#38 - UTAH!!! The run down the mountain in Cottonwood Canyon!


Well, that downhill race in Idaho got me thinking…I can’t do anything about the high altitude states…I train at 650 feet above sea level…or can I? Ok, new rule, all high altitudes states I run downhill races, hahaha!!! I’m not qualifying for the Olympic track team, I’m just getting a ½ marathon done in each state, let’s make this a little more user friendly for my 55 year old body!!! Utah it is, with an altitude of 7200 feet at the top and 4400 at the bottom…ALL DOWNHILL!!! That’ll work! If any of you have ever been to Utah, I ran down the Big Cottonwood Canyon road, at the top of the road is Solitude Ski Resort, just to give you an idea of where I was.

Brian and I got up at 3am on 09/08/2017 to make a 6:50am flight to Utah; there aren’t that many flights to Utah this time of year. I had managed to get us good seats and we were relieved to get the extra leg room. I always have ants in my pants before a race and wiggled around while Brian read and caught some zzzzz’s. We left late but somehow managed to make it on time and rode the shuttle bus to our rental car place. Fox Rental, I don’t recommend them…too much BS and Brian was hangry! We finally got in our car and headed for food, a couple of sandwiches and then to the town of Draper for my race packet. With that picked up, we headed to the hotel and though early were able to get in our room and unpack and make sure I have everything. It was all good and we headed out for, more food!!! I love the day before and the day of the race, it is all about eating. We decided to drive into Salt Lake City; it was a gorgeous day and do a little walking around. Parking in SLC is great, garage parking, free for the first 2 hours, so we did that and walked around Temple Square and checked out the state capitol building and found a little Italian Bistro with a garden and sat and had a couple of appetizers and water, water, water, a pre-race beer and relaxed. Before long, my personal energy battery was blinking low and we headed back to the hotel where I lay down and took a little snooze while Brian went out to the liquor store to Provision for the after race celebration. I may have slept for a couple of hours off and on, I felt better and then we were off to Red Robin for my typical Bonsai Burger and broccoli pre-race meal. I crave red meat before a race and really at no other time! Back to the hotel we go and I settled in for a good night’s sleep. I was up just after 3am, though awake off and on since 1:30am. As always, I’m like a 5 year old on race day…TOO EXCITED TO SLEEP!!! The buses, 10 minutes away, would take the runner’s up the mountain from 4 – 5:30am and missing that meant missing the race, so off we went at 4:15am. I don’t prefer “point to point” races because I don’t have my security blanket (Brian) with me at the Start line. Brian is a calm guy and having him near helps me relax, but the downhill rule for high altitude states almost certainly means a point to point race. I think I was on the second bus. It was dark for the ride up the mountain, Anna sat next to me, a 2nd year med student from Utah who noticed the 847 area code on my bag tag and remarked that she went to Northwestern for undergraduate school. We talked about Illinois and turned out that she had classmates that I know from Antioch. We wished each other a good race and got off the bus to the “hotdog wrapper village” (checkout the picture).

A mylar blanket was in the race packet, I left mine at the hotel because I have a heavy UA sweatshirt and pants that I wear for all races, it’s pink, you’ve seen it in pictures, another one of my good luck charms. I, like most racers, am superstitious and have a routine…a banana 2 hours before the race, a larabar 30 minutes before a race, gels at 4, 7, 10 miles if needed…and the UA sweatshirt and pants is part of that too. So, back to the mylar blankets, thousands of them wrapping unidentifiable runners as we worked out our prerace jitters as far as the eye could see! I tried to strike up a conversation with some people, no go…not a super friendly race…so I did my stretches and put on my head phones and worked on the “inner game of running”…mentally picturing myself hauling my cookies down the mountain. My training has been going great, but I had a little pesky left knee pain that was bugging the hell out of me that morning! Aaarrgh!!! The race announcer for this race was hilarious, he kept saying…”runners, listen, this mountain is part of the run-off system for SLC drinking water, please do not tinkle or anything else anywhere other than the 106 port-a-lets that we have set up for you or you will be disqualified from the race” That’s the first time of heard that one in 37 races!!! I did meet a friendly girl name Jennifer who was in from out of town for the DoTerra convention (essential oils) and we chatted and watched each other’s stuff while bathroom breaks were taken. She was pretty funny and finally we started. We had to run up hill for ¼ mile and turn and run downhill for 13 miles. I told her I would see her at the bottom, she remarked that I was overestimating her running ability if I thought that I would still be there when she crossed the finish line, we laughed. I sent an ecrumb to Brian, to locate me and activated my Runkeeper as I crossed the start. The uphill was slow as the runners were all in a bunch and at the turn it eased a little, but with the race almost 3 thousand strong, the first couple of miles were spent weaving through slower runners and even walkers at the top. At about mile 3 it finally eased up and I was able to find a spot and settle in. The miles at the top passed quickly, but the air was thin up there and I could feel the strain on my breathing. Mile 4 and 4.5 came and went and then 5 and I realized that I hadn’t taken a gel. I did so after 5 and another at 7. There were times in the first 9 miles of the race where the drop was so dramatic that I was running faster than I usually do. Miles 4, 5, 6 and 8 I ran less than 8 minute miles. At about mile 10, it flattened out and we came out of the mountains into the sunshine. It got hot fast and my energy started to dwindle. I had been taking water every ½ mile so it was not dehydration it was just heat. I had to slow down, but that was ok, I thought, because, I knew that I had a lot of speed on the top. My goal was to finish under 2 hours. At mile 12 I could see the 2 hour pacer, but couldn’t quite catch up to her. I tried to close the gap but didn’t have any more in the tank; I had started way back in the pack, so was pretty sure that my bib time would have me in under 2 hours, anyway. I crossed the finish line just a few seconds after the timer turned over 2 hours. I heard a male voice I didn’t know off to my left as I came up to the finish line cheering me on by name, I think Brian must have made a friend while I was in the hot dog wrapper village up north! I saw Brian right away and after getting my medal went over to tell him that the time wasn’t accurate for me because of how far back in the pack I had started. Brian, had hung around the busses and directed the line of runners to the ½ or full marathon busses as they were located in two separate areas. In the process he had met Johnathon from Utah, his wife Amy was running the ½ too. They struck up a conversation and decided to head off to Starbucks to kill some time. I got on the bus at 4:45am and wouldn’t cross the finish line for 4 hours…Brian is a patient man, so John was awesome and funny and they kept each other company. By the time I met John he knew me well, right down to the origin of my tattoos! His wife, Amy finished a minute behind me and we chatted and snacked and cracked jokes about the race and the people and the quest and it was a lot of fun. I always feel so bad for Brian, with nothing to do, until I finish running, so this made me feel great that he had such fun with John. If you are reading this, John and Amy, thanks for being there for us, it was fun!!! It doesn’t take long after a race for me to get tired of being covered in drying sweat so we headed back to the hotel and I got cleaned up. The shower after a race is the best shower ever, by the way!!! We set out after the shower walking for food and found some just across the parking lot. I had tomato basil soup and a goat cheese salad, with proper fortification we headed downtown Salt Lake City and parked and enjoyed a glass of wine and relaxation at a lovely hotel bar with comfortable chairs. As we were leaving the hotel we stopped to pet a border collie name Mustang and his owner Vince took us up to the rooftop of the building that we were standing in front of and pointed out stuff. He name off several restaurants for more food and finally ended by pointing to his favorite a few blocks away. Well, lunch was good, but that was several hours ago, so dinner was on my mind. We headed to Whiskey Street and had a fantastic dinner that neither of us were able to finish so we doggy bagged it and headed back to the hotel. Hit the hot tub and watched some mindless TV until 10:30pm!!! I can’t believe I stayed up that late! We were up showered and having breakfast by 8am and packed and out the door by 10am. We love to see stuff why we visit and we decided to head off to the zoo. Salt Lake City’s, Hogle Zoo is small but lovely and after seeing all of the animals, the best being the Ostrich, zebras and giraffes all in one pen, we headed to a park to eat our leftovers and relax. We returned our car and headed to the airport to head home, it was a great trip, great run, hard run, I was very sore for the remainder of the weekend and into even Tuesday that week, but that is the price of high altitude. The body actually burns up muscle tissue to get oxygen when there isn’t enough in the air. Most of the muscle sacrifice was thigh for me so going down stairs is really fun!!! Here are the stats…

1:56:47, 8:54 min pace, 869 of 2992 overall runners, 477 of 2062 female runners, 14 of 69 female runner 55-59 yrs of age. Number 38 – DONE!!! Next…OKLAHOMA in November…and I’m hoping to run this one with my sister, Peggy!!!

PS: Check out the video that they make and give to the participants of the race, FREE!!! HOW COOL IS THAT! https://youtu.be/PeySnu4mIkE


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