I love this run, 6,300' vertical in 26 miles is definitely good early season test. Last year I was forced to miss it because of a stomach bug, so I was even more anxious this time around.
A little over 100 runners toed the start line in the early morning fog that made the surrounding hills look more like the San Francisco Headlands than the Wasatch foothills. Karl Meltzertook off straight away, opening a small gap over a small group containingTy Draney, Shilling, Karl Jarvis, Chuck Kanopa and myself. Heading up the initial climb out of city creek Ty and I swapped turns chasing Karl until my calves started screaming in protest. The heavy rains from the night before left the trail very muddy and slippery. The extra work required to maintain a quick pace was a bit to much for me this early in the game so slowed a bit and watched all but Chuck disappear into the fog in front of me.
Chuck and I finished the long descent to the north salt lake bench, then headed east to begin the long ridge climb. From the double track road on the bench it was difficult to see the bottom of the climb and this is where Ty, Shilling, and Jarvis kept going straight, off course. The cloud that we were running in made it difficult to see very far, maybe a quarter to a half mile of visibility at most, so I assumed Chuck and I were running in 5th at this point. We kept a good pace for the climb and hit the long descent into city creek in good time. I pressed the descent a bit faster than Chuck and that's the last time I saw anybody in front or behind me.
Once I made my way back up to Morris Meadows I saw Dan at the first aid station. I remarked how quickly everyone in front of me was moving and he looked at me blankly, "you're the first person I've seen" he told me. I informed him of who I knew was in front of me and left Morris Meadows back up to the shoreline. Seems as though Meltzer had skipped the aid station and went straight through the meadow up to the shoreline, which is the same distance/climb as going through the aid station, but Dan had missed seeing him come through.
The next section over to dry creek is my least favorite but running in the cloud/fog made it a little more enjoyable, more than likely because I still couldn't see that far. Down in the bottom of dry creek I took note of the running water and kept a steady pace to the mouth of the canyon. At the next aid station they once again informed me that I was in first, but I still knew better and just kept plugging along. Over the Red Butte section I stopped and tightened my shoe laces for the semi-technical descent into George's hollow and the slog that would be coming up wet/dry fork. I kept a steady pace over to the last aid station and took my time getting some gel and liquids down for the final section.
My plan was to start back up dry creek at the 3.20 mark, which would leave me 1 hour to get to the finish and reach my goal of going under 4.20. I didn't look at my watch until I hit the singletrack in dry creek, it read 3.20.35. This motivated me enough to keep running up the canyon, something I had never done during this race. About halfway up I saw something move up the trail in front of me. As I rounded the next bend I was staring straight at a bright orange fox with black tipped ears and tail. A second later he bolted off the trail and up the side of the canyon. I've probably been up and down that canyon a hundred times, but that's the first time I've seen a fox.
I kept running to the back of the canyon, knowing that I would get a walking break once I hit the creek running down "dry" fork. There was no point trying to stay out of the water so I took this as a good opportunity to clean my shoes. I watched the water closely for loose sediment that someone in front of me could have disturbed but saw nothing, so I concluded that anyone that was in front of me had a pretty sizable lead and I would focus on time instead. At the back of dry fork the trail leaves the creek bed and starts up one of my favorite climbs, Unkle F#@!. All the way up I kept glancing up, hoping to see someone, but still nothing. Once I reached the top I let gravity do it's thing and cruised as quickly as I could all the way back down to the shoreline. I hit the saddle of the shoreline and city creek realizing I would definitely make it under 4.20 I just didn't know by how far. From here on the course is really quite easy, save for one nasty little climb. I have to say that this is one of my least favorite climbs of the day. After descending for 10 to 15 minutes straight you are faced with a veritable wall. I had intended to run up this last climb but that was about as realistic as growing wings and flying to the finish. I power hiked this last obstacle then ran all the way to the finish.
I turned in to Dan's driveway to stop the clock at 4.11 and look for everyone that finished in front of me. Karl was the only other runner I saw sitting there and after exchanging stories with him and Dan I found out that Ty, Shilling and Jarvis had gone off course, which left in me in a distant 2nd to Karl's new course record of 3.47! I'm pretty sure that Ty andJared Campbell(got a late start) came across next, followed by Karl Jarvis. Shilling ended up doing most of the course but after doing the Boston Marathon on monday he opted out of the last section. Peter beat his personal best and finished in the top 10 followed Brian a short time later. Sandywas right in there as well but I have hard time remembering everyone's placing, full results can be foundheresoon.
Thanks to Dan and all the volunteers for flagging the course and manning the aid stations, much appreciated! Hands down, the best marathon in Salt Lake.