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Little Grand Canyon Marathon - Run

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Huntington, Utah
United States
59F / 15C
Total Time = 4h 17m 43s
Overall Rank = 11/58
Age Group =
Age Group Rank = 0/
  • 4h 17m 43s
  • 26.2 miles
  • 09m 50s  min/mile

Ahhh the quest for the first marathon by itself. I say "by itself" because up until now the only marathons I had done were at the end of Ironman races. I wanted to see what I could do with legs that didn't feel like I'd been hit by a bus at the starting line, so I started training in April. My first pick for a race was in Iceland, but because of work scheduling I wasn't able to get enough time off to go overseas. It was a toss up between the Little Grand Canyon in Utah, and an extra terrestrial themed marathon along the highway in Nevada where all the UFO sightings are. It starts at midnight under a full moon and people run dressed like aliens and Elvis. It sounded cool, but something about starting a marathon at midnight was worrisome considering I'm usually in bed by 9. I'm so glad I went with the Little Grand Canyon race. It starts just outside Huntington and goes down into the San Rafael swell, ending at a scenic spot called The Wedge, decorated with towering castles of sandstone.

At 6:30, we all toe the line just as there's a slight bit of ambient light creeping over the horizon. To my left is a lady taking a picture of another runner taking a whiz on the side of the road in front of everyone. I love these people!! I see a few other runners wearing an SJ Ultimate Direction hydration vest like mine which naturally causes us to gravitate towards each other like some kind of dorky uniformed running squad. I also couldn't find my regular running visor, so I end up wearing a bright red "Nobody beats the Wiz!" trucker cap that my niece had given me for Christmas as a joke.
And we're off! The first 10 miles melt away under my feet. With the altitude difference, I'm doing a fair amount of huffing and puffing, but 2 girls beside me whose pace matches mine are chatting away about their boyfriend dramas like they're at a coffee shop. After enough time they ask me if I'm enjoying their girl talk. I tell them that I'm just amazed that they're able to speak at all with the thin air.
There aren't too many people in this race, so it thins out pretty quickly, and I'm actually on my own for a good part of it. This bit of privacy affords me the unfair advantage as a man to pull down the front of my shorts a bit and relieve myself without having to stop running. Pro tip: This technique has varying degrees of success or failure based on how much of a headwind there is.
The conditions are good, except for a nasty headwind. High 50s feel great and when the sun does start peeking out from behind the hills, it's quickly blocked by the puffy clouds which give us a little more time in the shade. By mile 9, I feel that my farts are becoming less trustworthy, so a highspeed pit stop at the next portaloo remedies that problem. At aid stations with fruit, I eat some banana, then shove a big piece in between my cheek and gums, like runners chewing tobacco. When needed, I use my tongue to swallow another piece, hands free, but I have a feeling that there may be pictures of me with a swollen looking cheek like I got punched in the face.
There are many long stretches of road, several miles long in fact, and like counting cards I try to see what place I'm in by locating all the people in front of me. Sometimes all I can see is a blur of a pink shirt way in the distance. One by one my fellow competitors either walk or slow down to the point where I pass them, and I make sure to pass with the confidence that makes them think that I've passed them for good and there's no catching back up. In the entire race, nobody does. As the miles continue, I pass more and more, one at a time.
We enter the canyon with 10 miles left. The fatigue coming to all of us is offset by the beautiful sheer cliffs on either side. We pass ancient pictographs painted on the walls, and a sign indicates that there are dinosaur footprints right alongside the road.
Mile 17, 18, 19. This is where my abilities as a runner pay off. What I lack in any kind of real talent whatsoever, I make up for in my above average ability to put up with a lot of pain. It's this ability that allows me to pass even more people. At one aid station, a little kid sees me and starts writing something down on a very official looking sheet of some sort.
"What place am I in bud?"
The whiney tone in his voice makes me feel like I'm the kid's mother who's been nagging at him for the last 20 minutes to eat his vegetables and apologize to his sister for setting her barbies on fire.
The last 5 miles are fun. That's when you get to go deeper into your own personal hell hole. My tummy has been very cooperative the entire time, but the lemon lime Gatorade at mile 25 is a gamble that I don't win. My Garmin reads 26.2 with no finish line in sight, but with all the twists and turns in the canyon you can't see or hear anything that could be right around the corner. That's where I find it, right around the corner. If I had waited another 15 minutes, I could have finished with that ridiculous "Everybody walk the dinosaur" song playing over the loud speaker, but instead I had to settle for Bon Jovi...There really needs to be a law..
The finish line brings gifts of snowcones, sandwiches, and a really sweet medal. We're bussed back to the starting line and I drive the course again to actually take the time to see all the sights that I didn't see while in the heat of the race.

At the bottom, I watch the final runner, an older guy finishing his 89th marathon in about 8 and a half hours. Totally, totally inspirational.
After finishing and exploring a little bit, I found a pretty little nook in the canyon all to myself, "showered" with a water bottle and a sock, and set up my hammock in a shady spot between 2 juniper trees for the rest of the day.

My final results- 4:17 in something like 10th place overall. This was a half hour slower than I had been training for, and is probably due to the following reasons:
1) Altitude. It wasn't a HUGE increase, but I had been training at 400 feet for months, and the race started at around 6000. Upon arriving in Utah I had bought several gallon jugs of water and was chugging them back like a sailor with his rum. The altitude coupled with the dry air, the kind that turns your boogers into broken glass, made me very dehydrated. In retrospect I should have been taking in more electrolytes. Even with all that fluid, I was waking up in the middle of the night with a dry mouth and dark yellow pee.
2) I got sick during a pretty crucial time in my training, and missed a few too many key workouts. I had also been working 60 hours a week for months up to the race which was wearing me down.
3) I'm a complete idiot. The day before the race, I should really have been chilling out. Maybe a 2-3 mile easy run and a good stretch, but nooooooo. Why would I be sensible enough to do that? Instead I did a very strenuous technical descent/re-ascent of a slot canyon with 50 lbs of gear on my back. This came from my stupidly stubborn need to fit as much into my short trip as possible. What can I say? Adventure is my vice, but it did not help my marathon one bit and I won't be making that blockhead mistake again. After my last big race where I didn't hit my goal because of wind conditions, I really had beaten myself up and felt like I blew it, and after a change in attitude I was able to walk away from this one still feeling like I had fun and learned some lessons. In fact after all that training I'd like to take another crack at it in maybe 2 months to see if I can get that time down to what I was really aiming for.
Big props to the people of Mammoth marathons for setting up and executing a great race. It's beautiful, well organized, and I'd recommend it to anyone. I was talking to a lady who has done dozens and dozens of marathons/ultras and she said this was the most beautiful one she'd ever done. The rocks, the juniper trees, and the clearest sky I'd ever seen made this an incredible part of the world to race in.

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Last updated: 2015-09-10 12:00 AM
04:17:43 | 26.2 miles | 09m 50s  min/mile
Age Group: 0/
Overall: 0/58
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2015-09-10 8:49 PM

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New user
Austin, Texas
Subject: Little Grand Canyon Marathon

2015-09-11 9:10 AM
in reply to: #5139996

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Bellingham, WA
Subject: RE: Little Grand Canyon Marathon

Wow Jamie, what a wonderful race and incredible venue.  Thanks for the great writeup and beautiful pictures.  I think a lot of people might be checking that out for next year.

Congrats on a fine effort.

2015-09-11 5:48 PM
in reply to: popsracer

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New user
Austin, Texas
Subject: RE: Little Grand Canyon Marathon

Thanks pops. Yea definitely check it out if you're looking for a race. It comes with a half and a 10k too, in the most beautiful section of the course

2015-09-12 3:28 AM
in reply to: trijamie

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Eugene, Oregon
Subject: RE: Little Grand Canyon Marathon
Wow--That just sounds like an amazing race, and awesome result! Have always sworn I won't do another marathon (unless part of an IM someday--just kinda feel like "been there, done that") but this one tempts me. 6,000 feet is definitely high enough to feel it at race effort. Love the description of what racing that distance feels like--so true. The attrition of runners ahead, the ego feed, almost wanting those last 5 or 6 miles to come because that's when it gets real. I never raced with a Garmin so can only imagine how pissed off I'd be getting if 26.2 came and went with no finish line! It must have really helped mentally to NOT be doing it after 112 miles of biking!
2015-09-14 3:00 PM
in reply to: #5139996

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Subject: RE: Little Grand Canyon Marathon

What a gorgeously written race report (and I'm saying this an an English teacher, so you know that must mean it's good!) That part of Utah is breathtaking! I just might have to add that to my must do list when I get around to another endurance event!  Congrats and well done (except for the bonehead move of the pack trip the day before, but I guess what the 'crazy' is thrown in to your name!)  Sounds like it was an awesome race all the way around.

2015-09-14 4:37 PM
in reply to: ingleshteechur

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New user
Austin, Texas
Subject: RE: Little Grand Canyon Marathon

Aw thanks! So are we all signing up for it next year? At least the half-marathon? A little BT get together!

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