Wednesday, August 19, 2015

Race Report: Idaho Falls M.A.D. Half Marathon

Utah at sunset, driving up to Idaho
As usual, my flight out to my weekend race occurred on a Friday, as early as possible for me to get out of the office.  Thankfully, being in Jamaica allows me minimal time to get to the airport, and with TSA Precheck, I'm through security in no time at all.  This is especially important at Terminal 4, which is notorious for having long security lines due to the international flights that go out of that terminal.  I got on my flight to Salt Lake City, with unfortunately the middle seat in a 3-seat/3-seat configuration, and I thought I was in luck as the aisle seat to my left had not been claimed yet...

Until moments before the boarding door closes, a family of four come running onto the plane, the father drenched in sweat, obviously having run to make their connection (I'm assuming from somewhere across the pond - they spoke English, but spoke in their native language to each other).  And unfortunately, the father had poor hygiene, because he REEKED of body odor.  I had to suffer the 4 1/2 hour flight with him right next to me - and my window seat neighbor was none too amused either.  Thankfully, I had some scented wet wipes in my bag, so I took a whiff of that every time I started to smell this dude. That flight felt like forever.  But thankfully, we landed in Salt Lake City, and as I left the plane, I notified the flight attendant of the offending passenger, and for the cleaning crew to be extra diligent on that particular seat, lest the next person sitting in there had to wallow in that misery.

I rushed out of the terminal and to the rental car area as soon as I could; while it was still light out at 7PM, I still had a three hour drive ahead of me to Idaho Falls, and I didn't want to be so late in arrival for my Airbnb host to be waiting up for me.  The drive was rather uneventful, but absolutely beautiful taking in the sunset with the mountains all around me.  The one thing I immediately noticed - both Utah and Idaho have speed limits of 80 MPH - so cars were definitely zooming down the highway!  I got to Idaho Falls by 10:45pm, met up with my host who showed me to my room, and went straight to bed since I had an early morning (as usual!) to get to the parking lot where the buses would take us to the startline.

My friend Juan and I on the bus!

I woke up bright and early, well before the sun was up... as I left the house, I met the other runner staying in another room at this AirBNB location, and we wished each other luck as we headed off to the meeting point about 10 minutes away.  The buses would pick everyone up at Snake River Landing, which also served as the finish line area.  I picked up my bib, t-shirt, and commemorative duffel bag at the start and met Lezhai Gulbransen, the race director.  Just as we began to board the bus, I saw my friend Juan, from California - a frequent Rock 'n' Roll runner who I've gotten to know over the last few months.  Last year he was one of four runners to run the most Rock 'n' Roll races in 2014!  We sat on the bus to the startline together, chatting it up and discussing our running plans for the remainder of the year.

The cute little start line!!
The bus drove through went up the mountains just east of Idaho Falls and Ammon, taking Sunnyside Road to a point near the line of windmills blowing in the distance.  We disembarked and immediately felt the colder, brisk 48° air at this elevation - strange temperature for this time of year, but not uncommon to this part of the country at this hour of day.  The view was simply breathtaking - seeing 360 degrees of beautiful country all around us.  While waiting around, Juan and I met Michelle, from Maryland, who was also working on finishing half marathons in all fifty states.  We headed over to the makeshift startline, and soon, we were off!

Running by the windmills that
dot the mountains east of Idaho Falls
And I was off with a BANG!  We started off the race at roughly 5,900 feet above sea level, and with a steady downhill, we hit the first mile marker in a 7:38 mile - easy, with the downhill grade coming at 333 feet of elevation drop in just that first mile.   The second mile wasn't as steep, only dropping 251 feet, but already, I began to feel the difficulty in my breathing, and my pace slowing down to roughly 8:18. There was a mean little 40 foot uphill section for about 0.1 mile just after this, and then progressed to more downhill over the next couple miles.  We continued along this route down Sunnyside into the town of Ammon, starting to pass newly built subdivisions and cookie cutter single family homes to our right.  By the time we hit mile 5, we were at 4,797 feet above sea level, over 1,100 feet below here we had started.  This is where the route began to flatten out, and flatten out significantly.  I began to slow significantly, as well, as my body had definitely felt the effects of the elevation and exhaustion of running down the mountain at a pace exceeding my norm.

Some awesome folks cheering us on
about 5 miles into the course
At mile 6, we hit a plateau of 4,718 feet, and my pace never caught back up again to where it was.  I posted sub-11 minute miles, and then from mile 8 on, sub-12 minute miles.  We ran along the right side of the road, sometimes the sidewalk, of Sunnyside Road through Ammon, before turning right onto the road just west of Hillcrest High School, near where my AirBNB was located.  This was around mile 8 of the race, and we continued on past a strip mall.  We turned again and continued westward down Brianne Ave, then a short northward stretch on Hitt Road (crossing a busy street), before turning again onto East 25th Street for a long stretch.  We went down a stretch of commercial area, before hitting residential areas again at mile 9, where the street became divided by a well-manicured, treelined median.

Official race photo of me running through Tautphas Park
(Photo by B2xPhoto)
A mile later, at mile 10, we passed Idaho Falls' Community Park, where Saturday morning baseball games had already begun.  25th Street reached its end, where we were directed to cross Holmes Avenue, and then cross a small bridge over a creek, where 25th Street began again.  We continued on, crossing through this residential area, finally making our way to Tautphaus Park, where we crossed along the southern edge, and then through the middle of the park, passing by a few softball fields.  We crossed another wood-plank bridge into a wooded area with a gravel path, where we went along until we reached North Park Drive, and the 12 mile marker.  After a quick sip of water, we were back on the route, turning onto Rollandet Avenue for the final straightaway before crossing the Snake River to the finish.

Got my medal -- a key to the city!

with Michelle and Juan at the finish
With the sun beating down on me, I turned onto 17th Street, and could see the sign to Snake River Landing in the distance.  I paced myself as I ran along 17th Street over the Snake River, and then turned onto Milligan Road, where the finish line was located.  I crossed in 2:13:57, not bad considering I slowed down significantly at the end.  At the finish was a great assortment of food, and small cups of Jamba Juice, who was a sponsor!  I met up with Michelle and Juan after the finish and posed for some photos, and then Juan and I went off to get my headstand photo taken - first at Idaho Falls' iconic Giant Eagle Waterfall Nest fountain and then to the side of the river where Idaho Falls' actual falls were located.  We later met up for some lunch, and then I did some touring on my own through Idaho headed back down toward Utah, which included stops at Hell's Half Acre, the Idaho Potato Museum, and Lava Hot Springs.  Upon returning to the Salt Lake City area, I stayed with my friends Dave and Eva, and their toddler Jonah, and toured around the SLC area the entire following day, since I had a late redeye flight back to NYC on Sunday evening. All in all, it was a fun weekend, and I jampacked a lot of two states into two days!  State number 32 was checked off... and so were two brand new states to visit! :)

With race director Lezhai Gulbransen

Victory Headstand #1

Victory Headstand #2

And me being a dork with a water feature.

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