Salt Lake City, Utah
We just got back from a 5,000 mile road trip. We drove from Missouri to Washington State by way of Montana -stopping to run the Missoula Marathon. When it came time to plan our return trip home Trevor asked, “Do you want to do a marathon in Utah next week?” You may have guessed by now that I can’t say no to a marathon, especially in a new state. So that is how I came to run the Deseret News Classic Marathon in Salt Lake City Utah.
The Deseret News Classic is billed as the oldest marathon west of the Continental Divide and the oldest road race in Utah. This year marked the 43rd consecutive anniversary. It is on Pioneer Day every year in July which landed on Wednesday, July 24th this year (exactly 10 days after the Missoula Marathon). The race also has a half marathon and 10k which all start at separate points and finish in downtown Salt Lake near the Pioneer Day festivities. The full marathon starts at 7,900 feet to finish at 4,400 ft. The marathon course follows the path Mormon pioneers took when they first settled the valley. You may remember the part of our last podcast where we talked about running a marathon at elevation (I didn’t know how true that information would be until I ran this race).
Arriving in Salt Lake City
We arrived in the Salt lake area on Tuesday afternoon and went and picked up my race packet at the Salt Lake Running Company. Packet pickup was simple (there was exactly one other person standing in line to get a packet for the full marathon). The guy handing out samples shoved two handfuls of a shaving gel sample into my bag (we’d been on the road for a while so maybe it looked like I needed to freshen up some). The race shirt was an attractive cotton-poly blend that I’ve actually already worn in real life (maybe it’s because I’d been wearing the same five shirts for the past 21 days).
After finding our hotel we drove to the Rice-Eccles Stadium where buses would take runners to the starting line in the morning. Marathon buses ran between 3:15-3:30 a.m. (yes, that early) for a race starting time of 5:30 am. I’m a morning person, but the thought of waking up at 2am does not thrill my heart. Anyway, the kids were cranky and hungry so we ended up getting the worst pizza in the history of the world and taking it back to our hotel room. Not my idea of the perfect pre-race meal but whatever (after so many marathons I don’t want to be some kind of spoiled princess). I laid out all my race gear and started charging my Garmin knowing that it would not be a good idea to wake up the family at 2am.
2:00 a.m. Wake Up
After a lovely five hours of sleep the alarm went off and I went about my morning routine. After getting all my stuff together I noticed that my Garmin was dead, blank, non-responsive (you get the picture). I tried a few tricks that had worked the last time this happened to no avail. I tried charging it in the car as I blearily drove to the bus pickup area at the stadium. Nothing! Well I figured I could certainly survive a marathon without my beloved wrist accessory. I’d just work on evening up the distinct tan line on my wrist (notice my positive spin to the situation).
Bus Ride to the Top
I loaded on the bus with dozens of other sleepy strangers. A woman sat by me from the Salt Lake area and we started trading stories about running, marathons and family (you know the drill). She had just run Boston this year as well as the Salt Lake City marathon and was doing the Deseret Classic for the third time. Naturally I pumped her for details about the race which I had read mixed reviews about on Marathon Guide. Her main advice was to hold back on the first six miles of down hills to prepare for the killer hills between miles 6-8. “No problem, I can hold back,” I thought. Soon our bus driver took a wrong turn onto a narrow mountain road. After realizing her mistake she executed a scary twelve point turn to get the bus headed in the right direction. I think my life flashed before my eyes at least once as I imagined plunging into the canyon below.
The Starting Line
We arrived at Parleys Canyon where the starting line was located in the Wasatch Mountain Range. I immediately put the port-a-pots to use and then found a place to sit and wait for the race start (and hour and a half later). There was a large tent erected where many runners sat for shelter. It was chilly at the top but I had come prepared with a long sleeved throw away shirt and blanket to sit on. I visited with some people, closed my eyes for a while, took a picture with some other Maniacs and basically wished I was back in bed. I did get to meet a man named Darryl Beardall who was running this marathon for the 41st time (he had bib number 41). Now 75 years old he said his personal best time was 2:22 many years previously. A few minutes before 5:30 we were directed to load our gear check bags on the truck and gather around the starting line. There were around 250 people running the full marathon.
The race started and instantly the course began winding downhill. It was semi-dark for the first three miles (with a bright moon) and I was a little worried about stepping in a pot hole. I paced myself the best I could during those six downhill miles and began to realize that a down-hill course is a lot of work. My toes were not very happy even then. When it got light I began to see the beautiful surroundings of Immigration Pass. We were surrounded by mountains, trees, rivers and other beautiful sites. This was definitely one of the most scenic race courses I’d run.
I continued to enjoy the opportunity to run in such beauty in a new state and the middle miles passed fairly quickly. Around mile 14 I noticed that my nose was running a lot more than usual (I have exercise induced rhinitis). I went to wipe my nose and noticed that I had a bloody nose. I tried to hold pressure on it with my fingers while running (not an easy task). And of course that’s when I came upon one of the few race photographers. I’m sure those pictures turned out fairly gruesome. The volunteer at the next aid station had some tissues and I was able to wad some in my nostril to get it under control. Who cares about dignity while running a marathon?
Running Downhill -Taking a Feet Beating
Around mile 16 we started to come into the outskirts of Salt Lake City. The race course was partially closed with police controlling intersections. One interesting thing that I noticed while we were running down the mountain was scores of cyclists riding up the mountain (and later whizzing past us on the way down). It’s neat how the Salt Lake area seems like a place where people take advantage of sports and exercise options. A couple of times during the race I was wishing for one of the bicycles to carry me to the finish line. Running down hill is challenging for the body (especially when you haven’t trained for the course). Thankfully my proximal hamstring wasn’t acting up like during Missoula but my feet were taking a beating (I have a feeling I’ll be losing a few toenails over this one). I figured the temperatures would start to get brutal as the morning wore on but thanks to a cloud cover and slight breeze it didn’t feel any warmer than low 70’s.
The Finish Line
When we got close to town you could tell that many residents were out to celebrate Pioneer Day and the Days of 47 Parade. There were few spectators along the course and most were focused on getting to the parade or other events. As we neared mile 25 the course ran along the parade route for about half a mile. The streets were lined with people watching the parade and not really focused on the runners (the bulk of which were 10k and half marathoners who’d already finished). It was a new experience to run alongside a parade that was taking place.
After getting off the parade route we turned toward the finish line located in Liberty Park. I finished in 4:21:16 (a minute faster than Missoula). The medals were nice and uniquely shaped (the same medal was given to all runners). The food at the finishing line area had been decimated by the 10k and half marathoners leaving only water, bananas and orange slices. Fortunately I had a recovery bar in my gear bag or I would have been really cranky after I started hearing about the French toast and ice cream bars I missed.
They offered free massages in the finishing area which many runners were taking advantage of. My main goal was finding the buses going back to the stadium where I had parked. That proved to be a challenge. There were dozens of buses parked in the area but they were all for band members marching in the parade. After several minutes of wandering around I located the right buses and gratefully climbed aboard.
The fatigue was definitely starting to set in by this point. Continuing on the theme of directionally challenged bus drivers our bus ended up at the completely wrong place (as many weary runners pointed out to the driver). I finally arrived back at the stadium and our car. Getting back to the hotel was a challenge as many roads were closed for the marathon and parade. After a series of long detours I got back to the hotel and my awaiting family. I took a quick shower and we packed up our stuff to hit the road in search of a place to eat. Our departed was delayed by a severe honey spill in the back of our Suburban. FYI if you plan on transporting a 5 gallon bucket of honey across the country be sure to double check the tightness of the lid. We ended up driving to Colorado that night as we continued our trip home.
Post Run Soreness
The next morning I felt like I’d been run over by a bus. I don’t think I’d been this sore since my first marathon. Pretty much the only muscles that weren’t hurting were my hamstrings and glutes. It felt like I’d done the P90X legs and back DVD several times in a row. Trevor got a good laugh over my stilted gait. Running a marathon and sitting in the car for three days isn’t the best recipe for success. I went out for a run 3 days later and felt a lot better.
Tupelo Marathon in Tupelo, Mississippi (September 1st)
Air Force Marathon in Dayton, Ohio (September 21st)
Rocket City Marathon in Huntsville, Alabama (December 14th)
I’m still looking for a nearby Marathon in October/November