Tuesday, April 17, 2012

Canyonlands Half, Platte Half, And Everything In Between

I had a long elaborate post in my head about my trip to Moab for what turned out to be the best 4 days EVER. But I'm a little lazy, waited a seriously long time to write it, and now have 8 million other things to say so... The Moab recap might be a bit abreviated.

Moab was... perfect. Absolutely perfect. I stayed with the coolest guys in the world, one of which made my 30th (I still am not comfortable saying that) birthday 4 days of awesomeness.

The race itself was a little rough. We woke up to howling winds, which usually isn't a good sign. The views on the drive up to the start line and along the course were wonderful...

 ...but not quite enough to distract me from the heat and strong winds. Any chance of a pr was squashed so my coach said to not fight the wind and focus on place instead of time. I started off with what I thought was a conservative pace but was maybe a bit agressive for the conditions. I felt like I had a second wind around the halfway point but that didn't stick around long and the wind and sun really started getting to me. I stopped looking at my Garmin pretty early on in the race because each time I did I was horrified but I was still fully and painfully aware of how much steam I was losing. I had been in the lead for nearly the entire race but in the last 3 miles started looking over my shoulder constantly - I was sure whoever was in second was creeping up on me. But it seemed like the conditions were wearing on everyone... The last 2 miles got pretty intense. We ran the first 11 miles through a canyon so while it was super windy, we were at least somewhat protected. But then the course went out of the canyon and met an even nastier headwind coupled with a nice little uphill stretch... Holy shit. There aren't really words to describe it, but I know we've all been there - that point in a race where you start hoping you get hit by a car so you don't have to keep running. I was so exhausted and SO relieved to see the finish line. My time was pretty pathetic and I felt embarassed by it, until I saw the pacer for the 1:30 group cross the finish at 1:36. That's right. The pacer finished 6 minutes slow! That made my 1:25 feel a tad better... Here's a little video from the race: http://moab21.com/archives/751

I was happy to have a win on my birthday but the best part was still to come. We bummed around town, went for a little evening hike (after accidentally taking my little Saab down a Jeep trail), checked out Moab Brewery, and along the way I realized that I was hanging out with a very attractive and very awesome guy: one Mr. Tyler Sewald

We stayed up til 5am (no joke) talking about everything but mostly my killer thumb wrestling skills and our mutual awesomeness. The next morning the other guys left early and Tyler stayed behind with me. We packed up our stuff and got ready for an adventure in Arches National Park (but not before I noticed part of my front spoiler fender thing was cracked and hanging off with a tumbleweed stuck in it from the little jaunt down the Jeep trail... don't worry, it popped right back into place).

Arches was absolutely EVERYTHING I hoped it would be. The weather was insane - unbelievably windy and freezing - so we didn't go nuts exploring but it was still amazing.

We took the scenic route out of the park and made our way to Fruita for the night. Odd little town but we had a cool run there in the morning through a dinosaur fossil site. Then we headed to Palisade (cutest small town in the entire world) for brunch and a wine tasting at Grande River Vineyards. Then on to Carbondale where we found a natural hot spring in the river outside of town... I don't want to give the location away but look for mile marker 55 - it was perfect!! Eventually the vacation had to end but I'm lucky enough to still get to hang out with Tyler on a regular basis ;)

Onward. I feel like my training has kicked in and my workouts have been much stronger lately. I had a really good 2 x 3 mile progressive tempo last Sunday with the HTS crowd. The guys were doing a 22 mile "light progression" run (which, trust me, is bananas fast) and I almost caught them twice... next time! Unfortunately I don't really feel like that has shown through in my races. I don't want to sound like I'm making excuses but every single race I've done this year has had craptastic conditions - windy or snowy or super hilly or freezing or something to that effect - and it's exhausting!

I was really ready for a strong race at the Platte River Half Marathon this past Sunday and it just didn't happen. First and foremost, I missed the start. I knew I was cutting it close but should've had enough time to get to the start line... But they started a minute or two early and that just killed me. I was pretty intent on winning and really worked to weave through the crowds and run hard to catch up to the first females. Big mistake. I wasted a ton of energy there and really ended up paying for it. I need to start trusting myself and my training and stay more relaxed at the beginning of a race so I can have stronger finishes... For some reason that's really hard for me. I caught up to my teammate Kim and we worked together to get in the lead but I knew she had me beat. (But we whooped a bunch of dudes- including one who, in the past, has said some rude things about me so... Sorry, bud, maybe next time! Here's us going after one of them, but not the rude one, this is just random guy...)

I was already tired from hauling the first mile and when the wind picked up halfway through the race, I felt like I was struggling to maintain a moderate pace. The miles were actually going by pretty fast but by mile 10 or so the wind got pretty strong and I started falling behind. Kim started pulling away and I was able to catch up to my teammate Travis and stick with him for a minute. I kept telling myself "She's RIGHT THERE! Just a few feet! Push a little harder!" but after every tiny surge I attempted, I fell back again. Then came everyone's favorite, the 8th Ave Viaduct Bridge - the worst possible thing that can happen to you during a race. As far as I'm concerned, it's the biggest hill in the world. Kim was still in sight but I couldn't quite catch her and as we made our way up the hill she got further and further away. She is seriously one tough cookie. My winning streak came to an end but Kim totally deserves that win - she ran smart and worked hard! And second place isn't too shabby. It would've been nice to have a pr at least, but I was really just happy to be done!

So, this is a pretty good summary of how I felt -

Ha! That was a rough one but I'm ready for another! Even on days where I feel like hell, I love racing more than anything. Altogether, Runner's Roost had a really strong showing with the ladies grabbing 3 of the top 5 spots, Logan coming in 4th overall (just ahead of Tyler who wasn't even racing - he's a stud!), and our women's relay team of Stella, Kelsey and Anna kicking ass with a course record and 2nd relay team overall! Here are the results: http://results.active.com/pages/searchform.jsp?pubID=3&rsID=126115 And here's RunColo's write up: http://www.runcolo.com/content/platte-trail-half-marathon-results-2012-1126/

Oh. And here's Justin Mock's latest project (I was lucky enough to get a rap for my winning streak but knew I had something else coming my way when it ended... Let this serve as a warning - Justin has firecrackers and too much time on his hands and that's a dangerous combo!): http://www.runcolo.com/content/heather-utrata-s-winning-streak-snapped-1125/ It's a little harsh but I told Justin I'd let it go if he did a beer mile. He declined/wussed out, citing that he didn't want me to have a chance to beat TWO RunColo folks (That's right - one of the said dudes Kim and I beat was no other than Simon Escorcia. Now you know I love you guys but... ) Okay. Enough of that.

Next up is the Cherry Creek Sneak - the nation's biggest 5 miler! I had a really fun time there last year and am really excited to race it again!


  1. Good stuff Heather, going into the race I knew there was a pretty good chance you would take me down, well played!

    Luke C. is lucky he didn't run, otherwise I think you would have taken us both down.

  2. That is exactly why I didn't run! The whole time in Moab, the only thought going through my head was "Don't let Heather and Sarah catch me". Repeat.

    Good job tho!

  3. Nice work! I had to laugh when you wrote about the overpass at the end of the Platte. It does feel like a mountain (not a mole hill) after running flat for so long!