Race Report: AF Canyon Run Against Cancer, American Fork, UT – June 25, 2016

5 07 2016

My sixteenth half-marathon was run and 31st state of the 50-state racing goal achieved on June 25 at the AF Canyon Run half-marathon in American Fork, UT.  And what a great race it was!  (I know I almost always say that, but I really do mean it.)

The AF Canyon Run Against Cancer is actually more than one race.  There is a half-marathon that starts up in the canyon itself at 6:00 am, a 10-k, a 5-k, and a kids’ race which start at various times later and conclude in Art Dye Park where all activities, including the previous day’s packet pickup as well as the post-race festival are held. The event is very family-oriented with great food and entertainment, and something to offer for runners of all distances.

Course Map

The half marathon starts quite a distance up in the canyon at 6:00 in the morning.   Runners are shuttled to the start in the pre-dawn hours after parking in Art Dye Park near the finish line festival site.  For a Central Time based visitor like me, it wasn’t too much of a rude shock but locals had to get up pretty early to board within the 3:45-4:45 window.  Since there is no way to get to the start line without riding one of the big yellow school buses, it is essential to be on time.

sunrise over portapotties

Watching the sun rise above the porta potties is a great way to start the day!

The pre-race area was welcoming, albeit chilly, with plenty of portapotties, a food table with bagels and fruit, large jugs of both sports drink and water, and an emcee conducting generous prize giveaways. The items given ranged from simple running gear and attire all the way up to a brand-new treadmill.  Winners were chosen by “the first one to approach the podium with…” various qualifiers ranging from: youngest runner, person wearing purple shoes, person wearing last year’s shirt, cancer survivor and others.  It was a nice way to pass time in the  interval between bus drop-off and gun time.  There was also a truck for gear transport back to the finish line, so any extras brought along did not have to be discarded.  And they even included the bag to put things in as part of your race packet.

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Like others in the start area, I snapped the obligatory pre-race selfie.

Then at 6:00 the gun went off and the fun began.  The first few miles were a steep downhill where I found myself having to actually slow myself because we were pretty much barreling down the mountainside, and I’d been warned of the hefty price my quads would later pay if not careful descending the hill.  As the sun came up and temperatures rose, everyone began to shed extra layers but all were careful to leave them near aid stations or mile markers so as not to litter the beautiful surroundings.

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Sunshine and the Moon–just one of the breathtaking vistas that stopped me in my tracks.

Aid stations were plentiful, starting at about mile 2.5 and again approximately every 2 miles thereafter, and each had an assortment of water as well as sports gel, sports drink, and banana halves.  I had brought my own Accel Gel packets to consume along with some dried cherries in a baggie but ended up not needing all of them because of the banana chunks they gave us.  Along the route, there were also signs with funny, inspirational and poignant messages to keep our brains working along with our bodies.  I took a picture of my shadow too because my giant calves looked even bigger than in real life.  (I know.  Crazy.  But all kinds of stuff goes through your mind when running 13.1 miles.  LOL)

signs and shadows

The race wound along the river and down the mountain and through the inspiring beauty of nature, finally coming out of the canyon at about Mile 7.  We turned into a neighborhood that abutted a golf course and featured a trail which we followed much of the rest of the way.  The generous down hill slope also pretty much leveled off at this point and began to resemble the usual suburban rolling landscape.  I don’t have any pictures from that point on because (1) while pleasant, it was not breathtakingly gorgeous and, (2) the effort to maintain my 3:00 run/1:00 walk regimen after almost two hours of running overtook my desire to snap photos.

Soon the Finish Line was in sight and, PR safely in the books, I crossed the grid with a smile.  In fact, almost all of the pics taken by the course photographer found me smiling.  I just loved it that much.  (I say “almost” because there was one spot where they wanted us to make a funny face and I did.)

finish line

All races having been run, the finish line area was crowded with happy racers and their families enjoying a delicious breakfast of Kneaders Bakery french toast, fruit, yogurt, chocolate milk and juice.  Timekeepers at desks were posted nearby to give you a card with your time printed on it, and to direct any age-group winners to a booth where they could collect their extra bling.  I must say, the French toast was stellar!  This ranks with the pancakes-and-a-beer-truck that greeted me at my first ever half marathon in New Orleans and the delicious barbecued burgers from the Sandhills half in Nebraska as one of my top 3 post-run breakfasts.

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Ordinarily, I don’t hang around much after a race.  I do my run, maybe eat a little food and then return to the hotel to get on with my day.  But this race was special and I wasn’t ready to stop savoring it yet.  It was my first half in over 14 months.  I’d completed an entire training program from start to finish, and I had no aches or pains whatsoever.  The PR was a gift because of the downhill course, but I was riding that high a little bit too.  Ambling through the crowd, I found a photographer with a backdrop and a bunch of funny signs who had people posing so I went ahead and got in line. fast girls have it.jpgAnd then I headed back to the hotel in American Fork to get ready for my flight back home in a few hours.  Unpacking all of my gear from the race and laying it on the bed, I realized what a tremendous amount of extras we received for this half.  There was the usual shirt and medal, but also a pair of sleeves for the chilly descent down the canyon as well as a Mylar warming blanket, the printed card with stats and the gear check back to carry it all in.  That was impressive.

the best bling ever

But even in the face of a fun and exhilarating race with generous bling and a delicious breakfast surrounded by mountains and greenery, there was more to come.  Several days later when I checked for race results, I made the happy discovery that all the photos taken of us during the race were available for FREE to download and keep for ourselves.  There were 25 photos of me and I got to keep them all without having to pay some exorbitant price!  That was the little “extra” that catapulted this race to the top of my Must Recommend To Everyone I Know List.  So that’s what I’m doing.

Anyone who is looking for a well-organized, abundantly-appointed summer half marathon in a beautiful location, this is it. Take it from me and look no further.  In fact, here is the link to the Runner’s Guide to find out even more.

But just so it doesn’t look like I’ve been paid off to do a good review, there were a couple of drawbacks.  The first is the limited number of runners for the half.  You need to sign up early because they do cap the field at a certain number.  The second was some confusion about the address of Art Dye Park.  It was listed differently in a couple of publications and so I first ended up going to the wrong place for packet pickup.  The third is not race-specific but more of a Utah thing.  I had a hell of a time finding beer in American Fork. But that’s really pretty minor.

So that’s it. The first half marathon of 2016 was awesome, and left me ready to keep running, stay uninjured and get on to the next one.

 

 

 





Following the Prime Directive

20 06 2016

Starfleet General Order 1 states: “As the right of each sentient being to live in accordance with its normal cultural evolution is considered sacred, no Starfleet personnel may interfere with the normal and healthy development of an alien life and culture. Such interference includes introducing superior knowledge, strength, or technology to a world whose society is incapable of handling such advantages wisely.”

Basically it means you should leave well enough alone.  Sage words on any planet, I’d say.  But when it comes to running, it is a thought process I have often failed to follow.   The normal evolution of training progress and healthy development of greater endurance have been so thwarted by my fantasies of superior knowledge (mine over the coach’s) and strength I didn’t really possess, that I’ve spent part of every one of at least the last 5 years somehow injured. This year I decreed I was done with that cycle and gave myself a Prime Directive: follow a training program from start to finish and deviate from it only to do less when necessary but not more –not ever– no matter how easy and harmless it may seem.

I actually started the year with a flare of the left plantar fasciitis that I’ve battled since 2015 August (the last time I let my brain overload my ass) but decided it could heal while I trained.  Oddly enough, it has just about done so.  A couple of times the chronic right Achilles tendonitis that has long plagued me also became an issue but the days off directed by the training plan allowed that to stay in check as well. With the half-marathon coming up Saturday, only one more training run left and no disabling aches or pains, I will proclaim “so far so good” as of now.

This go-round I’ve been using the PEAR app for heart-rate based coaching and following Matt Fitzgerald’s “New Rules” at the Beginner Level, which I chose not because I’m a beginner but because it had fewer total running days each week.  With its standard tempo runs, long runs, speed play, short intervals, long intervals, mixed intervals and basic foundation runs all based on my heart rate and coached in real time, it was the closest to a live trainer I have ever come (and probably ever will).

Level 1 provides fewer Foundation Runs which Fitzgerald defines as “a steady, moderate-intensity run to build basic aerobic fitness” but my long-time favorite trainers from FIRST/Furman Institute label “junk miles” in their book Run Less Run Faster, a  regimen I’ve previously employed but not faithfully followed because of all the planning and mindfulness it requires.  Honestly if Furman had an app that talked in my ear to tell me “go faster” or “go slower” I would have used it instead, but they don’t so I went with PEAR and have not regretted it.

In addition to following a training schedule with 90% compliance from start to finish, I have also done weekly weight training on a 3-day split and some, but not enough, flexibility work.  Taking the longest Long Run up to almost 12 miles for the first time ever is another necessary step I made sure not to shortcut this time, since I plan to continue training for a full marathon in the fall.  I don’t want Saturday’s half to cause an injury for lack of thorough preparation.  I’ve done 13.1 in the past on as much 10 miles max and as little as 7.5 , but this year I was not taking any chances.

Fitzgerald’s training plan is based on his book “The New Rules of Marathon and Half-Marathon Nutrition,” which I’ve read at least twice.  I have not adhered to the nutrition portion over the past 16 weeks, but will do so in the next few days until  the race.  As counter-intuitive as it may seem for a runner, I don’t do well with the higher carbohydrate diet he and others espouse. For me, a lifelong carb-sensitive endomorph, a 40/30/30 carbs:protein:fat ratio akin to that of The Zone Diet works best.  I strive for that on most days because it helps me avoid food cravings and thus control my weight better.  Three days of carbo-loading before and some energy gels or chews during a race have gotten me through everything over 10k up to now, so I haven’t considered changing.

Along with training, I enjoyed some races around town over the past few weekends and posted a few highlights below.

MAY 28, 2016 – Soldier Field 10 Miler:
an old favorite that I haven’t done in a few years.  Because it was 10-mile Long Run day on my calendar, I took it very slow and just enjoyed being out there in sweet home Chicago.

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June 4, 2016 – Sweetness 8k in Aurora IL:
honored Walter Payton of the Chicago Bears and supported charities sponsored by his family. I WON MY FIRST EVER AGE GROUP AWARD!

sweetness collage

June 11, 2016 – Foodie 5k at the Joliet Speedway:
It was hot as friggin’ hell!  I was slow as hell.  No coincidence, that.

Foodie 5k Collage

 

June 18, 2016 – Minooka Summerfest 5k:
I WON SECOND IN MY AGE GROUP!  But I didn’t even know until later in the day because I left right after the race to go home and clean the kitchen.  I walked away from an actual trophy to do stupid effing housework.  How crazy is that?!  I’ll never leave a race early again!  Now that I’m in the 60-64 age group, suddenly I’m “fast?”  I LOVE IT!  Little ole 12:00 miler me.  Hahaha!

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So that’s it.  I did a 45 minute tempo run this morning and have 25 minutes of speedwork on Wednesday, and then I’m done until the half.  As long as I continue to follow my personal Prime Directive, I believe I will remain uninjured when the miles get longer and training progresses all the way up to that 26.2 in the fall.

Next up:
American Fork Canyon Half Marathon, Salt Lake City, UT – June 25, 2016

 

 





Godspeed, Mr. Chekhov

19 06 2016

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Away Missions report: Las Vegas and Washington DC

9 06 2016

Spring running season is just about over and here I am showing up late with a couple of race reports.  Nothing unusual there!

APRIL 2, 2016 – PURPLE STRIDE 5k,  Las Vegas NV

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Photo credit to the event’s website.

I went to Las Vegas for a conference and, having not yet raced in Nevada, found this one with an incredibly worthy cause to run while I was there.  Since northern Illinois weather is hit-and-miss but mostly chilly in early April, I was looking forward to several consecutive days of running while out west.  Unfortunately trying to run out on the Las Vegas strip is also hit-and-miss because of crowds and non-continuous sidewalks, so it was nice to have an actual race to give me 3.1 hassle free miles.

The race was held near a mall and was a fundraiser for the Pancreatic Cancer Action Network.  Just like the Avon walks wish to cover the streets with a sea of pink, this event definitely arrayed a sea of purple across the roadways.  Purple shirted people, purple balloons and even purple clad dogs were everywhere.

vegas

The survivors had their own section for the pre- and post-race festivities.  We’ve really got to put more asses in these seats!

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There was a lot of pre- and post-race food (which I’m not used to seeing before an actual race) as well as entertainment.  Survivors gave talks, singers sang, and various character impersonators cavorted with participants.  The race actually started about 10 minutes late because survivors were still speaking. I didn’t mind.  Thank goodness they are alive to have a voice.  It was a nice race and one I would highly recommend for someone looking to do a short distance in a festive venue.  I had a good time but for some reason I was slow as hell!  LOLUntitled

 

MAY 1, 2016 – RACE FOR HOPE 5k, Washington DC

On the first weekend of May during a pleasure trip to visit a friend and fellow runner, I ran this 5k benefitting brain cancer research on a rainy Sunday morning in the nation’s capital.  I don’t usually run in the rain.  I have signed up for more than one 5k and when the skies opened up before leaving the house, have changed my mind and skipped out on it.  I don’t particularly like being soaked to the skin and splashing through puddles but when you fly halfway across the country to hang out with other runners, this is what you do. And I actually enjoyed it!

The weekend started on Saturday with some wonderful Trekkie space geek fun — a trip to the Air & Space Museum and a photo at Warp Drive:

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Finishing with a cool and rainy (but much faster than Vegas) 5k jaunt was just icing on the cake.  I can’t speak about pre or post race festivities because it was pouring most of the time so I was either hiding under a canopy somewhere or running.  I’m glad to have done it and given money/time/attention to a great cause.  And I did take a couple of pictures:

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My friend and I ran as members of Team BT which was founded by Beth Tolleson, a brain cancer survivor.  I did a lot better than the Vegas outing too.  Maybe I should run in the rain more often!

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With these two races under my fuel belt, I now have 30 states and DC off the bucket list.  I have only 20 more to go to reach the goal I set in 2009 as a newbie runner: racing in all 50 states (and 7 continents which is still a work-in-slow-progress).  I have probably written about most of them here over the past 7 years of this blog and will continue to do so, sooner or later (quite notoriously later most of the time).

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Next up:  half-marathon training for the AF Canyon Half-Marathon in Salt Lake City, UT on June 25.

 

 

 





50 Years of Star Trek and a live orchestra

20 03 2016

trek

There is simply nothing better.

And that is all.





As Spock might say, “Running in winter, simply for the sake of running, is most illogical.”

18 03 2016

And most nUntitledon-runners would agree but those of us besotted enough to understand the pleasure of beating one’s feet on the ground in any weather would tell him to stop trying to find the logic in it and just go with the flow.  This is impossible for a Vulcan so he would simply stare at us with the same perplexed bemusement that other people do.

Since my last post recapping 2015, I have not run any long distances races nor ticked off new states in my 50-state quest and have only just begun training for my next-half marathon.  But in the interest of being a “good” blogger, I figured I might as well report what has been done now that my attention is turning to the best of what 2016 will bring.

Once again, I’ve signed up with the Moon Joggers for another year and have already run a virtual 10k in January, The Warbird Run, which got me this awesome Klingon warbird medal warbird 10kwhile raising money for a children’s charity.  I did that 6.2 miles at home on my treadmill.

On a semi-sunny January 24 with just a bit of snow on the ground and temps in the upper 20’s, I lined up with 102 other brave (though some would say foolhardy) souls for the Park Forest Running and Pancake Club’s Midwinter Cruise 5k.  This is an annual winter event in which people don their best Caribbean cruise attire and run in the snow for pancakes, bling and a chance to find their smile (which may have been lost in a snow drift somewhere).  I often sign up for January races in hopes the weather will be kind enough for me to actually run them.  In many cases this is not true, but thanks to our milder winter I did manage to drag myself from the warmth of my home to do this one.  And ya know what?  I loved every minute of it.

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Next came the annual birthday trip, this time for my husband’s February birthday, to San Diego where I ran again with the Super Run series and this year did the 10k.  The day was beautiful, sunny and warm.  The scenery was a true joy to behold and I had a wonderful time.  However, other than this photo of my shirt, bib and medal, there is no proof that I did the race because you don’t get an official time if you run slower than a 13:00 mile.  My time was 13:23 per mile according to both Garmin and the PEAR Sports heart monitor and app that I was using, so I was 23 seconds per mile too slow to matter.  This illustrates another way that The Establishment of large-corporation races devalues us slow runncollageers.  They stop clocking people at a certain point and your seemingly-paltry (but possibly monumentous to you) effort just doesn’t count.  Oh well.  I know I was there, and now so do you.

After returning home to the chilly confines of the Chicagoland area, the next local race was two weekends ago in Manhattan, Illinois at the Irishfest Parade 5k where that town’s St. Patrick’s Day Parade is kicked off the the 5k runners barreling down the main street followed by the rest of the parade.  What fun that was!  Like the Midwinter Cruise, it is a circuit race for my running club — the Prairie State Roadrunners — and so I got to see some familiar faces that I’ve missed over the last year when I worked too much at both jobs and spent too much time injured.  It really brought a smile to my face to have practically the entire town lined up as we led the band of bagpipers, floats and emerald-clad marchers.  And there is actual proof I was there!  Not only did they report everyone’s time to Athlinks but I even showed up in one of the photos taken by my running club which photo, I may add, was posted free on Facebook and not offered to me for sale for like $25 the way the big race companies do.

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Credit for race photos to Prairie State RoadRunners

So that brings pretty much up to date what I’ve been doing runningwise over the winter.  I am still pulling together an agenda for the rest of 2016 but I do have my next two destination races already planned:  a Las Vegas 5k in two weeks (while I’m there attending a conference) and then another 5k in Washington DC next month while I am visiting a friend.  Those will give me another state as well as DC off the bucket list.  I have a half tentatively scheduled for Salt Lake City in June and then a full marathon (yes, Ahab is going after that white whale again) in the fall most likely in New Mexico.  I am hoping for a multi-state 5k outing in September but it depends on my husband’s vacation allowance at his job because we would both like him to come along.  My overall goal though is to be smart enough to remain uninjured even as the plantar fasciitis continues to nag from time to time.  And of course, as Spock would also say, to “Live Long and Prosper.”

 

Next report:  Purple Striders 5k from Sin City.

 

 





Last Race of 2015: Holiday Half-Marathon and 8k, Point Clear, Alabama

23 01 2016

OK, it’s a familiar theme by now: it should have been the half-marathon but my injury made it the 8k.  Regardless, what a great race this was!  Not only did I walk the whole 8k and emerge smiling with no foot pain (thus pronouncing myself cured of the self-induced-by-sheer-stupidity plantar fasciitis) but it was a beautiful day in sunny Alabama on the shores of Mobile Bay and a perfect day for a race.

December 12, 2015, was a beautiful warm morning at Mullet Point Park when the runners gathered for the race.  Temps started out in the high 50s and went up to mid 70s with abundant sunshine.   The area is just along the bay and the race was held on local roads in a beachside residential area.

Race runners

Like I said in my race day tweet, it was a good morningrace about to start in a Runner’s Paradise.  The race started at 8:30 am and took off from Mullet Point Park (where parking was available along the local road once the tiny parking lot filled up).  There were about 185 runners in the 8k and about 270 in the half marathon.  Porta-potties were few in number at the start/finish area but the lines moved quickly.  The races began on time and we took off down the unshouldered road along the bay.  The course was pleasantly flat.  The sun climbed in the sky and eventually, I shed my race shirt and carried it as I ran/walked (mostly walked) with my tank top keeping me decent.   For a December day, this Chicago girl was very happy to be racing in such warmth and sunshine amid the beautiful scenery.

Honestly, I don’t remember much about the race except happily traversing the long straight road with lush greenery on one side and bayside houses on stilts along the bay on the other.  There were water stops adequately supplied and the course was well marked.  I was so engrossed in the actual experience of the race (and especially the lack of pain in my foot) that I didn’t pay attention to much else.   Although I was certainly slow enough, I didn’t think to take photos.  It was over 4 months since I’d done a race without pain and I was just so happy to be there.

I reached the turnaround and then eventually the finish line where the post race goodies were impressive for such a small event: pizza, muffins, bananas, beer, soda and water.  My overall impression was that it was a well-organized race and one I certainly would run again if I was in the area.race finish line

Having a December birthday, I give myself a “birthday race” every year somewhere in a warm climate so I have an excuse to travel away from the gray skies and snow of Northern Illinois in December.  The Holiday Half-Marathon and 8k in Point Clear, Alabama, did not disappoint.  It was the last race of an injury-wracked year but it concluded 2015 on a pleasant note.  Later that day, I headed to the city I call “the second home of my heart”, New Orleans LA — where I first became a runner and where I ran my first half-marathon.

This is not much of a race report and I apologise but it will have to do.  Running bloggers write for the benefit of other runners so please just take my word for it.  You will like this race.  Parking is good, toilets are not bad, amenities are plentiful enough, the scenery is great, post-race goodies will not disappoint and it is a small enough race that you’re not crowded in with thousands of runners.  Look up Fairhope AL on the map and you’ll find it easy to get to.  I flew into New Orleans and drove there (then back to NOLa to celebrate my birthday the rest of the weekend).  The Hampton in Fairhope was a nice place to stay, and it wasn’t hard to find the race via the GPS on my iPhone.

So that concludes 2015, my most-injured year, a condition I am determined never to repeat.

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Next up:  2016, and yet another promise to be a better blogger.

 








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