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2013 SoJo Marathon Recap- Winning With Style

Oh, Dorothy, you were so right.  There is no place like home.

On October 19, I embarked upon my final marathon journey of 2013- the SoJo Marathon.  I had just come off a PR of 2:51 in St. George two weeks prior, but gifted with a free entry from FatBoy Racing, how could I turn down the chance to run through my home streets amongst friends and family?

The South Jordan Marathon, or SoJo as it is affectionately called, is a very small race which the city bought this past year.  New management brings new challenges and they were numerous this time around, but I can honestly say this was my best race day ever.

A lot of friends had high expectations for me and weren’t shy about sharing them in texts, on Facebook or even in person.  As has been my M.O. for every race this year, I had no specific time goal, but I couldn’t help but allow my hopes to rise a little higher with all these positive comments swirling around my head.

Having broken the 3-hour barrier and won a couple half-marathons, there was only one goal I had left: win a marathon.

I’m not elite.  I’m not coached.  I never ran in college or high school.  I didn’t lace up a pair of running shoes until six years ago as a way to keep myself sane as a mom of two young girls.  I’m a good runner, but not great (unless you ask my mom or husband).  To win a marathon, it would have to be a smaller race on a more familiar course.  SoJo met both those criteria.  The course itself is one I run most Saturdays.  I know every dip and rise of the road.  I’m intimately familiar with the grinding uphill on Bacchus Highway and the rollers surrounding Daybreak.  I could run this course with my eyes closed.  No chance of me getting lost here!

The night before the marathon was fretful.  With the real chance of meeting my final goal, my mind would not stop imagining every mile.  It was a relief when the alarm finally went off and I could play out these imagined scenarios for real.

I headed to the start line with Ashley who was running her first marathon.  Thank goodness for good friends to calm down excited nerves.  Because the race is at home, I got to sleep in my own bed and only had to wake up early to get breakfast in my belly early enough to have time to digest.  We waited maybe 30 minutes before it was time to run.  Having learned my lesson from St. George, I wasn’t shy about toeing the start line, but as I looked around, I realized I was the only woman up front.  With my goal secretly tucked in the back of my mind, we began.

From the very start, I was the lone female in front.  Lest you think I was comfortable about this, I was a little rattled.  Why were there no women around?  Did I go out too fast?  Did they know something I didn’t know?  How long would it be until “she” caught me.

Negative thoughts do no one any good, so I switched my mind to “Run Your Own Race” mode.  If someone beats me, it will be because they were stronger, better, faster.  Not because I psyched myself out.

Mile 1-5-  I found myself running with Casey from West Jordan, a father who was gunning for a sub-3 hour race.  I was glad to have someone to run with, but after a few miles had to cut out the talking.  Our 6:20/mile pace felt comfortably hard.

Mile 6-8- After some gentle downhill and flat roads, we hit our first big climb.  Last year I was pacing my friend Hollie to her first marathon finish and remember this climb as one of my favorite spots on the course.  This year, my faster pace changed my opinion.  It’s almost two miles of unrelenting climbing.  I told Casey I would be backing off a bit.  No sense in expending so much energy so early.  If someone wanted to pass me here, let them go.  I knew fresher legs would prevail in later miles.

Mile 9-13- Coming into Herriman and past the high school is my normal Saturday routine.  I told myself it was just another Saturday.  No pressure.  My pace had only slowed to around 6:30 even with a gradual uphill past the school.  Once we turned right and headed east, we were rewarded with a good downhill stretch into Daybreak.  Casey was worried about our pace slowing.  I reminded him I had no time goal and if he wanted to run on, just go.  Our half split was somewhere around 1:27, although for the first time this season, I wasn’t so focused on time.  The online race results have our split at 1:24.  I don’t believe that.

My husband, Christian, was running the half-marathon that morning and had started 30 minutes after we did.  As we passed their starting line, I wondered where he was.  We had joked that a victory for him would be him finishing before me.  I told him we actually had a chance of finishing a race together!  I hoped his run was a good one.

Mile14-16-  Still feeling strong, I held my pace as we skirted the east edge of Oquirrh Lake.  The best part of running at home is passing by familiar favorite spots and this is one of mine.  We ran past some women running on the path by the lake and they shouted, “First woman!  Go girl!  Go!”  Lots of woo-hoos and some good mojo for my legs.  Mile 15 I saw Emily who ran the Epic Relay with me.  It took me a minute to recognize her, but as she passed me water, she also gave me some more mojo.  Another big plus for running at home- a hometown cheering squad all along the course.

As we turned right and headed east again down 102nd south, I passed Casey and another male runner.  We took a right onto 40th west and I set my sights on Temple Hill.  That would be the last I saw of either of them.

Mile 17-19-  My friend and running partner Tyler usually volunteers for this race, but since the change in management, he found himself with a free Saturday.  He offered to meet me around mile 17 and help me to the finish.  I was more than happy to accept.

My strategy for dealing with marathon miles is to set short goals.  My first goal is always to make it to mile 8.  Then I set my sights on mile 14.  It’s more than halfway which always makes me confident that I can finish.  This race, my next goal was to get to Tyler.  He met me in the middle of our third large climb past the Oquirrh Mountain Temple.  Again, this is familiar territory.  We run it together every Saturday, but I never run it at a 6:45 pace.  Yes, I slowed down some for this hill.  It’s short, but it’s intense and steep.  Never have I been so grateful to see his white hat in the distance.  He tried to talk to me, but my huffing and puffing clued him in on my inabiltiy to chit chat.

We crested the hill and began a steep descent when I saw a woman in a green coat holding a sign and yelling at me.  It was my friend and soon-to-be neighbor Tara!  It was then that I realized I was running by our new home that we would be moving into soon, passing our church as we zipped through the neighborhood.  I found this so comforting.

My next goal was to make it to the mile 18 aide station where my two daughters were volunteering with my friend Hollie, the same friend I’d paced last year.  My kids have volunteered at this race the past three years and look forward to it every year.  I could actually see my girls’ pink jackets back at the top of Temple Hill.  I had warned them that if I was racing, I probably wouldn’t stop to kiss their cute little heads, but how could I pass them up?  I slowed down, squished their sweet cheeks, told them I loved them and ran on with renewed energy.  By the way Hollie was cheering, you’d have thought I was on my way to Olympic gold.  It’s good to have friends that love you that much.

Mile 20-23- Turning left onto 3200 W. marked the beginning of a rough patch.  3200 W. is a deceptive grind. Give me a good, steep, honest hill any day. To the naked eye, it looks flat.  To exhausted legs, I might as well be climbing Everest.  Everything bugged me.  My race belt chaffed.  My feet ached.  My shoulders hurt.  I could sense myself spiraling downward.  I told Tyler to talk me through.  I just needed distraction.  If there’s one downside to knowing a course, it’s knowing just how far down the road you have to run to reach the finish.  At this point, it felt unreachable.  The previous week’s half marathon, the St. George Marathon two weeks before, the Top of Utah Marathon four weeks earlier- all those miles accumulated and their weight bore down on my quads like cinderblock.  There was a tailwind, but it was no more helpful than a whisper.

We finally turned right onto 9800 S.  Thoughts immediately turned back to my girls.  We ran past their school and I thought of them running so happily around their field at recess.  Kids take joy in running.  I needed to find the joy.  I focused hard on the finish.  Within minutes of passing the school, I saw Michelle Campbell, a talented local runner who has had her fair share of incredible races.  She was out there cheering her heart out.  Just past her was Tara again.  It was as if Michelle and Tara knew I needed a little extra push.

At this point we were running into a lot of half-marathoners.  Tyler ran a few steps ahead of me, shouting “On your left!” to clear the way for me.  It’s the closest I will ever get to a personal escort during a race.

Mile 24-26-  My next goal was to make it to the mile 24 aide station where Elfi Ortenburger and my fellow Huntsman Hometown Heroes were volunteering.  At the entrance to the Jordan River Parkway, they were there shouting encouragement and offering GU.  All I could do was hold up a finger to indicate I was in first, but seeing their happy faces and hearing them call me by name almost brought me to tears.

At mile 25 there were actual tears.  So many of the mile markers on the course were off.  Some came too early.  Some came too late.  I thought we were at mile 25 and I started focusing on mile 26.  A few minutes later, I noticed a mile 25 marker.  How could this be?  I thought we passed it minutes ago!  I could feel the lump in my throat grow.  I was at the end of my rope physically and mentally.  I told Tyler I just had to slow down.  He insisted he wasn’t pushing me. For the first time in miles, I looked at my time and realized I could run an 8-minute mile and still finish under 3 hours!

I mentioned this to Tyler.  His response is one I’ll never forget.  “You don’t want to just win this.  You want to win it with style!”

I knew he was right.  How could I walk this race in?  I’m always telling my class members, “It’s not how you start.  It’s how you finish that really matters.”

I sucked it up and tried to find as much “style” as I could.  Then I heard it.  The crowds!  The cheering!  I could see the finish in the distance and I was still in first place!  This was really happening!

Mile 26-26.2-  I don’t remember a lot.  Christian says he was right at the finish.  I do remember my youngest daughter Ali jumping onto the course and running a few steps with me.  I was worried she’d get lost in the crowd, but I couldn’t slow down.  Michelle had made it to the finish to cheer me in as had Tara. Tyler gave me one last shove and sent me across the finish.  There was no tape to break.  No one called my name.  I finished amidst crowds of Kids K, 5K, and half marathon finishers.  But I knew what just happened.  I won my first marathon and I did it in 2:56.

There was a lot of confusion as soon as I crossed the finish line.  A family crossed right in front of me and immediately stopped.  I ran into them and felt dizzy.  The crowds were so thick and weren’t dispersing.  I couldn’t breathe.  Tyler’s dad was not far away and could see I needed some help.  He and Tyler took me to the med tent.  I just needed to get out of the crowds.  I hadn’t even been given my medal.  The medic took my vitals and declared me “Okay” but remarked that my heart rate was high.  Yeah, that happens when you race.

At the award ceremony, they announced me as the second place finisher.  Someone had registered for the full, but dropped to the half.  My mom said she’d heard her declared the winner almost an hour before I finished.  Unless she had secret jet-pack shoes, I said it was impossible for a woman to finish a marathon in 1:56.  It took some time, but it was finally ironed out.  A very anti-climatic finish, but I couldn’t be happier.  I took some time to revel with friends who’d run their own fantastic races.

Christian had a great race made only better by the fact that he was done a whole 7 minutes before me!  Success!

What made this day so special to me wasn’t that I won.  It’s not my time that matters, although I’m very proud to have finally broken 3-hours on a very rough course.  No, what made it special was that I won it at home with friends and family with me from start to finish.  No amount of prize money could ever match that feeling.

(And my friend Ashley, she finished her first marathon with a huge smile on her face!  I have a feeling it won’t be her last.)

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Posted by on November 7, 2013 in Race Reports

 

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2013 Park City Marathon Recap

ImageSix years ago I ran the Park City Half Marathon.  It was my first half and I believed it almost killed me.  The incline and elevation was something I’d never experienced or prepared for.  While I finished feeling accomplished and proud, I couldn’t help but wonder what crazy person would ever attempt to run the full marathon.

Fast forward to August 2013 and I’m still asking the same question, but I think I have my own answers.

The day before my 4th PCM, I was surprisingly calm.  We are currently living in a tiny apartment with only the bare essentials while our new home is being built.  It’s taking much longer than we anticipated and we’re feeling a little too close as a family.  So the thought of spending more than three hours running through Park City and Deer Valley on trails and alongside creeks and some of the most gorgeous mountain country seemed blissful.

It’s become a tradition for our family to make a weekend out of this race and we’ve come to look forward to it all year.  We arrived Friday night and checked into the Newpark Hotel.  One of the best parts of this race is that the start line is located just outside the hotel lobby.  It’s a loop course so the finish line is also just outside our room.  No bus to the start.  No ridiculous wake up call.  In fact, with a 6:30 am start, I would get to sleep in later than a typical Saturday.

At 5:30 am the alarm went off and any calm I’d felt before was gone.  I’d never experienced nerves like this.  My hands and legs were shaking.  My heart rate seemed to soar.  I couldn’t explain why I was suffering from severe pre-race jitters, but there they were.  I choked down a bagel, dressed and made my way downstairs to the start.  Just moments before we began, I saw my good friend Sue Mantyla.  Notcing my nerves, she reminded me that I wasn’t racing against anyone but myself.  Normally advice like that goes in one ear and out the other, but this time it stuck and became a working mantra throughout the race.

Miles 1-6-  The best way for me to handle this race is do divide and conquer four sections.  This first section is tough, but with fresh legs it’s manageable and gives me a chance to work out my nerves.  We climbed up and around neighborhood streets, past Trailside Elementary and the soccer fields where we watched my nephew play just two weeks before.  Not a mile into the race I was passed by a woman who looked familiar.  I would later find out she was the woman from Illinois who won the female division last year and passed me at the same spot at the beginning of the race.  My only goal was to keep a steady, strong pace and calm my nerves, so I watched her pull away in admiration.

Miles 7-13-  On the rail trail.  This section seemed so long the first time I ran the marathon.  There’s only one turn which can make it feel farther than it is.  Around mile 8 I found myself gaining ground on a guy in a white shirt who’d flown by me at mile 3.  As I moved right to pass him he suddenly sprinted ahead.  This has happened before.  Some guys just can’t stand being passed by a girl.  Fine.  A guy in orange passed both of us and White Shirt Guy didn’t challenge him.  Interesting.  Not five minutes later I had gained on him again.  Just as I started to pass again, he sprinted AGAIN!  Come on.  He was wasting a lot of energy trying to keep me behind him.  Maybe he finally realized that because a minute later I did pass him.  He muttered something about my pace.  I didn’t catch what he said, but I’m going to assume it was a compliment.  I never saw him again.

Somewhere around mile 11 I passed a girl in green who’d been in second place since the beginning of the race.  She had slowed quite a bit, but I was surprised to have caught up with her.  Suddenly I found myself in second place.  Deja vu.

Usually my husband, Christian, runs the half while I run the full but for some reason this year he didn’t register.  I had jokingly suggested that since he was free he could come cheer me on at mile 13 just before the big hills start.  In all honesty, I didn’t expect him to do that.  I don’t need a lot of cheering while I race.  I rather like the quiet solitude, especially among beautiful surroundings.  But as I neared White Pine Touring where the mile 13 aide station was located, I could see in the distance two little girls jumping and yelling and a curly-haired red head waving his arms.  I couldn’t believe the joy I felt at seeing them!  I didn’t stop, but I yelled out, “ I love you!” and Ali tried to chase me.  I couldn’t wait to see them again at the finish.

I used this moment to mentally reset.  Half of the race was over.  The first four miles of the marathon are tough.  So are the middle four.  I used the energy my family gave me and headed for the hills.

Miles 14-17-  This is the toughest part of the race.  Running up through Deer Valley, it’s a brutal 2-mile climb with some very steep sections.  My method is to remind myself that the hardest part is over in just a few minutes.  I don’t think about mileage.  I don’t look ahead.  I remind myself that we all have to face these hills and this is what I signed up for.  I try to imagine I’m just running a half.  My legs are fresh.  I’m feeling good.  At least that’s what I say.

Coming around Deer Valley there’s a sense of relief.  Not only are we heading downhill, but we’re heading home.  Each footstep takes us closer, nor farther, from the finish. I found a little extra speed on the downhill and let gravity pull me.  I flew past the aide stations and waved to the runners just heading up the hills.  I took a left where a kindly volunteer guided me and was in the zone.

I was so much in the zone that I just kept running straight when I should have turned right.  I wasn’t alone.  Orange shirt guy who’d passed me on the trail, and whom I passed on the hills, was right behind me.  Something wasn’t right.  We stopped.  Pretty sure we both cursed.  And suddenly we saw a runner dart in another direction.  We’d taken a wrong turn.  As we sprinted to get back on course I noticed the girl now in 3rd place was right behind me.  I ran like I was being chased by a bear!  Upset with myself for making such a dumb mistake, I used that anger to fuel my legs over the next couple miles.  I would later find out that many runners made the same mistake.  Poor markings and tired runners are not a good combo.

Mile 18-26.2-  Mile 18 greets you with a wall.  Not the metaphorical wall, but a climb so steep it’s impossible, and foolish, to run.  I pulled myself up and over and then began making my way past the golf course (and all the happy golfers who, I swear, were laughing at us) toward the famous McPolin Barn.  Mile 20 is also the turn around for the half marathoners.  I know the last 6 miles as well as I know my own neighborhood.  Knowing the route is a mental advantage for me.

We passed the barn, crossed the street through the tunnel and hit the last section of the course which is mostly trail again.  I’ve run this trail hundreds of times.  I love it.  It feels like home.  As tired as I was, I tried to enjoy and be grateful for where I was and what I was doing.  It was all I could do to keep my legs moving, but I knew I was almost done.

Mile 24 I came up behind a soccer team out for a leisurely stroll.  Exhaustion wipes away most of my politeness, but also leaves me with little energy to yell.  I managed to squeak out “On your left,” and was greeted with confused stares.  Too tired to veer left any farther, I pushed my way through the crowd of smelly, adolescent bodies.  After my escape I could hear one soccer player say, “What?  Is there like a race or something?”

Mile 25 is rough.  It’s a windy path through condos and townhomes.  Every turn tricks you into thinking the finish is near, yet remains elusive.  It’s not until you are at mile 26.15 that you actually see it.  I rounded the last corner and saw my kids, husband and parents are cheering as loud as they could.  I’m sure it wasn’t pretty, but I did what I could to sprint and crossed the finish line in 3:16:50, only seconds slower than last year and 2nd female once again!  The woman from Illinois beat me again with almost the same time she ran last year.   At the moment, though, none of it mattered.  I was just so relieved to be done.  The last few miles were hot.  I felt a bit sick and had nothing left.  But I was so proud.  Without that wrong turn, I would have had course PR.  I don’t really care what the official result says.  I’m satisfied knowing that I did, in fact, run stronger than I did last year.

So what did I win for coming in 2nd in the hardest marathon in Utah?  A giant cardboard medal.  Yep. That’s it.  Of course, I don’t race for the medals.

So what’s the answer?  Why do I continue to run PCM when it’s so difficult and there’s no monetary reward?  Simple.  I love a challenge. I love the confidence I earn with every climb.  I love the satisfaction and pride of knowing that I did battle with the mountains and my mind and I came out on top.  I love Park City.  PCM has taught me how to mentally handle hard tasks both on the course and in life.  I don’t have to tackle a challenge all at once.  Just take it a mile at a time.  And after all that hard work, that reunion with family at the finish is all the sweeter.

 
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Posted by on August 22, 2013 in Race Reports

 

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The Epic Cache-Teton Relay 2013

If you ask my kids, anything good in life is either “awesome” or “epic”.  I’m sure at one point these words adequately conveyed adventures that were truly awe inspiring and grand in nature, but I would argue a trip to The Pizza Pie Cafe is not one of them.Image

The very definition of “epic” is something that is heroic, majestic or impressively great.  While the Epic Cache-Teton Relay is small in comparison to its rival relay races, it truly does live up to its name.

The Epic Relay is a small, quiet relay race that runs from Logan, Utah to Jackson Hole, Wyoming.  Teams of 12 split into two separate vans and take turns running through the rough terrain of Utah, Idaho, and Wyoming. The field is small with only a little over 160 teams.  Most of my runs felt like solo training runs.  Even the major exchange points are relatively small, manned by a few hearty volunteers and a handful of port-a-potties.  I’ve never seen any advertising for this race.  I’ve never seen cars with Epic stickers on the back.  I’ve rarely seen a fellow runner sporting an Epic shirt, but when I do we share a smile and a nod because we know how special this race is.

On the surface, this race doesn’t seem Epic.  Roads aren’t clogged with race vans.  There isn’t a huge finish area with thousands of people lounging about.  The “epicness” of this race isn’t in its size.  It’s in the race itself.

Heroic-  Heroism doesn’t require a cape and a pseudonym.  It simply requires quiet courage and small acts of kindness.  With its challenging elevation, the Epic Relay is rife with opportunity for  teammates to strip off any bravado and find courage they didn’t know they had.

Hell’s Hill is a perfect example.  As our van followed our runner, we turned the corner only to be faced with a “Holy Crap” of a hill.  It was over 90 degrees and the sun was pounding down on the pavement.  After 3.5 miles of rolling roads, this hill was more like a brick thrown in the face.  We pulled over to give our runner water and offer encouragement.  We weren’t alone.  All around us teammates were getting out and running with their designated runner.  No one was left alone.  No one quit.  No one complained.  Regardless of body type, ability level or experience, everyone made it up that hill.  The cheers of runners and teammates at the top still ring in my ears.

Majestic-  Could there be a better word to describe the beauty of the Grand Tetons or the Snake River?  While the terrain was rough and the climbs were steep, we were richly rewarded with spectacular views, gorgeous sunsets and breathtaking sunrises.  We were treated to up close views of falcons and even a bald eagle.  The solitude of the trails gave way to peaceful contemplation and a deeper connection to the beauty of our surroundings.  It was more than I could have asked for.

Impressively great-  This could apply to the scenery, the runners, or the volunteers.  No one was out here for glory.  We all pulled together to create a weekend to remember.  Whether we were admiring the awe inspiring views or getting emotional over the incredible support offered to runners as they struggled through the hills and valleys, both literal and figurative, of this race, the sights and sounds of that weekend have stuck with me.  They’ve made me feel closer to the running community.  They’ve made me realize what great stuff we’re all made of.  They’ve made me want to strive to be better in all facets of my life.

Running really isn’t about running.  It’s about overcoming challenges.  It’s about tackling seemingly impossible tasks head on.  It’s about finding strength and guts deep inside when our bodies and our brains tell us we’re done.  It’s about relying on others for support when we are physically and emotionally spent.  It’s about stepping up and doing our part to better the whole.  In the process we learn who we are and who we want to be.

To get all that out of such a small race is truly EPIC.

 
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Posted by on August 14, 2013 in Race Reports

 

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A Little Inspiration

IMG_0828Both of our girls are running track this year.  Kaitlynne’s been doing it for four years.  This is Ali’s first since you have to be six to participate.  Lest you think I pressure my kids into activities that I personally love, they both asked to run this year.  Honestly, I’m a bit of a lazy mom and would have loved to have open schedules during the summer.  At the same time, I want my kids to be active and I do love spending a summer evening at track meets and practices.

Each had their own reasons for running.  Kaitlynne mostly wanted to be with her friends.  Running isn’t something she loves- yet.  This girl is a creative firestorm, always writing stories, creating little worlds of her own and dreaming up new adventures.  While she loves to win ribbons at track meets, it’s not the end of the world if she doesn’t.  It wouldn’t surprise me if she were more excited over the color of the ribbon rather than the place it represents.

Ali is a mini version of me in every way.  Physically we are of a similar build- short and petite.  Mentally we are so much the same, too.  I understand her thought process and what drives her.  She is a pleaser.  She gets joy out of making others happy.  She also beats herself up when she feels she has fallen short of someone else’s expectations.  She’s observant, cautious, and slow to accept a challenge.  But once she’s accepted it, she’s in 100%.  Like myself, she will watch, think, and decide if she’s capable before diving in head first.

Last week both girls decided their one goal was to win a ribbon in one event.  Kaitlynne knew her strengths were in the field events, so she signed up for shot put and high jump.  Not surprisingly, she took 6th and 4th in these events respectively.  She didn’t care that she wasn’t first.  She was just happy she wasn’t last.  That’s her dad’s feeling about running.  Doesn’t matter if you’re first, just so long as you don’t quit and you aren’t last! I love this about Kaitlynne.  She’s just so happy to be out with the other kids.  If there’s a competitive bone in her body, she doesn’t let it steal her joy when things don’t work out they way she hopes.  I need a little more Kaitlynne in me.

Ali had a strategy.  Knowing that very few 6-year-olds run the 800, she figured if she simply competed, she would win a ribbon.  I was worried.  She is competitive to her core.  She hates to lose and she hates to be embarrassed.  I knew she would be dead last in this event given how small she is.  I knew as soon as she fell behind she would be upset.  I also know that as a parent we have to allow our children to make their own choices and experience failures of all kinds while they still have a soft place to fall at home.

It was a hot afternoon, well into the 100’s.  Thankfully there was some cloud cover.  Because of the heat, my husband decided to position himself inside the track so he could help Ali if she needed him.  She adamantly refused to let him start with her, which was good.  I felt that this was something she needed to do alone, at least in the beginning, but I was glad Christian was there just in case.

She made her way to the start line and, as predicted, was the smallest one.  Only three other 6-year-olds were there, but they were so much bigger than her.  The gun went off and so did she.

Before she made it around the first bend, she fell behind.  I knew what she was thinking.  “I’m losing.  I look stupid.”  As she finished her first lap I could see her crying. She was a good half-lap behind the back of the pack. I was on the other side of the fence trying to encourage her, but I don’t think she could hear me.  The coaches and volunteers were closer to her and were giving her encouragement.  Christian saw her tears, too, and began to run alongside her on the inside of the track.

As they rounded the bend, Ali started to walk.  She looked behind her.  All I could think was that she was going to quit.  “Please don’t quit.  Please don’t quit,” I said under my breath.  Kaitlynne was standing next to me and kept saying, “Come on, Ali.  Come on.”  She was as tense as I was.

Ali began to run again.  At this point some kids in her heat were finishing.  I could see Ali and Christian at the far end with only 200 meters to go.  The last girl just finished and it was only Ali.  Her coach was the announcer and thankfully pointed the crowd’s attention to her.

“We have one more runner!  It’s a long way to run, folks.  Cheer this girl in!”

And cheer they did.  Some people were on their feet.  Everyone’s eyes were on my little girl as she found her legs and sprinted her way the last 50 meters to cross the finish.  I was crying.  Kaitlynne was crying.  I’ve never been prouder of my Bug for not quitting and finishing something hard.  As expected, she was upset she was last.  But after a few moments she realized that she most definitely earned a ribbon.

I couldn’t make my way to her quickly enough.  I scooped her up and just hugged her tight.

I asked her later if she thought she would quit.  She said she wanted to but she didn’t.  I asked her if she ever wanted to try that again.  Surprisingly, after a moment she said, “Yes.”  Of course she did.  She’s mine, after all!

The next week a woman at track practice stopped me and asked me if I was the mom of the girl who ran the 800.  I said yes. She then told me that she and her husband were so inspired by her grit and determination.  Imagine that!  My little Bug inspired others just by accepting a challenge and seeing it through.

I’m so proud of both my girls.  I’m so proud of Kaitlynne and her love for her little sister.  I’m proud of her compassion and her desire to see her sister succeed.  She is the best big sister in so many ways.  I’m so proud of Ali for doing something hard- for setting a goal and seeing it through to the end.

They are my inspiration.

 
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Posted by on July 8, 2013 in Race Reports

 

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Ragnar 2013: Sneakers Attack: Wasatch Your Back

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Why do I still run Ragnar?

Sometime around 2:00 A.M. I stumble into a dimly lit high school in the middle of a small Utah town.  I have no real idea of where I am.  I’m filthy, smelly and exhausted.  My teeth are coated with sugar and plaque.  My contacts are foggy.  My hair’s full of grit. My hamstring is crying.  I’m sore and desperate for sleep.

 

I duck into an empty bathroom stall inside the girls’ locker room and change from one race skirt into another.  I grab a few wipes and “shower”.  I squeeze in between two other ripe girls and brush my teeth and then stagger to a dark gym covered in seemingly lifeless bodies.  “If I fall asleep right now, I’ll get 3 hours of sleep before I wake up and run another 8 miles,” I think.  Yeah.  Three hours of sleep is plenty of time to recover from the 29 miles I ran earlier that day.  Or yesterday.  It’s all blending together.

 

As I set my pillow down on the hardwood floor and play sleeping bag gymnastics in a futile effort to find comfort, I wonder what is wrong with me.  Why would I choose to give up the comforts of home to wander the Wasatch Back for two straight days on purpose?  Why would I do it, not once, but six years in a row?  Why do I do it without hesitation and how am I able to find 11 other crazy souls to join me?

 

In honor of Ragnar’s 10th anniversary running of the Wasatch Back relay, here are my top 10 reasons I keep coming back to my favorite race of the year.  (in no particular order).

 

1.  A chance to see the gorgeous Wasatch Back in a way I never could before.  I’ve driven through these mountain numerous times.  I’ve biked my way through many of the same cities this race runs through.  But the perspective you get as a runner winding your way through some of the most beautiful countryside in the U.S. is unparalleled.  

 

2.  A chance to accept and conquer a challenge.  People ask me all the time if running Ragnar is more difficult than running a marathon.  I can’t answer that.  It’s just different.  All I know is I go home feeling stronger and more capable of handling just about anything life throws my way after two days of running on no sleep and questionable food.  

 

3.  An excuse to eat questionable food.  Where else do I get to enjoy a breakfast of Tootsie Rolls and Cheez-its and not feel guilty about it.  Freedom!

 

4.  I get to stay up past my bedtime.  I rarely see the moon at night anymore.  With early morning wake-up calls almost every day of the week, I’m usually in bed by 9 pm.  What a joy it is to cut the alarm clock ties and just enjoy.

 

5.  Creativity!  I’m always amazed at others’ creativity.  Team “Legs Miserables”, thank you for two days of smiles every time I saw your van!

 

6.  It’s always different.  I have been Runner 1 every year of the six years I’ve run this race.  People ask me if I get bored with the same run.  The thing is, it’s never, ever the same.  Even if the course is the same, it’s different at 3 am than it was last year at midnight.  

 

7.  Running.  Two days with no responsibility other than to run the three legs I’ve been    assigned?  Yes, please.

8.Two days I don’t have to worry about doing my hair.  Okay, I don’t do my hair all that often anyway, but during the Wasatch Back I feel as though I’m among my people.  No judgment.  No finger pointing.  Au natural is the word of the day.

 

9.  Everything’s funny at midnight.  Just ask my van.  What was so funny that we were laughing until our cheeks hurt and our driver almost had to pull over because she couldn’t see through her funny tears?  Diet chocolate cake.  Yeah, I don’t get it either, but it was hilarious at the time.  Everyone needs to laugh so hard they get a six-pack core workout once in awhile.

 

10.  This race changes people in wonderful ways.  Not to be melodramatic, but this race has most definitely changed my life.  Some of my closest friendships have been forged in our stinky van.  Some of those runs are smooth sailing.  Others fraught with potholes.  Sometimes the legs are fresh.  Sometimes they buckle under us and it’s all we can do to finish and pass on the baton.  

 

No matter what kind of run I’m having, no matter how difficult the road ahead, I know I have people in a van following my progress.  I have people cheering me on, offering support and water.  I have people who understand the ups and downs and how quickly things can change.  I have people willing to step in at any moment and run with me if necessary.  I have people to celebrate the triumph of every victory.   

 

The bond forged on the road is a tough one to break.  I don’t see these friends every day.  But I do know that when my daily life feels like Leg 2 at midnight, they are still there to cheer me on, step in when needed, and celebrate when I finish sweaty, exhausted and happy.

 

I’m an introvert at heart.  I’m guarded and shy.  For two days I and five other people laughed together.  We suffered together.  We cheered together.  We often ran together.  We expressed hopes and confessed fears.  We dug into each other’s life stories and came away with a greater understanding of who we are at our core.  This race became a bond, a glue, binding us together in the most wonderful way.

 

This is more than a race for me.  This is a special time spent with special people in the most special of places.   It’s not about the race.  It’s about the run.

 

 
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Posted by on June 24, 2013 in Articles, Race Reports

 

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Utah Valley Race Report

Grab some popcorn and settle in.  This one’s a long one!Image

Anyone who’d talked to me during the weeks before this race knows I was anything but excited for it.  Dread is a good word.  Ever since Boston, I feel like I’ve lost my competitive mojo.  There’s a little ember still burning, but it’s low and buried.  Tragedy has a way of making crystal clear what is truly important in life.  It also has a way of stealing away some of life’s joy.  I’ve been feeling a bit of both.

Aside from that, people don’t give Utah Valley enough credit for being a tough course.  Yes, there is a lot of downhill, but that in itself is a challenge.  There are also some big uphills that most runners are unprepared to meet.  This would be my 4th running of UVM, so I knew what was ahead.  I was not excited.

Utah Valley is the second of four marathons runners in the Utah Grand Slam are required to run in order to compete in the Slam.  After finishing Ogden, I found myself with a gigantic lead of 15 seconds!  Truthfully I was hoping that Josie, the girl behind me, would demolish me leaving me with no chance to win this year.  Then the pressure would be off my shoulders and I could enjoy my runs.  But even with only an smoldering ember of competition in my belly, if I’m still in the competition, I’m going to compete.

The night before the race my daughters had their first track meet of the year.  It was a practice meet, but they were still nervous, especially Ali who is half the size of every other kid on the field and who’d never done anything competitive before.  Like her mom, she was a ball of stress.  Unlike her mom she didn’t complain.  She and her sister ran their little hearts out and showed me how to be a big girl and go out and get the job done.

We got down to our hotel near the finish line as soon as the meet was over and just as I was ready to drift to sleep I could hear loud music coming from outside.  The great city of Provo decided that this was a great time to have an outdoor concert loud enough for every marathoner with a 3 am wake up call to enjoy until 10:30 pm.  The Marriott got a fair number of complaints for that one.  I feel for the front desk clerk, but not as much as I felt for all the runners including myself.

Before I knew it, the alarm went off.  I met my friend Tara downstairs and we headed to the buses.  This was her second marathon (Park City being her first!), but it was her first in 4 years.  She was running this one for herself.  She had her own goals and her own set of nerves.  No matter what your pace, your goal, your training or past performance, everyone has race-day jitters!

I love having a friend to ride the bus with.  Those rides can mess with my mind.  Everytime the bus goes downhill I think of how we have to run uphill in the other direction.  It’s good to have distractions.

The start line was cool, but not freezing as it had been in years past.  Certainly we wouldn’t be contending with the rain as we did in Ogden.  Tara and I wished each other luck and I made my way near the front of the pack.  I’m still not confident enough to put myself front and center.  There was no gun- no countdown.  People were suddenly running and I followed.

Mile 1-7- I knew right from the start this would be a pretty good day.  My legs were surprisingly loose.  No pain.  No stiffness.  No aches.  I noticed more of the downhill than I had before and I just let it pull me.

Mile 8-12- Our first big hill is at mile 8.  I knew it well.  I calmed my breathing, settled into a comfortable pace.  I let a guy who’d been leapfrogging me run ahead.  I told myself it was early in the race and tried not to let the fact that a few people were passing me bother me.  I felt strong.  There are a number of hills through mile 11 and every one of them gave me confidence.  In years past these hills have eaten me up, but this year was different.

Mile 13- I hadn’t noticed any port-o-potties, but I also wasn’t in dire need of them.  Apparently the p.o.p. company failed to meet its obligations and they were few and far between.  There were plenty at the halfway mark, so I took advantage.  Only 7 seconds and I was done!  Yes, I’m as happy with that as I am with any PR I’ve ever had!  My half-marathon split- 1:30:25!!  Maybe another sub-3?

My friend Julie has been injured for some time and couldn’t compete, but she was on her bike riding the course giving us encouragement and updates. Oh, how I loved her at this point.  She told me that Josie, my Grand Slam competition was out due to an emergency appendectomy.  Part of me was relieved that I could ease up on my effort, but a bigger part of me was disappointed.  Last year Kelli got sick on this race and I’ve always felt that my Grand Slam win should have an asterisk by it.  Had she not gotten sick, I don’t know if I’d have won.  This year was deja vu.

Mile 14-18- Feeling good still.  Passed a few girls.  A cop told me I was 63rd overall and somewhere in the top 10 females.  Of course if you tell me that it just adds fuel to my fire.  That competitive ember was a full on flame by now.

Mile 20-24- Coming out of the canyon is rough.  The rest of this race is a fairly flat straight away to the finish with a few little hills thrown in around mile 23.  I hate it.  Give me twists and turns any day.  It breaks up my focus and gives me shorter goals to work toward.  It was getting hot.  Shade was scarce.  The race directors had changed the course a bit and we now ran on the left side of the road which was such a blessing.  More shade, especially in the canyon.  But it was mostly gone now.  I was dumping water on my head as much as I was drinking it.

Mile 23 I wanted to give up so badly.  The pain was almost unbearable.  I knew if I stopped there would be o starting again.  I did some quick calculations and realized I’d have to run 7-min miles to finish sub-3.  I was running around 7:15 but I had no more gas in my legs.  The only thing that kept me going was someone telling me I was in 5th place for the women’s division.  I’d been passing more people but wasn’t keeping track.  I knew UVM gave overall awards to the top 5.  We could use the money!

Mile 25- I’d been following “White Tank Top Girl” for awhile.  Without realizing it, I was suddenly on her tail.  She was more aware of me than I was of her.  She kept glancing back.  Her family was on the sidewalk cheering her on and I passed her just as we passed them.  I felt so bad.  No one wants to get passed in front of their family.  But this is what happens at the end of a race.  I really feel that all the energy I saved on the hills gave me just enough “oomph” to let me pick up the pace.

We could see the finish line for almost 2 miles.  Finally it was getting closer.

Mile 26-  I never saw my family, but they swear they were there.  I saw the clock.  2:59.  With a quarter mile to go, I knew I wouldn’t get a sub-3.  A small disappointment.  I want to run another just to prove that my first wasn’t a fluke.  My only goal now was to finish without tripping.  I was in 4th, but as I ran toward the finish I heard Bart Yasso of Runner’s World fame announce, “Here’s Kimberly Cowart of South Jordan.  Third woman!”  I knew he was wrong.  Apparently Rachelle went through the wrong side of the finish line and was third.  But I was more than happy as I crossed the line in 3:01:22.

There have been some sweet finish lines for me, but this ranks in my top 5!  They had a PR bell at the finish for people to ring.  This wasn’t an overall PR, but it was a course PR, so I rang the crap out of that baby!

My friend Hollie who’d finished her half marathon was waiting for me at the finisher’s chute.  She helped me keep walking, got me chocolate milk and supported me, literally, as I took in my good day.  I found my family and celebrated as I’d wanted to all season.  I was hot and thirsty so I headed to the med tent for a bag of ice to eat.  As I slowly came back to life I wondered how on earth I would teach a strength training class Monday morning when my quads were so destroyed!  There was so much joy in that pain, though.

I took advantage of the hot tubs full of ice water and iced my legs.  I collected my 4th place award and check and headed out to a celebratory lunch with my family.

When I stood on the podium and looked at the other girls who’d also placed overall, I was filled with awe.  These girls are so young.  So fast.  So trained.  Most ran in college.  To them finishing overall isn’t uncommon.  This would be my fourth time finishing overall.  I’m just a mom who likes to run.  I can not believe that my name is printed next to theirs in the winner’s category.

That afternoon I celebrated.  All the joy that had been stolen from me in Boston was found again.  That competitive ember has been fanned to bonfire proportions.  The only tears this day were tears of happiness.

I’m making my way back.

 
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Posted by on June 12, 2013 in Race Reports

 

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