I always worry before either a race or an extra long run. This week was my last extra long run before the marathon next month. I thought it would be best to simulate the conditions of the marathon course the best I could from past experience with the other substantial downhill half marathons in the past. In order to do this, I got up early Saturday and took my son with me to drive up Provo Canyon about 13 miles and then turned left and drove 3 miles into Wallsburg. Why did I have my son drop me off up the canyon 16 miles off? Because it would give me over 16 miles of descent as I made my way down the canyon. The Ogden Marathon is similar at the beginning as well. You are bused up to a drop off point and almost the entire course descends down to the city of Ogden. The are uphill sections, but it is mostly downhill. You may think this makes for an easy run and to some extent it does, but it also pounds the legs a lot more. All three of the half marathons that I have run are similar runs as well and it is surprising how beat up you get if you don't prepare for a down hill race.
The first three miles were on a lightly traveled road. I enjoyed the rural community and had several cows look at me as I passed. They seemed to be saying, "What on earth are you doing!?!" I had similar thoughts myself. When we left Orem that morning, the temperature was 50 degress, but by the time we ascended to Wallsburg, it was 30 degrees. I didn't bring a coat, but I did bring gloves and a headband that covered the ears. I thought I had made a mistake by dressing so lightly, but I was fine the whole time.
The next stretch was really a different experience. Provo Canyon is a heavily used road. Not only do outdoor enthusiast head up the canyon to go to reserviors and numerous other recreational activities, but the canyon is also a major roadway for interstate travel as well. At the top of the road, you can turn either left or right on Highway 40 which is another main highway in the state that ties into I-80 on one end or you can go the other way and head towards Colorado. Even though Provo Canyon is not a freeway, it is a four lane highway for most of it and I ran on the shoulder for the next eight miles. I felt like I needed to be on the alert for the oncoming traffic. All went well, but every once in a while, I could hear an approaching car cutting the corner a little too much and hitting the rumble strip which a ran along in the shoulder. I was happy at about mile 11 to make it to Vivian Park because I knew I could then catch the Provo River trail for many miles. I was keeping the pace well and was happy with my progress up to this point.
One of my goals on this run was to be sure I hit the time constraints of the Ogden Marathon. Part of the Ogden Canyon road is blocked off for the marathon so you need to be at mile 17.3 in 4.5 hours. For a lot of marathoners, this isn't a problem, but this being my first marathon and just trying to finish the race as my only goal. I know that it might be close. Once you are Ogden Canyon, you have another 5 miles to run down the canyon and you have to be out of the canyon by 6 hours. This is much more doable. I hit both time goals with time to spare, so I know that if all goes well, I will be able to make the time constraints at the actual race.
I was still hitting my pace well when I came out of the canyon at mile 17. I knew the rest of the course would be more of a challenge. I had about 2 more miles of gradual downhill, but from there, there was really no other option than to finish up with some uphill climbing. I also knew there wasn't going to be a lot of shade and the temperature was climbing up towards 80. Going from 30 degrees to almost 80 is quite a change and I know from past experience that I don't do well when it warms up. By the time I hit mile 18, I had been in the sun for a bit and the uphill was starting. My run/walk was turning into more of a waaaaaaallllllk/rn, waaaaaaallllllk/rn. At mile 21, I reached LaVelle Edwards Stadium not feeling super but glad I was turning west and heading back towards home. I did get a bit of a downhill heading down University Parkway, but there was one last hard climb to get up into Orem. I had to walk that long mile up. I was glad I had brought a light-weight Camel Back with me to help keep me hydrated. It didn't cause much discomfort to wear it that many miles either. so that was a plus.
By the time I got close to home, I knew I had a little over a mile to go. I could make a small loop around the the neighborhood, but I decided to finish up the last mile on the treadmill in the basement where I could cool down. I'm glad I did because it would have been a long hot mile if I would have stayed out.
As hard as it was, there was a lot of positives from the run. I now know that I can do a marathon because I did that distance almost exactly. I know I can make the time constraints on the course. I know what I need to take with me as far as nutrition. It got to the point where nothing sounded good, but early on during the run, I was able to keep hydrated and kept getting nutrition in me at good intervals.
I now have a easy week this week to recover. The following week has a long run of 14 miler. Funny to think of that as being relatively easy, but in comparison, it won't be bad. I then have a two week taper before the big race. Time to heal up and tune up for the event.