Sunday, September 19, 2010

Top of Utah Marathon

This past spring, my brother Jon was feeling a little ambitious and signed us (my 3 brothers and me) all up for the Top of Utah Marathon, held yesterday September 18, 2010. He figured that since we had a spring marathon (May, 2010 - the Ogden Marathon), that a fall marathon would keep us motivated to stay training during the summer. It worked, to a point. The thing about signing up for a marathon still months away is that you don't know everything that's going to happen between now and then, you just hope you'll have time, energy and motivation to reach your goal.
Thankfully, my brothers and I had enough training to get us through, although it was tougher than usual. Jon has battled injuries that have knocked him out of training off and on, and he travels a lot with his work. Jim also has dealt with injuries, and had to choose to use his spare time to train or work on his Doctorate. He chose the latter. I was the lucky one who only had one 3-week hiatus because of an injury. I still had time to do a number of races (including another marathon and several marathon distance training runs), and somehow avoided burnout with the increased training. (Side note: I've been taking Hammer Nutrition Race Caps Supreme, and I'm convinced they've been the cause of my boost in energy.) Don, my brother in the wheelchair, was patient enough to let us go as fast or slow as we needed. When I say "we" I mean the whole team of us - Don, Jim, Jon, me. I love running with my brothers. It's a totally different race than running on my own. We run or stop according to each other's needs, without worrying about race time - only worrying about each other making it in. I love it.
Anyway, dear old Dad once again rallied to not only get all of Don's things ready (the racing chair, the pillows, the coat, gloves, hat, etc), but to also wake up after four hours of sleep, get Don up and going at 3:30, and get us all into the car and on our way at 4am. Dad drove us to the race start at the top of the canyon - Hardware Ranch - where it was dark and cold. We got there just before the first buses arrived, bringing runner after runner. I think there were 2000 runners, not sure if they were all marathoners.
We got Don in his race chair, Dad took a picture, then we waved goodbye to Dad as he drove back down the canyon. It was 5:30. He had to be out of the canyon, which was going to close at 5:45. Since we were the earliest runners there, we went right into the warming tents without any problem. But it wasn't long before the tents were packed, bursting really, with people. Don had all his winter clothes on and was roasting, especially with the extra warmth of hundreds of people. By now we were trapped in the tent, and the trouble was convincing people to move aside. It was dark, and people weren't expecting a racing chair - they were looking at eye level, not chair level - but once they realized what was going on, they crowded against each other to make a path for Don to leave. We breathed real, fresh, but very cold air in relief when we got outside.
Don was comfortable now. We huddled close, shivering in the cold night air, waiting for the clock to tick to race start. Finally, it was about 7am, time for the wheelchair racers to line up. We shuffled to the race start, taking our place behind three other racers in wheelchairs - but these guys were going to propel themselves down the canyon to the finish, finishing hours before any other racer. Still, it was nice to start early (5 minutes before the runners) so we could clear out of their way. A wheelchair can cause runners a lot of trouble if they're trying to pass us in a crowd without tripping on the wheels, so races really do need to let the chairs go first.
This was the second time all four of us have run the Top of Utah marathon together, and it was the third time for Jon and me. So we knew what we were getting into. We knew we'd have about 1 1/2 miles before the first elite runners would catch us. The three wheelchair racers were long gone. We had a few minutes of solitude, a few minutes where I was the leading female runner and my brothers were the leading men. It was kind of fun to have a 5 minute head start, but we knew it wouldn't last. Sure enough, the leading runners passed us in a furious battle of three to be the finisher. Two of them were Kenyans. It was amazing to watch them run so lightly, so quickly, obviously pushing themselves but not straining with over-exertion. The next runners were a good tenth of a mile or more behind them. Then it was a few passing us at a time, then it was groups, then it was the whole crowd. We were passed by hundreds and hundreds of runners. They were so nice as they passed us, giving us a thumbs up, clapping for us, cheering, occasionally chatting, and lots and lots of smiles. It was fun to be so encouraged.
The canyon was beautiful. The steep sides were lined with trees and bushes sporting their autumn colors. The day began to warm up, we got into our stride, and the run to the mouth was perfectly comfortable and enjoyable. Like our previous races, we switched off every two miles. That, plus talking with each other, made the miles go quickly. Dad, bless his heart, was waiting with the crowd at the mouth of the canyon to check on us. We pulled over, handed him our jackets, and waved goodbye again as we began mile 14. It flattened out somewhat, but we still had a good pace. The energy gels and caps we took hopefully helped my brothers. (I know they helped me - I can tell when they kick in. I become a little chipmunk chatting away and bouncing around. I'm sure it annoys my brothers, but that's what sisters are supposed to do, right?) We kept going really well, but around mile 18 it got tough, we were tired, and there was still a long way to go. We slowed, but pushed through. The volunteers at the 25th mile aid station were the best! A group of high school girls, lined up to hand out drinks, cheering on runners. But when they saw Don, their cheers turned to full heart-felt screams of encouragement. It was like they couldn't cheer loud enough! They clapped and jumped up and down, and yelled, and we all grinned. That gave us a boost to keep us going up a hill, round a corner, and keep going. A little walking also rested our legs so that by the time we rounded another corner and saw mile 26, we were running our fast pace again. One more corner, and the finish line was in sight. At the last corner, Mom and Jon's family were waiting and cheering and taking pictures. Jon's daughter Kaylee was so cute, yelling in her 7-year-old voice, "YOU GUYS ROCK!" I had to laugh.
Finally, the finish. The last stretch we all grabbed on to Don's chair and ran it in together, passing the people lining the sides of the road, waving to thank them for their cheers, and not stopping or slowing until we ran through the finish line. We'd done it. I think it took us 4:49, but I'm not sure. It was one of our slower marathons together (we've done 4), but it was just as wonderful as all of them. Because it's not our race time, as I said already, but our time together that matters.
I had taken plenty of energy gels and had run a comfy pace, so I wasn't feeling spent. My brothers and parents were gracious enough to let me go run some more. I wanted to get my first Ultra distance, so I ran the race course backwards to about mile 23 1/2 (2 3/4 mile, starting from mile 26.2), then turned back and ran almost to the finish (I wasn't about to cross the finish line twice and confuse the race officials). So I got about 31.2-ish. I wanted 31, since that's a 50K, an official Ultra distance. My last 5+ miles took me 42 minutes. It was fun to run about 8 minute miles after having run a marathon. By the time I got back to my brothers & parents, I was tired. I swallowed some ibuprofen to prevent muscle soreness, changed into some clothes for the ride home, and said goodbye to the Top of Utah marathon. It was fun. Of course, that's really easy to say once it's over, but honestly it was fun. We had a lot of laughs and helped each other finish a marathon. Fun. And satisfying.
Thanks, Don, Jim & Jon - are we going to do another one? (Oooh, now is NOT the time to ask that! :) Wait until the memory of the pain has eased...) And super thanks, Dad - you make this possible, and you never complain. It is, you know, your fault that we became runners in the first place. :) Thanks also to Mom for coming along and helping out, and to you & Jon's family for being there to cheer us on. And a special HUGE thanks to my husband (I came home to a clean house and an amazing dinner!) & kids for letting me do this. I know they think it's crazy, but sometimes you have to find something - like (for me) endurance running - to keep from going crazy.

Sunday, September 5, 2010

Pocatello Marathon

"You don't stop running because you get old, you get old because you stop running."

I drove to Pocatello on Friday afternoon to pick up my race packet for the marathon the following morning. Jeff's Aunt Julie put me up for the night. I got up at 4am to get ready, left at 4:30, arrived a few minutes before the buses pulled in, then boarded at 5. The ride to the start was comfy (a big tour bus), but dark. Besides it still being night, we were also in a canyon and the canyon walls blocked out even most of the star and moon light. Nobody talked much at the start - it was too dark to make eye contact to begin a conversation, and everyone was tired or wired, jittery in their own little world. The most talking occurred in the port-a-potty lines, which as usual were very long and slow. Finally at 6:10 we stashed our drop bags at the UPS truck and huddled together at the start line. Having shed our sweatshirts or plastic bags, we were now shivering with the wind as much as with excitement. It was promising to be a warm day, so I didn't worry too much about the initial chill. I had on a tank-top, but I also had my arm-warmers so I felt ready.

At 6:15 someone must have said go (I didn't hear anything) because suddenly the pack began moving en masse. It was a very slow start as I tried to run but tried not to run over anyone. I should have positioned myself closer to the front, but it only took about 1/2 mile before the group spread out enough that I could easily find my pace, pass people or have them pass me, and settle into the race. It was an almost eerie feeling to be running with a pack of strangers in the dark. It was still too dark to see anyone, so people still weren't talking. The stars and moon were brilliant, and eventually the sky began to lighten and I could watch the colors of sunrise as I ran down the canyon. It was spectacular. The farms lining the sides of the canyon were beyond picturesque - they were gorgeous. The trees and fields were that bright green seen at sunrise and sunset. We had the whole road to ourselves. I wound down the canyon and was completely surprised when I clocked sub-8 minute mile after mile, some close to 7:15 minutes. It wasn't until after mile 13 that my miles began to take on a more normal-me pace, and I was back to 8:30's. Runners had spread out and I didn't see anyone off to my left or my right. I had my earbuds in and felt like I was in my own world. My nose was running, so like any good, seasoned runner I used the "Farmer's Blow" method to blow out my nose. I heard above my earbuds someone laugh really loud. Apparently a runner was pacing right behind me, so I didn't see him. With music in my ear, I didn't hear him, either. Oops. He pulled up beside me and I laughed out a, "Sorry!!" Then I asked, "Did I get you?" No, he grinned. He was okay. Phew! He paced me for a few miles, then took off ahead. We never talked, but the nose thing sorta made us friends, I guess.

Around mile 15 though the course wasn't so beautiful, the hill was up instead of down, the half-marathoners (who I'd just passed as they waited at their start at my mile 13) had begun to pass me (fresh, fast, and frustrating), we were entering towns, and I was entering what is for me the toughest part of every marathon - the part where I've come so far and feel the fatigue setting in, but I know I still have so far left to go, and I wonder how in the world I'm going to finish and really even if I still even want to... It actually always starts around Mile 13, gets awful around miles 15 - 17, eases a little until Mile 19, and disappears at Mile 20, sometimes Mile 22.

My speed dropped significantly during that tough part. I had to keep talking to myself - things like, "If I stop I'm not going to get to the end any faster!" and "You promised yourself you wouldn't walk!" And, from my friend Natalie, "The deeper you dig the more fun you'll have!" And "This is my one chance to see how fast I can go on my own" (since I run a lot of my marathons with my brothers - pushing my oldest brother in his running wheelchair - and going slower). I tuned out the playlist, completely ignoring the songs that Jeff had picked for me. The songs were perfect for the first 13 miles. Jeff picked them according to their cadence. They had to be 150 beats per minute or faster to theoretically make my feet turn over faster. Like I said, the first 13 it was great. This mid part though was it's own story. No song helped. Nobody cheering on the sides helped. No signs, aid stations, or other runners helped. It was a battle between me and me. I seriously wondered which part of me was going to win.

My head screamed, "Keep going" while just as loudly yelling back at itself, "Just STOP!" My legs weren't even part of my body, they just did their own thing. It was a completely mental battle. I didn't pay attention to my pace, didn't feel my legs, didn't notice my form, I just struggled with the fight going on in my head. I sometimes felt like a spectator, watching the fight play out in my mind. I slowed, but didn't stop. I broke into my mind-fight, interrupting the two sides to announce that I'd decided I just wouldn't stop, so stop arguing about it. I told the two me's that it simply was no longer even an issue. I was pleased to see that the me's listened.

Taking back control of my body and mind, I finally pulled free from staring at the battle in my head and noticed my pace. Whoa, it was slow. There was no reason for that. My legs didn't have to plod along simply because my mind was busy working things out. So I told my legs to get going, I wanted this race over and they weren't helping. My legs obeyed and turned back into a 9 minute pace. Not great, but better than the temporary 11 minutes I was putting into each mile. I wondered how much my psychological struggle had set me back. I was too scared to look at my watch, and told myself it didn't matter - it was too late now and I'd get whatever time I'd get.

I couldn't stand not knowing though, so I finally looked after several miles of telling myself not to. That was the best thing I did - I was still on track to reach my goal of 3:45. That infused me with a fresh desire to run a good race. At the same time, my energy gels (I took them too late - learned my lesson!) finally decided to let their power seep into my body and I got my second wind. I turned my ears back on to focus on the cadence of the songs I'd been ignoring. I found a new game to play to distract me from the monotony of a never-ending run (my new game was counting how many songs I listened to in each mile - it ranged from about 2 1/2 to 4 songs).

Suddenly, I completely was back, a happy runner again. Mile 20. Just a 10K left, but I couldn't think of it that way, I had to think of it as one mile at a time. And each mile got better and better, until my last mile was again a sub-8, and I found myself kicking it the last 1/2 mile or so. I passed Mile 26. Only .2 left. I saw the finish banner. At about 26.1, with only a tenth of a mile left, my iphone's playlist began singing out the BYU Cougar Fight Song. Timing couldn't have been better. I grinned as I thought of my husband putting the song of his favorite football team on my playlist, laughed at the coincidence of it playing right at my finish, and bounded through the finish, passing people at the end and not caring how silly I must look with a big grin on my face. It was fun. The first was fast and thrilling, the middle was a monster that I conquered, the end was a high. After I passed the finish I looked down at my watch, still wondering if I would reach my 3:45 goal. I laughed out loud. 3:39. I did it.

Pictured here: me and my friend Janeese at the end of the Pocatello Marathon, Sept. 4th, 2010. I ran it in 3:39:11 (average 8:21 minutes/mile), came in 12th overall for women and 5th in my age group. Janeese finished in 3:28:something, and was 5th overall for women and 1st in her age group. It was so exciting to not only meet my goal of 3:45 (to qualify for Boston), but to beat that goal by 6 minutes. I bested my previous PR (2 years ago at the Mesa Falls Marathon) by 13 minutes. Who says getting older makes you slow down? :)

After the race I met up with Jeff, Oliver (middle) and Samuel (right) at the Fort Hall replica in Pocatello. It was very cool, but mostly I was just pleased to see Jeff and the boys and share my personal success with them. They were on their way to a BYU Football game and timed it just right to be in Pocatello at the same time I was ready to leave the runner's court at the race (about 2 hours after I finished).

Charlotte, Eleanor and I went huckleberry hunting. We didn't find any - we got rained out - but we did find wildflowers and bugs and fun hiding places in the woods.

While we wandered the woods, which was delightful, Jeff and the boys were mountain biking on nearby trails (in the rain and mud, no less!). Good times.

I had to stop on my morning run to take this picture of the moon and the Temple. It was beautiful enough to take my breath away. My iphone camera doesn't do it justice. Since I never let anything make me stop on a run, that should indicate how lovely this was.

Eleanor on her first day of kindergarten.

Charlotte on her first day of preschool.

I don't have pictures of the boys with their teacher on their first day this year - I guess they've outgrown such things. :(

Charlotte with a lollipop that Grandma gave her, along with the lollipops that Grandma sent with her to give to her siblings. She licked them all to oblivion.

Recipes: The only thing I do differently to this recipe is add a can of mushrooms, sliced olives, and fresh chopped tomatoes or other veggies if I have them. This time I sauteed zucchini and added it (you've got to do SOMETHING with the zucchini, right?)

Emeril's Late Night Pasta (pictured above before I put the cheese on top)


  • . 1 pound spaghetti
  • 4 slices bacon, cut into 1-inch strips
  • 2 Tablespoons olive oil
  • 2 Tablespoons thinly sliced garlic
  • . 1 -2 Tablespoons chopped shallots or onions (I actually use a lot more - about 1/4 cup).
  • . 1/4 - 1/2 teaspoon crushed red pepper
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1 large egg
  • . 1/4 - 1/2 cup grated Parmigiano-Reggiano, as desired


Bring a large heavy pot of salted water to a boil. Add the spaghetti and cook, stirring to separate the strands, until the pasta is al dente, 7 to 8 minutes for dry pasta. Drain in a colander, reserving 1/4 cup of the pasta cooking water. Return the pasta to the pot.

Meanwhile, in a large skillet, heat the oil over medium heat. Add the bacon and cook until crisp. Add the garlic, shallots, pepper, and salt and cook, stirring, until fragrant and the garlic is soft but not brown, about 1 1/2 minutes.

Remove the pan from the heat and add the egg and reserved pasta cooking water, stirring quickly until the mixture thickens, but the egg does not scramble.

Divide the spaghetti among plates or large shallow bowls, sprinkle cheese to taste over the top of each serving, and serve immediately.

(this picture includes the cheese)