Tuesday, June 18, 2013

Corner Canyon 50K-My Most Brutal Race to Date!

I'm truly happy I ran this again this year but it's one of those races I can check off my list and feel content not ever signing up for again. (slap me next year if I go back on my word)
I was so glad I ran a little of the new course added on this year the day before the race.  I wore my Hoka trail shoes and didn't feel very stable in them in some of the more rocky terrain.  Although running in them in other sections feels like running on marshmallows.  But not with big chunks of terrain to maneuver over. I was feeling a little more tippy in them, so I decided to wear my trusty Saucony Trail shoes and loved how they felt on my feet the entire time.  I think that one decision right there made a huge difference in my performance out there on race day.  Having on nice, thick, wool running socks was another good decision.
I slept pretty good the night before and woke up at 4:00 am to be out the door by 5:00 am.  I started out with a bowl of oatmeal, cinnamon, and honey.  That seems to be a pretty good start to a race day for me.  I also toasted a bagel to eat in the car later.  I packed a drop bag since the race offered that service but wasn't sure I would need anything. I had everything I thought I would need in my Nathan Hydration Vest.  But tried not to over pack since I had remembered I did last year.  No need to carry too much stuff around a mountain for 32 miles when the aid stations have just about everything you could possibly want.
Out the door and on the road by 5:00 am put me to the race start around 5:20 am and I got my packet and sat back in my car for a few minutes.  It was a little chilly out there.   As more people started arriving I got out and started visiting a few familiar faces.  Cory ran this race with me last year and was a complete saint by hanging out with me and keeping me company for almost 10 hours.  I told him no worry this year.  He wanted to attempt a PR for this race, likewise, I did too.  Who doesn't want to see if they've improved over a year of running?  I felt like I could get around this mountain now without getting lost and without getting eaten by bears. 
Remember, a few weeks ago I blogged about an elderly gentleman who randomly called me on the phone thanking me for my write-up of last year's Corner Canyon 50K?  It was a very sweet message he had left on my answering machine and I typed it up in full detail of what he said to me.  Anyway, I was hoping to see him at the race but wasn't sure I would since he was running the 25K and they were starting an hour later. Well, as we were getting some instructions from the RD's I happened to scan the crowd and saw this elderly man standing over by the building and I just KNEW it had to be him.  See him in the white sailor cap and blue coat?
I walked over to him and said "You must be Woody, I'm Susette."  He smiled and said yes and I told him I definitely needed his photo for my blog.  It's always so fun to have a face with a voice.  So here is Woody.  The 82 year old that ran the 25K and is seriously my hero!  I hope I am still doing what he is at that age.  At one point in the race the 25K people cross paths with the 50K and I saw him and he was running just like the energizer bunny.  So impressive!
Johnny Maack did a little talking at the beginning of the race about who this run would be supporting this year.  Her name is Amanda and she was diagnosed with colon cancer.  She is currently in treatment and I pray she fights and wins.  That colon cancer is bad stuff.  She has a Facebook page called Fighting with Amanda if you want to read and follow more about her.  It warms my heart to know our racing money is helping those who are in such need.
6:00 am and the countdown begins.  There are no timing chips or timing mats, just ready, set, go kind of thing and we were off.  The weather was cool and felt so nice.  I immediately warmed up as I started running. 

The crowd of runners didn't feel too congested as we maneuvered on down into a single track section right in the beginning.  I was worried that I may be holding people up behind me but when I looked back there was plenty of distance.  You can usually hear if someone is right on your tail too wanting to pass.  As we came out of this section and onto a higher part of wider trail I met up with another gal I ran into last year named Missy.  She was running a tad bit slower than last year having just completed a 50 miler at Squaw Peak 2 weeks ago.  She was hanging back a little with me and we were having some good conversations.  That always helps the miles go by a little quicker.  She was shocked I remembered her from last year.  I never forget an awesome runner who is kind to me.
Those first three miles flew by and before I realized it I was at aid station #1 at Orson Hyde Park. I checked in and grabbed a swallow of sports drink and continued on my way.  The next section is a small, brutal climb but the beauty once you get up to the top is delightful to enjoy.  Too bad it doesn't last longer though.  In and around and down through a little canyon and back out into the open area again.
The next aid station would be at the top of Peak View after traveling up the Gas Line trail past Ghost Falls. Mile 9.6 was aid station #2 and was filled with all sorts of goodies to fill my belly.  I grabbed some peanut butter sandwich squares, potato chips and a couple pieces of frozen watermelon and filled up my hydration vest.  I also grabbed a few peanut m&m's for the road.
This next section is where they changed the course and added 7 brand new miles up and down in what's called Suncrest into Highland.  There were some pretty rough and tumbley areas with big rocks.  A lot of it was very pretty too, but I was bummed that a lot of the downhill had to be taken slowly so that I didn't twist an ankle.  Downhill running makes me really happy but not if I have to watch the ground the whole time.  It was also in this area that I wanted to sing songs from the Sound of Music.  Oh, speaking of music I actually listened to my ipod this year and enjoyed Mr. John Mayer for the majority of my hours out here. I really dig his voice!
My good friend Jody called me when I down in a ravine and climbing.  It was so fun to hear a familiar upbeat voice.  She knows how to make me laugh!  She had been helping man an aid station at the American Fork Half Marathon.  That's where my heart was.  I love that race but apparently I loved Corner Canyon more this year.  

After finishing up this loop we came back to aid station #2 which would be aid station #3 as well.  I got my hydration bag filled with ice which was so refreshing.  The heat was really starting to climb now.  I grabbed some more peanut butter sandwiches, watermelon, chips and peanut m&m's and headed out again.  The next section of trail is one of my favorites.  It's called Anne's Trail and runs across the mountain instead of up and down it.  It only lasted less than three miles though and we were to aid station #4,  but right before that we had to do a massive climb.  I am not a fan of climbing and still wonder why I do this?
Potato Hill aid station was about mile 18 and I knew it was only a few more miles until the dreaded Widow Maker started at 22.  So, I tried to just enjoy the lovely stretch of downhill while listening to my music.  I was a little worried about the heat.  I had brought sunscreen and put it in my drop bag at that aid station but totally forgot to put some on.  Luckily, at the top of Widow Maker they had some and I put it on up there.  Pretty sure that helped save me from being a roasted chicken.

The climb up Widow Maker is so hard to describe.  The first word that keeps coming to mind is BRUTAL.  I don't have the vocabulary to truly explain.  Please just believe me that it was the most challenging thing I've ever done. I remembered from last year that it was hard but it just seemed harder this year.  On top of that they changed the course up on top as well.  We had to do an additional out and back for an additional 1.4 miles before we continued to climb.  The out and back had some stickers we needed to put on our bib to prove we did that portion.  Can you tell what I was wishing for?
We traveled up and down those 4 bumps to the out and back for our lousy little sticker.  Oh yeah, and to get the mileage in. By the time I reached that place in the race I was seriously feeling like this.
I had never been to this point on the mountain and tried to take a 360 degree photo.  It didn't work well at all but here are a few photos I took starting with looking down into Utah County at Utah Lake and then moving to the right into Salt Lake County.   Incredible views and incredible heat.  Occasional breezes would blow which was seriously a gift from heaven.
I then hurried along to try and get to the aid station only a a little over a mile away.  I knew I still had some big climbing to do but I knew it would still take quite awhile.  It's pretty sad when at times you are traveling so slow up hills that your garmin doesn't even register as you moving.  Yikes!  I was very warm and ready for some relaxation, if only for a few moments. Salt tablets and GU were keeping me going but I was in need of something cold and refreshing and I knew there would be ice up ahead.
FINALLY!  At the top of the hill at mile 25.9 I knew the worst of it was over!  Relief from big climbs and my first opportunity to sit down.  I sat in a chair and chomped down on not 1 or 2 pieces of watermelon but 9.  Yes, you read that correctly.  I was so hot I couldn't stop myself.  Those were the most perfect, delicious things I could have ever partaken of and hit the spot nicely!  (until mile 28 and things started turning ugly)
I was refreshed and ready to go after sitting for a few minutes.  This would be the last time I really felt decent for the rest of the race.  I'm smiling so big because I know that the rest of the mileage is mostly downhill and that's where my happy place is, running downhill.  And off I went!  Down, down, down.  Around mile 28 I started getting sharp stabs across my belly.  Uh oh.......I think I ate too much watermelon.  It would come and go for the remainder of the last few miles.  It was sharp enough pains that I would seriously stop and bend over and almost cry like a baby.   I just needed to be done and find a bathroom.  

As I came into the finish line area Cory and his buddies came in with me.  It was fun to see them the whole entire day out on the course, seesawing back and forth.  It just so happened that we all came in together for the final half mile. I told Cory right then and there that I vow to NEVER, EVER run this race again.  I don't think he believed me. 
I saw the sprinkler there at the finish line and couldn't wait to get in it.  I hurried across the line and immediately went back over and took off my shoes, watch, ipod, vest, sunglasses, etc and stood in that sprinkler for probably 5 minutes.  I washed all the sweat, grime, and salt off of me and enjoyed the cold water.  It gave me chills and my teeth were chattering.  I made a pit stop and hoped to feel a little better soon.  I got a little food thinking that may help and it did taste delicious.  They ran out of cups at the finish line station and so I drank some chocolate milk out of a bowl.  It was a little bit frozen so it tasted like a little frosty with icicles in it.  I enjoyed it but just still wasn't feeling quite right.  I think the heat was just a bit too much for me today. 
I had to wait around for my drop bag which was still up on the mountain at an aid station to be delivered down to the finish.  I just really was so ready to get in my car and get home. Well, if I had to wait I might as well talk to a few friends and relax.
I noticed after playing in the sprinkler for awhile that I lost one of my stickers.  Yeah, it was pretty fitting as to how I was feeling at the moment.
Such a positive guy and full of helps, tips and great support.  I could probably blame him for a lot of my desire in exploring the ultra scene.  If you aren't currently reading his blog you should.  Fast Cory.com
I met Karl at the Moab 33K I swept in February.  Such a nice guy and totally romped on this course.
So how did I do?  Well, looking at the stats on the Garmin I would say not so hot.  If I compare to last year then I'm pleased.  Having run a changed, tougher course than last year and coming in 25 minutes faster this year shows progress.  The total ascent for this race was 9060 feet and total descent was 8923.

PS-see that mountain behind me, waaaayyyy back there?  That's the infamous Widow Maker.  Just plain nuts I tell ya. 

Friday, June 14, 2013

Prepping to Run Corner Canyon 50K Tomorrow

Sometimes I like races with the element of the unknown, trails with new views and new corners to turn and explore.  Such was the case last year when I ran the Corner Canyon 50K.  Tomorrow I will be running it again and looking very forward to it.  However, they played a sneaky trick and opened up a whole new section.  Draper City recently acquired a brand new section of land and we will now be running almost 8 of the miles out there.  Well, I decided I didn't want to be surprised and so I went for a little run this morning to check it out.

This is where I began and ended my 9 mile run today.

The temperature was a little cool and breezy which was actually perfect for a run.  I'm hoping it stays that way tomorrow too.  Last year was just too darn hot.  The race was in August and so having it earlier this year will be so much nicer.  I'm hoping for no bonking like I did in the heat last year.

The new section of trail was fine. I wouldn't say it was fabulous because anytime big hills are involved I don't get too excited.  There were definitely some good, long climbs going on. There were some spectacular views though as I got further into this section.  At one point I felt like I was on top of the mountain and wanted to bust out singing "The hills are alive, with the sound of music." I took no photos of the section but I will tomorrow.  Maybe I'll even take a picture of me singing!
While I was up there I ran into Jonny Maack, who is one of the helpers for this race.  He and a few other people were out there marking the course for tomorrow.  I chatted with them for a little bit and shared my excitement for the race tomorrow.  They really know how to put on a good race.  I was also really happy to see the addition of a few porta potties that weren't here last year.  Those are always a good thing to have around.
2 hours and 25 minutes to go 9 miles?  Yeah, I was taking my time and enjoying the scenery. 
It was a beautiful day for a beautiful run out on the trails.

Monday, June 10, 2013

Utah Valley Half Marathon/Sugar We're Going Down/A NEW PR

The great Utah Valley Half Marathon.  There are so many thoughts about this race for me.  It was my VERY FIRST half marathon ever run 2 years ago in 2011.  This would be my third time running it this year.  If you're interested in reading about those previous experiences go here for 2011 and here for 2012. So in a way this was kind of like a runniversary (as my friend Josh calls them).  I got up UBER early at 2:50 am and got myself ready to go.  Josh came down from Bountiful the night before and slept in our basement.  We ate oatmeal with cinnamon and honey for breakfast and then my sweet hubby drove us down to the freeway exit to meet up with cute Hollie at 3:40 am.  I was digging the sunglasses she modeled for us but she thought they made her look like an alien with big bug eyes.  There may have been a little head bopping going on. Hey, they were cute.  I would have worn them. (They were her mom's sunglasses.  We were in her mama's car)  She drove us down to the Provo mall where we met up with another runner friend, Mike Talbot.
Bus pick-up was easy and we didn't have to wait long at all to get on a bus.  Driving up the canyon was a tad scary at one point.  The bus driver put on her brakes to avoid hitting a car ahead of her and we all went flying.  Nice adrenalin pumping for a few moments.  When we got to the starting line area all the people were on the opposite side of the street and down in an area I didn't recognize.  The race people changed the whole route to be ran on the other side of the 4 lane highway this year.  It actually was a good change which allowed us to run in the shade of the mountains and trees for a longer period of time once the sun came up.  I was happy about that change for sure.
We arrived here about 4:40 am and once again had to wait way longer than I like to at a race.  The good thing about being with friends though is you can visit and be silly and not care.  It would help the time go by much faster.  We would then see other friends and call them over to chat with.  London and Monte Riding are two friends we met at our made-up canyon run last week.  It was sure fun to see them again.  The sky started to lighten up and we had used the porta potties and were getting lined up for the start.  6:00 am sharp and we were off!
Josh and I both decided last night that we wanted a PR for this run.  I was going to be happy with anything faster than last year which was 2:26.  Josh wanted to try for 2:17.  I know that's an odd number so you can hear about his decision for that timing on his blog.  Anyway, we made pace bands and decided to try for 2:17.  That meant we had to keep a 10:38 minute/mile.  Josh doesn't run with a Garmin.  He just likes me to lead the way.  I guess that's why he calls me "Mama Duck".  I lead and he follows.  Maybe I should start calling him "Little Duckling?"   Anyway, we have a good time.  

Since I had a little bit of pressure to keep to a certain time I decided to just turn on my tunes right from the beginning and focus and GO, GO, GO!  No chatting, no laughing, no playing.  Just get the job done.  I was running quite a bit faster than I was used to and didn't want to tell Josh because he was keeping up nicely.  I also wanted to see if I could stay slightly ahead of my pace band time.  We had one big hill climb which slowed us down a little bit around mile 3 but then we continued pounding it out.  

Around mile 6 Josh needed a potty stop and I had some good tunes pumping and continued pushing on down the road.  I was hoping he would catch up but sadly that was the last time I would see him until the end.  

About this time a song came on my ipod called "Sugar We're Going Down Swingin".  I have no clue what the song is about, and even after looking up the lyrics I'm still not quite sure.  A little naive I am.  Anyway....the beat of this song just absolutely lit a spark inside me, actually more like a bonfire!! The beat and cadence were perfect for my stride and I was running on a whole new level.  I tuned out the rest of the race and ignored any challenge I was feeling.  It was like I went to a different world for the rest of the race.  As the song would come to the end I would hit the back button and start it over again.  This happened all the way to the very end right before I crossed the finish line. I probably listened to that song 25 times.  I didn't dare change it to a new song for fear of losing my stride and speed.  

Sugar We're Going Down Swingin' has now become my new motto for the Utah Valley Half Marathon.  Shoot, maybe I should incorporate that song and motto for every race I run from now on.  Wait.....I think I would get very sick of this song if I listened to it on repeat for 13.1 miles at every race I run.  Never mind......bad idea.   

But I did it.  Came in with a huge PR from last year by knocking off 21 minutes with a 2:05:47.  This would actually be my 2nd fastest half marathon to date.  

So here I am at the finish line ringing the PR BELL.  This is a new tradition set-up this year by the Utah Valley Half Marathon people.  I love this new addition.  I don't know if we were allowed to ring it for a PR on this course or only for a PR in general.  I didn't care.  This was the fastest I had ever run this race and by golly I was going to ring that bell proudly.   I've only ever run one half marathon faster and that was an all downhill race with a drop in 3800 feet.  So to run a slightly downhill/somewhat flat race and get my second fastest half marathon pace makes me slightly happy. 

Mile 1 - 9:25
Mile 2 - 9:17
Mile 3 - 10:02 (hill climb)
Mile 4 - 9:56
Mile 5 - 9:10
Mile 6 - 9:08
Mile 7 - 9:32
Mile 8 - 9:21
Mile 9 - 9:23
Mile 10 - 9:40

Mile 11 - 9:50
Mile 12 - 9:32
Mile 13 - 9:43

Half Marathon 2:05:47

I'll take it!
Still hardly believing this. It's amazing what a good song will do for my determination!  I need to find more of them just like it.

Saturday, June 1, 2013

A Made Up Half Marathon Plus 1 More Mile=14 Miles

Let's admit it.  
I am a half marathon addict.  
I'm searching for them year round.  
I sign up for them way ahead so I can get them for the cheapest price available.  

Well along comes June 1st.  
The only half marathon in the whole state of Utah that I could find was the Thelma and Louise, down in Moab, 4 hours away.  It was a pricey race even with early bird pricing.  I've been to Moab already twice this year and will be going again in the Fall for a trail marathon.  So I decided not to head down to this one.  So that left me with a big dilemma.

No race to run.  
What was I going to do?  
I can't imagine a Saturday without a race.  
No bus pick up, no portapotties, no pre-race jitters, no medals and shirts, no standing around for an hour and a half waiting for a race to start.  
How would I manage not getting to experience all of this?

I just hopped onto Utah Running Guide.com Facebook group page and organized my own, inviting anyone and everyone that wanted to join me.  I wasn't sure if I would get 2 people or 25 people.  The Facebook group page has over 1500 members on it.  I told everyone to meet at the mouth of the canyon at 7:00 am and we would take my son's truck and haul everybody up the canyon 10 miles away.  There were 7 of us total going to run and we all squished into the truck. 8 people (including my hubby) in a truck is pretty awesome. Of course our entire conversation up to the starting area revolved around running.  AWESOME! My kind hubby drove us up there and took our photo and then said goodbye and left.  

Here we go, seven of us.  Five of us were local and two drove down about a half hour away.  It was a crisp and cool morning and perfect for running.  I told the group right from the get-go that I would bring up the rear and to please not worry about waiting for me and my slow self.  Well, the first 4 miles of this run were pretty downhill.  I was running under 10 minute miles which is so not me.  I was keeping up with the gang and having a blast.  At mile 4 when it levels out I stopped to use the potty and 2 of the friends said they would wait.  Wow!  Wasn't expecting that.  I am so grateful for Hillary and Mike and running 10 miles with them.  The miles flew by with great conversation.  When we reached the parking lot and met up with the other runners who had waited till we came in we visited for a good 20 minutes and then said our goodbyes.  It was truly an awesome morning.  
I wasn't done though.  I didn't bring a car to the parking lot.  I told hubby that I would just run home.  I thought it was going to be about 3 more miles which would give me my half marathon for the day.  It ended up being 4 more miles, which was ok with me.  When I reached my half marathon mark at 13.1 I had run it in 2:12:45.  I was thrilled!  That definitely is one of my fastest half marathons to date.  

Mile 1 - 9:12
Mile 2 - 9:20
Mile 3 - 9:28
Mile 4 - 9:18
Mile 5 - 11:31 (pit stop-me)
Mile 6 - 9:50
Mile 7 - 11:14 (pit stop-Hilary)
Mile 8 - 9:44
Mile 9 - 9:45
Mile 10 - 10:20

Mile 11 - 11:19
Mile 12 - 10:18
Mile 13 - 10:27 Half Marathon 2:12:45

Mile 14 - 11:12

Total run 2:23:57

I think I need to run this canyon again.  This was just way too much fun! Who wants to go with me next time?