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I'm easily talked into things. The sales people at the make-up counter love me because I buy whatever they're selling. A good friend of mine asked me to come run the Utah Valley Marathon because she's chasing a NYC qualifying time (yes, NYC holds a proportion of entries for qualifying times), and she was told that this was one of the faster marathons out there. She traveled from NC for this race, so I planned a trip to meet her from Oakland.
A quick, easy flight from Oakland to SLC, and I met my friend at the airport and then we drove the 40 minutes to Provo. The Utah Valley is quite breathtaking, surrounded by snow-peaked mountains to the east and west, while it's 80 degrees in June down in the valley.
We arrived in Historic Downtown Provo (quite adorable), and checked in at the host hotel, the Provo Marriott. The expo was held just next door in the conference center. The expo itself was pretty small, but it had the basics. They did have a series of speakers throughout the day - beginning and ending with Ryan Hall. Ryan spoke about things he's learned about running in his 18 or so years. These tips included: rest is important, listen to your body, eat as close to natural as you can. For a 34 year-old-guy, Ryan Hall still seems like a 22 year surfer. He had the shaggy hair and all and awkwardly read off his phone.
On to the race. First let me say that since this was really just a training run for me, I didn't pay too much attention before arriving about logistics, the course itself, any of those things. I knew it was point to point, starting in the mountains and running into downtown Provo. It turns out the shuttle bus to the start was schedule to move runners from 3:30 am to 4:15 am. We opted to get out there at 3:45 (yipppeee) and road a school bus up. While it had been in the 60s and balmy in Provo, it was damn cold at the top of the mountain. We were both just in a running gear, no check bag, no throw-aways. We survived our hour in the cold, and got friendly with a couple other runners.
At 5:45 we corralled up, and then they shot the gun at 6 am sharp. No announcements, no national anthem. We all looked around, and shrugged, and then the group started moving. So, we started rolling down. My dear sweet friend, who is a faster runner than I am, was trying to get me to run with her, but after a quarter mile, she started to pull ahead, she called to me to follow, but I told her to go. I knew all along that we wouldn't run together, but I do love her.
On my own, we were running residential sections of the road - lined with farmhouses, ranches, churches. It was all very nice, and the backdrop of the mountains were beautiful. The first few miles are the steepest, and I let myself run a little faster than I intended - which was fine, I felt okay. That downhill kept on until mile 8, and then we hit rollers for a while (elevation below):
A few months back, I found out a friend of mine had gotten in to Western States 100 Mile Endurance Race for 2015. She lives back in North Carolina, and since I knew that getting a crew to come across the country could be difficult, and also who doesn't want the opportunity to run (even as a pacer) at Western States, I volunteered. Full disclosure, I've only met my runner face to face once before, while she was running a marathon, and I was volunteering at an aid station, but we have been friends on various social media platforms for a while, and we ran in the same circles in North Carolina.
Fast forward to now, Western States Training Camp, three days and 70ish miles on the course. This training camp is welcome to all that register, and I have to say, if you're even just considering it, do it! Each day is $50 and that includes a either a shuttle to the start or to the finish, aid stations on the course, well-marked courses, and a finish with food and complimentary massages. Plus you're out there with a great group of runners - runners that are famous, have run Western States before, or they're just super excited to be out there.
I did not register, or show up for Day 1. Those that registered ran a 50k from Robinson Flat to Foresthill, CA. From what I hear, this run has some of the hardest climbs in the race, including something called Devil's Thumb.
Let's jump in to Day 2, which I'll call the short 20 (both days 2 and 3 were advertised as 20 milers). This run was from Foresthill to Ruck-a-Chucky.