St. George 1/2 Marathon. This was my first time running this particular race, but the second St. George race I'd run (the first was Snow Canyon 2011). I think I really like St. George races. Because I live in Northern Utah, I'm almost convinced that coming down in elevation helps me, since my more northern races have been slower than both of these Southern Utah runs, but I have no scientific proof of this. Anyway, here's my recap.
I have never run in the winter. I enjoy running spring through fall, but I always stop running when it gets cold, then pick it up again in the spring. This year, I wanted to keep up my running throughout the winter specifically in hopes of getting faster. I have no doubt that running with my friend Holly Freeman made a HUGE difference in my speed. She is passionate about fitness and fitness goals and she and I have run about once a week since October. She runs faster than I do, much faster, but her slow runs are my fast ones and keeping up with her, learning to do intervals, and braving hills was a huge help to me. I only ran about 10 miles a week until early December, when I began increasing my runs. I didn't follow a set training schedule, I just tried to run 3 or 4 days a week, usually 3-5 mile runs and then a longer run somewhere that week. I didn't get over 20 miles a week until the two weeks before the race, then tapered to 4 miles Monday, 3 miles Tuesday, and 2 miles Wednesday the week of the race per my friend Jaime Theler's advice and reference to Hal Higdon's training schedule.
I'd been in Cedar City for some promotional things and presentations the days before the run, so Friday night my two favorite Crystals (I have a sister and a sister in law named Crystal--they are both wonderful) came with me to St. George where I'd rented a hotel room. We went to the Dixie Expo Center first to get my packet, where I had to serpentine through all these booths and such to get to where I picked it up. Brilliant to make us walk through the expo to get to the end. After I got my number, we went to a movie (Tower Heist) where I ate 1/2 a jumbo tub of popcorn and then went to dinner at Olive garden where I finished the carb-fest. We got to the hotel a little after 10:00 and I took a Tylenol PM. I slept pretty well and woke up at 7:45 to get ready. My sister drove me to the Dixie Expo Center, where the race started. It had rained during the night and was still sprinkling when we got to the race. I ate 3 shot-blocks for energy and drank some water before she dropped me off, then stayed inside the Expo Center and stretched--ran into Jill Dallon from Brigham City--and waited for the race to start. I had worn my long sleeved running shirt, a jacket, gloves, and a hoodie, because it was cold, but I peeled off the jacket and hoodie right before the race started and began looking for a place to put my drop bag. None of the volunteers knew where it was, none of the runners did either. I ended up stashing it under a tree next to some other ones. My cell phone was in there, as was $80 worth of gear, so I was nervous, but I didn't feel like I had a choice. The next clothing drop wasn't until mile 2.
The race put "pacers" into the race who held signs proclaiming how fast they were running so you could run with them--I'd never seen this before but really liked it. I started with the 2:10 crowd, but passed the pacers about 2 miles into the run in hopes of catching up with the 2:00 pacers, but I never even saw them. It was sprinkling, but just barely and the temperature was perfect--about 35ish degrees, I think. The first 8 miles was a lot of uphill, I was so glad I'd trained on hills with Holly, but they weren't steep, more of rolling, and wound through neighborhoods. The streets were well "manned" by volunteers and barricaded off, if felt very safe. I took the 5 hour energy I'd hidden in my secret pocket at about mile 6--I was feeling good but didn't want to burn out. At about mile 7 1/2, a seasoned pro passed and told us that it was all downhill from that point forward. Thank goodness! Around mile 8 I met a gal named Erica, also running alone. She and I talked and ran together for about 3 miles, which was wonderful. We were pretty evenly paced and conversation is always a welcome distraction. The race went from roads to a bike path that followed the river, very nicely paved with beautiful views into St. George. At mile 11 I was feeling good so I sped up a little bit. The rain increased about this time, but it wasn't obnoxious, I just had to keep wiping the water from my face. At mile 12 I was still feeling good so I sped up even more. I had hoped to come in close to 2:10, and was thrilled to come in at 2:07:10 instead.
At the end of the race they snipped off my chip, gave me a medal, and the finish line led right through the after-run snacks. I came through the snack line to find my sister waiting for me, which was wonderful. She's a great cheerleader.
I decided not to wait around for the awards, I was soaked, or my official time. By my GPS watch I was 7:29, but I had set it before I crossed the line. My stuff was still under the tree, so I picked it up and got back to the hotel in time to take a shower before out late check out was over with. Once back at the hotel, soaking wet, I realized I hadn't brought a change of underwear--I wear LDS temple garments and somehow left all the clean ones at my sister's house. Luckily, they sell them in town so I took an extra long shower while my sister picked me up a pair. I'd run in the ones I had and there was no way I could wear them twice. I was very grateful that it worked out as well as it did. I felt good enough to go shopping and get lunch and enjoy our free time before we had to return to Cedar.
In summary, I really liked the course which was a challenging one for me in regard to the hills, but definitely doable. I liked the organization of the race as well, all the information I got leading up to the race was well stated and easy to follow. The after-run snacks were good, the weather, though I was worried about it, was quite perfect. My training was really good and I had a great experience over all. I purchased some Altra shoes before I got serious about the training in December and feel like I can now proclaim how much I LOVE them. I've put about 80 miles into them and have had no knee or arch pain since using them. They are barefoot running shoes which are supposed to make your body move more naturally, and I am converted. You can find more info at www.zrunning.com
What I didn't like was that the volunteers I interacted with weren't super in-the-know, they seemed to know their job, but not much else. I never found the drop site before the race and would have liked to have put my stuff in a safer place. The shirts were men's cuts, and the small is big on me so I will probably never wear it, which is a shame because it's very well designed. I have also accepted that I must get better running pants. The ones I've been running in are cotton and with the rain they were soggy and heavy and stuck under my shoes by the end. I definitely need new pants.
I had a really good day and now have a new PR to beat at my next race, which is still up in the air. There are a few I'm looking into, but none that are "singing" to me just yet. I'm sure enjoying running right now in my life, I think it might be my version of an antidepressant as I just feel better when I'm consistent with it. Thanks to everyone who's been such a support to me, I appreciate it very much.