Thursday, October 6, 2016

St. George Marathon Race Recap

Before I jump into the recap itself, if you haven't read the story of how we arrived at the race it's worth giving a read (and I'm not just saying that because I wrote it ;)). You can find the back story to St. George HERE.

And now onto the main event... If you follow me on social media then you received a spoiler alert on how the race went overall (if you aren't following me, shame on you... KIDDING!), but now it's time for the nitty gritty deets!

Once I got into the race I had to figure out the logistics - flying vs driving, where I was staying, if Ryan was coming or if I'd be traveling solo, etc. Thankfully some friends of mine were also going and offered to let me jump in with them. HECK TO THE YES for turning my goal race into a mini girls weekend!

We decided we would head out Friday morning for the Saturday race. I'm always for more nights in my own bed (both for comfort and for frugality), even if it leads to a slightly busier day before the race.

I met Carrie, Elise and Allison up in Orange around 8am. Elise's hubby and kids were also coming but we stole her from their car for a few hours and made her ride with us.

Tell me I'm not the only one who takes selfies in their car...

We made great time on the way to Utah and really didn't hit any traffic. We stopped in Primm for lunch at Mad Greek. I chowed down on some hummus and pita with a side of rice. When in Greece, right?! I mean, we did need to "carb load" for the following day, so why not pile the carbohydrates in?!

With the hour we lost due to the time change we ended up pulling into the Expo right as the #WeRunSocial meet-up was getting ready to start - PERFECTION! We hung out with the crew, chatted about race strategy and snapped a few pictures before making our way into the Expo and grabbing our bibs.

Source: #WeRunSocial's Facebook Feed

The Expo had quite a few vendors, or maybe it was just the fact that everything seemed jammed into a small space so the crowds made it feel that way. Whatever the case after we grabbed our bibs and race tees we meandered through the rows for a few minutes before making our way back to the car. [FYI Expos are not my jam, but there were plenty of options to pick up gear and last minute items that you may have forgotten to pack or bring with you.]

Oh yeah, the St. George Marathon had been pretty great about keeping us informed and sending out email updates. The issue was, in hindsight, some of the emails were unnecessary and caused more than a few pointless freak outs.

For example, they sent out a warning email that a section of the course would be going down to a single lane due to some bridge construction. That email warned that with the congestion there may be times where runner's would need to stop and wait before being allowed over the bridge. What the what?! You can't tell people who are racing (especially those trying to qualify for the Boston Marathon) that there is potential they will need to stop running on the course!

Also, when you registered you were not asked for proof of time, which meant we assumed it would be self-seeding. Well, that was until we were sent another scary email about how bibs would be color coded and have a wave release (but how did they know which wave to put people in?!). Come to find out, there was an elite wave, a sub-elite wave and then everyone else... Again, unnecessary freak outs because of poorly worded emails (but that was honestly one of my only complaints of the race for the weekend).

See how it says 'runners line up according to bib number'... But how were they going to assign the bib numbers?! 

While at the expo we tried to get some clarification on all of these pieces of information but eventually decided that stressing wouldn't help the fact so tried to make a game plan with a back-up plan just in case it proved necessary.

#FlatCarlee consisted of PRO Compression Socks, a Handful Sports Bra,
a Sparkle Athletic Skirt, a Road ID bracelet, QALO silicon wedding bands,
Brooks running shoes (complete with Shwings), my Garmin Forerunner 735XT,
Momentum Jewelry wrap, a Sparkly Soul headband, a Nathan handheld, a
pace band, PROBAR BOLT chews, a new Momentum Jewelry necklace and
some throw away gear (like cheap mitts and sleeves).

Elise's in-laws actually live on the course (around Mile 10) and offered to let us all crash with them Friday night - CAN YOU SAY AWESOMESAUCE?! It worked out perfectly! We ended up leaving one of the cars at the finish line (near where we ate Friday night) and the other we drove to the start on Saturday morning. It only took about 10 minutes to get to the start line, we were able to avoid taking the buses/ shuttles (which started around 4am) and we were able to sit in the comfort of our own car until closer to race time. BINGO BANGO!

We all expected that we'd be restless Friday night (seeing as all four of the girls and Skyler were planning to attempt a BQ the following morning) but still tried to get in bed before 10pm. Everyone had an alarm (or three) set, although, like normal, no one really needed them. Most of us were up and out of bed around 4:30am to start getting ready.

We were all prepared for cooler temps with throw-away layers, sleeves and gloves (the weather man was calling for 40s at the start and 60s at the finish), but as soon as we stepped outside Saturday morning we knew things were a bit off. When we got to the starting line it was already 58° by 5:30am and we knew we would be in for a toasty race.

Although I had my phone with me (inside of my Nathan hydration handheld pouch), I didn't pull it out for any photos - so please forgive me. It was pitch black (there is very little light pollution 26.2 miles outside of St. George) and figured they probably wouldn't have come out too great anyway.

This is a picture of the views we had along the course. I took this one Saturday evening when we were driving back into town. And this
doesn't even do it justice... The views were absolutely stunning - each and every one of them!

Once it got closer to 6am we gathered our gear, left our sleeves and mitts in the car and made our way to the starting area. We jumped in line for the port-o-potties only to find out that many of them were already out of toilet paper. Thankfully you were able to grab some from a stocked potty nearby before entering the sparse ones. (But, word to the wise, always pack some wipes or tissues for race morning!)


Skyler was given a sub-elite bib so started in the corral ahead of us. The rest of us ladies had the plan to start towards the front of the open corral. We didn't want to get stuck with too much weaving but hoped most people lined up properly, especially with the Clif Pacers out there.

Allison is a speed demon, but hadn't run a full before so thought she'd shoot for a 3:22 (or at least that was the pace band she ended up using). I knew I would not (and should not) keep up with her so figured I'd let her drop me as soon as we crossed the starting line. Carrie and Elise were using this as a training run for the Ironman that they will be doing in November (and have a few extra minutes than me on their Boston Qualifying time due to their age group) so decided to shoot for between 3:32 and 3:40.

Although I would have loved to run with someone, I was secretly glad that we were all running different speeds. I didn't want to get pulled into someone else's pace and not be able to run my own race (whether it be faster or slower than I would have liked), so I think this worked out perfectly.

A couple weeks ago I posted my goals for this race (which you can read HERE if you missed it or want to reread them). My A Goal was sub 3:32 (which is what I estimated the time I'd need to not only qualify for the Boston Marathon but also the buffer I would need to actually get a spot), but I decided to "go for it" and print off a pace band for 3:30.


I decided a week or so ago that I would not let my watch dictate my run. I would look at it every once in a while to make sure I wasn't going way too fast or way too slow, but I wanted to try and run by effort instead of getting too caught up in my splits - especially seeing as this was NOT a flat course and my paces would fluctuate every mile.

This race is touted as a downhill course, but there are plenty of uphills thrown in to keep you on your toes! (In fact, Carrie said at one point she yelled out "Isn't this supposed to be downhill?" and said many of the runners around her were thinking and saying the exact same thing.)

The elevation gain may not appear that bad, but your legs will definitely feel every incline or bump along the way!

I knew that the major climbing happened in the first half of the race, so was hoping to encounter it while my body was still feeling good. Miles 1 and 2 had some slight elevation gains, but with fresh legs, a dark course (we started about 30 minutes before Mr. Sunshine made himself known) and hoards of runners it was hard to tell.

From looking at my pace band I knew that I needed to expect slower miles between Mile 7 and 14. I'm not saying that the whole 7 miles was up, but the majority of those miles were slower so knew I needed to accommodate for that.

I knew around Mike 10 I would see Elise's father-in-law, his wife and Elise and Skyler's two kids. It made the uphill portions a little more manageable when you knew a friendly face (or four) would be out there.

When I hit 13.1 miles I was right around 1:45. I would love to say I was shooting for negative splits but with the temperatures rising quickly I knew that might not be a possibility. If I could hang on and run the second half similarly to the first I could hit my goal (1:45 + 1:45 = 3:30).

I felt strong. I felt confident. I felt like I was running the smartest race I had ever run up to that point.

But, as most runners know, you MUST run the mile you are in and not get ahead of yourself. I tried to focus on my surroundings (the amazing beauty that we were blessed to be able to run in), high-five kids spectating along the course, chat with runners around me, etc. Everything I could to stay in the moment and keep my eye on the prize.

At the Mile 17 aid station there was a volunteer with a jug of water so I decided to stop for an extra couple seconds so I could refill my handheld. Up to this point I was sipping from it between aid stations (so it was almost empty) but still grabbing a cup of water at each stop. I was running the water stops because I was slightly worried about time, but knew that if I didn't get enough to drink on the run I still had my handheld to get me through between stops. (I also stopped to refill my handheld after Mile 22, which you can see in my splits because the volunteer fumbled around for a while.)

I had been taking my PROBAR BOLT chews every 6-6.5 miles. I took 4-5 chews at Mile 6.5 (prior to hitting the Veyo hills), 4-5 chews around 12.5, and another 4-5 chews around Mile 18. When I came up to some spectators around Mile 19 they had Otter Pops and it was GLORIOUS! Not only was the sugar and flavor great, but by this time I was so warm that anything I could do to cool down was much appreciated.

Race volunteers had bags of ice for runners at one part in the course! HEAVENLY! I shoved some in my sports bra and was chewing on the remaining pieces as I ran along - trying to hydrate and cool my insides at the same time.

Around Mile 22 or 23 I knew I should take my last set of chews but my body was not having it. It was like the thought of chewing was requiring so much energy, energy that I didn't want to expend, so I ended up forgoing my last fueling. I was praying this wouldn't end up biting me in the butt (especially with the potential for the dreaded 'wall' looming).

The last three miles of the course are more within St. George (the "city"), so the spectators came out to welcome us in. I've gotta say, this city truly loves its marathon! This was the 40th year and I could feel the love the entire race (even though much of the course isn't accessible since it's a two lane road), there were many more people out cheering us on than I was expecting! And that makes the world of difference to runners, especially if they're struggling - so THANK YOU spectators (I try to make eye contact and thank as many people as possible, but I know I don't get them all)!

For the most part you are running on the same road the entire time (you make a couple turns
once you get into the city limits, but otherwise it's a straight shot down the hill to town)

When I started at the University of Michigan I thought I was going to be a math major. With that said, doing math while running is NOT my forte! I am well aware of this, which makes it easier for me to avoid the additional stress of trying to run numbers and see what I could run if dot dot dot (you know, we all play those games... if I can run these last 4 miles at 8:00/mile pace then I could finish in 2:52+32... carry the 1, multiply the four, banana...).

I had written "No Regrets" on my hand and knew that the only way to run this race would be holding nothing back. That doesn't mean I was planning on running mach 3 the entire time, but it meant I couldn't just sit back, get comfortable and run for fun. I wanted to leave everything I had out on the course. And that is exactly how I ran!

I ended up finishing in 3:30:50 and truly believe I couldn't have gone a second faster with the body that showed up and the circumstances we had to deal with. I gave it my all, didn't back off the gas and ran away with a 15 minute PR (personal record) and my very first BQ (Boston Qualifier)!

I knew my watch wouldn't match my official time because I started
it late... I didn't realize the starting line was actually the starting line
since it was only a time mat... OOPS!


Even with the temps being in the high 70s when we finished, my pace didn't suffer as much as I was expecting it to. I was able to run a pretty even pace (when you accommodate for the elevation) the entire race.

This was literally the smartest and most complete race I've ever run. I never hit a 'wall', never wanted to give up, never felt like there was a time that I could have given more and I pushed myself the entire time! Yes, my quads were screaming by Mile 20, yes, I was exhausted, yes, I would have preferred not having to dump cups full of water over my head and on my body starting around Mile 15, but I was NOT going to give up!


Oh yeah, and in case you were wondering, all four of us girls qualified for Boston! Allison rocked the race with a 3:16, I came in at 3:30, Elise finished right at 3:35 and Carrie had a 3:38. Skyler didn't have the race he was hoping for but still has a year to try and qualify. #GirlPower! And in case you didn't know already, SPARKLE = SPEED!

The Boston Qualifying time for my gender and age (females from 18-34) is 3:35. Runner's qualifying for the 2017 Boston Marathon had to run 2:09 faster than their qualifying time to secure a spot (they found out within the last week or so). I am hoping that my 4:10 buffer will get me a spot in the 2018 Boston Marathon, but I will have to wait and see.


These legs are STRONG AF! 

I may attempt to better my time at the Phoenix Marathon in February depending on how my next round of training goes to see if I can increase my buffer, but for the last two years my time would've been good enough to secure me a spot.

I asked the photographer if I could take a selfie in front of the
background... She said only if she could take a picture of me taking
a selfie. I guess it was a fair trade ;)

Now that the details are out of the way, I want to take a minute and thank EACH AND EVERY one of you! You all have believed in me when I was filled with doubt. You have sent me encouragement throughout my running 'career' and I'm forever grateful for all you have done for me! This race was for me, yes, but I also wanted to prove to you that your confidence in me was not wasted. You all deserve a piece of my race medal! I cannot say thank you enough, but please know how much you and your unfailing support means to me! YOU ALL ROCK MY FREAKIN' SOCKS!

Skyler was walking behind us and thought it reminded him of Reservoir Dogs
so hobbled to get ahead of us and get this shot. I called Mrs. Blue! 

#RealTalk - I don't know if it has truly hit me yet... Don't get me wrong, I am beyond stoked, but I think it'll take longer for me to process the fact that I knocked almost 15 minutes off of my best marathon time, qualified for one of the most prestigious races in the world and saw first hand how hard work and dedication (along with the right circumstances) can pay off. I chased the elusive unicorn and hopefully, God willing, in 2018 I will be toeing the line at the Boston Marathon!

What has been your strongest race?


Erica Kolsrud said...

So so proud of you! You inspire me so much! Can't wait to tackle Los Angeles with you next year, when I am back (hopefully) at 100%!!!!

Chelsea B. said...

CONGRATS!!! you are a wonderful inspiration and portray how hard work with fun can pay off. :)

Unknown said...

Congrats Carlee! You have worked so hard and truly earned that BQ!

FitnessFatale said...


Jesica @rUnladylike said...

Congrats Carlee!!! I'm so excited for you! What an excellent race and time! I hope you're still flying high from your accomplishment. Hugs!

San said...

Congratulations, Carlee. What a huge accomplishment! :)