Run Elevated Half Marathon 2013: Beating The Blerch!

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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!

blerch_shirts_on_model_large

“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]

PACKET PICK-UP

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)…

2013-Run Elevated-packet-pickup

THE OFFICIAL RACE SHIRT and NUMBER - nice!

OUR OFFICIAL RACE GEAR – nice!

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…

Hotel La-STRANGE

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!

Hawthorn Hotel Collage

The Good

  • 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 Not-so-good

  • 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 😦

ALL ABOARD!

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).

2013.run.elevated.buses

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”

2013.run.elevated.umw

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!).

2013.run.elevated.false.start

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!*)

zazoosh_990222691-1800

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!

Racers line up in the shute - (no one can actually hear the megaphone instructions)

Racers line up in the chute – (no one can actually hear any of the megaphone instructions)

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!

And we're OFF!

And we’re OFF!

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.

2013.08.24-Run Elevated-2

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!

zazoosh_990222708-1800

2013.run.elevated.race.picsNormally 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.

The canyon covers about 8 miles of the 13.1 total. All of the canyon miles are very steep – signs proclaiming “9% grade” and “10% grade” were visual reminders of WHY I felt like I was flying more than running! During our time in the canyon, the only traffic we ever needed to be aware of were the occasional police cars or UHP motorcycles traversing up and down.
SHOUT OUT TO ALL OUR COOL TROOPERS KEEPING US SAFE!!

A BIG SHOUT OUT TO ALL OF THE AWESOME TROOPERS FOR KEEPING US SAFE!!

Some runners had their headphone volume up so loud they were completely oblivious to their surroundings and the traffic coming up behind them. The rest of us would have to yell at them, or even pull on their shirt to get them to move over.
Pet Peeve: runners tuned out of the race = not cool!
zazoosh_990222698-1800
After exiting the canyon, the final 5 miles of the race flattened out a little more, but there was still a slight downhill grade.
2013.08.24-Run Elevated-mile-8
The exception came at mile marker 10.3 when, after making a short steep decline, we suddenly encountered a terrible steep hill that we had to CLIMB! This hill was quite similar to our neighborhood’s “Dead Man Hill”. Sadly, that’s how we all felt – like Dead Men walking. The runners in my pack were basically saying: “No Freaking Way!” Some heroic types actually tried to run up the thing, but most of us gave up and walked it, which really sucked because once you have to stop and walk after running 10 miles, it is so much harder to start running again.
Nope, we didn’t think to take a photo of this dreaded hill, we were too overcome with trying to scale the thing, so you’ll just have to imagine it.
The “hill of death” was our only real “complaint” moment on the course. We were blessed with a cloud cover that blocked the hot sun for the last 2-3 miles so we were able to keep pretty cool. It was a beautiful day.
2013.08.24-Run Elevated-mile-11
Wife: My best half time so far is from the Bryce Canyon Half when I finished in 2:12. This race I was trying to beat all records and pull a sub-2 time. That was my goal, and up until mile 10 I was totally on pace to smash my PR! But, in the end I didn’t quite make my goal. The elusive 2 hour barrier still stands. However, I still got a great PR (personal record) and I shaved an entire 9 minutes off my best time – finishing in 2:03! WOOT! Can’t complain about that!
UtahMan struggled a bit during his final 3 miles with cramping and fatigue (most likely the result of dehydration). His PR at Bryce was 2:25. He came in just over that at 2:27. Not shabby considering he did a lot of walking!
2013.08.24-Run Elevated-finish-line
This race has so much to offer! With only being the first year, we really have to hand it to the race organizing team for doing SO MUCH right! Our Scheels tech shirts were great (we didn’t wear them on race day, but we have since). The medals were awesome. The course was beautiful and fast (with the exception for “that one place”). There were plenty of aid stops with water / Gatorade, porta-potties, GU packs, and other goodies, and always cheerful volunteer support. This is definitely the best race to attempt a new PR. And, last but not least, all of the beautiful official Race Photos you’ve been seeing in this post (the ones branded with the race logo) were taken by Zazoosh and were prepaid by the race, so that runners could download them all for FREE!
Clearly, this race is a winner!

UtahMan and Wife "Run Elevated Half" 2013

We’ll be back!
Go mark your calendar now for August 23, 2014 – RUN ELEVATED HALF! We hope to see you there! – UM&W
AFTERMATH
1080578_10152134063758294_388548074_nFor about 3 solid days we were really limping around! Whoa. Yes, we were feeling muscles we didn’t know we had! People keep saying that “running hills are so hard on your knees”. Actually our knees felt perfectly fine. It was our quads and calves that were screaming! We looked like a little old man and a little old lady with arthritis the morning after when we attempted going up and down the stairs in our house! Ha Ha! Oh, well. We felt a little better the second day, and by the 3rd day after we were back to very light jogging and speed walking – TIP: We would have done much better with our recovery if we had GONE SWIMMING immediately afterward Free swimming at the Sandy Rec Center was included with our race entry – next time, we’re definitely hitting the pool!
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