September 12, 2013 by UtahMan&Wife
Saturday August 24th marked our 3rd Half Marathon of 2013 (and of “ever”)! The “RUN ELEVATED HALF” is Sandy City’s very first attempt at executing a Half marathon event. However, they are no stranger to race organizing. We are told they have a long tradition of 5K and 10K events. So, although being first-timers to the Half, they know how to plan, and it showed. These guys really went all out to ensure a positive race experience. Although there were a few kinks to work out for next year, they certainly deserve a HUGE Shout Out for doing so MUCH right, and giving so MUCH love to the runners!
The Blerch Arrives!
This race began with some good Karma. On Friday we rushed home from work, grabbed our over-night bags and headed off to the packet pick-up, finding some dinner and crashing at the motel. But first, UtahMan happened to check the mailbox before we left and “Voila!” we were excited to see that our Brand-Spankin’ new “I BELIEVE IN THE BLERCH” Running Shirts from THE OATMEAL.com had actually arrived! Woot! We’d only ordered them 2 days before. (Way COOL!) So, now we would wear them on race day, of course!
“What’s The Blerch?” you ask.
*GASP* Hurry child, go check out the epic comic entitled “THE TERRIBLE AND WONDERFUL REASON WHY I RUN LONG DISTANCES“.
During Saturday’s race we loved all the little moments when people were shouting out “I believe in the Blerch, too!” [felt like we belonged to a secret runners cult]
You have to love a packet pickup at SCHEELS, because everyone loves an excuse to go to SCHEELS! 🙂
And of course we could not leave the store without plunking down a wad of cash for some cool “extra” things like new water-bottles (on sale), a UTE jacket for WIFE (on sale), and a nice messenger bag for our daughter (also on sale)…
THE BLERCH WANTS DINNER
We were craving Olive Garden, but by the time we finished our shopping bonanza at SCHEELS the line had over an hour wait, so we walked next door to McGrath’s Fish House which had no wait time, and was pretty darn tasty (if pretty darn pricey). Wife was craving lobster and steak, so that’s exactly what she got. UtahMan opted for a big steak and a bowl of fishermans stew. We justified this as “essential carb & protein loading” for race day…
Race organizers had warned us about a bazillion times that the race buses were loading and leaving at 5:00 am and if you missed them you would miss the race since no one was allowed to drive up the canyon to the start line. So…we didn’t want to chance trying to make it all the way from Bountiful before 5 am (nor did the idea of a 3:30 am wake up call appeal to us).
This is what led us to booking a hotel room Friday night in Sandy. Unfortunately, there are no hotels within walking distance of the Sandy City Rec Center. In hind sight, we should have booked a room at one of those lovely hotels we saw next to SCHEELS (106th South). But alas, we didn’t think about those hotels when we were hunting through Google Map. So intead, we ended up booking a place near I-215 called “The Hawthorne“.
We were forewarned by TripAdviser reviews that this place was under construction and it was hit-or-miss. It’s one of those “extended-stay” places where every guest room has an actual full-sized kitchen. It apparently has been undergoing major renovations for months. We arrived pretty late – after 9 PM, (after packet pick-up and dinner) so all we wanted was to get to our room fast and get as long a night’s sleep as possible!
- Only an 8 min. drive from race pick-up
- Got a good deal on the room.
- Wife was “Guest of the Day” (proclaimed on a sign at the entrance) so we received a small gift bag (1 mini waterbottle, a packet of microwave popcorn and some M&Ms)
- The room was pretty nice – definitely great for extended-stay folks
- The entrance was hard to find (far from the street), and it felt more like we were entering a rehab center than a hotel (bullet proof double glass doors, small desk in a hall, no real lobby)
- Once we got to the room, it smelled and looked brand new everything…except the air conditioning unit. It was still an old and LOUD unit which took forever to cool off the room – (and once it did get working, the room became an ice palace)!
- There was a bright light fixed to the wall directly outside our window which shined all night under the curtains. (We eventually got to sleep).
- There was no swimming pool or hot tub 😦
This is the first Half Marathon event we are aware of to ever be organized and allowed in Little Cottonwood Canyon. Somehow Sandy City managed to “work a deal” with the Snowbird and Alta Ski resorts (heavily used year-round due to Conferences and time-share condos, not to mention Oktoberfest) and to actually close the canyon down to traffic for approx. 3 hours so that runners could own the road. All traffic was limited to race support vehicles and Sandy City Police (mainly motorcycle cops).
We boarded buses in the dark at 5:00 am and they took us up to the top of the canyon (past Alta ski resort). Got up there at about 5:30 am. It was pitch dark and very chilly!
We had to huddle and jog around for 1 hour before the race started.
It had been raining all day on Friday so we were really worried about the weather for the race, but we lucked out. We had a super clear sky and could see SO MANY beautiful stars! It was dark and chilly, but we were enjoying our “race day adrenaline”
Race organizers slipped up with the starting line this year. When the buses let people off, everyone naturally assumed that was where the race would start. There were only 2 porta-johns sitting in the parking lot. So, you can imagine the grumbling! Dozens of cranky runners queued up to use the meager facilities (due to this canyon being a water-shed, our race packets severely warned that anyone caught “using the bushes” would be swiftly booted from the race!).
When the sky started to lighten up slightly, we discovered that there were actually a whole bunch of portables further up the canyon road which was also where the real race start was! (*Doh!*)
I’m sure next year there will be much less confusion! I’m sure they will also be providing good lighting, people directing runners off of the buses, portable heaters and a real sound system… 😉
About 10 minutes before the race started there were beautiful pink clouds in the sky, and the race was ready to get underway!
The race was chip timed from start to finish, so the running chute was a bit slow going for everyone to get across the timing pad, but once we broke out of that, the course was steep and FAST!
At about 5 minutes into the race a strange mist settled over us and for about 1 very intense minute we were hailed on and it poured rain and we got soaked. But then it suddenly disappeared and we dried off pretty quick. It was really kind of funny. We enjoyed the cheering of some construction workers who had taken cover up the hill during the storm.
The run down the canyon was glorious! It smelled so fresh and clean – full of pine needles and woodsy things. We could hear the rushing stream and the wind blowing in the aspen leaves. And, there were NO CARS! It was so peaceful! The road was a really steep grade, it was at least a 8-9% grade most of the way down. And, at one point it had to have been about a 12% grade. That made for a very fast running pace. Sometimes it felt like we were flying more than running!
Normally Wife runs about a 10:30 minute mile but she was running an 8:15 pace nearly all the way down the canyon! UtahMan was taking a slightly slower pace, since the steep incline was causing havoc with his calves (he is now convinced to try some compression socks like Wife).
The sunrise was super beautiful!
At mile marker 5 we got our first clear glimpse of the valley below us, and off in the distance we could even see the Jordan River Temple. It was a stunning view.