My goal going into this race was to get in under 6 hours. I had revised my previous goal of 5:30 due to potential weather complications and my lack of confidence in my training. The weather proved to live up to it's forecast. The morning started out dry, with a cloud hanging out towards Monarch Pass. Here's a picture of how things started out:
That guy looks like he's trying really hard to keep up with me doesn't he? It started to "sprinkle" snow as the race continued, but the real snow started once I hit the backside, about mile 10. The snow continued until about mile 18. Back on the front side of the mountain the weather cleared up a lot and it was pretty dry for the 2.5mile sprint back down the hill.
The course was about as I expected. It has about the same elevation change as the half marathon, but spread out over a longer distance. I actually think that the marathon was "easier" in terms of the layout than the half. The half has a lot of steep up and down while to me the marathon felt a lot more gradual. Everyone who had run the marathon before me warned me about "the road". Therefore when I got the road I was ready to take on the challenge. Especially since there was an aid station at the bottom with peanut butter m&m's. As I was filling my water bottle the volunteers asked if I needed anything and I grabbed handful of m&m's and stuck them in my pocket to "take on this hill". The road took FOORRREEEEVVVVEEER.
Literally it felt like it took forever. I think it took me about an hour or so to run it. But I am proud to say I ran it! I ran the whole thing. I was so excited that I was able to do it. There was about 2" of snow on the ground and it was pretty chilly. I was dressed for it, but nothing can really help snow pelting your face. There were some pretty intense rocky sections. For the most part I really enjoyed the course.
I had some knee issues during the race, probably at about mile 15 or 16. I experienced similar pain during one of my long runs. I was on the road so I thought it might be more related to pavement, but I definitely felt it during this race. I had to stop and stretch a few times and walk a little bit just because it hurt so much. It really got me pretty disappointed because I thought it was going to set me back a lot. I kept a mantra in my head during this "all you can do is keep going" so that's what I did. As I came into the last aide station, checked my watch and learned I had 2.5 miles left I knew I just needed to go. I am not sure what happened, but I was able to get in the "zone" and just go. I ended up finishing in 5:32:38.
Having had about a week to think about the race I've come away with some goals and ideas as I prepare for my next race: Quad Rock. I'm excited that I finished this marathon almost an hour quicker than I ran Quad Rock last year. While Quad Rock is a tougher course, I was really psyched about my uphill work this marathon. The hill repeats have helped a lot with my overall uphill running ability and I think that will translate well into Quad Rock. With daylight savings giving me more light in the evening, I am going to put in more mid week trail running. But really, but biggest goal is to get in a lot more long trail runs. I think it would mentally put me in a better space for both Quad Rock and War Eagle in June.
I was really excited about my ability to push past some pain and finish the marathon strong. Learning that I can keep going when I feel like I'm unable to is going to make a big difference in future races. I've done it before, but I was able to do it and get to a place where I felt strong again. I know that there are always times in races when you feel less than awesome, but it's a big deal to feel that and then feel strong and able to really kill it in the home stretch.