The Halloween Half: A race report

Well, it’s been a few days since I actually ran this thing, so it’ll be a trick to remember how it all unfolded…but here’s the gist:

1.  I PR’d.  By, like, 20 minutes.  My time was 1:39:01.  Amazing.  I’ve worked pretty hard for this.  Unfortunately it’s only whetted my appetite for a faster time.  Sub 1:30:00, maybe?

2.  I ran a 7:34 pace.  Didn’t know I still had it in me.  With having lost 20 pounds, I’m sure this how it happened.  Could not have run an 8 minute pace with that weight.  So the weight was critical.  It’s been a real trick to lose more, though.  It’s going to take a LOT of dedication to make that happen.

3.  As a kid, I was never into sports.  Didn’t really have anything for my parents to come and watch me in.  But on Saturday, my parents were in town and got to watch me cross the finish line.  It was a really nice moment for me.  It was also strange that my dad wasn’t racing with me.  He’s usually in on all of these races, if he’s around.

4.  These pace bracelets are awesome for me.  Being able to see where I’m at and stay on schedule is very helpful.  It keeps me honest, in both directions.  There isn’t much like going out too fast, or going too slow, that will kill a race.

5.  This race was not well organized (SoJo, anyone?)  There were drop bag issues, end of race issues (no awards given out to age-group winners.)  And I came in 2nd place for the 35-39 year olds.  Even a poorly managed race couldn’t wipe the PR smile off of my face.

6.  Next year, I may take a look at the Haunted Half, which came highly recommended to me.

SoJo 1/2 marathon race report

Lynn, Erik and me, the morning of the SoJo 1/2 Marathon
Lynn, Erik and me, the morning of the SoJo 1/2 Marathon

Ever since last week’s Escalante Marathon, I knew I was in a good position to PR at a 1/2.  So I was fortunate that the following week I had the SoJo 1/2 marathon to look forward to.  I only ran  a couple of times, because there was still some recovery to be had from Escalante.

6 am:  Woke up and drove to a McDonald’s, right off of Bangerter Road, where I met Lynn.  Jumped in his truck and we headed over to Erik Wright’s house.  We hopped into (there was a lot of jumping and hopping on race day) Erik’s wife’s car.  She dropped us off at the starting line for SoJo.

7:30 am:  I started off for a very slow run, to warm up.  I’ve never done that before a race, but if my sister and Tim are doing it, it’s probably in the Running Bible.  After the 1/2 mile jaunt, I started off with some light, dynamic stretching, then started to second guess my choice of apparel:  Shorts, short-sleeved shirt with a light long sleeve shirt over it.  It was cold and I wondered if I’d warm up.

* Please pardon the past-tense/present tense issues in these race reports.  It’s a lack of time that forces me to write this way. *

8:am:  The race starts.  More than ever, I concentrate on not getting swept into the middle or back of the pack.  I needed to stay closer to the front, because I was pretty sure my pace was going to be worth of that.  Normally, I try to stay out of the way of those who are faster, but I felt that I was one of the faster ones for this race.

Miles 1-3:  Felt pretty good, but didn’t have the spunk that I had at the beginning of Escalante.  This makes sense, because there is no way that I’m completely recovered from the marathon.  However, I do have energy and I manage to keep a 7:45-ish pace for the first two miles, followed by an 8:30 for the third.  This is due, mostly, to elevation changes (read: hills).

Miles 4-5:  At mile four, I take a quick drink at the aid station (walking, because I spill too much water, otherwise).  I start off and there is some downhill, which allows me to start clipping off a couple of 7:30-ish miles.  This is important, because I know that there is one more hill + two miles of flat at the end, which may see me slowing down.  I’m still feeling good.  I still think I’m in the first 25% of the pack.  My energy feels good.

Miles 6-7.5:  Here is that last hill my pace bracelet alerts me to (following last week’s protocol of a pace bracelet with my splits, but with the modification of arrows that designate whether the mile is up, down, or flat.)  This was not too bad and I kept telling myself that I had much worse hills on Escalante.  This self talk continues until we start going down again.

Miles 7.5-11.5:  At around mile 8, I take my last drink from an aid station.  The weather is so cool, I really shouldn’t need anything else.  I can now feel that my body is still tired from the marathon, but I push through the weariness and force myself to take advantage of approximately four miles of downhill.  This is not easy, because my right IT band is acting up a bit, plus I’m just flat out getting tired.  But I tell myself that I’ll be very disappointed if I let up.  So I push harder, between a 7:45 and 8 minute pace.

Once I hit the 11.5 mark, I know that I have two miles left, not 11.2.  I know this because I saw the race’s GPS tracking of this route, which shows that it’s slightly more than a 1/2 marathon.  Mentally I’m prepared for more running. (You’d be surprised at how far .2 miles is at the end of a race, especially when you thought your race would be over .2 miles ago.)

Miles 11.5-13.5:  These last two miles are a fight.  My body keeps complaining that it can’t keep going at this pace for another 16 minutes, but my brain knows better.  So I push only slightly harder to see which is right.  The body loses the fight and gives into me and my will (don’t ask me who’s who, anymore…none of us know.)  With a 1/2 a mile to go, I put the hammer down and crank up to a 7 minute pace.  Surprisingly, my body agrees to this.  It’s a good thing.  Accomplishing a 1:45:00 time is going to be a real close thing, since the math isn’t working out in my favor, in my head.

I cross the finish, my watch reporting 1:45:30.  Initially, I’m very disappointed.  I was so close.  But I can’t think of any place on the race where I could have gotten that time back.  I definitely gave it my all.  If I hadn’t taken a drink at the aid stations, I might have done much worse.

The good news is that I’ve PR’d.  By almost twenty minutes.  I’m very happy about this.  My body is pretty beat up, but again, I’m not injured.  I’ve PR’s twice, now, in two weeks.

Next week is the Halloween 1/2  Can I PR for a third week in a row?

The girls training run for SoJo

I took the girls down to the Provo River Trail, yesterday, to see where we stood for Saturday’s race.  Here are some of the pics that I got.

This kid is all business. She will be a contender.
Here, you almost see the mocking in her lips. She fears no one.
Reagan holds the lead, here, but Roxie and Lucy pace her and wait for an opportunity.
The lead pack tears down the Provo River trail, hanging on to the last of their energy.
Finishing up the run, all three girls are strong and feeling confident about Saturday’s 1/2 race in South Jordan.
Afterward, I managed to get a moment with Roxie, who commented, “My eating has been good this week. A few milers, tomorrow, and we’ll see what I can do.”


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The Escalante Marathon

20131015-161426.jpgOn Saturdays, our family enjoys going to Cracker Barrel from time to time.  Since the Escalante Marathon was on Saturday, we move one of our favorite Saturday activities to Friday and had breakfast as a family in Springville.

As I said goodbye to my family, my girls wished me a good race.  I’m starting to get the sense that they know what I’m doing when I go off to races for a few hours (or a day in this case).

The drive to Escalante was uneventful, but it was very enjoyable.  I have always loved driving, traveling highways with such rich history.  I-15 used to be the old U.S. Route 91, which…well, actually, I may have taken a bit of liberties with “rich history”.  I just looked up I-15, confident to find a rich history, but found none.  Either way, I-15 is a highway and I traveled on it.  And enjoyed it.  All of that is true.

Once I arrived in Escalante, which I quickly decided was far from the reaches of proper medical assistance, I drove over to packet pickup, but only one person was there.  This person was very friendly.  In fact, this would become a pattern that I’d notice over the next 18 hours.  Everyone in Escalante is friendly.  Google it.

After picking up my packet (the t-shirts hadn’t arrived, yet), I headed over to the Circle D Eatery to see what I could eat, that would profit the next 26.2 miles ahead.  I arrived and was almost the only person in the place.  But a friendly (see?) waitress led me to a table, where I sat, agonizing over the menu for the next 20 minutes.

I’d look at an item (like a cheeseburger) and then Google “cheeseburger and pre-marathon dinner”, only to find that the one thing that sounded good was a recipe for death.  Ok, no cheeseburger.  I moved through item after item, all of which were rejected by Google with warnings.  Until…

I saw the Alaskan Salmon plate.  It was about 18 bucks.  I never spend 18 bucks on Alaskan Salmon in Escalante, Utah.  But this was an important race.  I’ve given up Dr. Pepper, all sodas, most foods that I’ve come to love for the last 15 years.  So yeah, I’m gonna drop 18 bones on fish.  Try to stop me.

It was delicious.  Tasted so good!  Worth every bit of damage done to my checking account.  I will order this exact-same plate, the next time I run the Escalante Marathon.

After I finished, I paid, then drove down to a grocery store.  I cased the place, looking like a criminal, when, in fact, I was looking for food that would be good to me in the morning.  I ended up with a bag of bagels (tragically they are not sold in singles), strawberry cream cheese, and a banana.

I then drove back to the Padre Motel, where an argument had broken out next door.  (This arguing between a man and a woman would continue, on and off, through the evening as I tried to sleep.)  I arranged my running stuff (I am very particular about this on the night before a race), climbed into bed and ordered my brain to let me sleep.

And it did.  I woke up at 11 pm, used the bathroom.  Apparently, my neighbors had finally fallen asleep (or maybe something more sinister happened), because things were quiet.  I went back to sleep.

At 5:30 am, my alarm woke me up.  I dressed, took my stuff out to the truck, walked back inside my motel room and made sure I’d cleared everything out.

I drove 1 mile West of the Padre and parked my truck at the Escalante High School.  Boarded my bus, made sure to sit in the cool section (toward the back) and settled in.  I chatted with a couple of my closer seat-mates, while desperately trying to ignore the hills, the insane and frequent hills and the endless ride that a marathon bus ride always is.  I ate the bagel and banana that I really, truly did not want to eat.  But I know better.  I am a seasoned marathoner, now, with 7 races behind me, all of which contain dozens of mistakes that I am learning from…including a brutal St George Marathon with a lack of nutrition.

We left the bus and lined up at the starting line.  A gentleman, who loves his town, exhorts us to pay attention to the scenery and not just blast down the trail without taking in a beautiful view.  A countdown began.  Only to be stopped by a woman, who asked that she be allowed to tie her shoe.  This is allowed in a small marathon, where only 42 finishers will be recorded.  Then a final countdown.

And a canon goes off.  And here’s how it all unfolds:

Within about three minutes, we’re all spread out.

Miles 1 and 2:  Slight uphill.  I had heard it might start out with a bit off uphill, even though the elevation profile shows down (those charts always mess me up).

Miles 3-5:  I feel good.  My breathing is weird, but that’s ok.  I’m a couple of minutes ahead of my race bracelet, which has my projected (and optimistic) splits, which I will adhere to, for at least 12 miles.

Miles 6-10:  Still feel good.  The up and down of hills is amazing, and I can see how my legs are going to get hammered.  Ugh…is that my IT Band, again?  Not killing me, but it’s knocking on that door.

Miles 11-12:  I’ve settled into a great pace, keeping about a 8:45 average.

Miles 13-15:  Mile 13 brings everyone’s first big challenge, and we struggle up a pretty decent hill, which lasts for what I’m guessing is over a mile.  Significantly harder than Veyo in St George Marathon, but me and a girl and another guy push through.  Taking some chances on this hill.  Will my energy deplete?  No idea.  I want to PR.  Must take this chance.  I remember to trust my hilly runs up to Paradise, California, which I’ve taken over the last couple of weeks.  Keeping an 11 minute pace on this hill.  I crest the hill and decide to skip the break and keep running.  Feeling pretty darn good.

Miles 16-18:  Ups and downs, with a final challenging hill.  More brutal than the last.  It is so tough, I can’t take more than little steps and ran at a 14 minute pace.  At this point, I call it a day and walk the rest of this hill.  I can walk a 15 minute pace and decide that the energy saved might benefit me later.  The jury is still out on whether this is a good call.  I take note that, as soon as I hit 18, I’ve run my farthest distance this year.  The Murdock Canal 17 miler had this year’s honor, up to this point.  I feel like I’m swimming the course.  I think this, because I’ve been eating a ton of fish this month, and it seems relatable.  Keep in mind- I am a cloudy thinker in races.  I stretch my IT Band a couple of times.  Each time, it seems to do the trick for a mile or two.

Miles 19-21:  I feel…really good.  I compare how I feel to last year’s St George and know that all of the things I’ve done this year have paid off.  Bigtime.  I have energy.  My body is holding up.  My back, shoulders, hips are all holding together nicely.  Dang!  There is bruising on my right, top foot.  I keep pulling the tongue of my shoe back in place for about 10 seconds of comfort.  This will eventually bruise my foot.

Mile 22:  First real signs up breaking down.  I feel tired.  My body is now starting to break down.  Things ache and I’m anxious for this race to end.

Miles 23-25.5:  I am in trouble.  I’m walking way too much and I’m out of energy.  I start to run, but can’t figure out if I keep walking because I’m tired, or just hurt too much.  When I realize I don’t know the answer, I start running again, but have to stop after 1/5 mile or so.  I repeat this exercise for the duration of this race.

Miles 25.6-26.2:  I can see the pavilion.  I start to run, again.  It must be a 10 minute pace (which is awesome, I decide), and I keep this pace until I cross, by myself, the finish line.  Not once on this course have I stopped realizing how beautiful the run was.  Gorgeous course.

4:40:32.  This is a PR for me, on the hardest marathon course I’ve been on.  This year has paid off and I’m definitely in the best shape of my running career.

One of the race organizers asks if I’ll be back for this race.  I’ll be back.

I’m happy.  I’m in a good mood.  I feel relatively good.  I’m able to talk with people, smiling.

I head back to the truck and sit down.  I start the engine and point north on I-15.

Driving home, the entire way, I start planning my next marathon.