Entry 9: The 2015 Boston Marathon: The Days Before

First Some History

My confirmation of acceptance into the 2015 Boston Marathon.

My confirmation of acceptance into the 2015 Boston Marathon.

The Boston Marathon. The oldest and most prestigious marathon in the world.  One of the six World Marathon Majors, it is the holy grail of races in the running world.

The course runs through 26 miles of winding roads passing through eight Massachusetts cities: Hopkinton, Ashland, Framingham, Natick, Wellesley, Newton, Brookline and into the center of Boston, where the official finish line is located at Copley Square. 

The Boston Marathon is considered to be one of the more difficult marathon courses because of the Newton hills, the famed Heartbreak hill, and the unpredictable weather conditions. Runners 18 or older from any nation, are permitted to run the Boston Marathon, but unlike most marathons they first have to complete a certified marathon course and meet the qualifying standards approximately 18 months prior to the race day they want to participate in.  Even if you meet the qualifying standards, depending on the field size of the race that year and the number of applicants, you aren’t guaranteed a spot.  In 2015, you had to be a minute and half under your qualifying standard to run the race.

The average number of participants is around 30,000.  500,000 spectators arrive to watch the event.

My Experience at Boston

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I was pretty psyched to receive my Runner Passport. I had been waiting for that Golden Ticket for a year!

This event will forever be one of my favorites on the timeline of my life. I started the Hanson Method, 18 weeks out, to prepare for a 3:30 finish time on the course. Because the race is in April, and I live in Colorado, much of my training had to be done indoors on a treadmill. As the weeks and days grew closer to Boston so did my excitement.

Wednesday, April 15 (5 days before the Boston Marathon)

My younger sister flew in from Utah to help watch my kids. This day was a big preparation day.  My suitcase, a whopping 49 pounds, was filled with food to help me carb load the four days before the race and included my breakfast essentials for the morning of the race.

Thursday, April 16 (4 days before the Boston Marathon)

Welcome to the Boston Marathon from the Boston Marathon Phone App

Welcome to the Boston Marathon from the Boston Marathon Phone App

My husband and I awoke at 4 am to make a 7 am flight out of Denver for Boston. This was also my official first day for carb loading for the marathon. My carry on had so much food in it, but I was prepared! We touched down in Boston and I got a message from my Boston Marathon app welcoming me to the Boston Marathon.  We grabbed a taxi and arrived at the Boston Intercontinental Hotel about 15 minutes later–the Boston Logan Airport is so close. After check in, I did a quick 5 mile recovery run and then we hit Little Italy for dinner at Al Dente and dessert at Mike’s Pastry–the infamous Florentine cannoli. Yum! Shortly after, we met up with Natalie and Clint Brown, who had come in on a later flight and joined them for dinner at Quattro–seriously delicious food. After another stop at Mike’s Pastry for some more cannoli’s, we headed back to the hotel to get some rest.

The Boston Intercontinental is a very comfortable, very quiet hotel in a great location. I slept so well every night we were there which is very atypical for me at most hotels. It is close to Boston’s charming Little Italy, but also right across the street from the Quincy Market and Faneuil Marketplace–tons of restaurants and shops there. It is also very close to the subway system. (We will stay there again in 2016!)

Friday, April 17 (3 days before the Boston Marathon)

Biking Boston before the 2015 Boston Marathon.

Biking 25 miles of Boston before the 2015 Boston Marathon.

Before arriving in town, we had reserved bikes to tour the city on Friday morning. We awoke to rain and wished we could have cancelled our reservation with Urban AdvenTours–3/4 of a mile from the hotel, but in the end the rain didn’t really affect us that much.  We rode almost 26 miles that day stopping at the Converse headquarters, touring Harvard, Harvard Square, the Harvard Bookstore, eating at Bartley’s (delicious burgers) in Cambridge for lunch, and ultimately biking to the Newton hills–our main purpose for renting the bikes.  We wanted to check out what we were in for on the course. It was a really good thing we did this.  It really helped us to know what to expect. (And it showed me that I really need to work on my cross training–my quads were burning biking up those four hills.)  After the Utah Valley Marathon, I really wasn’t intimidated by the Newton hills. It was reassuring to see that they weren’t very long. (The Utah Valley Marathon has one mile and 2 mile hills.  . . .) We left the Newton hills and biked the rest of the course all the way to the finish line area.  It was fun to see all the preparations for the upcoming race. Boston was transformed from my visit a year earlier.

Biking the finish line at the Boston Marathon the Friday before the event.

Biking the finish line at the Boston Marathon the Friday before the event.

After seriously tiring out my legs biking the city, I worried a little that I may have burned more glycogen than I should have considering I was preparing for a marathon. I silently committed to trying to not exert myself as much the rest of the trip.  No need to run this day–we did all our work on the bikes!

Fenway Park Red Sox game the Friday before the Boston Marathon.

Fenway Park Red Sox game the Friday before the Boston Marathon.

After biking the city we got cleaned up and tried our first experience with an Uber Car–I’ll never go in a Taxi again.  We went to Scoozi for dinner (pizza) and then headed over to Fenway Park to catch a Red Sox vs. Orioles game.  I was so excited for this experience, but the crowd we were sitting by (the drunk girls that spilled beer all over me) and the distance we were from the game just really ruined it for me. We arrived home after the game and I was out the minute my head hit the pillow.

Saturday, April 18, (2 days before the Boston Marathon)

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At the 2015 Boston Marathon Expo with my ‘team.’ (Natalie and Clint Brown, Stephen Sidwell, and myself.

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Getting my race bib. That was pretty exciting.

After a lazy morning, we tried out the subway system to hit the marathon expo and get our bibs, race bags, and other race souvenirs. I knew there would be masses of people, but wow. The expo was exciting and fun, but definitely not something you need to spend too much time at.

2015 Boston Marathon Race Bag Swag

2015 Boston Marathon Race Bag Swag

(Get there earlier on though; they were selling out of the complimentary posters that have all the athletes’ names on them for that year and other stuff.)

After our time at the race expo, we took our rental car up the coast to Salem, and Rockport. Salem wasn’t all that impressive. Rockport didn’t disappoint, although our Roy Moore’s Fish Shack Lobster rolls and clam chowder did. We don’t plan on renting a car when we return in 2016. We are going to spend more time just checking out Boston, but we did enjoy our little jaunt to the coast.

Before we returned to the city, we took advantage of hitting a local Walmart to find some disposable clothes for race day that we could abandon on the course or shortly before. All the clothes in the women’s department were more than I wanted to spend to just throw them away, so we hit the juvenile clearance racks and I scored a sweatshirt and sweatpants for $3 each.  Perfect.

Upon returning from our coastal journey we decided to hit Little Italy again for dinner and man did we score this night!  We stopped at a bread shop called Bricco Pannetteria and had some of the best bread of my life.  It was steaming and warm which was perfect since it was cold and we were starving! We shared a homemade baguette filled with small pieces of melted cheese and prosciutto. Heaven. Then we went for our dinner reservation (I made Open Table reservations before we arrived in Boston) at Nico–my favorite meal of the trip. Stephen and I shared an artichoke and sausage rigatoni and Natalie and Clint had some of the best spaghetti with meatballs I have ever tasted!  Yum. Authentic Italian just can’t be beat. They seated us in a cozy basement which was also very fun. I had no idea the restaurant even had a basement and then presto, there we were.

After dinner, we went back to Mike’s Pastry for more Florentines.  The athletes had descended on the city now and you saw purple marathon jackets everywhere.  The line for Mike’s before dinner stretched out the door and down the street. After dinner, it wasn’t so bad so we went back for more Florentine cannolis. So delicious.

Sunday, April 19, (One day before the Boston Marathon)

The 294 Steps up to the top of the Bunker Hill Monument.

The 294 Steps up to the top of the Bunker Hill Monument.

We awoke early, had breakfast (I was really counting my carbs this day) and headed to church. We still had the car so we were able to just drive there.  After church, we were so close to Bunker Hill that we went and checked out the monument and foolishly paid the ticket to climb the 294 steps to the top.  After that, I vowed that for the rest of the day I would get off my feet! And I did.  We went back to the hotel and chilled for the rest of the afternoon until it was time to go to the Pre-Race Dinner that we had tickets to.  While we were relaxing at the hotel, one of the things we did that was seriously a good idea was watching an online video of the Boston Marathon course that had commentary on what to look for and strategy tips.  I am so glad I watched that the night before I raced because we weren’t able to bike the entire course and that helped me visualize it and mentally prepare.

So, attending the Pre-Race Dinner….yeah, that was a seriously BAD idea.  First, it was freezing, and secondly, the line stretched FOREVER to get your food from the assembly line. Seriously, I think we were in line at least 35 minutes and then we had to eat OUTSIDE. In the freezing cold.  And the food was just so so.  I will not ever do that again. Total waste of calories and time. After dinner, we headed back to the hotel to prepare for an early turn in. Boston Marathon eve had arrived!!

Laying out my clothes the night before the Boston Marathon.

Laying out my clothes the night before the Boston Marathon.

I laid out my clothes and tried to calm my nerves before one of the most anticipated days of my life!

I climbed into bed, and slept fairly well–not as well as the other nights, but I didn’t really expect too. Too much excitement for the next day starting to pulse through my system.

My story continues with my next entry: The 2015 Boston Marathon: Race Day

Entry 8: The Canyon City Marathon

Canyon City Marathon, Azusa, California

Canyon City Marathon, Azusa, California (Photo courtesy of RunRevel.com)

After returning home from the Big Cottonwood Marathon,I visited one of my favorite Marathon race sites, Running in the USA, to look for a good BQ marathon.  Natalie and I are an incredible team and our unlucky pacing choices on the Big Cottonwood Marathon needed to be redeemed. I wanted Natalie to know that she could BQ. I wanted her to get it. I knew she could. Like I said, she is one of the strongest women I have ever met.

Elevation graphic for Canyon City Marathon in Azusa, California

Elevation graphic for Canyon City Marathon in Azusa, California (Courtesy of RunRevel.com)

I happened upon the Canyon City Marathon from this site and everything I read convinced me this was our race. The Canyon City Marathon in 2014 was in its inaugural year. It was a Revel race which made it even more attractive to me. And check out all that downhill. Sea-level downhill.

I talked with Natalie and we decided we were in. Her husband, Clint, also decided to run it. We organized a team with one other member called Team Pizza Chips and Salsa, and committed to training for the next 8 weeks.

I have family that lives near Azusa and they said that we could stay with them.   My cousin was actually planning on running the half marathon so it worked out perfectly.

Natalie Brown and Krista Sidwell at the 2014 Canyon City Marathon Expo.

Natalie Brown and Krista Sidwell at the 2014 Canyon City Marathon Expo.

We flew into LA and after a lot of time spent in traffic we arrived at the small race expo, grabbed our race materials and drove to my cousin’s home in Chino Hills.  She had prepared a delicious carb-heavy dinner and we dined and chatted and then prepared for sleep.

My Feed Your Crazy temporary tattoo race morning.

My Feed Your Crazy temporary tattoo race morning.

We awoke early (3:30 am) and put on our Feed Our Crazy tattoos to show support for our friends’ business and to inspire us as much as their mission inspires us. We downed our pre-race oatmeal and jumped in a car that took us to the buses that were driving athletes up the canyon to the race start.

The drive up to the race start was scenic and beautiful with soft, low-laying clouds. We were ready and at this altitude, also very encouraged by the extra red blood cells that we would have working for us from training at a higher elevation than our LA-based race. We had our pace bands, we had our pace watches and we were rock solid in our strategy for this race.

We were a team to be reckoned with, Natalie and I. We didn’t panic on the hills, we didn’t go too fast on the downhill, we kept our splits and stayed focused.  We even picked up another racer who wanted to pace with us.

The course is so beautiful and our lungs and bodies felt great.

Krista Miner Sidwell and Natalie Brown in the last half mile of the 2014 Canyon City Marathon sprinting for the finish.

Krista Miner Sidwell and Natalie Brown in the last half mile of the 2014 Canyon City Marathon on Palm Dr. headed for the finish.

As we approached the finish line, and I allowed myself to accept that we were going to pull this off, I started to feel an excitement build in me that is hard to describe.  We sprinted across the finish line with a 03:37:27 BQ (8:18 pace).

Natalie Brown crossing the finish line at the Canyon City Marathon in 2014 with her first BQ.

Natalie Brown crossing the finish line at the Canyon City Marathon in 2014 with her first BQ. (I have this picture framed on my desk. It reminds me of what life is all about. Her husband, Clint, is in the foreground of the picture looking on. I’m off to the left, behind her.)

It is hard to put into words the emotions that I felt watching my dear friend achieve her goal. Qualifying for Boston at the Utah Valley Marathon in June earlier that year felt awesome, but this was beyond that.  She was crying in her husband’s arms, who was also crying and I looked on with tears flooding my eyes. Then I got my hug! We did it!

Kool 'n Fit Sport Spray for tired/worked over muscles.

Kool ‘n Fit Sport Spray for tired/worked over muscles.

The post-race facilities at this race were great.  I learned about this great product: Kool ‘N Fit Sport. This stuff really helped our stiffening muscles after all that downhill that our bodies traversed. It is a must-have in my suitcase for post-race recovery now.  But even with the aches and pains, there was nothing bringing us down after our amazing race.

Natalie Brown sporting her BQ shirt after the 2014 Canyon City Marathon, in Azusa, CA.

Natalie Brown sporting her BQ shirt after the 2014 Canyon City Marathon, in Azusa, CA.

So, before the Big Cottonwood Marathon (BCM), I had a shirt made for Natalie that said “Boston Qualifier” on it. I loved the one that I received at the Utah Valley Marathon and knew that they didn’t have that perk at the BCM. I was that confident in her that we were going to make her BQ happen at the BCM. I held onto the shirt, certain that I would need it in the future for her. So, I brought the shirt with me to Canyon City and gave it to her there.  Her reaction to that was great. I love this pic.

Team Pizza Chips and Salsa after the 2014 Canyon City Marathon in Azusa, CA.

Team Pizza Chips and Salsa after the 2014 Canyon City Marathon in Azusa, CA. (From left to right: Frank Ostojic, Clint Brown, Natalie Brown, and Krista Miner Sidwell.)

Natalie’s husband, Clint, also pulled off an impressive 3:03 at the Canyon City Marathon re-qualifying for Boston in 2016. We all qualified and we will all be running it together in 2016.

Recovery meal at Inn and Out in Azusa, CA, after our Canyon City Marathon race.

Recovery meal at In-n-Out in Azusa, CA, after our Canyon City Marathon race.

After getting our fill of the race finisher’s area, we headed back to my cousin’s house to clean up and then went for In-N-Out–one of the funniest meals I have ever witnessed thanks to our two male comedians.

Natalie Brown and Krista Miner Sidwell in Inn and Out heaven after the 2014 Canyon City Marathon.

Natalie Brown and Krista Miner Sidwell in In-N-Out heaven after the 2014 Canyon City Marathon.

Diddy Riese stop for some well-earned cookies in LA.

Diddy Riese stop for some well-earned cookies in LA.

Some friends told us about a cookie place that we had to visit in LA before we caught our flight home so we braved the traffic mess and made it to Diddy Riese.

Natalie Brown and Krista Miner Sidwell after the 2014 Canyon City Marathon.

Natalie Brown and Krista Miner Sidwell after the 2014 Canyon City Marathon.

There are so many lessons to be learned from running a race; from running a marathon. There are so many parallels to life. Life tries you.  It reveals you. It humbles you and at times it tears you apart.  Sometimes all you can do is keep putting one foot in front of the other and will yourself not to fall. Not to stop. To just keep going. But every time you rise, every time you place one foot in front of the other, every time you choose to persevere in the face of the unfaceable, you become more. You feel more. And slowly you are able to see how much more you can do and be. You begin to see yourself and all your limitless potential and you begin to see that helping others see themselves too is better than anything else.

Entry 7: Big Cottonwood Marathon

Big Cottonwood Marathon S Curve

Big Cottonwood Marathon S Curve (Photo Courtesy of RunRevel.com)

About three months after the Utah Valley Marathon, I ran the Big Cottonwood Marathon with a dear friend of mine, Natalie Brown, aka rockstar.  Natalie and I started training together that summer and I was so impressed with her strength and drive. Seriously, this woman is amazing.

The Hanson Marathon Method Book

The Hanson Marathon Method Book

We trained using the Hansons Method. This was a new method for me but one that Natalie’s husband, Clint, had had success with. (Another post will be dedicated to talking more about this method, but I am a fan of it.) Training with someone was so much more enjoyable, and since the marathon was in September, this also meant we could do the majority of our training outside–so much more fun than running on the treadmill. Our goal time for this marathon was a 3:40 so Natalie could BQ.

Doubletree Hotel Big Cottonwood Marathon Race Swag

Doubletree Hotel Big Cottonwood Marathon Race Swag

For this race, I flew in from Denver and my husband stayed back with the kids. (Thanks, Stephen!) I stayed one night, (Friday) and then came back on Saturday after the race was over.  I arrived into the SLC airport and was picked up by my hotel’s shuttle–we stayed at the Doubletree Suites in Salt Lake–one of the recommended hotels for this race. (This hotel was great for the race, except it was too far from the finish line. That is the only reason we won’t be staying there for the race this year. ) Upon check in, they gave me a complimentary bag they had put together for marathoners that included race day information and food–see pic.

After getting settled into the hotel, I walked a block to get on the FrontRunner train which took me straight to the expo–it was really slick.

Natalie Brown and Krista Miner Sidwell at the 2014 Big Cottonwood Marathon Race Expo in Salt Lake City, Utah.

Natalie Brown and Krista Miner Sidwell at the 2014 Big Cottonwood Marathon Race Expo in Salt Lake City, Utah.

The expo was really well-organized.  I hung out there for a couple hours while I waited for Natalie and Clint to drive in from Colorado and then we got our race bags and bibs and headed to the hotel.

2014 Big Cottonwood Race Bag Contents

2014 Big Cottonwood Race Bag Contents

Our race bags for this race were great.  (Revel, in general, puts on really great races. Great expos and race bags, free photos, refundable entries if you need to cancel, organized courses, expansive finisher’s areas with free massages, nice-quality medals and shirts etc.) The mylar blanket, gloves, bracelet, and kodiak oatmeal set this race bag high above your average bag.

After the expo, we grabbed some food at Noodles and Company (Penne Rosa–mild and some flatbread) and then took some time to drive part of the course.  We mainly wanted to study the out-and-back section and from there to the finish line.  The out-and-back looked a little hilly but we were still feeling confident in our preparation for the course.

2014 Big Cottonwood Marathon Kit

2014 Big Cottonwood Marathon Kit

We prepared for bed, laying out all of our items and getting our food ready for our early wake-up call and then hit the pillows.  It is sooo much more fun to be running a race with a friend. We had trained together and had the same goals. We had the same hopes and the same fears. We were in this together.

Unlike the Zermatt hotel, for the Utah Valley Marathon the June prior, this hotel was extremely quiet, and had a microwave. I slept very soundly.

We woke up, prepared, ate our oatmeal and juice, grabbed our bagels and were ready to go downstairs and catch the shuttle.  Race mornings are such a mixture of nerves, excitement, fear and adrenalin.  You always wonder what this race will be like.  Will all the training pay off? Will the weather cooperate? Will it be windy? Will you have to use the bathroom? Will your body perform? Will you pace it correctly? Will you hit the wall? Will you make your goal? Did you carb load enough? Did you get enough water? Will you get sick? Did you eat well the night before? Did your food digest well?  All these questions run through your head. Every marathon is different and this was a completely new course for both of us.

That morning, there was a line of athletes in the hotel lobby all waiting to get on the shuttle. People had come from all over the United States to run.  (One of my favorite parts of racing is meeting and talking to the other participants before and after the race. Everyone has such a different story and history with their running.  Race morning everyone is talkative and friendly.  Everyone is keyed up and excited for what they are about to do.  You don’t know these people, but you know you share a passion for running and a respect for the race. You are all collectively feeling similar emotions and somehow instantly friends.)

After the 30-mile ride from the hotel to the race start we began the routine of cycling through the porta potty line and trying to stay warm. The space blanket helped a ton. You get to a point in all the waiting that all you want to do is start running.  We talked to the different pacers and tried to decide if we wanted to stick with the 3:40 group, or pace a 3:38 ourselves–to give us some cushion.  In the end, we decided to start off with the 3:40 group, but look at our pace bands/watches and decide if we needed to break off from them or not.

So, we started the first of 16 downhill miles through the canyon.  It was beautiful. We had perfect racing conditions. The pacers were going faster than our pace bands recommended and we were a little concerned by this but we were feeling really good so we didn’t worry about it (rookie mistake). A couple miles in we started to worry because they were still going faster than we thought we should be going so we decided to break into our own pace. This is where we–unintentionally–lost our ultimate goal. These few miles at the very beginning that felt so easy, but that would, in the end, mean that we had spent too much too early.  We finished the first half of the marathon at 1:42 (a 7:50 minute-per-mile average).  That should have clued us that we were running too fast, but we felt so good and the course was distractingly beautiful so we weren’t really worried. (Revel also puts signs up all along the course with motivational statements and funny comments.  They are fun to see and look for. This course has no crowd support until about mile 23, but the canyon is breathtaking.)

Natalie Brown and Krista Miner Sidwell at the 2014 Big Cottonwood Marathon, Salt Lake City, Utah

Natalie Brown and Krista Miner Sidwell at the 2014 Big Cottonwood Marathon, Salt Lake City, Utah

Even at mile 16 we still felt great. It was after mile 16 that we started the out-and-back portion of the race and then things weren’t so great.  The grade on the hills felt much steeper than when we had driven this portion of the race. We started to slow down, but because of all our negative splits in the first 16 miles, we were still okay even easing up on our pace.

What I didn’t know then was that my running partner had hit the wall.  She is so strong, and so tough that I didn’t know that she was hurting.  We had never hit the wall during training practice so I didn’t know that her silence meant she was hurting. I continued to push her and her limits and she was in agony. I felt so badly about that later when she told me where she had been those miles.  I know what the wall feels like and I am still in awe of what she did for 10 miles in the face of it.  (When your glycogen stores are used up, your legs are just done.  You can try and make them work, but the muscles stiffen and they don’t respond like they should. They are dead weight on your body.)

From mile 22 to 26 you have a slight downhill grade.  It was quite a relief to hit it after the long 6-mile out-and back, but even with that we weren’t able to make up the time we had lost.  We saw the pacer go by us with his 3:40 sign and we kept trying to catch him, but just couldn’t make it happen.  However, he was still in sight and I knew that we had started after him.  Our chip time, and my pace watch told me we were still under 3:40. That is when I started to get loud.  Really loud. (Probably really annoying.) I did not want Natalie to give up. We were so close, I knew if we pushed just a little harder she could do it.  Natalie was amazing.  I have never seen such determination.  She was hurting, but she was pushing herself so hard. We crossed the line 40 seconds shy of our goal and finished with a 3:40:40.

Natalie Brown and Krista Miner Sidwell at the 2014 Big Cottonwood Marathon finish line.

Natalie Brown and Krista Miner Sidwell at the 2014 Big Cottonwood Marathon finish line.

That was an emotional ending. She deserved to BQ. She definitely had earned it. She had been so close. I was sad for her that she hadn’t gotten her BQ, but at the same time, I was so incredibly happy for what she had just done! What she had accomplished.  In just 18 weeks of training, she had taken more than an hour off her time. She had gone from a 10:28 pace at the Salt Lake Marathon to an 8:25 five months later! Like I said, this lady is a rockstar.

We hit the massage tables, then headed back to the hotel to get cleaned up and grab some Inn and Out Burgers and fries.  (It takes me a few hours before I want to eat anything after a race. Water is always great, and I try to at least take in the chocolate milk they offer at the finish line for muscle recovery, but I usually just don’t have an appetite.  Then even when my appetite returns,  the last thing I want is anything sweet for several hours–probably due to all the simple sugars from the gels that I take during the race.  Salty foods are definitely desirable.  I assume that has to do with sodium depletion from sweating.)  A juicy burger and salty fries a few hours after a marathon taste so good.

Natalie and Clint drove me to the airport and I was on my way back home.  It was fun to see so many other marathoners at the airport sporting their racing jerseys.  Like me, they had only flown in for the race and then were headed back to their homes.

All I could think about on the way home was conquering that course in 2015 and what race Natalie and I could do together immediately to leverage all her training and to get her the BQ she earned!

That story continues with the Canyon City Marathon.

Tips/Lessoned Learned

  1. Stay at a race-affiliated hotel close to the finish line. Check the marathon website for hotels they recommend.  Not only will this get you a discount, but they usually also provide you with a shuttle to the race start and a bagged breakfast.  Book early, because they fill up fast! Even if you have family in town you can stay with, if you are traveling with your kids, it is helpful to get a hotel room for the night before the race just for you, you and your spouse/friend/fellow racer. You need a good night’s sleep with no distractions.
  2. Don’t rely on a pacer if you have an aggressive goal. Get a pace band and a reliable pace watch and pace yourself.  Sometimes you get a good pacer and sometimes you don’t.  Talk to the pacers before and ask what their race strategy/splits are.  If they are in line with yours start with them, but if they aren’t staying with the goals you have or with your pace band splits cut them loose.
  3. Don’t bank time.  This is NOT a race you want to bank time on.  They changed the course for 2015, so there is now 18 miles of downhill as opposed to 16. This should help the overall experience because now the out-and-back section will be shorter, BUT you have to be careful not to go too fast on those fast, downhill miles.  It will feel easy at first, but you will pay for it later.  Instead, try and stay at an even pace. Keep your splits even. Conserve in the beginning and if you have more juice after mile 23, then you can pick it up.
  4. Train for downhill. For the first 16 miles of this course you are descending at a 5 percent grade.  If you haven’t trained for that, you are going to feel that during the last 10 miles of the race. You lose about 2800 feet through the course of this marathon. Train for it!
  5. Mentally Prepare for the Out-and-Back. Once you exit the canyon–at about mile 18.25, you will begin a 4.25 mile out-and-back on Wasatch Boulevard to the edge of the Old Mill Golf Course.  They shortened this section of the race this year (starting you higher above Guardsman Pass) but you still have 4.25 miles that you have to run on this hilly, mundane part of the course.  Prepare for this in your training–both physically and mentally with visualization techniques.  Prepare for this when you are running the 18 miles before this section–conserve. Be strategic. This is the hardest part of the course, but definitely conquerable.
  6. Pack your Space Blankets. You wouldn’t think you would need them in September, but up in the canyon at 5:00 am it is cold.
  7. Have Fun!!

Gear

  • Shoes: Pearl Izumi H3s (I chose the H3s for this race because of the added heel support since I was going to be running so much downhill terrain.)
  • Clothes: Pearl Izumi singlet, shorts, compression calf sleeves, toe socks–to help prevent blisters.
  • Flip Belt
  • Earbuds and iPod shuffle
  • Garmin Forerunner Pace Watch

Entry 6: The Utah Valley Marathon

Utah Valley Marathon (Photo Courtesy of the Utah Valley Marathon)

Utah Valley Marathon course shot. (Photo Courtesy of the Utah Valley Marathon)

The Utah Valley Marathon is a tremendous course, and a great one for qualifying for Boston. My backstory leading up to this race is speckled with friends and family that supported and inspired me, hours of hard work on the treadmill and in the canyon, issues with peroneal tendonitis and shin splints that sidelined me for a time, and many small victories that kept me moving toward my goal. But first, the people. The people I have in my corner are THE best.

The People

Facebook post after my 20-mile run on the Utah Valley Marathon course.

Facebook post after my 20-mile run on the Utah Valley Marathon course.

A month or so before the race, I had the opportunity to run 20 miles of the course while visiting my family that live nearby.  My brother-in-law, Jarom, and my husband, Stephen, ran a good part of it with me and drove a support vehicle for me for the first half, while my sister-in-law, Michelle, with my kids (she was watching) made a huge banner for us to drive through when we returned congratulating me on finishing 20 miles. Their support meant so much to me. Having the opportunity to run the course before race day helped me visualize what I needed to do and calmed my nerves.

Clint Brown and Krista Miner Sidwell after completing the Utah Valley Marathon and Qualifying for Boston

My good friend’s husband, Clint Brown, and I after running the Utah Valley Marathon and qualifying for Boston.

It was also great that my friend’s husband was also trying to qualify for Boston at this race so we were able to ride up on the bus together, hang out before the race started, talk strategy, and encourage each other. He had completed two marathons not long before Utah Valley and had a wealth of information to share while I was training and leading up to the race. (He and his amazing wife–who you will learn more about in my next post–have been a part of all four of the marathons I have raced. They are pure gold.)

Family finding me out on the trail during a long run.

Family finding me out on the trail during a long run.

I tried to do most of my long runs when the kids were in school, but when this was not an option, my husband, or the gym child care personnel really helped me out. On a few occasions my husband and family came and tracked me down on their bicycles/in the car when I was doing a long run.  Seeing their smiling faces and hearing their encouraging words as I ran made what I was doing that much more enjoyable. My kids were my best cheerleaders!

Krista Miner Sidwell's car decorated by friend when she was attempting to BQ.

My good friend, and fellow Team Pearl Izumi member, decorated my car before my family and I headed out for the Utah Valley Marathon.

I also had great friends who were encouraging me and supporting me throughout my training. Natalie Brown, the superstar that you will learn about in my next post, and wife of the aforementioned Clint above, surprised me the morning we were set off to drive to Utah for the race with a card, 26.2 sticker, and an impressive car deco job. (See image to the left.)

People make all the difference in the world.

Why the Utah Valley Marathon?

Utah Valley Marathon Graphic (Photo courtesy of  http://orangetrailmonkeys.blogspot.com)

Utah Valley Marathon Graphic (Photo courtesy of http://orangetrailmonkeys.blogspot.com)

I picked this marathon for my Boston Qualify (BQ) attempt because the majority of the race is downhill (you drop about 2900 feet over the 26.2 miles) and it had a reputation for being fast. The course runs down a beautiful canyon I visited frequently when I was a student at BYU.

Race Recap

The night before the race, my husband and I stayed at the beautiful Zermatt Resort in Midway, Utah, so that I would have a shorter shuttle ride to the race start. This was a great idea, but had disastrous results.  The hotel was extremely noisy. There were kids running up and down the hallways by where I was trying to sleep.  It was horrible. Stephen tried to (kindly) quiet them twice, but to no real avail. They would retreat into their rooms but the walls were paper thin. They also didn’t have a microwave so warming up my oatmeal for breakfast wasn’t going to happen. (I used the coffee maker to heat it….) The cell phone reception was spotty and overall, it was exactly the opposite of what I was looking for the night before my first marathon. I maybe, maybe got three hours of sleep since I had to be up at around 3:30 am to eat, prepare, and meet the shuttle for the 6:00 am race start time. (I have been told the best place to stay is at the Provo Marriott Hotel near the finish line in Provo.  Soooo wish I had stayed there instead. This hotel is right by the race expo too.  They fill up fast, so book early.)

The morning of the race, the bus drops you off in a corral up in some beautiful farm country right by the race start in Wallsburg. I had to laugh when I saw that they were, quite literally, rounding up all the athletes and putting them in a corral.

I won’t soon forget that dark, cold, June morning.  The moon was out and illuminating the sky with an inspiring brilliance. Everyone who wasn’t in line for a porta potty was staying off of their legs–conserving all energy–chatting quietly together in small groups or listening to music on their shuffles. My friend’s husband was also running the course, but we got separated from each other after the first porta potty stop so I was by myself taking in the scenery and going over my race strategy in my mind; running the course in my mind.

Visualization

You can follow the marathon training book to the letter and be physically ready to race one, but whether you succeed or fall short of your goal hinges on how much you mentally prepared for your race. I could write a whole blog entry about this–and maybe I will–but don’t neglect this part of your training. I incorporate visualization techniques in my training to prepare for my race and to improve my training sessions. You have to create a mental image of what you want to see happen before you do it, and not just once, but many, many times.  It is also important to know beforehand what you will do if you are faced with different scenarios. It is important to have practiced mental skills in training that help you combat fatigue, anxiousness, sickness, or anything else that may hit you. Beyond, visualization, don’t forget to pack some tools that help distract you when you need to be distracted. Music is a huge tool for me. I handpick songs that move me. The best ones not only move me, but really take me somewhere else entirely. (A suggested tunes section will be forthcoming on this blog).

Okay, back to the race recap….

Heading for the Starting Line

Turning in the gear bag before the race starts is always a dreaded chore for me.  All those articles of clothing keeping me warm are removed and placed in the bag for pick up after the race. Immediately after all my layers were off, the shivering began, but luckily, we didn’t have to wait too long before it was time to run.  (Once I’m running I am oblivious to the cold.) I have since learned that you really should bring a couple of space blankets that you can toss to the side when you start running, but that can keep you warm between the time of turning in the gear bag and starting to run.

When it was about time to start the race, I found the 3:35 pace group, prepared my pace watch and turned on my music.  There is no gun for the start, just more of a “ready, set, go” from a guy and a megaphone. The race conditions were perfect. I settled in with the 3:35 pace group and just committed to staying on their heels through the course.

You hit your first hill–one mile in length–just as you join with the highway around mile 7. I was really glad to have the pacers to get me up that hill.  I would have held back more than they did and in the end I was glad that I went with their strategy and ran it a little faster.

Our group of about 20 was down to just me and one other at mile 18. We hit some wind coming down the canyon and one of the two pacers told me to get behind him so he could block it and I could draft. Like I said, he was awesome. He even offered me swedish fish to suck on at mile 22, but I wasn’t about to incorporate anything–even a swedish fish–that I hadn’t used in training.  You have to be really careful with the GI tract in marathons. I didn’t need to visit a bathroom and lose precious time.

As we passed mile 20, I began to get nervous. I had yet to pass 21 miles without hitting the wall and I knew there was another hill coming, but I pushed out those thoughts and concentrated on picturing myself running across the finish line and meeting me goal. I concentrated on how that would feel.  These mental strategies, coupled with all the carb loading I had done the four days prior to the race, and my Gu Roctanes, seemed to do the trick because I passed mile 22 and didn’t have any race fatigue, cramps, or pains–I felt great.

I stayed completely focused on my pacer’s feet all the way to mile 25. I was so worried that I was going to still, somehow, not be able to complete the race. I had never ran this far in my life. What was my body going to do? But, I continued to feel the same.

Krista Miner Sidwell Utah Valley Marathon run for the finish.

Utah Valley Marathon run for the finish.

Around mile 25, my pacer prodded me to put it all out there and let go.  He had to continue at the 3:35 pace (8:12 per mile), but I didn’t have to.  I could see the finish line at the end of the street. The crowds were finally beginning to appear–no real crowd support before mile 25. I started to feel their energy and I also began to feel the reality of where I was. I was going to pull this off. I started to run as fast I could to the finish. My kids saw me and started to bolt out to me–luckily their uncle stopped that near catastrophe. I ran as fast as I could and over the finish line to a 3:34:08. For my age group I needed a 3:40 to BQ, but I wanted to run Boston in 2015 so I planned for some wiggle room.

Utah Valley Marathon Finish Picture with my kids.

Utah Valley Marathon Finish Line Picture with my kids.

I don’t remember much after crossing the finish line, other than I rang the PR bell, I walked over to what I thought was the water table and was surprised when I tasted chocolate milk in my mouth–not exactly what I was going for right then, but a good recovery drink for my depleted muscles. I remember finding my husband and his big hug and telling me “You did it!” I remember Natalie, giving me a huge hug with tears in her eyes–she had been crying for her husband’s victory but still saved some for me. I remember the cheers from my children and their limbs all wrapped around me–I was like a celebrity to them. It felt great.

June 14, 2014 Facebook Post by Husband Right After I Qualified for Boston

June 14, 2014, Facebook post by husband right after I qualified for Boston. I was so touched when I saw he had posted this and when I read everyone’s responses.

I was still shocked that my legs felt great. I had thought I would feel like death at the end of the race and was enjoying this new territory in my running history. Adrenalin is a powerful thing.

And I was just so relieved/joyous to have met my goal. All that training, planning, preparing, fearing, hoping–I had done it! I had just qualified for the Boston Marathon. I had just ran farther than I ever had in my life. I just ran a marathon!  That was a moment I won’t soon forget.

I took some pics with my friends, my children, and my father and went to find my 10321210_10152195103692887_3818340760119023686_o“Boston Qualifier” t-shirt. Man, did I want to put that on!! (This is the only race that I know of that has a specific finishers shirt for those that BQ that is included in the price of the race.)

It was fun wearing it because I had so many coming up and congratulating me and talking to me about the race.  I was also surprised to have a couple come up to me and thank me for helping them! Unknowingly, they were pacing off me from behind. “I kept my eye on your red hair and cap.”  There is such a strong lesson in that.  You never know who you might be influencing–for good or for bad–with your actions. I hope my ‘running story’ helps my kids see/learn that you can set big goals, give them all you have, and succeed. Failure is only failure if you stop trying.  Failure is part of success.

Course/Race Tips:

  1. Be mindful of the hills.  The course has 3 significant hills to be mindful of. The first one is right after you hit the highway around mile seven.  This hill is about a mile long so you want to pace yourself well.  You don’t want to go too fast and burn through too much of your energy stores, but you don’t want to let yourself lose too much speed either. Try to keep up a consistent effort.  If you are racing for a specific time goal, I would suggest staying with your pace group at least through this hill, and then if you want to break off after that, go for it.  The second hill is around Vivian Park. I want to say this is mile 16. This hill is about 2 miles long.  It isn’t a really steep hill, but it is a consistent climb and you will feel it. The third hill is short, but it comes at a dreaded point in the race for many–mile 20. Once you have cleared this hill, it is a straight shot all the way into Provo. The last six miles have a slight downhill grade to them–just enough to give you the reprieve you will be looking for after the canyon.
  2. Don’t take your GUs on an uphill. Anticipate the hills on this course–7, 16 and 20 and make sure you have your GUs before you hit them. You won’t want to be worrying about taking one in while you are climbing. Best time to take a GU is when you are descending and gravity is taking some of the pressure off of you for a while.
  3. Stay at the Marriott in Provo the night before.  It is close to the expo and great for post race recovery. They book fast so book early. If you have kids, have them bunk somewhere else that night.  You will want to get some good sleep and be able to mentally prepare for your race without distractions, as cute as they may be.
  4. Be prepared for wind. The canyon, especially toward the bottom, can get some pretty good gusts.  If you feel some coming on, don’t panic, find a group you can draft behind.
  5. Take a space blanket. You have about an hour or so before the race starts where you are sitting around waiting.  Luckily, this race has fire pits, so that helps a ton!
  6. Get a pace band.I didn’t use one on this course only because I was new to marathons and didn’t see the need.  But, in my last three races I have used them and they have been essential.  I really like this distributor because they customize the bands for the course profile: Race Smart Pacebands. You can sometimes find these at the race expo, but I would recommend ordering yours a few weeks before so you know you have it.
  7. Hydrate, but don’t over hydrate. Before the race I take in a good amount (16oz) of water 3 hours and 2 hours before, but then I start to pull back. I don’t want to have to stop and use a bathroom on the course.  An hour before the race, I am not really taking in much water other than what I have to take with my first GU.  All the other water I took in the early hours of my morning and in the couple days before the race should have me very hydrated. Then, I do always grab a water cup on the course when they are offered. If you have hydrated well, and also due to nerves, you will find that you have to go to the bathroom pretty much from when you get off the bus until they line you up for the race start.  My tip, get in line for the porta potty and when you are done, get back in line.  The lines move slowly and you don’t want to be racing with a full bladder.
  8. Don’t forget to breathe. Take in your surroundings.  Look around and be part of what you are a part of. Allow yourself enough mental space to really appreciate what your body is doing and what it can do. Feel it fly and when it isn’t feeling it, will it to do so. You are in control. Tell your neurons what you want them to do and where you want them to go. Stay positive. If a negative thought or feeling comes in, be prepared (because you practiced this in training) to immediately eliminate that with something positive.
  9. Have fun.

Favorite Places to Dine:

  • The Pizza Factory (Great breadsticks and a great place to carb load or celebrate after the race).
  • Waffle Love (Great for breakfast or any meal really!) 1796 N 950 W St, Provo, UT 84604

    Waffle Love with the family the day after the race.

    Waffle Love with the family the day after the Utah Valley Marathon.

  • Kneaders (Breakfast and lunch foods).
  • Granny’s (in Heber City. Great for shakes, burgers and fries).

Nutrition

4 Days Before: 300g of carbs per day

Night Before: spaghetti, bread, small salad

Morning:

2 hours before: 1/2 cup oatmeal; orange juice, bagel, peanut butter

1 hour before: Crunchy Peanut Butter Cliff Bar; Advocare 02 supplement.

During: 15 minutes before race start Gu Roctane with 2oz. water; gu roctanes at miles 3, 7, 11, 15. 19, and 23. Water at every aid station accept the first–too crowded. (I have revised how many GUs I take in now, but this is how many I took then. You have to practice this on your long runs and find out what works for you. Everyone is different).

Gear

Shoes: Pearl Izumi M3s

Clothes: Pearl Izumi singlet, shorts, compression calf sleeves, toe socks–to help prevent blisters.

Flip Belt

Earbuds and iPod shuffle

Garmin Forerunner Pace Watch

Entry 5: Team Pearl Izumi

Krista Miner Sidwell sporting her new Pearl Izumi kit.

Wearing my new Pearl Izumi gear shortly after I joined the team.

While training for the Utah Valley Marathon, I learned about Team Pearl Izumi–a community of athletes that were dedicated to fitness/wellness, who pushed themselves together to new heights and achievements, and by so doing, inspired others in the process to do the same. A friend of mine had been selected for the team earlier that year and what she had to say about the team intrigued me.  I went onto the Pearl Izumi website, found a contact email and asked how I could learn more about the team and apply.

Krista Miner Sidwell's Acceptance letter for 2014 Team Pearl Izumi.

Acceptance letter for 2014 Team Pearl Izumi.

The result of these efforts launched me onto a road that has brought me so many positive benefits and interactions. I was selected by the team in early March and have loved being an ambassador of their products and a member of such a unique group of talented athletes. I trained for the Utah Valley Marathon in the Pearl Izumi E: Motion Road N2s and know that it made a big difference in my pre and post race running results. (See

Krista Miner Sidwell logged 425 miles running during 10 weeks of preparation for the Utah Valley Marathon.

425 Miles during 10 weeks of training for the Utah Valley Marathon

shoes in graphic to the left).

After logging 425 miles of runs in 10 weeks of training, it was time to put it all to the test.  I knew I had put in the work to accomplish my goal, but I was concerned because in all my runs above 20 miles, I had hit “the wall.” Mile 22 was especially problematic for me. If that happened to me during my race, my goal of qualifying for Boston at this race would not happen.

My story continues with: The Utah Valley Marathon.

Entry 4: Deciding to Train for Boston

In late 2013, some friends of mine told me they were going to try and qualify for the Boston Marathon. At that time, the fastest I had run a half marathon was a 1:57, or around a 8:50 minute per mile pace, at the Canyonlands Half Marathon, in Moab, Utah.

The energy of my friends for Boston inspired me and I decided I would make a go for it as well.  Back then, I wanted to run two marathons–one to qualify me for Boston, and then Boston and be done. Even with three half-marathons under my belt, I still wouldn’t have called myself a long-distance runner then.

runners_world_bookA friend I knew was using the Runner’s World, Guide to Road Racing,  for her training and recommended that I use it for my training.  I purchased a copy and in early 2014, I started to train for Boston.  I researched Saturday marathons that had some significant downhill figuring I would need as much help as I could get. After lots of time comparing courses, I set my sights on the Utah Valley Marathon course with a 3:35 finishing time or an 8:12 pace per mile.  I knew I had to be under my 3:40 qualifying standard to actually run Boston so I set my sights on 3:35. (I think there was a part of me too that felt that if the qualifying standard for women of 18-35 was 3:35, that even though I was 37, I wanted to get in with that standard.)

Training was hard. I did the majority of it on the treadmill because of intimidating winter weather conditions in Northern Colorado where I live. During those 21 weeks training, I was in the doctor’s office three times for injuries–tendonitis (in both ankles) and shin splints. I ran in foot braces, for a while and even had periods where I couldn’t run at all.

After watching me run and having me in his office three times in a pretty short period, my sports medicine physician told me that my body wasn’t built for marathons. That half marathons were my race and that finishing a marathon, let alone qualifying for Boston, would be very difficult for me without physical therapy. I left his office and silently said to myself, “Watch Me.”

My story continues with my entry: Team Pearl Izumi.

Entry 3: Moab Canyonlands Half Marathons 2013-2015

Moab Canyonlands Half Marathon 2014 Medal

Moab Canyonlands Half Marathon 2014 Medal

So my favorite half marathon, up to this point in my running journey, is the Moab Canyonlands Half Marathon.  It is well-organized, incredibly scenic, fast, and in one of my favorite places on the planet.

The day of the race, you meet in a park across from the Moab Recreational Center at 7:30 am and they bus you eleven miles up the canyon on Hwy 128 from Moab. (I like to arrive for one of the later bus loading times so that I am not in the cold as long.) The hardest part of the race is what happens from about 8:15am to race start at 10:00am–the waiting. It is always cold and I find myself standing in line for the porta potties for most of the time I am up there–you go, then you get back in line for when you have to go again. But, but, it is all worth it to run this course.  So beautiful.

The host city for this marathon is also one that is hard to top on my list. I have been visiting Moab, Utah, since I was a kid and it is one of my favorite little towns on the map. The nearby Arches National Park is always a favorite of ours to visit while we are in town with a hike through the Fiery Furnace a must on every visit.

Moab Canyonlands Half Marathon 2014

Moab Canyonlands Half Marathon 2014 (Pictured here from left to right: Anne Sidwell, Stephen Sidwell, Krista Sidwell, Tom Orrock, and Sharolyn Lindsey.)

Tips for this course:

  • Do pack junk sweats, gloves, sweatshirt etc., you can toss right before the race starts or along the way as you warm up. You turn in your gear bag and then you are FREEZING until race start. It can be pretty miserable if you aren’t clothed warmly.
  • Pack a couple space blankets you can use and then discard before the race.
  • If you head up closer to the race start line, the porta potty lines are shorter.
  • Don’t start off too fast on this one.  The race may come down the canyon, but it doesn’t feel like a pure downhill course. There are lots of hills thrown in there. Pace smart. Race Smart Pace Bands does a really great job customizing their pace bands for each course. Check them out. (In 2015, I ordered a pace band from them and it was the exact same pace band the official pacers were using for the race).
  • There is one really decent, short hill around mile 9.5. Don’t let yourself slow down too much on it–it’s short and you get a good reprieve after where you can catch your breath.
  • Mentally prepare for the last 2.5 miles–they are on a slight uphill–which you will feel. They are also on the road into town so it isn’t as scenic. However, this part of the race is also when you start to see the spectators and you can really feed of their energy.
  • They say the canyon can be windy so factor that into your race goals. (In the three consecutive years we have run the race, wind hasn’t been a problem for us, but historically, I have heard it has made its presence known).
Canyonlands Half Marathon 2013 Krista Miner Sidwell Results

Results for 2013 Canyonlands Half Marathon

Krista Miner Sidwell Results for 2014 Canyonlands Half Marathon

My Results for 2014 Canyonlands Half Marathon

Krista Miner Sidwell 2015 Moab Canyonlands Half Marathon Race Results

My 2015 Moab Canyonlands Half Marathon Race Results

My Results

I love seeing how much I have improved from when I first ran this race in 2013 to this year. I have taken 18 minutes off my time from when I first ran it, and 31 minutes off from my very first half-marathon race, (The Heart of the Rockies) in late 2010.

Running a race in one of my favorite places on earth is just something that is really, really hard to top. This March tradition for our family is one that I don’t see us ending any time soon.

My Most Recent Race

2015 was my best race experience on this course. It was sunny, the wind stayed away and I had prepared well. My average pace was a 7:34 minute mile which was my fastest half-marathon pace to date.  I believe I owe much of this success to all my work on running marathons prior to this race. When I ran this race in 2013 and 2014, I had yet to run a full marathon before. After tackling the marathon distance three times in 2014 and training for marathons all year long, half marathons now feel like a training run more than a real bodily effort. This physical progress is really exciting for me.  The runner I was in 2010 would never had imagined that I would ever arrive at a point where I wouldn’t be intimidated by the half-marathon distance. Now, I just need to keep trying to get faster.

So, come race day, I had forgotten to pack junk clothes or space blankets so once I had to turn in my gear bag with the clothes/food I had used up until that point, I was freezing. I could not stop myself from violent shivering.  This just isn’t smart. Your body uses precious energy trying to warm you up. I tried to huddle as closely as I could with the other racers that were jammed around me at the start line, but you still just can’t get warm. Next year, I WILL NOT forget how miserable I am without some warm clothing or space blankets!!

While I waited, I found the pacer for my goal time of 1:39 and asked him about his race strategy. Once I realized that he had the same pace band as me, I figured I would pace myself but keep him and his pacer buddy in sight. (I have had a couple races with really great pacers, and a couple races with really horrible pacers so I don’t trust them blindly with my race.) I was glad that I paced myself for the majority of this race because the pacers for the 1:39 pace were not staying on pace very well.  I did run with them for the last two miles–I was the only one left that was running with them. (This usually isn’t a very good sign for a pacer on how well they have done for the group they are pacing.) But, I was glad to have a buddy to help drive me to my goal at the finish.

I was happy with my 8th division place, but would really like to find myself finishing in the top three one of these times. . .if my body will allow it! (I have tried a couple different training methods and have really found great results with the Hanson Training Method. If you haven’t tried using this method before I encourage you to do so!)

How I Fuel

The Night Before

I like to carbo load on pasta and bread. I usually will have a small salad, but not much, to avoid gastrointestinal issues during the race. I typically will eat this meal at least 12 hours before race start, which isn’t too difficult with this race since it doesn’t start until 10am. It is also important to make sure you are getting a good amount of carbs 48 hours before the race.

The Morning Of

My pre-race breakfast is a 1/2-3/4 a cup of oatmeal with peanut butter, some orange juice, and a bagel. Half marathon or marathon, this is always my breakfast. I typically eat my breakfast 2 hours before the race starts. I also down 8 oz of water 3 hours before and again 2 hours before.

During

An hour before the race starts I will eat a Clif bar. Pack this with you since you will be eating this up the canyon while you wait for the race to start. I don’t run with any water or a fuel belt. I have a pocket in my shorts where I put two GU Roctane gels: one I take 15 minutes before the race starts with water, and one I take 45 minutes into the race (also with water). I get water at the aid stations when needed and usually opt to skip the gatorade since I already am full of electrolytes and other nutrients from the gels.  You don’t want to overload your body with simple sugar all at once. Your digestive system won’t efficiently process all that sugar and can lead to cramps and side stitches.

Another important tip… if you have to slow down to drink your water, or even slow to a fast walk, that is okay!  It is more important that you have the water in your system then a few seconds lost.  You can make those up! Running full speed with a water cup and not spilling at least half of its contents is something I haven’t been able to achieve yet. I doubt many can!

How I Dress

I dress as warmly as I can all the way up until we line up at the starting line. It is sooo cold up in the canyon. I wear my down coat, gloves, hat, layers, you name it! It’s cold! Once the race starts,I’m down to shorts, a sleeveless race top, compression socks (sometimes) and my Pearl Izumi M3 V2s. Once you start running this race, you won’t feel cold and I doubt you will really feel hot either.  It usually stays in the mid 50s in the canyon.

TIPS FOR VISITING MOAB

Lodging: Book early. We prefer to rent a condo out of town. Rim Village is really nice. Look up places on VRBO.com.

The Canyonlands Best Western is really nice if you want a motel in town. They fill up fast and are pretty pricey, but the homemade cookies, heated pool and jacuzzi are nice. The River Canyon Lodge may be a star down from the Best Western and others in town, but the location is ideal since it is right across from the bus loading zone and right by the race finish. You can also get affordable two-bedroom units with full kitchens and covered balconies.

Eating:

  • Miguel’s Baja Grill (My fav: Santo Rosalia Steak Enchiladas with Green Tomatillo sauce. You won’t be disappointed.)
  • Jailhouse Cafe (Breakfast): Don’t miss the New York Style Bacon or the egg’s benedict.
  • Mill’s Stop and Eat (Hamburgers and shakes)
  • Zax’s (Pizza)
  • Paradox (Pizza)
  • Twisted Sista’s Cafe: AMAZING dinner.  A little pricey, but really great. (My favs: The Beef Tenderloin, Spinach Salad, and Chocolate Peanut Butter Pie)
  • Sweet Cravings Bakery + Bistro (Looking for a good cookie? Look no further!  They also have amazing monkey bread, cinnamon rolls, sandwiches. . .pretty much the whole package here.  A must stop. )

Things to do:

  • Visit Arches National Park.  (This is non-negotiable.  You MUST do this while you are there. Fiery Furnace is our favorite place in the park but Delicate Arch is also a must if you have never been).
  • Bike the paved trail from the Moab Brand Trails into town.
  • Visit Corona Arch.
  • If you have kids, visit the Dinosaur Track Ruin sites.
  • Rent a jeep and ride up to Gemini Bridges and explore some of the arches off the beaten track.
  • Visit the Moab Recreation and Aquatic Center to swim. (This indoor complex has a zero-entry pool for kids, diving boards and an indoor slide).
  • Pack your tripod for some of the best night photography you will ever shoot.
  • Slide down the Giant Sand Dune across from the Arches National Park Visitor Center.
  • Go on a razor tour.
  • Visit Fisher Towers.  It is about a 40-minute drive outside of Moab, but well worth it! (See pic below).

    My husband and I sporting our race shirts at Fisher Towers after the 2015 Moab Canyonlands Half Marathon

    My husband and I sporting our race shirts at Fisher Towers after the 2015 Moab Canyonlands Half Marathon.

 My story continues with my next entry: Deciding to Train for Boston.