Our training doesn’t exist in a vacuum. I say this all the time, and it couldn’t be more true than with the Ogden Marathon event. This “perfect for first-timers” race truly was an unexpected redemption from the poor experience I had at my last half-marathon.
This weekend held some significance: Ogden Marathon hosts other events in addition to the full Marathon — a Marathon Relay, a 13.1, a 5k, and a Kids Race. The large Finishers Festival was bustling with families and activities for the entire community, and that was just at the finish line!
More importantly, I experienced my second Another Mother Runner: Run + Refresh Retreat. These 4 day events are scheduled around local races, and are the focal point of the weekend. Workshops, group runs, and lots of community building occurs during these retreats, and I loved every minute of it.
However, in the middle of all of this was a highlight of my running journey. The Ogden Half Marathon is a net downhill of almost 1,500 feet from the appropriately named Eden, Utah into downtown Ogden. As the sunlight spilled down the surrounding mountain slopes, the chill mountain air filled my lungs and had me smiling with anticipation.
I’ve never done a downhill race like this. I didn’t quite know what to expect. I had set a very aggressive goal early in my training to PR, and even over shoot that PR by 3 minutes. The original goal was to PR at 2:10, which led to training run tempo paces around 9:40 miles. While I am able to sustain that for a few miles, my training in those goal paces was inconsistent at best. I had trouble hitting that pace, and two weeks before the race, I made a very smart decision — I changed my time goal. Yes, I was still hoping to PR, but knew that was a long shot. I did, however want to crush last year’s half marathon attempt at the Prairie Dog Half which, in short, was a horribly disappointing race for me. I wanted to beat that time of 2:22…That became my realistic A goal.
My alarm went off at 4:00 am Saturday, May 19th so I could get ready for the my race. I foam-rolled, using the techniques taught me in the Triggerpoint torture session workshop the day prior. I donned my race kit, changed my mind and my clothes…twice…had half a bagel, 2 cups of coffee and a banana before making my way to the lobby to meet my fellow Mother Runners. Winding our way through the hordes of runners in the bus staging area outside our hotel, we walked several blocks.
Since we were part of the AMR Group, we had special VIP treatment before and after the race. We were to board Motorcoach buses (instead of the school buses the riff-raff were riding) at 5:00. This didn’t happen, and we ended up with school buses anyway (read: no on-board bathrooms). The ride up to the half start felt long, but it offered a reverse view look at what we were about to run.
The start area was cool — about 40 degrees, but I knew it would warm quickly. It was not a corralled start, and several hundred people were herded into the starting chute. It took 5 minutes from the gun to the time I crossed the start line.
I had programmed my Garmin as follows: First 5 miles between 10:30 and 10:45, the second 5 miles 10:15 to 10:30, and the last 5k anything faster than that.
In the first 5 miles, the sun hit the high mountain valley, and I could tell it would get warm quickly. There were several rollers in the first couple of miles, and I just plugged along, not wanting to push too hard up them, and eased into the short downhills until I reached the spillway into the canyon. I skipped every other aid station. I felt that my average pace would allow me to stop for a picture or two, and walk or even stop at the water stations for a brief period. I took a Salted GU at almost 4 miles, since I was sweating more than I expected.
I plugged in my Team RunDisney Playlist, which always helps me get my feet moving. This worked for a while. I was cheering on Bamrs as I ran down into the spillway for the second 5 miles.
The first real descent was a doozy! From the reservoir dam into the canyon, the drop in elevation was significant, but I was amazed when the road sign said, “Ogden 8 Miles!” I started trucking down the hill, carefully balancing speed with braking. We had a tailwind down the canyon, too. Once out of the spillway, the downhill leveled out a bit, but the Cell/LTE signal dropped. The precipitous canyon walls weren’t letting any kind of signal in! I switched over to my 10k playlist, which had about an hour’s worth of music, and I just kept on running, while dancing and singing! I was having a fantastic time, and if I hadn’t been going for a PR, I would have stopped for 100 pictures! I took my second GU at around mile 8. The miles were going by faster than I thought, so I extended my nutrition plan, not wanting to overdo the GU before the last 5k.
I knew a few things were about to happen once we got out of the canyon: the course left the road and hit paved recreation path, it would flatten out, I would see the Mother Runner Cheer Squad around mile 12, and the last mile would be one long slog uphill the Main street to the finish line. I just kept plugging along as best I could. The 11 mile aid station was disco themed, so I had to get a picture with the afro guy.
There was a group of “Lululemon girls” cheering, and I raised my hands to my ears and I went by, encouraging them to scream even louder. So fun. I knew AMR was up ahead, and sure enough around the next corner, there was a group standing with neon poster board signs. I ran as hard as I could to them, so excited to see these ladies who really got this whole thing started for me! I was tired, my legs were starting to shake, and I had a mile left. It had gotten much warmer in town, and the last mile was a steady uphill to the finish. The crowd was sporadic, and my playlist brought up my favorite “turbo charged” song in the last half mile. I pushed as hard as I could into the finishers chute, and with about 100 yards left to go, the crowd started really picking up and yelling!! I thought, cool, they’re cheering me on! Then the announcer comes on and says, “Let’s hear it for so-and-so, the first Marathon finisher!” The cheering wasn’t for me, though. It was for the winner of the marathon, who was just a couple hundred feet behind me. I kept looking over my shoulder, chuckled to myself and said, I’m still going to beat that guy across the finish line!! So, I did.
I was glowing with my finish time, of 2:17:41, my second fastest half of all time. I beat Prairie Dog. I redeemed my running, and proved that with a little help from gravity, I can still be pretty dang fast! I couldn’t have been happier, and I don’t think I would have done anything differently for that race. I didn’t try to “adjust” as I went. I planned my race, and raced my plan as best as I could.