Saturday, October 15, 2011

SoJo 2011 1/2 Marathon Re-cap

This was the first time I've done the SoJo, in fact I had never even heard of it before a friend told me about it. After that, I did see it listed on some running sites, but if I weren't looking for it, I wouldn't have realized what it was AND even when I was looking for the website, it was really hard to find in google searches--often not coming up on the first page of results which would make me re-enter criteria in an attempt to find it. In fact, that was my biggest complaint about the event, the website lacked good SEO and the writing could have been tighter and more clear in explaining things. Actually, that's my only complaint because other than that, it was awesome and if I had to choose one detail to be off, it would be the website. Here's how it went:

First, I signed up for this race because I was unable to do the Snow Canyon 1/2 marathon on November 5th and felt like I needed another race after Top Of Utah to keep me from sitting on my tush after I finished that race. I mentioned this in a facebook group I belong to (Buns of Steel) and one of the other members, Alison Taylor, gave me the race info. Honestly, SHE was the very best thing about this race. I had a ton of things going on and she kept checking in with me and helping me stay connected to the event. She was absolutely fabulous.

I ended up signing up via the paper registration option on the very last day the event was open to early registration--Sept 15. I had only done short runs after Top of Utah and it wasn't until I mailed in that registration that I started doing longer and more consistent runs. In the four weeks between registration and the race, I averaged running 20 miles a week until this week, when I only ran 4 miles. I hit this weird "I hate running" bubble and could not get myself out the door. Because of that I really worried about the race today. I had only gotten back up to 11 miles on my long runs and just didn't feel like I'd trained the way I would have liked to, but I hoped that it wouldn't be too bad.

A couple days before the race, I decided to get a hotel room. I was going to stay at my sister's house in Sugarhouse but worried about sleeping on a couch and waking up everyone else when I had to get up in the morning or being late to the start so I found a reasonably priced room at the Sleep Inn in South Jordan which ended up being about a mile away from the finish line. My son and nephew were both running the 5 K, which started and finished at the Marathon finish lines, so I picked Chris up from school and picked up Trevor in Salt Lake on the way to the hotel. I dropped them off, then drove down to Alison's house where she drove me through the course which started at a school in Daybreak, and ended at West Riverside Park in South Jordan. I have this idea in my head that the west side of Salt Lake is downhill from the East side, so coming from West Daybreak up to nearly I-15 would be uphill the whole time. Totally not true. There were two small hills but other than that most of the run was either flat or on a very gentle downgrade. I was really glad we did that, it made the next days run much more familiar to me.

Driving the course brought us to the finish line (surprise, surprise :-) and we got our packets nice and easy--they included a vinyl decal which was awesome--the volunteers were great. I was back at the hotel around 7:30 and took the boys to Sweet Tomatoes to carb up. Turned out to be a great choice (Thanks Alison for the suggestion) and I had salad and soup and pasta and dessert to my little heart's content. The boys were able to eat and eat and eat as well. We got home a little before 9:00 and the boys went swimming while I obsessively set out my stuff. I took a melatonin for fear that I wouldn't sleep and by the time the boys got back at 10:30 I was ready for bed. I slept great and though I was in and out after 4:00 a.m. it was the best pre-race sleep I've had for any race so far.

This morning, we got up at 5:50 and got ready. The boys had the complimentary breakfast the hotel provided and I had a protein shake--my breakfast of choice before long runs. We headed for West Riverside Park, where the boys were going to wait on their own. The weather was a bit nippy, but not too bad. I left the boys in the car and waited for Alison and her husband to pick me up. This race allowed runners to get dropped off at the start, which was great because it meant we didn't have to wait for the bus which meant we didn't have to be there so early. Alison picked me up around 6:45 and we went to Riverton where we picked up her friend Carrie and then Alison's husband, Mark, took us to the start. I'm not sure how many runners were registered, but it was a very reasonable number. The potty lines were great and there wasn't a 'congested' feel to it at all which I liked a lot. Top of Utah was packed and I enjoyed the extra elbow room.

They called us to the start almost 15 minutes before they actually started, which was kind of annoying but not that big a deal. I like to start at the back of races, being in the 'pack' makes me kind of anxious so I left Carrie and Alison to run with the wolves and went to the back of the runners. I had time to put my jacket in a gear bag, it wasn't that cold at all and I didn't want to bother with it later. They started with the release of some balloons and a confetti pop, which was fun, and we started moving. In the other races I've done the start line is a carpet covered strip that activates your 'chip' and I kept looking for that but didn't see it anywhere. I thought we were heading toward the start line for over a minute and then realized I must have missed it. I found out later the start was two thin wires stretched across the road. Had I been at the front of the race, I'd have probably heard that :-) So I didn't start my watch until 2 minutes into the run. I also started the audiobook I'd purchased for this race--Variant by Robison Wells. Turned out to be a great choice, I might audiobook every race I ever run from here on out since it distracted me just enough to keep me from obsessively tracking my distance. And it's a great book.

The sun was up within fifteen minutes of the start, which worried me due to how lousy the sun was for me at TOU, but the morning chill made our relationship must better this time around and it wasn't a big deal. The course went through Daybreak, then in front of the Oquirrih Temple--hill number one--and around some other neighborhoods. The mile signs were awesome and easy to find, the aid stations were fabulous, they had police directing traffic at all the intersections, there was variety in the 'view' as we ran, there was a lot of shade, the road was clearly marked off, the potty stops were excellent and without lines--honestly the course and the resources set up around it were fabulous. The full marathon used the 1/2 marathon route for the last 13 miles, so each mile mark had one sign for the 1/2 and one for full. They had extra snacks for the marathon runners, like pretzels and de-fizzed Coke, and several other things. I'm sure if I'd taken some they'd have let me, but I didn't need it. There were people here and there along the route cheering on the runners, which is always fun.

I was worried about burning out like I did with TOU so I didn't push things but kept pretty consistent at 11 1/2 minute miles. I had taken a 5 hour energy 20 minutes before the start and took a GU pack at mile 6, following it up with some water and rinsing my mouth to make sure I didn't get sticky-mouth from it, like I did last time. They provided Poweraide gels but since I'd never tried those, I was nervous about taking it so I passed. I only took one potty stop at mile 8 and there was no line, which was sweet. By mile ten I was still feeling really good and I considered really speeding up but didn't dare so I kept things steady. At mile 11 we entered a trail area which was awesome, very pretty, shaded, smooth, and I always like getting away from traffic. At mile 12 I finally felt confident enough to speed it up. At mile 12 1/2 a guy about 50 yards ahead of me collapsed. I feel bad I didn't stop, but a couple of women already had. He was trying to crawl forward and they were trying to convince him to sit. I felt bad for the guy--he was so close, but I ran right past cause I'm compassionate like that, and sent a little prayer in his direction, then laid it on even thicker.

There were lots of people lined up along the last 100 yards and they cheered and clapped and just really kept the energy up. This was the first race I've done where they called out your name as you crossed the finish, but it was awesome, and there were people all over the place clapping and cheering for me. They handed me my medal and removed the ankle bracelet timing chip (which I thought I would hate, it looked horrible, but I didn't even feel it as I ran) Great finish!

They had the best after-race snacks I have ever seen! First, the station was RIGHT behind the finish line so I didn't have to look for it. Chick-Fil-A was the main sponsor and they had chicken sandwiches available (if you like chicken, which I don't but the boys loved) They also had Fat Boy ice cream sandwiches, yogurt parfaits with granola topping, Winder Dairy Chocolate recovery drink which tastes like chocolate milk, water, Gatorade, fruit, multi-grain bagels--honestly it was awesome and the boys had been waiting there for two hours and were therefore stuffed by the time I arrived. People milled around but it wasn't congested.

My time ended up being 2:28.05 which was probably slower in actual run time than TOU (which was 2:30) because my one potty stop was so quick on this one, and about 5 minutes at the other one. However, I felt good at the finish and hadn't trained really well and so I'm very happy with how it worked out. Trevor placed 2nd in his age division--he ran a 5K in 20 minutes. Holy moley! Chris shaved 4 minutes off of his 5K PR, coming it at 30 minutes. I was very proud of both of them and they were wonderful sports about all the waiting around they did.

I will definitely run this race again and suspect it will quickly become one of the more popular 1/2 marathon's in the valley. As I said, my only complaint was the website and maybe the ankle chip but that didn't turn out to be so bad. The time of year worries me because it COULD have been rainy, and yet today's weather was absolutely perfect. It was cool, but not cold, the sun was out, but not hot. I thought they started it at the perfect time (I think TOU could have started 1/2 an hour earlier) the course was great and the overall planning and organization was the best I've ever seen.

All in all, a very good race--my favorite of the three I have run. The only thing that would have made it better would be to have had my sister, Crystal, there with me. She's been at both the other races and is just great company. Alison made a fabulous replacement, however, and was beyond supportive and helpful to me. She really did make this possible for me. I'm am blessed to have great people in my life!

I somehow managed to not take a single picture. Lame! If a race photo ends up half decent I'll post it later.