What happens in SLC stays in SLC

Published: June 15th 2016
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It's a bad habit, really a bad habit. I came across this marathon randomly in March. We didn't have any plan for run-cations for this year and my vulnerability was high. A quick flight search proved this trip to be reasonable. Entree fee was agreeable. Race review was stellar. Next thing we know, V & I were both registered to run Utah Valley Marathon in Provo, UT and the flight to SLC was booked.

Thu: Welcome to the land of LDS

Our 6:15am flight got us into SLC at ~9am. From the airport, downtown is a short cheap ride on light rail. First stop? Temple Square. We entered into tourist-studded temple square. Tour buses hovered the west gate. In the square, everything was pretty much open to public except for the temple. Tabernacle housed pipe organ and I couldn’t help but notice its wealth. Visitor centers have displays about history and replica of the temple, along with dozen missionary girls from all over the world attending to us tourists. We were approached by a mid-aged lady outside of the temple. We didn't even know enough about Mormons to ask her a question, fail. Anyway, she told us some good viewing spots of the square.

First vista spot she told us about was Joseph Smith Memorial Bldg...and there she was in the lobby! We went up to 10th floor and another lady showed us around on that floor. There are also 2 restaurants there. Menu had no coffee in sight, only herbal tea...and, wait what? Coke?? Regular coke and its caffeine-free version.

Before we dive deeper into the square, we had to take care of our tummy. Bruges Waffles & Frites seemed close and renowned. So I’d heard and also mentioned on the menu was that their "machine gun" was on Food Network's Man vs Food. Baguette stuffed with 2 lamb sausages, Belgian frites and Andalouse sauce sounded scary but V was up for it. And it was straight-up intimidating. Looking at other postings, though, looks like the guy got too excited with the sauce. First few bites were golden. Flavor was definitely there though.

With full tummy, back to the temple. We wanted to check out another view from the conference center across the street from the square. As we approached the tinted glass door, I could already see a greeter waiting. In order to go to the rooftop, we had to be escorted. This conference center was built to augment Tabernacle. It literally looked like a stadium with the stage deep underground. View from the rooftop pales in comparison to the Memorial Bldg. It was exceptionally roasty there too. With this, we were ready to move on to the next attraction: the state capital.

Capital Hill is a few "Utah-blocks" of hill climb away. By this time, we realized that street blocks are far apart. Road is also wide. 4-lane streets are normal here. Not a walkable city. Temperature well in the 90s, combined with our backpacks, we had to take a breather at the old city hall, right across the street from the capital. View wasn't bad from the Capital Hill with mountains in the backdrop.

From the capital, we walked ~1 mile to North Temple Station. We will move on to Provo. Very affordable commuter train took us to Provo in a little over an hour. From what I saw from the train, it’s pretty rural out here. Luckily, we got to Provo on a Thursday when Provo Food truck round-up takes place. I like the movable feast with mountains in the backdrop! What’s more, Art City Donut truck was there too! They were listed in one of those “best of” articles about donuts!! Yum!!

Fri: Provo without a car

Our first agenda for the day was to get the shake-out run in before the temperature creep up to 90s. Out-and-back to BYU made a nice 5-miler. When we started the run at 7am, downtown strip was completely dead. Not even a single coffee shop was open. Most places open at 8am or 11am. Nice to not have any temptation early in the run but coffee shop at 8am?! Is it just lack of caffeine culture?

At 10am, expo for tomorrow’s Utah Valley Marathon opened. Sadly, we both had downgraded to half marathon last minute. I so wanted to run the full point-to-point downhill course but I knew I’d blow up my Achilles. The best I could do was to try to run the half fast. We got our bibs, talked to vendors and finally scored el cheapo expo sunglasses. Those are the best; I can totally be rough with them.

At 11am, we hit up Communal. It’s on point and had the details down. Charcuterie plate was superb. Staff was pleasant and atmosphere was inviting. And who would have guessed? The host was from San Jo. He’s in his second year at BYU…random! After this was the highlight of Provo – my first-ever rolled ice cream!! I had been wanting to try this concoction from Thailand for a long time but there is none in the Bay Area. I put it in the backburner until, of all places, Provo, UT!! I was soooo excited!! Now that I finally saw how they work that cream, I saw that it is very customizable. You can mix anything while the liquid is freezing up. I wonder if the base doesn’t need stabilizer that most ice creams need to stay frozen.

Well, we had nothing on our agenda today until V’s team plays on TV at 7pm. We have a whole afternoon. If we had a car, we’d have gone up to the mountains/canyons but too late. Oh well. Next to our Airbnb house was a nice park where loads of kids were playing in water fountain. We settled under a tree and rested our legs for tomorrow :p. Early dinner from the supermarket across the street. I love this location.

We caught the game at a hotel bar until half time and we had to call it quits at 8:30pm. We still had to get ready for tomorrow’s 3am alarm.

Sat: Running 13.1miles was the easiest part of the day

My phone was buzzing. It’s time! We were to get ready in 30min and jog 1mile to the bus pickup by 3:45am. Buses were running from 3:15 – 4:30am. 10min into getting ready, I happen to look at my GPS watch, reading 4:10! Hm? Ohhh!!! My phone was still in Cali time, noooo. Get up V, we need to leave NOW!!! We can potentially still make it to 4:30am bus. We barely had time to get ready and immediately started running. Oh, the thought of not making it to the start – pure horror. All the prep and this trip itself will go down the drain!! After going through a huge mall parking lot, we found the loading zone on the opposite side. I was definitely running faster than typical warm up as the clock approached 4:30am. Yes, I see the bus! We can make it! Phew. But! This last bus generously gave 15min grace period for people who were still rolling in well after 4:30am. They didn’t even look stressed out. Are we on Utah time or what?

Anyway, bus tracked back the course 13miles and we were at the start area at ~5:10am. There were a lot of fire pits to keep the runners warm, nice, although they weren’t much use for the last busses. Port-a-potty lines were already long 😞. We barely got through it in time to check our bags at 5:45am. Shortly after, the wheel-chair started and, before we knew it, 8-sec countdown started for us! It’s been more than a year since we raced half marathon…g’luck V, let’s see if I remember how to run this distance. It started with a nice descent, woohoo!! So many runners were going super-fast. I was already at 7:15 goal pace and it felt aggressive. I gradually settled into the pace and things felt a little easier. Between mile 2-3 was a slight hump but other than that, I was even logging sub-7min pace. I had not run that pace since 10k in November. I never know how I have this in me when I can’t even crack 7:40 pace in training. Last 3 miles was through Provo and flatter. It became hard but it didn’t make sense to slow down at this point. I mean I came this far, right? 1:33:01. Not bad. Closer to my prime 4 yrs ago 😊.

Reunited with V at the finish and collected our check-in bag. On the way, we got pulled into free massage. A lot of races offer this but this was our first and boy we were glad. It actually feels good afterwards. After grabbing coffee from across the street (yes, it was past 8am), we came back to the finish area and realized we had placed in our divisions. We saw bunch of plaques for the award ceremony. I was 1st in Athena division and V, 2nd in Clydesdale division. We had no idea what those divisions were and they were separate from the age groups. We happily and proudly got on the podium to receive the hardware. Then it hit me to look up what those divisions were. It just didn’t make sense why we were in these special categories. My god, when we found out the truth, I had no word. Athena is women over 150lb, Clydesdale is men over 200lb. I mean look at us, we’re little Asians, lol… How did we end up in these categories and why would they have such categories?? I felt bad that I robbed from the legitimate winner. We’d have placed in our respective legitimate age groups anyway but c’mon organizers!!

Award ceremony ended ~10am. By that time, hunger was catching up to us. On the way, we saw farmer’s market in the park we sat for hours yesterday. Lunch here it is. We got on 12:30pm train back to SLC. It’s crazy that there’d be no train on Sun, period. What if the run was on Sunday?! Phew. SLC central station is in an industrial neighborhood. We walked yet more Utah blocks to check out Les Madeleines. I heard they have a stellar kouign amann. They also had mini cannele. I forgot we come from bigger city. After dropping our bags, we made it to Copper Onion at 5pm dinner opening. There were mobs already but we scored seats, yay. Everything was on point from shishito poppers to bone marrow! Next up, Beehive Pub around the corner. They have ice bar, which is literally a strip on a bar that’s an ice rink. That’s where the glasses sit so it’s kept cold, nifty! I was ready for some sweets :p and we picked Gourmandise Bakery. It was some Utah blocks away but it was worth it. They had nice vibe and cookies 😊.

Sun: We’re in for more (good, bad & ugly) surprises!

Unlike Provo, some cafes open at 6:30am here in SLC, thank you. This morning, we made a 12-mile trip on City Creek Trail to the lunch spot at Caffe Niche. There were a lot of strollers with dogs and some trail runners. I was pleasantly surprised to see this nature hike directly accessible from downtown. After cleaning up and packing up, we were back out again to Eva’s Bakery on Main St. So.much.walking.lol. The storefront is very cute and I was eyeing it. On our way, we were harassed by who-seemed-to-be mentally-disturbed person. Nobody was harmed but it was creepy. Honestly, this was the first time this happened to me anywhere. Even on my solo trips, nobody really bothered me, even in Sao Paulo Centro. We were also asked for change a few times here too. Do we look like a money pit or what? Buzz-kill, SLC. In any case, we made it to Eva’s shortly before they were closing at 3pm.

Next up, Spitz for early dinner after a long stare-fest with Yelp. Spitz was surprisingly great. Great atmosphere, volume and flavor 😊. Last but not least, we can squeeze in a brewery run before we head to the airport. Epic Brewery looked awesome on Yelp. So we crossed so many Utah blocks to get there. Their tiny bar is 6-seater and it was full. The bartender said either wait or there are plenty of places around here to get beer. We can wait. While we were waiting, he came around and asked us if we were hungry. No, we just ate. Oh, so we’re technically a restaurant so you’ll have to order an entrée. We would have accommodated that but it seemed that grabbing a bottle to go was the right thing to do. Beer was sooo amazing despite the feeling of defeat at the brewery. Utah Sage Saison. Award-winning.

Back at the house to get our backpack, we saw 2 ladies at the front porch with luggage. We knew that the next guests were coming but not until 9pm. Apparently, there was a huge miscommunication but we were able to help them sort things out with the host who was out at the moment. It turns out that one of them lives literally 1 mile from us in Cali!

Surprises didn’t end in Utah. At midnight, we ended up taking a Texan from SFO to San Jo, ha! He was so lost. His flight was delayed by 7hrs from Dallas. It would’ve been ok taking BART/Caltrain to SJ during the day but he had a little chance to making it down there at this hour. He didn’t even know that he had to change train and had to get on the last Caltrain swiftly. It turns out, it was first time flying for him. So glad he didn’t get stranded in Millbrae…

Additional photos below
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Blueberry glaze :)Blueberry glaze :)
Blueberry glaze :)

Art City Donuts

16th June 2016

When we went to the temple we were surprised to learn they spend $1 million per year on lawn care. Doesn't seem right somehow with all the needy people in the U.S. and around the world. Crazy organizers putting you in the wrong category. What is up with that? Strange. Looks like you did a nice job of eating your way through Utah.
16th June 2016

$1million on lawn?! Wow, I'm with you. It was blatantly obvious $$ was being poured in and around the square. Crazy things happened on this trip but we made sure we weren't "hangry" :).

Tot: 2.28s; Tpl: 0.059s; cc: 22; qc: 78; dbt: 0.0434s; 1; m:saturn w:www (; sld: 1; ; mem: 1.5mb