Up and Down…Travels in Idaho, Running in Utah, and the Arrival of an Angel

When we thought of Idaho, we thought of potatoes.  That was our uninitiated impression of the state. After our great race in Idaho Falls we made a beeline for the Idaho Potato Museum…of course!

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We had no idea that there could be so much to learn about potatoes! This expansive potato masher display was just a fraction of what we found inside.

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As riveting as the museum was we were anxious to get on the road. My childhood friend, Amy, now lives in Hailey, Idaho and had graciously offered to host us at her home.  She had warned us that the drive from Idaho Falls to Hailey offered few options for food or other services so we had planned ahead.  But we were stunned to encounter miles of dramatic lava fields along the way. We had no idea that lava fields are a major part of southern Idaho.

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We encountered Hell’s Half Acre Trail not too far out of Idaho Falls. A walk along the trail was informative but sweltering.

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As we continued our drive we passed miles of what looked like low rolling hills of crumbling asphalt studded with sage brush.  The lava fields were immense.

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Eventually we headed north and the landscape changed to ranch lands and finally mountains.  We arrived at Amy’s in Hailey, a picturesque mountain town south of Sun Valley, in early evening.  Amy had arranged for dinner at The Grill at Knob Hill Inn. Our dinner could not have been more perfect.  Sitting in the garden on that balmy evening we caught up on each other’s lives as we savored a truly fabulous meal.  And if that hadn’t been enough, Amy had also gotten us tickets for the outdoor Sun Valley ice showNathan Chen, the Olympic skater, was the headliner.  Our seats were so close we could hear the skaters’ blades on the ice as they whizzed by just feet from us.

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The show was mesmerizing.  It was a spectacular way to cap off our day which had begun with running our Idaho race, included driving through miles of unexpected lava fields, and ended with a sumptuous dinner and a perfect evening of catching up with our long-time friend.

The next day was spent exploring the area surrounding Amy’s home and Sun Valley.

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We took the gondola to the top of the mountain and enjoyed lunch and fabulous views.  We asked our waiter to snap a photo of us and he rapidly dipped and darted around us and in less than a minute he had taken an array of shots from various angles.  It was obvious that he was well practiced in accommodating guests.

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That evening we were able to walk along the river from Amy’s home into town for dinner.

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Amy pointed out the “heart tree” where people leave heart-shaped river rocks.

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After several wonderful days of reminiscing and touring we hit the road to head to Utah. The drive south to Salt Lake City brought us through acres of ranches and fields of  soybeans and corn.

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Once we arrived in the city we picked up our race packets, had a quick lunch and drove by Temple Square and the Salt Lake Temple. Ready to get to our hotel, I clicked the address link in our hotel confirmation email and we set off. More than an hour later we had repeatedly arrived at an address that was clearly not our hotel. We tried all sorts of routes and maps and finally, feeling utterly exasperated, we pulled over into a parking lot.  We were completely immersed in perusing our maps when suddenly I looked up and a woman had appeared at my window. She said she was about to close up the building at the head of the parking lot and wanted to be sure we hadn’t needed to go in.  We confessed we were lost and were just trying to figure out how to get to our hotel.  After we shared the address she assured us we were not far and gave us directions.  We gushed our relief and gratitude and drove off hoping to be at our hotel momentarily. After a few turns we pulled into a gas station to get gas and confirm the rest of the directions. As Mike pumped gas and I checked my phone I glanced up to find our guardian angel standing at my window! Once again, I hadn’t seen her approaching and she had just materialized.  She apologetically assured us she wasn’t stalking us but had second thoughts about the directions she had given us.  I showed her my phone with the hotel address and she informed us that after all of our travels we were not even in Salt Lake City anymore.  Well, that was obviously the first problem!  She gave us new directions and with immense relief we soon pulled into our hotel.  Ironically, a bit later as we were heading out to dinner we passed a gentleman who asked if Mike could assist him with a seat that he was struggling with in his rental car.  Mike worked with him to figure it out and as we continued to the restaurant we were pleased that we had been able to “pay it forward” a bit, too.

We had been surprised to find a Tuesday race in Utah when we had been scanning the Running in the USA website. A midweek race is really helpful when we are trying to run in more than one state on a trip.  We had read that the Deseret News Marathon (which also includes a half marathon, 10k, and 5K) was held on Pioneer Day, which is celebrated on July 24th to commemorate when Brigham Young and his Mormon pioneer followers arrived in the Salt Lake Valley.  It is a BIG holiday! There is a huge parade and lots of celebrating.  On the night before the Twenty-fourth (as we learned they refer to the day) we walked past a liquor store where there were so many customers streaming in, they needed a traffic officer to manage the crowds.

Tuesday morning we left the hotel before dawn. The race website listed a descriptive starting spot but not an address.  Unfortunately, not being locals, finding this location proved elusive.

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Eventually we did track it down but unfortunately it wasn’t until the race was close to starting.  It was clear that our chances of making it through the port-a-potty line before the gun went off were non-existent. Since our 10K course also ran along the marathon course, there were bathrooms along the route.  Problem solved.

The course started with an invigorating downhill stretch.  The pastel early morning sky against the dark mountains was beautiful. I felt great! And then I didn’t. An unexpectedly long wait to make a pit stop at mile 2 seemed to derail me. When I started up again I had no energy. I began taking walking breaks. Mike valiantly stuck with me despite my snail’s pace.  Even the throngs of spectators who lined the course waiting for the parade to start couldn’t rally me. I truly had never felt this awful in a race. Eventually the finish line appeared and Mike and I joined hands for the last several feet for our traditional finish.   This time although it may have looked charming, that physical connection helped get me over the finish line.  I am seldom pleased with race photos but the shots from this race are epically awful-but accurately depict how I felt at that moment. (The omission of a photo here is deliberate!)

After crossing the finish line I felt so ill it took me a bit to regain a semblance of normalcy.  My typical post-race enthusiasm was tempered by disappointment over my lousy race.

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But eventually I perked up enough to ask Mike to take our requisite awkward documentation selfie. And we bolstered our thoughts by reminding ourselves that we had just completed our run in Utah and our 37th state race, even if it hadn’t turned out as well as we had hoped.

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As we rode the shuttle bus back to the start we chatted about the race and we laughed at my possibly delirious thoughts as I took the bunch of grapes handed to me by gloved young men in black pants and white shirts just past the finish line. First, I thought what a good idea it was to avoid having sweaty runners reach into a pile to pick up their own grapes.  And secondly I marveled that this race was being catered and we were being served by smartly dressed wait staff.  And then when I had looked closer and read their name tags, I realized that we were in Utah and these helpful young men were members of the Mormon church.  Oh, brother!

With our races behind us we were ready to switch into vacation mode.  We packed up the car and traveled south to begin exploring several of Utah’s iconic National Parks.

Quest Race #: 37

State: Utah

Date Run: July 24, 2018

Bottom Line: Spending a few days reconnecting with our generously welcoming friend, Amy, was a true highlight of our trip.  Although my Utah race experience was not what I had hoped for we were happy to have completed another state race and we still have fond memories of our angel.

5 thoughts on “Up and Down…Travels in Idaho, Running in Utah, and the Arrival of an Angel

  1. Congratulations on state #37 but I am sorry to hear you weren’t feeling well during the race. I found Idaho to be absolutely beautiful when I went to the Boise area, and I feel like it’s one of the most under-rated states I’ve been to. Utah is of course stunning. I hope you enjoyed the national parks there.

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  2. I raced in UT a couple of years ago, and in ID this summer. Both are great states to vacation in! And that bridge in ID looks really familiar (we stayed in Ketchum), but I certainly didn’t see the heart tree! I have a thing for hearts & that would have been cool to see.

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  3. Congrats on crossing two more races/states off your list! I remember Pioneer Day from when we lived in Utah when we were first married and my husband was in grad school at USU in Logan. We were just back out there in June for the Grand Tetons Half and spent the greater part of our vacation in Southern Utah. We didn’t realize how much we missed the west until we went back for a visit!

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