Mother’s Day is a simple affair at my house. I’m not into expensive gifts and a big fuss. My happy Mother’s Day involves a clean house, chocolate covered strawberries, fresh flowers and a race. For Mother’s Day 2018, Chris generously gifted me two half-marathons; a Revel Race in Las Vegas and the Vigor Half in Salt Lake City.
Running down Big Cottonwood Canyon in Salt Lake City is always a beautiful experience. In May the canyon is in full spring-run off and very lush as the snow melts and everything returns to life.
Race week had me felling a little nervous as I glanced at the forecast on Monday and realized that race day was predicted to be wet and cold. Day after day I hoped the weather man was wrong. Running in cold weather is simply a fact of living in the mountains, but running in the pouring rain and wind can be pretty challenging in any climate. Good waterproof running gear is essential to minimize chaffing and blisters which often accompany wet weather running. When snow was added to the mix, I opted to come prepared and see what things felt like in the morning.
Race morning had me up at 3:15 am to get ready and catch the 4:30 am bus in Salt Lake to the starting line. Thankfully, the race directors arraigned for all runners to stay warm and dry in the lodge at Solitude ski resort. At 5:30 am, we headed out for the quarter mile walk to the starting line in a drizzle.
At the starting line I was surprised at how warm the air felt. Despite the light rain, there was very little wind. I was worried that I’d get too hot while running in my winter gear. I thought I had packed a short-sleeve shirt in my drop bag, but after checking was disappointed to realize I had mistakenly left it in my car with the dry clothes I brought to change into post race. I opted to go without a hat and carry my rain jacket just in case Mother Nature opted for a down pour. In less than an hour, I would be grateful I made that choice.
In the first few miles, the weather alternated between misty and raining. Around mile 4, the fog really set in. It was a little disorienting to see all the fog, very little mountains or even have a general sense of what direction I was running or where I was headed. It was my first time running in and out of beautiful fog banks and an experience I’ll never forget.
Around mile 4, I started to feel a familiar gurgling in my gut and wondered if I’d need to stop. I’d passed the first aide station and knew something would be a long shortly but hoped the feeling would go away. A few minutes later I knew I’d have to stop. Focusing on one stride at a time; I said a prayer, asking for my gut to hold out because stopping in nature in the canyon (it’s a water-shed area) was not an option. The fog compounded my anxiety as I felt like I was running blind. Finally about mile 5.75 I saw the aide station and dashed for the bathroom. Looking at my watch, I noted the time- 38 minutes and change. Mercifully, no one was in the port-a-potty.
Knowing I was going to have to stop, I decided to multitask. I was feeling pretty warm, and was almost half way through the race. I decided to quickly strip off my warmer winter layer and run in my rain-jacket. I struggled to get my top off, jacket on and finish my business as quickly as possible. Finally after 2 minutes, I was out and on my way. Physically I felt much better and even cooler after switching layers.
As the miles ticked by, the rain and especially the fog became much lighter. The views were beautiful and the canyon smelled very clean, just like fresh rain. I was shooting for a sub 1 hour 30-minutes time goal and could tell my time would be close. As the finished line neared, I was surprised to see a hairpin turn and the finish arch right in front of a parking garage. When I crossed the timing strip and hit my watch, I looked up and saw Mitt Romney standing in front of me with my race medal in hand, congratulating me on a nice race.
Like a total dork, I blurted out- “hey, I’m going to vote for you,” as Mitt laughed and placed the medal on my neck. That was a definite first racing experience for me. I voted for Mitt in 2012, and was already planning on voting for him in the June Utah Senate primary. My friend Anita had just crossed the finish line too, so I grabbed her and we asked for a picture. Mitt very graciously agreed.
The parking garage was an unconventional finish-line but actually turned out to be a great idea. It was still drizzling outside, and now all runners and vendors could stay relatively dry. Looking at my watch, I was initially disappointed at my finish time.
I realized if my gut held out and I didn’t have to stop, I would’ve hit my sub 1:30 time goal. After a few minutes of unnecessary grumpiness, I realized I’d actually had a really great race despite my tummy troubles. I’d shaved 2 minutes and 5 seconds off my PR and had just finished my first half-marathon in the fog and rain. I decided I actually had very little to complain about.
I quickly changed into warmer clothes, said hi to some friends, snapped a few pictures and waited for my age group awards.
Running in Big Cottonwood Canyon is always a great adventure. This race I learned that running in unconventional weather can make a great memory. I also learned I always need to check and re-check my drop bag if the forecast calls for adverse weather. I was reminded that the Lord hears and answers prayers; and small miracles and victories (no one being in the port-a-potty, still hitting a PR) are what really matter. I don’t need to be a whiner and critical of my body because it’s taken me so far. I think the best part about running (besides meeting great-like minded people) is knowing I get to try again very soon.