Race Recap: Utah Valley Marathon

This was my first time running in Utah and therefore was my first time running the Utah Valley Marathon. “Why did you pick this out-of-state race?” you may be asking. Well, I entered Michelle’s giveaway on her blog runningwithattitude.com and I won! After finding a $170 roundtrip flight to Utah, I was in!

I knew that it would be tight squeeze to catch my flight on Friday since this day also happened to be the last day of school.  Fortunately, students were dismissed at noon which gave me the time I needed to make my 1:50pm flight.  I, in fact, had enough time at the airport to enjoy a mushroom pizza and finish my final assignment for an online class I was taking through UC San Diego extension. (Does anyone else take a picture of where they have parked their car so they won’t forget?)

My flight to Utah was short, sweet, and uneventful.  Since it was such a short trip, I had just a carry on and my purse.  This allowed for quick exit once I arrived to Salt Lake City.  I picked up my rental car and made my way to the Utah Valley Marathon expo.  Sadly, my rental car smelled so strongly of cigarette smoke, that I had to stop and purchase an air freshener to help mask the stench.

Due to traffic, it took me a little over an hour to get to the Utah Valley Marathon expo in downtown Provo.  Once I arrived to the Utah Valley Convention Center, it was easy to locate the expo and pick up my bib & race packet.  This was the Utah Valley Marathon’s 10th anniversary and because of that each participant received a race jacket instead of a Tshirt. I still wanted a Tshirt to go along with my jacket, so I bought one at the expo. Speaking of the expo, it was organized, well stocked with great vendors, and had a great line up of speakers!

After leaving the expo, I enjoyed the views surrounding Provo, found a local vegan Mexican restaurant, and checked into my hotel.  My hotel wasn’t anything to rave about, but what do I expect when I book one of the cheapest hotels I can find?  The room looked as though it hadn’t been cleaned (there was still a towel hanging up in the bathroom) and the room felt as though it was 90 degrees!  I ran the window air conditioning unit all night, but it seemed to have little effect on the overall temperature of the room.

I could not get over how majestic the surrounding mountains looked!  I too live fairly close to the mountains in the Sacramento Valley, but not quite as close as Provo’s mountains. As I looked at the mountains I had the revelation, “I’m going to be running those mountains!”

I laid out my race gear, a pre-race routine, and tried to get some sleep since I knew my alarm was set for 2:30am. Yikes!

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The Utah Valley Marathon is a point to point course. Participants load up on buses that take them to the starting line. The bus service begins at 3am and the last bus leaves at 4:15am. I ended up getting on a bus at about 3:30am. I packed up all of my stuff and checked out of the hotel at about 3:15am.  As I took the following picture, my thought was, “Wow!  It’s early!”

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It took about 45 minutes to arrive to the starting line. Once at the starting line, I was delighted to see fire pits in an open field to huddle around to stay warm. There were probably a total of 20 fire pits scattered around an open field and there were volunteers who walked around to make sure everyone’s fires were still lit.


If you’re thinking about doing the Utah Valley Marathon, I recommend taking something warm to wear and/or wrap yourself in at the starting line to help you stay warm. I took a blanket with me to the starting line and was glad I did. At about 15 minutes until the race started, I shoved my blanket in my drop bag and handed it over to a race volunteer. (Yes, it was 48 degrees when I arrived to the starting line at 4:16am and it dropped to 39 degrees at 5:36am when the sun starting rising!)


Before I knew it, it was time for the race to start.  I lined up near the 5:30 fellow Beast Pacer because I knew that with the elevation lack of training, I’d be running pretty slow.  I, however, had no idea how slow I’d actually be going.  Right from the start my stomach didn’t feel right and I was having difficult catching my breath.  I checked my heart-rate on my Garmin Forerunner 235 and it wasn’t too terribly high.  I just couldn’t catch my breath.  At mile 4, I stopped to use the restroom, and again at mile 7, and again at mile 13.  I didn’t mind, however, because I was there to enjoy the views and have fun!

As for the course, it was probably one of the most scenic races I’ve ever ran! Bodies of water (including a waterfall), greenery, mountains, rock faces, etc. With such a wide variety of views, there’s bound to be an elevation change! The race started about about 6,200 ft. and ended at about 4,200 ft. My home is located at 60 ft. above sea level. To say that I was not trained to be running at elevation would be an understatement. Next time, I will train more and get some training in at a higher elevation.


Throughout the course, there were plenty of porta-potties, Cliff gels, water, Powerade, and enthusiastic volunteers. There were even frozen Otter Pops at about mile 24. That was the best tasting Otter Pop EVER!

One of many highlights of the course was meeting fellow Pro Compression ambassadors Stephanie and Holly at one of the final aid stations.  All three of us were wearing the June sock of the month.

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The Utah Valley Marathon’s finish line was one of the best I’ve seen. It was in the middle of University Ave., there were many people cheering, and there were Jamba Juice smoothies waiting for us once we crossed the finish line!  Fortunately, I had some cash in my Nathan hydration bottle because there were cinnamon rolls for sale at the finish line. #irunforcinnamonrolls


Overall, I’d highly recommend the Utah Valley Marathon. Hmm… I may even have to go back and run the race again sometime.  This race was extra special to me, as I mentioned on my Instagram post because it is the end of my running for a while. I’ll still be moving my body and exercising, but I’ve been ordered to not participate in any high impact workouts until further notice. The #utahvalleymarathon was my third full marathon for 2017 and my 15th lifetime marathon. It was an amazing, sole-filling, whirlwind of a weekend, but so worth it!

Do you have any upcoming races that you’re excited about?  If you’re looking for a race to sign up for, be sure to check out my discount page for codes to use for Rock ‘n’ Roll races, wine country half marathons, Rock ‘n’ Roll races, and more!

Check out my Utah Valley Marathon race review and others at BibRave.com

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Until next time,

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Race Recap: Women’s Fitness Festival 

This was my third time running the Women’s Fitness Festival, but probably my favorite one yet! My first time was in 2013.


At this time, there was a half marathon option. I, and my friend Melissa, met up and ran the half marathon together. I remember the race being hot. Although we enjoyed each other’s company, we both did not have a fantastic race that day. My second time running the Women’s Fitness Festival was last year and I did the 10k. It was fun and I loved getting to meet Deena Kastor, but it was a little lonely doing the race on my own.

This year, I did the 10k and was certainly not alone. Somehow, I managed to have 7 of my girlfriends there to participate in the event with me. And I loved every moment of it!


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Race Recap: Rina’s Run Half Marathon

May 13th, Mother’s Day weekend was my third weekend in a row to race (or pace). This time I was pacing the 10th Annual Rina’s Run.  After a busy Friday evening at a work related event, I got home and set my alarm for 2:55 AM.


Because I was waking up so early, I decided to sleep in another room so that my husband could sleep in. After getting up, taking a shower, and getting ready I finally left the house at about 3:40 AM. According to GPS, it was going to take me about an hour and 40 minutes to get to Ripon High School. I knew that would give me a few minutes to stop and get a coffee along the way. My favorite place to stop for coffee is Starbucks. Unfortunately, Starbucks was not open because it was still too early in the morning.

After driving in the dark for an hour, I was in desperate need of some coffee and so I finally found a McDonald’s that was open to get coffee and some breakfast.

I arrived to Ripon high school at 5:30 AM to pick up my bib and to meet my fellow Pacers at 5:45 AM near the starting line. After picking up my bib and goodie bag (which check out the awesome goodie bag) I really needed to use the bathroom! I asked where the nearest restrooms were and the ladies pointed to a small building.

I walked over to the building and found a man trying to open the restrooms. He was unsuccessful in opening the restrooms because he didn’t know which key (out of the million on the key ring) opened the bathroom. At this point I was getting pretty desperate to use the restroom. Fortunately, there were a line of Porta Potties across the football field and so I quickly made my way over there.

At this point it was 5:45 AM and I was supposed to meet my fellow  beast pacers near the starting line. When I walked over to the starting line, there was no one there. It was cold and I needed to put away my goodie bag,, so I headed back to my car.


On the way to the car I texted our pace leader to see where she was at. She said that she was about 10 minutes away so I took my time getting my things ready in my car while appreciating the warmth of my car.

At 6 o’clock I headed back over towards the starting line to meet up with the pacers. I found our pace leader and she asked if I wanted to switch to the 2:45 pacing time from the 3 hour pacing time since the 2:45 pacer wasn’t going to be there. I happily accepted the faster pace time and then found a paper to hand write out my new mile splits. I then went back to my car for a SECOND time to tape on my new mile splits. Note to self: always bring extra tape.

At 6:30 am we gathered for a group picture, I made one more trip to the bathroom, and then we lined up in our corrals to start the race.

Lining up in the corral and getting to meet new runners is one of my favorite parts to pacing a race. I like to try to ease their nerves because perhaps they are first-time half marathoners or I have those who are trying to go for a PR. This is also a good time to talk about my strategy and how I’m going to get us to the correct finishing time.

Before I knew it, we were off and running. One of the tricks to racing is not starting out too fast. It’s very easy to do because at the start you feel great! Running slow at first may not sound difficult but it can be quite difficult. At the 1st mile marker I was already 15 seconds ahead of pace my average pace per mile of 12:35. By mile 2, that doubled to 30 seconds. I was going to try an interval strategy where I’d run one minute walk two minutes, but since I didn’t really know the how that would work for timing, I decided just to keep with running slowly.


From the start to mile eight, I had two girls behind me. One of the rules as a pacer is that we are not supposed to listen to any music. We’re supposed to be there for encouragement and to give updates to those around us. Since I didn’t have anyone running next to me and talking to me, the two girls who ran behind me for 8 miles provided me some entertainment. I didn’t really mean to eavesdrop into the conversation, but it was very difficult to not listen. I finally told them that I was listening in on their conversation at about mile seven. They laughed and said it was fine. I was sad when they started walking at mile eight because that meant that I was losing my entertainment. I tried to get them to keep a running slowly with me, but neither one of them had trained for this half marathon and I could tell that they were done.

For the next 5 miles I basically ran on my own. There were two ladies ahead of me that I tried to pass at one point but the one woman said, “Oh no! Please don’t pass us!” I laughed and replied, “Ok. I will stay behind you.”

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From mile 8 until mile 10.5, I stayed behind them until they began to slow down. During the final few miles I took selfies, took in the sights, and appreciated the signs on the road.  When I passed by aid stations they would laugh and say, “I think you lost your group.”

I smiled, looked around me, and replied, “They’ll catch up.”  Sadly, that never happened.

On the bright side, however, I came in at my assigned time!  Even with changing times at the last minute, I was able to stick with my pace and finish with a gun time of 2:44:38!  As a 2:45 pacer, it is acceptable to finish between 2:44:00 – 2:44:59.  I took some finish line pictures, grabbed some post-race grub, and headed to the car.

After making a quick detour to Starbucks to finally get my venti iced coffee and to change into some dry, clean clothes, I drove to church to catch the tail end of the ladies tea my mom was hosting.  Yes, I most certainly attended the tea with my Pro Compression neon socks!

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Have you ever packed a change of clothes and forgotten something important?  I’d love to hear about it!
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Race Recap: Downtown River Run

The last weekend of April started with a drive to the biggest little city in the world, Reno, Nevada, for a gig pacing the Downtown River Run marathon. While crossing the Sierra Nevada mountain range, I stopped to take in the incredible views of Donner Lake.


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Race Recap: Modesto Marathon (Part 2)

The morning of my 13th full marathon and my 33rd birthday had finally arrived!  My alarm went off at 5:15am to give me enough time to shower, get ready, and eat breakfast.  I toasted myself a piece of bread in the hotel’s continental breakfast area and added the peanut butter and bananas I had brought from home on top. For an added bonus, I drizzled on some honey too.  Sometimes my pre-marathon breakfast includes coffee, but this morning I decided to skip the coffee.  Instead, I added a caffeinated Nuun tablet to my water.

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Kelly and I drove over to the marathon start line, used the restroom, stretched, and took some pre-race pics.  I saw Daniell and went over to wish her “good luck” on her first full marathon!

Before lining up with our pace groups, Kelly and I said our good-byes since we knew we wouldn’t be seeing each other again until the end of the race.  On my wrist was a 4:25 pace band.  I was hoping for a 3 minute PR. I knew, however, that this would most likely not happen since I hadn’t been putting in the training for a PR.  I still decided to go for it and I lined up with the 4:22 pace group.

Both the marathon and the half marathon started at the same time, so intertwined with the marathon pace groups were also the half marathon pace groups.  As I was looking around I saw the 2:10 half marathon pacer and realized that it was fellow Beast Pacer, Stacy Anderson!  To help ease my nerves, I went over and started talking with her.

In no time at all, the National Anthem had been sung and we were off!  At first I stuck with Stacy, but then when the 4:22 full marathon group came up and passed Stacy within the first two miles, I decided to jump in with them.

A little after mile 2, we came up on our one and only hill, Mt. Modesto.  Yes, as you can tell in the picture below, this was not actually a hill.  Instead, this was an overpass.  Although this hill was nothing the first time around nor anything compared to Lake Tahoe’s elevation change, when coming up to it at mile 24, it seemed huge!  (More about mile 24 later.)

By mile 5, I needed to go to the bathroom.  I could probably count on one hand the number of times I have stopped to use the bathroom during a race.  I normally only stop if I think it’s going to be extremely uncomfortable and nearly impossible to hold it for the duration of the race.  This time around, it was both uncomfortable and nearly impossible to hold.

All of the port-a-potties I spotted within the next couple of miles were taken.  Finally, at the half marathon turn off I spotted a vacant port-a-potty and made a run for it.  I purposely did not stop my watch so that I could calculate how long my bathroom detour took.  I am proud to report that I was in and out of the “john” within only a few minutes.

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Now came the difficult part… catching back up to the pace group.  I picked up my pace and within a mile and a half I was able to spot the pace group about 100 yards in front of me.  I was able to hold that pace for a couple of miles, but by mile 13 I knew that I was not going to be able to hold the pace.

The turn around point for the full marathon was at mile 14.  As much as I don’t really care for out and back courses, there are some positives in regards to these types of races.  1) You are inspired by the faster runners ahead of you coming back your way. 2) You get to see the runners behind you and realize that you are not last.  (A side note about mile 14 aid station…  They were seriously SO sweet!  I was feeling quite down at this point and when they started to sing happy birthday to me as I ran through, I started crying.  Thank you mile 14 aid station for your sweet gesture!)

At about mile 15, I spotted Kelly on the other side.  Here’s the video she took of me….

Although I am “running” and give her a thumbs up, I am clearly not in high spirits. When Kelly asks, “How are you doing?”  I respond, “Ok.”

In reality, I was a mess.  I was kicking myself for not training more, kicking myself for thinking that I could possibly pull off a PR, and kicking myself for losing the pace group.  I was already a hot mess and this was only mile 15!

I turned off my running music playlist and turned on the Run, Selfie, Repeat podcast instead hoping Kelly Roberts would have some words of wisdom for me.  As she spoke about her own struggles with trying to BQ, I started feeling a little better.  Soon I came up on the aid station at mile 19 and they were JUST what I needed!

When I first came into the aid station I asked, “Do you have scissors?”  All I wanted was to cut off my 4:25 pace band and burn it!  I could not stand to look at it any longer!  As I was ushered over to a man with scissors they saw my “it’s my birthday” sign on my back and asked, “It’s your birthday today?  Would you like a cupcake?”

A smile came across my face and I eagerly replied, “Yes!”  They then went on to explain that it was one of the volunteers’ birthday too so that’s why they had cupcakes.

I went over to him and said, “Happy birthday!  Can I get a picture with my birthday twin?” And with that, I was off with a cupcake in hand and a restored spirit.  (This was the BEST tasting cupcake EVER!)

At mile 20, the 4:52 pacer came up behind me.  (The 4:37 pacer had already passed me back at mile 17 or so.)  When I saw the 4:52 pacer come up behind me, a fire was lit.  I thought, “No!  I WILL cross that finish line in under hours!”  I was able to successfully stick with the 4:52 pacer until mile 23.

At mile 24, we came back to Mt. Modesto (the overpass).  I walked up the hill while texting Kelly to check on her.  At the top, I put my phone back in my SPIbelt (use code STEPHANIE17 for 15% off) and enjoyed the journey down Mt. Modesto!

One of the things that motivated me to keep going in the dark moments of the final few miles was 1) the thought of being done and sitting down 2) the idea of possibly placing first in my division, the Athena category (more about this in my moment) and 3) trying to stay in front of a fellow female runner who I thought was in the same Athena division.

“What is “Athena”?” you may be asking yourself.  As stated at Runner’s World.com, “The Athena (women’s) category weight cutoff ranges from 145 lbs to 160 lbs.”  Yes, that’s right.  Instead of being in a category based upon age, there are also categories based upon weight.  The Modesto Marathon set the weight minimum for the Athena division to 160 pounds.  I was excited for the chance to be in the Athena division because then I had a higher likelihood of earning a division award.  (Ask any of my friends and they’ll tell you that I am quite competitive.)

Yes, I actually had to get weighed at bib pick up to confirm that I indeed qualified for the Athena division.  When I went over to the health booth and said, “I am here to be weighed for the Athena division,” the women looked at me and replied, “You better hold on to your purse.”  She looked at me and assumed I weighed under 160.

I stepped on the scale and it read 162 pounds.  The women then commented, “That was close.”  In my mind I thought, “Close?  That’s not close.  160.2 pounds, now that’d be close!”  Instead, I took my sheet of paper that had my weight written on it stating that I qualified for the Athena division and I walked it over to the timing booth so they could officially change my division.

Am I a little disappointed to be labeled “Athena”.  Yes and no.  Yes, only because I have gained a little over 10 pounds over the last year.  No, because I have still maintained a 50 pound weight loss since 2012 and I run marathons.  I am strong!

Back to the marathon… I successfully stayed in front of the runner who I assumed I was racing against and I successfully crossed the finish line under 5 hours.  Yes, it was over 30 minutes slower than what I was hoping for, but I finished.  I raised my hands and face to the sky in gratitude to God.  He has brought me from couch potato to marathoner.  He has brought hope and joy to my life.  He continues to bless me with a body that can run.  With God all things are possible!

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Once I crossed the finish line, I grabbed some ice cold water, some chocolate milk, and some ice cream.  I then made my way slowly around the finishers area.  I checked my results via a computer and saw that I indeed came in first for the Athena division… yay!  (We won’t mention that I was first out of two.)  I collected my first place division award mug and sat down near the finish line waiting for Kelly.

Soon she too came across the finish line and in a much faster time than what she was expecting!  We took some finisher pictures and headed back to our hotel to shower.

Once we were all clean, we packed up our belongings, checked out of the hotel, and decided it was time for lunch.  We ate some well-deserved burgers and french fries, took one last picture, and began the two hour drive home.

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All in all it was an amazing birthday weekend!  Working the expo was SO much fun, spending time with Kelly was SO much fun, and I am now a 13 time marathoner!  Not every race is going to be a PR race and not every mile is going to be pretty.  There’s truth in the saying, “What doesn’t kill you, makes you stronger.” I will move on from the Modesto Marathon stronger knowing that in order to see improvements in my running, I must put in the training.  Now, on to the next race…