Saturday, October 31, 2015

2015 Haunted Half Marathon Race Recap - Provo Utah

Official Time: 1:51:37
Placement: 361st overall, 17th in the 45 - 49 (out of 58)
Results: Here
Race Website:Here
Weather: Mid 40's - Upper 50's / Lower 60's at finish. No wind.
Garmin DumpHere

Mile Time Comments
1 8:11 Enjoying the downhill, but had to do quite a bit of weaving
27:53Enjoying the downhill, but had to do quite a bit of weaving
37:56First water stop only has suckers? Come on? No liquids? Still enjoying the canyon.
47:57No more weaving.  On the bike trail. 
58:13Massive downhill is over.  Now it is a gentle downhill
68:06Stomach is upset.  Will I pay the price later in the race?  Have a watermelon gel
78:24Yes, stomach is definitely not having a good day
88:21Somehow still surviving
98:27Enjoying the course but it feels like there is a brick in my stomach
129:16So dead here. Some hills here too
139:34Hills, stomach not happy and was stopped for 15 - 20 seconds before I could cross the street.
Total Miles: 13.21 - 1:51:47


Normally I am not big on downhill themed races.  Utah is filled with the massive downhills and yeah,  you can get a great time, but more often than not, I wind up sore for days and it derails all my training plans for the upcoming week.

However, I was really looking for something to do this weekend and I hadn't raced in two whole weeks so I figured why not jump into the Haunted Half.

The Haunted Half has two races in the area: one in Salt Lake and one down south about 30 minutes from my house in Provo.  The SLC one is a pretty solid downhill while the Provo one is about 1250 feet of decline.  Sure, I'll pay the price for it, but it won't be that bad.

The other thing that has caused me to take pause in this race is that it has a long wait.  You load a bus between 6 AM and 7 AM and they drive you twenty minutes up a canyon and then you wait until 8:45 for the race to start.  That isn't my idea of fun.

Either way, I did decide to take the plunge on this race after seeing the finisher's medal and I also had a friend of mine who was willing to pick up my bib for me (saving me a trip to Provo).

The Race

The race starts at about 5860 feet of elevation.  I am not exactly sure what sub-canyon we started in but suffice to say we followed a service road for about 4 miles before getting on the beautiful Provo bike trail system.  If you haven't had a chance to drive, hike, or visit Provo canyon, you are missing out.  

It had been a while since I've been there (I think we drove through it in 2012).

I was on the second bus up there and was dropped off at 6:45 -- meaning I had a two hour wait before the race's start.  Thank goodness I found my friend JE and got a seat on the cold ground close to the fire pit.  I had brought plenty of clothes up there and I was fairly comfortable and as it always does, the two hours went by pretty quickly.

Once the sun was out, I managed to get a few photos of the starting area:

I got a late jump to the starting line and it cost me some time as I weaved through the slower starters.  It was all good and after mile 3 I found I could run at my own pace.  

However, as I got going I realized my stomach wasn't happy.  I had eaten a ProBar about 30 minutes before the race and maybe it didn't sit well with me.  I've eaten them before a run, but never before a race.  For some reason it just sat in my gut and churned.  By mile 6 I was sort of hoping I'd just put and be able to go on my merry way but it was more of a stomach ache.  It really curtailed my breathing and by mile 11 it felt like I had been kicked by a mule.

Down the canyon we go!

Down the canyon we go!

Down the canyon we go!

The first few miles were blazing fast and it seemed effortless to run.  Most people were in costumes.  I opted with two tech shirts (black and orange) with Halloween insignia on it.  So much for being festive.  Despite the growing unpleasantness in my gut I was really hoping for something (anything) sub 1:50.

The first aid station at mile 3 didn't have any fluids.  They were passing out dum dum suckers.  What the heck...  I hope I wasn't going to get stiffed on this race.  But I am happy to report the rest of the water stops were amply supplied and crewed.

After about 4 miles we were dumped on the Provo multi-use trail.  Basically a paved bike trail.  The hills stopped being brutally steep and now it became a gradual descent.  Definitely easy on the joints and you were able to carry on a decent pace.  We did get to run by the Bridal Falls and a few other prominent landmarks.  I snapped pictures as I was running:

Bridal Veil Falls - Provo Utah

Bridal Veil Falls - Provo Utah

Rock outcropping along the trail

The last few miles were on more residential bike trail or even sidewalk.  I did get held up at mile 12.5  You have to cross a busy intersection and at roughly mid-morning people were out doing errands.  The police basically restricted people from crossing to give time to cars to get by.  I lost about 20 - 30 seconds here and honestly I didn't mind too much. I was pretty much spent and my stomach was clearly not in a good mood.

About mile 10


This was a big race.  There were over 1650 half marathoners so crossing the finish line felt like I was at a major event.  The finish area was a bit congested but overall I liked the party-like atmosphere.

Upon finishing, I walked around and my stomach finally rebelled a bit more.  They had pizza (with pepperoni on it (pass)), chocolate milk, water, apple juice (gives me cramps) and bananas that looked a bit too ripe.

The shirt is 70% polyester and 30% cotton.  Not a true tech shirt, but definitely worthy for some training days.  I absolutely love the medal and it was probably about 50% of the reason why I ran the race.  In fact, it easily ranks in the top 3 of my favorite medals.  They also gave away the throw away gloves which are actually worth keeping.

I paid $70 for the race and I registered a few days before the registration close.  I probably wouldn't have run this race except someone picked up my bib for me.  I absolutely loved the course and in fact it probably ranks in the top 5 of my favorite Utah courses.

Course measured a bit long for me and the first few miles were congested.  Shame on me for not getting to the starting line a bit earlier.

Overall, I had a good experience here and would run this edition again.

Check out the medal, it opens

Check out the medal, it opens

Saturday, October 24, 2015

This week in running Oct 18 - Oct 24

The turn around point on Saturday's long run

DayMileage / WorkoutComments
Sunday26.5Duke City Marathon 
MondayOffOff - some mild hiking
TuesdayOffTravel day
Wednesday7Actually a pretty solid run, but overall medium pace
Thursday9Kick butt for about 7 miles.
Friday5All easy
Saturday17First half at about 10 min / mile.  Second half around 9:30
Total miles for the week: 64.5 - YTD: 1974

Week's Summary

Despite having run the Duke City Marathon this week, I really loaded up on the miles.  I was actually itching to run on Tuesday but that was my travel day from Albuquerque to Utah.  Normally I take a minimum of 2 days off after a marathon and I had some soreness but not a lot.

I still have to maintain my fitness for Vegas, which is about a month away.  If the weather cooperates, I am hoping to hit around 4 hours for that marathon.  So with a solid base, I want to get in a bit of speed work.

I also felt a lot less soreness after Duke City.  While I was dehydrated and sort of cranky afterwards, this marathon proved to have the least post race soreness I've experienced in a while.  Maybe I am getting used to this thing.

There is also a part of me that is worried about overuse injuries.  So far (knock on wood)  I've managed to dodge that bullet.  But the inner coach in me tells me I am doing too much...  Ugh... the joys of running versus staying cautious...

Upcoming Races

11/07: SaltAir Half Marathon (maybe)
11/15: Las Vegas Marathon (definite)
11/26: South Davis Rec Center Turkey Trot (5K) (Confirmed)
02/06: Winter Striders 5K (confirmed)
02/20: Winter Striders 10K (confirmed)
03/05: Winter Striders 10 Mile (confirmed)
04/02: Winter Striders Half Marathon (confirmed)
04/23: Winter Striders 30K (confirmed)

Friday, October 23, 2015

The Trip to Albuquerque


As usual, any time I go on a marathon trip I save the final post to do a day-by-day, minute-by-minute detail of everything we did.  I'll be honest, this is more for my benefit.  Occasionally, months and years later I'll revisit this post and it will jog my memory of all the things I saw and experienced.

So this post will be fairly long but I guarantee there'll be some cool pictures involved.

The route we took to Albuquerque from Murray UT

Thursday October 15

I took half a day off from work on Thursday.  Our goal was to reach Green River, Utah by nightfall, which assuming no traffic was about 3 hours away.  You may ask why I didn't go further and the answer is pretty simple:  Besides my wife, I am traveling with my 83-year-old mother in law.  Her ability to sit for long distances in the backseat of a car just isn't there.  So we had to break up the trip into several manageable segments.

On Thursday, I rented a burnt Orange Hyundai Sante Fe.  I needed a large car on account that my mother-in-law was taking ALL of her luggage with her down there because she was leaving Albuquerque to go live with her other daughter.  To say that that Santa Fe was packed to the gills would be an understatement.

Either way, the Santa Fe was a pretty decent car.  It got good gas mileage and I put on over 1200 miles over the long weekend.  

The other side effect with traveling with my mother-in-law is that it necessitated hourly trips to any available bathroom.  So to say we reached any of our destinations in the amount of time it should've taken would be way incorrect.

Either way, we did hit the road at about 1pm and managed to dodge all the traffic around the point of the mountain (between Salt Lake County and Utah county).

Our first bathroom break was just past Spanish Fork.  This was one of the nicer stops and actually had a lot of historical information as well as a giant train there.  I don't normally get too excited about rest stops, but this one was interesting.

It was also at this point that the trip got interesting.  I had never traveled on Highway 6 before but it was super interesting.  There was plenty of canyons and twists and turns and scenic rock formations:

We were struck by the sheer beauty of the area as well as the remoteness.  Truly there is very little civilization between Utah county and Green River.

The area got more bleak the closer we got to Green River

Our destination for the night was the Super 8 Motel in Green River.  Upon checking in, we realized we had a couple of hours to kill.  We wound up visiting the Crystal Geyser and Lower Grey Canyon.  Who would've thought that such incredible things were to be found in a little tiny town!

After visiting those places we wound up eating at Tamarisk Restaurant.  From the looks of it, Tamarisk is probably the only sit-down place in the city (I think there were others however).  It was recommended by the motel check-in guy and we had a pretty good meal there.  I loved their salad bar and I got one trip to it, so I made sure it counted. I had tilapia with fries and I left feeling full, which always scores big points in my book.  We also just missed the Thursday night dinner crowd as the place was lined up out the door.

We returned to the motel and wound up crashing pretty early.  We liked the Super 8 and it was clean and relatively affordable.  It wasn't the Ritz-Carlton by any means, but it suited its purpose.  I actually slept pretty well too.

Friday October 16

I woke up fairly early and everyone else followed suit.  Shari and her mom take a LONG time to get ready in the morning -- on the order of 2+ hours.  So it gave me an opportunity to go for a short run.  Being that I had a marathon on Sunday I didn't want to kill myself.  You can see the photos of my run through Green River here.

The Super 8 has a breakfast buffet -- typical hotel stuff: cereal, waffles, toast, yogurt, etc.  I hit it pretty hard but I didn't stuff myself silly.  I definitely had a filling breakfast though.

A little after 10 we took off with Towaoc Colorado set as our destination.  I think we were the very last ones to leave the motel that morning.

We made good progress but had to make a pit stop at the Moab McDonalds.  For those that don't know, Moab is a big tourist destination for many coming to Utah.  There are a ton of national and state level parks there.  Everywhere you look, there is jaw-dropping red rock.  We made a stop at Wilson's Arch where I had the opportunity to do a bit of hiking.

Hopefully I can get some of the pictures we took of the Moab area but I think the good majority of them are on an iPad that I am not in possession of.

Either way, we arrived in Cortez Colorado by early afternoon.  We were too early to check into our hotel and I certainly didn't want to spend 3 hours at a casino pissing away money.  Shari and her mom ate at Arby's while I ate at a Burger King down the street.  We each talked to some of the locals and after checking a map, we went to Mesa Verde National Park.  You can see all the cool pictures I took here.

After touring the area, we went to our hotel, the Ute Mountain Casino, Hotel and Resort, which is on the southern outskirts of Cortez.  All 3 of us like buffets and gambling, so staying here was a pretty obvious choice:

We each got $10 for signing up for the player's club card and I got another $10 for staying the night.  I managed to neither win nor lose the entire time I was there.  And yes, I was playing, but I had a long weekend ahead of me and I didn't want to blow my bankroll in one sitting.  They had a pretty decent casino and like most tribal casinos, they didn't have any alcohol and serve yourself pop.  They also had the most delicious freshly made (and free) popcorn too.

Thank you Mr. Cashman!

It seemed like all the locals knew about the seafood buffet, as they had a 90 minute wait just to get into the restaurant.  Luckily I could snack on popcorn.  For $20, this buffet was a steal:

It was sort of funny as the guys who were in charge of dispensing the crab legs were keeping tabs on how many times I came up.  On the fourth time, they were like "Oh wow! 4 plates!"  Needless to say I was pretty embarrassed.  The rest of the buffet was so-so, but the crab legs were spot on!

I wound up trolling the casino for quite some time.  I hit the hay and had a fitful sleep.  It seems we had some people upstairs jumping on the floor and dropping luggage (or who knows what) on the floor.  Luckily they quieted down but for around 15 minutes after midnight they were noisy S.O.B.'s.

Saturday Oct 16

We woke up at a reasonable hour and while the women got ready, I went to the restaurant and had a nice, healthy breakfast.  I figured the restaurant would be a zoo.  There are no other restaurants at the casino and it isn't like there are any other food places right next door.  However, it was a ghost town and I wound up eating in pretty quick order.

Saturday would be our longest drive -- taking us from Towaoc Colorado to Albuquerque New Mexico.  We weren't in Colorado for very long and before long we came across Shiprock, New Mexico.  Shiprock is named after a mountain formation that looks like an old-fashioned sailing ship.  It is very distinguishable from a distance and in fact there seemed to be a few formations that resembled it:

Our first stop for the day was at the Sunray Casino in Farmington New Mexico. Casinos always have nice bathrooms and it would give everyone a break and a chance to get a soda:

I wound up winning about $3 there on a Cashman.  My mother in law lost $20 quickly, so we obviously "paid" for the bathroom.

New Mexico is a pretty desolate state.  There were only a handful of cities on our way down there.  Google Maps sent us through Farmington and Broomfield New Mexico.  There really wasn't a speedy highway there and it was consistently 45 mph.  I was very frustrated and at the same time reminded to keep my speed in check as they had signs all along the road that it was a "safety enforcement zone" and that fines would be doubled.

By the time we were heading south we were on roads that I should've been able to go 80 on, but the speed limit was curiously set at 70mph.  Ugh -- New Mexico needs to get with the times.  The scenery was moderately interesting and it seems like New Mexico has no shortage of casinos:

We arrived at the Isleta Hotel and Casino around 4pm and were able to check-in.  This hotel is absolutely stunning and they had a super large casino.  I managed to get my bib and bought a t-shirt I didn't need at the Duke City Marathon.  (You can read about my marathon / Expo experience here).

Glass elevator

I didn't spot my favorite slot machine there: Fu Dao Le but instead found my previous favorite: Leonidas.  Unfortunately, Leonidas wasn't kind to me at all and despite getting $25 in free play, I found that the Isleta Casino was super tight.  I got very little action and was quickly frustrated.  I wound up closing the night at about $100 down.  On the plus side, the casino did have serve yourself Coke-brand drinks which had the ability to pick just about any variety of Coke (diet, caffeine free, flavored, etc) that you could desire.

We wound up eating at the Tiwa restaurant.  I wound up getting a fish & chips dinner, which was a grease pit.  

I actually slept pretty well considering I had a marathon in the morning.

Sunday October 25

I got up at 4 in the morning and ran the Duke City Marathon, which you can read about here.

I didn't get back to the hotel until close to 1pm.  I cleaned up and managed to eat some cold pancakes that Shari had brought back to the room from earlier that morning.  It was so good though and hit the spot.

We went down to the casino where I drank some nectar of the gods (at least after a marathon): Coke and collected my mother in law.

We set out for the Old Towne part of Albuquerque.  They had waited around for me all morning and I felt sort of obligated to let them run around and shop.  Normally I can't stand these types of trips and as a guy I wouldn't suggest visiting Old Towne unless you like to trinket shop.  There are some neat old buildings there and some of the shops were mildly interesting, but overall this wasn't my place:

The Christmas shop

Old Catholic Church

Cannons that were buried here

After the ladies had done their shopping we hit up the Indian Pueblo Cultural Center.  This was just a short drive away and basically the museum offers a wide spectrum of historical and cultural artifacts from the Pueblo cultures that abound in the New Mexico area.  The three of us got in for about $14 and spent about an hour there.  It would've been cooler had we seen a live performance, but we were there an hour before closing and we pretty much had the place to ourselves:

We were all starving upon leaving the museum and needed a place to eat.  We tossed around a few ideas before I googled Mexican restaurants and came across Monroe's.  While not at all sounding Mexican, we took a chance after reading the good reviews.  I am happy to report this was quite a stumble-upon and we all enjoyed our food immensely.  The salsa was hot but not insanely hot and I think this was the best non-buffet restaurant we ate at the entire trip.

My mouth was on fire at this point.

We were all pretty tired upon leaving and my mother in law needed to be at the airport by 8:30 the next morning, so we pretty much called it a night.

Monday October 25

In the morning we all woke up fairly early and got my mother-in-law packed and ready to go to the airport.  I rode with them to the airport in the hotel shuttle and got Shari and her mom unloaded and at the check-in.  Albuquerque airport is the tiniest every ... I couldn't believe how small and tiny it was.

I wound up snacking for a while until Shari had me pick her up at the airport.  I had done some research and discovered that there was a casino buffet at the Santa Ana Star and they had a super cheap buffet.  It did mean we'd have to drive to the north side of Albuquerque. 

We signed up for the player's club card and each got about $25 in free play.  We jumped into the buffet and we each ate for a whopping $5:

The buffet was passable (how could it not be at that price) but I wouldn't been disappointed had I paid full price.  There wasn't a lot of premiums and the food needed some TLC.  The desserts were fantastic though.  We each pigged out pretty good and got our money's worth.

We wound up paying for the buffet.  They had a row of Fu Dao Le's that I dumped money into and got virtually nothing.  In fact, I probably would've been better off just opening my wallet and tossing my money on the ground.  The machines gave us very little play and very little action.  We tried a bunch of different machines too.  Incredibly frustrating and it seemed to be a trend in the tribal casinos.

We stayed way too long there.  I think we both wanted to make sure our food settled before leaving the closeness of a bathroom.  So in the long run, we really paid for our buffet.

After leaving the casino, we went to the Petroglyph National Monument, which you can read about here.  Despite having run a marathon the previous day, I felt incredibly good and wasn't having very much soreness.  I guess I am getting used to this marathon thing.

We got back to the hotel late in the afternoon and I decided I wanted to check out and use the pool.  They have a nice sauna (although the jets could be turned up a bit more):

After cleaning up we looked at some of the restaurants at the resort and weren't that impressed.  So we wound up driving to Mariscos Altamar Restaurant.  A friend of mine had recommended the restaurant to me and it was good.  Their salsa didn't have a lot of kick, but the food was well done and I left full:

My dinner

Shari's dinner

We wound up gambling a bit more.  I was still licking my wounds from my previous beatdowns but I sucked it up and put a twenty into Leonidas.  Today, Leonidas was very cool to me and I wound up winning a bit.  On a whim I stuck a twenty on another machine next to it and got some random bonus that triggered a LOT.  It was like every spin I was winning something.  Shari also hit paydirt on a Lightning Strike machine.  I think that will be her new favorite....  It was nice to wrap up the night on an upswing.

Tuesday October 20

Tuesday marked our last day.  We wound up packing up our now much lighter Santa Fe and decided to take Highway 40 west and taking the somewhat longer way back.  Google said it would take 10 minutes longer, but I hoped I would get to go a bit faster on a major interstate versus the other roads.  I-40 was pretty smooth sailing but they had some construction and heading north was like driving through molasses.  Ugh, New Mexico!

We reached Gallup around 11am and decided to see if the Firerock Casino had any food.  They had a small lunch bar that had absolutely no vegetarian food.  I had signed up for the player's club card and got $20 in free play (as did Shari).  Despite starving, we played it and wound up spending a good hour there.  I wound up turning my $20 into nearly $70 in profit.  I managed to get a very good run on Lucky Money Tree - which kicked out a ton of bonuses for me.  It was like I couldn't lose (well actually I did, but I stopped before I wound up in a negative)  Well worth the stop in my opinion.

The casino was right near Red Rock Park, which given another hour, I would've loved to have explored.  Instead I did get some pictures of the perimeter:

We wound up eating at Denny's.  It was quick and easy and actually pretty good.

The drive back home was pretty uneventful.  I was surprised I did as well as I did driving for nearly 10 hours.  We did break up the trip with various stops: gas in Towaoc, a pit stop in Moab and Subway in Wellington Utah.  

Here are some random photos from the journey:

Bathroom stop around Moab Utah

Bathroom stop around Moab Utah

Add caption

Rock formation somewhere in New Mexico

Sun setting along the canyon walls in Utah

Sun setting along the canyon walls in Utah

Sun setting along the canyon walls in Utah


This trip was so much fun.  I had never been to New Mexico before so seeing something entirely new was just awesome.  I'd love to go back and wouldn't hesitate to run there again if the opportunity presented itself.

I hope to get my hands on the photos on an iPad we brought along.  We got a lot of shots of the cliffs around Moab.  

Gambling wise this trip wasn't too much of a bust.  I did manage to make up a lot of my losses on Monday night and in Gallup.  However, my conclusion is that the tribal casinos are big on promotions to lure you in, but pay very little in return.  Maybe it was just my bad luck, but the casinos seemed very tight.

Despite a casino in just about every nook and cranny of the state, I don't think I'd want to live there.  I didn't see a large tech presence and I suspect the heat in the summer's get pretty intense.  I'd also have to check out the running scene, but I could make it work if I had to.