Race Recap: Timpanogos Half Marathon 2018

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Wow, has it really been a month since this race happened?! A lot has been going on lately and I've been getting really behind with these race updates, but I wanted to share a quick recap on how the Timp Half went (short answer: it was amazing!).

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I had signed up for this race solo and so far in advance that I almost forgot about it until I started getting reminder emails less than a month out. On the day of the race—Saturday, July 28th—I woke up early at 3 a.m., ate breakfast and Geof (and Izzy pup) drove me to the bus boarding area at American Fork High School, which was about a forty minute drive away from home. I boarded the bus around 4:20 a.m. and arrived at the start at Tibble Fork Reservoir at 4:50 a.m. It was pretty dark out and there was a yoga session going on to warm up runners for the race. I felt a bit tired so I didn't partake, but instead, sat on the concrete, took a bathroom break, dropped off my gear check bag and waited for the race to begin.

The race started at 6 a.m. and it was just starting to get light out. It was the prettiest running down the canyon, with the most spectacular views of the mountains and pine trees, combined with scent of the dewy morning. I just admired the scenery and wished I had my phone so I could take photos. The first 7.5 miles were all down American Fork Canyon and it was perfect—a little bit of a breeze and no sun. I felt good and with the downhill, it was easy to do fast miles. It felt like this portion whizzed by. I have been doing more trail running and not so much road, so I had no idea how my legs would respond to a road race, but they did just fine!

Course elevation and my pace overlay.

Course elevation and my pace overlay.

After the canyon, the course leveled out and transitioned to paved trails and neighborhoods. There were flatter sections with rolling hills (and a small stretch with sprinklers blasting, which was fun to run through!). I had never run this course before and liked not knowing where the next turn would take me. I kind of just zoned out until the end and tried to focus on keeping my legs moving at a comfortably quick pace. Once again, going into this race, I didn't have a true time goal in mind, but went into it wanting to run what felt good to me that day. I felt relaxed and happy to be there.

It got more warm and sunny near the end but I was determined to keep up my pace. I picked it up in the last mile and as I was getting closer to the finish, I could hear the music and crowds. That always puts more pep in my step! A few more turns and I was back at American Fork High School and could see the finish ahead. While running down the chute, I heard someone yell "Go Val!" and that made me so happy. I found out later it was Kelsey (a fellow runner and one of my favorite people that visits the store). I crossed the finish line with a new half marathon PR by almost three minutes. Final chip time—1:41:45.

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Mile Splits:
1—7:19
2—7:29
3—7:42
4—7:27
5—7:10
6—7:09
7—7:25
8—7:27
9—8:01
10—8:19
11—8:17
12—8:32
13—7:55
0.22—1:36
average pace: 7:46

I loved this whole race. I felt good about being able to keep a consistent pace throughout and pushing when I was getting tired. With harder efforts, I don't usually enjoy eating right after, so I only had some water and electrolytes at the finish, retrieved my gear bag, watched some more runners come in and met back up with Geof and Izzy. I lined up at the results station to print out my official results (where I found out my chip time and that I was 9th out of 102 in my age group!).

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Here's Izzy barking at another dog she just spotted. She thinks she's the boss of everyone (haha).

Here's Izzy barking at another dog she just spotted. She thinks she's the boss of everyone (haha).

Though I've been loving trail running more and want to get into more trail races, I would run the Timpanogos Half again. I think a road race is super good to work on your speed and see your improvement. I also loved the weather. Since the race was so early, the temperatures remained in the 60°s and 70°s the entire run (the crisp air and coolness of the canyon in the summer was the best!). The race was also organized so well!

What are your favorite road races?

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: 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:
1—7:30
2—7:35
3—7:40
4—7:48
5—8:03
6—8:12
7—7:56
8—7:58
9—7:57
10—8:09
11—8:11
12—8:21
13—8:24
0.12—1:04
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.