Sunday, October 22, 2023

2023 Haunted Half 5K Race Recap - Salt Lake City, UT

Ready to Start!

Official Time: 23:27
Placement: 4th in age age group, 53rd overall
Race WebsiteHere
Weather: low 50's, slight breeze from the south
Garmin Dump: Here
Previous Years: [2022] [2021] [2020]

Mile TimeComments
18:09A bit of a slow start. Last part of the mile was a grind uphill
27:34Taking advantage of the downhill here. Feeling good.
37:28Some up, mostly downhill.  Could see / hear the finish line the entire way.
Total Miles: 3.04: 23:27

Entering Sugarhouse Park


One of the biggest races for the Halloween race season is the Haunted Half races put on by Runtastic Events.  They have a race on one weekend in Salt Lake City and another race the following weekend 30 minutes south in Provo Utah.

The past few years I've really enjoyed doing their races, particularly the 5K races.  The weather for a fall half marathon in years past has always been dicey and also the half marathon involves a bus ride and sometimes a lengthy wait in a cold canyon before the race start.

Southern Pond / Lake at Sugarhouse

Either way, I do enjoy the 5K race distance and that has been my focus for most of this year. The events are well attended and well organized.  I also saved quite a bit of money by registering nearly a year in advance.

This year saw a return to Sugarhouse park -- a large, multiuse park on the east side of town.  I ran this course in 2021 and it has some hills to it, but I felt it was a very fast course.  I did miss the massive downhill from 2022 but at the same time, I didn't mind the bus ride for a simple 5K race.

Waiting to Start!

The Race

Unlike 2021, we had picture perfect weather.  A nice breeze, sunny skies and no rain.  I went out with a shorts, thin gloves, and a t-shirt.  I probably didn't need the gloves but I figured why not.

I had gotten my bib the day before at a packet pickup in downtown Salt Lake.  So I didn't have to worry about the logistics of getting it with 700+ other 5K runners.  Pretty much the walk to the park from where I parked covered a decent warm-up.  I did a few drills and strides and I was ready for the 8:30 AM start.

Random Lawn Decorations

The race started at the summit of a hill (thankfully we didn't have to run it).  And then we had to run about a quarter of a mile before exiting to an older subdivision.  We did have to cross a busy street, but fortunately it was crewed with Salt Lake's finest.

Mile 2 but facing the race start

The first quarter mile felt really hard.  There was a slight incline and my legs just sort of groaned at the thought of running fast.  I had done a shaky warm-up but I had put in a fair amount of training in the week leading up to the race.  Even before I left the park, I was gasping for air.

I told myself to take it easy a bit as I navigated against a busy start.  With this being a popular race, there were many casual runners there, who had clogged up the start.

Fortunately it didn't derail me much and I got off and settled into a pace. I felt like my breathing was labored and I didn't want to get too discouraged by looking at my watch.  I was trying to just settle in and I had a vague memory of the first mile being slightly up hill -- and I was right!

Flags to mark Mile 2 and 12 into the park

We were in an nice community with some charming homes.  It was an older section of town and I could smell the smells of pancakes and sausages in the air.  There were a few residents cheering us on as we ran along the mature treelined streets.  

I was overtaking some runners who had gone off to fast and I felt my breathing settle in.  I felt like I was on target for a 5K effort.  I was greeted with a hill here though and my pace went from 5K effort to half marathon and finally full marathon.  I had totally forgotten about this part.

I could spy up ahead runners hanging a left and I knew that was the summit of the hill.  I just focused on getting up, conserving energy and then knowing the rest of the way I would have a nice downhill.

Mile 1 flashed up on my watch with an 8:09.  Not quite what I was hoping for, but given the hill I had just climbed and knowing the rest of the course was "fast", I felt like I still had the potential for a great race.

Once I hit the summit of the hill, I hit it hard.  Time to make up some time.  I pounded down the hill and started overtaking some runners.  My pace was definitely fast.

I knew I had one mile in the neighborhood and I knew exactly how the final mile was laid out.  

It was nice to see some of the other 5K runners still on mile 1 making their way up the course while I was cruising into mile 2.  The organizers had it laid out nicely so there wouldn't be any conflicts.  I got an occasional cheer from a friend as well, which was helpful and motivating.

But I was hurting but I was still cruising along.

Just as I exited the subdivision I hit mile 2 -- hitting a 7:34.

I seem to recall that in 2021 the exit (which was the same as the entrance) wasn't supervised very well. This year they had it down and I didn't have any fears about crossing the street.  I had a few other runners around me, but the crowd had thinned.

At this point, I had entered the east side of Sugarhouse Park.  I simply had to make my way around the perimeter of the park and get to the west side.  Most of this was downhill (with a bit of an uphill on the west side).  I could hear the din of the finish line, yet I was so far away.

I was still running strong, but I also felt fatigued.  I was too afraid to look at my time - mostly I didn't want to get discouraged if I was running slower than I thought and I simply didn't want to lose focus of just getting as fast as I could to the finish line.

I overtook some runners and I was trying to figure out if any people looked to be my age were close by.  Granted with it being a chip timed race and a massive start, I had no guarantee they started at the same time I did -- but I didn't want to take any chances and any insurance I could bank against them might prove invaluable.

The finish line was nearer than ever now and I had the final turn looming ahead. I spotted another 50-something runner.  I still had some time and I made my move, pulling ahead of him and his group and kept going.

I realized my error though, as I had started my sprint a little too early.  I was sitting at mile 2.80 or so and still had a dark tunnel to run through.  I slowed down as the finish line sprint returned back to normal 5K pace running.  

Some of the runners that I had passed gained on me and a few passed me.

One of the interesting parts of the race is the final .15 of a mile or so is lined with Halloween decorations - mostly the inflatable types.  Also, it is encouraged that you run through a streamer lined tunnel of about 50 yards or so.  It is dark and feels like there is the potential to run into someone or have a slip and fall issue, however.  I love it and it is a fun experience, but at the same time, it blows your finishing kick.  I found out later, you could run to the side and simply avoid it, and I had considered that midrace, but I didn't want to appear as a party pooper.

Upon exiting the tunnel, and seeing my pace drop as I brushed aside the streamers, I saw the 50-year-old runner that I had passed several seconds ahead of me.  How did that happen?!?!?

I tried to catch up, but I didn't have anything left.  It was nice to hear the cheers from people as I sped the final way to the finish line, crossing in a fantastic time of 23:27, a distance second or two from my presumed rival.

All Smiles


I recovered pretty quickly after finishing.  I grabbed my medal and some refreshments.  They had sports drink, chocolate milk, bananas, oranges and donuts.  A few vendors were there as well, supplying free energy drinks and Vitamin Water. I wound up socializing with several people and complimenting some runners on their choice of costumes.

Check out the Avatar on the right!

Trepidatiously, I made my way to the results booth and typed in my bib number, hoping upon hope, that I placed.  I knew at least one guy in my age group had finished well ahead of me, had not beating the guy cost me a medal?

I was 4th in my age group -- missing out 3rd by 1 second.  The 5th place runner was .8 seconds behind me.  What a stacked age group!

Finisher's Medal + shirt

So as they like to say, "Them's the breaks".  I was sad and I sort of let it spoil my otherwise decent time.  I suspect the course may have been slightly short but it's hard to tell with all the turns and of course the tunnel at the end blocking signal.  But overall, I hit the time I was hoping to do: run better than I did in 2021 and get well below 24 minutes.

All in all, I am happy with my time and I had a really good experience.  I liked the course -- it felt speedy and it was scenic.  There was a good crowd there and the race was organized well.  I paid around $20 for the race, so it was a bargain.

The medal was nicely designed. I like the shirt, but I am still not a fan of the cotton / polyester blend.  The only dark cloud over the race was I finished 4th -- missing out an award by 1 second.

Anyhow, I do plan on returning next year - potentially going for the ultra-competitive half marathon.  We shall see though.  I've done a lot of Runtastic runs this year and I have yet to be disappointed in them.  

Upcoming Races

11/04: Vineyard City Blizzard 5K / 10K - Vineyard, UT (Confirmed)
11/11: Sandy City Turkey Trot 5K - Sandy, UT (Confirmed)
11/18: 2023 Snow Canyon Half Marathon - St George, UT (Confirmed)
11/23: 2023 South Davis Recreation Center 5K - Bountiful, UT (Confirmed)
01/13: 2024 Virgin River Half Marathon - St George, UT (Confirmed)
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
09/07: 2024 Cedar City Half Marathon - Cedar City, UT (Confirmed)
10/XX: 2024 Haunted Half 5K - Provo, UT (Confirmed)

Sunday, October 8, 2023

2023 Apple Harvest 5K Race Recap - Santaquin, UT

Rowley's Red Barn - the race HQs

Official Time: 24:47
Placement: 2nd in the 50 - 54, 19th overall
Results: Here
Race WebsiteHere
Weather: Low 50's, sunny, no wind
Garmin Dump: Here
Previous Years: [2022]

Mile TimeComments
17:30Nice downhill start. Feeling good and fast.
28:10Hemmed in and onto single track sandy, semi-wet grass.
38:48Grinding up hill. Overall not terrible, but they were long
3.040:18Final push
Total Miles: 3:04 - 24:48

Start / finish line arches


Last year, I ran the Apple Harvest 10K and was really happy with my race experience. Nothing feels like fall more than corn mazes, pumpkins and apple orchards -- plus autumn running! 

With not a lot on the race agenda for the weekend, I was gifted a 5K race entry by a friend who couldn't race it.  I didn't have plans on racing it this year -- mostly on account it is over a 60 mile drive one way and I had just run the 10K course back in May.  But with a free entry, I couldn't turn down the opportunity and even if the distance was pretty far, it is an easy, peaceful drive.

Inside Rowley's Red Barn

The event is held at Rowley's Red Barn, an agritourism farm that sells and produces apples.  They also sell an eclectic selection of fruits and snacks (including donuts).  The race course is on their grounds in which you run about 5 kilometers around the perimeter of their property.  All the while running, you are surrounded by beautiful views of the apple trees and desert landscape.  The course is about 90% dirt road / jeep trail with a half mile or so stretch of asphalt.  It is also hilly -- not in the sense of back breaking hills, but a long slow grind near the end of the race.

Runner Assembly area

The race offers a 5K and 10K, with the 10K doing two laps around the property.

Start of the 10K

The Race

The 10K race started at 8:00 AM and the 5K starts at 8:30.  I wound up getting a few photos of the 10K runners as they started on their two laps around the course.  I followed that by getting in about a mile of warm-up and some drills in.  I was feeling pretty good in my shorts, thin gloves, and t-shirt. 

10K Runners

The race started promptly at 8:30 and I started off down a dirt road towards the inner circle of the property.  I was quickly swallowed up by a number of faster runners -- for a smallish race, there were a lot of fast runners.  I didn't spot anyone in my age group though but that didn't mean I didn't have competition.

Stretch of dirt road

The first mile is fast and I felt like I didn't have to hold back that much: when I did the 10K, I knew I had to save some energy for the final mile and the second lap.  This time, I only had to do one lap and I felt that I could hammer it a little harder.

Downhill section of the course.

I really enjoyed the first mile -- with a net decline of about 80 feet, how could I not?  I wound up overtaking a few of the 10K runners who were on their second lap.  I was wearing my Saucony Pro 2's and I was duly impressed with them. I don't think I got the full benefits from them given it was a trail race, but they were a solid choice for this race and while it had rained early in the week, there were only a few sections of slippery mud.

Runners coming back towards the finish line.

I wound up catching some of the fast 5K starters and I reeled in a 7:30 first mile.  Very solid and I was still feeling strong. Could this be my breakout race?

I still had a bit more downhill before we rounded another turn and I was greeted by a rutted double track dirt path.  Some of the dirt felt more like fine sand than dirt.  I was also hemmed in a bit by 3 teens who were running side by side.  They were running about the same pace as I was but a little slower.  I wanted to pass, but didn't really have the room and even if I did, I wasn't sure if I had enough power to put a little distance on them.

Views from the back of the race course

Finally though, one of them dropped off and I managed to get around them (eventually the pair would catch up and pass me).  I was hurting pretty badly at this point, the sun was in my eyes, and it was hard to enjoy the views of the western mountains and the apple trees.  I was a little disappointed, but not surprised, to see an 8:10 flash for mile 2.

The home stretch is the hardest part of the race.  For the closing part of mile 2, I had to go up a hill but mile 3, I had a long tarmac road that just seemed to take forever.

I was finally off the trail / dirt, but now I had a never-ending hill and blazing sun in my eyes.  My pace dwindled to that of almost marathon pace, even though I felt like I was still doing about 8:15 - 8:30.  It was so bright, I could hardly read my watch.

Running hard (post race staged photo)

I knew this part of the race was going to be there, but there just wasn't a lot left and the final mile just seemed to take forever.

There wasn't anyone chasing me down, but occasionally I'd track down a faltering 10K runner.  All I knew was that I wanted to finish fast.

There were plenty of turns at this point and it was nice to receive support from the course marshals.  Finally, though, I finished the hilly section and from past experience I knew I had about a quarter of a mile of flat, dirt road before making a final turn and crossing under the OnHillEvents arches.

I glanced at my watch and I was close to 24 minutes.  I'd really have to push the final part.

I still hadn't seen anyone in my age group and I was running solo for the most part.  Finally the arches came into view from across a line of apple trees.  I was so close, I could hear the announcer calling out people's names.

With the last few turns left, I really gave it all I had.  I lengthened my stride and let it rip.  I saw low 24's flash on my Garmin but the finish line seemed to be no nearer.  There was no bounce in the dirt road.  Finally, I reached the finish line -- crossing in 24:47.


I was so thankful I didn't have to do another lap of the course.  I had gone all out on the 5K and there wasn't much left after completing the 5K. I definitely would've held back a bit more, like I did the previous two times, had I been running the 10K.

Fortunately, I rebounded pretty quickly and managed to get to my car and grab my phone and do a cool down. One of the reasons why I didn't switch to the 10K was that I wanted energy to go and backtrack a bit and get some photos for the blog.  I also got a volunteer to take the "in-action" photos of me running.

I also checked my phone to see my results:  3rd place.  What???  I had no idea there were two other 50 - 54 year old's in front of me. 

Medals and shirt

During the awards ceremony though, I did find out that the 1st place age group winner was an overall winner (top 3) and was thus removed from the age group category, so I earned a silver medal, second place, for my efforts.

On the podium

Overall, I was happy / sad with my performance.  I really was hoping to get into the low 24's with the course.  Given a fast first mile, I felt that was within reach.  Still, this course is a challenging one and the "never ending hill" at the start of mile 2 pretty much sapped everything I had. I did have a personal best on one lap around the course, but given the two previous times I've run the course was during a 10K race, it wasn't too hard to turn in a fast lap.

Post race refreshments were apple slices with caramel, cider, sports drink, Fat Boy Ice cream sandwiches, cheese strips, granola bars and candy.  There actually was plenty to eat and enjoy and the weather was so perfect that I wound up sitting around for a good 15 - 20 minutes after I got my award enjoying the sun and breeze.

I love the medals -- they are heavy and nice.  The t-shirt was simple and it'll do the trick for short, easy runs, but again, I love the polyester ones.  

I really love this race.  It has a wonderful vibe and people were in a good mood.  I just wish the race was a bit closer -- 120 miles round trip is a lot. I definitely would recommend runners give this race a go.  The course isn't fast (and it might be a smidge short too) but it has some wonderful views and it definitely brings out the fall spirit.

Upcoming Races

10/21: 2023 Haunted Half 5K - Salt Lake City, UT (Confirmed)
10/28: 2023 Haunted Half 5K - Provo, UT (Can't Make It)
11/04: Vineyard City Blizzard 5K / 10K - Vineyard, UT (Confirmed)
11/11: Sandy City Turkey Trot 5K - Sandy, UT (Maybe)
11/18: 2023 Snow Canyon Half Marathon - St George, UT (Confirmed)
11/23: 2023 South Davis Recreation Center 5K - Bountiful, UT (Confirmed)
01/13: 2024 Virgin River Half Marathon - St George, UT (Confirmed)
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
09/07: 2024 Cedar City Half Marathon - Cedar City, UT (Confirmed)
10/XX: 2024 Haunted Half 5K - Provo, UT (Confirmed)