Oh my goodness...where does one even begin on a race that was totally unexpected.
I have been looking forward to this race for a long time. I've only run two half marathons, and have always felt the need to disclaimer them when asked my finish times. With the first one it was my first double digit run, and I really hadn't trained. It was the beginning of my love of not being completely type A when it comes to running. It's good for me. The second one was last September, when Emily had just turned 3 months old. While I ran decently considering where I was at that point as far as training (or lack thereof) and recovering from giving birth to my ninth child, the end result wasn't what I wanted it to be.
I knew that after training all winter for a marathon I'd be in a good place to bag a killer new half PR.
Now, I will also feel the need to disclaimer this race result with the fact that it was a downhill race, but holy smokes, the fact that I can claim this finish time as mine is surreal to me still.
A couple of things just went super right for me.
I knew that no matter how I did, unless something crazy happened and I crashed and burned and walked this sucker, odds were very highly in my favor for a new PR.
Since I hadn't spent months with this in mind as an A race, I put so much less pressure on myself than I had for Ogden.
It was a cool morning.
Running Big Cottonwood canyon has been something I have wanted to do since June 23, 2010. This race was a 3yr strong wish, and it made me feel like a kid on Christmas morning to get to realize that wish.
A little ridiculous that I know that date? perhaps. On that morning I ran 3 miles (well, mostly ran). I was 31ish weeks pregnant with Sam. That afternoon we took the kids up this canyon to Aaron's family cabin to do some hiking around, wanting to get some summer fun in because we were on a week by week watch of my pregnancy and Sam's condition and honestly didn't know how many days of summer we would have available to go out and do things before his arrival.
As we were driving up the canyon that day we passed a man running down. He had the biggest smile on his face! I felt those instant pangs of runner envy...I wanted to be running down that canyon with a big grin plastered on my face! I turned to Aaron and told him that I wanted to run down the canyon. He told me I was crazy. I agreed. There are some curves in that road that would make it risky, especially if a driver wasn't paying attention. I put the hope in the back of my mind, knowing that if I was ever able to do that it certainly wasn't going to be any time soon.
So when I found out that people were starting races that ran down the canyon last year I was beyond excited! I missed the Big Cottonwood event last September, as it sold out before I jumped on the opportunity. I wasn't about to let that pass me by again.
This event, the Drop 13 Half, was perfect timing for my "let's do this!" half marathon.
The race is named Drop 13 not only because of the drop in elevation as you run the 13 miles, but because in addition to the finish medal they offer a medal for dropping 13 minutes off your previous PR, and one for dropping 13 pounds during your training for the race. (you had the option of putting your weight on the registration form, then there was a weigh in after the race) Awesome idea.
I knew I'd have a little help thanks to the downhill, so in looking at my recent paces I decided I'd aim high for a 1:45 finish. I knew I had that sub-2hr finish in me, I just hoped I had a lot more in there as well.
And this little thought kept popping up for me in the week leading up to the marathon.
I needed a redemption race and I wanted this to be it.
The morning started early.
With race start at 6:00am, it meant bus loading started at 4:30.
I live about an hour away.
Which yes, meant I had to leave my house by 3:30 in the morning.
Which means I had to get up even earlier.
I suppose this is proof that runners are insane.
Friday night meant the pre-race/long run failsafe meal for me:
I met a friend at 4am up in Salt Lake and we headed to the race together. I was such a treat to have company! And I learned a neat little trick from her-taping might need (or will need!) meds to the back of your race bib. For those who always have the failsafe dose of Immodium or Ibuprofen with them on race day, this could be handy.
It was chilly up in the canyon, colder than most of us had expected. But I knew that within a few miles it would feel perfect. And it did.
It was an amazing race. It was a small race, which I have come to really love. While feeding off the energy of a crowd is fun, being able to run your own race in your own space is so appealing to me lately!
Things were very well organized, especially for a first time race, and the only complaint I heard from anyone all day was that there were only 10 porta potties at the start, which made for some super long lines since the busses all left at the same time instead of heading up the canyon as they filled.
My only snafu came when while standing at the start line I turned on my ipod. I am a music runner. Though I often find my mind wandering and that I'm not even aware of the music on, I like to have it. Plus in breaking down my race plan I had coordinated it with my playlist. That way if I was in enough of a mental daze (good or bad) and I couldn't recall my numbers (It seemed too looming to write them on my arm), I would know what song I was supposed to be at or have not heard yet to be on pace.
I turned the switch to on, and heard the oh so lovely "battery low" warning. Dangit! Having had the thing plugged in the day before, I was not happy. I realized that one of the kids must have unplugged it and that I should've listened to the gut feeling of "check the battery" the night before. But it was too late now, so there was no point in dwelling on it. I decided I would run without music until the last mile or two, hoping that if I needed a little push to help keep the pace the battery would be enough for that last little bit.
I decided I would run just behind the 1:45 pacers, having been reminded in Ogden that I really don't like the feel of running in the pack around a pacer. This race was small enough that it wasn't much of an issue, there were only half a dozen people with that pacer, so I started to move up a little as things got underway.
I decided I would rein it in a tad the first couple of miles and then just let it go and run this baby.
It was amazing. The complete joy that I saw on that runner's face 3yrs ago as he flew down the canyon was still short of the happy wave I was riding.
So many awesome memories in this canyon!
Most notably my first date with Aaron.
Such a beautiful place!
If you have a minute check out some of the race photos HERE to catch a peek. Amazing.
I soaked up every second, completely giddy, feeling amazing, and surprised at what I saw when I dared peek down at my pace.
Especially considering that I was running without music, I was thrilled!
I rode that high until I hit the mouth of the canyon, just a couple of miles from the finish. After the last real downhill stretch I dared turn on the ipod, which very appropriately started up with Best Day of my Life. So perfect. So fitting. So happy.
Next up, Live Like a Warrior. A song that didn't quite suck me in the first time I heard it but has become one I love. And just happened to have the perfect beat to keep me on pace through that last little bit.
I continued to push through the end, blown away with how much I was loving this and how quickly I was moving-I'm not used to that pace at all!
I crossed the last street and rounded the corner into street that led into the office complex where the race finished. I knew I was close. And then I realized that the 1:40 pacer was walking right in front of me. She turned to me and said "One tenth. You're there. Go get it!"
I thought that I was still just a hair in front of the 1:45 pacer, so to have caught up with 1:40 was unexpected. Knowing that they were pacing to bring you in about a minute before what their assigned pace was the little fire I needed to find a kick and fly in to the finish. I came around the last bend to see the finish line. And the clock just hitting 1:38.
I probably looked like a goon running in to the finish with the smile that erupted out of me. To hit 1:30 something?! Never on my goal list, never even on my radar!
The friend I ran with? She not only nabbed her sub-2, but also first place in her Age Group-by a whopping TEN minutes!! Way to kill it Alison!
Finish line food was great, and the bling was fun too. I nabbed the Drop 13 minutes medal (taking nearly 24 minutes off my previous PR!), and they ended up doing a PR medal as well for those who hit a new PR even if not by 13 minutes.
I am excited to run this canyon again in September. The course for that race doesn't start as high in the canyon so it is only 7-8mi of canyon running and then continuing down into the Salt Lake valley. I am excited to see how I do on that one vs this one.
I am excited to run this race again in the future as well. I would very highly recommend it! Kudos to On Hill Events for an amazing event!