Thursday, July 5, 2012

Utah Valley Half Marathon!

Maybe a better title for this post would be 'How NOT to Prepare For, Run, and Recover From a Half Marathon'. I hadn't run a race since my freshman year of high school (which was not exactly yesterday), and the longest I had run before the race was just over 10 miles. I wasn't about to let either of those things stop me, though!

I had to get up at 2:30am to have enough time to eat breakfast and get to the bus pickup area to catch the bus to the starting line. That proved to be no problem, though, since I woke up at midnight and couldn't get back to sleep because I was so wired. There were a ton of buses running back and forth so I was able to hop right on one and was at the starting line by 4:15am with a whopping three hours of sleep under my belt. Since the race didn't start until 6am I had some time to kill. They had little bonfires set up along the side of the road so it wasn't too chilly.
I was at least smart enough to hop right in line for the porta potties as soon as I got there. (Side note - those were the nicest porta potties I've ever seen!) Within half an hour there were hundreds of people standing in line!
The sun gradually started to come up, and I was able to accomplish one of my goals before the race even started - I found Fast Cory! He has a hilarious blog (you can check it out here - it's full of funny running stories and awesome pictures) and I had read that he was going to be running the race dressed as Nacho Libre. Awesome.  :)
After what seemed like five hours the sun started to come up and it was almost time to start the race. Lots of people started jogging back and forth to warm up. I walked around for a few minutes, had a GU, then tried to make everything stop vibrating from being over-caffeinated. Oops.
A few minutes before the race started everyone started lining up near the starting line. Since my goal was essentially to finish (and your time doesn't start until you pass the starting line with your timing chip) I hung out toward the back. There were so many people (I think they had 3000 in the half marathon) that it took a few minutes to get past the starting line, but we were off!
The race follows a highway through Provo Canyon then into downtown Provo. Within the first couple miles we got to run through a tunnel; lots of people made whooping noises as they passed through it because it echoed.
After the first couple miles the crowd started to thin out a bit. Just before the first aid station at mile 2 I heard a noise and looked to the side of the road; there was a girl sitting in the dirt, surrounded by friends, just BAWLING her eyes out. I have no idea what happened! The girl (and just out of the shot, the guy) on the right side of the picture kept alternating running and walking; they had some sort of timer that would count down when it was time to switch. I might try this for my marathon in the fall - they wound up beating me!
A few more miles in we ran past Bridal Veil Falls. This is definitely the most scenic run I've done so far!
Finally - just over halfway there! Miles 3 and 4 kicked my butt a bit with a hill (hills at 5200' are NOT the same as hills at 200'), but I was still feeling ok. Shortly after this the course came down out of the canyon and into the edge of Provo.

I started to hit the wall around mile 9. At first I thought 'yay - two-thirds of the way finished!'...then I thought 'oh crap, I've still got more than 4 miles to go'. Thankfully I was coming up to the best aid station of the race...Otter Pops!
Waaaaay out in the distance you can just make out the finish line. Finally! The longest training run I did before my race was just over 10 miles, so shortly after the Otter Pop I was in uncharted territory. I was somewhere around mile 11 when the first marathoners streaked past me, complete with police escort. I was averaging 12-minute miles, so I knew I probably wasn't going to hit my goal of breaking 2:30, but I wanted to at least get as close as I could without dropping into a heap on the side of the course. I eventually hit a point where I stopped taking walk breaks because it was so hard to start running again and settled into a slow shuffling jog for the last couple miles. There were more and more people along the side of the road as the finish line got closer, so I used the little bit I had left to sprint through the gate and across the finish line.
Final result: 2 hours, 40 minutes, and 55 seconds to run 13.1 miles. I'll take it!
It's ok, you can be jealous of my awesome purple compression socks.   :)    Actually, this is about the only thing I did right after the race. It took almost an hour for my friend to get through the roadblocks to pick me up when the race was done, so I didn't get to really eat or drink anything aside from water to recover for quite a while and instead spent about an hour standing around, trying to pick him out in the traffic. When we got back to the house I grabbed a quick snack, took a shower, then we hopped right back in the car again and drove three hours each way to a state park (I'll have pictures of that up here soon). I grabbed a sandwich from a rest stop (and my legs just about turned to jello when I got out of the car), then we spent the afternoon wandering around the desert in 90+ degree heat and high winds.
When we got back to the house my friend offered to make dinner to use up the leftover food we had. It was really good - chicken, baked potato, and a salad. I started shoveling food in my mouth but a few minutes later felt oddly full. Feeling full quickly become 'oh man even looking at food is turning my stomach', which led to its friend 'I'm gonna go lay down for a minute' followed by 'Omigosh laying down is an awful idea'. It was almost two days before I could actually stomach food again; turns out I threw my electrolytes off. I even remember brushing my hand against my face at one point after the race and thinking 'why am I so dusty?'...turns out the dust was salt and with how dry it was I didn't feel how much I was sweating during the race. I never really replaced the salt I lost afterward...lesson learned!

Overall, I couldn't have asked for a nicer first race. The volunteers were awesome, the course was fantastic, and everyone was really nice. I hope I can run it again someday! As soon as I got home I started looking for half marathons around me; I'd love to see if I can do better if I don't push myself so hard before the race (and also run closer to sea level). Since my birthday is on a Saturday this year, I signed up for the Annapolis Half Marathon. I can't wait!  :)

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