Leavenworth Marathon 2017
I decided to run the Leavenworth marathon for a number of reasons - most of which had to do with my goal of breaking 3 hours. It has a favorable course for a PR, with the first 10 miles being downhill and the remaining 16 mostly flat. It's also a smaller marathon (participation-wise) which means that it's easier to get on the podium in your age group when compared to big marathons like Seattle and Portland. The layout of the course is also very similar to the Top of Utah Marathon (which I've done 7 times), in that you go to the finish line and they bus you up a nearby canyon to the start line. I had been training diligently and felt confident about my goal. All that was left to do was toe the start line!
I felt work early on Friday and picked up my wife and mom and left for Leavenworth to meet my dad, who was already there. We didn't get into town until past 8pm, so I would have to wait until race morning to pick up my race packet. As I was organizing gear for the next morning, I discovered that my watch band had broken. We all tried to think of ways to fix it, and even considered using duct tape to literally strap the watch to my wrist. In the end, I borrowed my dad's watch (which is nicer than mine anyway) and set it up how I had mine set up so I had access to my pace, heart rate, etc. during the race. After a few more preparations, I set my alarm and went to bed.
I woke up at 4:45, grabbed a couple of Pop Tarts for breakfast and got into my race clothes. At 5:15 my dad and I got into the car and he dropped me off at the finish line. I got checked in, which was a little underwhelming compared to other races I've done. Usually you get a bag with your race bib, t-shirt, plus a bunch of swag. For Leavenworth, they handed me my race bib....and that's it. No swag to speak of, and we were only able to get t-shirts after the race. It's not really a big deal, but it does show how small of a race Leavenworth is. I grabbed a trash bag they were handing out for a clothing drop bag (it's always cold at the start of races like this, so I always wear sweats to the start). I then boarded the bus for the ride to the start line, which is about 10 miles up a nearby canyon.
As soon as we got off the bus there was one issue that was immediately apparent. There were 6 port-a-potties... yes, that's right...6. For those who've never done a race like this, I've seen anywhere between 30 and 100. Now, I realize that this is a small marathon with limited resources, but just about every runner needs to use one right before a race. 6 just doesn't seem like quite enough. Fortunately, I was on the first bus and got in line very soon. I had plenty of time to prepare for the start. I did some jogging to warm-up, had a few sips of water, got my watch and iPod ready and waited until 7am for the start.
At 7:02am the gun went off and the race began. I had positioned myself near the front, and was with a group of about 12 for the first couple miles and then people began spreading out. Soon I was alone, with several hundred yards between me and anyone else. This was the case for most of the race. The first 10 miles went by fast, especially as it was downhill! At mile 9.5, I passed the campground we were staying at and saw my wife and parents there to cheer me on! I was averaging 6:47min/mile at this point, well on track to meet my goal!
At about mile 12, the trail goes off-road and went through some very soft dirt - like running though sand - which was exhausting and an unwelcome factor when trying to set a PR. The halfway point passes by the the finish line and then heads into downtown Leavenworth. At about mile 15 my legs started to feel heavy and I couldn't keep them moving as hard or fast as I needed to break 3 hours. As the miles went on, I could feel my goal of breaking 3 hours slowly slipping away. Once the route went through Leavenworth, it got onto a trail which was well-marked for the most part, but there were a couple of places where I wondered if I was still on-route. Definitely room for improvement there for the race organizers.
I continued pushing as hard as I could, but I knew my goal of sub-3hrs was gone for good. I managed to maintain about an 8min/mile for the last few miles. The last couple miles repeat a section from earlier in the race, so once again I had the joy of running through the soft dirt. A couple people passed me on this dirt section - the only people to pass me - with just one mile to go. I pushed as hard as I could and finished the race strong - coming in at 3hrs 17min...
I can't say I'm not disappointed with a time of 3:17, but there wasn't anything I could do about it at this point. I simply enjoyed the things that went well with this race and will do better next time. I quickly got some water in me and got a massage, which felt great. Then I got some more water and upon checking the results, I discovered that despite my time, I finished 2nd in my age group (and 10th overall)! We waited for the awards ceremony, where I was able to stand on the podium and received my AG award! Then I had a shower and ate some McDonalds.
I'm still trying to figure out what caused me to slow down so much at the end of the race. I suspect I may have gone too fast at the start of the race, though it was downhill and I've done a bunch of race-pace training around 6:45min/mile. I suppose it could also have something to do with insufficient long-run training, but I've had some of my best performances with this same amount of training. I'll just keep training and eventually I will be able to break 3 hours!