Sunday, October 2, 2011

St. George Marathon 2011 Review

I present to you...The Good, The Bad, and The Ugly of the 2011 St. George Marathon:

The Good: At three photo points photographers told me they got some awesome jumping pictures. One even called me back to show me a few of my jumping pics.
The Bad: The hottest temperature at the starting line in race history. No bueno.
The Ugly: My fluorescent orange thrift store trucker hat with a pom pom on top.

At the expo the night before the race I was able to see this year's poster given to all 7,000+ runners. I was thrilled when I learned that they were using one of my pictures for the poster!

On race morning we boarded our bus for the starting line. We had no idea that our driver was about to give us a taste of the Matterhorn ride at Disneyland. Whoa mama. It was fun to meet up with our whole gaggle of friends. Obviously this is before the race started because we're all still smiling:

I found this awesome fluorescent orange hat years ago and I break it out on rare occasions. The finishing touch is a bright orange pom pom on top. When was the last time you saw a hat with a pom pom on top of a hat? Ultra-classy.

I was looking forward to running the marathon with my wife Mel again. She has been training well and thought she may be ready to break her PR of 5:26. Whenever possible during the race, I ran on a dirt shoulder instead of the road which makes my knees happier.

We reached the town of Veyo at mile 7 which is arguably the hardest part of the course. Not because of the dreaded Veyo hill. But because you pass a restaurant where you can smell the sweet breeze of bacon and eggs. It tempts you to quit the race and walk into the cafe. Instead we decided to just have some oranges and Gatorade at the aid station. Bleh.

We were still feeling good when we arrived at the Veyo Hill. It is steep and long, and you can walk up it almost as fast as you can run up it. Here is Mel running a little stretch of the hill.

Still feeling good after Veyo, we thought we were pacing well and were right where we needed to be with time. There is nothing like being part of an enormous group with a collective purpose: keep putting one foot in front of the other until you reach the finish line 26.2 miles later.

You know who was great? All the volunteers were great! No, they were even greater than great. They were the greaterest. I am always amazed at how kind, helpful, and happy each of the hundreds of volunteers are. I tried to thank every single volunteer I saw. You know who else is awesome? Our neighbor Mel who hung up lots of signs along the way:

We listened to the same radio station as we were running. I felt a little sheepish as we were singing "Another One Bites the Dust" on the radio at the same moment we happened to be passing a guy. He probably thought we were ultra-jerks.

I would now like to introduce to you the most beautiful section of scenery there ever was in a marathon - Snow Canyon:

We had some good, some bad, and some ugly when we got to Snow Canyon. The Good: Clouds had rolled in creating absolutely perfect lighting to take pictures of the scenery. I was in heaven.

The Bad: Despite getting in plenty of training, Mel had IT band and knee problems slap her across the face hardcore starting at mile 12. Mile 12. This is so not good to be unable to run when you still have another gut-wrenching 14 miles to go.

The Ugly: The nail in the coffin was when she had to start an antibiotic yesterday that made her very sick to the stomach. She started dry heaving around the same time her knees acted up. I was pretty sure it was only a matter of time before she was wearing bananas and Gatorade. (Sorry. Was that a tad too descriptive?)

Mel kept saying over and over "Just go. You can leave me. I'll be okay." And I kept saying "No. I'm not leaving. We're doing this together." Still, she told me to go ahead. Eventually I got right to the heart of the matter and said "Listen. This is going to be hard. But you can do it. I'm not leaving you so you don't even need to say it anymore."

By this point Mel was discouraged, frustrated, distraught, and hurting. I knew exactly how she felt. At the Ogden Marathon in May, I beat the race cutoff by a comfortable (cough, cough) 18 minutes. I have done the marathon death shuffle for 10+ miles worrying if I would make the finish line before the cutoff. I felt her pain. But we remembered our friend Carol who we had seen a few hours earlier at the starting line. She is starting chemotherapy AGAIN on Monday and doing this marathon was her way of saying "Screw you cancer!" That makes it hard to feel sorry for yourself.

I was so impressed and inspired by everyone I saw around me in those last 8 miles. I am inspired by all you fast runners, but have you ever had the experience of being surrounded by all those back-of-the-packers who have been out on the course for six hours and every step is pure agony? Incredible. I was amazed by all these people slowly shuffling to the finish.

The community support for the St. George Marathon is unequaled. One person had a table in their front yard full of different kinds of food with a large poster that said "Free Food, Take What You Want". People bought packs of bottled water and stood on the sidewalk giving them away. A mile later, people had filled baggies with ice, then stood on the sidewalk with their cooler giving ice to runners. I thought Mel may start crying tears of joy. These people weren't at aid stations. They were just there being nice. It. Was. Awesome.

I held Mel's hand the last 4 miles to keep her moving. She said if I hadn't been with her she would have quit at Snow Canyon. She said the pain she was feeling may have been worse than childbirth. She said it felt like her whole body had a migraine. But she kept walking. I was so proud of her.

And then 6 hours and 35 minutes after starting the race, we crossed the finish line together. (Yes, I jumped across.) It was 88 degrees when we finished, and we earned some hefty sunburns along with our medals.

During the race I told Mel approximately 382 times how excited I was to get to the finish line so that I could eat obscene amounts of ice cream. I managed to get down 2 king-size ice cream sandwiches. I think I could have done one more but might have ended up wearing it later.

I was happy to cross the finish line with my wife (and my pom pom hat). She endured hard things and didn't give up and definitely had something to be proud of. In finishing the St. George Marathon, I also finished the Utah Grand Slam - completing at least 4 Utah marathons over the summer months. Finishing the Grand Slam was my main goal for the year so I got an awesome Slam medal to join my awesome St. George Marathon Medal.

Now it's time to get down to business and put the finishing touches on training for my first 100 Miler coming up in a month and a half. But I think we'll always remember the amazing journey we had together at the 2011 St. George Marathon.

"The body does not want you to do this. As you run, it tells you to stop but the mind must be strong. You always go too far for your body. You must handle the pain with strategy...It is not age; it is not diet. It is the will to succeed."
~ Jacqueline Gareau, 1980 Boston Marathon champ


  1. 6+ hours is a looooong time to be out on your feet. i'm in awe of anyone who doesn't give up before that. (i've never attempted a marathon, it would probably take me 6 hours)

    congrats to your wife!!

  2. so proud of you. :) I wan't going to jump but my feet made me do it. :) can't wait to see the picts. thanks for the review.

  3. Incredible review! Love the pics! You are awesome for sticking by your wife's side the entire time and your wife is amazingly strong for enduring to the finish line! Congrats to you both! Good luck in the upcoming weeks before your 100 :) :) :)

  4. Great job, and good for Mel for sticking it out. I know it was a hot one.
    Someday ( when i move back to Utah ) I will do the grandslam.

  5. Congrats to your wife for gutting that one out and to you for the Grand Slam! Gorgeous pics as always! So what do you prefer: heat or hail? (Hail for me, hands down.) :^)

  6. As always, great race report. Glad Mel didn't step in anything this year at the start line. Got to admit, I was pretty careful this year in the tree's to make sure I watched where I stepped! Congratulations to both of you on your finish.

  7. Way to go on finishing! I love how you wouldn't leave her... Nice work, nice guy! Those medals rock! A grand slam is just too cool. Way to go! Good luck with the training for 100 miles.

  8. Oh man, that is awesome that you were there for your wife and she felt the power to push through with your presence. She did AWESOME - that is not easy to do at all when you feel like crap and yet keep moving forward. Congrats to her and to you for your grand slam finish!!!

  9. I peaked at your times last night and was worried about you guys even though we have only met briefly for like what 10 seconds at the Hurricane half. It was my very first marathon and I made the stupid mistake of wearing all black and I was cramping so much the last 6 miles it was run tell the cramps start then walk they subside rinse and repeat. I finished in 4:58:55 meeting my last ditch of goal of sub 5 (my main goal was 4:30). Loved every minute of it and can't wait tell next year to get revenge on the course and hopefully it won't be so hot again. I am glad you finished and glad you could help Mel finish, my favorite sign was the little girl between miles 23 and 24 holding a sign "you're not almost there". Did you see the squirrel at mile 6 or so the elites road killed, man they must have been hauling :)

  10. That hat is amazing! Who ever thought to put a pom pom on top was genius! 88 degrees is so hot to be running a marathon in! Great pictures and great job to both of you!

  11. Amazing recap Cory! Your positivity and optimism is forever inspiring to me. I could not agree more with you. The St.George marathon is by far the most supportive and well organized race I have ever ran. I will definitely be back.

    Congrats on crossing that finish line hand in hand with your wife. That is priceless.

  12. I also saw you got a picture of Lisa, I hated Lisa and Jed so very very very bad around mile 17 or so. 10+ miles of go Lisa, Speed Lisa, I think her name was Lisa Stepp unless they were telling her to take a step, oh how I hate Lisa.

  13. I am in awe of your wife. I know all too well what it feels like to struggle with IT Band issues, and to finish a marathon with 14 MILES left while having problems is incredible. Big kudos to her! What a trooper. And what a supportive husband you are. You guys are awesome- your kids are really lucky. The pictures are perfect, as usual :).

  14. It is SO COOL that they used your picture for the poster. I am sorry it was a rough race for you guys but glad you finished and love all the pics as always. Great job!!!

  15. Great pics as usual! Bummer about the weather being hot and Mel having knee and IT band issues. I know those problems all too well recently.

    That is great that St. George used your picture for the poster!

    Congrats on achieving the grand slam in Utah!

  16. Gosh I love all of your race photos! LOVE the hat. I think it is way special you got to finish with your wife :) Good Luck with your ultra - you rock.

  17. That's a LONG time running my friend ... my hat is off to you! And speaking of hats ... FRIGGIN' AWESOME!!! I'm sure you've been told this about a million times, but every time I see a pic of you, all I can think of is Steve-O!!! Maybe you two were separated at birth. Another great marathon my friend ... great job pushing through the temps!

  18. Wow, good job to the two of you for pushing through all that crap! In the first few miles of St. George my friends were talking about reading a running blog, particularly loving an entry about an affair with a bike, and they asked if I had ever read fastcory:) You get around. Good luck with the 100!

  19. Thanks for your note yesterday, Cory! Wow, your wife is a rockstar for gutting out that kind of race, and kudos to you for sticking with her!

  20. Congratulations Cory and Mel! Let's see-
    Weather-Coulda been worse!
    Seeing you at the bottom of Veyo-Great
    Pom Pom hat-Incredible
    Finishing through thick and thin-Priceless

  21. I was in Mel's position my first marathon...oh, how I feel her pain. I "death shuffled" the last 11 miles and finished, barely...that was 5 years ago. I'm running my second in took that long to get over it. :) I love that you didn't leave her, and I love that you finished together. 88 degrees...sick...hurting...that is a HUGE accomplishment and a testament to just plain determination! Congratulations to you both!

  22. Your wife is my hero! Good job staying with her!

  23. That sign on the porta-potty made my day!! Your wife is awesome. Well so are you BUT I know how hard it is to run with that pain! Yet, she did it!! Way to go!!

  24. I totally love the hat! AMAZING!!

    The other thing that is amazing - YOU and your WIFE! I love that you stayed with her no matter what, and I loved that she pushed through when it was so hard.

    I will be doing my first marathon in Jan and I'm figuring I'll be right around 6 hours. It is a terribly long time to be on your feet doing anything! You guys rock!!

    Love both the medals too. And the scenery is just beautiful!

  25. You are an amazing husband to your wife!

    I am also inspired by those who can run for 6 hours. Totally incredible to me.

    Loved the inspiring comment about your friend with cancer.

    Congrats on the grand slam and on getting your photo used. Your pics make me want to go to Utah!

  26. They have king-size ice cream sandwiches? I'm running that race! Congrats to both of you on the marathon finish - what a great thing to do together!

  27. What a great recap! It really is incredible that you stuck by your wife's side What a lucky lady. Congrats to both of you for sticking it out and finishing it together! She is definitely a trooper. I would have eaten 10 ice cream sandwiches. Those things are my favourite!

  28. congrats to both you and your wife! Way to go!! Gorgeous pictures.

  29. Congratulations! Your wife is lucky to have such a dedicated supporter by her side. I really enjoyed reading your recap.

    I ran this race and loved it! I'll definitely be back! I definitely admire those of you who are out on your feet for that long. In the heat. I'd say that is just as much of an accomplishment as running that course fast. Congratulations!!!

  30. p.s. I stole some of your pictures and will be posting them on my race report (with full credit of course!) I think I want to run this race with no time goal and a nice camera so I can take pictures of the breathtaking view.