Sunday, July 10, 2011

Star Valley Half Marathon Race Report!

Race report time! Warning - it's long. I am detail-oriented. :)

This is a fun one to write because the entire experience was just FUN.

I got up yesterday at my usual "run" time of 5am and got dressed and ready. I also made sure that Josh was up and getting ready (we had gotten everything set up and ready to go the night before). Josh ate breakfast (I didn't... I always run on an empty stomach unless it is a marathon) and then just after 6am Jenny and Alana were in the driveway. I remember thinking that I was ready to RUN (as I usually head out at 6am to run in the summer time) but we still had two hours before the race started. But I really wasn't nervous at all. I was excited because I knew I would be seeing lots of friends and neighbors and because I knew it was going to be a fun event, and I was excited to race hard, but not nervous.

I got up one of my older boys so that he could hear when Noah woke up, left some last minute directions for the kids and then we were out the door.

I had Josh snap a couple of pics of me and the girls before we left. We forgot to get one of Josh and I together. Oops!

I missed the memo that we were supposed to put makeup on to race. That is why Alana and Jenny look beautiful and I look like a zombie. :)

The drive was about 20 minutes or so and it was fun! We were all excited, and I got a tiny taste of what Ragnar will be like next year. (Jenny, Alana and I are the three girls on our ultra team and then Josh and two of his buddies are joining us. Can you say FUN?)

We had picked up our race packets the night before, so all we had to do was hang around for a short while until they started loading the buses to take us up to the race start. We saw the finish line (we parked at the finish and were bussed to the start) which was exciting, and the girls helped me pick which head band to wear. I wore a dark purple and black running tank, black shorts with white piping, and went with the white headband because we figured it would be cooler.

It was a beautiful morning... bright blue skies and sunshine... although it was chilly (about 45 degrees or so) which was fine with me. :) It was really fun to see lots of friends and neighbors and to talk with everybody.

As we got on the bus, Josh was the first one on, and he made a big scene about announcing that he had been FIRST on the bus that day, and that while it may be the only time he beat his wife that day, he had gotten on the bus FIRST. Of course he got lots of laughs.

The walkers had started an hour earlier and they were on the course as we headed up, so it was fun to see them and cheer them on (especially since we knew many of them). It made me want to get out there and get running! There was lots of fun conversation and I kept thinking how awesome it was to be doing a race with Josh, Jenny, Alana and so many other people we knew.

We got up to the start area and used the portapotties (we were glad to be on the first bus because the line was short for us. It was long once the other buses got up there), then shed our sweats, warmed up, checked our bags, and got ready to run! It was chillier up in the canyon but again, I wanted the cool temps to last as long as possible so I was not complaining. I used one of my 2Toms Sport Shield toweletes and this stuff was GREAT. It was super convenient to use one towelette and then toss it (no tube to carry around) and it worked like magic. I had zero chafing and irritation. I am a new fan of Sport Shield for sure!

There was lots more visiting and chatting as we waited to start. There were just about 300 people who participated, which was a great turnout for a first year, small town race. Almost all of our Ragnar team from this year was there and running the race! I still felt excited and confident. I can honestly say I had almost no nerves at all before this race. I am sure being so close to home and having so many of my favorite people around helped!

A few friends had mentioned that they thought I could be in the top female finishers. I just wasn't sure. We have a few very fast, talented runners here in the valley, and the family that put on the race has many connections in the running community and I knew people were coming to run from surrounding states. (The overall winner, Gray Augustus, came from Idaho and finished in 1:13! how awesome!!!). I heard that some Ragnar staff was supposed to be there and assumed they would be competitive too. I figured I would just go out and run my best race, and if that put me in the top finishers that was great, and if not, that was ok too.

We lined up to start, and there was a very nice little speech given. This race was a memorial for Jeremy Kunz, who was killed during a Ragnar relay by a drunk driver. His family put on this race as a way to celebrate and honor Jeremy, and they did an INCREDIBLE job.

It was a "gun start" (but a chip finish), so I lined up close to the front and right at 8am we were off! The course has an overall elevation loss of about 1,000 ft, but the first 2-3 miles were at a steeper grade than the rest of the course and the first two miles were on dirt/gravel. I knew people were going to take off too fast and I did not want to get caught up in that, but I also knew I wasn't going to fight gravity or work hard to go slow.

This was actually my least favorite part of the race. I don't like running on gravel, and they had just grated the road so there was lots of loose rocks. Maybe I am just a chicken, but I hate running fast on loose rocks. I kept looking down at my Garmin and seeing times in the 6:30ish range and knew that was way too fast, so I kept concentrating on pulling back.

Before the race, Josh had said he wanted to run with me. I told him that I was out to race this race, and if he could keep up that was awesome, but that I wasn't going to wait for him. I also told him if I was holding him back to go for it it he wanted to. Those first two miles or so he got out ahead of me a bit (he loves trail-running and the downhill) but when we hit the pavement and lost some of the downhill we ended up back together. I was super happy to hit the pavement and ran a bit without looking at my Garmin to settle into a comfortable but fast pace that I thought I could maintain.

After a bit I checked my Garmin and saw that I was running about a 7:30 pace. I was really surprised! That was quite a bit faster than I had planned (the plan was to go out at about 8:20 or so and then pick up the pace as the race went on if I felt good). I was nervous to push too hard too early and blow up at the end. I knew from my tempo runs and track work that I could run 4-5 miles at that pace, but wasn't sure about 13.1 miles. But, I was feeling really really good and wanted to race it all out, no regrets. I decided right there (at about mile 3.5) that I was going for it, and kept the pace at about 7:30.

Right around mile 4 we hit the first longer uphill pull. There were a few steep uphills in the first two miles (on gravel) but they were both very short. There were two longer uphill pulls in the course, and then the rest was all downhill or flat. Definitely a fast course! As we hit that first uphill section, I maintained my pace, and I could tell by his breathing that Josh was struggling to keep up on the uphill. He slowly drifted back, and that was the last I saw of him until the finish. I knew he'd do well though!

I picked people off as I went.There weren't a ton of runners ahead of me, but a thin, steady stream. I think a lot of them went out too fast. There were also walkers on the course (who had started an hour earlier) and it was way fun to cheer them on as I went by and to be cheered on by them as well. I saw Josh's boss's wife and several people we know from the community along the way.

I raced without music as usual, and really kept in tune with my body. I was "listening" for any sign that I was going to hard, and at the same time working hard to maintain the pace I was at. It really was quite perfect conditions... the sun was shining but not hot, the sky was super blue, the farmlands were super green, the mountains were beautiful and there were friendly people all along the course (very small, but very enthusiastic crowds, and familiar faces are awesome!)

At mile 5 I took my Accel Gel (I carried my handheld bottle and was sipping on Accelerade the whole time... I am a FAN), and was surprised that five miles were already done. It was going by really quickly! At each mile marker they had a picture of Jeremy (who the race was held to honor and celebrate), and many were pics of him with his wife and children. I had to stop looking at the pictures because I was getting choked up and I can't run when I cry!

The second of four aid stations was at mile 5.75. I had easily run past the one at mile 3, with my stomach feeling GREAT. As I was getting close to the second aid station I had a decision to make. Almost always I need a pit stop about six miles into a run. As I was coming into the aid station I felt like I could "go", but I didn't HAVE to go. I really wanted to keep running, but I was also really afraid to pass that portapotty and be regretting it big time half a mile down the road. (Seriously, when my stomach troubles hit there are no options... it is "go", or stop running). I went back and forth with myself and finally decided that I was GOING FOR IT in this race, and was going to take the chance and keep running and hope I didn't regret it.

I kept on running, and I was amazed at how easily I was keeping the pace. I was running hard and I was running fast, but it felt really, really good. I continued to pick people off, all of which were runners that had maintained a faster than 7:30 pace for six miles at that point, so were strong runners.

The sun got stronger and the temps warmed up some, but I kept taking little sips of my Accelerade and never got miserably hot. I enjoyed the course and continued to be pleasantly surprised with how quickly the miles were passing by. I felt fast, and I felt good and I was having so much FUN.

The third aid station was just before mile 9, and about a quarter of a mile out I knew that as much as I did NOT want to stop running, I needed a pitstop. There was no line, and I got in and out pretty quickly. It was a little discouraging to take off and be behind people I had worked so hard to pass, but I got right back to business and actually ended up ahead of where I had been in the "line up" before the pitstop.

I passed two guys we are friends with who are both pretty fast runners. One yelled out, "Hey! Nobody passes me!" and then the other guy said, "You have been my pacer the whole time. I have been watching your purple back. You are super steady and a really good pacer. Then you disappeared!" I said, "Sorry! I had to go to the bathroom!" He replied with, "You must be female!" and I answered with, "The last time I checked!" He said, "Go ahead, and I am going to use you as a pacer and then sprint past you at the finish". I yelled over my shoulder, "Good luck! I have a really strong final kick!" It was all said laughing and in good fun, and the little bit of trash talking gave me a boost. Again, it was just fun to have so many familiar faces on the race course. (And no, he didn't sprint past me at the finish). :)

We got to mile 10 and I couldn't believe that there were only three miles left to run. At this point I was feeling pretty darn excited about what my time would be, and was trying to calculate if I would be able to be under 1:40. I can't do math when I am running though! My initial goal was to be under 1:50, although I told Josh that I would really love to be under 1:45.  I didn't think under 1:40 was realistic even in my dreams before the race started, but at that point I knew that it was. I continued running at about a 7:30 pace and truly enjoyed the last few miles.

At mile 11 we went past the final aid station, and some of our very good friends (who own a physical therapy business and were sponsors of the race) were there and gave me a big cheer as I went by. I wanted to ask how many girls were ahead of me but there just wasn't time to talk and run fast. :)

At 2.5 miles to go, I saw one of our good friends, D., who is a new runner. She had taken the earlier start and was running her first half! D. has trained so hard and was really nervous but we knew she would do awesome! Another friend of ours had showed up to run the last three miles in with D., and when I saw them I gave them some huge cheers as I was running by and told D. she was doing great and was almost done! They gave me some cheers too and I was just all smiles.

With about two miles to go, I noticed a bright pink tank top up ahead. It was my friend K., who is a really fast runner (and one of the nicest people you could know). She had taken off at the beginning of the race and I hadn't seen her since. Before the race I had assumed the very best I could do was take second in our age group since she was running. When I saw her ahead of me and knew I had two miles to catch her I realized that it might just be possible to catch her and pass her. It wasn't anything personal against her, it was just that I had thought there was no way I could be faster than her, and then all of a sudden I realized maybe... just maybe... it was possible.

I didn't want to go out too hard too soon, so I continued to run at my pace and noticed I was still gaining ground on her. With one mile to go I picked up the pace. I passed several men that I had been trailing the entire race, and then  shortly before the 13 mile marker, I ended up shoulder to shoulder with K. She looked over at me and sprinted ahead. She wasn't going to let me pass her easily. It was a race! I thought, "Oh crap!" and figured that was that, but I took off as fast as I could after her. I knew right then that I had to choose to either fight or settle, and I did what I had done the whole race and chose to fight. I kept pushing and noticed she was slowing down, and before I knew it I had passed her. I was headed into the final stretch to the finish line and I just pushed and pushed and ran as hard as I could. I had a few seconds where I worried that I had started to sprint too early and that I had ran it too hard and that I was going to down just before the finish line, but I kept pushing and finished strong. I definitely finished with the gas tank empty though. I gave that race my all.

I passed a few more people in that final stretch and no one passed me. :)

When I told Jenny about the last two miles of the race and how I finished she said, "That's why you do Track Tuesday." Isn't she the greatest? Yup, the hard work (especially all the speed work I have done) was worth it, and it's just like a best friend to remind you of it when it matters most.

I saw one of Josh's best friends taking pictures at the finish line and saw that the clock said 1:38 as I ran by it (official time was 1:38:18), and I was THRILLED.  I really had not even imagined that a best case race would have me finishing that fast. This race REALLY has taught me not to doubt or underestimate or limit what I can do. :)

I knew that there had been at least two other girls that finished ahead of me, although I wasn't sure of their age groups or time. At that point I was just SO happy with my time and was feeling pretty confident that I may have placed. I got a lot of congrats from friends and neighbors who were at the finish line and that was really cool.

I stayed right by the finish line as I wanted to see Josh and our friends finish and to cheer them in. Smaller races are awesome, and there was an announcer calling out all of the names as they came in.

I cheered for K., who ended up finishing just about 30 seconds behind me and we congratulated each other on well-run races. I cheered in D. and then I saw Josh coming! He finished in 1:45, which is a 15 minute PR for him. He made a lot of jokes about his wife kicking his butt, but he really did a great job and ran super well. I am way proud of him!

I cheered in a few of my other Ragnar girls and other friends. My butt muscles were CRAZY tight... hurting they were so tight... so I kept trying to stretch a little but I did NOT want to miss Jenny or Alana, so I stayed right there at the finish line. Josh went and got me a water and watched out for the girls for me while I stretched a little. Soon we saw Alana and I cheered like crazy as she came in. She finished her first half in 1:58:02 and I was SO proud. Her first goal was to be under 2:05, and her husband told her that was "lame" and she should shoot for under 2 hours. So she did! Awesome!

And shortly after that Jenny came in at 2:02! Josh and I cheered like loons as Jenny came in and she looked great. This was just her second half and she beat her time from the last one. She did an awesome job.

We walked over to the finish line area and I had some chocolate milk, watermelon and banana. They had lots of great food and drink for the runners.  I looked like a five year old with the watermelon. I was sticky and drippy to my elbows but it tasted so good I didn't even care. We got our gear bags and I took off my running shoes and after walking around in the cold grass for a bit I put on my sandals. A bunch of friends came over and it was great to sit under the tent and stretch and chat with everybody.

They posted the results up on a wall. I was excited to see that I had won the 30-34 age group, and just a little bummed that I had missed the top three overall by just TWO seconds (ended up fourth female overall). In fact, I was only behind the overall female winner by a minute and two seconds. Sheesh if I could just figure out how to run without needing the pitstops!

We stuck around for the award ceremony and I got my first trophy of my whole life. :) I had won ribbons for horseback riding and a couple of plaques from school, but never a trophy. Josh kept calling it my "prestigious award" (any other Christmas Story fans out there?) They gave away a bunch of prizes in a raffle after the awards (including a $1200 treadmill!!), and it was such a nice finish to the race.

We snapped a few more pictures and then headed home. Everyone had had a great time and I can't wait to run this again next year.

If you live anywhere near here or are looking for an amazing half marathon to travel to, the Star Valley Half Marathon is an incredible race!

The course was beyond beautiful with the perfect amount of downhill and was just great overall. The weather here is always perfect this time of year (low 40's at race start, high 60's at finish).

Everything went super smoothly (which is even more impressive considering it was the first year of the race) and everything was very well organized and well planned.

Aid stations and portapotties were plentiful.

The small town love and support from volunteers and spectators is hard to beat.

The swag bag, tech shirt, medals, awards, and raffle prizes were SO much nicer than most races have (including expensive races like Rock N Roll Vegas!) and the entry fee is low ($40).

The race is a beautiful tribute to a wonderful man, and you could feel the love and emotion of his family by the incredible amount of effort they put in to making this race a wonderful event for all.

And, if you come next year you can hang out with me. :)

Here are a few of our after pics. A few friends snapped pics of me running during the course so I will post those as I get them.

Here is me with my "prestigious award". :) It is a star in front of a mountain range (Star Valley) and has a little plaque on it that says, "Star Valley Half Marathon, First Place, Female, 30-34"

Alana, me and Jenny. Yay!
Josh and I! :)
 Jenny said I had to make a SUPER happy face, so here it is. :)

If you are interested here are my mile paces -
Mile 1 - 7:02 (very downhill)
Mile 2- 7:21
Mile 3 - 7:37
Mile 4- 7:33
Mile 5 - 7:18
Mile 6 - 7:29
Mile 7 - 7:48 (longest uphill stretch)
Mile 8 - 7:38
Mile 9 - 8:42 (potty stop, lost about a minute)
Mile 10 - 7:18
Mile 11 - 7:34
Mile 12 - 7:27
Mile 13 - 7:08
Final stretch! - 6:57

Did I mention how much fun this race was?? 

Surely an age group win, fourth female overall and a 26 minute PR is worthy of a donation to my good cause right?? Click here to make a donation to Team MEB (who I am running with in the NYC Marathon) please please and if you want to enter the fundraising giveaway which still has LOTS of awesome prizes waiting to be chosen, you can enter here (or just by making a donation).


Jess @ Blonde Ponytail said...

Holy speed demon ERIN!! SO so proud of you and your amazing pace throughout the race. You look fabulous and I loved reading every detail. So inspired right now!!

Chris @ Heavy Steps said...

Very cool! Your story always inspires me. You just started running 2 years ago and now look at you! It gives me hope! Great job! Loved reading this, it was like we were there!

Christy @ My Dirt Road Anthem: A Runner's Blog said...

So inspiring! Great job pushing it through the whole race! That is a time I dream about! My goal for my half this fall is under 1:40.

bobbi said...

Amazing!! You did AMAZING! You should be hella proud - I can't even imagine running that fast - CONGRATS!!

Emz said...


3:20 marathon - here you come!

LBTEPA said...

Congratulations! What a great race!

Kerrie T. said...

26 minute PR?! Holy cow! Great job and great recap. Loved it!


Loved this recap. I have to admit that I am SUPER jealous of the temperatures there. I have only run 3 races in temperatures that low. 2 10K on New Year's Day and a 15K in January. I would kill for conditions like that.

You did awesome! Congrats again!

SupermomE12 said...

Thanks everybody!

And TMB - yeah, the cooler temps are great but it is a tradeoff. We are at over 6200ft elevation, so the sun is very strong and the air is very very thin. ;)

Jen @ Run for Anna said...

This post is so motivating! You so beautifully capture the excitement of seeing the result of hard work, determination, and training pay off. Makes me want to go out and run (even though I already ran today). :)

ArtofRunninghood said...

Congrats girl! Super impressive. Stupid potty break! :)

Samantha said...

You are incredible! Congratulations! More PRs to come!

Teamarcia said...

Fantastic Erin! SO proud of you. You rocked it! WTG!

Amanda - RunToTheFinish said...

way to go on letting your body take the lead!!! congrats on the final kick and first in your age group!!!

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Julie said...

WHAT a great race!! Holy Moly - that is some fast running! I love how it was just so...well...easy. You rocked it! Congratulations!

Tricia said...

A 26min PR is amazing. How exciting for you. Congrats.

Why said...

26 minute PR... um.. no comment. WOW! Feel free to post your donation page to our FB wall. Great race and keep the momentum.