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 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.
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|
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.