Top of Utah Marathon 2017

Race reports aren’t really interesting to anyone but the runner, but to not record this day seems wrong.

First, let me honest.  Marathons are really hard.  I mean, REALLY hard.  And they’re getting harder as I get older.  That’s okay.  I can handle the physical pain.  What’s been eating away at me is the stress surrounding marathons, most of it self-imposed.  I’m not elite by any stretch.  But I’m locally competitive.  Over the last 10 years and 46 marathons, I’ve placed in the majority of local races, most overall places.  For a girl who never ran more than a mile in P.E. class growing up, I’m really proud of all I’ve accomplished, especially since my initial goal when I signed up for my first marathon was simply not to embarrass myself.

The night before my first TOU.

Once I started to realize I had a tiny speck of talent in my legs, the stress went through the roof.  I expected a lot from myself.  When you know how good it feels to do well, it makes not doing well feel even worse.  Blah, blah, blah.  These problems aren’t even really problems.  But over the years, racing stopped being fun.

So, I started traveling to races where no one knew me and the expectations disappeared.  Amsterdam.  Berlin.  New York. Boston.  Eugene.  Those are the races I enjoyed most.

I’d met every goal I’d set for my marathoning self, and then some.  I’ve placed overall in every major Utah marathon- even St. George.  I’ve run three sub-3 hour races.  I’ve won a couple marathons and a few half-marathons.  I’ve set a few course records in the overalls and master’s divisions.  I’ve won the Utah Grand Slam three times.  I only had one more goal to check off my list.

I wanted a moose clock.

My first TOU.

 

The Top of Utah Marathon rewards its most loyal athletes (runners who’d run the race 10 times) with a gorgeous oak moose clock, and I’ve coveted it since the first time I ran TOU in 2008.  Last year, my 9th year, the threat of TOU not returning was real due to low registration.  I begged the race directors not to cancel 2017.  How sad would I be to get this close to running my 10th TOU and not get that clock? (Answer- very, very sad.)  Oh happy day when they decided to move forward with this year’s race.

My second TOU. Ali was 2. She’s now 10!

As the day drew close, my nerves got worse.  Race day felt like a dark cloud keeping me from enjoying the fall season.  My life was dissected into pre and post race day plans.  Training had gone okay.  I knew I wouldn’t be setting any PR’s, but I wasn’t feeling injured or exhausted.  Yet, the night before in my hotel room, my heart was pounding in my chest as though it was my first race ever.  To calm myself down, I decided this year would be my last local marathon.

Morning finally came and I boarded the bus to the start.  I won’t bore you with a mile by mile breakdown.  But here are the highlights.

Me, Tyler, and Jill at one of many TOU finish lines. 2012?

At it’s height, TOU attracted more than 2000 runners.  Last weekend there were fewer than 400.  It’s a beautiful course with the best directors and volunteers, so this fact keeps me shaking my head as I watch the numbers dwindle more each year.  The only positive note is it’s easy to get into a port-o-potty!

My first moose trophy!

My running/racing partner Tyler decided to meet me at mile 14 to help me run the last 12.  Mile 14 is also where my husband and daughter Ali would be to cheer me on.  So, goal #1, get thyself to mile 14.  I ran the first half in 1:31.  Not bad, but I knew the second half would be much slower.  My right hamstring was a little achy, but my right shoulder which I separated in a bad bike crash in June 2016 was on fire, and not in a good way.  The nerve endings all up and down my arm and into my neck and shoulder started talking back around mile 7.  By mile 14 they were screaming.

Coming out of the canyon. Never have I been so happy to see my friends and family.

The canyon is gorgeous.  Fall is sprinkled through the trees, and when the morning light hits that canyon it’s like fireworks exploding on the hillside.  I don’t run with music, so the sound of the stream rushing downhill alongside the road makes for a meditative run.

While I usually do math in my head to distract me from running, this year all my thoughts were about running.  I thought a lot about how far I’ve come.  How running has changed me inside and out.  How what started off as an activity to burn off a few extra pounds became a mental life raft.  I thought about the first marathon I finished.  The first sub-3.  The first marathon win.  I thought of the friends I’ve met, and the relationships I’ve forged.  I thought about my birthday marathon around Daybreak Lake.  I thought about Boston 2013, and then Boston 2014.  I thought about the peace I still feel even on the most painful runs.

Meeting Kaitlynne, my oldest, at mile 14 at the mouth of the canyon in 2012.

The miles ticked by and then, there it was. Mile 14.  I told Tyler if I’d been adequately hydrated, I’d have wept for joy I was so happy to see him.  While the first 14 miles are down the gorgeous Blacksmith Fork Canyon, the last 12 are a twisty turny journey through hills and neighborhoods.  He distracted me as he told stories of his previous week’s run with Alicia, his sister and my high school friend, as he paced her the last 33 miles of her 100-mile ultra.  100 miles.  People do this.  Seriously.

This guy. We’ve logged a lot of miles together. He keeps me from losing my mind more often than not. Mile 19 in 2017.

The best part of TOU is the ease with which spectators can cheer on their runners.  I saw my family a few more times before the finish.  Somewhere around mile 19 my side began to cramp.  It’s been an issue since my hysterectomy in December.  I’d hoped it wouldn’t rear it’s ugly head, but it did.  It’s not the kind of cramp I can run through, so I walked.  I never walk in a race.  But over the next seven miles, I walked through every aid station and then some.

Ali patiently waiting for me to finish.

The last mile felt like ten.  But finally, there was the finish line.  Rick and Elfi Ortenburger were there to cheer me and a few other friends to the finish.  My husband and daughter Ali were on the other side.  I tried to high-five them, but by this point I couldn’t lift my arm.  But they could tell how grateful I was that they were there.  I crossed the finish line in 3:13, fourth overall woman.  Second in the female master’s division.  I stumbled through the finish chute, grabbed my medal with my good arm, found a chair to sit on and cried.

The finish line 2017

 

Trying to high-five Christian.

They were tears of relief, sadness, elation and disappointment all rolled together.  Relief the race was done.  Sadness that it was the last marathon.  Elation I had placed.  Disappointment it was my worst finish time in over seven years.  There were a few tears of pain mixed in there, too.

Top five overall women 2017

After the awards ceremony, I sat down in the park where the finish line festivities are held just so I could soak it in a little longer.  Now it’s three days later.  Rumor has it that next year will be the last year for TOU.  It will be the 20th running.  With so few runners, they aren’t breaking even.  Every year they lose more.  There is no shortage of runners, but there is no shortage of races, either, others offering more downhill than TOU.  This continues to break my heart as TOU is so personally special to me.  The race directors love their runners and it shows in the care they offer.  The volunteers, the one-of-a-kind awards, their enthusiasm- it all makes for a day like no other.

My ten-year clock and beautiful moose trophy.

I loudly declared this would be my last local marathon for awhile, but I’m not sure I can miss next year, especially since it’s their 20th anniversary, and definitely if it’s their last year.

Center Street Grill. A TOU family tradition.

Sitting at the Center Street Grille with my family munching on onion rings and burgers, taking in the fall colors, and enjoying the cool breeze after a tough race, I didn’t want to be anywhere else.  Life changes. Priorities shift.  Bodies grow older.  But TOU remains a unique and emotional yearly event and I’m not sure I’m ready to let that go.  My heart says “Yes” while my body says “No.”

To be continued…

My beautiful family in 2015.

Elfi Ortenburger- Huntsman Hometown Hero

Post Berlin Marathon 2014 with Rick and Elfi Ortenburger.

There are a lot of people quietly going about their days doing good and serving others.  They don’t get the recognition they often deserve, but they don’t do it for the applause.  They serve out of compassion for others.  Elfi Ortenburger exemplifies this generosity of spirit.  She has dedicated her retirement to helping others research a cure for cancer, all the while helping so many achieve their dream of running a half or full marathon.  She’s touched countless lives.  700 words isn’t enough space to fully capture the essence of Elfi, but I gave it a shot.

Click on the link below to read the Deseret News article all about Elfi.  And if you feel so moved, please donate to the Huntsman Cancer Institute through the link provided on my homepage.

http://www.deseretnews.com/article/865681209/Running-coach-Elfi-Ortenburger-helps-raise-money-for-cancer-research-through-Huntsman-Hometown.html

Top of Utah Marathon Returns for 2017

Top of Utah Marathon
Moose medals!

Could not be happier to spread the word that the Top of Utah Marathon is returning for 2017.  Click on the link below for more details.  Utah wins!!!

http://www.deseretnews.com/article/865667177/Top-of-Utah-Marathon-will-continue-in-2017.html?pg=all

From the Archives: The Bigger the Hill, the Better the View

the bigger the hill the better the view

I wrote this back when my daughter Ali was just about to start kindergarten.  Today I drove her to her fourth grade class.  Time slips through out fingers like fine sand in a sieve.  But the words I wrote are truer today than ever.  We run because we can.  We challenge ourselves and our bodies because we can.  To back away from hard things is to deny ourselves the opportunity to grown.  To turn our backs on the things that scare us is to stunt our progress.  We will never see who we are if we refuse to look in the mirror.  Tough races force me to face myself- to see what I’m really made of.  Enjoy.

 

Some of the hardest moments in life are also the best.

Like many parents, this time of year brings me great joy mixed with a little sadness. It’s back-to-school time and this go-round, I’m sending both of my kids. My youngest is now in kindergarten and couldn’t be happier about it.

I, on the other hand, find myself more than a little teary-eyed at the prospect of what my husband and I call “The Beginning of the End”.

Ali is more than ready to take this step. She’s ready to be challenged. Her curiosity is bigger than my capacity to fill it. My companionship is no match to her friends who offer the excitement of bug catching and gold digging in the sandbox.

And the truth of the matter is, if Ali weren’t ready, I’d be more distraught. These milestones may be difficult, but they are necessary. She’s becoming more independent and that’s how it should be. While I’m sad that my little bug isn’t by my side all day, I’m thrilled to see how she is growing. It’s all good.

Continue reading “From the Archives: The Bigger the Hill, the Better the View”

Save Top of Utah!

Top of Utah Marathon
Finish line. The Mile 23 aid station crew ran the last three miles with Taylor, a little person, who was the last runner on the course. Talk about dedicated volunteers. They stayed 90 minutes past the time they had to just to make sure she had the support she needed.

 

Top of Utah Marathon used to be one of Utah’s premier marathons.  But with the onslaught of new races with steep downhill courses offering promises of fast finish times, TOU’s registration has dwindled dangerously low.  The future of the race is uncertain.  This year was my 9th running.  It’s the only Utah race I’ve run every year and if I had only one marathon to run each year, this is the one I’d choose.  And it’s an easy choice.  By opting for faster marathons, runners are missing out on some incredible experiences.  We’ve already seen the Park City Marathon disappear.  I hope that Top of Utah can figure out a way to continue next year and beyond.  Do yourself a favor and sign up for this fantastic event.  You may not PR, but I guarantee that you will have a finish you’ll be proud of.  Click on the link below to read this week’s Deseret News article about TOU.

http://www.deseretnews.com/article/865662752/Why-you-should-run-the-Top-of-Utah-Marathon.html