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.

From the Archive: Finish Times Don’t Matter: Integrity Does

This column written in 2012 actually never saw the light of day.  It was a little too controversial for a happy little running column.  So I shelved it where it has sat for five years.   I stumbled upon it this afternoon looking through my archives and was surprised by how relevant it seems today.

Let me be clear- while this is about a political candidate, this is NOT a political post.  I am NOT advocating for the right or the left (although if you know me at all, my political leanings are no secret).  In fact, when I wrote this I was rooting for the Republican nominee.  In my voting life I’ve voted for Democrats and Republicans equally. With the exception of the most recent presidential election, I have voted for the winning party every time since Bill Clinton.

No, this column is about honesty.  It’s about integrity.  It’s about owning our successes outright.  It’s about celebrating the sacrifice, dedication, and effort that goes in to running a race- not the finish time.  It’s about telling the truth.

Read on to see what politics has to do with running.


I really hate it when worlds collide.

Remember seeing your teachers out in public? Seeing them at the grocery store was like spotting a giraffe in the garage. Very unsettling.

So imagine how shaken my reality became when recently the two very separate worlds of politics and running crashed into each other.

Running is my refuge. It’s where I turn to when I need to clear my head and release the tension that has built up in my neck from the day’s stressors. It’s the one place I can go to escape the non-stop political discussions that seem to dominate the news feeds. Yes, it is election season, but we all could use a breather once in awhile.

But with Paul Ryan’s recent claim to marathoning fame, it was a little harder to find that escape. The issue causing upheaval in the running world? Ryan’s claim that he ran a sub-3 hour marathon years ago. He stated he couldn’t remember the exact time. Around 2:50-ish, he said.

Continue reading “From the Archive: Finish Times Don’t Matter: Integrity Does”

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

Monday Memory- Kathrine Switzer

Me with Kathrine Switer at the 2011 Boston Marathon Expo. What an honor to speak with one of my role models, not just in running but in life.

 

Fifty years ago Kathrine Switzer became the first woman to officially run the Boston Marathon.  Bobbi Gibb had run it before, but rebel style.  Switzer had an official bib.  Her run famously included a “run-in” with race director Jock Semple.  If you haven’t read her book Marathon Woman, get a copy now, find a comfy chair and prepare to be amazed in the truest sense.  Kathrine’s belief in herself and other women have made so many of my own dreams a reality.  It’s not just her physical accomplishments, but her dedication to helping all women around the globe open doors to their own success that inspire me in my own little sphere of influence.  At the young age of 70, she is running the Boston Marathon today to commemorate that historic run in 1967.  I can only hope to continue to follow in her footsteps.

Thank you, Kathrine, for all you have done and continue to do.

Boston Marathon Tips

My 2013 Boston Marathon bib signed by five of the six 2012 Olympic marathoners. Prized possession.

A week from today, some of you will be basking in the glow of Boylston St.  It’s a race like no other.  While I won’t be there this year, I do have a few tips to offer those running for the first time.  Here’s to making the most of Marathon Monday!

Click on the link below to read more.

http://www.deseretnews.com/article/865677447/10-tips-for-running-the-Boston-Marathon.html

Happy Valentine’s Day, Running- 14 Reasons I Still Love to Run

Don’t running and I make a good-looking couple!

I might always love running, but I don’t always like it.  Sometimes we just need a break from each other, but we always end up back together again.  Initially our relationship felt very one-sided.  I was faithful, but running let me down: injuries, burnout, perceived lack of progress.  Most of the issues were my fault.  I demanded more than my fair share.  I expected running to reciprocate my affection in ways that just weren’t mine to claim.  I wanted fast legs, shiny medals, and a body made of steel.  I saw others reach these goals in their relationships with running, so why shouldn’t I?  Time and time again running tried to tell me I was unique.  Our situation was one-of-a-kind.  I wasn’t like all the other girls.  I didn’t want to hear that.  I blamed my injuries and fatigue on running until one day it dawned on me.  If running was treating everyone else fairly, maybe the problem was me.  Maybe I needed to change. Maybe the problem was more one-sided than I thought.  When it was good, it was really good.  When it was bad, well, whose fault was it, really?  I needed to own my part in this dysfunctional partnership.  I needed to quit playing the victim and look for ways to make our bond stronger.  I needed to reassess what I really wanted from running.  I needed long-term perspective rather than instant gratification.

Fast forward to today and I think we’re in a good place now.  I respect the recovery running demands from me.  Instead of focusing on what running isn’t giving me, I appreciate what it does.  I understand we need some time apart, but when I take a day off, the make-up runs are so great!  Our relationship is stronger than ever now that we have mutual respect and understanding.  So, to running, Happy Valentine’s Day.

Click on the link below to read all about the 14 reasons I still love running after all these years.

http://www.deseretnews.com/article/865673241/Reasons-I-still-love-running.html

We Can Come Together

The scarf given to me on Easter Sunday 2014, the day before the Boston Marathon.

 

Almost four years ago, two terrible people committed a horrific act of terror that impacted millions of lives.  Out of that tragedy emerged some of the most profound acts of kindness I’ve witnessed.  Residents giving away coats to freezing runners; hotels offering shelter to those who couldn’t make it back to theirs; strangers sharing food and hugs.  That’s not to mention the heroics of medical personnel, volunteers and fellow runners.

The Boston Bombings in 2013 shook my world to its core.  I knew terrorists existed.  I saw the planes crashing into buildings on 9-11.  I watched the news and tried my best to keep up with current events around the world.  Yes, terrorism was real, but not.  It’s one thing to see bombs exploding in countries across the globe from the comfort of my own living room.  It’s another thing entirely to hear those explosions, feel your hotel room shake and listen to the windows rattle.  It’s another thing to receive a phone call from a friend asking in panic where another friend is.  It’s another thing to emerge from your hotel room only to be greeted by soldiers with large guns telling you to turn around and go the other way.  It’s another thing to sit on the floor of your hotel lobby with hundreds of stranded runners, many of whom never finished their race and who can’t get to their hotel, and watch President Obama talk directly to you through the media in an attempt to soothe our fear and console our hearts.

I don’t think about that day much.  I don’t plan to see the movie.  No judgement towards those who do, but the previews alone leave me in a state of panic.  It was the worst day of my life.  The location of the first bomb was in the exact spot my family stood while I ran my first Boston in 2010.  While my friend and I ran in 2013, our husbands stood across the street from that first bomb, waiting to cheer us on that last .2.  After celebrating our own finish, my friend and her husband went back to cheer on other runners and were directly across the bomb when it went off.  I was back in my hotel room nursing a sore hamstring.  The plan was to let 2013 be my last Boston.  The moment those explosions happened, I knew I’d be back in 2014.

For a year I carried the weight of that day on my shoulders, and I didn’t even realize it.  I did what I always did: drive kids; teach classes; run errands; train for Boston.  Life goes on.  Before I knew it, my friend Shelly and I were flying to Boston where I would meet up with my running partner Tyler and run the marathon one more time.

The day before the race was Easter Sunday.  The Old South Church, located at the Boston Marathon finish line on Boylston St.  traditionally holds a service the day before the race and offers a Blessing for the Athletes.  I’d never been, and seeing as it was Easter Sunday and the last time I’d be in Boston for the foreseeable future, Shelly and I decided to attend the 11am service.  It was beautiful.  People from every background packed the pews.  Every race, religion, and gender represented.  Different backgrounds and different stories, but we were all looking for a little peace.  There were a lot of runners wearing their 2013 Boston Celebration jackets.  It was comforting to see so many of my fellow runners who’d lived the same day I’d lived.  Our shared experience made us almost like family. I felt like I was a part of a club, although I never wanted to be a member.

The service began.  The music was beautiful.  The minister’s words more significant than ever.  Near the end the runners were asked to stand for their blessing.  Then those who’d run in 2013 were asked to remain standing.  Men and women walked down the aisles with their arms laden with blue and yellow scarves; each one unique in its design.  The church had spent the past year recruiting volunteers to knit scarves for the runners.  People from all around the country contributed and the final result was making its way around the church.  The minister asked for the person to the right of every standing runner to take a scarf and wrap it around the neck of that runner.  An older gentleman took a scarf and wrapped it around my neck and gave me a hug.  We’d never met, but it didn’t feel that way.  I was crying.  He was crying.  There was a lot of crying.

While we stood with our scarves wrapped snuggly around our necks, the minister explained their significance.  Service is something we give someone else.  Someone had to place those scarves around out necks so they could serve us and we could receive that service.  In that act we are both blessed.  Scarves provide comfort when the world is stormy.  They give warmth on the coldest day.  Those that knitted the scarves also served as they provided comfort.  Those scarves were in essence a hug from a stranger wanting to reach out to let us know that out of that one stormy day there was still warmth.  I wore that scarf for the rest of the trip.

Marathon Monday, was equally as moving.  We had a moment of silence at the start line.  And then we began our race.  There were over 30,000 runners with 30,000 different reasons to run.  At mile 16, after the right hand turn at the fire station on our way to Heartbreak Hill, I’ll never forget the little girl holding the sign, “Remember Who You Run For”.  Underneath was a picture of Richard, the little boy who’d been killed in the bombings.  How could I forget.

Rounding the corner to Hereford and then Boylston, the crowds cheered so loudly I couldn’t hear my own thoughts.  Their energy lifted me to the point I felt like I was floating.  I couldn’t feel my legs, but in a good way.  It was the closest thing I’ve had to a religious experience in the secular world.  It was a triumph of spirit as we crossed the finish line.  We carried the spectators and volunteers with us.  For those 26.2 miles we were one.  Completely and utterly one.

Why do I bring this up now?  The last year has felt more divisive than ever.  I’ve seen friendships ripped apart through tweets and posts.  Families divided over politics.  Divisions in parties, genders, geography are so wide they seem too cavernous to cross.

But here’s the thing.  In the end, we are all human.  We all want peace.  We all want unity.  It’s just a matter of putting each other first and our differences second.  If the diverse group in that South Church can come together in the spirit of support and love, why can’t we all do that?  Is a political season worth the relationships with those we love?  Can we fight for our beliefs and the causes we hold dear without fighting personal battles with each other?   I’d be willing to bet that the man who wrapped that scarf around my neck and the woman who knit it don’t all agree on every issue, but in the end it didn’t matter.  They gave service and I was the grateful recipient and we were all better for it.

Sadly, it’s often through tragedy we find common ground.  I hope to find that common ground before another tragedy happens.  We all want to be heard, but if we’re all screaming at each other we never will be.  In the end, we’re all just runners trying to make it to the finish line.  It’s a lot easier to get there when we cheer each other on.

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

Tips on Running an International Marathon

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Marathons are hard.  Traveling can be exhausting.  Combine the two could potentially be a recipe for disaster.  But it doesn’t have to be. My favorite races have been those in places completely unfamiliar.  There’s no better way to explore a city than on foot, running shoulder to shoulder with thousands of locals.  You can learn a lot about a culture during 26.2 miles.  Here are a few tips if you plan to run a race in a different country or even a different state.  Click on the link below to read my column, then pack your bags and choose your own adventure.

http://www.deseretnews.com/article/865666575/Running-races-internationally.html?clear_cache=1

The Amsterdam Marathon

 

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Click on this link below for a short video of the Amsterdam Marathon finish line

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Time is a funny thing.  It feels like I’ve been gone forever, and yet never left.  For 8 glorious days, I had the good fortune to wander around the Netherlands.  I ate many waffles, Dutch pancakes, Belgium chocolate, and poffertjes (look it up- they’re heavenly), but it was all good because I ran off every last carb during the Amsterdam Marathon.

Poffertjes with strawberries and ice cream. This is dinner.
Poffertjes with strawberries and ice cream. This is dinner.

The beauty of this course can’t be exaggerated.  The friendliness of the volunteers, fellow runners, and race organizers can’t be overemphasized.  This was a larger race with 16,000 marathoners and 18,000 half marathoners.  There was also an 8K the same day with around 3,000.  As large as it was, it felt like a small town race with all the small town feels.  In short, I loved it.  The course was flat which meant my legs weren’t beat up and I was able to walk the city for the rest of the week with little pain and discomfort.

A view of the Amsterdam Marathon course at Mile 20
A view of the Amsterdam Marathon course at Mile 20
The Amstel River. Mile 10 of the Amsterdam Marathon.
The Amstel River. Mile 10 of the Amsterdam Marathon.

 

This is good because there were many chocolate shops to visit along the way.  No time goals for this race.  I took video and pictures and soaked in the atmosphere.  Click on the link below to read about this latest running adventure.  (Fair warning- I wrote this with a jet-lag hangover, so it’s not my best work).

http://www.deseretnews.com/article/865665476/The-Amsterdam-Marathon.html

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