Overall, running my first marathon was a great experience.  I made some big mistakes that likely cost me a lot of time, but I learned a ton from this race.  I’m really looking forward to my next marathon and hopefully seeing some improvement :)

We stayed in Cedar City the night before.  Sam, poppa White, and I got up around 3:30am and Sam drove us down to the buses.  We loaded up, and rode up to the middle-of-nowhere starting line.  I was so impressed with the organization and thought that was obviously put into this race. Even with all 7400 runners, things we run very smoothly and they didn’t run out of anything, there were plenty of bathrooms, etc.  The only thing I didn’t like was how cheerful the announcer was when he told us that it was going to be “unseasonably hot today, with some headwinds!” ;)

Doesn’t it look like fun?
After waiting in line for the bathroom, I made it in the nick of time to line up with the 3:45 pace group.  My plan was the stick with them for a while, then drop back to the 4:00 if I needed to.  For the first 7 miles I was ahead of them and just going along pretty steadily.  At Veyo hill- the steepest incline of the race-  I slowed down but kept a steady pace.  A bit after the hill the 3:45 group caught up with me, and I stuck with them for the next 2 miles of incline.  Around mile 12 I had to stop for the bathroom, but could still see them ahead of me on the course when I came out.  I had planned on steadily catching up to them, and was doing well at getting gradually closer for the next mile or so.  Then I realized that at some point I had accidentally stopped my GPS watch. Very bad news.  This made it much more difficult to figure out my average pace, when the next aid station would be, and how I was doing.  I was able to kind of mentally calculate what it should be, but then I accidentally stopped my watch again at mile 16, and again later on.  There was no hope of redemption, and it really made it hard for me to pace myself properly.
I carried on pretty steadily until mile 18, when my quads started cramping from a particularly steep downhill.  At the next aid station I got a volunteer to hook my up with some Icy Hot which helped a lot.  I got a second wind from then until mile 23, which is when things really got difficult.
At this point we had reached the city, and there were a ton of people lined up in the street for the rest of the race.  They even had school bands playing.  For some this probably would have been really helpful and encouraging, but it actually made it harder for me.  I have my music playlist all with a specific BPM, so I run in cadence in order to maintain my pace.  With all of the noise I couldn’t hear it anymore, and after running 23+ miles, that was not so good.  My calves started getting charley horses, my quads began to seize up more severely, and even my forearms started to cramp.  Then the 4:00 pacer caught up with me.  I realized that this was not a good thing at this point:  since I had crossed the start line before him, there was no way I was going to get far enough ahead to actually break the 4:00 time.  We were also at mile 25.2 around this point.  After running that far and being in that much pain, “only” needing to run 1 more mile was a horrible feeling.
Finishing strong.
I’ve mentioned before that I get all philosophical and emotional during runs (especially races) sometimes.  At this point I had to make a decision.  I wasn’t going to make my goal time.  I could have said “nuts to this!” and just walked the rest of the way since I wasn’t going to get what I had wanted anyway.  Or I could keep pushing with everything I had left and finished strong, regardless of time.  I’m proud to say that I gave it all I could.  With some help (yelling) from the pacer, I made it my new goal to just beat him to the finish line.
Right after finishing.  I don’t remember
this picture being taken!
When the balloon arches of the finish line came into sight, I ran my very, very fastest that I could in that moment.  I don’t know how fast it really was, but I know that I did all that I could.  As soon as I crossed the finish line and they started herding us into the runners’ area, I pretty much wandered aimlessly through the crowd trying to find my family and hoping that I wouldn’t collapse somewhere that they would’t be able to find me.
My official time was 4:01:46
The good ol’ race motto
There is something significant and meaningful to me about “missing the mark” by that small margin.  In my nature it would be extremely easy to feel regret about the mistakes I made that caused me delays.  I could be extremely dissatisfied and write off the entire race over that 1:46.  I made mistakes with food, fluids, pacing, my watch, and so many other things.  But the fact that I am trying (and mostly succeeding) at being satisfied with how I did– and what I did– is actually quite outstanding.  But it’s less than two minutes.  Over 26.22 miles. That’s kind of a big deal that I just did that.  Plus, for being my first marathon, there is definitely a learning curve.  I learned a lot and will be able to take what I learned and use it for my next marathon (in June!).
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