Cache Gran Fondo Bike Event 07/14/18

Combine the beauty of Cache Valley in the summer months and a biking event that courses through that valley, and count me in. It had been many years since I had participated in this “race” but it was every bit as spectacular as I remember. I signed up on a whim (any excuse to get out of the St. George heat and to the green rolling hills in the Logan area this time of year) and even paid a little extra for insurance in case I would be unable to attend, thus needing a refund. There was no stopping this girl, however; we loaded my bike in the back of the truck and headed northward to our home town.

Logan is also home of my favorite sporting goods store called Al’s, a long-time business, locally owned and operated. It is always a pleasure to attend “packet pickup” at Al’s, because it often means walking out of the store with more than a packet. There are some great brands and deals to be had at Al’s, and I have always managed to find something that I “need.”

I debated at packet pickup about expanding my horizons, i.e. lengthening the distance of my ride. I was even invited to do so by an Al’s employee and friend, Sheridan, who was planning to ride the 75-mile distance with her parents. However, due to the fact that we had places to go, things to do, and people to meet subsequent to the bike race, I maintained my 50-mile choice.

As always, Todd was willing to arise early Saturday morning and deliver me and my bike to the starting line, which was the Logan Regional Medical Center on 1400 North in Logan. We had a little time to kill before the wave of riders took off every few minutes, seeded according to their projected distance. Low and behold, there appeared Kari, mother of Sheridan, who spotted us from a  mile away. I assured her that I would be far behind but was happy to have her back.

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Many riders partook of the breakfast offered them by the race sponsors. I opted for a power bar and a water bottle filled with ice water and C4.

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I got in line with my group of 50-mile riders and waited. About 15 minutes after the first group took off, we were up. My “kit” from Red Rock Bicycles (St. George) was definitely bright and cheery, maybe a little more cheery than I was feeling at that time.

We were let loose, and at one point when I looked down at my bike computer, I was averaging 21 MPH and at the front of the pack. I figured I had better hold up a bit and save some of that energy for later down the road, so to speak.

The course took us north and then west, heading out toward the small outlying towns in Cache Valley. The temperature was prime. Cloud cover prevented the sun from probing us with its piercing heat. It did not take long for the pack to spread out, and within the hour I found myself independent on a long stretch of road. It was so relaxing to pedal while taking in a 180-degree view of the surrounding scenery. I will never tire of this place that I call home.

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We pedaled through Newton and made a loop around Clarkston, then back to Newton and south toward Mendon. We nearly had the roads all to ourselves, and the course was mostly flat which provided for a reasonable pace.

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For many miles along both sides of the road, toilet paper was strewn, looking ribbon-like and out of place along the country road. It was if some teenagers had taken a joy ride the night prior, stealing the precious paper from some unknown source and letting it fly off the roll, nearly taking flight like a kite in the wind.

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It was at the port-a-potty line in Newton that the source of all that toilet paper became obvious. Those riders exiting the potties were announcing that there was no TP in them, so my assumption was likely true; I imagine a loaded car of teenagers had a great time distributing that precious paper along the course. Fortunately, it was clean and unused.

At approximately mile 30 out of 54, I was minding my own business, just pedaling along, when I heard the words, “I like your pigtails!” from behind me to my left. And along comes “B.” He had registered with a group of friends but for some reason they had split up, and he was riding solo at that point. He held back his pace and stuck it out with me for the last 24-ish miles. There was no lack of topics of conversation, which made the miles and time pass much more quickly. We finished simultaneously (posted results prove it), both of us anxious to find chocolate milk to quench our thirst. My bike computer displayed 54+ total miles, and our finish time on the clock was 3:24 but we are sticking with about 3:08, right B? Apparently there was a glitch with the timing system such that there was no “chip” time, just overall elapsed time on the clock from when the race started and the 100-milers took off.

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Here I am with B displaying our medals, which are really belt buckles. How practical! I mean, what else is one to do with those medals, hang them on the wall???

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As promised, Todd was at the finish line waiting for me to come in. We ate and then loaded up my bike and got on with our day.

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Another great ride in the books. I will be back next year, Cache Gran Fondo, and maybe I will even be trained for the 100-mile route!

Manitou Incline 07/06/18

That is a pretty fancy name for a set of stairs, eh? I had first heard about Manitou Incline about five years ago from a good friend who lives in the Denver, Colorado, area and has for many years. He sent me a photo of it and offered that it would be a great physical fitness challenge. Knowing that I seek after such things, the dangling carrot was placed before me, and I could not get those stairs out of my mind.

By way of background, I am cutting and pasting here from the “visitcos.com” website. There are many other websites that describe the incline, but these questions summarize what inquiring minds want to know.

HOW MANY STEPS ARE THERE ON MANITOU INCLINE?

Oh, just 2,744 steps – but who’s counting?

HOW STEEP IS THE INCLINE?

The Manitou Incline gains 2,000 feet in elevation from start to finish. The average grade for the trail is 45 percent and, in some places, it is as steep as 68 percent.

HOW LONG DOES IT TAKE TO SUMMIT THE MANITOU INCLINE?

Depending on your fitness level and pass it may take under 30 minutes to over an hour or more.

WHAT IS THE HISTORY OF THE MANITOU INCLINE?

The Manitou Incline was originally built as a cable car to carry materials to build pipelines on Pikes Peak – America’s Mountain. After the pipelines were finished, it was turned into a tourist attraction to bring guests to the top of the foothills for a spectacular view of Colorado Springs and the eastern plains.

A rock slide damaged a section of track in 1990, so the Manitou Springs Incline was closed down. The rails were removed, but the railroad ties remained in the form of a massive staircase. Locals started using it for a challenging workout. Until February 2013, a portion of it was private property and it was illegal to hike up the ties of the old cable car line. Now, due to cooperations among private and public entities, it is legal to climb the Incline. It is known as one of, if not the most, popular and challenging, hikes in the Colorado Springs area.

The photos honestly don’t do it justice. Have you ever climbed steps that boast a 68% grade? I hadn’t either. There were areas where I literally crawled up, with my feet on one step and my hands on the one above it. Otherwise, I feared I would lose my balance and fall backward down the mountain.

How this all came to be goes like this:

With Independence Day falling on a Wednesday this year, by taking just one day off work (Thursday), Todd and I could have a five-day weekend (neither of us normally work Fridays). I got this idea in my head about driving our Honda Goldwing motorcycle to visit friends and family in the Denver area. It’s about 750 miles each way, and we mapped out a loop course so that we would have fresh scenery every mile.

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We secured plans with said friends and family, then headed out on the Wednesday holiday. We first went north on I-15 and then cut east toward Richfield, then to Grand Junction where we spent our first night in a motel. The second day, we continued east and took a detour to have lunch in Aspen. The $60 for two salads was a tad bit much, I thought! From Aspen we took Independence Pass which was an INCREDIBLE stretch of curvy, scenic highway, best maneuvered on a motorcycle.

We arrived in Denver just as a major rainstorm had also made its way there, and we got soaking wet in the downpour. It’s all part of the experience, though driving on wet roads on the freeway can be scary and dangerous. We met up with some friends for dinner then made our way to Parker to spend the night with my Aunt Jean.

Friday morning found us heading south toward Colorado Springs, then Manitou Springs just outside the Springs border. As we approached the mountain, the realization hit me that I had maybe bitten off more than I could chew.

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I secretly had a goal of reaching the top in under an hour, having read that the record time is 17:45 set in 2015, held by a man by the name of Joseph Gray; the woman record holder is Allie McLaughlin with a time of 20:07. I was hoping to no more than triple her time.

Todd had good intentions of tackling the incline as well; however, after about 800 steps and feeling lightheaded, he turned back around and headed to the motorcycle to wait for me. I only knew this because he sent me a text message; I had long since gone up ahead of him (with his blessing, of course).

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At first the steps were spread farther out and the ascent was more gradual. I noticed that the step count was burned into the railroad ties, depicting every 500 or so steps. The weather was on the warm side, and we did not start our ascent until around noon. Also, I did not take any water, believing that this 1-mile climb was not deserving of the burden of carrying extra weight. That is not the first time I have made a poor choice! It was not long before the heat and steep grade got to me.

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I passed many others who had stepped off the incline to catch their breath. I, too, stepped aside on a few occasions to catch mine. At one point near the top, I felt so lightheaded that I was certain I would pass out. I quickly moved to the side and found a rock to sit on. I began to lie down on it, but quickly remembered that I should put my head down between my knees, which I did. After a few long minutes, I felt well enough to press on.

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I reached the top in almost exactly 60 minutes. I remember that there was sweat coming out of every pour on my body, most notably the backs of my hands. I was grateful to have my phone with me so that I could notify Todd of my success as well as to take photos. Please note that my capri leggings were filthy dirty from my dirty hands rubbing on them.

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I mingled with a dozen or so other young folks at the top, then jogged the 3-mile zig-zag trail back down the mountain to the parking lot. I think I may have been smiling the entire time. Mission complete!

We explored the little town of Manitou Springs, had lunch, and probably bought a souvenir T-shirt to prove it. We saddled up on the motorcycle again and took a ride up to the top of Pike’s Peak (which I highly recommend also). We spent one more night in Colorado Springs, then southward via Ouray and Silverton. We wound up in Cortez (where we had an awful motel experience), then all the way back home Sunday via Page and Kanab. It was 109 degrees that day, and I will not soon forget that experience on the back of a motorcycle, feeling like a rag being tossed around in a very hot dryer with extra time on the dial.

If you are ever in the Colorado Springs area, I highly recommend checking out Manitou Incline — but go early in the morning (if it’s summer) and take water! It’s as easy as putting one foot in front of the other. Just do it!

 

 

IronMan 70.3 St. George 05/05/18

By way of introduction, the official name of this race is the Ironman 70.3 St. George Utah North American Pro Championship, which makes it a pretty big deal.

I am sharing this article written by Ryan Miller and Terell Wilkins, which was published in The Spectrum (local newspaper) the day prior to this year’s event.

“Ironman 70.3 St. George is the race that determines the Ironman 70.3 champion for North America. Winners can then go on to other races, including the Ironman 70.3 World Championship in South Africa or even the full Ironman World Championship in Hawaii. Being a North American Pro Championship means there are more qualifying spots at this race than a normal Ironman 70.3. It also means the weather and course at Ironman 70.3 St. George are tougher than a traditional event. The St. George course has been noted by many of the racers on the circuit as one of the most difficult courses in the world.”

And some more facts about the Ironman 70.3 as stated in that newspaper article:

“The race consists of a 1.2-mile swim, a 56-mile bike ride and a 13.1-mile run — the distances give the event the “70.3” in its name. In order to be considered a finisher, the racers must compete the entire course in 8 hours and 30 minutes. The athletes will have 1 hour and 10 minutes to finish the swim portion and must be through the bike section 5 hours and 30 minutes after the final wave starts. For perspective, the Ironman men’s winner usually finishes around 10:45 a.m. and the women’s winner at 11 a.m.”

“Participating in Ironman can be a personally-fulfilling but wallet-emptying experience. It costs between $225 and $300 to register to participate in an Ironman 70.3, and between $650 and 825 for full Ironman races. Add to that equipment, clothing and other gear, and you’ll see money is just one more big commitment that these athletes make to their sport.”

Oh IronMan, you are powerful! Fortunately for us, the Ironman 70.3 St. George offers a relay option with 2-3 team members. We had our sights set on this one for months and months, having registered about 5 months prior to Judgment Day. It’s not easy to plop down $133 so far in advance, not knowing for certain if it would truly come to fruition! Blending the lives of 3 busy women who are in different stages of life is not easy, especially when said women live hundreds of miles apart and experience different seasons which makes training a tad more tricky.

I give credit to Julie, who reached out to me early on regarding the opportunity to participate in the swimming leg of the IronMan relay. I mean really, who WANTS to swim recreationally, let alone competitively? I latched on to that idea and quickly summoned Amber for the biking leg, with myself taking the running leg. Last year when I competed with a team in this event, I got to take the biking leg — which I absolutely LOVED. But since Amber is the avid biker and I am more of a runner, I was thrilled when she climbed aboard the Relay Team Train.

Finding a team name was a thoughtful task. We batted some ideas around via group text message, then as “team captain” I decided to pursue a name that pretty much defined us: Thirty, Forty, Fifty = 70.3.  Julie is in her 30’s, Amber is in her 40’s, and I am in my 50’s which makes our team even more original, I think. We got registered and then set to the daunting reality of getting prepared.

We often exchanged progress via text message throughout the course of the subsequent months. The concussion that I sustained on March 3rd while trail running was cause for concern, and though I was “headstrong” and hell bent on pressing on, I truthfully lost a great deal of confidence and was not sure this goal was attainable. It took running the course in its entirety on two separate occasions to give me back the assurance that I needed. Amber, on the other hand (or leg), crashed on her bike while mountain biking on a trail in Santa Clara about a week after my fall. She was fortunate that she did not break her leg, and her trip to the emergency room “cost an arm and a leg.” Pun intended.

Julie, up there in Northern Utah, had never swum in open water, so she was anxious about how this would differ from pool training. She swam competitively in high school, however, so had some solid history regarding swimming experience.

Race day approached, and we coordinated our schedules to allow us to meet at the Athletes’ Village for packet pickup on the day prior to the event. It was the first time Amber and Julie met each other!

Being the somewhat over-organizer that I am, I had printed off all the instructions, carrying them around in my hand to refer to when necessary. So many rules and regulations accompany an IronMan event!

I set out my outfit of choice, and it just happened to match from head to toe. What a coincidence — even my shoes were gray.

I opted to drive to Sand Hollow on race morning to support Julie and Amber, even though it would be at least 4 hours before my “leg.” That put my starting time close to noon. This is the view of T1 (Transition 1).

I found Julie, thanks to her husband answering my phone call (athletes are not allowed to carry their phones/cameras without special permission). She blended right in with the other wetsuit-clad swimmers who were awaiting their turn to step in the water.

I gave Julie my blessing but never did connect with Amber at the reservoir; I did speak to her on the phone and verified her status (ready and raring). I then came home and tracked them from the comfort of my bedroom floor where I was resting, using my phone. Whomever came up with the tracking application is genius! I was able to track Julie from when she got in the water until she got out (total swimming time of 41:53) and passed the timing chip (a Velcro ankle strap) off to Amber. I then tracked Amber as she rode her bike from Sand Hollow up over the hill and into Hurricane, then back west along the highway and into St. George, over to Snow Canyon and then down the highway to T2. The excitement there at T2 where I was sitting in the shade was palpable!

The heat continued to rise along with my anticipation. In good time (3:13), I saw Amber coming into the transition area where she racked her bike then secured the strap around my left ankle. And off I ran, 85 degrees not withstanding.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Making my way up Diagonal Street, which is a straightaway road with a gradual uphill climb, was where I would find my groove. The course was familiar to me, and I am no stranger to running, so I locked into “go mode” and knocked out the 13.1 miles to the best of my ability. Staying hydrated and cool was key; I carried a small sponge and poured water on it at every aid station (located a mile apart). I kept sponging my arms and face with it, as well as filled my white hat with ice atop my head. I learned that trick at the Boston Marathon, and I believe it is what saved me from completely melting.

Todd had maneuvered his way to various locations along the course, standing there with a spray bottle and offering me a cool mist as I passed each time. He is the one who deserved the medal that day. Or how about the man who did the entire event solo with two artificial legs?

I was impressed at the reverence on the course demonstrated by the athletes. Keep in mind that most of the participants had already swum 1.2 miles, biked 56 miles, and were now running a half marathon SOLO. As for me, I was fairly fresh and, other than the extreme heat, felt great. I would say that the majority of the athletes were walking at this point, the “ultra” athletes having long since passed through and finished this section of the IronMan. How do they do it??

The course was very hilly with no real level sections; rather, it was an out-and-back hilly mother, which meant what went up eventually came down, like a law of nature. Fortunately, the last few miles were downhill which was to the advantage of the runner. Did I mention that it was very hot?

Seeing the finish line for the last couple of blocks was a welcome sight! Hearing the crowd of spectators who were standing in the heat and cheering the athletes on brought tears to my eyes. I gave it all I had there at the end, running the last several yards on red carpet that was stretched out at the finish line.

The total run time was 2:08:22 (9:47 minute/mile average). I accepted the medals for me and my teammates, who were there waiting with smiles and stories to compare.

The flip side of that photos is this one of our patient, supportive husbands:

We finished 29th out of 80 relay teams with a total time of 6:08:09, and 908th out of 2683 finishers. Not too shabby for IronMan rookies!

 

Spring Tour of St. George 04/21/18

This bike race will always rank up in my top favorites list. The course encompasses some of the most incredible scenic areas in Washington County. The decision was really whether to go for broke and ride 100 miles, scale down to 75 miles, or really dial it down to 35 miles, like I did. Coming off the heels of a concussion (six weeks prior), I wanted to keep it real with a reasonable distance. That, plus the fact that I had not been on my bike training much (it’s so early in the season) were determining factors.

I have the privilege and opportunity of assisting with packet pickup for some of these events throughout the year hosted by Red Rock Bicycles in St. George. A good friend of mine is the power behind these events, being assigned specifically to manage them. What a huge task! Imagine the hours and hours of planning to accommodate about 750 riders pedaling miles and miles throughout the outskirts of town, with aid stations fully stocked with food (of the best variety) and volunteers in abundance. A bulk of the riders came in from out of town / out of state to participate. Though cold and windy during packet pickup, the weather made a turn in a favorable direction and was PERFECT for riding on race day.

Here I am with fellow packet-pickup detail worker, Kelli:

And no Red Rock-sponsored event is complete without this person, Troy! He is hilarious! He is roped in to supply his awesome timing system under the name of his company, “Blue Dome Timing.”

Biking has a different checklist of items than does running, and obviously requires more than just donning and lacing up a pair of shoes. Fortunately for these local races, it is always easy to place my bike in the bed of our truck and drive 5 miles to the starting line. Parking is generally not an issue. I made my way over to the pack of riders and immediately found friend Jenny (high school classmate and, going back even farther, elementary school companion and neighbor). She is an avid biker currently living in Vernal and was there with her adult daughter to tackle the century distance. I applaud Jenny and her biking skills!

Following the National Anthem being sung by a young local gal, we were cut loose, all moving in the same direction and splitting routes many miles yet down the course. There is something about biking that just makes me feel giddy. I don’t know if it’s the speed (compared to running) or just hearing the whir of tires and gears clicking, but it’s magical to me. Knowing that 35 miles is a do-able distance for me, I was not as concerned about holding back and saving something for the last half, such as would be the case with 100 miles. Having ridden a handful of centuries myself, I can attest that it’s physically (and mentally) challenging…. even more so than a marathon, at least for me.

We pedaled our way westward out to Ivins and Kayenta, my all-time favorite place around. It’s nearly sacred out there!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The routes split, and soon those who were riding the shortest distance (like I was) thinned out. I had the road pretty much to myself for the final 10 miles. When I resurrect memories about this ride, one in particular stands out: The course curved past my brother’s house in Santa Clara, and he was out mowing his lawn. At the precise time I rode past, he was facing toward me and saw me wave. He waved back and offered a big grin. That was a pretty random connection!

My tires held out and so did my leg strength; I came into the finish line with all I had, completing the route in just over 2 hours. I lingered long enough to inhale some pizza, then loaded up my bike and headed off to a granddaughter’s birthday party.

Yep. Red Rock Bicycles sure knows how to host a great biking event! I wish I could have heard feedback from those riders who had never ridden the course, the same ones I promised were in for a real treat….

Hog & Jog 5K 03/31/18

Oink oink! The annual “Hog & Jog” was on my radar for an entire year. Having missed it last year, I was especially excited to sign up this year and include two of my grandchildren. Both of them had “run” (biked, walked, been carried, and taken a shortcut) back in 2016 when this fun run was held in an entirely different location (the old airport atop a big hill in St. George) for a boring out-and-back course. But hold the bacon, because Ivins was the chosen place this year, at the base of the beautiful red mountains with scenery so spectacular that 3.1 miles felt like a walk in the park.

One prominent detail about this run is the HUGE medals featuring a pig, of course!

The run is centered around a them of BACON, and bacon was in abundance. There was bacon offered at the finish line including, but not exclusive to, bacon-topped donuts. There were even people running in pink pig costumes. For those who registered early enough, a pig nose was included in the registration packet. What’s not to love about a strap-on pig nose?

I hosted my grandkids at my house the evening before this run, and we went so far as to set out our “outfits” and bibs before going to bed (which is a popular trend among runners). I am not sure whether or not the little people had dreams about bacon, but they were ready and raring to go the next morning about 7 o’clock — just in time for the half-hour drive across town to the event.

We took every opportunity for pre-run photos, including posing with bunnies and pigs. There were hundreds of course obstacles consisting of parents, children, pets, and strollers. We crammed ourselves into the pack near the starting line and waited for the go.

 

 

 

 

 

 

The first mile was a gradual uphill ascent, during which there was a little murmuring from those with shorter legs. I imagine that 3 miles to one who is 3 feet tall seems much farther than it seems to one who is 6 feet tall, legs in proportion to height! Bless their big hearts (and legs) for putting forth such effort!

We seemed to have a pattern akin to peaks and troughs. We would run in spurts, mingled with walking.

 

 

Communication via text messaging ascertained that we would have family at the finish line to see us run in, and that was certainly incentive to continue. Sure enough, there was plenty of celebration at the finish line, following which more photos were snapped and memories permanently captured. Chalk up another great “fun run” put on by St. George Running Center!

ShamROCK 10K 03/17/18

I have a dear friend, and her name is Annie. We used to work together eons ago (nearly 20 years, anyway) in a gastroenterology office. Annie is smart. Annie is fun. Even though Annie is a twin (her twin sister is Jen), I have often called her my twin because we share many of the same sentiments. So when Annie gave me a heads up that she was headed down from Northern Utah with her family in their camper, and that one of their planned activities was to participate in the annual ShamROCK Your Socks Off 10K, my attention was piqued. Though I am assigned “rest and recovery” subsequent to that dang concussion of two weeks ago, I could not resist an invitation to walk 6.2 miles with an old friend. How old? Annie is just shy of 40 years, which means she was in her early 20’s when I first met her. We could nearly be twins, don’t you think? Haha. We are lifetime friends without a doubt.

Annie made my privy of deal going on with Groupon for this 10K registration, so rather than the $40 “you waited too long so you must pay the penalty” registration fee, I forked out $20 and signed up online — TWO DAYS PRIOR TO THE EVENT. So that was exciting, since usually I have my entire year mapped out ahead. Annie assured me that she and Daken would be walking with daughter Allison, who has undergone 12 surgeries on her feet. Count them: 12. TWELVE. She was born with bilateral clubfoot. Here is a photo of Allison at two days of age (posted here with permission from Annie).

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Allison will be 16 years old in two months, so you do the math. She has been in and out of doctors’ offices and hospitals since nearly birth. Allison is tough like her mom. She is blessed to even be able to walk, let alone walk 6.2 miles in one stretch with some of the funnest people on the course. That’s right. It was a party from the first step, lasting just over 2 hours until we crossed the finish line. When I say “we” I mean the 5 of us to include Annie, husband Daken, Daken’s friend (and now mine) Randy, me, and star Allison.

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But back to my story. It was St. Patrick’s Day, and everyone knows that means wearing o’ the green. For the first time in, well, dozens of races, I did NOT set out my running outfit the night before, complete with bib and list of things to take. I actually slept soundly, which is also rare. This was a different approach, because (as you will recall) I am still “resting” and giving my brain time to heal. I picked out a green jacket on race morning, matched it up with some multi-green capris, and a black hat and shoes. I drove across town to Ivins City Park where I met up with Annie and Company. Wait! Annie wore pink, and not a stitch of green that I could see! What up? I resisted the urge to pinch her and gave her a big hug instead. We boarded an empty bus, picking seats in the front, and off we went to the starting line up Snow Canyon.

We had about a 45-minute wait before 9 a.m. starting time, and it was reasonably cold. I recognized only a couple of familiar faces, one of them undeniably recognizable — Patrick. Patrick can be spotted at nearly all of the local races, and he always has a story to tell. His own story about how he got running is a good one, but I will save that for another time.

This is Patrick:

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Again, I digress. Back on topic, I am going to be honest here. As I looked around and surveyed the crowd, for just a split second I almost talked myself into bagging this walking idea and thought I might take off in a dead run down the canyon, letting the downhill course dictate my speed. But that was my legs talking, and my mind quickly reminded said legs that it was in charge and not quite ready for another spill, which is likely what would have happened if I had submitted. So the physical and mental battle was quickly squelched, and I toed the line as a guest of the Allred and Hunter families. I say we toed the LINE, but what I really mean is that we took the back of the pack and got comfortable there.

Here is a group photo of all those in our group:

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After the National Anthem was sung and there was a countdown from 10, we were off! It was not long before the runners spread out, those in the lead leaving those in the back far behind them. And the bigger the gap, the better it felt. It soon became obvious that we were about to have some fun on the course. Much like a mullet, it was business in front and party in back. We let Allison set the pace, offering her encouragement every few minutes, telling her stories and attempting to keep her mind off the course that stretched out 6 miles in front of her.

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We took every opportunity to spice things up, and Mile 1 soon melted into Mile 6.

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Thank goodness for the beautiful scenery! The clouds in the sky, the colors of the rocks, the shades of red and green…. I am pretty sure that is what heaven looks like, and we were right in the middle of it.

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As mentioned earlier, Daken’s friend Randy opted to hold back with us, even though he is a really decent (fast) runner. I know a couple years back, he nailed about a 42-minute (7-minute mile) on that course. But this day, Randy would be our entertainment. Randy took opportunity to do some exploring along the path. He picked up a variety of clothing items  (not his) along the way, and all he lacked was a broom to be a true race “sweeper” (the person bringing up the rear). The City of St. George employee (“Bill”) had an easy job, thanks to our back-of-the-pack team. Randy and Daken picked up the mileage signs and carried them on their shoulders as we walked. Randy would use the orange cones as megaphones, standing off to the side and shouting out encouragement through the cone, such as “Looking good! You’re almost there!” when we were really at mile 1.5 or so.

We laughed, and then we laughed some more. Annie’s two other children had run on ahead in hopes of winning a TV or some such incentive. For us in the back, the incentive was bragging rights to say we had achieved a 10K… that and the chocolate milk. Annie and I took the opportunity to teach Allison some of life’s lessons.

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The weather was ideal. Rain had been forecast all week, but race day offered a multitude of clouds in every color, some dense and threatening rain while others were thin enough to let the sun shine through. Talk about being in the moment and wanting to hang out there a while… especially since symptoms of concussion were practically unnoticeable.

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We wound our way down Snow Canyon’s trail and then through some residential areas, pausing here and there while Randy uprighted garbage cans on a driveway or while he met up with Bill to pass off more apparel and/or mile markers. He even picked up some cones that belonged to UDOT (not the race organizers) and was told by city employee Bill to replace them. Tee hee.

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We followed the white chalk arrows that had been drawn out obviously on the road, but often as we approached the (patient but restless) volunteers, we asked them for directions. There was NO ONE else in sight, and we imagined the agony of those at the finish line waiting for us to finish up. But this was not our race; this race belonged to Allison.

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Right there at the end, just before crossing the finish line, I fought it out with Randy so that I could have the title of last place. Being the gracious gentleman that he is, he allowed me to cross over behind him. However, when results were posted, they show him in last place (he apparently started the race behind me). You win some, you lose some. But in this case, we all felt like winners. The time was just over 2:05, and there was still a gallon of cold chocolate milk of which we partook in a toasting fashion.

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I learned so much during this 10K. I learned that it’s the quality, not the quantity. I learned that there is a time and season for everything. I learned that family support is so important, not just at a 10K on St. Patrick’s Day, but throughout our lives as we make our way along the course of life toward the finish line. May we all slow down and take time to drink it all in, so to speak. Be aware of your surroundings and allow support from or offer support to the people around you. We are all in this together! Be well.

Shared by him and posted here by me with permission from Randy, he decided to document “Chronology of a 10K” as only he can portray. I hope it makes you smile, too!

Red Mountain 30K 03/03/18

Sigh. This is the first time I have posted a race report which begins with that word, but here I sit 9 days after the event and still have vivid memories of it, mostly favorable ones.

Having participated last year in this event in the half marathon distance, Sandy and I committed to it again this year, only to stretch ourselves a little more by signing up for the 30K (19-mile) distance. Since we have a 50K looming in a few months, we thought it would be a great training run. In the few days preceding race day, we roped in Peg and Sherri, two other seasoned athletes who would enhance our experience.

As is the case with most race mornings, the alarm was set for a time that only a runner would know and be agreeable with. On this day, the 4 o’clock hour urged me out of bed and I quickly referred to my “list” of needs, having set said needs out the night prior. These included bib number, hydration pack, a few nibbles within its pockets, hat, and extra layers to wear at the starting line. The forecast had been predicting rain in the week leading up to March 3rd, but race morning found the sky to be partly cloudy with a good chance of sunshine.

By 4:45 a.m., I was out the door and made my way a few blocks north to where Sherri was ready and waiting. She followed me in her car to Unity Park in Ivins, driving separately so that I could leave right from the race to attend my grandson’s #5 birthday party. From the park, we caught a bus which took us to the starting line a few miles away, and there we met up with Peg and then Sandy. Brrrr! We were grateful for our extra layers and the big debate was whether to shed them before the race was started. It has been my experience that running quickly creates warmth, so at the very last minute — and I am talking the minute before the countdown — I was taking off my $15 faux down coat from Costco and stuffing it into my drop bag, then I tossed the bag into the back of a U-Haul truck.

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Sandy and I were familiar with the course and the fact that it started in an uphill manner. This kept us from going out too quickly, but it was not long before runners were starting to spread out across the course. The four of us stuck together initially, going with the flow and only going as fast as the people in front of us. There were wider sections of the well-worn, rocky trail where we could pass or double up, but for the most part it was single-track and we found ourselves in a comfortable pace, being able to converse easily.

Here in this photo is Pal Peg, to the right. Please note the full moon in the sky.

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We climbed farther and farther up the hill until it seemed we had reached the crest. By then, the sun had come up and the sunrise was crazy cool. There is always time to stop and take a few photos, for without them our memories of the amazing scenery would become diffuse, and this morning was no exception. In fact, it was better than average!

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Up and down, all around the hill we went, until at about mile 7 or 8 we approached the one and only Aid Station which served as a home base for all three of the routes. At this Aid Station, there were tents erected over banquet tables on which were offerings that every runner loves, including potato chips, pretzels, peanut M&M’s, jelly sandwiches cut into fourths, as well as a myriad of other tastebud tantalizing treats. I spied a can of Dr. Pepper that was calling my name, so I asked a volunteer to pour me up a little cup. It was ice cold, and the burn lasted all the way down my esophagus.

More scenes from along the course:

At this point, indulging at the Aid Station and feeling a tad more energized, we took off on the next loop which is called the Barrel Roll. It consisted of more rocky single-track trail, about 5 mies of it in a zig-zag-like loop. Here, the views were again pronounced and photo worthy. We made our way along this section of the course easily, realizing that we were making decent time. This is especially impressive considering how many times we stopped to take photos!

It was about halfway through the second loop, Barrel Roll, when I began to notice a “hot spot” on my right foot in an area that has been problematic before. I have had blister upon blister in that area over the years to the point where a thick callous has formed and has to be filed off each time I submit to a pedicure (which is not often enough). I opted to accept Sherri’s offer for some special tape, so the two of us stopped while I sat down on a rock and removed my shoe and sock to apply the tape. It felt so much better afterward! Taking time to do this meant that Peg and Sandy continued on ahead in the lead. Shortly after application of this bandage on my foot, I passed Sherri so that she could draft off of me for a change. Almost immediately, as I was pushing ahead more quickly than usual in an effort to put more distance between us, I caught the tread of my right shoe on a rock and the next thing I knew, I was going down…. and going down fast! My first reaction was to put my hands out in front of me to stop the fall, and I caught myself on the pisiform area of both palms as well as my right knee. But yay! This time (compared to last year) I did not plant my face on the trail!

Sherri helped me up and I brushed myself off, noting immediately the pain in both palms and my right knee. Much to my chagrin (I have often wanted to say that), my new black Lulu Lemmon tights, the ones I handpicked just for this event because of its functional bilateral pockets, had a big hole in the right knee. There was evidence of blood, but I would not know to what extent the damage was until I could roll them up later, for they were too tight in the ankle to deal with it right then. My right palm was bleeding, and Sherri quickly handed me another piece of tape to cover the gaping wound. I assured her that all was well and that I was okay to press on. I mean really — what else could we do, out there in the middle of nowhere? Ha. I surely could not crawl in the state I was in, so I bucked up (or buckled down?) and we made our way back down the trail to the Aid Station just about a half mile away.

What lifting my tights revealed post-race:

Regeneration took place at the Aid Station once again, and with a handful of peanut M&M’s and another handful of potato chips, we were on our way down another part of the course towards the finish line, a distance of approximately 6 miles.

Those last 6 miles were a little bit more laborious, at least for me, I felt due to my bruised pride. I had SO wanted to complete this race without a fall! My new tights were now needing a patch and my right knee was hurting! Peg and Sandy were long gone, and my dream of the four of us finishing together would not be realized. Sherri and I alternated jogging and walking, taking nearly 2 hours to go that last 6 miles. Nearing the finish line, we crossed the highway and made our way through some residential area, then the finish line arch was visible across a big grassy field. We ran the last quarter mile and finished in a time of 4:25, about 15 minutes behind Sandy and about 30 minutes behind Peg. Having other obligations that day, Peg had taken off but Sandy was still patiently waiting there, phone/camera in hand.

We took the obligatory Finish Line Photo and parted ways. I drove straight to the birthday party, where I spent the next hour and a half with a dozen “little people” in party mode — make that Mario party mode. It was a blast!

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No race is complete without rubbing shoulders with the one-and-only Cory Reese, author and many-time 100+ miler finisher, and fun guy extraordinaire….

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Now comes the rest of my story.

After the party, I went home and showered, then decided to take a short nap before taking in a movie that evening. I woke up from my nap just shy of an hour with the most pronounced vertigo I have ever, EVER experienced. In fact, I would have to say that I have never had a sensation quite like that before. When I opened my eyes, my pupils were bouncing all over the place and I could not focus on any one thing. This lasted only a few seconds, but I will never forget the sensation that the pillow next to me was on the ceiling, and that the window was on the opposite wall, etc. It freaked me out, honestly. I arose and went on with my evening, though told Todd what an odd experience it was.

That night, sleep came easily but then was disrupted countless times by the same vertiginous episodes, each with the eye rolling (“nystagmus”). I really had no sense of what was going on, and when I finally arose for good in the morning, I labeled myself as being stricken with the flu; I was extremely nauseated and had subsequent vomiting. I was so dizzy that I could barely stand. Hence, I spent the day in bed, flat on my back, waiting for some relief. Relief did not come.

During the next night, history repeated itself with the same annoying frequency of vertigo and nystagmus occurring a few times per hour. I had high hopes of a productive day at work Monday, but after showering and dressing, I realized that these hopes would be dashed. I spent another day in bed, aside from the few times I got up to dry heave in the bathroom sink.

Tuesday rolled around, and I had to cancel more plans secondary to my “illness.” By this time, I had begun to research my symptoms on the internet, and all of them pointed to a diagnosis of BPPV which stands for benign paroxysmal position vertigo, thought to be caused by calcium crystals becoming dislodged in my inner ear and tricking the brain into thinking I was sensing movement though I was still. It was the worst! I made an appointment to see an ENT physician, but not without first trying several maneuvers suggested to eradicate BPPV (none of which helped). My patient husband was concerned and convinced that there was something else going on.

I saw the ENT doctor on Wednesday, and I described to him my fall and subsequent symptoms, even stating that I felt that I was “in a fog.” He had his nurse perform the Epley maneuver (been there, done that — many times) which again did nothing to squelch my symptoms. I was advised to sleep sitting up, so I fashioned some pillows on my bed and was finally about to get more sleep. I went to work on Thursday, still with dizziness and a foggy feeling, and by Friday, I knew we were missing something. At that point, I posted my symptoms on a Runners’ Forum on Facebook, and for the next few hours I had several runners post their comparable stories and offer suggestions. However, early on one of them commented, “It sounds like you had a concussion.” That word — concussion — turned me loose on a Google search, and as sure as I am sitting here typing these words, the symptoms matched and I knew I had pinned down my problem. I must have given my little brain a pretty good jolt when I fell on that trail.

Concussion. I learned a great deal about this. I learned that one does not necessarily have to hit his/her head to incur one. I learned that some people get a concussion without even knowing it until symptoms develop later. I learned that there are varying degrees of severity, and that a concussion can be life-threatening. Obviously, in my case it was mild…. but so scary just the same. It has been 9 days since I met the mountain in such an intimate way, and I am still suffering from brain fog, dizziness, constant headache, fuzzy memory, and fatigue. I have been advised that REST is the only treatment. I have been told that it takes 3-4 weeks to completely resolve, and that starting back too soon can lead to more problems to a more severe degree. Therefore, I am adhering to doctors’ advice to TAKE IT EASY in an effort to allow my brain to heal.

I have some big goals coming up in May and June, so I am hoping that about three more weeks of chilling (which means just walking or stationery bicycling in the interim) will be enough to recuperate fully.  Stay tuned! And thanks for following me on my journey of Fit Following 50!