Tuesday, October 7, 2014

2014 Top of Utah Race Report and Video

Here's Holly's report of the Top of Utah Marathon:
This race was my goal race for the year. I worked hard all summer and was really hoping for a good time. There were a few variables. The race is a downhill course for the first 14 miles. This can be good in the beginning but can beat you up for the back half. It is in a high altitude environment. The race started at 6800 feet and dropped to 4400 feet. We could only fly in the night before the race which added to my stress level. We got into Salt Lake Friday night and drove up to Logan. Traffic was bad but we still made it with plenty of time to get to the Expo then have a delicious dinner at the Olive Garden (sarcasm). We made a quick stop at Wal-Mart for some supplies and headed back to the Hampton to get to bed early.

I got up early and initially Dave was going to drive me to the meet-up area where I would have to board a bus to the start line on the top of the mountain. However when we got down to the lobby there was a bus there that would take me to the mountain buses. I just jumped on that and Dave went back to bed, since it was 5 am and he wasn’t allowed to spectate on the mountain (first 14 miles). I got to the meet-up area and immediately got in a short line for a bus. I ended up riding up to the top with a guy from Illinois. What are the odds? This is not a race that a lot of people travel to. He was trying to BQ for the second time. His first time was the 2013 race and he wanted to do it again for obvious reasons ( I looked up his results after and unfortunately he didn’t make it).

We got to the top and it was FREEZING. I felt like a rookie. I did have a throwaway sweatshirt, but no arm warmers or gloves. I did bring a trash bag and wrapped that around my legs. I met a couple of nice people in the bathroom line and they couldn’t believe I came all this way for a race.

The start was nice and simple. No National anthem, they just had people in old military uniforms fire off some guns and we were off. Like I mentioned I was freezing so kept my sweatshirt on. It was way too big and the sleeves were bothering me. I accidentally hit the lap button on my watch at mile .18 or something. I was now panicked because I didn’t know how to recover from that. Would it still show me my mile times? I passed mile 1 and it didn’t go off. It did go off at 1.18 so I figured I would need to hit the lap button at mile 2 and I would be back on track. It worked!

The course was absolutely beautiful. The sun was behind us the whole time and as it was rising, it would shine on the mountains and valleys in front of me. It was stunning. I was trying to keep on pace, but I of course was going too fast, but it was downhill. Usually with altitude in the past my problem has been dehydration. I think because we got in so late, I didn’t have as much issue with that. I was well hydrated the whole race and even stopped for a restroom break at mile 5, which is unheard of for me. I was a bit concerned about my breathing. If I hit any kind of flat portion or slight uphill during the first downhill section, I noticed I would start breathing heavily. This had me a bit concerned, but I tried to ignore it and press on.

I came out of the canyon around mile 14 and Dave was there. My pace was close to where I wanted to be: 11:50 or so. The course flattened out here and I was nervous how I would feel now. I felt amazing and unfortunately picked up the pace a bit too much. Miles 15-19 flew by and I was cruising. My overall pace dropped down to 11:45 or so. I had visions of a great race time, possibly even a PR. My goal for the race was first to get under 5:30, second get under 5:23 which would be my second fastest ever and my third secret goal was 5:15, which would be 12:00 pace which is what I was training at and figured I had a chance of making.
At mile 20 the wheels started coming off. I was keeping to my 2:1 and not giving up, but it was getting hard. Any kind of uphill and I was literally sucking wind. Dave has some nice video of me trying anything to get oxygen into my lungs. I never have issues with breathing; usually it's my legs that get tired. I think the altitude was starting to get to me. It was also starting to warm up. I did keep passing people and that was a big mental boost for me. Dave was doing great at tracking me and telling me not to quit and keep pushing. I mentally give in during some of my races and just say to myself, just walk more, you will finish, it doesn’t matter what your time is. I didn’t do that this time. I kept pushing, but did start doing some 1:30/1:30. I just couldn’t run for 2 minutes any more. I was trying to do math in my head and knew I would be close to 5:15 but probably wouldn’t make it. But I really wanted under 5:20. I thankfully had no nutrition issues this race. Top of Utah provided great race support. They had water and regular Gatorade (not the Endurance kind), bananas and oranges at all the later stops. I think this really helped me.

I was so happy to be back in town and just hoped this would all be over soon! I made one last turn down to the final stretch and finished with a bit of a sucking wind face! 5:17:54. I’m very happy with that time. I really do wonder if I would have held back from 15-19 , if I would have more left in the tank at the end.
Top of Utah was a great race. Small town, no spectators really (except Dave of course), but it had easy expo/packet pickup. Great bus transportation from the local hotels and to the start, a spectacular course and a super cute Moose medal. My only complaint was the food and beverage at the end. Food was lacking and no beer, but I’m guessing that has to do with the Utah liquor laws. Overall I would recommend this race to anyone looking to run a good fast race.

Dave's Comments: It was kind of strange to only watch half a race. I didn't mind the extra sleep though. Luckily the portion of the course I could spectate on went through 3 towns so there were enough options for snacks between gas stations and fast food chains. I loaded up the night before with a big box of Sour Patch Kids, an apple, and beverages from Starbucks. In the video you can see one of the locally sourced race snacks. The back portion of the course was open so following along was easy. The GoPro was working fine until I got to the finish line. When Holly approached and I started filming it would shut off after one second. A reboot fixed it. So I missed the fist-pumps as Holly approached the finish.

Maybe if beer was available at the finish I wouldn't have been in such a hurry to get to Park City after the race. My haste caused us to have a chat with a Utah State Trooper. Our ridiculously true story of flying in the night before from Illinois just to run a marathon was enough for him to pity us and write up just a warning.

Here's the race video. We filmed Holly's recap right after the race - haven't done that in a while:

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