Utah Valley Half Marathon promised us scenery and a fast downhill course. And for me they delivered on their promises.
I admire bloggers who write nice, concise race recaps. That is not me. But you can check out for some that aren’t quite as wordy as mine: Marcia @ Marciashealthyslice, Holly @ Hohoruns, MB @ Tutusandtennies, Teresa @ Findingfabulousatfifty, Zenaida @ ZenaidaArroyo, and Kristy @ Runawaybridalplanner. Otherwise, hold onto your visors for an in depth review of my Utah Valley Half Marathon experience.
Packet pickup was simple, even if driving around Provo wasn’t so simple. For a relatively small city — only about 20,000 more than the city I call home at the moment — there was a surprising number of multi-lane, traffic filled roads.
You needed to give the volunteers your bib number, which none of us had received, but there were books to look it up. We were all very pleased with the lightweight 10th anniversary edition jackets. You could also purchase a race tee if you wanted one (I did not).
Packet pickup was at the expo at the Convention Center, by the way. After picking up my bib, I almost immediately ran into Holly @ Hohoruns and her son, who had fallen prey to one of the salesman at a booth. I lost Holly as we walked around the small but well stocked expo. Not long after that I ran into Marcia @ Marciashealthyslice , MB @ Tutusandtennies, and met Zenaida @ and Teresa @ Fitandfabulousatfifty.
We made a reservation with California Pizza Kitchen at the expo for our carb loading dinner.
And of course I was debating the whole hydration vest or not decision almost until the last minute. Which also meant worrying about underarm chafing.
Basically the decision on which top to wear was taken out of my hands. I thought I had packed a regular bra at the last minute so I could choose to wear a top without a shelf bra, but I couldn’t find it. So Super Girl Tank from Skirtsports it was! Third time was the charm, apparently, there was no chafing and it was the perfect choice (use code SPRINGCPT20 for 20% off almost anything Skirtsports).
I wore a Sparkleskirt on the bottom — what can I say? I like to sparkle on race day. Newton Motions carried me to the finish line (although I think they’re getting close to retirement).
The big problem was knowing it would be cooler that early, especially as you go up 1000 feet to the race start. And it was — it was a chilly 40 degrees and we had some time to kill. Thankfully I’d brought a throwaway hoodie. Actually, I also brought throwaway sweatpants which I kind of regretted not wearing!
We also met up with Kristy @ Runawaybridalplanner who had quite the tales to tell from her Grand Canyon Rim 2 Rim race. And she very sweetly fished out my sunglasses from the pocket in the back of my vest after I’d stupidly hooked everything up already — thank you, Kristy!
My Race Plan
Rachel @ Runningonhappy asked me if I wanted a race plan, and of course I said yes (even if, again, I didn’t exactly follow it). Mainly I worried about going out too fast because of the downhill (spoiler alert: for some reason this was not a problem).
I’m going to put in my actual lap times with the race plan times below (so it will be 11:30 AP, which stands for average pace/11:20 RP – which stands for race plan).
So how’d that work for me?
- Mile 1: 11:56 AP/11:45 RP. I didn’t notice my time for this mile. No idea why it was so slow; in the end, I’m pretty sure I wouldn’t have fallen apart if I had started out a little faster.
- Mile 2: 11:57 AP/11:40 RP. It was still a good downhill, so again, no real excuse for the slowness. Yes, I was being cautious but obviously overly so. I know it takes me a couple of miles to warm up typically, but I regret starting this slowly.
- Mile 3: 11:54 AP/11:40 RP. A somewhat flat mile. Pick it up already Judy!
- Mile 4: 11:17 AP/11:30 RP. Oddly there were some rolling hills this mile. Or maybe that helped me finally get into some kind of groove. I’d been behind the 2:45 pacer for a while; I was thinking to myself it just wasn’t my day and it wasn’t a goal race anyway, even if in the back of my mind I knew there was a good chance of a PR. Why it didn’t occur to me that I was well ahead of a 2:45 pace I don’t know. I can’t do math during a race! But even if I know my time goal (and I didn’t have one, other than a maybe-PR) I still do my best.
- Mile 5: 11:17 AP/11:30 RP. Decent hill, but then I’m used to hills.
- Mile 6: 11:08 AP/11:30 RP. Another decent downhill. No real idea why it was almost the fastest mile of the race, other than the middle miles tend to be my best.
- Mile 7: 11:27 AP/11:30 RP. Another decent downhill — why the slow down? The one thing I struggled with was a weird pulling sensation on the outer part of my right calf off and on during the race. At times I was being cautious because this wasn’t really my goal race and I didn’t want to injure myself. It was off and on. I kept trying to figure out what might make it go away, but the only thing that really did seem to make it go away were the flatter sections.
- Mile 8: 11:25 AP/11:30 RP. More rolling hills & the last big downhill.
- Mile 9: 11:16 AP/11:30 RP. You’re still going downhill by this point, but they’re small downhills. To me it felt mostly flat. I like flat..
- Mile 10: 11:14 AP/11:30 RP. This was the point where I suddenly realized it could still be a PR. There was a pacer a bit in front of me, but too far away for me to read her sign..
- Mile 11: 11:30 AP/11:20 RP. So I’ve just realized I can PR yet I slow down!
- Mile 12: 11:23 AP/11:10 RP. Still trying to pick up the pace. I realize it’s the 2:30 pacer ahead of me.
- Mile 13: 10:58 AP/11:00 RP. You can see that finish line for a while. I kind of wished I’d looked behind to see the mountains but then again I was chasing down that PR! I think I passed the 2:30 pacer in this mile. Pacing is a hard job and one I would’t want.
- Last .19: 9:55 AP/Sprint to finish RP. And with a final sprint I caught it. 2 minute PR, baby!
2:30:30 — Official Time
11:29 Average Pace
Was the race well run?
Yes, I was very impressed by the organization of this race. Packet pickup was easy, making a dinner reservation at the expo is genius, loved the 10th anniversary jacket, the buses worked like clockwork. I can’t speak to aid stations as I didn’t use any, although I did note the very long portapotty lines during the race (thankfully I didn’t need them).
My only quibble was that I seemed to miss a lot in the finisher chute, but that may just be me being in my usual post-race fog. I didn’t get my results, I didn’t see (and therefore didn’t get) the massages, and Mr. Judy complained that it wasn’t really spectator friendly (indeed, he totally missed my finish — first time that’s happened).
- Small expo but stocked with what you need & some cool stuff, too.
- Ability to make a dinner reservation at the expo.
- Really nice jacket with thumbholes (although a bit tight around my hips).
- It was nice running along the small river in Provo Canyon
- Free photos — although I’m waiting on that!
- Towards the end of the race, as it was warming up, there were some sprinklers on the side of the road — they were actually in kind of a PVC square you run through — I didn’t use one but it was also pretty genius.
- I’m not a bling-whore, but it is a really nice medal.
- Meeting old & new blogger friends, including Kerry @ Yogaontherun, who sadly was unable to run the race
Of course no race is perfect. The downsides:
- The elevation (starts at about 5200 ft).
- The very early wakeup to catch the bus.
- I wasn’t super impressed with the town of Provo which had a surprising amount of traffic.
- Very little spectator support until the end of the race.
- Long portapotty lines during the race.
What I learned
The hill repeats with the emphasis on downhills that Coach Rachel @ Runningonhappy had me doing before this race seemed to do their job: no quad problems at all. And I felt fine immediately after the race, and no DOMs, either.
Elevation makes your normal pace feel like you’re actually running much harder.
They say that if you race within your first 24 hours at a new elevation you won’t notice it as much, although I think the fact that we’d been there a week was actually helpful. I know I didn’t sleep well the first few days, probably a combination of elevation plus time change. I’d had mild flu like symptoms in the evening and mornings but felt fine once we got up and moving — also for just those first few days.
I had quite a few good nights sleep before the race, though.
I joked with Rachel @ Runningonhappy that I was following the Everest plan — you know, they acclimate by going up, staying a couple of nights, coming down, going up further, and so on.
I did my last long run the day after we got to UT, at about 5000 ft. Then we moved on to Bryce, which was 8000 ft and I ran one day there, too. Then we went to Zion, which is only 3-4000 ft (although very hot!). And then Provo around 4000 ft.
Of course we were hiking like crazy people all week long, but we also were cautious to start out with short hikes and slowly lengthen them as the week went on — do too much, too soon, and you can pay the price with altitude sickness. Our last day of hiking was Thursday, 2 days before the race, and we did 2 hikes that day and I also walked around town in search of my UT mug (which I finally found) — to the tune of almost a half.
I wouldn’t recommend someone who is new to running halfs do that, but I do feel as you have a bunch under your belt you can be more active beforehand. Plus it takes your mind off of things. It worked for me in both AZ and UT, anyway!
I was happy to have the opportunity to run this race for free, although I would say that it is well worth the race fee. We both totally enjoyed exploring UT, although we just barely scratched the surface (and you can expect more posts about UT in the future).
I am also glad I had the chance to run a race at elevation. Yes, it was tough. Yes, I think coming out ahead of time is the way to go for me. I’ve eyed races at elevation before, and now I know that I can do it (although elevation can get you at any point!).