Tuesday, September 2, 2014

Porter's Half Marathon - August 30, 2014

I just returned to South Florida from a whirlwind trip to visit my dear friend Sarah in Utah, where we shared the experience of the Porter's Half Marathon together. She wrote an update of the weekend trip which can be found by clicking this link, but I wanted to share my experiences too. I chose to not carry a camera at the race, so I am borrowing some of her photos to illustrate.

I know Sarah through school. We are both working on our doctoral degrees in Conflict Analysis and Resolution, and we have both been navigating the dissertation stage together at the same pace. She has ultimately been one of my closest confidants through the dissertation journey, and because we both recently turned in our respective completed first drafts for review, this was a much needed celebratory trip. I flew out to Utah on Thursday, which gave me a bit of time to both acclimate to the dryness and the altitude, but it also allowed us to go out and explore the Salt Lake area of Utah. Off the bat, I was a little concerned about the altitude and how it would affect me, and I was hyper aware that when doing stairs in her home, I was getting significantly winded.

Sarah had gotten a PR one week prior at a race, and was still a bit sore by the time Saturday morning rolled around so her goal was just to finish the race and qualify for Half Fanatics. That goal worked well with my own goals too. Having just come off an injury, my goal was to simply finish the race upright so that I might rebuild some confidence that was lost over the past year. We arrived at packed pickup early on Saturday morning with plenty of time to spare. The process went smoothly, we got our bibs and shirts, we used the facilities, then we waited for the buses. Sarah recently had joined a group called #Run3rd which was created by Actor Sean Ashton following the idea that you run first for yourself, second for your family and then 3rd you run for those who can't or for those who need uplifting. She had some gorgeous patches sewn for us because we were running 3rd for peace, so we also put those on our backs.

The course was an A to B course, with the start line at the mouth of Little Cottonwood Canyon at approximately 5393 feet above sea level... approximately 844 feet higher in elevation than the start line. My ears were popping like crazy during the drive to the start line, and when we got out of the bus, I was shocked by how mountainous it was. I grew up in the mountains of NH, but this was entirely a different beast. I guess I've never stood in a canyon looking up at the mountains looming above me. It was quite the experience.

The field of participants was really small, and when the race started, I realized that although we were averaging just over 13 minutes per mile, the pack was pulling away from us at a quick clip. We had been told that we had 4 hours to complete the race, so we knew that we weren't in trouble time wise or anything, but it was disconcerting that we quickly found that we were on our own along the roads with a single motorcycle cop giving us a personal escort. Sarah and I were both sore as we began the race, but I was impressed by how well my feet were holding up. I had some standard soreness in my fascia, but no signs of the dreaded foot pains from my injuries of the past year. We were also maintaining a pace that is faster than average for me, and my confidence soared.

The deer was right on the other side of the fence
At mile 4ish, we approached an aid station and the boys that were working it were intently looking off into a field as we approached. I wondered what they were looking at, but I was focused on opening a pack of gu. When I looked up again, there was a young white tailed deer about 2 feet away from me. The boys then pointed out a young male deer that was a little further off. The sun was shining just so, and I would have to say that this experience itself made the whole race worthwhile to me.

At mile 6 I realized I was having some significant trouble breathing. It felt like every time I went to take a breath, I had a 40 lb 2 year old jumping on my chest. I couldn't get a full breath, and forget about talking anymore. I told Sarah that I needed to walk for a little while. I was never able to recover the breathing, and although we tried to run a few more intervals, we gave up. Its strange. I had a lot of concerns about doing this race and being able to complete it within the allotted time, but my concerns always revolved around my feet and my injuries. I never imagined that the altitude would cause me to be so short of breath and be my downfall. I told Sarah she could go along without me, but she was still feeling a lot of aches and pains from her PR race the week prior, so she chose to stay with me.

We had a great time. The scenery was gorgeous the houses were grand, and the backyard decorations had us giggling. We passed a ranch that had a random zebra and some emus, we passed a home with a large sculpture of a dinosaur skeleton, and to celebrate the strict liquor laws in Utah, we had shots of Jack at mile 10. Those shots really picked us up and gave us the sugar we needed to keep going and dulled the aches and pains that we had developed on the course. The aid stations at the last 4 miles or so were already semi packed up and were left unmanned, so these shots really came in handy to boost morale.

The course had been billed as a mostly downhill with "a few rollers to keep us honest," but honestly, I felt that the course was more rollers than anything, and the 844 foot decline was only noticeable when we were approaching the finish line and could see the start line off in the distance well above our heads.

Start just over my left shoulder in mtns
As we approached the finish line, a runner we had met earlier on the course who had done the 10K and who had "doubled back" earlier told us that they were breaking down the finish line and that they knew we were coming. She encouraged us to finish strong, which certainly we did, but it was a little disheartening that we had been told that we had 4 hours on the course and we were at  approximately 3:20 and they were already breaking down the finish line. By the time we got there, the timing mats were already packed away, though the remaining volunteers made a nice finish line for us by loosely lining the course to make an impromptu chute and holding up flags for us to run through to signify our finish.

All said and done, it was a great day with a great friend. In retrospect, I wish that I had been a little more prepared for the altitude and perhaps that could have been accomplished by flying in an extra day or 2 early. I might recommend this race to people who enjoy small races and who really enjoy scenery, but if you are looking for a fast flat, this is not for you.

Half 27 completed. 12th State completed.

Unofficial Finish time: 3:32:13

Not bad for untrained and coming off an injury.