Sunday, April 17, 2016

Salt Lake City Half Marathon

I have to admit that I was lukewarm about running the Salt Lake City Half Marathon this year.  I had run it once before, and while it was a great race, it was in my hometown.  I’ve lived in the Salt Lake City area for almost 40 years.  Where’s the adventure?  Where’s the excitement?  But the timing was right, and the SL Half would be a good training run in preparation for the Red Rock Relay in May and the Yellowstone Half in June.  As the race date approached, I started to realize what a great race this was going to be.

The race expo was held at the Fairgrounds.  As we rode the local light rail, Sue and I reminisced about the last time we’d run the Salt Lake Half.  We’d stayed together the entire race.  I’d set a PR.  It had been warm enough to have beer after the race – not always possible with Utah’s fickle weather.   It was my first time actually attending the race expo, which was well staffed and quite fun.  There were lots of vendors, a few good deals, and the opportunity to see some of the latest and greatest in running gear and nutrition.  Lots of people milled around.  Everyone was excited about the upcoming race.  Walking away from the expo, we overheard two gentlemen speaking French.  They were a father and son who had come all the way from Montreal to run the Half Marathon.  Wow – this race is a bigger deal than I thought.

The Marathon organizers had partnered with the Utah Transit Authority to offer free rides on Trax (the light rail) to the start line.  We took them up on it, and got to the start line just in time to check gear and get to our corral.  Then we were off. 

The course is truly beautiful.  It begins at the University of Utah, climbs into the Avenues where it runs through some historic neighborhoods and past an old cemetery, then descends through Memory Grove and into the city.  It runs up South Temple to 9th East, up 8th South to 11th east and into the Sugarhouse area.  We turned east before I got to my first apartment in Salt Lake City, but we ran past the little house where my husband and I lived when we were first married.  At 21st South the marathon runners turn east; the half runners go west to 6th east, then through Liberty Park, then down to 2nd east with the finish line at Library Square. 

Me and Sue after the race
At 59 years, 11 months and 17 days, if I wasn’t the oldest in my age group I was pretty close to it.  I had no chance whatsoever of placing in my age group, so I made the decision to just give it my best.  Race day adrenalin kicked in and I was able to keep up with Sue for the first six miles (no easy feat).  I slowed down on the first major hill.  Sue didn’t.  I didn’t see her again until the finish line.  She finished in less than two hours, set a PR, and took first place in her age group.  Sue is a rock star.  But between keeping up with her and accelerating my own pace on the downhills, I was able to set a new PR as well.  OK, it was only 7 seconds faster, but hey – it still counts! I checked the stats after the race.  If I had been 60 I’d have taken 3rd place in my age group.  Oh, well.

The finish line was festive and family friendly.  There was a good assortment of post-race snacks for the runners.  Disney princesses and Marvel superheroes entertained the kids at the playground area.  While we made a beeline for the beer tent, we did pass several other vendors on our way.  Live music played, and the racers and their families reveled in the sunshine and the joy of achievement.

I read the results this morning in the Salt Lake Tribune.  Of the top 5 male finishers, all were local.  Of the top 5 female finishers, 4 were local.  Yes, this is a hometown race.  And now I proudly claim it as my hometown race.  Want a great race?  Come to Salt Lake City next year!  I’ll see you there.

Thursday, April 14, 2016


The race invitation sounded fun.  The Recycle Run was pitched as a 5K where you get a random medal and a random t-shirt at the end of the race.  Even better, it was a fundraiser to support Addict to Athlete (AIIA), and an opportunity to donate gently-used running shoes to the program.  My running buddies and I were in.

We were familiar with AIIA – a good friend and fellow Girls’ Day Out teammate is a strong supporter of the program – but since not everyone has heard of it, here are the details:

Addict to Athlete is a community support program available to anyone touched by addiction.  The organization’s mission is “to establish and maintain sobriety by promoting lifestyle changes through erasing addiction and replacing it with something of greater value.”  The organization is local, with chapters in Salt Lake, Utah and Davis Counties.  They run strictly on volunteers and donations, and everyone is welcome to participate.

We signed up.  And we waited for more information on a critical detail – the location of the race, which wasn’t emailed to the participant list until the morning of race day.  And then, early afternoon of race day, another email came – the location had changed.   Yet another email came later that afternoon – the location AND the time had changed.  Did we really want to participate in such a disorganized event?

We arrived at the final location about 20 minutes prior to race start.  Several runners were already there, including a few handicapped racers in strollers from Team Kid Courage.  The race director kicked off the race in what we learned is the usual beginning of all AIIA gatherings – a moment of silence for the addicts who are still suffering.  The silence was broken by a shout, “Athletes, who are we?”  The crowd responded, “Champions!!”  And at that moment, the confusion and disorganization on the location was forgiven and forgotten.

The race began.  Some ran, some walked, and some took turns pushing the beautiful children in the strollers.  Everyone encouraged one another.  There were no awards for being fastest, and nobody cared how many laps around the course anyone made.  Everyone was a winner.

I came away inspired by the courage and tenacity of the AIIA members.  While I cannot even begin to imagine the suffering that addiction can bring, I am a first-hand witness to the joy that running brought to these athletes.  Who are they? Champions!

Tuesday, April 5, 2016

Tricks of the Trail

One of the easier sections of the Wall Lake Trail
Sue and I are planning to run the Yellowstone Half Marathon in June.  The Yellowstone Half is sponsored by Vacation Races, a fabulous racing company – and it’s a trail run.  13.1 miles of dirt road and trail.  Running on trails is different from running on roads, and I find it quite challenging.

My first trail run was Patia’s Race, a 10K trail run in Eureka, Utah.  The race was great –except for a steep downhill stretch where I found myself walking – no, stumbling – as the rest of the racers blew by me.  Why?  Fear of falling.

I have a rational fear of falling.  Along with Blythe Danner, Sally Field, and thousands of other post-menopausal women, I have osteoporosis.  If I fall I could break something – and that would seriously interfere with my running.  So imagine my chagrin when one of the articles I find on downhill trail technique includes this sentence: “Some call downhill running “controlled chaos.” I call it ‘falling in control,’ because that’s more of what it looks like. Falling.”

The author, Doug, goes on to refer to downhill trail running as “dancing with the mountain.”  OK, I can get behind this. Here are his five key components to proper downhill technique.  I am pleasantly surprised at the strong ties to the Chi Running technique I’ve been working on.

1.  Quick foot and leg turnover.  (There’s that cadence again).
2.  Lean forward, not back. (Lean for speed, but apparently also to prevent stress on your legs and quads.)
3.   Look straight ahead – not down.  Keep your gaze about 5 – 7 feet ahead of your steps.  Trust that your brain will process the information and put your feet in the right places. (The concept of Y Chi – focusing on a distant point to channel your running in the direction you’re going.)
4.  Use the upper body for balance.  (Another Chi Running concept – amplified in trail running by allowing the upper body to float as needed to balance your footsteps.  Dancing with the mountain…)
5.  Descend with confidence.  (I think Doug was looking directly at me when he wrote this sentence.  I have all the confidence in the world going uphill; I need to reach out for that confidence on the downhills.)

He closes the article by reminding his readers that they need to practice.  A lot.  And to dedicate time to strictly practice running downhill.  Queue the music - it’s time to start dancing with the mountain.