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!
WHOO HOO 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!