Thursday, April 25, 2013

Pacing the Salt Lake City Half Marathon

Race #10 of 2013
Salt Lake City Half Marathon
This pacing opportunity happened because I met Jonathon, the head of the Utah Race Pacers, back in January of this year and ran his New Year's Half Marathon.  It was also around this time that he became a member of Runner's Anonymous Facebook group page and from there we became friends and started a little challenge to see who could run the most miles in January. I beat him of course.  I am way too competitive when somebody throws a challenge out to me.   Then February came along and I was still eager and ready to go with the challenge again but he backed down.  I however was enjoying the high mileage and decided to keep at it.  So from there he decided that maybe I could handle a little pacing opportunity and offered this position to me.  I was nervous, yet excited.  It would be for the Salt Lake City Half Marathon, no small venue that's for sure.   

Adidas was one of the sponsors for this race and so they provided each of us with a free pair of shoes and a pacing shirt to wear while running on race day.  The shoes were awesome to run in, but I can't say I'm converted yet.  I am a pretty solid Saucony girl.

Before race day Jonathon held a meeting at his home where we were fitted and picked our shoes out from the Adidas rep.  He also taught a few of us newbies how to pace.  It was just so fun to be in a room with so many other runners who already knew what they were doing.  I was thoroughly enjoying the conversations being all about running.  We had a second meeting a couple weeks later where we then received our shoes, so we could start running in them and breaking them in before race day.   
One of our responsibilities before actually pacing was to man the Utah Race Pacer booth at the expo the day before.  We just basically talked to people about what we were there for and answered any questions they may have had.  My friend Angie manned the booth with me for the last shift of the night.  My cousin Cherri and her husband Joe stopped by the booth and took this photo.  Joe is a race director and holds about 12 events a year.  If you want to get involved in some of his races check him out at  He puts on some fun races for sure.
Since I would be pacing the 2:20 half marathon I printed out this pace band so that I could get some good solid practicing in on my own.  Even though I paced with my friend Hollie a few weeks before in a different race, I needed to know that I could do this by myself since I wouldn't be getting a partner to help me on race day.  And I needed to be able to do it 10 minutes faster than the previous race I paced.  I would pin this little paper on my sweat band around my wrist and head out.  It was such a fun experience every time I practiced.  I loved the challenge of seeing how close I could come at each mile mark.  I was usually within 15 seconds of where I needed to be.  Sometimes as close as only 3 seconds.
Now, moving ahead to race morning. I must have been feeling somewhat stressed because I got a nice little cold sore on my lip the night before, and that usually only happens when life gets a little crazy.  I got about 4 1/2 hours of sleep and woke up at 3:10 am. I like to set two alarms on race morning just to make sure there are no panic moments.  I got myself out the door about 4:05 am to meet up and carpool with some of the other race pacers.  I ended up just following them to Salt Lake because I wanted to have my own car and be able to leave when I wanted after the race.  This turned out to be an extremely good decision!  Due to weather reports, rain was expected all morning in Salt Lake.
Tis' the season of disgusting AM hours for racing and getting to the starting lines or bus pick up areas with time to spare before running.  Ughhh......This is definitely my least favorite part about running races and I'm certainly not looking forward to this aspect of it for the next 6 months.  Oh well, good thing I love the actual running part so much and just being with so many other people who are running too.

Getting to Salt Lake was easy.  We were there by 5:30 Am.  We parked at Liberty Park where the finish line would be.  We hopped on a shuttle bus which then drove us to the Trax Station.  We rode the Trax for a good half hour or longer, which was packed with people.  I had to stand the whole way while holding about 7 balloons on dowels.  I don't have a clue who these two runners are but you can see my nice bundle of balloons there as I stood to ride in the cramped train. This made for tricky foot work as the train would stop and start.  No catastrophes though.  Before we reached the end of the ride they stopped the train and allowed the policemen and their bomb sniffing dogs onto the train.  It was a nice feeling knowing there were lots of extra precautions being taken for our safety. 
The Salt Lake Marathon and Half Marathon was the first major race since the bombings at the Boston Marathon just 5 days previously.  Extra security was in place everywhere.  There was a constant roar overhead too with national guard helicopters.  If somebody was going to try and hurt us runners I think they would have had a hard time doing it.
We got to the starting line area and meandered around taking photos, using the ports, getting our gear put on, passing out the balloons to the other pacers and trying to stay warm.  The rain was starting to drizzle and I had never been so grateful for a black garbage bag as I was this morning.

Joshua Hansen, my running bud, had a really neat shirt custom made just for him.  It says on the front "No More Hurting People. Peace"  That was what the little 8 year old boy who died in the Boston bombing said on a poster he had made at school.  Such a sad unnecessary death.  My heart goes out to this family as the country mourns their loss of this innocent little guy.  The names of the other people who lost their lives in this horrific event were printed on the back of Josh's shirt as well.  Such a neat tribute to run in their honor.

Running today in the Salt Lake Half Marathon is one small way we proved we will not let cowardly, heartless people prevail. 
Quote by 8 year old Richard Martin
You can see the raindrops starting here as they are beading up on my jacket.  I quickly got a few more photos with running friends before the race was to start.  This is my friend Galen Garrison.  He is about one of the happiest runners on earth.  I think he has a non-stop smile on his face.  Below is my friend Angie and I honestly couldn't tell you who is standing on the other side of me.  That's the beauty of runners, we are all friends!
I quickly got my water belt put on along with my hat, garmin, pace band, bib, gloves, and other stuff and hopped into a group photo with all the pacers for the day.  We headed to the throng of 7000 runners and found a spot to squeeze in.  It was fun to hear people say, "I'm going to try and stay with her" as I would walk through the crowd.  People had a goal in mind and I was there to help them accomplish their goal by holding that obnoxious yellow balloon through rain and wind resistance for 13.1 miles. 
The race started at 7:00 AM and right before that they had a moment of silence for Boston and then they blasted "Sweet Caroline" over the loud speakers to pump us up.  It was a great moment.  Then the gun blast went off and we were heading down the street.  I loved that the first 4 miles of this race is a pretty sweet gradual downhill.  The rain was relentless though and never eased up the entire way.  It was also so cold and wet that I never took off my garbage bag.  Because it was so wet out there I kept my garmin covered under my jacket sleeve and wasn't able to watch my pace as often as I wanted to.  I made sure at each mile marker though that we were within range. 

At the starting line I had one specific gentlemen that said he wanted to run the entire race with me because he was afraid if he ran faster he would burn out before it was over.  He also said he hadn't been doing a lot of training so this would be a good pace for him.  I told him that was great but that if he ever felt a need to go faster or a got a little surge of energy then he should take advantage of that.  Honestly, I was so grateful for him because every time I needed to check my watch it was so much easier to hand him my balloon and then have a free hand to do so.  Also around mile 4 I needed to use the restroom and so I handed the balloon off to him and said "Don't run too fast, I'll catch up to you soon."  He did a good job continuing on the way and I found him about a mile and a half later.  We didn't do a lot of chatting along the way but it was just pleasant having that 'helper' by my side.  His name is Jared Knowlton and he really was a great support.
One of the blogs I like to read is Christy's.  She has been talking about running the Salt Lake Half Marathon for quite a few months now.  She lives down in Arizona and so I was looking forward to getting to meet her in real life.  As I was coming near the finish of the race I saw her mom around mile marker 12 cheering people on.  I only recognized her from Christy's blog and said hello to her and that I read her daughter's blog.  She probably thought I was wacked out!  This is Christy and she's a pretty fast little lady.  She was a frozen popsicle just like me.  The black garbage bags may have been a nice wardrobe accessory to keep us dry, but they really didn't keep us warm. 
Once I was done running I couldn't get my teeth to stop chattering.  I was frozen to the core.  Even after driving home for 45 minutes with the car heater on full blast, it took a long hot 20 minute shower before I finally started feeling better. 

OH!!! And the most important part about pacing.  How did I do on time?  Well, I was supposed to come in at 2:20:00 and according to my watch that's what I did!!  The race people clocked me at coming in at 2:19:57, three seconds early.  I'LL TAKE IT!  Jonathon said we should come in between 0-30 seconds before the time, so I was very happy with that and will be able to pace again.  (Jonathon told me if I did good at Salt Lake then he would let me pace Provo City Half Marathon on May 4th)  Looks like I will be pacing Provo City next month, and looking very forward to it!!

Race Paraphernalia
There were so many things I loved about this whole experience, even though it rained the entire time!  Plain and simple, running just makes me happy!


Murph said...

Good job with the pacing! SL looked like such a fun time.

Kathee said...

Great job!! Your an animal!

Cory Reese said...

I love this post. Great pictures and race recap. Congrats on helping other people get to that finish line my friend.

Anonymous said...

Great job Susette! It was certainly the coldest, wettest race I have ever run but I loved it. My husband and a friend ran the full so I had to wait 2.5 hours in the rain and cold for them. I'm still thawing out!

Christy said...

You are so cute! I can't believe how steady of a pace you keep. You are simply amazing!

I'm going to steal this pic from you. It sure brings back the cold memory of that moment (more like hours!).

So great to meet you in person, only if it was for a minute! :)

Tina @GottaRunNow said...

Congrats on pacing with a perfect finishing time! I'm sure those you helped to finish on time appreciated that!

Jerilee E. said...

Great job pacing! Awesome recap- I need to take pointers from you :).

Amy @ Run Mom Run said...

I bet you are the best pacer ever! Happy, energetic and always willing to talk about running!

I worked a booth at an expo last year and it was so much fun! It may have been the first time ever that I got to talk about running as much as I wanted and no one ever got sick of it!

I can't even look at pictures of that sweet little boy. He is so close in age to my Tyler and has the same gappy grin that I just can't even bear it.

Excellent job!