Friday, June 18, 2004

26.2 In The Thin Air – Park City Marathon, June, 2004

So here I am, looking at marathon #2. I had never been to Park City and always wanted to come check it out in the summer time. All ski resort areas have a great vibe in the summer, and a heckofa lot less people. I just had one dilemma – how does a sea level guy like me get ready for a race that starts around 7,000’? I don’t have three weeks to acclimate, as much as I would like to hang out in Park City for a month. I’ve heard there are two ways to approach acclimation. First, do it the right way and show up at least two weeks before (altitude and heat share the same rule, I hear). Second, if you can’t, then fly there right before the race and “shock” your system. I figured I would try the latter, and flew in the night before the race.

The air is definitely thin up here, no doubt about that. I was slightly out of breath before the 6am gun went off. The Park City Marathon isn’t “really” a trail marathon – a good 17 miles of it was on pavement, and the rest was access roads. But it does have 3,000’ of climbing, and cuts right through downtown Park City when everyone is starting to get their coffee. We had a little bit of rain, and a 6-10 mph that was just enough to make you groan. One cool thing about the Park City Marathon starting line – it had every type of person you could imagine, from teenagers up from Provo who slept in the car, to grandmas and grandpas pulling on their shoes to show the kids a thing or two. Everyone was out to tame the mountain this morning.

By the time we hit the high point in the race (around mile 16), David Schroeder pulled way out ahead of us. David, clearly a gifted runner, had hung back with us early in the race to “make sure we were having a good time”. Utah people are so friendly! I was holding second up until mile 20, where I was passed by Michael Robbert, a strong runner from Littleton, CO, and Tom Neuman, who had just had two stents put in four months previous (clearly, he’s recovering well). I ended up with fourth place (, in 3:10:17…just enough to qualify for the Boston Marathon! Now, I hadn’t planned on qualifying for the Boston Marathon, largely because trail runs don’t really lend themselves to the kind of neck-breaking speed one needs to do so. But if you qualify, you must go, as I’m told.

After the race, I congratulated the other Boston qualifiers and learned that Michael Robbert (also a qualifier) and his wife were traveling the mid-west to race every Trail Runner Magazine Trophy Series race they could. Part of me was glad – at least I wasn’t the only one with this crazy race schedule. But part of me was worried – Michael is clearly a strong runner, and if he wife is cool enough to drive their VW bus through the night for a 10k, I had my work cut out for me. But as competitive as I wanted to be, I couldn’t help but think that the Robberts were just the kind of people that the TRM series was about – outdoor lovers, using the race series to see as much as they could.

Soon after the race, my legs seized like they never have before. Maybe it’s the pavement, maybe the altitude, or likely from trying to hang with a bunch of runners that are much faster, but this recovery is going to take a while. And Michael is going running in two days? I guess the "recovery" race is on!

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