Sunday, August 20, 2023

2023 Rock 'n Roll Salt Lake City Half Marathon Race Recap - Salt Lake City, UT

The Dawn before the Storm - Starting Line

Official Time: 2:04:44
Results: Here
Race WebsiteHere
Weather: 76F degrees with breeze from the south
Course Map / Garmin Route: Here
Previous Years: Inaugural Year

Mile TimeComments
110:29Hilly start. Easing into the race.
210:26Quick 45-second pit stop and then more hills
39:10Actually a decent mile here despite the climb.
410:09Last of the crazy hills.
610:13I was wrong -- more hills!
88:19Coming back down. Finally can get to race pace.
98:23Holding okay but the front loaded hills fatigued me
109:05Into Liberty
119:24Actually doing okay despite the fatigue
129:37Can we just be done?  Took a lot of effort
1310:01Not much left. Could see the finish line, but seemed to take an eternity to get there
13.201:49Push it and get it done!
Total Miles: 13.20 - 2:04:44

You gotta go into this race with this attitude.


About a year ago, the Rock 'n Roll Events Group announced they were finally coming to Salt Lake City.  It was met with a lot of excitement in the running community here.  Finally, one of those most heralded running events was coming to Salt Lake. 

Of course, they announced it with a nice discount to sign up more than a year in advance (I paid about $90 with taxes and fees).  Myself, and most of the cool kids, decided to sign up, sight unseen.  All we knew was that it was going to be held in the Salt Lake area and in August and it was put on by the Rock 'n Roll race group.

As time went on, I got more information about the race -- the start time and the course details.  I think the locals (myself included) were a little dismayed at the course profile: it was going to be a hilly one.  Generally us Utah runners are spoiled by many mostly downhill races here.  I am not big into the massive downhill runs, but I certainly don't want hill climbs either.  My first thought was that it kind of looked like the Salt Lake City's Half Marathon course in reverse (although it wasn't 100% the same by any means) and it was hilly.

Either way, I was in -- running a half marathon in the dead of summer -- uphill.

Me and some of the locals.

The Race

The race started at 7 AM in the downtown area of Salt Lake City -- near the statuesque courthouse and library.  I was worried about the parking / transportation issues.  There wasn't much information given out as to what to expect.  Unlike the Salt Lake City Marathon, it seemed like the local train station wasn't aware or adjusted their schedules to provide more downtown ridership to get a lot of people to the downtown area prior to the start.  

Since I had a friend to pick up near a station that wasn't running early, I decided the best plan was to drive as close as I could to the start of the race and when traffic or road closures got in the way, just park and be dropped off.  This plan worked really well, resulting in no stress in regards to my car and it was only a 2 block walk.

I cycled through the bathrooms twice and eventually lined up with about 10 minutes to spare.  The race had set up some corrals that were pretty loosely defined.  There was no enforcement of it, but in reality there were no problems.  People were very polite and I had plenty of room in corral 2.

Race attendance for the half marathon was between 2000 and 3000.  I haven't seen the official results yet but I've heard varying reports, the most consistent around 2300.  

Having viewed the course profile I knew the course wasn't going to be a fast one.  Also, it was 76F degrees out and it was only set to rise.  The sun had yet to rise and we'd get a bit of cover until 8 AM, but it was indeed going to be a warm one.  I told myself to hydrate, even if I didn't feel like it.  

My training has been more focused towards 5K and 10K stuff and in all honesty, as the race day arrived, I found myself having a serious case of the burnouts from racing too much.  I just couldn't get super excited about the race.  Heat, hills, half marathon, no trained enough.  Visions of me dying at mile 6 and shuffling filled my head.

All in all, I decided my goal was simply to finish, not die, and try to get under 2 hours.  I had my doubt about the latter one given the profile and what I was feeling.  I also was going to work on heart rate -- keeping my heart rate controlled for as long as I could. In the past, my heart rate shoots up to zone 4 almost immediately and there is no going back -- which results in a tough day.

Assembling at the start.

The race started at 7 AM and it only took less than 4 minutes before I was racing.  Sure enough, I went out cautiously towards the state capitol building.  You could see it looming ahead -- at the top of the hill.  I felt in control.  My pace was humbling, but with about 4 miles of climbing, I was trying to conserve energy.  This was a success, as I usually bolt out of the starting line, causing me to wilt quicker than I should.

The first mile hit at just over 10 minutes.  I was a little surprised at how slow it was, but I reminded myself -- easy.  I kind of needed to use the bathroom -- and despite emptying my bladder to the last drop -- it seems like invariably I have to go within the first mile or two of a half marathon. At the first aid station they had a cluster of bathrooms and most of them were empty.  My pause on the race took about 45 seconds and as I took care of business I realized how hard I was breathing.  

I jumped out of the bathroom and the people who I had been running with were long gone and now I was probably running with corral number 3.  I spied someone ahead of me who I knew ran a bit of what I was looking to run and tailed settled in behind her. I would wind up silently trailing her for the next 2 -to 3 miles before I lost sight of her.  I hit mile 2 just over 10 minutes, a little fast given I had spent about 45 seconds on a break.

Despite the course, this was a pretty section of the run.  We were surrounded by brush and a beautiful view of the foothills that line the northern section of the city.  We were all suffering today but the nature views took my mind off of it.  Mile 3 had leveled off a bit and I got a satisfying 9:10 mile.

I had run most of this course before -- in the Salt Lake City Half Marathon -- except this time I was running up the hills. What a different experience and quite humbling. We had another section of hills that slowed my time down.  Most people had said the hills would stop after 4 miles and I was counting down the distance on my Garmin.

At this point we were done with the canyon and into a well to do neighborhood that would eventually lead us to the University of Utah.  Once again, I was in familiar territory -- more of the Salt Lake city race and again, while the worst hills were over, there was some significant work still ahead.  

I was still running with plenty of people and I wasn't getting overwhelmed. I think collectively we were all dealing with the hills.  Occasionally someone would over take me, but my pace seemed fairly consistent with the other runners.  My legs, however, were tired already and I was beginning to question whether I would have a second wind when we finally descended into the valley.

Slowly, the hills ended and we finally passed by the start of the Salt Lake Half Marathon.  I really felt like the first 6 miles or so, almost matched that race.  We made our way around the university before cruising down towards the stadium.  My pace picked up a notch as the hills ended.  Could I salvage this race?  My legs were shot / tired and while I was drinking a lot at each aid station, I still felt like I wasn't getting enough in me.  I began to nurse a gel for the next 2 miles.

I felt like I was getting a second wind and my pace quickened as we finally got a drop in elevation.  There were some decent hills, followed by a flat section.  This was a bit of a stretch that I hadn't run on before so I was excited to see some of the older part of town and some of the eclectic small shops that lined the road.

Finally some 8 minute miles.  After so many hard miles, it felt good to run fast again.

After a series of turns, I was back in familiar territory.  It seemed like a bunch of races that I had run in the past converged -- some of the Salt Lake Winter series and once again the Salt Lake Half Marathon.  I knew we had to do a lap in the famed Liberty Park and it was a welcome site. Finally, less than a 5K left.  Part of me felt ready to knock out a blistering 5K and shock myself but my legs were just heavy.  

The park is about 1.50 miles along the perimeter and it was a tale of two runs.  The first half I felt really good but as I rounded the northern most section, I just felt tired and flat.  

I wasn't quite in desperation mode but my legs just didn't have any turnover.  My heart rate climbed and my pace slowed.  It felt uncomfortably warm.  I was frustrated to see that more runners were overtaking me.

The final mile was mentally difficult.  I was running pretty slow and in desperation mode.  I could see (and ultimately hear) the finish line ahead, looming at the top of the hill.

My watch was running about .10 of a mile behind the course markings (I think me stopping in the bathroom had something to do with it) but I just trudged forward.  Finally, though, the finish line did materialize and I pushed through as best as I could.


So I crossed the finish line in a disappointing 2:04:44.  Granted, though, I wasn't setting out to really dig down and race this thing.  It was kind of a checkmark against my laundry list of summer racing.

So I had some successes on the race:

  1. I did manage to keep my heart rate manageable for a good segment of the race.  More so than usual.
  2. I ran the race the way I planned it would go -- at least for the first half.
  3. I did finish yet another half marathon (never an easy feat)

I am a little undertrained for a half marathon and given the hills and heat, I knew it was going to be a challenging day.  So I set my expectations correctly and accomplished my vision on how the race would go.

Tired, hot but got it done!

So I had had a friend get my bib the day before the race at the Expo and I really like the t-shirt.  The medal is of typical heavy-duty construction and a keeper.

The race well really well organized. From start to finish, there were a ton of aid stations -- about one every mile or so.  Medical staff was omnipresent and there were actually quite a few bands along the course -- the music at times was motivating and the bands really quite good.  I can't say enough about the organization... other than the inedible green bananas, I have no complaints about the race.

The finish line had much needed wet towels to put over your neck to help cool off and wash you off.  What an awesome touch. I haven't seen that since the Ogden Marathon.  There was also cold water and Gatorade at the finish line.  

I was able to bounce back pretty quickly.  I was worried about the heat and being sick after the race, but after a few minutes, I felt good. I think having a cold water and a cool towel around me really helped.  I did witness some runners having issues, so I know the heat took its toll.

Post race refreshments included green bananas (they were apparently picked that day from the looks of it), granola bars, gummy fruits, and some crackers.  Not extravagant, but enough to get the job done.

It was a nice race that had a lot of visitors to the area (I met people from California and Wisconsin) There were also plenty of the usual local suspects at the race as well.  Despite my misgivings on running a summer half marathon, I really had a good time.  We were all in this challenging course together and we got it done.

I am not sure I'd run this one again, though.  The course was very familiar to me and I am just not "big" into summer half marathons.  I'd do it again, though, if I simply wanted a well supported half marathon training run. I am not strong enough of a runner to place in it and it isn't a personal best type of course.

Upcoming Races

08/26: 2023 Mt Nebo 10K - Payson, UT (Confirmed)
09/02: 2023 Swiss Days 10K - Midway, UT (Confirmed)
09/23: 2023 Witch Run 10K - West Jordan, UT (Confirmed)
10/06: 2023 Antelope Island Race - Syracuse, UT (Maybe)
10/07: 2023 Apple Harvest Run 10K - Santaquin, UT (Maybe)
10/21: 2023 Haunted Half 5K - Salt Lake City, UT (Confirmed)
10/28: 2023 Haunted Half 5K - Provo, UT (Can't Make It)
11/18: Snow Canyon Half Marathon - St George, UT (Maybe)
02/25: 2024 Las Vegas Half Marathon - Las Vegas, NV (Confirmed)
04/202024 Salt Lake City Half Marathon - Salt Lake City, UT (Confirmed)
07/242024 Deseret News Half Marathon - Salt Lake City, UT (Confirmed)

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