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: 
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: Dino Half Marathon 2018

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On Saturday, May 12th, I ran the Dino Half Marathon in Vernal, Utah for the fourth year in a row. This was my favorite year that I've ran it. I ended up running a new PR but that's not why I liked it so much. This year's race was my favorite because it showed me that by enjoying myself and believing in myself, I can accomplish great things. I had my best run ever.

Let's start back on Friday though. On Friday afternoon, Geof and I made the three-hour drive to Vernal, checked into the hotel (the same one that packet pickup was at) and got our race packets. We headed out for dinner at Antica Forma, a pizza and pasta restaurant. I had the same meal as last year, the linguine with tomato sauce and it was the perfect carb meal for before the race. We went back to the hotel and I gathered up my gear and got in bed to rest.

Race day gear. I was originally planning on wearing the race t-shirt but changed my mind the morning of and wore a long-sleeve shirt instead. Nothing new on race day, right?!

Race day gear. I was originally planning on wearing the race t-shirt but changed my mind the morning of and wore a long-sleeve shirt instead. Nothing new on race day, right?!

On the morning of the race, I ate avocado toast in bed and drank a glass of nuun energy. I have the hardest time getting up on race mornings, so I always end up eating breakfast in bed. Once I'm dressed though, I'm ready to race! We left the hotel at 6 a.m., drove to the bus pick-up at Maeser Elementary and boarded the bus to take us to the start.

The start of the race is in Dry Fork Canyon and once dropped off there, we got in the port-a-pottie line, gathered around the fire pit and did a little warm-up in the canyon. I immediately felt the tiredness in my legs and wasn't sure what to expect for the race. We lined up for the start and I kept moving my legs in place to stay warm. They began the countdown and the race began promptly at 7:30 a.m. We sped off running down the canyon.

The weather? Perfect. Overcast and cool. It was in the 40°s for most of the race and then got into the low 50°s by the end. There was cloud cover the whole time. It was pretty close to ideal race conditions for me. I run warm so I always appreciate a colder race. As I've been doing with races lately, I went in with zero expectations or time goals and really do think that’s what I have to do always. It helps me not stress or worry and makes me focus more on enjoying the run, and then I happen to perform better!

Geof decided he wanted to try and run a PR so he ran ahead pretty quickly in the first mile and I was on my own. I don't mind it though. Running by myself is one of my favorite things and gives me space to be in my own thoughts and I love that. I made sure to appreciate the surroundings and views. There were times in the canyon when I just looked around at the trees and scenery and it was pretty magical. I felt grateful for being able to run in such a beautiful place on such a beautiful day. I felt I was running really smoothly and the miles breezed by.

Photo: Flo-Foto

Photo: Flo-Foto

At mile 8, I heard a voice behind me say "you're doing good, young lady!" It was a guy named Dale and I ended up running with him for the next mile. He told me I was on pace for a 1:44 to 1:45 finish and I thought that was too good to be true. He asked what my goal was for the race and I said I didn’t have one but that my best half was 1:48. Once he told me what finish time I was on track for, I really thought I could beat my existing PR and that idea began to run through my mind. I decided to go for it. I walked through a water station at mile 9 so Dale ran ahead but I could see him in the near distance and just tried to keep him in sight for the rest of the race. 

Course elevation and my pace overlay.

Course elevation and my pace overlay.

I realized that I had barely looked at my watch until that moment. My race so far had been run going by effort and feel. I occasionally would glance down as my watch beeped for each mile but for the most part, I felt comfortable with doing what felt like a good effort to me. With the course being more downhill at the beginning, it really contributes to a fast start. The miles level out as you get further in the course.

My legs were starting to get more fatigued in the final miles and I just pushed and pushed. It was getting harder to keep my legs moving as fast but I made them do it. I was determined. With less than a mile to go, the 1:45 pacer came up on me. He told me I was doing great and I remember telling him I was tired. He said he was planning to run a 1:44:30 finish and that made me extra motivated to stay with him. Another girl came up on us and ran with us for the last half mile. I listened to them chat for a little because I was breathing harder and didn’t feel like talking (haha). We turned the last major corner at 12.7 miles and I could hear the crowd at the finish. We were getting close. We picked it up in the last 0.3 miles and the girl began to run ahead and so did I. There was one last turn to the finish line in the school parking lot and I ran it in! When I crossed the line, I almost couldn't believe it. I had no idea I could run that pace for that long! I surprised myself. Final chip time—1:44:21.

Photo: Flo-Foto

Photo: Flo-Foto

Mile Splits:
average pace: 7:58

I found Geof at the results area. He ended up running a PR of 1:36:28 (yay!). I printed off my official result and saw the 1:44:21 and was so happy about that time that I didn't even realize the paper said I had placed in my age group! Geof pointed that out to me and I was SO shocked and SO excited. We took some photos and waited around for the award ceremony.

Photo: Flo-Foto

Photo: Flo-Foto

Dale saw me in the crowd and asked how I did. He congratulated me and I told him it was because I kept him in sight the whole rest of the race and that helped me. He ended up first in his age group (M60-69). I ended up getting second in my age group (F30-34) and the girl I ran the final half mile with was first in our age group! We were six seconds apart. So funny. We laughed about it on stage when we both realized it. I don’t even know how to summarize how I felt about this race because I was so stunned, so proud, so happy.

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Afterwards, we went back to the hotel to clean up and check out. We ate sandwiches and fries at Freddy's and made the drive back to Salt Lake City to reunite with Izzy pup.

Next up: Utah Valley Marathon. It's less than three weeks away and I still don't feel fully prepared. My goal has always been to run this race in under 4 hours. I'm not sure if that's possible as I haven't been consistent with marathon-specific training, but I'm going to go into it with a positive mindset and be happy with whatever my body wants to run that day.

Race Recap: Salt Lake City Half Marathon 2018

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I ran the fifteenth anniversary of the Salt Lake City Half Marathon on April 21st and surprise!—got a half marathon PR. I wasn't expecting that at all and am so happy with how it went. The advantage going in was that this is my local race and I was really familiar with the route. I also ran this same half marathon back in 2015 (it was my second half marathon then) and had a good idea of the course.

The day before, Geof and I went to the expo and grabbed our bibs and briefly visited the vendor booths (we tried some vegan hot dogs there!). The race made a mistake on my corral assignment and we had to stop by the race info booth to get it fixed. They looked up my estimated finish time and said they had messed up so they fixed it so I could start the race in the right corral. After the expo, we stopped at Walmart to buy throwaway hoodies for the start of the race and ate pasta from Noodles & Company for our pre-race dinner (the penne rosa is a staple!).

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Going into this race, I had zero goals. A friend asked me in the week prior if I had a time goal and I didn't. Lately, I had been doing a lot more slower runs and trail runs and hadn't been focusing too much on speed work. I went into the race without any time goals, just to run what felt good to me. The more races I run, the more I realize that going into a race with a positive outlook and not putting pressure on myself is how I run my best possible race. That's what happened for me during this one.

On race morning, I had my usual breakfast (avocado toast + nuun), got ready and we headed out the door. With our race bibs, we got a free ride on the TRAX light rail, so we parked at the ballpark and rode the train up to the University of Utah, where the race began. It was just slightly chilly but close to perfect race conditions for me. I like racing in brisk weather and it was a cool 45° at the start. We went to the port-a-potties and then warmed up on the school track. I loved that they opened it up for runners to warm up on. We did a lap around and then stretched and dropped off our gear check bag. I ended up gear checking my throwaway hoodie since the temperature felt nice enough.

Waiting at the TRAX station.

Waiting at the TRAX station.

Lining up in the corral, I was so excited. The adrenaline starts to rise and the anticipation builds with the music and the announcer hyping everyone up. I retied my shoelaces and the national anthem was sung. Then the countdown began! The elites in corral A started right at 7 a.m. and then the following corrals started thirty seconds after the previous one. Geof was in B and I was in C, but he decided to start in C with me. He had a nagging foot injury so he made the conscious decision to stay back and run with me so he could slow down and not aggravate his foot further. 

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Miles 1–2 take runners from the Olympic Legacy Bridge at the University of Utah, through the Federal Heights neighborhood and onto 11th Avenue. There are some small hills here but they're manageable and helped me warm up in the first miles. 

Miles 3–5 were fast. This is where most of the downhill is in the race and I used the downhill to my gain, allowing my feet to turnover quickly and bank some time. This part of the race was scenic as we took Memory Grove toward downtown. At mile 5, we headed east on South Temple, where we were hit with the sun and a slight uphill for eight city blocks (if you haven't been to Salt Lake City, our blocks are big, so six blocks = about a mile in distance).

During miles 5–11, we snaked through the streets, passing through local neighborhoods. There was a hill at mile 7.5 (with a 6% grade) that had a water station a quarter of the way up it. I took a quick drink of water and then powered up that hill! I felt strong and while running, just remembered back to when I first ran this course in 2015 and how much more steady, consistent and stronger I was this time around, especially on all the hills! I was losing Geof on the uphills and then he would catch back up to me on the flatter sections. When he caught back up at 8.5 miles, I told him to not talk to me too much because I was in the zone (haha).

Course elevation and my pace overlay. The dips are the short walks through the water stations.

Course elevation and my pace overlay. The dips are the short walks through the water stations.

After mile 11, we entered Liberty Park. Geof and I run this park often but it feels so different during a race. I was still running on adrenaline and though it was getting warmer, I was still holding steady. I looked at my watch in the park and with 1.5 miles to go to the finish, did some quick mental math and noticed that at the pace I was going, I could beat my PR, so I kept pushing forward.

We left the park at 12 miles and picked it up. Geof helped me here by offering words of encouragement. He started running faster to get me to go faster too. He believes in me so much and I couldn’t ask for a better person to be my biggest supporter. I was trying to get my speed up and was breathing harder, but knew I had it in me to keep pushing. We rounded one last corner at 12.7 miles and could see the finish line off in the distance. I ran hard down that finishing chute and knew instantly after crossing the line and looking at the clock that I did it! I had a new half marathon PR. Final chip time—1:48:37.

Photo: Salt Lake City Marathon

Photo: Salt Lake City Marathon

Mile Splits: 

After finishing the race, we were handed a medal and water bottle and then everything you could ever imagine. I kept walking through the finishing area and kept getting handed things: a towel, fruit cup, banana, flavored sparkling water, instant flapjack mix, granola bar, drinkable strawberry yogurt, an ice cream bar, chips and guacamole... it was so funny. Geof also got pancakes to eat but I didn't feel like grabbing that. 

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The race also did free medal engraving at the end. It was so fun and commemorative to get my time engraved on the back, and felt extra special with it being a new PR. I loved this race but being that I live in Salt Lake City and run so many portions of the course already, I don't think I have the desire or need to run this race too often. I'm really just so happy that everything fell into place that day and I'm ecstatic with a surprise PR. It makes me hopeful for what this year will hold! 

I was feeling a little down with how running was going at the start of 2018 (with getting sick and running less), so I slowed it down and did more trail running because that's what makes me happy—but after this race, I feel so much better. I'm more confident in my ability and know that I'm making progress in my training, no matter how small. There will always be setbacks but part of training is overcoming them. I have two major races coming up this year (a road marathon in June and a trail 50K in November) with some half marathons and smaller races thrown in there too, so I'm excited to see how it all pans out.