Wednesday, April 23, 2014

Salt Lake Marathon

Last Sunday I had a friend ask me if I would be interested in a free bib to run the Salt Lake Half Marathon.  He said he had a nephew that couldn't run it and so if  I wanted to run it with his bib under his name I could for free.  He had me at free!  I like races, but I love FREE races, especially for one that would really just count as a training run for me.  So I jumped at the chance not really sure if he would come through with it or not.   But his nephew text me and we set up a place to meet in Bountiful so he could give me his race packet.  Dave and I drove down to get it and discovered that there had been a miscommunication and he was planning on me paying full price for it.  That's never fun news to get especially after spending another $50 on gas to get there and back.  It was an awkward situation and I ended paying him $50 (plus a pie I took to give him to thank him when I thought it was free).  He paid $60 for it, but I wouldn't be running under my own name or get my size of shirt. Most runners either give their bibs away or ask about half price. I felt like I got ripped off.  If I had been on the ball I would have told him that I changed my mind about running it because I thought it was free. I was not happy about the whole situation, but I did learn a valuable lesson about communication.  

Saturday morning, I got up at the crack of insanity (3:45 a.m.) to get down to SLC and to park and try and jump on Trax in order to get to the starting line.  The race had over 8000 runners and so I was a little nervous about finding a place to park. But it was a piece of cake.  The ride on Trax to the start was even fun.

Once I got off Trax, it was still dark and the view was gorgeous!  As I headed straight to the porta potties (of course!), someone yelled out my name.  I turned and it was my friend Rendy.  I know her best as runrunren from Instagram.  We also pace together with the American Flyers.  I was SO happy she spotted me because it was so nice to have someone to hang out with before the start.  She was also running the half.  She was the only fellow runner I saw all day. 
The before race photo with traditional backdrop and photo bomber!  This is my favorite! haha
The start of this race was so exciting!  They had VERY loud music playing and a couple radio DJ's getting us hyped and excited.  We were lined up to start and everyone had their hands on their Garmin's ready to start but then suddenly they said we had to wait because Trax just stopped with a few hundred more runners on it!  I was happy to wait for them, because I have been one of those that arrived late to the start (at no fault of my own) at another race and they didn't wait.  At the Provo Halloween Half this year, I was on one of three buses that arrived late and as we were pulling in we heard the gun go off and watched the start of the race while sitting on the bus.  Never a fun thing.  So I was happy to wait for them.

I was really pumped up and ready to get going!  There is just no way to describe the start of a marathon race unless you have experienced it.  You are squished in with thousands of other runners who are just as nervous and excited as you, who have trained so hard to be there and the energy in the air is tangible!  This one was one of the best as far as getting us excited and ready to run than any I've been to.   

I was excited to run this course.  It was my first time running this race. It started up by the U of U under the Olympic Bridge and then went through Federal Heights and then up behind the cemetery through the avenues and then down through Memory Grove which is beautiful.  A man and a women were on their bikes in Memory Grove and as I ran past I heard the man say to all the runners, "Do you want to trade?", meaning his bike.  We all laughed and then the woman yelled, "Jodi!  Go Jodi!".  Unfortunately I had NO idea who she was!  Luckily she later posted on Facebook who she was.  It was my friend Tiffany.  But she had on a helmet and sunglasses and her hair pulled back, so I really didn't recognize her.  We then ran down past the Eagle Arch by Temple Square and I loved that part.  Once again I heard someone yell out my name and cheer me on.  I knew that they knew me because my bib had the name Chris Miller on it.  But just as before, I had NO idea who it was!  I just waved at him and said thanks!  Luckily he also messaged me later on Facebook and told me that it was him.
 Loved running in downtown SLC
 Memory Grove was a beautiful part of the course as well.

 If you look really close, you can see the runners going right down State Street.

The rest of the race was mostly through neighborhoods until we came to Liberty Park and then ended at Library Square.  It was a tough course!  More hills than I expected.  Everyone that ran it before said that this course is the tougher than before and everyone's time was slower. But, I was just happy I got to have the opportunity to experience it.  I felt good most of the way, other than the usual feelings of, "I am dying, when can I be done!?",  that run through your head.  I really wanted to finish with a sub two even though I had no idea how tough the course would be, but that was my goal.  I was happy that I crossed the finish line at 1:57!  I stayed with the 3:50 and 3:55 pacers for the full right until we split and the full runners went one way and half runners another way.  That made me feel pretty happy that I was able to keep up that pacing group for those 9 (or was it 11?) miles.
Yes these are watermarked.  But I don't care because I'm not going to pay $25 for a photo!
 Rendy (far left in first photo) and I ended up together in this shot!  I didn't even know until I saw this photo on the website.
The worst part of the entire race was when I couldn't get my shirt pocket zipper unzipped to get my GU.  The pocket was in the back of my shirt and it was stuck!  I was about at mile 8 and so I knew I really needed that GU and I had just grabbed some water and since you have to take GU with water, I knew I HAD to get that thing out because the next water station was at least two more miles.  I kept trying and trying, but to no avail.  And to make it worse, I was going up a HUGE hill!  Probably the hardest hill on the course!  I was having no luck and so I finally ran over to a spectator and asked her if she could unzip it.  She couldn't get it open either!  She kept saying, "It's stuck, it's stuck!", as I watched a herd of people continuously pass me!  I knew my time was ticking away but she finally got it open and I thanked her as I ran off trying to get the GU down and get up that killer hill.   Then just as I finished my GU, I looked down and there was a packet of the exact same kind I just ate laying in the street untouched and unopened.  I have to be very careful with which GU I take because many of them give me a really upset stomach.   I had tested out the Salted Caramel on a long training run and so I knew it sat well with me. If I had just kept going a little farther, I could have picked that one up off the ground and forgot about my stuck zipper. 
This flavor is like having a treat in the middle of a run!  It's my favorite!  I would do commercials for it! For free!  Or for a lifetime supply! ☺
The weather was the perfect running temperature for a race.  It was about 55-60 degrees during the race.  It was a little chilly at the start, but once I hit mile 6, I got rid of my jacket.  One of the best parts of running a long race has to be the things you see along the way.  I saw a couple people watching that were visibly psychotic and a few that looked like they belonged in New York City, but the worst thing I saw were two dead rats in the middle of the road at two different spots.  One was enormous and when I saw him, I nearly lost my GU.  I was beginning to think I was running in New York.  I also was happy that I found a penny and a dime on the course and I even managed to stop and pick them up.  Not always an easy task.  I hate to stop even for a second when running race pace because my legs start to tighten up and cramp.  But I am glad I did. 

There was also this cute little boy that had a table set up in front of his house with a bowl of jelly beans on the table for the runners.  He looked sad that no one was taking any and so as I approached the table I grabbed a handful and told him thanks.  I had no intention of eating them because I didn't want to chance upsetting my stomach, but when I opened my hand and looked at them, I had grabbed ALL purple jelly beans and a black one.  What are the odds of that?  I know maybe that's a little out there, but when you are at a point in a race where you need something, anything, to help you get through the miles, little things like that do amazing things to your mind to help you keep going.  I knew it was just a little special gift from heaven sending some encouragement.

The finish was right in the heart of SLC.
Library Square is very pretty, but you never want to see a Bomb Squad van near the finish line! 

My medal, shirt, and bib.  Yep, today I was Chris Miller.
All in all, it was a great experience and a great training run. I finished 14th in my age division out of 106.  And 721 out of 3442 overall.  

Only four weeks until my real marathon!  That one I will run under my own name!   Let's hope I am glad I did.  hah 

Tuesday, April 15, 2014

Boston Strong

One year ago today I was on my computer tracking my running friend Mel as she ran the Boston Marathon.  I was so excited for her and was so thrilled with how fast she was cruising.  It was impressive to watch her - albeit she was just a little icon figure running.  But still I knew it was her and that was where she was on the course at the time.  After I saw that she had finished, I was so excited for her.  I was just tingling inside.  I turned off the computer and made a run to the store.

As I pulled in a parking spot at the store, I heard on my radio about the bombings.  My heart literally fell.  My first thought was of Mel and if she was okay or not.  I immediately sent her a text and just sat in my car waiting and hoping she would respond. Thankfully she did.  She said, "Yes, we are okay.  We made it through."  I was so grateful to hear that.  I made a quick dash in the store and then ran home and was glued to the TV for the rest of the day.

I was sickened by what had happened.  And angry.  Very angry.

As a runner and a marathoner, I understand what an accomplishment it is to run a marathon.  Running the Boston Marathon is like the Super Bowl for runners.  It is the ultimate goal for many runners and some work for years and years to be able to qualify as did Mel.  She came so close for so many years and when she finally was able to qualify, it was such a thrill for us all.  I was so happy for her.  Qualifying is tough.  The standards are stringent and for some impossible.  And they keep raising the bar and making it even harder to qualify. 

This was Mel's moment.   And the moment for all of those thousands of other runners.  Their dream come true.  And then, just like that, it was taken from them.

Yes, that angered me.  A lot.  For me it became a little bit personal because I was in training for the Ogden Marathon at the time.  I knew I had to do something.  Something to show my support and to help those affected by this tragedy.  And more importantly to show that those terrorists would not beat the heart and soul of runners.

Runners are strong minded.  Strong willed.  Strong hearted.  How else do you think they can run 26.2 miles without quitting?  They don't quit.  It's not in their makeup.  Runners push through even when it hurts (and it always hurts!) and when everything in them wants to quit.

They picked the wrong group of people to try and make their point.

Those crazies needed to be shown that their insanity can't stop the running community.  But more importantly, those runners that sacrificed so much only to have their dreams shattered, needed to be honored.

My friend Marci and I decided to put together a race as a way to honor those runners and to earn money for the victims of the tragedy.  We enlisted the help of another runner friend named Bob who is well connected to many local runners and has put on several races.  The three of us got together and planned the event.  It was held last year on April 29th.  We held it around the Mantua Dam because the distance is exactly 4.15 miles, which we felt was significant since the bombings happened on 4-15-2013. 
It was a success beyond what we had hoped.  We were hoping for 100 people to show up and we ended up with almost 300We also earned almost $2000 to send to the Boston One Fund that went directly to help the victims.  We had amazing community support and we were ecstatic!

I asked Mel if she would come and speak about her experiences that happened on that tragic day in Boston.  She was more than happy to come and share with the community her feelings.  We had the support of the Mayors from two cities and everyone was so willing to do what they could to help with this cause.

I know raising funds for the victims won't erase what happened to those that were directly affected by the bombings, but it was a way for those of us that wanted to show our support to them to give back and to make a statement that we will not be stopped by some senseless act of violence.  It is a way to show that our communities are strong, as well as this great nation.  Not only Boston Strong, but America Strong.  No terrorist can destroy that.

Now a year later, I feel that it is even more important for us to accept the call from the sweet little boy Martin Richard that was so innocently killed in the bombings:
No more hurting people.  Peace.

 There really are no better words to describe what it means to be Boston Strong.  Thank you Martin.

And thank you community for your amazing support!

(click to enlarge)