 to my 2:58. I didn't know who Gary was until I looked him up just now, but it became clear over the first few miles of the race that I needed to take him seriously.
Mile 1 7:12 (Adjusted Pace=6:27, Projection=2:54:04)
Uphill mile to start. I ran with Devra and we were both breathing hard, I could really feel the altitude. Gary was about 10 seconds ahead and Jake was out of sight.
Mile 2 7:06, 14:18 (6:30, Projection=2:55:21)
After a mile I quickly decided that Gary posed too much of a threat to let him get away and that I should go catch him. I caught him during this mile and he didn't seem to be struggling, but rather conserving energy.
Mile 3 6:57, 21:16 (6:31, Projection=2:55:45)
I opened up some distance in this mile as we finally crested the hill. I could still barely see Jake in sight, but it would be the last time. I was disappointed seeing this split. At over 21 mins for 3 miles I felt it would be almost impossible to break 3hrs. So I decided to just forget about my overall time and just go by feel. The next few miles were all on a running on top of a narrow mesa that slope down gently. Off to the left and right were pretty spectacular views.
Mile 4 6:05, 27:20 (6:31, Projection=2:55:45)
Oh, right, of course, downhills make you faster. This concept has become foreign to me in the last couple of years. Still this mile was difficult as I was still feeling the elevation, even though it felt easy on my legs. I became concerned that I wasn't going to last very long at this pace, but this seemed to be how fast my legs wanted to run.
Mile 5 6:09, 33:29 (6:30, Projection=2:55:22)
Another fast mile down a gentle gradient and I started to think in terms of how far ahead of 7 minute pace I could get. I figured that I would need to be 8 mins ahead of 7 minute pace by mile 12 to get a sub 3.
Mile 6 6:05, 39:34 (6:25, Projection=2:53:32)
Yet another fast mile and my confidence was growing. Unfortunately, I could still hear Gary behind me so I knew that I had to keep pushing. At this point of the race, the Mesa narrow and you start to travel along the Hogback. This is a windy road along a ridge with steep dropoffs on either side, it is one of the craziest roads I've run on.
Mile 7 6:14, 45:48 (6:32, Projection=2:55:58)
The road started to go up and down more here and I lost a little rhythm, but I will still feeling good.
Mile 8 6:16, 52:04 (6:31, Projection=2:55:37)
The road started to go down more steeply here, punctuated with a few short climbs. I'm not used to downhill running so I kept my stride short to save my legs for later. Still I could feel my quads were starting to fatigue already. Fortunately, I knew that this super steep downhill woudn't last for very long. Gary seemed to have fewer qualms about the downhill and I could hear his footsteps getting closer to me.
Mile 9 6:14, 58:18 (6:42, Projection=2:59:05)
The first time I really fell off pace according to the course tool. This mile had some really steep decents and I just was trying to save my legs. Gary was now only 5-10 seconds behind me.
Mile 10 6:11, 1:04:29 (6:30, Projection=2:55:29)
I consciously picked up my downhill game here.
Mile 11 6:01, 1:10:30 (6:26, Projection=2:54:20)
Last mile of downhill and I was already starting to get sad about leaving it.
Mile 12 6:41, 1:17:11 (6:20, Projection=2:52:44)
Last bit of flat plus a climb towards the end. My effort went way up here and the adjusted pace reflects that. I was 6:49 ahead of 7 min pace, not enough. That meant that I would need to climb better.
Mile 13 9:19, 1:26:31 (6:52, Projection=3:00:49)
This mile was just brutal, an unrelenting 8-9% grade the whole way. It seemed like Gary was dropping back here and just hoping that I would blow up. As I hit the 13th mile, I knew that I would not be able to climb well enough to get a sub 3.
Mile 14 7:17, 1:33:48 (6:36, Projection=2:57:09)
First time I saw my support crew. They asked me how I was doing and I just said that this course is "Weird". Basically what I meant by that was that I had just burned myself up running a bunch of fast downhill miles, but that my splits weren't even that fast (64 mins through 10 miles) compared to a flat course. Basically, I was totally unprepared to run this type of race.
Mile 15 7:05, 1:40:53 (6:40, Projection=2:58:00)
I was starting to feel a little more positive here as I was getting closer to the top of the climb, and the last couple of splits had been a bit more reasonable.
Mile 16 8:57, 1:49:50 (6:48, Projection=2:59:35)
Another lousy mile, even accounting for the gradient. I looked down at the start of this mile down and could see Gary one switch back behind (about 90 seconds). I think I put quite a bit more distance on him during the rest of the climb.
Mile 17 7:42, 1:57:32 (6:51, Projection=3:00:06)
Crested the second of the two massive climbs during this mile. Couldn't immediately get going again. Now I was faced with the prospect of nine more mile to run, the actual hard miles of a marathon, with very little confidence in my fueling.
Mile 18 6:24, 2:03:56 (6:55, Projection=3:00:42)
Still feeling ok here, but not pushing all that hard. Thinking that I need to save something for the last 3-4 miles.
Mile 19 6:30, 2:10:26 (6:54, Projection=3:00:34)
Here I was thinking that maybe I could break three if the course didn't get too much more challenging.
Mile 20 6:47, 2:17:13 (7:00, Projection=3:01:28)
Still thinking maybe I can do it. Need to just run a little faster than 7 flat pace the rest of the way.
Mile 21 6:37, 2:23:50 (7:10, Projection=3:02:21)
Here Andrea jumped in and ran with me for a bit and I started to go a little faster, but it was mainly due to the course going downhill more.
Mile 22 7:06, 2:30:56 (6:59, Projection=3:01:16)
The course flattened out here and I struggled to maintain the pace. I was still trying to fight for a sub3. I thought maybe if I could get there with a solid kick.
Mile 23 7:07, 2:38:03 (7:04, Projection=3:01:45)
The course flattened out here and I struggled to maintain the pace. I was still trying to fight for a sub3. I thought maybe I could get there with a solid kick.
Mile 24 7:24, 2:45:27 (7:10, Projection=3:02:14)
Mile 25 7:18, 2:52:45 (7:01, Projection=3:01:43)
Mile 26 9:18, 3:02:03 (7:17)