Athletic development specialists dedicated to the art and science of excellence in movement

Utah Valley Marathon and 5k Race Report

Allan and I traveled to Provo, Utah for the Utah Valley Marathon on Saturday. Allan raced the marathon and I did the 5k. Our flight arrived into Salt Lake City Thursday afternoon and we were surprised to still see snow on the high mountains. Thanks to SLC having learned the lessons of the traffic disasters of the1996 Atlanta Olympics before hosting the 2002 Winter Games, SLC has created a highly efficient airport and freeway system. Rental cars were on site, so we wasted no time waiting for a shuttle.

The drive to Provo was beautiful and about an hour.  We stopped at Noodles and Company for lunch which was amazing! It’s a chain restaurant and there are noodles from every part of the world to choose from. I would defiantly recommend it for before a race if you are ever to come across it.   

Provo is in a valley surrounded by high mountains and a lake. We went Provo Canyon to check out the marathon race course and get a run in. We found a multiuse bike/run path that we latter found spans from BYU which is in the center of Provo and goes high up the canyon. Our parking spot was at the base of the canyon where we found an amazing park with gardens, great views and lots of trees and grass (a novelty to AZ people!).  This trail must have been the most popular tempo run and interval location because various teams had their own distance markings spray painted all along the path.  We didn’t notice the altitude of 4750 too badly on our run which was a relief. We did see lots of skateboards and even someone going down the hill on a street luge, getting some summer practice in!   

The host race hotel were we stayed was about 100m from the finish line. Buses to the start line left from there and the race rate was excellent. At the hotel we reunited with Allan’s parents who had spent the week touring Utah and had flown in from Baltimore. First thing Friday we got our short run in this time heading a little further up the canyon. We found a HUGE waterfall and parked there. It was cold, around the low 40’s. The rushing river next to the path made it seem ever colder. Allan did not feel great and I felt amazing. Why I felt amazing I don’t know since my running has not been optimal the last two months. We made a smart call to get to packet pick when the doors opened. The race has been growing by the thousands every year and the expo is on the verge of outgrowing the hotel conference rooms.  My race number had somehow got misplaced and one of the race directors personally came over corrected the situation and walked me through the rest of pick up making sure my timing chip worked. He was great about it!

After organizing our race gear we decided to go on a tour of BYU.   During my college running years BYU won three NCAA D-I women’s cross country national championships.  I was excited to check out their house. We walked into the BYU sports hall of fame and a volunteer working in the center offered to take us on a tour of the facilities.  We never asked for a tour…he just offered!  This turned out to be no ordinary tour. We ended up going in the football offices, the varsity football strength area, the video room, the football coaching staff’s offices and saw some great displays. Some of the football coaches came up and said hello to us; it’s the nicest, most classy program!  You could sense this is a program motivated not just by excellence on the field but also by a commitment to honor the core values of the institution.  When you see the roster of professional athletes on the wall adjacent to the world map documenting their athletes’ missionary service, it’s evident they do a pretty good job in both areas.  I found myself wanting to work there, though I don’t know if I could survive the winter. Any strength or distance running coaching positions open?

As we headed out to the pre race dinner we noticed the race organizers had already set up aid stations and bathrooms on the course.  We got the feeling in our brief stay that Provo is as close as you can get to the days of leaving your house unlocked.  Before one of the local running races here in Tucson, the organizers put out the aid stations only a half hour before the race and the water still got stolen!  Allan quipped that while aid stations will never be messed with in Provo and they might get stolen before the race in Tucson, in his hometown of Baltimore, Maryland you’ll simply get robbed at the store trying to buy water.

Race day: Allan had to catch the bus at 3:30 AM (2:30 Arizona time) for the 6 AM start; it was a point to point course.  The elevation drop was 1500 feet but the race started at 6000 feet. Allan said from the start everything did not feel right. He went through the half at 1hr 22 min; well off his goal pace. I had no idea what was going on and the 5k did not start until 9 AM. I warmed up early so I could see Allan finish. His PR time passed up which was not good, I stood near the finish for 10 more minutes but had to get to my own race. It was not a good feeling to not know what was going on and have to leave. Since his parents were there I knew I did not have to worry too much.

The 5k had around 400 people in it. I took it out slow as planned due to uphill and elevation. We meandered through a neighborhood and came out in front of the Olympic Ice Skating center. All the ice skating events took place in Provo in 2002. The turn around was at a roundabout that had a copy of a large Olympic torch. It was pretty cool and defiantly provided motivation! The race went back a little different way and I felt strong at the 2 mile, catching a pack of boys. The boys included a couple high school runners who called out chick to the rest of the pack when I caught up! I don’t think they liked a girl catching them! The last mile had a slight downhill. With the smart racing in the early miles I was able to take advantage of the downhill and incentive provided by running in the pack. This was my fastest mile of the day. One last sharp left, then 200m to the finish line, where there was a large loud crowd. I came in as the first female and got to break a finish line tape, something I had never done before. A little embarrassing for a 19:24 5k but it was fun. The altitude conversion charts convert the performance to 19:03 at sea level which is near my sub 19 goal for the season. 

At the end of the finish chute I went straight to the medical tent where I thought Allan would be.  He had come in at 2:50 well off his goal of sub-2:37.  It was just a bad day from the start.  The altitude really got to him more than he could make up for with the downhills, although he was the top finisher who lived below 4,000 feet (the Kenyan winner listed Minnesota as his current home, but he was probably born at altitude like most of the Kenyan runners).  The bad air quality in Tucson as of late has bothered me more than the altitude did; I enjoyed being in nice clean crisp air.  Near the finish line there was a cold ice bath spa, something I had never seen at a race before. The race director really did not leave any detail a runner would want unattended to, including “Boston qualifier” T-shirts given to all finishers who earned Boston qualifying times! Awards were great, I won a Citizen watch. Funny enough in all my years of running, that was the first watch I won.

We really enjoyed Provo and were sad to leave so quickly. I could have used another couple days there in the nice clean air, with the friendly people and the great places to run.  


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