My First Time: The Accidental Marathon

Ogden Marathon 2015
Ogden Marathon 2015

I’m currently training for my third ultra, the Squaw Peak 50, on June 6, 2015 and my training plan called for 26 miles yesterday. I’ve never actually had any interest in running a marathon (even though I’ve run many half-marathons and a couple ultras) as I never really felt like pushing myself full speed for about 4 hours, and I’m not a huge fan of pavement/asphalt running.

Earlier this week, as online chatter from many of my running friends started picking up in anticipation of the 15th running of the Zions Bank Ogden Marathon, it dawned on me that my training plan lined up with race day.  On top of that, the weather forecast was dismal for Saturday so my options were to sleep in and run alone on roads (since the trails are all wet and muddy) and self-supported in the rain for 26 miles, or get up at the crack of dawn and run a fully supported race (aid stations, bathrooms, water, Powerade, fruit, etc.) in the rain with 3,000 of my closest friends (including some actual friends)!  On Thursday before the race, I started my search for a bib in earnest.  I would’t normally advocate signing up for a marathon 2 days before the race, but given my training to date, I wasn’t concerned.

Fortunately, the Ogden Marathon is one of the few that allows registration transfers all the way up through packet pick-up, and as luck would have it, many local runners were unloading their bibs online.  A couple quick emails, a $45 PayPal payment, and I was in business!

Packet Pick-up

Packet Pick-up was on Friday from 10am – 8pm at the Weber State Marquardt Field House in Ogden, UT which is about 60 miles away from where I live.  A little too far away to sneak away during lunch, so I would have to wait until after work to get up there and pick up my bib, bag, shirt, and swag.

Packet pick-up was pretty painless as was transferring my registration.  After showing a signed letter and photocopy of the original runner’s drivers license (which he provided via email once I paid him), I was able to pick up his bib and head over to the transfer desk.  After providing them my information, I was issued a new bib, and off to the bag and shirt pick-up lines I went!

The bags were pretty typical consisting of a fairly large plastic drawstring bag with a local Ogden magazine, the race guide, some sunscreen/chapstick, a packet of tissues, a Clif bar (I got White Chocolate Macadamia Nut), and a coupon for Great Harvest Bread Company, which will come in handy since one of the coupons is a free loaf of bread!  If anyone of my local friends don’t want their coupons, I’ll be happy to take them off your hands!

The shirt for this race was a first for me since it was a long sleeve 1/4 zip shirt which is actually pretty decent for a race shirt, and I ended up trying on a L and XL and settled with the L which fit nicely and true to size.  I don’t normally wear race shirts because they are usually pretty cheap material that chafes or they are riddled with sponsor logos and just generally pretty ugly, but this shirt might serve me well in the colder months so I’ll hang on to it.

Once I had all the important stuff out of the way, and I was officially in the race with no backing out, it was off to the Expo to check out the vendor booths.  Typically I take a quick lap of the expo for a cursory look at which vendors are there and more importantly, what they might be giving away for free!  The only ones of interest were Clif because they were giving out samples of various products (I tried a couple of the Builder Bars which were pretty tasty), and Altra was having a huge sale on some shoes.  Unfortunately, they were old stock of Instinct and Intuition which I had no interest in.  Don’t get me wrong, I love Altra, but those aren’t the models I typically run in although the new Instinct 3.0 is appealing and I may go try it out.

Photo Credit: Shaylee Hurst
Photo Credit: Shaylee Hurst

Once I left the main expo, I bumped in to my friends Shaylee and Josh who were working at the Runtastic Events booth (a local company that puts on many great races around Utah), and put my name in for a chance at one of ten free race entries (fingers crossed).  I also spent some time chatting with them, and thanks to their booth location at the exit, ran into a few other friends who were running the race.

Right next door to them was Core Power (big fan of the Banana flavor) and they were giving away free samples which was nice, although every other place I’ve seen them, they were giving away full bottles and this time they were just giving away sips in plastic cups.  Once they ran out of Core Power, they were handing out Zico Pure Premium Coconut Water.  I don’t actually like coconut water, but thought I’d grab one in case anyone at home wanted it, and it was free!  Lastly, I visited the Park City Trail Series booth to get some info on a series of progressive trail races up in Park City (Round Valley specifically, if you are familiar with the area).  They have a 5k, 10k, 15k, and Half Marathon. One thing I did like was that instead of shirts, they give out pint glasses, and each race has a unique design.  If you do the full series, you also get a special series glass for a total of 5 glasses.  Those would probably get used a lot more than all the race shirts sitting in my closet!  Most of the distances aren’t interesting to me because they are too short, and unfortunately I already know I’ll be out of town during one of the races doing a 50k in Oregon, so it’s not really worth doing the full series.  I grabbed a discount code though and will keep the Half Marathon on my watch list for now. In case you want to use it, the discount code is OGDMAR15 (for 15% off any or all of the races).

Race Prep

I imagine most racers go through their own rituals and preparations before a race, and I am no different.  Typically, the evening before a race, I’ll lay out all my gear on the floor to make sure I have everything I need.  Kind of a poor man’s checklist if you will, but I find that laying it all visually helps me insure I don’t forget anything! Since this was my first marathon, and the forecast was calling for rain, it was a little more effort than prepping for a typical half marathon.

I had decided to be a little more self-reliant with my nutrition since I’ve been testing Tailwind lately in anticipation of using it in my ultra, so I decided to bring my Orange Mud VP1 pack and race with it, even if it meant getting funny looks during the race (consequently, if I did get funny looks, I didn’t notice it and no one commented on my pack, at least no comments or jokes I could hear!).  Even though this was a fully supported race, I didn’t want to be dependent on gels (which I can’t stand), and I wasn’t sure what else they would have so I figured bringing my own would be better.  On top of that, this really was a training run for me, so I wanted to train with what I would be racing with.

I was also unsure about how to handle the rain since believe it or not, it has never rained in any of my prior races.  I do own a Salomon S-Lab Light Jacket that is super packable that I carry with me in the summer months in the mountains because you never know when a storm will blow in while you are miles away from the car, but I’ve never had to use it.  Since the jacket is so packable, I just stuffed it in to one of the pockets on my VP1.  Better safe than sorry!

Flat Ryan ready for Ogden Marathon 2015
Flat Ryan ready for Ogden Marathon 2015

After getting all my gear laid out and my dry gear bag packed up (change of clothes, towel, etc. for after the race) and loaded up in my car, I snapped a quick pic of Flat Ryan, and got to bed about 11:30pm.

Race Day

The main reason I don’t do more races is that I REALLY hate getting up early, and today was no different.  Since Ogden is about an hour away, and the busses were leaving at 5am, I had to set my alarm for 3:15am. After what felt like a long nap, I was up and in the shower and getting excited for my first marathon.  After a generous slathering of Body Glide in the areas where I commonly chafe (my new favorite running accessory), I grabbed a banana and a Kashi bar, got dressed, and I was out the door around 3:45am.

As I exited the freeway, I caught up with my friend Robert (he has a lot of race stickers on his car so he’s easy to spot!) and I followed him to find some parking.  Most races I’ve been to have specific parking lots that are easy to deal with, but this race started in downtown Ogden and you basically just had to find any parking spot you could find, and no one was directing traffic (except the cops guarding the closed off roads).  Robert managed to snag the last spot in the lot I followed him to, so I was off to another lot.  I ended up in a parking lot of a health business, and it wasn’t clear in the race guide if this was one of the places we were allowed to park or not!  Fortunately I saw a few other runners parking there, and an RV hanging out, so I took my chances, parked, and I was off to the bus line where I managed to find Robert.

One nice thing about this race was that in addition to the typical school busses, they also had some really nice long haul tour busses, so I made sure to line up for one of those.  After comically watching the driver try and open the door for about 5 minutes by pushing on it with his shoulder, Robert went over and helped the driver find and release the air pressure valve so the door would open.  Thanks for saving the day Robert!  I managed to slip on to the bus and hold a spot for both of us, flipped down the foot rest, and tried to get to sleep while Robert chatted with Heather and Marisa who Robert was worried about finding, but they ended up sitting directly in front of us! I don’t think I actually got any sleep, but the hour drive up to the start line went pretty quick so it’s possible I caught a few Z’s.

Into the abyss (aka Ogden Marathon 2015)
Into the abyss (aka Ogden Marathon 2015)

The start line for the race was basically in the middle of nowhere (technically I think we were in Huntsville, UT) in a gravel field.  There were a generous number of port-a-potties which we immediately lined up for (I’ve been stuck in line before when the gun goes off and learned my lesson) along with some portable sinks with soap, water, and paper towels although they didn’t have any trash cans located anywhere nearby which would have been useful.  They also had a number of fire barrels that people gathered around so we siddled up to one and everyone started their pre-race rituals; setting up music, double-checking bibs were attached, packing their drop bags, etc.  I brought my waterproof ski jacket with me (since the forecast called for rain) and a pair of workout pants to stay warm which worked out great.  While we were hanging out and the excitement was building, the sun peeked out and it started snowing lightly.  Unfortunately, the sun was to the east of us, and we were running to the west which looked dark and ominous, even though the weather was pretty nice where we were standing!

The announcer informed us that the van with the drop bags was leaving at 7:00am so I took off my outer layers, packed up my bag, grabbed a few of my friends bags, and headed off to the van.  After that, we all proceeded to line up for the race on a narrow road.  They didn’t have corrals in this race, but they did have pacers.  Since this was a training run for me, I went in to it with no expectations of a finish time at all.  In my head I was thinking a 10 min/mile pace would be just fine, so I found the 4:30 pacer and hung out there where I bumped in to my friends Dave and Ryan.  Promptly at 7:15am, with some schizophrenic weather, and some awesome music playing on the massive loud speakers they had suspended from a crane, the race started!

The Race

Being so far back in the pack, I didn’t cross the starting mat until about 2 minutes after gun time which wasn’t too bad, and I clicked start on my Garmin fenix 2 and we were off!

In any large race, I find that you end up going whatever pace the mob is going initially until things thin out, and this race was no different since there 3,000 runners packed in to a two lane country road.  My first mile ended up being an 8:41 pace which was a lot quicker than I was planning, but it felt very comfortable so I wasn’t concerned.  As the crowed thinned, I found myself continuing with the same pace without much effort.  I managed to do sub 9 min/miles through mile 10.  Around mile 3 or 4, we started to get a little drizzle which I didn’t worry about at first, but once it became obvious that it wasn’t going to let up, I stopped to put my jacket on.  It was a tough decision because the risk of wearing the jacket is that you overheat and just sweat beneath it and end up as wet, or more than if you just let the rain fall on you, but given the low temps and distance remaining, I decided it was worth it.  In the end, I’m really glad I did as a lot of runners complained of being cold, and I never was.  I think I ended up with just the perfect amount of layers for the temperature and weather and I’m really glad I packed my jacket!

First Half Splits Ogden Marathon 2015
First Half Splits

The first 8 miles of the race was generally downhill according to the elevation profile on my watch, and given my pace, I have to believe it even though it certainly felt more flat than downhill while I was running it!  Once we hit the east side of Pineview Reservoir, the course did actually flatten out and ended up being a series of smallish rolling hills until the half marathon mark.  I managed a sub 2:00 hour half marathon which was great since I was originally planning on finishing in about 4:30, and at the half way point I was feeling great.  After a quick water refill of my bottle, I was off to tackle the second half of the race.  I later learned that I completely missed out on the Swedish Fish at the halfway point, which was a real bummer!


Second Half Splits
Second Half Splits

Once we left the half marathon mark and turned south along the western shore of Pineview Reservoir towards Ogden Canyon, the biggest climb of the race was there waiting for us!  In all reality,  it was only about 100ft elevation change in 1/4 mile, but it felt like much much more!  A lot of people started walking, but I powered through it, and for the first time in the race, it took me more than 10 minutes to go one mile.  For the next few miles, just like the eastern shoreline, it was a series of rolling hills all the way to Ogden canyon (mile 18 or so), although they seemed a lot bigger than the hills on the eastern shoreline.  At this point, my pace slowed a bit, and the 4:00 pacer, who I managed to elude thus far, finally passed me.  Since I really had no goal in mind, and I was originally aiming for 4:30, it didn’t really bother me and in the back of my mind I thought I might be able to make up some time on the downhill.  I did have to keep reminding myself this was a training run though, and it didn’t really matter when I finished as long as I got my miles in.

As I continued slowly knocking down the miles, and stopping multiple times to tie my shoes (I guess the water/rain were causing my laces to not want to stay in place), I caught up to my friend Jodi around mile 20/21.  Jodi decided to tag along with me for the last 5 or so miles and it was great to have the company.  Truth be told, I was content with slowing down for the remainder of the race, but something about running with your friends makes you want to finish strong and it felt great to push each other!  We managed all sub-10 min/miles for the remainder of the race which felt good, especially it meant we would be done sooner rather than later!

As we turned south on to Grant Blvd, we could see the finish line about 3/4 of a mile away and we could see and hear the spectators at the finish line.  I always love the last 1/2 mile of a race thanks to the energy of the crowd, the cheering, the announcer calling people’s names out, etc.  When I used to listen to music when I ran, I would always take my headphones out for the last 1/2 mile just to feel the energy and take in the experience.  I always find in that moment that the pain and agony of pushing your body the whole race just melts away and the desire to finish strong kicks in and for a brief moment, you feel like you are on top of the world.  Jodi and I crossed the finish line together just under the 4:15:00 mark on the clock, and just like that, the race was over!  After a few high fives, and a few finish line pics, it was off to eat!  It turns out my timing chip didn’t register at the finish line, but I am working to get that fixed, and in the mean time my unofficial race time ended up at 4:12:29 (based on when I started and stopped my watch while crossing the respective timing mats).

I typically devour anything and everything as I walk through the finishers area, but this race was sorely lacking in food.  All I really saw was some buttered bread slices from Great Harvest Bread Company, Creamies, and some cups of water.  I’m told there were a few other things that I must have missed, but the general consensus amongst other runners was that the food choices were poor, and there was even a discussion on Facebook about whether or not the Half Marathoners ate all the food before we got there! (they didn’t – the food choices were just that poor).  Fortunately, Jodi’s husband, Josh, snuck us in to a VIP tent (one of his clients), and they had some pretty amazing chicken skewers, angel hair pasta primavera, focaccia, and desserts, along with water, coffee, soda, etc.  One of the volunteers even wrapped us both up in those emergency blankets which helped keep us warm!

After a quick bite, and having picked up my drop bag already, I skipped getting a massage (I was too wet and cold at this point), and headed back to my car.  Fortunately it had not been towed, which was on the back of my mind the whole race!  I got out of my wet clothes and changed in to my dry clothes, courtesy of my Orange Mud Transition towel, and headed home.

Final Thoughts

All things considered, I had a pretty good experience for my first marathon despite the weather.  Most of my previous races, I didn’t really know anyone, and ran alone the whole time but for this race I had plenty of people to hang out with from the bus ride to the finish line, which made getting up at 3:15am much more tolerable!

My concerns about the weather turned out to not be much of an issue, and I was very happy with my choice of clothing and layering.  I was comfortable, although wet, through the finish line and it was only after the physical exertion stopped that I started to cool down. I owe Body Glide and Smartwool some props too since I ended the race with no blisters and no chafing of any kind, which is abnormal for this distance especially considering the rainy conditions.

I don’t know that I would ever run a marathon again (I much prefer trails and ultras), but I’m not as opposed to them as I used to be.  If I were to try again, I’d probably do something more downhill like Big Cottonwood Canyon Marathon or Nebo Marathon and go for that sub 4:00 hour PR.  Unfortunately I won’t be able to do either this year as I’ll be running the Mckenzie River 50k on Sept 12 which conflicts with Big Cottonwood, and with Nebo being on Sept 5th, it’s just too close to race day and wouldn’t be a good idea!

And now back to my regularly scheduled Ultra training…

What I Wore

Socks: Smartwool PhD Run Ultra Light Mini Crew
Shoes: Altra Paradigm
Shorts: Nike Dri-fit
Shirt: Nike Dri-fit Long Sleeve
Hat: Orange Mud visor by Headsweats
Jacket: Salomon S-Lab Light Jacket
Underwear: Under Armour
Gloves: Head Gloves
Accessories: Fuel Belt, Orange Mud VP1, Body Glide
Watch: Garmin fenix 2
Nutrition: Honey Stinger chews, Tailwind, Jelly Belly Sport Beans

2 Replies to “My First Time: The Accidental Marathon”

    1. Thanks Josh! I may or may not have stolen the term from our conversation at the expo! Glad to hear you survived your race too.

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