Ogden marathon. 2:30:03, second place, course PR. I am very happy with this time, as well as the place. It seemed like the odds were against me, but I was able to beat them.
Ogden marathon has an elevation drop of 900 feet, and on surface looks like a fast course. It is not as fast as it appears. The course record is only 2:29:01 set by Joe Wilson in 2005, and there is a good reason for it. The first 8 miles is a gentle drop, then rolling hills up to 18. The race starts at 5400 feet, but drops only to 4900 by mile 17. Then a short abrupt drop right before 18, that evens out. Another abrupt drop after 20 for the next 2 miles, more gradual in the next 2, and then essentially flat on the last 2. See Paul's course map for details.
Of all the courses in Utah, I believe it is the most DNF-inviting. A runner thinks he is going to get an amazing time because of the elevation drop. Everything goes well for the first 5 miles, then he is a little off-pace in the next 3, and then he has 10 miles of absolute mile split horror to endure as he battles the rolling hills at about 5000 feet elevation. The subsequent downhill helps a bit, but there is not enough of it to make up time, and the legs are usually not fresh enough to really get some solid speed.
At the start, in addition to myself we had the following contenders I expected to be in the lead pack:
Joe Wilson, PR of 2:21 in Austin, last year's winner of Ogden and St. George, first American in Salt Lake and DesNews Marathons last year, and name a race in Utah that he has not run and won. Beat me in Moab half by three and a half minutes.
Mike Kirk, PR of 2:23, winner of St. George in 2004. Beat me in Moab half by over a minute, and in the Salt Lake Track Club 15 K by 44 seconds.
Nate Long, PR of 2:34, winner of Top of Utah last year, his first and only marathon. Not a fast PR, but he beat me in that race. Ran a 50:21 15 K on a less than ideal course this year.
Steve Ashbaker, beat me twice last year setting a 1:07 half PR (Hobblecreek, fast course), while I set mine. This was probably equivalent to a 1:10 sea-level. He also beat me in the Top of Utah marathon last year setting his PR of 2:36. Granted I did not have a good race then, but still this is a psychological advantage. His recent workouts indicated that he was capable of running a 2:30 in Ogden. Mine predicted only 2:33 if I had a good race. However, his probability of having a bad race statistically is much higher than mine, but when he has a good one, better watch out.
The gun went off, and the pack of five formed just like I expected. We were coasting on a gentle downhill at a relaxed 5:40 pace. At mile 3 Steve got a little antsy and opened up a lead. I gave him a verbal warning, but he did not listen. Pretty soon Mike Kirk made a mild effort to go after him. I saw an opportunity. Catch Steve, then trade leads with him, maybe Mike will join, and get away from Joe and Nate while they are goofing around.
So I executed the plan. Steve and I have trained together and practiced 1 minute lead trade-off extensively. So as soon as I caught him, we started our maneuver. Mike caught us, and we invited him to participate. He agreed.
So we worked like a clock. The pace picked to the 5:30 range, and felt good. We made our way to 8 miles where the downhill ended, and made a turn towards Eden. What a name for a place on a marathon course around the half-mark! At thirteen you are in Eden, and then around 20 you feel like you will meet Adam and Eve pretty soon.
Joe and Nate caught up to us. I invited them to join in our lead trade off. Joe wanted to do a mile at a time, but it did not work, because we already had our structure going. At around 13 I remarked that we had a pack of 5 good runners but the money was only 3 deep. We hit the half in 1:13:42. Good pace.
At 14 I took my turn to lead, but at the end of my minute nobody volunteered to take over. So I kind of on accident started a break away. The more I thought about it as I climbed the hill, the more the break-away made sense to me. So I went for it full blast. To my surprise, Joe did not try to cover it. Ok, no problem.
I opened up a good lead, and then Joe and Mike finally started a pursuit. I hit 20 miles in 1:53:44, and was very happy. Finally by 21 Mike caught me alone without Joe. Being caught is not the best thing, but I was happy because I got caught by a teammate rather than Joe or Nate. Mike and I both run for Wasatch Running, a running shoe store in Sandy owned by Glen Gerner. So I saw the race now more of Wasatch Running vs. Weber State Alumni/Ogden boys than me vs. everybody else.
By that time, I felt ok, but not exceptionally well. I asked Mike if he wanted to go or work with me. He said he wanted to work together. So we did. He gave me an update on what was going on behind. He dropped Joe at 20, but Joe was dangerously close. So Mike suggested we should put on some distance on Joe. We hit a downhill mile in 5:32, and another in 5:25. I was absolutely amazed at this pace that late in the race even on a downhill. However, I was running at my limit. Right before 23 I backed off and told Mike to go. He opened up a bit of a distance, and ended up 34 seconds ahead with 2:29:29, second fastest time in the history of the race. Mine was third fastest.
After the interviews, I ran back to mile 24 to meet Eric. We ran together and he got 3:47:44.
In the evening, ran 1.5 miles with Benjamin. Total of 32.5 miles for the day. A very long day.