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Sunday, September 29, 2013

#63- The Huntsville Marathon!

Well, well, well! I love it when I am surprised! After already doing 8 races in 10 weeks, I thought I was going to take September 28th off, but the downfall of being a Marathon Maniac is that I can be easily convinced to add just "one more race" to the calendar. Maniac peer pressure is hard to pass up, so I caved (thanks Galen and Tim) and registered for the race!

The elevation chart was a big motivator!
Right after registering, I was sorry I did. I was very annoyed when I saw that the race started at 9:00am, but you had drive to Ogden (a 1 1/2 hour drive) to pick up your race packet or pay $20 for race morning pick up. With most runners living over one hour from Ogden, and just paying $96 to run, both options stunk in my book, as with a late race start, we were driving up race morning. Thank goodness fellow Maniac Tim Gill lived only 30 minutes away and was able to pick up packets for a few of us. THANKS TIM! I was really hoping my annoyance would be pushed from my memory come race morning.

Galen came and picked me up Saturday morning at 4:30am and we made the drive to Huntsville. We arrived at Huntsville Park (where the race finished and where the buses would take us to the start) at 6:00am. It was soooooo cold! At 28 degrees, we sat in the warm car and waited to meet Tim to pick up our packets. We found Tim and the three of us waited in the car until 6:30am when the buses would drive us to the start.
Once we got to the start, we headed straight into the heated tent and parked ourselves right in front of the heat blower. I was wearing a few layers on top, but was only wearing a skirt so my legs were freezing. I joked with Galen about wearing running tights, but he was smart!
We sat in the tent for over a hour and at 8:30am, I headed out to hit the port-a-potty before the start. The sun was out and while it was still pretty cold, it had warmed up some. I just hoped it would warm up even more once we started running.
Maniacs at the Start.

Tim, Galen, Rachel and I at the Start.

Tim, Galen and Vincent at the start.
Before we knew it the gun went off and the race was on. Since pulling a groin muscle at Top of Utah and having a little knee pain, Tim and I decided to run together and just go really easy. I didn't want to make the same mistake I made at Big Cottonwood and go out too fast.
We were going nice and easy the first couple of miles and the weather was starting to feel perfect. Just cool enough without being cold anymore, but not hot at all.
As we ran along, we ran into a few more Maniac friends!

Stacia and Keith

Marsha and I

John was running his 349th Marathon!

It's Franz and Earl!!
We were having a great time. The scenery was beautiful.

The colors were not in full color, but spectacular none the less!

The mountains were so pretty. They almost looked purple.

I love running along the river.

Tim taking in the view!
Stacia, Tim and I ran with Franz for a few miles and around mile 15 I decided to pull back. The pace was fine, but I wanted to make sure I could maintain my pace to at least mile 20 and I was starting to feel tired. It could have just been that I need to fuel, but I didn't want to risk burning out too soon, so we bid Franz goodbye after he told us a few great stories. I miss running with him!

Men in skirts!
At around mile 20, Tim was struggling with a blister on his foot, I on the other had was feeling great! I bummed back the interval and did my best to motivate Tim to keep moving. By around mile 23, I had pulled away. I got to the aid station and was waiting for Stacia and Tim to catch me when they waved me to go ahead. I was feeling so good, I was curious to see how much time I could make up.

I loved the 80's Aid Station! The volunteers were great!

This sign was outside a monastery.
I passed a lot of people in those last miles. I didn't feel like I had already run 23 miles as I was moving pretty good. I cheered every person I passed and encouraged them to keep moving! "We are almost there!" I cheered!
As I rounded the corner to the finish, I saw my pal Galen cheering for me as I ran down the finish chute. He had told me that he might try for a BQ at this race and with the perfect weather and the downhill course, I knew that this would be the perfect day for him to do it. As I ran towards the finish I stopped and yelled to Galen, "Tell me you BQ'd!" He said "I did!" and I ran through the finish!

Galen, John, Franz and Earl at the finish!
Before I knew it Tim and Stacia came through the finish chute!

I am happy to say any misgivings I had about this race at the beginning are long forgotten. This is a GREAT race! In fact, it is one of my new faves and I think this race is only going to grow in popularity. The course is fast, yet does not beat you up as much as Big Cottonwood.
I would still like to see them offer a day of packet pick up in the Salt Lake City AND Ogden area, as well as race day pick up, but other than that, this race gets a huge thumbs up!


The race shirt and medal!

The medal!


Sunday, September 22, 2013

#62- The Top of Utah Marathon!

People have different ideas of fun when it comes to celebrating their Birthday. Some people go shopping, some go to dinner and a movie, but I couldn't think of anything I would like to do more than run the Top of Utah Marathon. This was my fourth year running this race and it is still on my list as one of my favorite marathons.  
This adventure began Friday afternoon when my friend and fellow Marathon Maniac, Sue Mantyla picked me up in Salt Lake City and we headed to Logan. Once we got there we checked into the host hotel dropped our stuff down and headed to the expo. When we got there, the line for the packet pick up was really long, but when Sue and I found the line matching our bib numbers, to our surprise there was nobody in it! We lucked out and got our bibs right away.
A few Utah Maniacs at the Expo
Once we got our packets we met up with our friends Galen, Collete and Paul Milo (another Sarasota friend) and went to the pasta dinner. The dinner was held outside on the patio this year, which was delightful with the beautiful weather we had. Now, I generally stay away from race pasta dinners as a rule. They are usually over priced for what you are getting and generally not very good, but Top of Utah's pasta dinner was the exception to this rule. For only $10, we were fed a variety of pastas and sauces with salad, delicious rolls, cookies, and drinks. It wasn't fancy, but everything was fresh, hot and tasty.
The other good thing about attending the pasta dinner early was the live band the prize table! Shortly after sitting down the Race Director invited everyone up and asked us to line up with our bibs. Once they marked the back of our bibs, we got to spin a wheel and collect a prize. There were some really good prizes up there too. There were bags, socks, hydration belts, Camelback hand-held bottles and a lot of other great prizes! Sue and I both walked out with some nice Top of Utah Marathon bags.

I was eyeing this computer bag on the prize table. It was a welcome surprise, when I won it!!

On our way out of the pasta dinner, we ran into more Sarasota friends, Greg and Ali Goebel!!
After the pasta dinner, Sue and I headed back to our room to get ready for race morning. When we got on the elevator, we met a nice girl from Boise named Eden, who actually recognized me from this blog! I was so flattered!

My new friend Eden and I! THANK YOU SO MUCH for following my blog Eden! You made my night!
Once Sue and I got all our stuff laid out, we hit the hay as we had to catch the only hotel shuttle to the Merlin Olsen Park (where the buses would take us to the start) at 5:00am. It was fun to catch the bus up to the start with Sue, Greg, Paul and Eden. 
Once we got to the start, we hit the port-a-potties and made our way down the hill to the start area. It is usually quite cold at the start so I always look forward to the big heated tent they have set up. The only problem this year was the terrible fumes coming off the heaters (or something) made standing in the tent for more than 30 seconds unbearable. Our eyes and throats were burning and we just had to make due with the cold. At one point we just stood next to the outside of the tent where we felt a little heat. We had to give up our gear bags about 10 minutes before they shot the guns off, so once I got rid of my warm poncho and jacket, I was freezing. I ended up going back into tent and just sticking my head out the corner of the tent and that kept me warm without making eyes water. 

Fun to see lots of Maniacs at the start!
I stayed in the tent (with my head sticking out) until the guns went off and then Greg and I took off! It was a little cold the first couple of miles but we warmed up quick.
The course is not only beautiful, but the first 14 miles are a gentle downhill (with a couple of rolling hills). If I had not run the quad busting Big Cottonwood last weekend, I may have been able to open up run it a little faster. Greg and I were were doing pretty good staying well ahead of the 4:30 pacer until about mile 8 when all of a sudden I pulled my groin muscle. I wasn't sure how bad it was, but it was hurting pretty good running down the hill. My thought was if I could make it to the half, if it was still hurting and it was possible to walk, I would just walk the second half. I HAD to finish though, as it was my last race to complete the Utah Grand Slam, as I opted out of doing St. George this year.

Running down the canyon is so beautiful! I love that you can still see the moon!

Greg and the moon!

The scenery is beautiful!
I took a couple of Advil (which I generally don't recommend) to help with the pain and hoped that I would not have to run the rest of the race alone. I was enjoying Greg's company and we were reminiscing about running this race together in 2010, when Greg started having IT band problems. While we were both in pain, we laughed about gimping our way to the finish line together.
Just as we were coming out of the canyon (around mile 13.5), we ran into our Maniac friend from Washington, Sarah Stumbling Goat Englund and a new friend we met on the course named Allen. Allen was a dentist and was running with his wife, but lost her early in the race. We had slowed our pace a lot in order to not aggravate our injuries any further and he was hoping his wife would catch us. 
The Advil seemed to help and once we came out of the canyon my groin pull seemed to feel a little bit better. It still hurt, but I thought if I just went slow and easy, I could still finish. Poor Greg's IT problems were just getting worse though. Once we hit mile 20 we were still having fun though and decided we would all stick it out together no matter our pace. This was more than OK with me.; with Huntsville next weekend, I didn't want to push it, I just wanted to finish.

Having fun with Allen, Greg and Sarah!
While running fast has it's rewards, running slow sure is a lot of fun. When the bike medics rode past us at about mile 23 and said "there is just a little too much fun energy in this group", we loved it because even though there were bouts of pain, we WERE having fun!
When we saw the finish line we all crossed together feeling good. We may not have finished  fast, but we finished strong.

Crossing the finish line with friends is the BEST! (Photo by Tim Gill)

Friends at the finish!

Maniacs at the finish!!
It was so fun to see our fellow Maniac, Tim Gill and his cute wife at the finish cheering for us. When I got my medal, they handed me a Birthday present of a hand crafted (and beautiful) necklace and bracelet. I was really touched! THANK YOU SO MUCH!
We hung out to wait for the award ceremony as our Sue won her age group! CONGRATULATIONS SUE!


Sue and Paul at the awards ceremony.
When we headed over to get the bus back to the hotel, it was taking a really long time. We did not want to walk all the way back. One of the volunteers offered to give us a ride! I LOVE THE VOLUNTEERS!!
When we got in the car to come home, Sue gave me a cute present! If you know me, you know I like bling! This shoe charm was perfect!

This will look good with my wings!

I LOVE the Top of Utah Medal celebrating TOU's 15th year!

I love the moose shirt too!
At the finish, Greg asked me what I was doing to celebrate my Birthday? I told him I was just going to go home and hadn't made any plans. He was so nice and insisted that I come to dinner with he and Ali. That was an offer I could not refuse!! We met at Squatter's Pub downtown and had a really nice dinner. Paul came too, which really made it a party!

Paul, Greg and I at my Birthday dinner!
As I get older and since I divorced this year, I realized I have less family to spend Birthdays with (my twin sister lives in Atlanta and my parents have both passed). I can't tell you how blessed I am to have the most wonderful friends in the world! THANK YOU ALL SO MUCH. I LOVE YOU ALL!!
I was so excited to run Top of Utah again. It still is one of my favorite races. If you get a chance to run it, take it!
On a personal note, I would like to take a moment to honor my dear, sweet mother "Miss Lillie". She passed away on my Birthday 4 years ago, so our (my sister and I) Birthday is now a bittersweet occasion. She was the finest, kindest and most generous southern lady I knew and I love her with all my heart.

I love and miss you mommy!

Sunday, September 15, 2013

#61- The Big Cottonwood Marathon!

Last year when I ran the Big Cottonwood Marathon, it quickly went to the top of my favorite Utah Marathons (and we have a lot of GREAT ones). So needless today I was looking forward to this year's race.
On Friday night I started the festivities with visit to the expo, which was a change from last year as they only has a packet pick up last year. After the expo I headed to the Olive Garden for a fun Marathon Maniacs dinner.

Maniacs at the pre-race dinner.
At the dinner I met up with my Sarasota friend, Donna Loud. After the dinner we drove back to Bob and Teresa Baker's house. They were so AWESOME opening their home to us. I don't live far, but the Bakers live less than five minutes from the bus pick up/finish line. They invited me over for a weekend staycation!
I woke up Saturday morning at 3:30am. Donna and I wanted to be on the 4:30am bus. Once we had our breakfast and were ready to go, I drove us over to the bus pick up.
We got on a bus with no issues. People on our bus seemed pretty excited. Then about 3 miles from the start, the third bus up the canyon got stuck as it tried to make the hair pin turn up Guardsman Pass. All the buses after it could not get to the start. There was one bus ahead of the bus I was on. Everyone was sitting on their buses when I saw a man jump of the bus in front of us and run over to the stranded bus. I laughed out loud when I saw it was none other than my pal Galen! MANIAC TO THE RESCUE!!! At this point people were getting off all the buses to try to see what was going on or to help. Runners were actually trying to push the bus off the road, but it would not budge.

This bus is stuck on the road leading to the start.
People on the buses were getting antsy and there was talk to start walking the three miles to the start. This never crossed my mind for four reasons:
1) It would mean running three miles UP the steepest part of the course;
2) It was cold out there;
3) It wouldn't matter how fast you got up to the starting area, the race could not begin until the bus was moved. It was best to stay on the warm bus until the problem was resolved; and
4) That would just be stupid!  ;-)
I was impressed how quickly the RD's  got the problem resolved by having runners walk up the hill about a quarter mile where the two buses that were already at the start came back down  to a place safe to turn around and pick us all up. They also got the bus moved off the road much quicker than expected. The race only started 25 minutes late which could have been much worse!
There were lots of Maniacs at this race! I tried to get as many Maniacs together as I could for a photo, but with the bus thing, the original plan went out the window. I tried to get Maniacs together when I saw them.


Maniacs at the start!
Before we knew it the race had started. We started running down Guardsman Pass which is really steep. I could feel it in my quads in the first two miles!

Runners winding down the canyon!
There is no road marathon I have ever run that is more beautiful than the Big Cottonwood Marathon. Big Cottonwood Canyon is just beautiful and we would be spending the next 17 miles there.
Running 17 miles downhill seems like a dream come true, but for those not trained for so much downhill running or not used to the high altitude, it can be a quad/lung busting killer.
I was feeling really good. I knew I was running pretty fast (for me) when I hit the 10k in 55 minutes! I tried to slow up knowing I would regret it later if I went too fast down the canyon. When I hit the half in 2:07 (even after a bathroom break), I was still feeling great!

The leaves had not changed yet like last year, but the course is still BEAUTIFUL!
A little waterfall on the course.

I was moving down that hill!
This is about 2 miles from the bottom of the canyon.

Me at about mile 15.

Me coming to the bottom of the canyon!
At about mile 17 we left the canyon. I really like the change in the course this year. While there were not as many rolling hills, there was some long stretches of very gentle uphill. Now, if I was just out on a run I would probably not notice that I was going uphill, but after running down the canyon for 17 miles, even the flat sections felt hard.
I was still feeling pretty good at mile 20. When I got to mile 21, my watch said 3:30! I was so happy. A PR was right there! I kept plugging along.
It was getting hot out there at this point which was staring to wear on me. At mile 23 I hit the aid station for some water and a little Gatorade. When I left the aid station all of a sudden, I could not run. My legs just would not go! The wheels fell off!
My legs felt a little crampy, but I was not in severe pain. I just could not run. I walked until I felt like I could start running again and then I could only run about 20 seconds. This continued for the next 2 miles.
Right after I passed the mile 25 mile marker, I knew my PR was out the window. I wanted to cry. In 61 marathons, I had never hit "the wall" that hard. I needed a distraction. I pulled out my phone and called Teresa (who was at the finish line). I asked her just to talk to me (she gives great pep talks) and get me through that last mile. When she talked to me, I could actually run. She told me that she was sending Bob out to run the rest of the way with me! What a sight for sore eyes he was! Bob ran with me until I turned the corner to the finish chute. Teresa was so great too. As I approached the chute she yelled "I am going to get you a Diet Coke right now!" and she did!

So glad to be done!
I finished the race without a PR, but it was the fastest race I had run all year. I guess I can't be too disappointed.

Donna and I  at the finish! Donna kicked some butt and got her a PR!
We were pretty wiped and only stayed about 10 minutes at the finish line. We headed back to the Baker's where I has the best post race shower EVER. If you have never been in a steam shower, I highly recommend it! I just sat in there with a cup of herbal tea. It was AWESOME!
After our showers, the Bakers took us to lunch at Cafe Rio and then we came back to their home for a nap before we were all heading to University of Utah football game.
After a nice nap, we hit a few tailgate parties for some more great food!

Me, Kami (one of our co-workers), Teresa and Donna at one of the tailgate parties we attended before the game.

Had a fun time at the U of U football game!

The game ended after midnight so we headed out a little early as we had all hit the wall of tired. We headed back to the Baker's house for a much needed sleep!
Sunday morning we said goodbye to Donna as she headed back to Sarasota, I packed up my stuff, picked up my dogs and came home.
I would just like to say a HUGE THANK YOU to the Bob and Teresa Baker. I am VERY fortunate to have such generous and AMAZING friends. I can't thank you enough. You gave me a 5 star staycation!! I LOVE YOU GUYS!!
What a great race and a great weekend! It was so fun to see so many Maniacs! I hope you all had a great time!