Saturday, September 28, 2019

2019 Take it to the Lake Half Marathon Race Recap - Ely, NV

Official Time: 2:20:07
Placement: 6th out of 7 males.
Results: Here
Race WebsiteHere
Weather: Mid 30's, no wind.  Got up into the low 50's by the finish
Garmin Dump: Here
Previous Years: [2014]

Mile TimeComments
19:59Slow start up hill and at high altitude.
210:52The grind continues
411:46More hills
614:43One crazy hill after another.
714:57Finally reach the pinnacle of the race.... 
88:15Let the downhill and fun begin
98:20Over 300 feet of drop each mile from 8 to 11.
119:06Not as much drop here and I was feeling a little winded.
128:40Back to a decent mile
139:21Uphill on the service drive here.
13.141:40Cruise to the finish.
Total Miles: 13:14 - 2:20:03


5 years ago I ran the Take it to the Lake Half Marathon in Ely, Nevada.  It was a small race at the time and certainly challenging.  The race back then started at Cave Lake State Park and ran down to the highway before having to run back up.  It started at about 7500 feet elevation, went down to about 5500-something.  It was challenging and warm and I remember most of the return trip to be a sufferfest.

For those not in the know, Ely is a little mining town just north of the Great Basin National Park in rural Nevada.  There isn't a whole lot out there and is about a 3.5 hour drive from Las Vegas or Salt Lake City. But it is a beautiful part of the country and one I enjoy going to.

Me at packet pickup pointing to where I'll be running

The race is held Saturday morning at 7:30 AM.  I got into Ely on Friday afternoon and stayed at a local hotel about 20 minutes from the race start.  I did NOT sleep well.  I usually don't sleep well the night before a race in a hotel in a strange city.

So I got up at 4:45 and hit the streets by 5:15 and made the 25 minute drive to the entrance of Cave Lake State Park.  I had to be on a shuttle by 6 AM for the roughly 30 minute drive to the race's start -- some 13 miles up along a dirt road on the Success Loop.

The Race

It was a long wait in the shuttle.  There were only about 15 of us in the race and 11 of us crammed into a Suburban.  It was definitely more comfortable than standing in a field for an hour waiting for the race start (the temperature was in the low 30s). 

I was bundled up and had brought a ton of winter gear.  I didn't plan on running in the heavy gear, but I was anticipating a long wait and I didn't want to freeze.

The time in the van passed fairly quickly as the dozen of us made small talk.  After a while, we started driving up the dirt road.

One of the main reasons why I did this race was to see the Success Loop -- a 33 mile road that goes behind the mountain range on Ely's East side.  It is pretty remote country and I had heard rumors that regular cars couldn't make the trip.

The drive took about 30 minutes and the road was a bit rough at times but our driver knew what she was doing.

With the sun coming up, it gave me a chance to survey the course.  I knew from the course map the race provided that we were in for about 6.5 miles of climbing -- from an elevation of 7500 to just over 9000.  Fortunately once we reached the summit, we'd have about 1500 feet decline.  I was happy to note that the downhill was the most stunning part of the course and the uphill part -- just didn't seem that bad.  However, I did realize that miles 4 - 6 were going to be the toughest parts.

We had about 20 minutes to kill before the race start.  I stretched out and used the single porta-pottie that was available.  It felt more like a training run than a race, but with only 20 people or so, that's the way it was gonna be.

The race started at 7:30 and running felt hard.  At 7500 feet of elevation, the air was definitely thinner.  I had stripped down to running gloves, shorts and a short-sleeved shirt.  Thank goodness I went with that.  While it was a little chilly, it wasn't bad and I felt like I had made a good choice.

The lead pack took off and for a few miles I had a shot at 3rd place overall.  But the next two guys quickly over took me.  They were only giving out top 3 awards and with a race this small, I wasn't expecting age groups.  

I was content to keep going at my conservative pace, because I knew few miles were going to be challenging.

With me out of contention for any awards I settled into a comfortable pace.  Occasionally I'd take out my phone and take a photo of the area.  Despite my slow pace, I felt good about it.  I was holding back and I had hopes that maybe I'd stick around to maybe another person or so and catch them on the downhill.

The course -- as advertised -- was dirt road.  The initial miles were graded / smooth dirt.  I was worried about getting stones in my shoes, but it wasn't that bad.  I didn't get any bounce, however, from the ground.

I was glad to be running solo the entire race.  I was hanging around with one young woman for a while but she was much better at handling the hills.  She was able to power hike up some of them -- when they got bad -- while I just shuffled up them.  I am not sure which was more efficient but I ran the entire for the first 6.5 miles.

The open fields after about 3 miles turned into shaded aspens and pines.  I loved this section of the course.  The hills were definitely upped a notch and my head was swimming with a lack of oxygen at times.  Occasionally I'd look behind me only to see the ground I covered.  There was no one else behind me.  Once in a while I'd catch a glimpse of the woman I was chasing, but I was by myself.

I thought the hills wouldn't never end, but finally they did.  Thanks to the shuttle ride to the start, I had time to take some mental notes of when the hills would end.  It was a moral booster to see the scenery change to the point where I knew the hills were just about done.

Almost to the top

Finally, I reached the start of the 10K race.  There was a water stop / bathroom there and the 10K was advertised as all downhill.  While I still had 6.2 miles to go, I knew I was on the homestretch now.

My motivation to race suddenly picked up too as my turnover increased.  Gone were the 14+ minute miles.  Now it was time to fly.  Thanks to the gravity assisted hills, I was no longer grinding at death-march marathon pace, but 10K pace.  It felt great.

There still wasn't any men in front of me, but occasionally I'd see the woman below me zig-zagging down the road.  I had hopes of catching her -- nothing more than for my own ego, but she clearly was enjoying the faster pace as well.

The road at this point got a little more rugged.  It wasn't terrible for running, but you had to sort of pick and choose your path.  I didn't lose any time on it, but I had to concentrate on where I was running to avoid tripping on a rut or having to work extra hard by running in a ditch.

It was sunnier at this point but thanks to underdressing, I was completely comfortable. I had throw away gloves but I opted to keep them.  My hands tend to get cold, even in warmer weather.  I also got the slight scent of the Ruby Mountains -- it is like a sweet, flowery smell.  I love it and it seems to only pop up in the Rubies (although I must confess to smelling it around in Utah but it seems mostly present out in Nevada).

The mile markers in the race always seemed off -- by about .20 of a mile usually.  I was really worried about the course being long. I was sipping Tailwind and drinking from the aid stations, but my training hasn't been that awesome for putting in major miles.  Fortunately, the race measured pretty close and I didn't have to run an extra quarter mile.

Around mile 11 or so I started to encounter some of the 10K walkers.  It was an ego booster to fly by them and receive a bit of encouragement from them.

The final stretch of the race is a bit cruel and I remembered it from the last time I had done the race.  After 12.5 miles of running on dirt, you find yourself on red asphalt.  They had a volunteer to help you turn left and then you have a nasty incline.  Distance-wise it isn't more than .1 of a mile but it is pure up.

The final hill

I started to run it in hopes I could power my way up.  But my legs were just dead.  And despite my best efforts, I was going only a fraction of a bit faster than a pair of 10K walkers in front of me.  So I just power hiked up it.

Upon reaching the top, it took a big effort but I wasn't going to disappoint my "fans" and not run through the finish line.  Fortunately, after a bit of flat running you have a massive downhill to finish near the shores of the lake.


I finished the race in 2:20 and change.  My overall time wasn't too surprising and I knew it was going to be a slower half marathon.  While I did get over 6 miles of downhill, I had more than 6 miles of solid uphill.  That is hard to make up.  Also consider the elevation and the lack of oxygen and I had more of an adventure / fun run, rather than something I could try and "race".

I was surprised at how good I felt. I haven't done many long runs so I wasn't sure that I would even have the endurance to do this.  I've put in a few 10 - 13 mile runs, but not a lot of "over distance" training.

There was an aid station every 2 miles.  They had some sports drink and the half way point had gels.  I am glad, however, I carried my own Tailwind.  Having the extra calories helped and I wasn't dehydrated when I finished.  I also dressed correctly... I was never over-warm nor cold.

For a very small race, this event was a gem.  The aid stations were manned and amply supported.  There was never any doubt about where I was to run (it was hard to take a wrong turn but they even had markings on the odd-ball locations).  My only gripe, perhaps, was that the mile markers never seemed to line up with my Garmin until the end.

The race, like in 2014, had a post-race BBQ and raffle.  I had disappeared to my car after the raffle had started so I may have won something.  But I wasn't in the latter group that was being chosen.  They were also cool in that they had veggie burgers for me to eat.  In fact, I had two.

The weather after the race was absolutely perfect.  It was sunny, not too hot, with a pleasant breeze.  The picnic was on the shores of the Cave Lake, so the setting was picturesque.  

I paid close to $70 for the race.  I thought it was a steal considering all that I received.  I got a finisher's medal, t-shirt, a well supported course, a beautiful course and plenty of post-race food.  Yeah, the course is challenging and probably not PR worthy, but I really enjoyed the scenery and would probably put it as one of the most scenic half marathons I've done.

Hopefully this falls into my calendar again next year.  This was a great weekend and I had a lot of fun.

Sunday, September 15, 2019

2019 Run for the Nuns 5K Race Recap - Holladay, UT

Official Time: 26:00
Placement: Unknown
Results: Soon
Race WebsiteHere
Weather: Mid 60's, no wind
Garmin Dump: Here
Previous Years: New to Me

Mile TimeComments
19:05First third of a mile was definitely uphill. Slowed me way down
28:15Got some downhill here as I picked up the pace
38:24Some rollers but primarily downhill here
3.040:14Push to the finish as it was downhill.
Total Miles: 3:04 - 26:00


The Salt Lake area had a big race this weekend --- the Big Cottonwood Marathon, which basically steals the thunder of any other races that are planned during the weekend.  In fact, there were very few races in the area, except for this one.

This race definitely stands out on account it is held on a Sunday, which almost no races are held on a Sunday here.  But this race was held for the benefit of the Carmelite Nuns.  They have a fair that is going on in order to sell goods for their order and it attracts an early group of people.  Plus the entry fee goes to support the cause.

The Race

The race was easy to find -- just a minute off the freeway.  Holladay Utah is probably best known for being a haven for the wealthy.  There were a ton of older large houses that lined the main drag and the street was tree-heavy and shaded. 

I got there fairly early and managed to snag a decent spot.  Bib pick-up was a snap and within 10 minutes I was back in my car.

On account they were anticipating a large crowd for the fair, they had a ton of bathrooms, so there was never a line and the race, from what I saw, was fairly small -- maybe 100 - 125 people.

By 7:30, I decided to get in a mile warm-up and get a sense of the course.  I was warned that the start of the race feature a bad hill and upon looking at it I didn't think it was that.  Sure it was a hill, but it wasn't a killer one.  I did note that the return mile was mostly going to be downhill.  

The race started at 8 AM.  I am always hesitant on charity races on account that many are poorly run.  This one -- they knew what they were doing from start to finish.

Sure enough the first 1/8 of a mile was up hill and I figured that was going to be the end of the "big uphills".  I was quickly proven wrong.  We hung a right and got a very brief respite from the hill only to be encounter an even larger, more steep hill.  Really? We have to run up that?  How did I miss this on my warm-up?

Originally I had started out in 5th place, but quickly I was swallowed up by the crowd -- there were a lot of high school aged runners and clearly their much lighter body frames could take the hill much quicker than I could.

Finally, after a half mile or so, we reached the top the hill and we got a bit of a downhill.  I quickly found my groove and started to pass some of the runners who had went too fast.

I wasn't too surprised to see a "9" flash on my Garmin after the first mile.  There definitely was a penalty to be paid for hills at the start.  I just hoped I had enough in my legs to take advantage of what I would hope to be the downhill second half.

The course featured a lot of twists and turns in the residential areas in which we were running.  There were volunteers at critical corners but if I hadn't been following anyone I would not have known where to go.  

I was able to get back some of my lost time on mile 2.  There were a few rolling uphills but for the most part, it was a fast mile, with it primarily being downhill.  Maybe if I could hang on for the last mile I'd have a decent and not too embarrassing of a race.

I figured mile 3 would be fast but there were once again a few uphills.  Just when I was working up a head of steam I'd hit a tiny roller that would ruin my pace.  So frustrating.  With about 3/4ths of a mile to go though, I was in familiar territory as having warm-up on the course at this point.  

I quickly looked behind me and saw that no one was chasing me down but I was working against 3 people that were probably half my age.

The last quarter mile was primarily downhill and I really worked at it.  I didn't really know what my overall time was but I knew the race was going to be slower than usual for me -- thanks to the hills.

I flew into the finish line and clicked off my Garmin -- turning in a 26 minute 5K.  Definitely slower.


As stated, I wasn't too surprised with my time.  On a flat course I can knock out a 24:55 or 25:15.  This course was a lot more challenging.

I grabbed some water and chatted up some of the folks I had run with.  They had water at the end and breakfast consisting of eggs, potatoes and sausages were served.  They had a very interesting grape lemonade that was worth a repeat trip.  In addition, they had bagels and fruits.  All good stuff.

I was hoping for age group awards.  Sometimes these small races have them -- sometimes they don't.  This race apparently didn't have them.  They just gave out awards to the top 3 in each gender.  To be honest, I'll be lucky to see overall results.

I paid $25 for the race.  I got a pretty nice tech shirt -- I was expecting a cheap cotton one, but this one was nice.  They even had a drawing at the end with so many prizes that I actually won a pair of cordless headphones.  I definitely needed a pair for some of my driving trips.

My performance wasn't the greatest, but given the nature of the course, I wasn't expecting a PR race.  I did run as well as I could and despite being gassed after half a mile into the race, I managed to regroup and do okay.

Sunday, September 8, 2019

2019 Rock the Canyon 10K Race Recap - Provo, UT

Official Time: 56:37
Placement: 4th in age group, 62 overall, 44th male
Results: Here
Race WebsiteHere
Weather: Mid 60's, sunny, no wind
Garmin Dump: Here
Previous Years: New to Me

Mile TimeComments
19:06Hemmed in and I felt like I was gasping for air at the start. Not a good way to fire it up
27:27Fast downhill
38:26On to the flats
49:32Was gassed at this point. Pretty much all up hill from here.
59:20Grind up
611.12OMG, hills non stop here.  Nothing but climbing
6.221.39Last quarter mile was primarily downhill.
Total Miles: 6:22 - 56:44


A friend of mine turned me on to this race.  The race calendar for this past weekend was kind of light so my choices were sort of slim.  I haven't really felt "half marathon worthy" of late and so a shorter race was what I was looking for.

I heard the race was fairly hilly but how bad could it be?  Well I would soon find out.

The Race

The race was held on the east side of Provo in a park called Rock Canyon Park.  The park is mainly a multi-use field nestled at the base of the Wasatch Mountains.  It sports beautiful views of the mountain range as well as Utah Lake. 

The race actually served as a circuit race for the Salt Lake area.  To say there were fast runners there was an understatement.

I got there with plenty of time to spare, and grabbed my shirt and bib and basically killed an hour waiting for the race to start.  I circled through the bathroom and did my warm up drills as I admired the 360 degree views. 

I hadn't run that much during the week so I figured I'd be spunky to race, but I was anything but that.  I just wasn't in the mood to run / race.  But I had paid my race entry and I've always had pretty decent races when I've run through Provo.

The race had a really decent turnout, in part that it was a circuit race.  Minutes before 8 AM we assembled in the parking lot, got some brief instructions and soon we were off.

Almost immediately I was gasping for breath.  I was cursing myself for not doing a more comprehensive warm-up.  I also attributed it to being at slightly higher altitude. 

I was almost thankful when the trail we were on narrowed down so that only 2 or 3 people could run abreast.  Naturally this forced everyone to slow down.  The break was short lived but it was enough for me to re-group upon hitting the road.  It didn't help either that the start of the race was an up-hill as well.

Upon hitting the road I was able to dial in a pace and soon I got to enjoy the first down hill section of the race. I wasn't surprised seeing my Garmin flash a 7:30 mile. 

I knew I was right on target pace-wise on account I was tailing a woman I usually finish about even with.  In fact, throughout the race I was within 20 - 150 yards of her. 

I was enjoying the race quite a bit.  It was all new territory as well ran down the hill.  I turned to a woman running next to me, though and stated that we were going to pay for it on our way up, though.

Mile 3 was a gut check.  We were entirely down with the downhill section and now we had a section that involve a little bit of uphill but mostly flats.  My quads were pretty shot and my legs weren't feeling that responsive. 

I wasn't too surprised to see my pace drop from speedy to a fairly pedestrian 8:30 pace for mile 3.  And yet, I knew I had the hardest section of the course coming.

Mile 4 was a climb and while it wasn't that bad I figured maybe the rest of the course would be like this.  But I had studied the map with the elevation profile and I knew the worst would come.

The race was held primarily on residential streets.  Some times we ran on the side of roads and other times on the sidewalk.  There were police at important intersections and the occasional volunteer at quieter ones.  I was rarely in doubt of where to run because I was always within eyesight of someone and they had placed markers that led the way.

Mile 5 through 6 was where the insanity started.  I turned a corner and there was a monstrous hill.  Me and the runner next to me both were like What the was steep and other runners were clearly running up it.  This race was cruel... at mile 5 of a 10K you put a monster hill?  Come on!

I ascended that at a shuffle -- hurting every step of the way -- only to turn a corner and find another hill.  I almost came to a walk as I saw many other people do in front of me.

I kept looking at my Garmin in hopes that I would reach mile 6, when I pretty much knew that the hills would be over. 

Finally mile 6 came and I knew that I was now close to being done.  There was a good down hill here and I knew once I entered the park.  In fact, I totally got a second wind and flew to the finish line.


I wasn't too surprised with my lackluster time.  I figured I'd hit about 55 minutes given the difficulty of the course.  Even some of the elite runners there said don't worry about your splits as this course was anything but flat.

They had finisher's medals, which was nice.  Usually races don't award finisher's medals for 10Ks.  It isn't fancy but it's something to take home.

Finisher's refreshments were water and bananas.  They had some pancakes, but after the run, they didn't seem very appetizing.   

Results were printed out and easily obtained.  Unfortunately I placed 4th in my age group.  They may have done top 3, but I basically cleaned myself up and took off.

Hard to have any take-aways on this race.  The course was really fun to run believe it or not.  They also had 3 water stops, it was properly marshalled and the course was fairly accurate.  The mile markers were pretty close to spot on but as the race went along I was coming up short.  I had hopes that it might be a little short but actually it turned out to be a little long. 

The shirt was a standard cotton one.  It was nicely designed but I probably won't wear it much.  (What has happened with tech shirts of late?)

I would do this one again.  It was a little expensive -- about $40 plus the usual service fees and taxes but I registered fairly late in the game.

If my race schedule was empty, I'd run this one again.  It was well organized and definitely challenging.  But this race isn't for the faint of heart... or those looking for a PR.  The course though was top notch though.

Sunday, September 1, 2019

2019 Swiss Days 10K Race Recap - Midway, UT

Official Time: 52:16
Placement: 79th male out of 160, 6th in age group
Results: Here
Race WebsiteHere
Weather: Mid 50's, no wind.
Garmin Dump: Here
Previous Years: [2018] [2017] [2016]

Mile TimeComments
18:29Slight up hill start.  Hemmed in a bit too for the first quarter mile or so.
29:07Most challenging part of the course. A bit of climbing here
38:55Good portion of this mile was uphill, but got it back
48:09Mostly downhill here. Love this section of the course
68.46Slow uphill and kind of out of gas
6.060.25Push it to the finish
Total Miles: 6:06 - 52:13


For the past few years, one of my favorite traditions is to do the Swiss Days 10K.  It is located in beautiful Midway, UT, about an hour from the Salt Lake Valley on the other side of the Wasatch mountains.

During Labor Day weekend they celebrate their Swiss heritage by holding Swiss Days.  They have a parade, vendors and tons of food.  In addition, they have the obligatory 10K race.

I've always had a good time at this race and it is affordable, so it wasn't too hard of a decision to run this race again this year.

The Race

I got there way early this year... I had made good time and had nearly an hour to kill.  Fortunately for me, I was able to snag pretty decent parking.  There were a lot of roped off areas and I suspect late comers had a tougher chance of getting parking.

Packet pick-up was a snap.  I got my bib and t-shirt and socialized, chilled in the car and warmed up with my extra hour.  The race started promptly at 7 AM.

The race is held on the residential streets of Midway.  You are surrounded by farm country, the entrance to a state park, a beautiful golf course and the towering Wasatch Mountains.  It is really a stunning course.

The race is well attended and seems to be a gathering point for many high school athletes.  The race wasn't chip timed and I managed to shoulder my way up fairly close to the front.

The race starts off slightly downhill before making a sharp right turn to pass the fairgrounds.  From there you slowly wend your way through the older section of town.  Also the course is a slow grind up.  It isn't noticeable or a back breaking hill, it is just a slow climb.

Entering into mile 2 is where the challenge of the race comes in.  You are leaving the residential area and coming into the more exclusive part of town.  The road was lined with golden sunflowers and the mountains came into view.  I flew by the first water stop without grabbing anything but I knew that from mile 2.5 to 3.5, it was going to be challenging.  I felt good but I definitely was feeling the slightly higher than normal altitude.

One of the painful aspects of this race is that you run up the service road to the Wasatch State Park.  It is almost all uphill and consists of two very steep paved hills.  Fortunately, once you reach the top of the second one, you circle around a cone and get to run down them.

Knowing the course, it was nice to know that the next 3 miles or so were primarily going to be fast and my legs were excited to run fast.  My pace quickened and around mile 3 or so I found my "fast gear" and turned on the jets.  It wasn't long lived but I gained some ground here against some of my competitors as we flew by the golf course, which was just stunning in the young morning's view.

Finally we got back to the 1st water stop and I rinsed out my mouth with water and dumped the rest on me.  It was refreshing.  I wasn't thirsty per say and it wasn't warm, but my mouth was dry.  Getting cooled off as I continued to zoom down the hills that lead back to town helped my morale.

The final mile on this race is challenging.  Gone are the hills and at this point my legs usually feel like rubber.  Also there is a brief stretch where you have a bit of a hill again -- nothing crazy but it certainly makes it more challenging.

At this point, the competitors were fairly stretched out and I kept trying to reel in anybody I could.  I looked behind me and I didn't see anyone but I was worried about placing in my age group.  A pair of older guys had flown by earlier and I just wasn't too hopeful.

I pushed as hard as I dared in the last half mile.  The last quarter mile or so is a gentle downhill and you can see the finish line and the cheering crowds. I had been monitoring my splits but wasn't really paying attention to my overall time.  

I expected something in the low 53's but was pleased to see a 52 and change on the clock as I crossed under the finish line.


I love this course.  It is one of the prettiest races out there.  I should go back and photograph various portions of it.  Each time I do this race I feel fortunate to have experienced the beauty of this particular area.

After finishing, I was dismayed to see that I had finished 6th in my age group.  So close -- as they award cool glass mugs for top 5 age group finishes.  Turns out I would've needed another minute off of my time to place.

To console my woes, this race does have a great post race feast consisting of super yummy donuts (I think made locally), chocolate milk, sports drink and fruit.  In the case that I would've placed in my age group, I could've just picked up my mug and gone home.  So the awards system is very efficient and without much fanfare.

For $20 this race is a bargain.  It is professionally run and had two water stops.  The race has consistently come up short over the years (at least according to my Garmin).  I was disappointed that this year's shirt wasn't of a technical material.  It is cotton and gray.  I probably won't wear it.  There are no finisher's medals at this race either but for a 10K I don't really expect one.

I'll continue to do this race.  I love the course and it is very affordable./  I do hope that next year they go back to having a high quality tech shirt.