Observation Point Hike 1/27/18

I have a wonderful niece, Kelsee, who inspires me with her enthusiasm for life and its experiences. Since she was residing in St. George for a span of time before moving back up to Northern Utah, we made plans to hike Observation Point in Zion National Park.

That day arrived, and we were joined by Kelsee’s husband. The three of us drove from my house to the park, then inside the park to the parking lot by the trailhead, a total driving time of 1 hour 30 minutes. Carter had a military National Parks Pass which saved us the $30 park entry fee. We had our packs full of lunch consisting of sandwiches, bars and snacks, and hydration bladders filled to the brim with water. We also had layers of clothing since most of this hike would be in the shade.

After parking the car, we set off on foot for this 8-mile roundtrip hike at approximately 10:30 a.m. There were not many people on the trail, likely due to the season and it’s cooler (okay, downright cold) temperatures. The hike boasts a 2100-foot climb up the mountain, leveling out near the top before the viewpoint. About a mile in, we encountered ice on the trail so thick that it reminded me of thick broken glass.

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The ice took on an interesting blue hue, and Carter was brave enough to test its strength. I don’t think he was risking too much, however, as I think the water under the ice was maybe 4-5 inches deep.

Temperatures ranged vastly as we moved through the slot canyon into the sunshine.

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Words really cannot describe the beauty of this canyon, and this was the first time I had hiked Observation Point in the winter months. The lighting was completely different due to the angle of the sun compared to summer months. Following are many photos taken along the way:

We got to the top and out to the point of observation (hence the name of the hike, duh) where we took more photos. It was about 12:30 p.m. at this point, and we were hungry.

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We weren’t the only ones who were hungry, apparently. Feeding the squirrels was far too tempting to resist. When this one snubbed my offered apple, I gave him a fourth of my granola bar. Don’t worry — I don’t feed bears!

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We could not have asked for a prettier day for this hike! Angels Landing is seen on the very far right of the above photo. We could barely make hikers out on the spine of it in their colorful apparel.

After eating our lunch, we headed the 2 miles back down the canyon, making good time considering how many photos we stopped to take.

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This has to be my favorite photo of the day due to the colors in the rock, the sun illuminating the gold tones…..

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We arrived back in the parking lot at 3:00, taking about 2 hours to hike down. All in all, it was about 4 hours of hiking and 30 minutes for a lunch break. I was pleased that my trail running shoes (Salomon brand) served me so well, and I am anxious to put them to the test again very soon.

I give this hike two thumbs up and encourage anyone considering it to add it to his or her Bucket List.

 

Rock ‘n’ Roll Half Marathon Phoenix 1/14/18

This was the 11th time that I have toed the line at this event. I think one could safely say that it has become a tradition. My oldest son and I always register for the subsequent race during the expo, letting the race organizers sit on our money for an entire year! But paying a deeply discounted registration fee is the enticement.

I flew from St. George to Phoenix (45-minute flight, $200 roundtrip) and Tyson gathered me and my bag from the airport. It was as if he had gone through that process before (wink). I took my name off the guest room door and made myself comfortable in Tyson’s home. Some visits from some friends brought delight!

 

As per tradition, Tyson hosted a pasta party at his house, the invitation extended to a few of his many friends who can stop by and dish up a plate of spaghetti (even though none of them were running the race — haha).

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It’s more like an annual reunion for me, because I don’t get to see most of his friends more often than that one weekend a year. Please make note that myself and James’ mom were the only ones without facial hair. I am grateful for my tweezers!

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Tyson and I always hit the expo in downtown Phoenix mid-morning on Saturday, the day before the race. We get our bib/packet then split up so that we can wander up and down the dozen or so aisles, seeing what the vendors are promoting.

Following the expo, we have traditionally gone to brunch, this time with yet another group of his buddies. The arrangement of people/sunglasses was not planned.

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This year was a little different, in that Tyson and I had our pasta party on race eve eve rather than race eve. This meant that we were able to attend a concert in Gilbert (my selection of entertainment) in a relaxing atmosphere and have all the prep and mess behind us. Attending a GENTRI concert made for a perfect evening. Gentri stands for Gentlemen’s Trio, and boy can those three sing!

It was a short night, though, and we had our alarms set at a time long before dawn. Tyson has the logistics of this event down to a science. We leave at the same time race morning, drive the same route, and park in the same place (near the finish line, which means a painless departure post-race).

As per years prior, we set up camp on the steps of a church along the starting line corrals, even sharing our camping spot with another who literally was camping (not running); it appeared he had been “camped” there the entire night. I thought about donating my warm coat to him, but decided against it.

No starting line experience would be complete without a myriad of silly photos to document our existence there, right?

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Starting in Wave 4 meant that we were the 4th out of about 15 waves this year. Wave placement is established by a runner’s estimated finish time. We may or may not have fudged just a skosh to render our placement a little closer to the starting line.

After the National Anthem was sung (no race is complete or patriot enough without it), we comfortably jogged the course, following the masses, in temperature that was perfect for a coatless morning run. I quickly lost track of Tyson (though I wasn’t intentionally trying to keep him in my sight) and settled into my own rhythm, most often dictated by my iPod music. I had discovered early on that I had left my Apple iWatch back home at Tyson’s on the nightstand, without which I could not keep track of time and distance. I cannot believe I forgot my watch! I admit that it was much more relaxing without it, and I just….. ran.

In an effort to keep my battery charged, I kept my phone on airplane mode until mile 8, at which time I checked in on Tyson and his location. He was about 2 miles behind me, so rather than wait for him at the out-and-back section of the course (mile 9), I trudged on as I have trained my body to do so many times. I realized that if I did not let up on my pace, I could finish in under 2 hours, so that became my goal.

To keep things lively, I was texting a half dozen friends along the way, and I even found a penny (evidence that Granny was there to offer support from heaven).

My net time was 1:59:29 so I had seconds to spare, even! My time represented a placing of 21/326 in my age 55-59 age division, 679/4879 in gender division, and 1872/8572 total half marathon runners.

It took 2 containers of chocolate milk to satisfy my chocolate milk craving, following which I worked my way to the bag pickup trucks and found a comfortable spot on the curb to wait for Tyson.

Tyson came along about 25 minutes after I finished, and we posed for a couple of photos before heading to his car.

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I can honestly say that neither of us were limping. In fact, over the course of the subsequent days, neither of us had any soreness whatsoever. We must have done something right in the days leading up to the race. I guess Tyson’s two 3-mile training runs really paid off! Tyson got us back home without incident, and I spent a good chunk of the afternoon basking in the sun.

A relaxing dinner out that evening with Tyson, Lance, Justin, and James (not pictured) was the perfect ending to a perfect weekend.

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The frosting on the cake, so to speak, was flying back to St. George late that evening and being greeted by my biggest supporter, my husband, who had just picked up fresh flowers for me. It is so important to have the endorsement of family members!

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Rock ‘n’ Roll Phoenix 2019 will be here in no time — so I best get training! đŸ™‚

 

 

 

Run Run Reindeer 5K 12/23/17

After having participated in this event in 2016, I was especially excited to invite a couple of grandkids to join me. With the Turkey Trot (a 1-mile fun run) under their belts as training, I was hoping they could easily step it up and triple that distance. I sent out an invitation to parents via email and got a positive response from one of them: Vivienne was going to be my guest! I got us registered and checked the weather forecast for race day. It seemed everything would line up perfectly for a good experience for Viv’s first 5K. Of course, no Christmas run would be complete without Christmas apparel! My Christmas sweater was being put to good use this season, and I had an extra Santa hat for Viv, plus we decided last minute to add a layer with her race T-shirt for good measure. And look who just happened to be at this race — Santa himself!

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It was a bundle of fun to meet up with other friends, like the Lang family. Andrea and I have a long history of running races together. She moved away from St. George a few years ago and has been very busy raising her three daughters.

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Viv and I tried to keep warm as we walked around the crown checking out costumes.

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Hundreds of runners dressed in red and green huddled at the starting line then waited for the countdown to start. We would run a few blocks, then walk briefly. I let Viv determine our pace. I was worried that her little hands would get cold, so I had stuffed hand warmers in her gloves.

We made our way along the course, first running west, then north, then east for a ways. When we turned south at about the halfway point, we approached a water station where we took cups of water. At that point, a mother/daughter duo were also sipping water, and the mother started chatting with me. The next thing I knew, her daughter (age 7) was chatting with Viv and taking her right hand to run with her. For the next 1.5 miles, they ran like this. It was a very tender scene. Viv’s left hand was often busy holding up her leggings (they were just a tad too loose to be running in, apparently).

We made our way to the finish line with daughter and mother, learning that they were just visiting the area with family members. Mother also shared that this was her daughter’s eighth 5K! They had a system which they were following, running 1 minute and walking 30 seconds, repeat (or something like that). All I can recall is that every time the mother’s watch would beep, she would raise her left hand in the air which was a signal to the daughter that it was time to switch speed. Here are the three of them. Just a hint here: The mother got second place in the pre-race Ugly Sweater Contest. I think she should have won.

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It was exciting to approach the finish line and scan the crowd for Viv’s mom and youngest brother, who were there to support us. We crossed the finish line, collected a generous-sized medal, and accepted hot chocolate and donuts. Viv was also invited to pick a couple of prizes from the toy table before heading home with her mom.

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It was a Run Run Reindeer 5K memory for the books!

Elf Yourself Half Marathon 12/16/17

There is nothing quite like a fee-free race and finding out about said free race just days prior to the day it unfolds. Both of these were the case with this event, and in my nearly 21 years of running, they were both firsts.

The Elf Yourself Half Marathon was hosted by a local St. George area runner by the name of Lyle under the name Underground Runner. It turns out that Lyle with Underground Runner had previously hosted this event (Elf Yourself Half Marathon) in 2014, as well as a few other random running events throughout the past few years. I loved that the medals, which he was handing out after this race, were leftover medals from the 2014 event. But a fee-free race that offers a medal? I would say, “Sign me up!” but this event did not even require preregistration! Runners just showed up race morning!

That morning was very cold, and I was grateful to have resurrected a long Christmas sweater that I had purchased for a work Christmas party in 2016. I dug it out of the costume bin and wore layers underneath. Here is our group before take-off.

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As you can see, there were approximately three dozen runners, most of them dressed appropriately; we learned of the course route there at the starting line. That was also a first for me! Heretofore, I have always been privy of the race course long before race day.

Having arrived a tad early, there was time to mingle and make a few new friends.

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Director Lyle looked at his watch and offered a few details, such as the water station at the halfway point. Come to think of it, that was really the only detail. This course meandered from the Sullivan Soccer Park in Washington along the bike path south to the Dixie Center, then back. In reality, it measured a little longer than 13.1 miles by my watch, but that detail had no bearing on race results, for there was no timing chip, nor would results be posted. Lyle’s wife was taking photos with her cell phone at one point along the course….

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At one point, I felt a little conspicuous standing in costume, waiting for a green light at one of the busiest intersections in town (River Road and Riverside Drive). Folks driving past in their cars must have thought it was a rather strange site.

Even with the longer course, I made good time and essentially ran solo the entire distance. It had not warmed up much by the time I finished, but I reminded myself that it was December, the cold season when most runners are resorting to a treadmill to get their miles in. I was grateful to be running outside where the air was clear and pure, pounding the pavement while listening to good music.

After I crossed the finish line (that crack in the path that was also the starting line), a medal was handed to me and then those who were gathered around decided to take a few photos, including a jumping photo. Someone suggested that we remove the medals from around our necks as they might pose a hazard to our heads. Apparently, Adam did not get the memo, and after his medal connected with his forehead mid-jump and drew blood, he headed for the restroom to assess the damage. I “borrowed” these next couple of photos from another runner’s post.

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It looks like he got the hang of it in this photo.

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Here is a closeup image of the medal, one which I am happy to add to my collection (even though the year suggests 2014).

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Chalking up success at the 2017 “ELF YOURSELF 2014”!

Baker’s Dozen Half Marathon 12/09/17

As I compose this blog post, it has been four days since the Baker’s Dozen, and I would swear that I am still on a sugar high. You see, Baker’s Dozen is not just your ordinary race. No sirrreee! As its title would suggest, it is a 13-mile loop course (3.25 miles run four times) and with each loop, runners are invited to ingest as many doughnuts, cookies, Twinkies, mini cupcakes, and Dr. Pepper as they want. Not only that, but credit is given for each morsel eaten in the form of a marker tally on the runner’s bib. I believe the “Sugar Slayer” this year ate 70 — I repeat, SEVENTY — of them. Yep. My bib boasted four markings, though I admit that I did not ask for credit for two additionally. This is NOT my bib but belongs to the Sugar Slayer.

This is the 8th year that Cory Reese, a local from Hurricane, Utah, has geniusly hosted this fun run which is not even timed! Runners come from far and wide (and likely finish wider) to participate. It’s truly an honor to share the course with the likes of the Gingerbread Man, Santa’s Elves, and countless pastries (primarily doughnuts) among other characters and shapes.

This year, my Pal Peg (former blog co-host) registered and arranged to pick me up en route to Hurricane for this “race.” We wore Santa hats, warm leggings, and gloves for the 25-degree kickoff. While standing in the line to use the porta-potty pre-race, Santa and Mrs. Claus happened by so I roped them in for a quick photo. Santa seemed to have shaved his beard for the race!

Following instructions from Cory, we lined up for the Mannequin Challenge. We tried this last year and it was a huge success, only this year instead of being all grouped together randomly at the starting line while a professional photographer weaved in and out while filming as we stood perfectly (or not so perfectly) still, as if frozen in time, we lined up in one long line while the same photographer walked down the line filming. I am anxious to see the result!

After the countdown, runners were given a go and followed the usual rectangular route (which I heretofore referred to as a “loop”) as temperatures and body heat slowly rose to a comfortable level. I was happy to run with my long-time friend Misty, whose face you will recognize from a few of my previous blog posts.

Peg and I also hooked up with running great Crystal, and delightful conversation ensued. We ran a comfortable 9:30/mile average and consistently stopped at the designated station for sustenance, without which we would have surely collapsed. I mean seriously…. a half cup of cold, bubbly Dr. Pepper after 6.5 miles never tasted so good!

I have many favorites about this race, but I would have to rank the medal at the top (if I am strong enough to heave it up that high); the thing is the size of a small dinner plate and boasts bright colors such as red, yellow, green, blue, and …. chocolate brown, all in the shape of doughnuts!

Another delightful aspect of this race is the jumping attempt while approaching the Sugar Shack/lap completion. Counting down 3, 2, and 1 then pushing off the ground in an effort to catch some serious air, all documented on film by the photographer, really brought out some interesting poses! I still think such jumps should be rehearsed, or at least the countdown discussed beforehand so as to decide whether to jump ON 1 or AFTER 1.

At any rate, no one pulled a groin muscle as far as I could tell, and we all finished the race wearing a smile and maybe an extra pound or two.

The Baker’s Dozen is always such a “treat!”

Turkey Trot 1-Mile Fun Run 11/18/17

I have to admit it — one of my favorite races all year, one I likely look forward to the very most, is the annual Turkey Trot Fun Run hosted by City of St. George and slated for the Saturday before Thanksgiving each year. This was the third  year that I got to “run” it with my two grandkids, Beckam and Viv. This race offers a 5K distance as well as 1-mile, and because I think 3.1 miles is still a tad too far for 6-year-old legs, we opted for the shorter distance and took a right at the corner where the 1-mile route is laid out.

Let me preface this by saying that the night before the race, I invite these two grands to have a sleepover, and heaven knows that sleep doesn’t come until well after 10 p.m. with those two and their palpable excitement! True to form, we laid out our running apparel the night before, checking the weather forecast and deciding how many layers would be appropriate. We picked 9 cans of food out of my pantry (3 cans per runner) and put them in three separate paper grocery bags with handles. This canned food represented our registration fee. Come race morning, we bundled up and even made hot chocolate to transport in a Thermos so that little hands would stay warmer.

Driving the short distance so the starting line from my house took a mere 5 minutes, and we got there with time to spare. I offered for us to stay put in the car with the heater running, but the kids wanted to be out and about, mingling among the other participants. We carried our food bags to the donation trailer and picked up our bibs, pinned them on, and then counted the two dozen turkeys that were displayed on the stage for later giveaways. There were parents, small children, teenagers, dogs, and strollers in abundance. Some were even dressed in costumes.

It came time for race start, and we lined up behind the 5K runners. Beckam and Viv took off like race horses out of the gate, leaving grandma behind with a big smile on her face. They knew the course well, and for the first half mile were in the front of the 1-mile pack.

On the return route, paces reduced a titch and a handful of other young runners passed us. However, we made a good showing at the finish line, where Viv’s family was waiting and watching proudly as she flew past them. Viv went home with her family shortly thereafter, while Beckam stayed with me for another hour (or more) because he insisted that he was going to win a turkey (or some other prize). We left empty-handed, sadly, but with a medal around our necks as evidence of a good time!

Grandma Tia loves to share her passion for running with her grandchildren!

Snow Canyon Half Marathon 11/04/17

Awwww…. the annual Snow Canyon Half Marathon! What’s not to love??? It’s a coveted course, offering a generous drop in elevation which translates to a quick clip. Hundreds of runners come from all over the state (duh … early November is a wonderful time of year for running in Washington County) and I expect many of them are shooting for a PR (personal record). This is a course that can offer a best time!

My dear friend Sandy traveled down from Cache Valley with some coworkers who were participating in the 5K race, and all of us met up at the expo. We picked up our packets (bibs, shirts, and a little swag) the night prior, then Sandy and I went to dinner at Rib & Chop House. The outdoor seating and fireplace there were just what we needed to set the tone for a great evening.

After awakening to alarm clocks, Sandy and I donned our race apparel and drove to a high school across town, where we parked the car and loaded up on one of the dozens of buses transporting runners up to the starting line. It was c-c-c-c-old! It rained briefly and the wind blew relentlessly. I have often wondered how many runners just hang out in a port-a-potty before race start, hunkered down in the little hut protected by plastic walls. It’s tempting, I admit. But this was not the day to try it, for we had places to go, people to meet, and things to do.

I immediately ran into my cousin’s wife, Debbie, who I knew would be looking for us. We, along with a half dozen other runners, found refuge in the cedar block bathroom built there by a trailhead near the starting line.

An announcement on a loud speaker soon alerted us that it was time to line up. We shed a layer or two and ditched our drop bags at the truck that would transport them down to the finish line. I just have to add here that I give credit to those runners who use a bag OTHER THAN the one provided for that particular race, a bag that is DIFFERENT in color, at least, than all the other bags. You will see the value of this in a bit. Read on.

Sandy and I had made a pact that this race would be “just for fun” (we are both fairly competitive, normally). We had planned to disregard our watches and just jog on down the highway while chatting up a storm. This strategy worked well for the first few miles, but then…. I got an itch to run… fast. It had been a long time since I actually raced, and the downhill section of the course posed too great a temptation to pass up. So I ran. Fast. I mostly disregarded the passing time on my watch, but when I realized that I could finish in a respectable time, maybe even a time that might fetch a place in my age group, I became determined to put out.

Putting out was what I did, and I ran “comfortably uncomfortable” (a term my dear friend Natalie C. used to use). I was focused on a sub 1:50 but my effort was just not quite enough to attain that goal in the end. Still, it earned me a 3rd place award and some sore legs for the next few days. Sandy was not far behind me, and she looked like she was ready for the next round (she is the Energizer Bunny, and anyone who gets to hang with her had better believe in osmosis).

 

Just before I crossed the finish line, I heard my name and saw my friend Nancy with her family, including my boss (her son), who were there cheering on her son-in-law (he finished just ahead of me).

Finding my red drop bag was almost more challenging than pulling through that last mile. This is when you wish you had used an alternate bag.

Yes, Snow Canyon Half will always be on my “favorite halves” list. The scenery alone is worth the registration fee.