Along comes Park City, Utah. The date for the race was ideal, 6 weeks prior to Chicago and far enough out so that I could adequately train.
Thursday’s flight out was eventful since we were ultimately delayed about an hour due to storms in the area and then due to the delay we were stuck on the tarmac waiting for takeoff. Once we got under way our pilot came on to tell us that only 2 planes were able to takeoff after us due to another storm that blew through Chicago!
We arrived in Salt Lake City and drove to Park City. The drive was rather uneventful but driving into the mountains with semis on the road can be rather nerve-racking when you are not used to it.
We spent most of Friday driving around town and the surrounding area just getting used to the altitude. Since I have never been at this altitude I was not sure what to expect. I found out that my muscles were tingling most of the night Thursday and by Friday they were feeling good but tired. I had trouble sleeping at this altitude, or maybe it was the humidity which was very low (10%) compared to home, and didn’t get sleep that I am used to.
Saturday morning came and I was up and ready to go at 5:30 am. I had half a banana and about a third of a breakfast bar. I drank about 20 oz of water and took 2 electrolyte pills. Got dressed and started to bitch about my shoes not fitting properly…at this point my wife jumped in and told me to knock of the negative talk, I was just making excuses and that everything would be fine if I just kept a positive attitude. She was right of course but at five in the morning I didn’t really care because I was nervous and worried about what the day had in store for me.
The temperature outside was 48 degrees…which for me is not a big deal but with 10% humidity it was COLD!!! The “gun” went off at 6:30 am on the dot and approximately 400 marathoners hit the road before the sun had risen above the surrounding mountain tops.
Miles 1-6: From the starting line we head east along a frontage road and we encounter our first hill of the day. It wasn’t that big of a hill but it was steep and all I could think of is “why did I chose this race?!?” The frontage road gave us some great views of the nearby nature preserve that we would get to see up close at the end of the race. We entered a residential area with some very impressive homes (we later found out that the cheapest one in that neighborhood was $950,000!!) and got a wonderful tour of the trails around the community. We encountered our first bit of gravel trails here. This section of the course, with the rolling hills, was the closest to what we would get in Wisconsin.
Miles 6-13: This was a long stretch. The course was an old rail line that had been converted to a multi-use trail. The grade was slightly upward and as the miles added up you could also feel the toll of the incline in your legs. The sights were awe inspiring. Upon turning onto the trail we could see 4 hot air balloons rising in the nearby mountains. We continued to watch them dance in the sky until about mile 10 when they were behind us. This section of the course we have mountains to both sides and straight in front of us so you know what is coming! The land on both sides of the trail were open for grazing and we got to see a number of cows grazing away…in fact at mile 10 there were two on the trail! As we got closer they moved just off to the side of the trail and kept eating. At 10.5 I saw my wife and introduced her to the people I was running with.
Miles 13-17.5: This is the hill climb. At this point we turn into Park City and start to progress up to the highest point on the course. The trail was impressive running right next to a major road and under many of the intersections into the city. From this vantage point we were able to see the many parks and shops of Park City up to mile 14. At mile 14 we take a turn and head for the “resort.” The “resort” in question is one of the most expensive in the area. The views here are spectacular! We ran into the resort and circled the lake. We were surrounded on all sides by the most fantastic mountain views I have ever seen. I was still feeling good but took my time and enjoyed the sights. The lake had people fishing in it and there were all kinds of people biking and hiking in the area. I continued on knowing that it was truly “all down hill” from here. My lovely wife was there to greet me at mile 14 and remained there until I returned from the resort at mile 17 at which point she gave me the beans I had asked for and we chatted a bit as she walked me down the trail I had just ran up not too long ago. I was still on pace and now I was headed down hill so all I had to do was run more that walk…sounds easy right?
Mile 17.5-18.5: This mile gets its own remarks because it was just mean. I’m telling you the person that placed this 3 block 16% grade hill at this point of the race should be shot! It was just plain wrong! We cross over a few walking bridges in town and then have to go up this ugly incline. There were people there to cheer us on and I was very grateful the guys at the top of the hill with the water.
Miles 18.5 to 20: This is the section that I though I would have the least trouble with it was down hill at a moderate grade and should be a fast section…well it was and it wasn’t. As I stated earlier Thursday my muscles were tingling from the lack of oxygen and up until this point in the race I had not felt any ill effects of the altitude but running down hill I was starting to pick up speed and my body was not getting enough oxygen to remain happy. My entire body tingled and not in a good way. I never felt like I was going to pass out but all of my muscles felt drained not tired. I know that sounds odd but I was feeling rather good but my body wasn’t sure how to handle what was going on. This section of the course we headed back into a residential area. We ran around a beautiful golf course at the foot of some impressive ski slopes and saw very little in the way of people.
Miles 20 to 26.2: We are back on the trails mostly gravel but there were some improved paved trails. Most of this section I spent walking. The sun was beating down and the temperature had risen to the low 80’s and there was literally no shade to be had. From 20 to 22 we followed a major highway and rounded a farm house where the aid station had bananas…now in the past I have had a bad reaction to bananas on the course but today I was craving them so I gulped a quarter of one down…boy did that taste good! The trail headed under the highway and made its way around a rather big hill and into the nature preserve. This was a beautiful section with a babbling brook to the side of the trail and a number of small bridges to cross. I tried to run a number of times but I felt like jelly and could not maintain any pace for more than a tenth of a mile. So with that I found a few people to chat with on the course and just admired the scenery. Rounding 25.5 mile mark I saw my wife in the distance and she had the camera in hand…I told her to take the picture as I was since I was not about to try running until I could see the finish line.
Well with a tenth of a mile to go I ran the rest of the way in. My official time was 5:46:42.
The rest: After the race I picked up my finishers shirt and sun catcher medal then stretched. The race had worked out an arrangement with the facility to allow runners to use the showers which was a great idea. I took a shower and was relaxing when we spotted someone with a Racine Half Marathon shirt on. It turns out that this couple was from Kenosha!! What are the chances? We chatted with them for quite a while.
The race was fantastic. I would recommend this marathon to everyone. The hills are, for the most part, easy enough. The views are beyond anything I could ever try to explain. The aid stations were well stocked with water, Gatorade, and fantastic crews.
We are ready to move…If we had a reason to move to Park City we would. The people are great.
I could not have completed this race without my wife. She keeps me level headed, she keeps me motivated, and she keeps me running. I can only hope that she realizes just how grateful I am to have her not only by my side but to have her course side. I’ve told her plenty of times that all I really need is to see her at the end of the race but she knows that her presence, expectedly or unexpectedly, on the course helps to move me along. Thanks babe…I love you.
Onward to Chicago.