The Saint George Marathon Recap

img_1216-1

When my coach sent me my splits for the St. George marathon it was for three hours. Flat.  He added the following caveat, “I think you are capable of going under three hours if you stick to the pace for the first half, then adjust how you are feeling for the second half, but remain patient until around the 5K mark and go.”

He then encouraged me to set two goals for St. George.  The first one was one that I would be happy with for the day, but still challenged me.  Then the other goal is what he called an “out there” goal where everything is going better than expected and I could push myself hard and test my limits.

I think my coach offered me very realistic goals.  St. George is always a little tricky for me, I think it’s a course that requires you to be strategic and tests your patience, but I knew I wanted to sub three on that course.  It’s been one of my personal goals for a few years.

The expo was short and sweet for me, it’s always just like grab and go.  If I’m racing I don’t want anything to drain my mental energy because I know it will require every ounce I have to compete the next morning.  As much as I love race expos and taking in all things running, the noise and crowds can leave me feeling a little worn out.  I really try to keep the day before the marathon stress free and low key.  I almost feel like I’m putting up protective walls that day, like a mental cocoon of positivity.  I’d much rather put my feet up and listen to an inspiring book or podcast.

I was so excited to have new race shirts for the St. George Running Center Team.  I love the color and am so thankful for Kendra and Steve’s support. They really are the heart and soul of all things running in Southern Utah.

img_1218

I was so glad that the back pocket on these Lululemon Speed Shorts was large enough to hold my First Endurance liquid shot.  It was the only fuel I took during the race and it gave me good energy.

img_1256

I am always so grateful to my friend Amber’s dad who is willing to drive us up to the start.  It’s a minivan full of jittery nerves and laughter, but being with the girls that I’ve trained with all summer means so much to me.

img_1225

After submitting my runner’s resume last spring with my 2:55:16 from the Revel Mt. Charleston marathon, race officials selected me for the sub-elite category.  This meant that my race bib was green and that the porta-potty lines were slightly shorter.  I’m honestly not sure what rubric the officials use to gauge the elite and sub-elite qualifications.  As the St. George marathon continues to grow in popularity, they may need to clarify this more.  Although Boston is sometimes criticized for being too severe, at least they are consistent.  I’ve known more than one runner who earned an elite spot and didn’t receive it.  When it comes to rules, gray doesn’t help.

I used the bathroom about 17 times and then dropped my gear bag off and went to the start to warm up.  I was thankful to feel a little chilly, the weather forecast was for a pretty warm day and I was worried.  My coach had warned me that it’s not so much about cooling down, but staving off the heat all together.  He encouraged me to drink at least a few sips of water at all the water stops and dump a cup of water on my neck even before I felt hot.  I am so thankful I heeded this advice, even though I was sopping wet crossing the finish line, I didn’t overheat.

My splits were very conservative for the first 4 miles and that’s okay.  I had talked with some runner friends who said your whole St. George marathon can blow up if you take the first 4 too hard and I was determined not to make that mistake again.

My friend Sarah snapped this picture as I ran through the little town of Veyo, Utah.  I love seeing the crowd and all these sweet people who come out to cheer us on.  I had just put my music in and was about to get to work.  I think this is my “game-face.”

img_1251

My plan was to average 6:50’s for the first half and hit 13.1 miles in 1:31:07.  I ended up running Veyo hill quite a bit slower which put me behind, I was breathing pretty hard going up and I had the thought that it didn’t make any sense to trash my legs at this point in the race, so I backed off.  I was fairly confident that I could make up the time in the second half if everything was going well.

Miles 7-13 are not my favorite on the course.  This is usually the place where first time runners shout with rage, “I thought this was all downhill!?”  The only thing I try to focus on for these miles is my music and seeing my husband at Snow Canyon.  I tell him all the time, but he’ll never understand fully, how much it means to have someone who loves you waiting for you. It’s the best thing in world when you’re racing.  We had a quick handoff of coconut water that tasted like manna from heaven.

With the speed coming down from Snow Canyon, I was finally in that groove when the race begins to click. I was averaging about  6:30’s on the mile splits (10 seconds faster than my plan).  I had made up the time I had lost on Veyo hill and my legs still felt good.  Marathon racing requires constant management of energy, conserving it when you need to, so that you still have some left in reserve for those last 3 to 6 miles.  I was constantly checking in with myself and saying things like, “just hold here,” “I can keep running this pace,” “this pace will get me a sub three.”  I feel like this photo caught me doing runner math, so I looked like I’m “mean mugging” the poor photographer.  I love running, I really do.

fullsizerender-23

With three miles to go I had about 24 minutes to make it under three hours. Even though I felt fairly confident that I could, I still wanted to give this race everything I had, so I picked up my pace.  With two miles to go I just ran.  I didn’t want to look at my watch, I just focused on the landmarks.  This section of the course that I’d run a hundred times is a road so familiar to me that I know every divot and pot-hole.  I passed the Washington County School District building where I applied to be a teacher 9 years ago and it changed my life.  Then I wound past the Tabernacle where I had said goodbye to my parents when they left last spring and sat in my car and cried.  Past the splash pad where my daughter first dipped her baby toes before she could walk.  Down on past the church where I listened to my friend Mauri’s son speak before he left on a mission.  Then past the pilates studio where I went before I had my daughter and I didn’t really appreciate what free time or Saturday afternoons to yourself truly meant.

And I felt it.  All these moments.  All these memories.  This wondrous connection to a place I love so much, to a sport I love so much, to friends and family I love so much, and to have it all come together in that one moment just leaves my heart filled with gratitude.  I was able to come across the finish line as the 18th female with a time of 2:57:09.

fullsizerender-22

It is never lost on me how the stars have to align to make race day successful.  I am so thankful to my family, my teammates, the other runners, and to all of you.  Thank you for the prayers and good energy sent my way, it means so much to me.

Although I ran smart, I didn’t go for the “out there” goal, and even though that number in my head scares me a little, it’s always good to have something else to chase.  Happy running friends!

Did you run St. George?

What’s your “out there” goal?

Have you tried coconut water in a race?

What’s your favorite race fuel?

 

5 thoughts on “The Saint George Marathon Recap

  1. Kayla says:

    I’m running my first ever marathon at st George this fall. I can’t wait to get back to Utah.. we live in Indiana now! This had some
    Good pointers for me, like not going too hard the first 4 miles and some hints about the hills. Any other tips specific to the course?

  2. Angela Moore says:

    Hey Katie!
    I just registered for the St George Marathon this fall, and am super excited! It’s been on my marathon “to-do” list for quite some time. I was hoping for a little training advice from you. You see, I live in New Orleans and we are below sea level. I know that the course is downhill but with it being at a high altitude at the start (and still high for me at the finish lol) I’m at a total loss about how I should train for this race. Any tips or things I can incorporate into my normal training that might help? Any info in greatly appreciate it. I am really hoping for a PR at St George!

    • Katie Guisinger says:

      Hi Angela,
      You will love the St. George Marathon. I need to hurry up and register too! St. George can be challenging, it has a reputation for being downhill, but what is more accurate is that it has a net elevation decrease. What this means is that there are some sections of the course that are downhill, but there is quite a bit of uphill too. In fact miles 7-13 are pretty hilly and there are two more big hills at mile 16 and around mile 21. The great news about the course is that the last 3-4 miles, when you’re really tired, it is slightly downhill and that helps you get through the end. Altitude issues can be tricky. I try to do some training runs each summer up in Cedar City and it’s at 9,000 feet. I can feel myself breathing a bit harder, and I’m more tired after an altitude run. I heard an interview with Jared Ward where he was really worried about the humidity in Rio because he lives in Utah, his coach reminded him that good training is good training. I think that advice is so applicable. Your lungs might be working a little harder, but I would just focus on solid training. The most success I’ve had at St. George is when I try to negative split the course. Keep some energy in reserve the first half and then just let the downhill carry you. Keep me posted on your training! I’m so excited for you! -Katie

  3. Regina says:

    Cold coconut water is oh so good during marathon training and race time. I have never done St. George but I do run my local home marathon each year, Long Beach. I’ve never even heard of your race fuel, but I will definitely look into it. Last Sunday during LB marathon I took 4 honeystinger gu and 1 sleeve of margarita blocks, needed the salt during the warm weather. That is sooo much more fuel than you took…interesting.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *