Monday, March 21, 2016

Sandhollow Marathon Trip Recap - Hurricane Utah


As usual, after any incredible weekend trip (that involves a marathon) I usually like to do a trip recap.  There isn't a whole lot about running here, but more or less a blow by blow of what I did.  These memories are mostly for myself -- as a year or two down the road I'll probably read this and the accounts I take in here bring back memories that otherwise would've been lost.

The primary purpose of this weekend trip was of course to run the Sand Hollow Marathon. I registered for the race some time ago when I was going through physical withdrawals of not having anything on the calendar and wanting a "big" event to do.  So with that in mind, this weekend was formed to have a good time.


When I registered for the race I quickly discovered that the hotels in the St George area were pretty much sold out, or super expensive.  I found that the best bargain was to book a hotel in Cedar City, which is about 40 minutes north of Hurricane (pronounced Hurri-kin).  It was about 50% of the price and also a slightly shorter drive.  All throughout the weekend I noticed that people were desperately trying to find a hotel room, only to be turned away.  Amazing... there was a massive Spartan Race, a bike event, a baseball tournament and a bunch of other things that just had the hotels totally booked.  I am glad I was able to find accommodations.

I left work at 3:30 and after some initial traffic getting out of the major metropolitan area, I was going the speed limit (and above).  I made good time and reached Cedar City just after 6:15.

I decided to eat at the IHOP there.  In the past, they've been quick and served good food.  I wasn't disappointed this time.  I was really regretting not doing my homework on finding some place different to eat but I wasn't in an exploratory mode and before you a marathon you want to eat fairly neutral food.  So I had a Garden Omelette and pancakes.  Good stuff.

Afterwards, I got back on the main drag and checked into the Crystal Inn / Ramada of Cedar City.  I've stayed there before and while the accommodations aren't grand, they are suitable and I wasn't complaining at $60 a night.  I was disappointed that I'd be leaving before the breakfast as their breakfast wasn't really that bad.

As usual, before a marathon, I slept poorly -- maybe getting 4 -5  hours.  I just couldn't fall into a deep sleep.  I also couldn't turn off the TV -- for some reason it wouldn't go off.  I wound up having to physically unplug it.  Ugh.  Otherwise it was a good stay...


I was up at 4:45 and quickly showered, ate a lot of Life cereal and sucked down an Arnold Palmer -- my go to drink for a pre-long run.  It has a tiny bit of caffeine in it and it seems to work.  Nothing magical about it, but it is my morning drink.  I also ate a Power Bar.  I packed up my things and made the largely uneventful trip to Hurricane.  Google Maps did lead me down a road I hadn't been on before and it certainly saved me a lot of time, but I was sort of out in the boonies for a while.  

I rolled into the race site just after 6:15 and got set up with my bib, lubed up with some Vaseline and before I knew it, it was 7AM and race time.

I ran the race and afterwards I wound up walking around, drinking and socializing with the few runners that were milling about (it wasn't a huge marathon).  

I had not noticed last year that the race's headquarters is next to the Heritage Park.  Heritage Park had a small museum and a ton of memorabilia dedicated to the early pioneers that had settled the area.  I am interested in western history and how Utah was settled so I took the opportunity to read and learn:

I had about 3 - 4 hours to kill before I could get into my hotel room down in Mesquite, NV.  It was a little after noon by the time I decided to go "somewhere".  I thought about using the park's water area to clean up but luckily I had remembered to bring a towel and a wash clothe and was able to do an impromptu sink bath.  At least I didn't smell too bad:

I punched in the address of Denny's on my smart phone and headed towards St George.  St George was a zoo and the Denny's was no exception.  I was hoping to go to the Denny's I had been to when I had gone to run the St George Half Marathon in January but I guess there are two of them and I went to the more crowded one.  Service was a little slow but still in the reasonable time frame.

I had some fries with tilapia.  I also noticed that no one was drinking coffee and I think I was the only one with an iced tea (actually an Arnold Palmer).  Then I remembered, ah yes, I am in southern Utah.  I bet they sell very little coffee there.

After eating, I decided to spend some time at Cedar Pocket in Arizona. Just an awesome experience and well worth the hour (or so) stop that I made there.

On the way into Nevada, I saw that the I-15 pass leaving Nevada was backed up literally for miles.  They are doing construction there and the freeway is down to one lane.  Couple that with the fact that trucks use it and can't go very fast on the steep inclines and you have a recipe for congestion.  My way was smooth sailing and I made a mental note to avoid that at all costs when I left on Sunday.

I arrived at the Virgin River Casino around 3 pm Pacific Time.  I was feeling a little woozy.  I think I was dehydrated and so I ate some spare food that I had and drank some Gatorade.  I was so thankful when the Virgin River folks let me check in.

I swiped my player's club card at the welcome Kiosk and got a free hot dog.  Unfortunately, this pesco-vegetarian hasn't had a hot dog in over 25 years...

They did put me on the third floor and I didn't find the elevator until later, but none the less, climbing 2 sets of stairs after running a marathon was no bueno.

After getting into my room I had a bit of a worry.  My neighbors seemed to be very loud.  The walls are pretty thin there and I was really really worried I'd be up all night listening to some rednecks getting drunk.  When I passed by their room they had their door open and I saw a beer can or two on the table and I was almost ready to call down to the front office to switch rooms. Luckily I did spot a kid in their room (about 12 years old) and I am happy to report I didn't hear from them at all.

I unpacked my crap and I quickly hit the pool.  It was in the low 70's and the pool water was cold.  It felt good just to stand there for about 15 minutes.  For a casino hotel there were a ton of kids there.

I wound up hitting the sauna for 30 minutes.  I know that is sort of a no-no after running a marathon (due to dehydration issues) but it sure felt good and it was warm enough to be helpful but not boiling to be uncomfortable.

I cleaned up in my room and decided to drive 2 miles down the road to the Casablanca hotel.  From a previous visit, I knew they had a good Saturday night buffet.  Couple that with a $5 off food voucher, I was set...

I played a bit and struck out almost immediately on a Britney Spears machine.  Usually that game gives me some sort of excitement, but it wasn't doing very well for me.

I jumped into the buffet as I was starting to get really hungry.  Unfortunately, after running a marathon my teeth are super sensitive.  I blame it on the fact that the Gatorade is super acidic and it takes a good 48 hours before they come back to normal.  It made for some painful eating.  I am not sure if I got my money's worth, but the crab legs sure were good:

I wound up playing some more and goofed around in the casino.  I wasn't really winning much or losing much and I wasn't finding anything I had to play.  I did have a pretty decent run on a Fred Flintstones machine though:

I went back to the Virgin River and played various machines in there, neither winning much nor losing a whole lot.  I like their casino but they don't have a whole lot of my favorite machines.  And the few of my favorites were being occupied.

So I wound up walking across the street to the Eureka Hotel and Casino.  I hadn't been in there in a while.  Their casino is much more modern.  I haven't gotten anything from their comp system there so I don't usually go there (couple that with the fact that their hotel is expensive).  I wound up playing Leonidas for a while -- which was one of my favorite machines back when you could still find it.  It was pretty tight in there and the longer I hung out in the Eureka, the more money I lost.

I went back to the Virgin River and wound up trying a few different machines with no luck whatsoever.  I won a few $40 - $50 hits, but really nothing major and I really didn't have a good run.

After 10 pm I decided to call it a day.


I actually slept very nicely.  

I wound up setting my alarm for about 6:45 am.  In all honesty, I was done gambling and I was actually pretty hungry. It didn't take me long to get dressed, packed and out the door.  In fact, I was in the parking lot of the Casablanca just after 7 am.

There was no wait for the buffet and only a handful of people were there.  I wound up filling up pretty quickly again, but all in all, I got $9 worth of food, which is probably the cheapest meal I had all weekend.  I wound up making small talk with a Spartan racer and got caught up on what those events are like.  I am still "out" on those.  It just doesn't sound like my type of race at all.

I didn't even gamble and I wound up hitting the road just shy of 8:30.  It was a fairly uneventful ride home and I made it back by 1:30 pm mountain time.  I was just so glad to get that fairly boring ride out of the way.


I really had a good time.  It was nice to hit the open road on my own.  While the scenery on the way down to southern Utah isn't terribly exciting, it is an easy drive.  I could just fire up some talk radio podcasts I had and sort of relax.

While I've done the Sand Hollow Marathon before, it felt good running it.  I was expecting some sort of boredom / death march and I wound up having a pretty decent race.  It certainly wasn't my best time, but the overall experience gave me a lot of confidence.  Instead of dreading it, I came away feeling a lot more confident that I could do better.

Total cost of the trip:  About $80 for the race, gas maybe $50, food: $60 and hotel, about $150.  I had hopes that the gambling would be profitable, but I am a realist, and I know better.  Still it was fun and I have a lot of positive memories about the weekend.

Hope you enjoyed the photos.

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