June Adventures

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I'm getting way behind on these outdoor adventure posts, so this one is long overdue again, but here are some highlights from June!

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Utah Valley Marathon. This was one of my major races this year and I was so happy with the outcome. A goal of mine has been to run a sub 4 hour marathon and I finally did it! Fourth time's a charm, haha. Read the full recap here.

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Local Salt Lake City Trails. After completing the Utah Valley marathon, it was time to refocus on the next big goal and that's my 50K coming up in fall. I've been semi-neglecting road running as of late because my true love is in the mountains so I've been loving being out on the trails more (fun fact: I've already done more total elevation this year than I did in all of 2017 combined! How crazy!). Some of my favorite trails to run are the ones that are close to home. Every time I run them, I get something new out of it and appreciate the unique experience of each individual run. The photo above is from Dry Creek to the Bonneville Shoreline Trail.

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Black Mountain. Geof and I ventured out to Black Mountain to help familiarize him with the course for Wahsatch Steeplechase, a tough 17-mile race that goes from the Bonneville Shoreline trail above the city, past Twin Peaks to Black Mountain (and then back down through Smugglers Gap and City Creek Canyon). We did a shortened version of the course (turned it into an out-and-back) but it was still a tough climb in the heat. We've never gone past Twin Peaks to see what was further, so Black Mountain was something new and fun for us! I'd love to run Wahsatch Steeplechase next year with it being the fortieth anniversary.

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Saucony Trail Scavenger Hunt. Saucony was in town and paired up with Salt Lake Running Company to do a trail scavenger hunt in Millcreek Canyon. They gave us a list of items to find and take photos of on our run, with an hour to get back to the meeting point to share our photos. There were eight items total and the three shown above were: something from the Utah state flag (we made it out of rocks!), something Saucony (my favorite Peregrine shoes) and something sharp (there was construction on the road up Millcreek and the whole road was torn up; the claws on the CAT equipment were the sharp item). We took the scavenger hunt very seriously and got second place!

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Jacks Peak. This was the next stop on Geof and I's Peak Project. Geof had been dealing with a pulled glute from his Wahsatch Steeplechase race, so he hiked this while I ran. It turns out his glute injury was worse than we thought because after this hike, he realized he couldn't run or hike downhill well and hasn't been able to run since (even through today and we are nearing the end of July now). I'm hoping he has a speedy recovery! I miss my regular running buddy!

Race Recap: Utah Valley Marathon 2018

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On Saturday, June 9th, I ran the Utah Valley Marathon in Provo. Now that it's been over a week, I've been able to let my feelings of that marathon sit and formulate my thoughts on it.

The race was at times fun, enjoyable, tiring and challenging. It made me focus on overcoming my doubts, trusting my training and believing in my body’s ability to go the distance. As I got further into the race, I was able to break down some mental barriers and push through to a sub 4 hour finish (and an almost 10 minute PR)! Getting through the mental blocks and running strong when my legs wanted to slow is one of my biggest accomplishments through it all. Marathons are never easy but finding that mental toughness and holding strong is something that I'll remember when I think back on this race.

Going in, I had loosely been following a plan, making sure to get in the long run each weekend. Other than that, I ran on the weekdays for fun, doing more trail runs, an occasional speed workout and throwing in a bike ride here and there. I averaged around 25-34 miles of running each week. I liked this approach. Without a regimented training plan, I wasn't sure how I would fare during the race, but knew I was running better than ever. I had some confidence heading in with two half marathon PRs in the last couple of months, so I knew I had to be going in the right direction, but you never know what can happen in a marathon distance. My goal with this marathon was to run a sub 4 hour race and I did it! 

Geof and I booked a hotel in Provo for the night before the race. Even though Provo is only a forty-five minute drive from Salt Lake, we would have a very early start on race day and needed that extra rest. The night before, we had a pasta dinner in Salt Lake City around 5 p.m., drove to Provo, picked up our race packets and checked into the hotel. I got all my race gear ready and was in bed by 9 p.m.

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I woke up at 3 a.m. to eat breakfast, drink nuun, foam roll and get ready. We left the hotel around 3:40 a.m. to walk to the bus pickup area. Runners were required to board the buses between 3:15 and 4:15 a.m. We got on the bus that left right around 4 a.m. It was a long drive to the start in the dark. I tried not to pay attention to what was going on outside the bus windows, in order to not make me nervous for the course I'd be running on a short while later. When we got to the start in Wallsburg, it was chilly and we warmed up by the firepits that were set up in the field. It smelled strongly of smoke and campfire and was beginning to make my eyes dry, so I took a walk to the port-a-potties. By the time dawn came around, it was almost time for the race to start. Geof and I did a little warmup on the path by the start, dropped off our gear check bag and walked to the starting line. I lined up further in the pack than Geof (he's faster than me) and soon enough, 6 a.m. came and I was running my fourth marathon.

The race started off pretty chilly at 54° with a tiny bit of wind. My hands were so cold for the first couple of miles. We were running a slight downhill but I wanted to keep my pace in check. Instead of using that downhill to start off too fast, I started conservatively, knowing I needed to average a 9-minute mile (for a sub 4 hour time) and how important it was to conserve my energy for later on in the race. Not even a mile in, I knew I had to pee, having drank so much water in the morning. I kept running and knew the first aid station and port-a-pottie would be at mile 3.

When I came out of the port-a-pottie, the 3:55 pacer was right there so I ran with that group for the next ten miles. The sun began to beat in the sky, making it warmer and warmer. Miles 8–10 consisted of a lot of small, rolling hills. I just put one foot in front of the other, concentrating on my nutrition and staying within striking distance of the 3:55 pack. I ate PROBAR Bolt chews for the race and took one single chew at every mile, starting at mile 3. I tried to stay on top of hydration for the duration of the race, grabbing either water or nuun at every aid station (mostly nuun—I knew I'd need more electrolytes the further I got). I ended up having to pee again at mile 13 and after that second port-a-pottie stop, the 3:55 group was too far ahead, so I settled into my own pace. 13.1 mi—1:56:33.

Photo: Utah Valley Marathon

Photo: Utah Valley Marathon

The next few miles meandered through Provo Canyon and by Bridal Veil Falls, running on the highway. Every once in a while mid-run, I noticed the back of my legs felt tingly and realized it was because one of my shoes was tied too tight. I stopped quickly to retie my shoe and that tingly feeling went away. I tried as much as I could to run on the least cambered part of the road, to not create any weird imbalances that might trigger tightness on one side. I began to take some salt tabs too, as the temperature started to rise.

Around mile 18, the feelings of self-doubt began to trickle in. I was running well still, but noticed my pace was slightly slipping and the sense of fatigue was creeping in. When I ran the Portland Marathon last year, miles 19–21 were where I hit a wall. I kept thinking that was going to happen again. I began to recite a mantra in my head—you can do it. stay strong. I kept moving along and focusing on the mile I was in. Before I knew it, miles 20 and 21 came and went, and you know what? I didn't ever hit a wall. I was definitely getting a little more sore, but fell into a rhythm and embraced it. I think I was just happy knowing my body was still feeling pretty good.

Course elevation and my pace overlay.

Course elevation and my pace overlay.

23 miles in—smelling of campfire, covered in salt, chewing on a grape otter pop. Photo: Utah Valley Marathon

23 miles in—smelling of campfire, covered in salt, chewing on a grape otter pop. Photo: Utah Valley Marathon

Getting past that mental wall lifted my spirits. I focused on form and quick cadence and used that through to the end. After mile 21, it's a long, straight shot to the finish. From here, you're in the city, heading toward downtown Provo and getting closer and closer to the end. I loved the grape Otter Pop I ate at mile 23. It was so refreshing after being in the heat for so long. I tried to run with it in my hand but it was hard to eat while running, so I took a quick walk to eat a little bit more of it before zoning in to run the final miles. It was now about 86° so the bits of shade from the trees provided some relief from the sun, as well as the two water misters that I ran through. Those last miles seemed to go on for a while but I stayed focused. When I was just a few blocks from the finish, I could see the arch in the distance and knew I could pick it up. I ran my heart out and crossed that finish line! Final chip time—3:56:56.

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I was so happy that I felt pretty strong throughout the race, with no real pains and only mild soreness. I get in my head sometimes and this race proved to myself that I'm tougher than I think. Every marathon I've ran before this one, I've had to walk portions of it in the latter stages, due to something getting tight or some sort of random knee pain that comes and goes, but none of that happened during this race. I kept anticipating that was going to happen again instead of believing that I was strong enough for it not to happen this time around. Now that I know I am capable, I'm excited for what's to come. I think I'm finally figuring out what works for me, which is more fun miles, more trail runs and more cross-training.

Mile Splits: 
1—8:34
2—8:36
3—8:37
4—9:14
5—8:54
6—8:50
7—8:55
8—8:57
9—8:55
10—8:32
11—8:35
12—8:55
13—8:47
14—9:30
15—9:01
16—9:18
17—9:04
18—9:28
19—8:57
20—9:06
21—8:54
22—9:16
23—9:04
24—9:47
25—9:11
26—9:12
0.35—2:54
average pace: 9:00

After I crossed the finish line, a woman put a medal around my neck, congratulated me and another volunteer gave me a fist bump. I continued through the finish area and grabbed water, a cup of Jamba Juice and an orange Creamie ice cream popsicle. I think I was still so thrilled and surprised at how I ran this race that I was a little out of it and skipped over some things (Geof said there was a waffle and chocolate milk and I somehow missed those). I found Geof sitting on the grass and we talked about our races (he ran a PR of 3:44:48). I must have sat down too fast after running, because my legs began to tighten up as I was eating my Creamie. I had to get up and walk around for a bit. We grabbed the gear check bag, took a couple of photos and walked back to the hotel.

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Now that I've reached my goal of a sub 4 hour marathon, I might be done with road marathons for a while. I've found my true love on the trails and want to do more of that. With a trail 50K coming up in November, I've begun training for that and I'm excited to do even more trail running this summer.

Have you ran the Utah Valley Marathon? Do you prefer roads or trails?

Race Recap: Portland Marathon 2017

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On Sunday, October 8th, I ran my third full marathon in Portland, Oregon. I had one main goal with this race—to run a sub 4:00 marathon. While that didn’t happen, I came pretty close and ran my most successful marathon to date. I can honestly say that I’m proud of how the race went and have a new love for the distance.

Things I did before the marathon:

  • Worked with a coach. I worked with Emily Sanone last year when training for the St. George Marathon and had such improved results from my first marathon, so I hired her again to help me train for the Portland Marathon. Having a coach has made a huge difference in my running. I'm not totally comfortable with the marathon distance yet, so having a plan tailored specifically to me and my goals is so beneficial. It's also helps with accountability.
     
  • Trusted my training. Every training cycle is bound to have a few hiccups—whether it’s a run where you feel off or not hitting certain paces in key workouts—but for the majority of my training, I felt strong. I surprised myself this training cycle by hitting all of my target paces in every track workout and running my three 20-mile long runs better than I ever have (in training for past marathons, I’ve struggled with the 20-mile runs). This time, I worked on keeping my speed up during those long runs and learned how to push on tired legs. 
     
  • Didn't stress too much. I perform better when I don’t put so much pressure on myself. I did have that 4:00 goal lingering in my mind as the date grew near and felt confident about it, but didn't let that goal overwhelm my thoughts. I now go into races thinking about why I love running and to race for the joy of it. I’m more likely to run my best race that way.
Portland International Airport.

Portland International Airport.

The Portland Marathon snuck up on me. Because I didn’t obsess over it and knew my training had been going well, I felt relaxed and ready. Before I knew it, it was race weekend and I was flying out to Portland on Friday night. It's only when I landed in Portland that I realized how close the race was and began to feel those tiny butterflies. I was more excited than nervous though.

We took a Lyft to the hotel where we checked in, picked up our race packets and browsed the expo. We had a late dinner at a nearby vegetarian restaurant and headed to bed, ready to explore the city the next morning.

On Saturday, the day before the race, we walked all over downtown Portland, ate pasta for lunch at Pastini Pastaria (I had the pesto), explored the local shops + Pearl District and grabbed groceries for our race day breakfast. Portland is such a walkable city; we loved it. I lost my credit card on this day too, but retraced where I had last used it and luckily, found it at the restaurant we ate lunch at (so grateful the waiter returned it and kept it safe!). After relaxing at the hotel for a bit, we headed back out for dinner at Marukin Ramen, took a quick look at Nike Portland and then it was back to the hotel to prepare for race day. I got all of my gear ready and felt oddly calm as I fell asleep.

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Race morning began with my usual avocado toast and nuun for breakfast. I got dressed, stuffed my energy chews in my pockets and we headed out the door at 6:15 a.m. The weather forecast had been changing all week and on race day, it ended up being overcast, in the 40°s with a small chance of rain. I wrapped myself up in a heat sheet as Geof and I walked toward the corrals. What's different about this race was that there was no gear check, so I was thankful that Geof had that heat sheet in his bag. It helped regulate my temperature and kept me warm before the race began. Geof and I parted ways (he was in wave B and I was in C) and had a thirty minute wait until the race started. I lined up just ahead of the 4:00 pacers and ditched my heat sheet as our wave walked toward the start line. They counted us down and we were off running!

I felt so calm from the get-go. I settled into what I felt was an easy pace and my plan was to keep my mile splits around 9:00 min/mi or faster. In the weeks leading up to the race, they announced a course change and instead of a looped course, it was switched to an out-and-back. I wasn't sure how I felt about that. I like experiencing and seeing new surroundings throughout a race and didn't particularly love knowing that I'd have a large amount to run back when I hit the turnaround point (although, it is kind of cool to see the lead runners and how effortless they look when they were headed back). 

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The first few miles took us through downtown and an industrial area. I felt a little chilled at the start but that's exactly how I wanted to feel. The cool weather and flat start made it very easy to settle into a comfortable pace. 3 mi—26:19.

At mile 3, we made a u-turn and headed back in the opposite direction, making our way through the streets and up a long, straight stretch of road. 6 mi—52:28.

The next miles on the straight were all along a highway by Forest Park. This led up to the first real hill of the race, a steady climb up to the St. John's Bridge. I was remaining steady and felt confident in my ability to hold my pace.

After crossing the bridge, we headed to the Willamette Bluffs. There were more spectators lining the streets and I loved feeding off of their energy. It began to rain and I got a little colder. Geof and I saw each other at mile 13 as I was headed toward the turnaround point (and as he was headed back from it). We gave each other a high five as we passed and that gave me a little boost. 13.1 mi—1:56:08.

After the turnaround at mile 14, I had a renewed bit of life after seeing Geof and knowing I was headed back the way I came and would be getting closer to the finish. The rain stopped and I was still feeling good and running consistently. I found a new running mantra recently that perfectly describes how I felt up through this point of the race: run your happy pace. And that was what I was doing. 17 mi—2:32:15.

As I made my way back over the bridge at mile 18, I began to feel the first bits of tiredness in my legs but it wasn't bad at all. It was easy to block it out of my mind and keep running. At mile 19, as I was going downhill after the bridge, I felt a little twinge in the side of my right knee and knew my hip was getting tight. I told myself to stay on track and ran through the pain that was beginning to form in my knee. As I got into mile 20, the small jolts in my knee were increasing and I ended up taking my first walk break of the race. I looked at my watch, knew I was still on target and after that lackluster 20th mile, I was determined to push forward and reel it back in. I was able to stay on target pace through 21 miles. 21 mi—3:09:58.

Course elevation and my pace overlay.

Course elevation and my pace overlay.

It became harder to hold my pace after that. I had a few more small walk breaks but every time I checked the progress on my watch, I noticed that I could still do a 4:00 if I were able to keep a 10:00 min/mi pace. I tried so hard but this is where my race started to fall apart. This is where I hit the wall. It just came out of nowhere. Suddenly, my legs felt heavy like lead and I couldn't turn them over as fast anymore. The stabby pains in my knee went away but were replaced with an overall sense of fatigue in my legs. The 4:00 pacers passed me at 23 miles or so. I tried to keep up with them but eventually they were out of sight, so I willed myself to keep my legs moving quickly. It was difficult. The last few miles were a blur. The 4:00 goal slipped through my fingers as I made it back into the city.

I rounded the last turn and as I ran down the finishing chute, I picked up the pace. I crossed the finish line with such a huge sense of relief and accomplishment. Even though I missed the sub 4:00, I still ran a marathon PR and I was happy about that. Final chip time—4:06:17.

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My watch read 26.49 miles at the end. I believe that was due to the GPS losing signal in some of the tall buildings downtown and from me not running the corners as well as I could have. As I walked through the finisher's area, I received my medal, a cover-up jacket, water, chocolate milk, fruit, a rose, tree seedling, shirt and a medallion coin. I reunited with Geof in the finisher area and we chatted about how our races went (he ran a 3:50:07), took photos and walked back to the hotel to relax.

I was initially so proud of how the race went (a 12 minute PR is huge for me!) but as I reflected on it the next day, I began to feel sad about missing the sub 4:00 time. I was also invigorated at the same time. I know I can get that sub 4:00 and I'm coming for it next year. 

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Mile Splits: 
1—8:36
2—8:47
3—8:47
4—8:33
5—8:26
6—8:44
7—8:49
8—8:57
9—8:57
10—9:00
11—8:50
12—8:56
13—8:52
14—9:04
15—8:41
16—9:11
17—9:02
18—9:23
19—8:55
20—10:08
21—9:39
22—10:43
23—10:49
24—10:14
25—10:50
26—10:42
0.49—4:46

Things I'm going to do post-marathon:

  • Run for fun. The Portland Marathon was my big race of the year and now that it's over, I can unwind a little and not worry about having to follow a regimented training plan. I'll run less each week (maybe just 3-4 times instead of 4-5) and can get back to running more on the trails and running more with my dog.
     
  • Cross-train consistently. I didn't do the best job at cross-training this marathon cycle. I did yoga and pilates a few times but rarely went to the gym, even though I know I need to. The only way for my legs to carry me past a marathon distance is for me to get stronger in my glutes and hips. That starts with more regular, quality cross-training. For the rest of fall and winter, I'm going to refocus on gaining strength so I'll be ready for more running and races in the spring. It'll also make me a more powerful, balanced runner.

Do you like to travel for races? What are some of your favorite marathons?