I started that day with a simple goal: Run faster than I ever had in a marathon. In all six marathons I have ran, I never broke the time of 3:00:42 that I set on my very first marathon. I have not had very good luck running marathons since that first one. I have experienced everything: cramping, poor fueling, bloody noses and strained muscles. This morning, however, I was hopeful for a good race. Simply beating my old time was all it would take for me to call this race successful and I was going to do my best to make that happen.
If you had asked me how I felt that morning, I’d say “positive and excited” would sum it up. Sure, there was always the chance I might have another bad race but good or bad I was determined to watch this day unfold and enjoy every minute it. As I jogged across the Dam to warm-up, I knew that it was going to be the perfect temperature for what I planned to wear. But I still could keep my arm warmers on. My brother Jake was also running. Out of everyone there, I figured he stood the best chance of winning. Trevor Nelson was there and I expected a great performance from him. Also, in the lineup was my older sister, Sam, she would be running her first marathon and I was very excited for her.
The race started out just as I thought it would, all the fast relay runners formed a lead pack with Jake and another marathoner in tow a few seconds behind. Trevor, a couple other marathoners, and I settled in to a comfortable pace and position as we crossed the dam and started to descend. Trevor and I ran that downhill fast. We were back and forth until we came to the bottom. Two miles in, I had my first gel and let Trevor gain some ground on me while I tried to reassemble some form of control over my pace. I kept him in sight, running down the flat trail along the river. At mile 6ish, I took another gel and as I came to the aid station, my stomach wanted to slosh so I looked for something more solid. They had red licorice, so I grabbed a stick. Right after the aid station, the trail was still very frosty, making it sketchy as we ran. Everyone started to run on the side of the trail to get traction. Trevor and I both passed the other marathoner just before the aid station/relay handoff at mile 9.6. My dad handed me a 13oz simple bottle filled with orange juice as I ran through. I saw a sign that good friends Paula and David had made saying “Run Wyatt Run”! That lifted my spirits and caused me to smile.
Jake had been well out of sight for some time now and Trevor was still just in sight. My plan going in to the race was to attack in this next section to gain time, so I closed the gap to Trevor and ran with him for a minute. I passed him when he made a crew stop and started my attack. I heard him whooping as he enjoyed the downhill so I whooped in response. I ran hard; taking advantage of the terrain any way that I could. When I finally came out of the hilly section, I let myself pick up the pace a bit as I ran down to the middle creek aid station and started that out and back climb.
Now, from experience, how you feel up this hill is the best indicator of how the rest of your race will go. I was in good spirits and was really moving. At the middle creek turnaround, Jake was less than 5 minutes ahead and that got me thinking about what could be possible so I kept up a good pace. At about mile 19, there is a turnaround at the relay handoff and Jake was once again not that far ahead but that is where I started to feel the effort in my legs. My dad took my bottle and handed me a 13oz handheld with more orange juice and a few peppermint candies. I started off, holding a slower but a good consistent pace at mile 21. I caught sight of him again and his pace was slowing. In another mile, I found out why when he stopped for a second to stretch out his legs.
At this point, my legs were becoming a real problem. I realized that in order to keep from stopping me, I had to manage my pace. Jake and I were in the same boat for no sooner had we crossed the Ribbon Bridge when he had to stop and stretch again. It was there that I passed him and said, “I‘ve got the same problem”. He caught me for a second just a few minutes later and proclaimed “first one there gets a calf massage first”. After that, his footsteps faded and I focused on the task of moving forward with as much speed as I could manage. Those candies really helped keep my spirits high. As I counted down the miles, I told myself as all I had to do was keep moving consistently. This race had turned from a chance to break a simple goal to the race you always dream about. I took the chance and believed in myself early on and pushed to the front. Now, a few miles separated me from the finish and I knew no matter how bad it got that I was going to make it.
When I saw the Sundial Bridge, I just savored the moment. I pushed the pace the rest of the way and right at the bridge, I went faster and faster till I was sprinting. I was greeted by family and friends. Even after I had finished I was still in slight disbelief that I had actually won. I was hoping to have a little better time however I was satisfied that I ran a smart race and finally broke my old PR that stood for five years. I had won the race! Jake finished second and Trevor got third. They both had great performances. I couldn’t be happier for them. Now that the race is over, I am looking forward to spending time in the mountains, running and snowboarding. I’m ready to start my training for the Gorge Waterfalls 100k.
*Photos by Various Friends and Family Members. Pro Photos by PhotoCrossAction.*