We started our day incredibly early. I woke up at 2:00 am to get some food in my stomach and all my gear for the race. Jeff showed up at 2:30 am, and we drove the one hour and fifteen minutes to the bus pickup. It was another thirty-minute bus ride up the canyon to the starting line.
Fire pits were scattered in a pasture with a line of orange twenty port-o-potties. All the runners were huddled around the fire pits penguin style if it works in the Artic winds it works in the wee hours of the morning. Jeff and I chatted with other runners, used the bathroom repeatedly, and continued to hydrate. The sun slowly illuminated the surrounding mountains, pastures, and farmhouses.
“I am going to the bathroom one more time,” I told Jeff. As I stood in line, yet again, I pulled off my sweats and shoved them into my gear bag, which volunteers hauled back to the starting line.
Jeff and I continued to turn like rotisserie chickens in front of the fire pit until one minute before the start. We shuffled over to the crowd and slipped in as the gun went off.
Farmhouses, pastures, barking dogs, and horses appeared long the sides of the road as we put one foot in front of the other. Every two miles there were aid stations with water and Gatorade.
“Need anything?” Jeff asked. I shook my head, as I passed right through with my handheld water bottle secured to my right hand full of PowerAde Zero.
“I will need plain water later, but I’m good for now.”
After about six miles, we emerged from the farm town road and began our descent down Provo Canyon. We were hemmed in by green mountains, waterfalls, and sheer cliff faces. The wind picked up when we were about nine miles into the race, full on frontal assault by gusts threatening to steal your breath right from your lungs.
“I thought wind came down canyons?” I said.
“Not today,” Jeff laughed.
The wind made the downhill sections feel flat or even uphill at times. It made the uphill much more difficult. But, the wind also kept all of us runners cooler.
Jeff and I stopped at the orange port-o-potties at the half way mark. As we passed the half marathon starting line, a race volunteer called out, “Two hours.” Not too bad, I thought.
The wind did not let up, and we became convinced we had been misled about this being a downhill race. As soon as we would hit the crest of a hill, we could see the next one taunting us. Other runners, who had run in prior years, kept telling us, “Three more hills,” “Two more,” and, “One more.”
Jeff and I grabbed handfuls of sliced oranges and shoveled them in our mouths as we ran through aid stations. The sweet citrus juice sprayed into my mouth as I bit down on one after another, tossing the peel into the garbage boxes we passed. The juice dripped down my chin and coated my gloves.
At mile twenty, we came out of the canyon. Only a 10k(6.2 miles) to go. Firefighters stood on a corner with a fire hose spraying runners. Spectators lined the streets with their signs. My favorite sign was held by a little girl of about seven, which read, “Dumbest parade ever.” I laughed and pointed it out to Jeff. I had to agree with her, as far as parades go it was lame.
The wind finally let up around mile twenty-two. My calves were starting to cramp since I had forgotten to bring salt tabs along with me (consequence of being a low carb runner). I knew I would be seriously unhappy once I stopped, but while I ran it was tolerable.
Jeff pointed out the LDS temple down the road. We could just see the golden angel Maroni above the treetops.
“That’s the finish line,” he said.
Jeff grabbed licorice and a popsicle, as we passed spectators who had put up their own aid stations.
A quarter mile out, we could see the royal blue finish line arch spread across the road. Crowds of people lined both sides of the fences set up for the run.
We passed beneath the arch and across the timing mat. The announcers called out our names and a volunteer placed a medal around our necks. This is what I live for, what a perfect way to spend a Saturday morning.
Jeff finished at 4:05 and I finished at 4:07 not bad for three days notice! Fifteen minutes faster than my last marathon in April.
My training plan listed fifteen miles for last Saturday and twelve miles for last Sunday. I figure doing 26.2 on Saturday gave me a little leeway to drop my miles to six on Sunday.
Other than my calves cramping up like an impossibly twisted slinky, I didn’t have any soreness on Sunday. I could have run farther, but I’m in no rush to increase my miles before they need to be.
After the forty-mile per hour head wind in the Salt flats 100 and the up-canyon wind for Utah Valley marathon, I have decided 2014 is the year of the wind.