Monday, November 10, 2014

The Burn. Oh, My, Did It Burn.

   Some races you sign up for because they seem like a fun race. Other races you sign up for because that is what everyone else is doing. I signed up for my marathon because of a lapse in judgement I was having for a couple of months (just joking, but really...). Right before my marathon, when I decided that I was insane for ever running races longer than 3.1 miles, I saw a post in one of my running groups from a race director that was starting a race so challenging it could only be called one thing, The Burn. The race was to be ran starting at the bottom of a canyon and ending at the top, 6.5 miles away. The climb, they promised, would be a gain of 3000 feet. The race was the answer to the growing question over whether us Utah road runners have gotten lazy with the growing number of downhill races.
One of our hill training runs.
   And I was exactly the runner the "Earn Your Downhill" enthusiasts were lambasting. I spent all running season training running down canyons, cursing races with any hills at all, and wondering why I wasn't growing into the runner I wanted to be. I am a great downhill runner. However, I live in Utah where every race has at least some hill portion, and I flounder. I knew the time had come for me to get better at hills. This seemed like the perfect race for me to shoot for post-marathon.
  It didn't take long to talk Joshua into the race. In fact, the conversation went like this:
      Me: Josh, did you see this race? (sharing the link)
      Joshua: I'm in!
Joshua is a little too easy to talk into races. So post marathon, both of us started training for the race. We trained together several times, running up Emigration Canyon, the hills in Bountiful, Utah, and doing the 5k 2 days before just for some last minute speed training.  I knew going in I wasn't going to be a strong, run up the whole mountain in no time, runner, but I was much stronger than I had been just 6 weeks earlier.
   Mark was home and going to take Josh and I to the race before heading for a few hours of daddy/daughter time. The race was running up Butterfield Canyon, in Herriman, Utah. We had a little later start, 9AM, giving us ample sleep and commute time. And despite the race being on November 1, we still had nice weather for the race. Joshua and I tried setting a good pace and knew we would be doing some walking, some running, some whining. The climb started out not very steep, but by mile 2, really started to get more challenging. We ended up walking and walking faster for most of the climb. We didn't care. The canyon was beautiful and we were still having a good 16 minute pace despite the lack of running. Mile 4 started getting really steep and we almost took up a crawling pace just to get to the top of each foreseeable hill. Still, we were prepared mentally and we were in great spirits.
   The race had two options once you got to the top. Option one, you get to the top and a van would bring you back down after you got a snack. Option two, you turn and run back down the canyon. Josh and I decided to run the canyon both race from the beginning so Josh would have another race to count to his 180 goal. By the time Josh and I got to mile 4/4.5 runners were already running back down and were passing us in vans. They all checked to see if we were okay. We were doing awesome, actually. Honestly. We were having a great time. Sure, the climb was no joke, but we knew it was going to be tough and we just kept saying how much stronger we were getting. Because we were.
   We finally reached the top of the canyon at 2:17. I was third from the last person, and perfectly happy about it. I knew full well that had I had done the race even 2 months prior, I would have been dead last and crying about how hard it was. Instead, I was completely overjoyed with how mentally strong I was getting and wanting to do the whole thing again the next week. The race director, being the smartest man on earth, had a plethora for snacks at the top, chocolate candy bars, pretzels, Dr. Pepper, water, granola bars, and other yummy things. One of the snacks was Butterfingers. Seeing them was my sign that Isabel was there, cheering me on. After a refuel. Josh and I headed back down the canyon, being the last runners to chose to do that.
Isabel was there!
   My legs were hurting right as we started, but soon were loose and enjoying the downhill. We found a great pace and the miles paced quickly. We only had a couple of hiccups. We saw a deer, which gave Josh a small heart attack. We made sure to make enough noise to scare off the rest of the deer population after that. Then at mile 12-ish I tripped. I caught myself, but it jarred my left leg and back a little. Despite the hiccups, we made it out of the canyon with an official time of 3:58:11. Addison and Mark happily greeted us, having spent almost an hour worrying about us. The race director, who kept coming to see if we were okay during our run down, was also relieved we made it out. There is always that worry.
   Overall, the race was awesome. It was hard. Wonderfully hard. But, I loved the challenge. Josh and I are totally doing this again.

Did I mention the awesome medals?

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