Sunday, April 19, 2015

Salt Lake Half Race Report

Half Marathon #11, the Salt Lake Half 2015, is in the books! Welcome to the race recap.

The Expo
On Friday afternoon I left work early to head to the race expo. I left myself plenty of time since the last time I ran an errand downtown between work and kid pick-up, I didn't arrive to my son's daycare until the absolute last possible minute (parenting fail #872). I found parking easily at the Energy Solutions Arena, and starting circling the building looking for Gate 3, which my foggy memory told me was what the race instructions email had said. I walked a bit. And kept walking. Then re-checked the email and realized I was at the wrong location. The race expo was at the convention center. D'oh! Fortunately for me, they're right across the street from each other. No biggie.

Home of the Utah Jazz...but not the race expo
Crossing the street took several minutes, but I immediately found an entry door to the convention center and went in.

Salt Palace Convention Center
At the end of the hall you see above, I found this sign pointing to an elevator. Except the guy getting in the elevator told me it was easier to take the stairs, so I started walking. And walking, and walking.

Not helpful. 
Then when I got to a long hallway overlooking a square mile of vacant space, I really wondered if I'd made up the whole thing. Race? What race? This is the zombie apocalypse! You've entered the maze of never-ending vaguely-industrial corridors! Good thing you're a runner, since zombies don't like fast food.
So this sign was actually helpful. Otherwise I'd have assumed I was lost. 
At long last I reached the race expo. It was much larger than last year, and bustling! I wove my way through to packet pick-up and got my bag and shirt. I stopped by the Salt Lake Running Company booth on my way out to ask some questions. Remember my new shoes?  It turns out I wasn't feeling so confident about them. My heels were slipping a lot, and I needed some input. The guy told me to try to get to the store before they closed at 7. So I went home, dropped off my younger son, and headed over the store.

Race Eve
At Salt Lake Running, they were so patient with me. A sales person worked with me to figure out what wasn't working and find a solution. So the question: did I dare race on brand new, never-tried shoes? After some back and forth with friends on Facebook, I decided against it, and stuck with my very old Adrenalins. Better to let them kill me slowly than have something horrific, acute, and unexpected from the new kicks.

Race eve: sweet & sour veggies and rice for dinner, and in bed later than intended, around 10:30, with my alarm set for 4:50am. Incidentally, while I was walking through the expo, I apparently pocket dialed an AT&T software update for my phone. So that happened. This largely meant that when bedtime came, I couldn't figure out my volume settings. Mr. Joanna figured out a work-around, and by morning had found the actual setting. I love being married to a tech geek. :)

O'Dark Thirty
I slept well and rolled out of bed on schedule, 4:50am, immediately thankful for being able to sleep in my own bed on race eve. I was out of the house on schedule, too, right at 5:25, toasted bagel with cream cheese in hand. My efforts to get to the nearest TRAX station were thwarted by race-related road closures, so I quickly found a path to the next nearest station, effortlessly found parking, and caught the next Red Line train to the start line. I chatted with a nice woman who was from out of town, and in no time we'd arrived.

It was cold at the race start. I hadn't brought a bag to check or any throw-away clothes, so I was just in my race clothes, which consisted of capris and a long-sleeved but light weight top. I was there almost an hour before start time, so I hit the porta-potties, then focused on energy conservation. I sat on a curb for a while, and when my but was 100% numb from the cold I got up and stood for a while.

Finally it was time to line up, and here was my only complaint about the race organization: they'd put our starting corrals on the gear check tag. You know, the one people had either torn off of their bib at home, or torn off earlier that morning to put on their drop bag? So like one of out eight people could identify their starting corral and the rest of us guessed. I put myself between the 1:45 and 2:00 pacers, which is kinda what happens at every other race anyway, so it wasn't a huge deal.

The Race
Pre-recorded national anthem: check. Race sponsor shout outs: check. Hometown Hero gun count-down: check. A few waves, and about a minute and 40 seconds later, and I was across the start mat, right behind a woman running her very first full marathon. I love the excitement of a start line!!

Knowing the course from last year was a huge advantage. I knew that there were hills in the first mile and a half, and that it would pay to take them conservatively. I absolutely did that, easing into Mile 1 at 9:07, and mile 2 at 8:41. I think this was one of my most successful half marathon openings, actually. I warmed up, eased in, and didn't try to be a hero on those hills.

Dispensing with The Avenues, we moved into the descent through Memory Grove. Just stunning. Beautiful, beautiful in the early morning light. Easily the best part of the course! It didn't feel like work at all, but like being pulled along, down. We wound down and through the gates (see pic below), then turned east and headed into a long, gradual incline before turning south at 6.6 miles.
Mile 3: 8:10
Mile 4: 8:14
Mile 5: 8:09
Mile 6: 8:34
Mile 7: 8:24
I'm sure this thing has an actual name
Once we turned south, I was headed toward seeing my boys--yay!! I also knew I had a long, gradual decline followed by a relatively short but quite steep hill, so I settled in and enjoyed the downhill. The short/steep was rude, as was expected, and I was again thankful that I run this hill almost every day, which let me nail the pacing for it. We turned off the hill and onto level ground, and I in the home stretch for seeing my boys. At this point, I was a little tired, but very much aware of how much better I felt at this point versus last year at this point.

A few blocks down, I saw my neighbor and runner friend first, then my older son, then my younger son and my husband, all cheering. Love!! Seriously the best thing ever.

Mile 8: 8:46. I'm not sorry. That hill's a b*tch.

The stretch from here to the park is the tough stretch for me. Fewer spectators, less scenery, fairly flat and uneventful. I knew going in though that this would be harder, and I was ready for it. I felt ok, a little tired, but ok. When I got to Liberty Park, at mile 11.3, I knew it was too early to kick, so I made myself wait until I exited the park, which I knew well was in about .75 miles, and that would be fine.

Mile 9: 8:22
Mile 10: 8:32
Mile 11: 8:20
Mile 12: 8:32
I'd vaguely been targeting an 8:20 or 8:30 race pace, so I was good with this.

When I exited the park, I had about 1.25 miles to go, and I kicked it up a notch. Knowing the terrain of this course was such an advantage, because I knew what to expect and when and how easy or hard everything would feel. I knew it was a flat, straight shot from the end of the park to the finish line, so I had no fear about burning through the last mile.

Mile 13: 7:53

I could see the finish from about 0.4 miles out, straight down a major street about 4 traffic lights. I waited until the last 0.25 to add my last bit of speed, then came down the straight-away to the finish.

Last 0.28 mi: 7:28 pace

Unofficial Garmin time: 1:51:53.
(Office time: 1:51:54)
Placement: 537/3,122 overall
199/1,914 women overall
57/391 gender/age group

The Finish Area
The finish line was really well stocked and staffed! I got a Creamie (a Utah ice cream popsicle, gloriously available in chocolate, orange, or vanilla at seemingly all finish lines in Utah), a banana, and some Gatorade, had my picture taken, stretched and cooled down. And of course my medal!
I think you could actually wear this as a belt buckle. It's a bold statement. 

After I'd cooled down a bit, I walked across the street to the TRAX station to hop a Red Line train back to my car. I happened to board a train with one of my advisees, headed to the airport to go to a conference. I chatted with him until he needed to switch lines, hoping he didn't notice how bad I smelled! Once I was back to my car, getting home required a highly circuitous and slow route around the perimeter of the course--to be expected.

All told, it was a great race day. I shaved about 1:10 off my time from last year, and felt a LOT better throughout the race. I feel good heading into training for my A Game race for the year, the Utah Valley Half. I'll be taking a few days off then heading back to training. Can't wait!!

1 comment:

Christy @ My Dirt Road Anthem: A Runner's Blog said...

Sounds like you had a great half! That is tough when you don't like your new shoes. I wore new shoes for a half marathon once and was very happy with them, but I don't know that I would try that again any time soon!