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.

Tips on Running an International Marathon


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.

The Amsterdam Marathon



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


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).


All You Need is Friends, Shoes and Chocolate

Sometimes this is the ONLY reason I run. Those pastries are all filled with chocolate FYI

In three days I’ll be on a plane with my two friends, Shelly and Tonya, on our way to Amsterdam where we will meet more friends, devour waffles and chocolate, and run a few miles around a new city.  Two years ago Shelly, who works for Delta Airlines, let me know that Delta now has a direct flight from Salt Lake to Amsterdam.  What I heard in my head was, “Quick!  Look to see what marathons happen in Amsterdam and start planning a trip ASAP!”  And here we are with bags half-packed, text messages about what to wear and what to eat pinging back and forth, and a head full of plans.

Rick, Kim and Elfi at the finish line of the Berlin Marathon
Rick, Kim and Elfi at the finish line of the Berlin Marathon

We’ve traveled to New York, Berlin, and Boston.  These dear friends don’t mind that I pee three times a night.  They understand and support my need for all delicious European pastries.  They take me seriously when I throw out ideas for crazy adventures.  Most importantly, they are on board with them.

Kim, Shelly, and Tonya in the middle of our first century bike ride.  So innocent.
Kim, Shelly, and Tonya in the middle of our first century bike ride. So innocent.

I don’t believe in luck, but how else do I explain how these people came into my life?  These women are the sisters I never had.  Rick and Elfi, the other friends we’re meeting, entered my world by a hair’s breath.  I just happened to be subbing a cycle class at a gym I almost never attend.  Our paths crossed, and we’ve been close ever since.

I chose a good husband.  A man who wants me to be happy and is thrilled when I am smiling.  He doesn’t LET me go on these trips.  He encourages it and cheers me on from our living room while he and the kids eat donuts on the couch for breakfast (‘cuz when Mom’s away, I don’t ask questions.).  I always experience intense homesickness when I embark on these trips.  There’s nothing harder than saying goodbye at the airport.  I love these people and one day we’ll be rich enough that I can take them all with me.  On the other hand, taking a break from our routine (and, let’s face it, them having a break from me and my insistence on brushing and flossing) is good for everyone.

My family greeting me at the airport after the Berlin Marathon
My family greeting me at the airport after the Berlin Marathon

So, things will be quiet on the site for the next two weeks.  I’m going to enjoy experiencing a new country with old friends and soaking in every minute of it.  I’ll be Instagraming the life out of this trip, so you can follow our running adventure at kiminthegym1 on Instagram.

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.

From the Archives- Boston 2012

Boston 2012
My friend Tracy and I at the Boston 2012 start. Notice the absence of any warm clothing. Ugh.

This is an article I wrote for the Deseret News the day after I ran the 2012 Boston Marathon.   It was a special day since my parents and my grandmother were all out to watch me run.  My grandmother had never seen me race before.  Sadly, my grandpa had already passed away.  I thought of him a lot and of how proud he would have been to watch me run.  It was an awful race.  80 degree start.  90 degree finish.  Factor in the heat radiating off the pavement at the end and, well, it was ugly.  It’s the only Boston Marathon where I’ve sought medical attention.  I was woozy and sick to my stomach at the end.  The medics doused me with water, forced me to eat a bag of magical potato chips and VOILA!  I was better!  Kind of.  It was a long and rough recovery.  Because it wasn’t the greatest of days, I immediately made plans to return in 2013.  I’ll post that recap later.  For now, enjoy.

Continue reading “From the Archives- Boston 2012”

I Am Not a Number

Christian Cowart. Boston 2013 5K Now that's a guy who really enjoys his run.
Christian Cowart. Boston 2013 5K. Now that’s a guy who really enjoys his run.

It’s easy to allow numbers to define who we are.  How much we weigh.  How heavy we lift.  How far we run.  How fast we get there.  What size we wear.  How many calories we eat.  The problem is numbers don’t describe our character.  Numbers don’t identify drive, commitment, dedication, or desire.  You can’t measure the size of someone’s soul.  Working out, running, being fit and healthy isn’t about fitting into our jeans or looking good in a bikini.  It’s about feeling good.  Feeling strong.  Feeling like our best selves.  When we begin to focus on how we feel, all the superficial stuff falls into place.  I like fitting into old jeans.  I like feeling awesome in a bikini.  That, in itself, is not bad.  What’s bad is when it becomes the sole focus of our efforts.  Click on the link below to read more.

Demons of Self Doubt

“Our doubts are traitors,/
and make us lose the good we oft might win,/
by fearing to attempt.”

-William Shakespeare, Measure for Measure

On my way to the start line of my first Boston Marathon. Riddled with nerves and a generous dose of self-doubt. Thank goodness for little Kaitlynne whose antics always lighten the mood.

As a little girl I was never scared of monsters. Obviously they weren’t real. I’m not sure I ever believed in Santa, so why would I worry about some three-headed goblin taking up residence in my closet.

My fears were based more in reality. Snakes in the toilet, spiders in my bed. I still check the toilet before I sit down. Always.

The fears I do battle with most often as an adult aren’t of the green, slimy kind. They are the little demons of self-doubt.

No matter how well I may master a skill, these little creatures weasel their way into my psyche and wreak havoc at the most unexpected moments. The longer they linger, the deeper they cling.

Sometimes self-doubt is sneaky. I will attribute success to being in the right place at the right time. I will credit luck rather than hard work for a fortunate outcome.

“I’m not a good writer. I just happened to have a couple good ideas here and there.”

“I’m not a good runner. All the fast girls stayed home today.”

“I’m not a good mom. God just graced me with good kids.”

Other times self-doubt is brazen and bold, shouting insults with megaphone-like intensity.

“You have nothing interesting to say.”

“You aren’t fast enough, so why bother.”

“You’ll be lucky if those kids make it to adulthood without needing serious therapy.”

Continue reading “Demons of Self Doubt”