Tuesday, May 4, 2010

Provo City Half Marathon - 5/1/10

Being the California girl that I am, when packing for Utah, I decided to bring my running shorts, short sleeve t-shirt, and visor for the race. I recall thinking that it could be cold, so I should bring the heaviest tech shirt I own, which I did. I'm really not sure what I was thinking. Just because it's going to be sunny in California, doesn't mean that's necessarily the case in Utah, no matter what the weather report says.

I decided fairly last minute to take a trip to Utah to visit my sister and brother-in-law. They just bought their first house, and I was the only person out of both families that has never helped them out with a move, so I figured now was my time. The majority of the move was actually done, I was just going to help them get a start on painting their rooms. I knew I had a 14 mile run I needed to do, so I checked to see if they had any races going on while I was there. As luck would have it, there was a half marathon in Provo City. My sister was in the middle of her training for the Coeur d'Alene half marathon over Memorial Day. After not much convincing, she was on board for the Provo City half despite it meant a real push to get her mileage up in just two short weeks.

I woke up Saturday morning to my alarm at 5:50a. Even though I flew in on Thursday night, it seemed much earlier since my body still felt like it was on California time. I lay there day dreaming about the end of the race and when I would get to climb back into bed for a nap. I knew I'd need it despite the fact that we took it easy on Friday night and went to bed early. I got dressed and gathered the stuff I knew I'd need. Luckily I brought some warm-up pants and a fleece to wear to the race. I still knew I was going be cold though, a t-shirt wasn't going to cut it. I checked if my sister had any jackets, but being the mini person she is, nothing fit ideally, so I just went with what I had knowing I'd warm up after a few miles like I always do.

Kim and I were to meet in the kitchen at 6:00a for breakfast. When 6:10a rolled around and I heard no movement, I knew there must have been an alarm issue so I riled her up. I made us some oatmeal and my standard toast with peanut butter. Kim made some coffee for the ride down. I'd never eaten that much before a race and wasn't sure how that was going to sit, so I really only had a few sips of the coffee to warm me up. The last thing I needed was two forces working against me. I figured we had over an hour and half before the race started so I should have plenty of time to digest, which I did.

We jumped into the Subaru and headed 45 miles south to Tabernacle Park in Provo City. On the way we talked about race strategy and what we wanted to accomplish. For me, the week ahead was the peak of my marathon training including a 20 mile run on the weekend. For Kim, she was really pushing herself just running this race and had been on a steady mileage increase for a number of weeks with no step back week. We both knew with the races we were doing over Memorial Day weekend, we should keep it slow and steady in order to not throw off our training schedules like I had done with the Kaiser SF Half Marathon in February. I was so sore after that race I couldn't run for 3 days and had to push my 20 miler back a few days. Not a huge deal, but definitely threw a kink in the plan.

We were very aware the entire drive down that we were heading directly toward some very ominous skies and even had some sprinkles on and off. After a quick pit stop at the gas station for some blue frost gatorade and a quick restroom break, we pulled into Provo with plenty of time to spare. We grabbed our racing bag and headed to the start area where we picked up our bib and race tech shirts. Despite the fact that I was a little disappointed with yet another partly see through white tech shirt, I did have to admit it was one of the nicer designs I'd seen. Bravo Provo. Being that they had no sweat check, we had someone take a pre-race picture of us, and then went back to the car, stripped down to our race gear, and walked back to the start while powering down some GU. It was not warm, I was shivering already. The only thing that kept us warm while we waited for the start was laughing at all the people standing near us and the very ineffective stretches they were doing. We joked how any physical therapist would have been disgusted had they been privy to any of it. This is not to say I'm some sort of stretching expert (we all know I'm not), but standing with your knees together, slightly bent, and doing circles does nothing (confirmed later that night by an actual physical therapist).

The national anthem was sung, and a few minutes later, the gun went off with what I thought was no warning at all and pretty much scared the shit out of me. It wasn't a big race, only about 664 runners total so the field spread out fairly quickly. I felt pretty good heading into this race. It was the first one in awhile I'd done where my feet weren't in horrible shape. In fact, my pre-race feet prep only consisted of two small band-aids around some problem blisters on my pinky toes. I was bummed to be missing soccer, but I knew the forced break would do my feet good.

We were probably only half a mile in when something came over my sister and I that I've never experienced while running before. Uncontrollable laughter. The kind where you're laughing so hard it almost hurts and you can't stop long enough to take a breath. I'm not even sure why it began. We both saw this girl kind of shimmying around some runners to find holes and we looked at each other and without saying anything, just erupted into laughter. It wasn't even that funny, but once you start it's impossible to stop. People kept turning around looking at us like we were crazy, which I guess we kind of were. It's very hard to run when you're laughing like that and can't breath. I don't recommend it, however, I think it did help to expel some of that nervous race anxiety you always get at the beginning.

After mile one, we found ourselves running the circumference of a mall which I thought very odd. There we were running through the parking lot with Sears on our left and JC Penny's on our right. After we left the mall, we headed north towards Lake Utah. I was looking at all the other runners and remembered this was BYU territory. There were a lot of young runners, and a lot of BYU logos. As we were running through a residential area, there was this Acura trying to get out of the driveway of this house. The driver found a gap between runners and quickly reversed. I immediately started laughing because this kid had taken out the cars grill and put in its place what was supposed to be a homemade sharks mouth with very large teeth. It was one of the more ridiculous car modifications I've ever seen. But hey, if they don't drink I guess they have to entertain themselves somehow.

The next few miles were pretty uneventful besides the rain and hail that kept us from warming up. I was thankful that I had the visor as it kept all the water from dripping into my eyes. We were running at a fairly fast pace, but I was feeling good and after asking Kim, she had no objections to keeping the pace. I think there was one point where we made the conscious decision to slow down a bit, but that only lasted about a quarter of a mile before we naturally picked it back up again. At around mile 6, we entered a more rural area. It was quiet and there were a lot of horses around and even the occasional chicken. Definitely not the scenery I was used to running in so it was a welcomed change. It helped take my mind off the fact that my hands were in incredible pain from the cold. I would have done anything for a pair of gloves at that point.

Around mile 7, I remembered that I was running at a much higher elevation then the sea level running I was used to. About a 4000 foot difference. Thankfully, it didn't seem to bother me, I didn't even notice it. As we came to the edge of the Utah Lake State Park which bordered Lake Utah, we turned around and ran the next 4 miles along the Provo River. The river was not big, but it was really pretty and very full being that winter was coming to an end and all the snow was melting off. We saw some people even fishing in it. It didn't really look like a river that I'd want to eat any fish from though. This stretch was the hardest, not so much in the running sense, we'd had a GU around mile 8 that gave us a bit of a boost, but more so because it had started to snow. Not light snow flakes, more heavy slushy watering flakes. I'm not sure if that was better or worse then being pelted by the hail we experienced earlier. Regardless, we were drenched and freezing and couldn't wait until we could warm up.

I had promised Kim that I wouldn't tell her our pace. She knew it would make her nervous that she wouldn't be able to sustain it. At mile 8.5, a girl that we were passing turned to me after seeing my watch and asked what our time was. I told her and instinctively also included what our pace was. Whoops! Kim was none to pleased, so I told her not to worry, that the pace we were going at at that moment was much slower, and that what I had said was just our cumulative pace. I wasn't entirely telling the truth, but it seemed to calm her down.

Mile 10 and I turned to Kim and told her we only had a 5K left, no big deal. She was looking good, but I could tell she was ready for the race to be done. I looked at my watch, did some quick math and realized we were killing this race. I told her that if we kept up this pace, we'd finish with a damn good time. In my head, I was thinking 1:57, we'd both said we wanted to come in at a sub-2:00 time and I knew we'd all but done that at this point. This definitely got her going again. She later told me that at that point she was all about just pushing through it and setting the PR since we were so close. Going into the race her PR was from the Kaiser Half Marathon in 2007 she ran with me (which was also her last HM), it was a 2:02. She would definitely break that.

There weren't a whole lot of spectators on the course, which was completely understandable given the atrocious weather conditions, but there were some people out. Family members and friends cheering on their runners. A lot of people were camped out in the back of their SUVs with the gate open trying to stay dry. As one would imagine given that we were in Mormon territory, there were a number of children on the course with their parents. They were adorable, cheering everyone on, sticking out their hands to get high fives from all the runners as they past. They really lift your spirits. Nothing was better though then when at around mile 11 or 12, we came upon a small tunnel pass that went under the road above. There were about 6 people staying huddled underneath to stay dry and they were cheering at the top of their lungs for us as we ran by. It felt great and gave us that energy we needed to push through to the end.

After a long straight away as we headed back into town, I could see the turn we had up ahead and I knew right around that corner was the finish. We were almost done. As we made the turn we could see the finish line. I looked down at my watch. 1:53:18. What?! If I sprint, I could break my PR of 1:54:08. I turned to Kim, said I got to go, and took off in a full sprint to the finish line. I made it. Not by much, but I'd just set a PR. I stopped running, took a quick breather, and turned around just in time to see Kim crossing the finish line.

We were handed bottled water as we walked out of the chute, but neither of us could grab them because our hands were so cold. I finally managed to tuck both of ours under my arms. We'd already made the plan to head straight to the car, blast the heater, and warm up before doing anything else. When we got to the car, we luckily had some dry clothes. We stripped down completely, took off our soaking wet clothes, and put on some dry ones. Unfortunately Kim didn't have another pair of pants, but the heater helped. Sitting in the car with a blasting heater was probably not the best thing without having stretched, but we had to do it. Our hands still didn't work. Even putting on our shirts was impossible because we couldn't feel for where the sleeves were. We later took off our shoes and socks, and realized our feet were all pruned. Eventually though we warmed up and decided to go back to the race festivities.

We exchanged our race tech shirts for larger sizes, since the ones we got looked like they were kid sizes, and looked for the free breakfast we had coupons for. They were giving out free warm french toast, yum. Unfortunately the line was much to long and we couldn't stand to be out in the cold any longer, so we grabbed some orange slices and headed back to the car. Props to the volunteers who stayed out helping with all the race festivities, I'm not sure how they did it.

We drove back in awe of our times and on a general high. I'd been joking before the race that I didn't know how I was able to set my PR back in February at such a fast time, and if I'd ever be able to break it again. My GPS watch time was 1:54:00, and my chip time was 1:54:06. Either way you look at it, I beat my PR, even if only by a few seconds. I'd come in 13th out of 77 runners in my age group, which was in the top 17%. Kim had done equally as well in her age division. We were proud.

I look back and I'm amazed at how well I felt during and after the run, and actually think I could have run it a bit faster if I wanted. There were long stretches of the run where I just talked and talked for miles, mostly having a one way conversation. To be able to talk like that I must have been feeling really good. I woke up the next morning, and unlike with the Kaiser half marathon where I set my initial PR, I didn't have a sore bone in my body. I realized what a long way I'd come since February with my training. But more then anything, what I was really impressed with was Kim. I was astonished that she was able to keep pace with me the entire time. She'd only ramped up her running one month prior. Going from only a 4 mile base and coming off the winter ski patrol season to running a half marathon at that pace just 4 weeks later is incredible. If anyone had something to celebrate that day it was her. And we did later that night at a fantastic Nascar trash party suitably stocked with twinkies on a stick, meatballs, and PBR.

It been over 3 years since I'd run a race with my sister. I forgot how much fun it was. We joked that the only reason why we ran it so fast was because we were so cold. Now she's hooked on running again and just in time for summer. We've already got two more races lined up :)

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