Utah is so amazing! It does help that one of my favorite runners and friends, Kim, lives there :) This race weekend was just plain old fun and I got a shiny PR to go with it.
Peter talked me into this race a few months ago. I knew Kim was training for the full and she was hopeful for a big PR to guarantee her a spot at Boston 2017. I wasn't too keen on doing it because I promised myself I wouldn't race, let alone a downhill race that could risk injury, so close to Chicago. But we made a weekend out of it and I figured I could just relax and use it as a training run.
We got to Salt Lake City late Thursday night and were completely exhausted. None of us were used to being up so late and we crashed as soon as we got to Kim's house. I woke up on Friday and did a 6 mile run around Kim's neighborhood - and of course I got lost, but it had beautiful views of the mountains which made the extra mile worth it.
We ate a quick breakfast and went to the Nike outlet so Kim and Peter could get new shirts to wear for the race. Aaron met up with us there and then we made our way to the expo, which had to be the smallest expo outside of the Zion Half Marathon expo. But Revel gives a goooood swag bag. We got throw away gloves (I would not know their value until early Saturday morning), a foil blanket (also very valuable), a beanie with a ponytail hole for the ladies, and pancake mix!
We grabbed lunch afterwards and then made our way to the grocery store to pick up some things for dinner that night. We made Kim's go-to meal - spaghetti with red sauce and garlic cheesy bread. It may become my go-to meal too considering our results in the race. Aaron joined us and we kind of lounged around for a bit after dinner. This was when Kim realized her watch wasn't working. It had a hard time connecting to GPS at a half marathon she ran a few weeks ago, but worked fine since. When we turned it on, it couldn't connect. We went outside, updated it, did a hard reset. Nothing worked. It put a really bad air on a great day. This race was so important to Kim. While she had 2 other BQ's for the year, the times weren't good enough to guarantee her entry. She'd spent the last 3 months training this course, knowing it, making it hers so she could get a stellar PR. And now her watch was gonna shit out on her the night before?
We went to bed and I thought about just giving Kim my watch. You can run a half without a watch... but there is no way you can run a marathon without one. There was a 1:30 pacer I planned on staying with, and I knew Kim wasn't comfortable going with a pace group. We got up the next morning and got ready. I ate my apple and Honey Stinger chews and Peter and Kim had their bagels. Kim tried to convince Peter and I that we would need more clothing than our foil blankets and gloves, but we refused. Idiots that we are. On our way over to the bus stop, I gave Kim my watch. She was so surprised and happy and I'm so so so glad I gave it to her. We said our goodbyes and Aaron and Kim got on the marathon buses while Peter and I rode up on the half marathon buses.
Geez it was cold up there. You could see your breath! I had hand warmers Aaron have me before we left and thank god I took them! I wrapped myself in my foil blanket, throw away gloves and hand warmers on, and then Peter and I cuddled for the next 2 hours while we waited for the start. If Peter is cold, that means it's really cold! One thing I wish Revel did was put a heating tent or heaters up at the start. It was frigid. That was one thing the Zion half did that was super cool. We made our way to the Porto potties about 20 minutes before the start and hen made our way to the start. The 1:30 pacer, Edgar, showed up just before go time. The start was a little strange and informal. There was no announcer or National Anthem. It was literally a race organizer who shouted 10, 9, 8.... and we were off.
There were a few others that started out running with the pacer, and the first 4 miles flew by. The canyon was absolutely stunning and so peaceful. My legs were numb from the cold up until mile 3, so that was fun. We just passed mile 5 and Edgar said, "Less than an hour left to go. We just ran for 32 minutes, about 58 more minutes to the finish." We chatted and it was amazing how easy the run felt on my aerobic system. I won't deny that it is tough on your legs to go fast on a downhill, but my lungs and heart felt great. I told the pacer I would love to do a sub 1:30, not too much under, but just enough. He said that was good because we were about 1 minute under pace.
Around mile 7, I had to pee. I was trying to calculate how long it would take until the finish and whether I could hold it or not. This kept me focused on trying to hold it in for about 2 minutes and then I just said, "Nope, I'm going." I told Edgar I was going to speed up to the next aid station to pee and that I would meet him there again. Luckily it was just around a bend in the road which meant he wouldn't be far behind me. I opened a porto potty and the seat was still down - nice, it was clean at least - but I had to pull the seat up, had just enough time to lower my shorts and barely squat, pee (where much of it got all over my leg) and then jump out again and Edgar had just gone by. I raced to meet him.
I told him I was going to probably break off once we got out of the canyon at mile 9.5 to see if I could get a few more minutes off my time. I knew my legs might be shredded at that point, but my lungs would have a lot more to give. Coming out of the canyon you go into a slight uphill. After so much downhill, it was strange to run uphill at all. My legs didn't seem to mind though. I pushed ahead of Edgar and one guy kept pace with me for a bit. I asked if he had a watch so I could see what our pace was, but he didn't. I started picking it up and left him. I passed a few others and then at mile 11, we hit a huge downhill. I was so excited. You could already hear the announcer at mile 12. I just kept thinking the race would be short if I could already hear the announcer. Nope. I saw the 26 mile sign and then the finish shoot came into view. There was a man about 10 seconds in front of me. I saw the clock and it read 1:25:50 as the man crossed. I tried so, so hard to pick it up, but ended up with exactly 1:26:00. I cam in 15th female (7th in my age division - all these speedy 30 year olds!) and 49th overall. It was amazing!
I was relieved to be finished and knew I had some time before Peter came in. I grabbed a water and thanked Edgar for pacing me when he crossed a few minutes later. I stayed in the shoot, walking around so they wouldn't kick me out. I kept looking at the pacers - Peter was hoping to break 2 hours. When the 1:50 pacer crossed, I got closer to the finish line. I finally saw Peter come in just shortly after the 1:55 pacer!! He crushed his PR by 14 minutes! And he could barely walk. We got him some water and we sat down on the side of the finisher's shoot so we could rest for a bit. It would be at least another hour before Aaron and Kim came through.
Peter and I were tracking both of them, and the final checkpoint before the finish was at mile 23. I refreshed the page and Kim had already passed mile 23 and she was doing a kickass pace! Aaron hadn't crossed that point yet, so we were a little worried - he'd been fighting a nagging injury the last few weeks leading up to the race. We got closer and kept looking for her blue Nike tank. Tons of marathoners were coming through now and they were dropping like flies, filling up the medical tent as soon as they crossed the finish line. I had my camera ready as soon as the 3:15 pacer crossed and then Kim came in! She finished in a 3:16!!!!! Such an amazing pace!!!!!!!
We met up with Kim's family just after she finished. I kept checking to see where Aaron was and he had crossed the 23 mile mark at this point, so Kim, Peter and I made our way to the finish to cheer him on. He experienced some serious pain and didn't get the outcome he'd hoped for, but still kicked butt and finished in 3:31.
We said goodbye to Kim's family and went to grab breakfast. I was starving at this point because I'd been done with my race for about 3 hours. Kim and Aaron had a tough time eating, which is expected after a marathon. It always takes me about 3 hours to want to eat anything. We finally made it back to Kim's house and got cleaned up. We spent the afternoon lounging around, eating, napping, and sharing our race stories. Aaron and Kim's awesome friend Megan, who is also a runner, came over that night for pizza and ice cream to celebrate the race and Aaron's 40th birthday! It was safe to say we were all pretty pooped after such a long day, and we crashed out early.
The nice thing about Utah is that most of the races are on Saturdays, which means you get an extra rest day before you gotta head back to work. They also have tons of races - almost every weekend between April and October - you can find a race. I will definitely be back to this beautiful State for another race in the future!