Challenge Accepted

This last Saturday I was able to participate in my most favorite race of the year, The American Fork Race Against Cancer. This event is held by Intermountain Healthcare and is a fundraiser for cancer research. Not only is this race for an amazing cause but it is the most organized and well put together races I have ever participated in.

Race day was June 24th. This year they started the Half up American Fork Canyon at Tibble Fork reservoir.

We had yet another early morning start leaving the house at 3:15am to make sure we could be at the buses by 4:15 am. We were a little groggy … okay very groggy… especially since we had just done this two weeks ago with the Utah Valley half. We made it up to the parking lot over by the buses and with a hug and a kiss I let Morgan go take his nap and I made my way over to find a bus.

After loading up we headed up the mountain. I was tired enough to actually nod off a time or two on our ride up and found myself opening up my eyes to the pitch black canyon sky. We stepped off the bus and the all too familiar chill of the early morning canyon air filled my lungs and caused me to pause for a slight second as I descended the steps of the bus. “Man I hate being cold”.  After getting myself oriented, I made my way over off to the side so I could fish though my bag for the “space blanket” we were given during packet pick up. (Those silver tin foil like blankets you see runners wearing before or after a race) I have never used one of these and I am betting everything on this thin piece of foil…. My shivering fingers fished around my bag and finally made their way to my space blanket pulled it out and I was ready to put it to the test.

At this point, It was a hour until race time and I was not sure what I was going to do if I didn’t get my body temperature up… I was cold. I started out just wrapping the blanket around me while standing there but with ever slight breeze my blanket was eagerly flowing in the wind functioning more like a cape than a blanket.  I ended up sitting Indian style with the blanket tucked under my bum and pinched around my legs so I knew where were no holes for my body heat to escape and no way for the wind to assist with my blanket taking flight. After getting settled in I tried to speed up the process by tucking my chin down so I could use my breath to heat the air trapped inside my new tin foil hut. Luckily, my idea actually works and It didn’t take long for the space blanket to trap the heat and warm my body back to a comfortable temperature. Thank goodness because had it not, I would have been taking a bus ride back down the mountain!

Now that I was warm and I could take my mind out of survival mode ..( tad bit dramatic but I really really don’t like being cold. ) I started looking around and realized that the MC at the finish line in charge of keeping us all entertained was no other than the voice of the Cougars, Greg Wrubell… “Ah, I know that voice“. (I grew up listening to the Cougars on the radio with my Dad.)

After 45 min of people watching and listening to Greg Wrubell do his thing, It was time to get up, empty the tank, throw the drop bag in the truck and get ready to start. At this starting line, they had flags marked with end times and anticipated paces. The whole point of that was so that everyone could spread out and those who were faster could start in the front and those slower wouldn’t be either trampled or slowing people down. Makes sense right? So it was time for me to figure out where I wanted to be….

Well, This last race with its little hic – up which you can read about here, I finished with a 2:24 min time. The average pace being 10:57 which is not bad, its about the average pace I had been running in past races its just not the pace I had been training for. But the other thing I wasn’t 100% sure about is where my body was with recovery with this last race. I’ve never done two half marathons in one month before so I needed to keep in mind that I had to be very aware of what my body was doing. My body could have taken last weeks race as a tare down then taper for this race or it could still be exhausted. To play it safe yet optimistic, I told Morgan we will try for a 2:15 or 2:20 and see what happens so I found my flag and that is where I ended up hanging out.

If I am being 100% honest with myself I really want to get to the point where I am running a sub 2hr half.  I joked with my dad at the last race that I want to run my half marathon so that no marathon runners could lap me. After my last race I started doing more research on intervals and making my pace faster as well as what it would take to run a 2 hour half marathon. But I still stood at the back of my 2:15 pace marker and tried to keep warm.

All runners that had an expected finish time of 2:05 or faster was put in the first wave and all those with a later time (me back there at 2:15) started 5 min after. As I stood there listening to the first wave take off and saw them rounding the bend I was green with envy. I will be that fast one-day. I don’t need to be the fastest but I want to be in the first wave.

5 minutes passed and off we went. It didn’t take long to realize that my knees were numb from the morning chill. As I tried to keep my mind off the fact that I was in the shade, my knees were numb and goose bumps were crawling up my arms, I also realized that my thumbs had also lost feeling! It was 6:00am in the canyon. I should be in jeans around a campfire sipping hot chocolate! Not today. Today you are wearing your husband’s cancer color, purple, with his name on my back, running for all those who have fought or are fighting cancer. So, I tucked my thumbs in my fist and kept my eyes up and my mind on the challenge at hand.

I started to think about the research I had been doing about getting a faster pace, doing a mental check on my form… how are my feet falling? Is my cadence okay? Are my arms swinging in line? and finally, is my trunk staying forward? I started thinking of what my pace needs to be to finish at 2:15 and made sure that I was being consistent. I started to feel my blood warming up slowly bringing feeling back to my thumbs and my knees. I felt my body go from a tight rusted tangled mess of joints into a smoothly crafted machine. I was at mile three feeling as great as can be when I saw the pacer for a 2:10 finish approach.

“Oh hey, 2:10 that would be a PR … Im okay with that. I could even let him pass me and I would still be fine…. Should I stay with him or let him go ahead… Ill just stay with him…. OR I could just go faster… That’s what that article said about a faster finish time ‘if you want to be fast you have to run fast…. Im going to beat him”

And that is when I took off. I decided I wanted to not only make my goal but beat it and at the very least if I know that he is behind me then I know for sure that I am making good time. So I just pushed forward.

When I first started running in races, I was constantly searching for the next mile marker, counting down to the next mile until I make it to the finish line. But this run was something else. I was completely lost, in the zone, however you want to say it, I kept looking down and wondering if my Garmin was broken “how are these miles passing so quickly”

When I hit mile 10 I knew that I was not only going to beat my 2:15 goal but I was pushing under 2 hours. I thought about warning Morgan, shooting him a quick text but I didn’t want to lose my Mojo, I was in the groove and I didn’t want to jinx it. Besides he could track me on find my friends if he needed to right? Either way at this point I was completely lost within myself. It was my legs that pulled me back into reality from this out of body experience, begging to stop as I started to climb the rolling hills that lined the last 3 miles.

I was fighting for my 2 hour 13.1 but realized that it wasn’t going to be feasible by mile 11. But it was the thought that I was SO close to my goal, not just my short term goal but my long term goal shot enough excitement and adrenaline through my body to get me through to the finish line. As I approached the shoot, I tried to pick Morgan out of the crowd of spectators with no avail but kept focused on the giant clock hanging above the finish line. There it was, my Garmin wasn’t off, in fact it was spot on! I pushed even harder and finally passed the finish line clocking a 2:04 half marathon!

Oh my gosh I did it! After grasping for my knees to get support before taking another step, I took a few slow breaths and let it soak in. This is the feeling that gives me such a high. I love the emptiness, completely worn out but full of pride at the same time, I feel completely clean, void of everything in my body yet covered in sweat and distracted by the screaming muscles that have proven mile after mile that they have done more than I ever thought possible. I can’t say I feel it in my heart because it goes so much deeper. Its incredible, indescribable and why I am addicted.

It is possibly that high that saved Morgan’s tail, that and the fact that I recognize that this gem of a husband sacrificed his Saturday morning to take me up a mountain to run …..

After catching my breath and taking in the moment, I looked up trying to find Morgan who usually makes his way past the finish line to meet me but he was no where to be found… So I called him up

Me – “hey Moe”

Morgan – “hey are you okay?!” ( thinking I’ve had another episode similar to the last race)

Me – “yeah, where are you??”

Morgan – “wait, where are you?”

Me – “Im done!”

Morgan – “No you aren’t, I am following you on find my friends! Im just getting out of the truck in the parking lot. How are you done?!”

Me – “I don’t know! I just was on fire”

Morgan – “Babe im sooooo sorry!”

Hahaha between catching my breath and trying to get out of the way, all I could do was laugh! If anything it made me that even more proud that I ran so fast that Morgan even missed me! We met up and Morgan felt completely awful but I was just so excited at what just happened I was on cloud 9.

We made our way over to get my official time card and to the next awesome thing about this race.  FRENCH TOAST! …. Kneaders is a major sponsor and gives every runner French toast! Morgan loves French toast so I got two pieces to share but ended up just giving it all to him because I was not in the mood to eat.

After eating we loaded up and headed home. I couldn’t believe it. I am now just 4 min away from my long-term goal and now I need to make a new one. Its so exciting yet terrifying all at the same time. Running sucks, it is hard, sometimes I don’t wanna but the satisfaction of challenging my body and proving the voice in my head that says “you can’t do this” is a liar is enough to keep me going. There are plenty of other runners out there that are way faster than I am and I am okay with that, I pushed harder and went further than I have ever before and I cannot wait for the future ahead.

So after today my body has thrown down the gauntlet, it has proven that it can go further and push harder than I ever thought possible and all I can say is….

Challenge accepted.

Thankfully the course had so many photographers. For the first time ever I have had to rely on them! haha It was such an experience, the atmosphere, the course and the ability to run for the one I love most was something else, I cannot wait for next year.

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