I took the elevator down to the lobby which where it was already loaded with runners waiting in line for the bus. I chatted with some nice folks from Texas who were full marathoners. They told me about their many travels for marathons and we swapped some recommendations on good races. When I got to the front of the line, a woman checked for my name on her clipboard, and upon finding it, I was released to climb on to the bus. The busses were really nice coach-style busses with reclining seats and foot rests! Not too shabby for this marathoner! (And seriously, I've never seen this kind of luxury at any other race. Another great perk!)
The ride up to the canyon was dark (the sun was not yet up) and the road was twisty and turny most of the way. Unbelievably, I sat with a man on the bus who was from Trumbull, CT! This really was a destination race for so many racers. His name was Bill, and we had fun chatting about our races. He was an accomplished marathoner and ultra-marathoner. We had fun discussing races in CT and our kids and other common topics.
The bus ride took a good 40 minutes or so, and I started in on my breakfast near the end of the ride. I didn't want to eat too early so that I was starving by the 7:00 am race start time. As we neared the drop off point for the half marathon, I knew I needed to find the dreaded porta-potties ASAP! I hopped off the bus at the Spruces Camp Ground which was the staging area for the half marathon start, and located the porta-potty bank way in the back of the furthest reaches of the campground parking lot. Not to worry, I made it in time just fine, but trying to use one of those things in the pitch black of pre-dawn is damn hard!
After that, I just kind of hung out in the general area. It wasn't that crowded back by the porta-potties (amazingly), and they created a barrier against the wind and cold. It was about 10-15 degrees colder up in the canyon than it was back in town at the hotel. When we left, I think the temperature was around 50 degrees. As we waited, I asked some women next to me to snap a pre-race photo.
|Literally glowing with excitement in the pre-race pre-dawn!|
|View of runners just prior to the start of the race.|
The sun was coming up, but the canyon hills blocked much of the sun for most of the run. I didn't mind, as it kept me cooler. The run was absolutely majestic from step one. The surrounding canyon rocks were red and brown and gold as the tops received the light of the sun. Aspen trees and cedar pines were plentiful along the way. In fact, the smell of cedar surrounded us. What a switch from breathing in nauseating car exhaust back home! A rushing stream ran along the left side of the road at the start of the race and for the first miles. Mile markers were clearly visible, and I have to say, the downhill nature of this race made me feel like I was ticking off the mile markers more quickly than usual. Aid stations were also well stocked and plentiful along the way. Runners were jovial along the way, and I think we were all glad to have gravity on our side.
I am not a big hill runner, either up or down. In the spring and beginning of the summer, I started running hill repeats on the Powder Hollow Hill where I live, but after Oregon I cut that from my routine to give my injury a chance to heal. Aside from my run in Oregon which was half uphill and hence, half downhill, I hadn't run any hills for two months. I was worried that my quads and toes and knees would take a beating in this race, but after the first few miles, I was still feeling fine. I also caught up to the 2:00 pacing group and passed them, followed thereafter by the 1:50 group. Hot dog! I was moving!
I took my gloves off somewhere between miles 5 and 6 and tucked them in my belt. About a mile later, one fell out, so I ended tossing the other one off at the 7 mile marker. Oh well. They were great while they lasted. My fingers were warm now, so I didn't really need them anymore anyway. I continued on my great downhill feeling speedy through mile 9. After that, we were out of the canyon hill and heading in to the town of Cottonwood Heights. The road flattened out at this point, and it suddenly felt like lead weights had been added to my legs. Wow, what a difference gravity makes for sure! At least there were spectators along this part of the race. That really helps pull you along when you need it. By mile 10 1/2, a slight downhill returned, so I tried my best to take advantage. The remainder of the race was a slight downhill in to the finish line area. The finish chute was jammed with spectators and was very festive. It was a great way to end. My finish time on the clock as I passed through the gate was 1:47. I knew I was close to a PR, but still wasn't sure what my net time would be and if it would be enough to break 1:45. Needless to say, I was psyched, and I still felt pretty good. No toe or knee issues, but I knew my quads would be sore the next day. For now, not so bad.
I went in to the finisher's area to stretch out and grab some food. I texted my husband and found out that he won two blue ribbons for tallest and best head on a sunflower at our local Four Town Fair! Awesome! I found out moments later that my net finishing time was 1:43:34! A new PR for me! I couldn't believe it, but gravity really was my friend in this glorious downhill race.
|Finish line selfie. The medals were huge and awesome!|
|Snapped just before I got on the bus to head back to the hotel. View of finishing area.|
|Beer taps at Squatters.|
|U of U stadium and Olympic torch.|
I got to the campus just as the bookstore was closing, so I walked toward the student union. I figured there had to be a fast food something there that sold water. The campus was completely empty except for a few students walking to and from the library. I entered the student union, and all the fast food counters were closed, but a little further down, it seemed something was open. I found a few students hanging out at the billiard room and bowling alley. Yes, BOWLING ALLEY! How cool is that?! They had snacks and drinks for sale, so I grabbed a water there. I wished the students well and got directions back to the train.
I headed back to the hotel after that, as all the walking around the U of U was hot and tiring after 13.1 miles in the morning. I rested for the remainder of the late afternoon and started to pack my things. I decided to try a bistro in the city that night for dinner called Bistro 222. Again, it seemed like there were very few people in the city, and at the restaurant there were a few of us, but not many. Most folks were sitting outside, but I opted to sit in. My waiter was a young guy named Alan who was very nice. We ended up talking about running, and he told me he was a runner but had never done any races. I told him about my journey, and he seemed really enthusiastic about it. He told me he mostly runs trails up in the hills behind the city and can eke out about 7 miles at this point. I told him for sure he could work up to a half marathon if he wanted to and that the Big Cottonwood half was all downhill.
When dinner was done, I declined dessert, but told him how lovely the gelato selection looked. (I spied it on my way to the ladies room earlier.) Just before the check came, the owner of the restaurant came by with a small scoop of pistachio gelato for me "the runner" he said. So sweet. I left feeling special. It had been a wonderful day and a wonderful race.
The trip home the next day was uneventful, and as always, I was overjoyed to be back with my family. We celebrated all of our weekend successes over a sushi dinner at home. The Revel race series is hard to beat! I might be checking out Revel Denver some year...
|One of the free race photos offered at the race. Look at the amazing scenery!|