Maybe Matilda: Utah Valley Half Marathon Recap

Wednesday, June 17, 2015

Utah Valley Half Marathon Recap

Well, first things first: thank you all so, so much for your support and advice in last week's half marathon training update! It was so encouraging to read your comments, and super helpful to hear advice from people who have run similar races in the past. (And if you have a race coming up, I'd recommend you check out the comments section of that post--lots of race day wisdom to be found.)

As I mentioned in that post, I was a little freaked out by my last 2 weeks of training. I had felt pretty confident until my last long run before race day . . . that 10-miler was an absolute disaster of misery and woe, and totally destroyed my confidence. But as it turns out, I didn't need to worry. The race was fantastic, and so much fun. I can't wait to do another.

utah valley half marathon recap

The day of the race started with a sickeningly early alarm clock at 3:20 AM. We had prepared everything the night before, so all we had to do was get dressed and grab our bags and catch the shuttle bus to the starting line. Where, of course, it was dark and freezing, and we got to sit and enjoy the freezing darkness for two hours while we waited for things to begin. Not the most fun way to start the day--tired and grouchy and cold. Please enjoy how Jeff did not get the point of this selfie at all, and instead is smiling off into the distance, looking at . . . what, exactly?

utah valley half marathon recap

I ate the breakfast I had packed ahead of time around 5 (a bagel with cream cheese), sat around until about 5:30, then hit up the port-a-potties at the last minute before getting into the line up for the start time at 6:00. Jeff did a quick warm-up run, during which he promptly stepped on a screw that went straight through his shoe. Luckily, it didn't break the skin, but it actually did take us quite a few minutes to pry it out of his sneaker, and he said he could feel the hole in the sole of his shoe for the first few miles of the run.

The course started partway up Provo Canyon and wound down the gorgeous canyon road for about 7 miles, then headed into Provo and ended downtown at the site of the newly restored tabernacle. I wish I had pictures of the course, but I didn't want to stop to fiddle with my phone during the race. It's a beautiful road (I drive it often!), and it winds past waterfalls and between gorgeous mountains. It is so, so pretty, the weather was cool and breezy, and most of the course was a very gentle downhill (with a few mild uphill climbs mixed in), which all made for a great run. I think this race was probably the perfect choice for my first half marathon ever.
utah valley half marathon

I had been warned by quite a few people to be very careful not to start out too fast--it's easy to get caught up in the excitement and take off at a pace you can't keep up, then get exhausted way too early in the race and drag through endless miles to finish. So I was really cautious throughout the first few miles, and used my Map My Run app to make sure I wasn't going too fast. During my training, I generally averaged 10-minute miles during my longer runs. I found myself averaging about 9:45 during the first few miles of the half marathon, even as I consciously tried to slow down.

Throughout those first 2 or 3 miles, I was getting passed as if I were standing still. But I'm about as non-competitive as it gets, and I didn't particularly care about being passed. It took probably 3 or 4 miles for me to feel like I could trust my pace and just run at a speed that felt right, instead of constantly listening for Map My Run to chime in with my time.

I totally underestimated two things in my prep: 1) the excitement and adrenaline of the race. People kept telling me how fun races were, and I couldn't really see it. I find running enjoyable, but it's certainly not fun or exciting, and I didn't really picture a race being any different, except that it's longer and harder than what I do on my own. What could possibly be fun about that? But there really is such a feeling of excitement in the air, which makes the time fly by. I was honestly surprised each time my app chimed in to tell me my time during those first 3 or 4 miles--each time that voice came up to say I'd done another mile, I remember thinking, "Really? Already?" It's just a cool thing to be a part of, and everyone's so excited to be there, so it goes by quickly.

utah valley half marathon

And 2) I had no idea how encouraging it would be to see people along the course. In the days leading up to the race, it looked like my parents wouldn't be able to make it to see us run. But they ended up coming anyway, and it was awesome to see them along the way. My mom took that (very flattering!) picture above, as I passed my dad along the course in the canyon. (And my dad, by the way, is the most hilariously low-key cheerleader there ever was. No clapping, no theatrics, just mild chitchat as you pass him by. "How're you feeling? You feeling good? You look great. Ok, we'll see you later.") They drove along and stopped to cheer (chitchat) at 5 or 6 points throughout the race, and it was such a huge energy boost to see them along the sidelines. Even just wondering if I'd be seeing them up ahead anytime soon gave me a boost when I was getting tired. And parents aside, even seeing strangers cheering or holding signs was so fun and so encouraging, too. 

utah valley half marathon

I really worked to keep my pace slow, steady, and consistent for the first 6 or 7 miles. But when I hit the halfway point and started coming out of the canyon and onto city streets, I was struck with this sudden thought of holy crap, I'm really going to be able to finish this!, and realized that I was feeling really good. Good enough to stop worrying about a slow and steady pace, and pick things up a bit. 

My pace times for the second half were all between 8:30 and 9:30 miles, which was quite a bit faster than I expected. My fastest runs during my training were never below 9:30-minute miles. And even though I'm not a competitive person and truly was not bothered when people passed me, I was pretty surprised and encouraged by being able to pass loads of people throughout the last 5 miles, including plenty of people who had zipped by me early on. 

Another development during the second half of the race was a mega-blister forming on the bottom of my right foot . . . a bit of a surprise since I've worn these same shoes and socks for weeks (including during some long runs), and never had any trouble at all. Definitely didn't feel great, but I figured it would hurt just as much whether I slowed down or sped up, so I just sped up anyway. The blister made for a nice souvenir. It's about the size of a nickel, and is large enough to be visible even through a sock. I showed it to Forrest, who was completely horrified and asked why I had a balloon on my foot. I will spare you a picture. You're welcome.

My last 3ish miles ended up being the fastest 5K I've ever done (about 27 minutes, give or take), and I ended with a total time of 2:07. I didn't have a time goal--since this was my first race, my goal was just to finish in whatever time it took, and hopefully have a good time doing it. But I was really excited that my time ended up being a little better than I'd thought.

utah valley half marathon

If you happen to be wondering where Jeff was during all of this . . . I told him I didn't want him to stay with me during the race. He's done quite a few races before (multiple half marathons and dozens of shorter races, as well as a full marathon and a few triathlons), and he has a very competitive spirit. I knew he'd be happy to stick with me and go at my pace if I wanted him to, but I like running alone, and I knew he'd have a lot more fun if he went all out. And he did amazing--he finished in 1:30, and came in 8th in his division.

(This is the only picture of him my mom got, and she accidentally focused on the car in the background. Ha! That's what you get for running too fast.)
utah valley half marathon

I had so much fun doing the race, and it was so exciting just to be able to complete it, regardless of finish times. I've never been even remotely athletic, and I've only been running for about a year. It just felt good to be able to accomplish something that I never, ever pictured myself doing, and to have a lot of fun doing it, too. I've been mildly sore these past few days, but nothing outrageous (besides the mega-blister). And as soon as I got home, I was googling races to sign up for in the fall. 

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