Sunday, April 1, 2012

The AltraManiacs Strike Again

My good friend Drop of the AltraManiacs ran the Sand Hollow Marathon yesterday with his cohort -Zero-. I've posted his race report here. It's pretty amazing.

Hey, Drop here. -Zero- and I were asked just this last Monday by Altra Zero Drop if we'd go down to Hurricane, UT and run in the Sand Hollow Marathon. This race is run from Hurricane to Sand Hollow Golf Resort and back. It passes through farm fields, desert, around Sand Hollow reservoir, and then deposits you at the golf resort. And then you have to turn around and come back. This race appealed to me in two ways; 1. I love a good out and back, and 2. It is a flat, challenging course, with a bunch of rolling hills and one monster climb. I'm not a fan of downhill courses, so this would be a real treat. I was running in the Atra Provision, a pair of shoes I had literally just pulled out of the box. They were amazing for the whole race.

-Zero- and I made our typical appearance about a half hour before start time and were welcomed immediately with a "hey, aren't you guys kind of a big deal?". Yes, sir, we are. Then, as all 150 competitors lined up near the starting line I yelled to the crowd to have all the attractive people line up front. -Zero- and I were the only ones standing there, weird. Eventually though everyone joined us at the start of the race. The RD, Jason Smith (definitely one of the best RDs in the biz) blasted some music, gave us the countdown, and we were off.

-Zero- keeping order at the start

Our plan from the start was to go out fast, then spend the rest of the race slowing down and having fun with the other competitors, eventually running somewhere around a 4 hour marathon. While we are both capable of going 2:03:00 (world record pace for those who aren't knowledgeable of the sport) for that distance, we knew it was more important to support the other runners and have a good time. We had fun in the first few miles just talking with people and wandering around the roads high-fiving the spectators.

At the first aid station we grabbed a quick drink of water then turned around and started handing water to the other runners. I think a few people were confused as to whether we were runners or volunteers. But only a minute later we were back on the course with gummy bears in hand. While running an 8:30 min/mile pace I was throwing gummy bears over my shoulder to the waiting -Zero- 30 feet behind who was catching them in his mouth, to the great delight of other runners.

For the first 7 miles of the course it steadily winds its way up and through the countryside of Hurricane, along horse pastures and through tumbleweed covered desert. The aid stations were placed every two miles after mile 3 and were manned by local students. They had great energy and we took every opportunity to spend just an extra minute at each one to chat and have fun. Again, we were there to spread the Altra love, not race for the world record. At the top of the winding climb we were now hovering above Sand Hollow Reservoir and now had a massive mile long steep downhilll to work our way around the lake. We knew we'd have to climb back up this thing in about 9 miles when we came back, something I truly looked forward to.

 The winding road up to mile 7

-Zero- cruising the big downhill above Sand Hollow Reservoir

Running around the reservoir we passed red cliffs and sand dunes. Throughout the race we were constantly met with race photographers and additional photographers and videographers from UltrAspire (the major sponsor). Obviously, they knew we were a big deal. They probably snapped one or two photos of other racers too. One of the many brilliant things about this race is how many photos they take of each runner and then offer them on the website for free. How cool is that?

Just before entering the golf resort we saw our first glimpses of the race leaders coming back toward us. We rewarded them with cheers and the slapping of hands. I really believe that they felt a high-five from a running superhero was just what they needed to get them to the finish. We were also running with an amazing group of ladies who were running the race for their second year. Most of them have run 20+ and 30+ marathons and they were all moving well. It was an absolute treat to share the course with them. As we got closer to the turn-around we saw more and more racers coming back toward us and we very much enjoyed giving encouragement. Near the turn I offered a competition of 'closest to the hole' with a few guys on the golf course, but they wouldn't take me up on it. Shame.

We lingered at the turn-around chatting with the UltrAspire folks - those guys are as good as they get - then turned around and headed back for the last half of the course. At mile 14 we passed some three story condos and were throwing out some love when I asked if the folks on the bottom floor had a cheeseburger. Unfortunately, they did not. However, they did say they had a big plate of bacon (they were obviously having a large family breakfast) and offered that to us. So -Zero- and I jumped the small wall, crossed the zero-scaped yard, through the sliding glass doors and into the living room and kitchen to the awes of family and friends to eat some bacon. They were the nicest people. A couple of high-fives later and we were back out onto the course enjoying our salty snack and moving well.

Over the next several miles we just cruised along with the same group of runners. I started to pull away a bit as my competitive instincts kicked in. Come on, we are running superheros for a reason, ultimately we are out there to compete and do our best. At mile 18 the big one mile climb loomed ahead. Two very cute Navy nurses were running in their pink shirts, tights, and tutus in front of me. As I passed them I asked if they were going to run every step of the big hill. One shook her head no while the other gave a confident YES, if I would. Of course I would, let's not be silly. While everyone else in front of me walked that long mile I cruised under a 10 min/mile pace. I took one glance back half way up and there were my two nurses, plugging along. I didn't spare another glance though to see if they continued running to the top, but instead chatted with more volunteers at the aid station at mile 19 and then kicked it into gear.

I was19 miles into a marathon and finally feeling like I wanted to run fast. I dropped down to a 7:15 min/mile and cruised the flat and downhill miles back to the finish. I passed about 10 people in the process, ate a popsicle at mile 25 and flew to the finish like an airplane, crossing the line in 3:40:13. Not too shabby for spending most of the race playing around and just having fun, exactly how it should be

10 minutes later my nurses, Cassidy and Alison crossed the line holding hands above their heads. They immediately came up to me and shared their excitement of running that entire hill and thanking me for the inspiration. "That's what I'm here for ladies, glad I could help". We cheered more runners across the line and then I felt it was time to run back up the course to find -Zero-. I only had to go .4 miles back up to find him running strong and having a great time. We ran back to the finish together. What a champ.

-Zero- cruising to the finish

We stayed long enough after the race to cheer on dozens of other runners, take photos with racers and kids, and throw out enough high-fives to satisfy the ever-growing need of the public. We had several conversations about Altra shoes and I truly believe won over a few hearts. How could you not with shoes like these. Sand Hollow might be the best hidden gem of a marathon in all of Utah. It is a great, challenging course with beautiful views, tough hills, and maybe the best race staff around. Put it on your calendars for next year. Thank you to Jason, the RD, for putting on a great race. Thank you to Altra Zero Drop shoes for making the best shoes in the business and sending us to down there to have so much fun. And thanks to UltrAspire for the steak bits, photos, and video. We love you too.

Until our next adventure . . . . RUN SPEEDY!

Yeah, we're kind of a big deal!


Nick said...

This has little to do with main topic of this post, but I can't are a climber. I went to the old Wasatch Front Climbing Gym in Sandy to check it out, I was greeted by a climber working there, after talking for a bit he said something I will never forget..."if you knew who you were standing next to you would be impressed I am kinda a big deal". He was dead serious

jun said...

Nick, that is awesome. That sounds exactly like a lot of the climbing community. I remember way back in the day at the Front that Steven Jeffrey would show up in a silver button down shirt, walk around looking for people to impress, then he would muscle in and send something really hard in front of them and leave. Thank goodness that over time he mellowed out and got some perspective. He's actually quite a good friend of mine now. But yeah, that's a funny story. And yeah, the AltraManiacs are kind of a big deal. Ha.

Nick said...

It was Steven...

jun said...

Bwahahahahahaha. I do love that guy. Next time I see him I'm totally going to share that story.

Maurine Lee said...

You know - Drop looks an awful lot like you.