Saturday, March 16, 2013

Canyonlands Half Marathon

For my second half marathon, I took a road trip west.  I headed back to Moab, UT to participate in the Canyonlands Half Marathon.  Last year, I ran the 5 Mile race, but this year, I decided it was time to do 13.1.

I took Friday off of work and made the 5 1/2 hour drive from Denver to Moab.  One of my friends recommended last year that I take one route in particular to get there (Highway 128 instead of the freeway), and so that will be the way I go to Moab every time.  Instead of barren east Utah, you get a route that gives you a sneak preview of the beauty that you are about to see in Moab.

Ahh, behold the beauty of the iPhone :)

I checked into the same motel I stayed in a year ago and made my way to grab some dinner.  Then I went to the expo to pick up my race bib, and looked at the cool merchandise that they had.  I didn't have a whole lot of time before the sun went down, so I ran a couple errands to prepare for the race: grocery store to get what I would eat for breakfast, and a dollar store to buy a sweatshirt for waiting a few hours in the cold before the race and ditch it when it started.  I settled into the hotel, laid out my race clothes, and turned on the TV, only to find the best pre-race movie on: Space Jam.

My alarm woke me up just after 6.  I slowly made my way out of bed, threw on the clothes I was going to race in, and was ready to roll.  Canyonlands is a point-to-point course, meaning that you start in one place and finish in another.  Shuttles take you to the race start, so in these races, you spend a lot of time waiting at the starting area.  I boarded the bus at about 7:30 to head up the canyon, they dropped us off at the starting area, and I looked at the time.  8:00.  The race starts at 10.  Good thing I bought the sweatshirt, because it was a little chilly... but I was thankful to have the overcast sky - I knew that would help stay cool enough that I wouldn't overheat.  I made my way down by the river and sat, taking in the incredible view, and waited for it to get closer to starting time.

At about 9:15, we walked up the hill to where the race actually started.  That's when everyone started warming up.  If you want to see one of the more interesting sides of runners, check out the pre-race warm ups and rituals.  Good stuff!

At about 9:55 everyone started swarming the starting line, ready to go.  Then... BANG!  The gun when off, everyone cheered, and the swarm started bolting down the hill.  I ditched my sweatshirt, feeling good knowing that everything they collect that gets left behind gets donated to charity.  After a few minutes, I started moving, crossed the starting line... here we go!

The first mile was quick.  The majority of the race is downhill, so I knew I would have to be careful to not run too fast.  I started looking around at the amazing scenery and just took it in for a moment.  I started breathing a little heavy and just felt out of it... great, it's going to be a long day...  One of my big fears was a repeat of my first half marathon, where I started cramping up at the end due to dehydration and struggled to make it to the finish.  But this time, I was going to make sure I stopped at every water stop, kept my water bottles full, and I had some Jelly Belly Sport Beans that I would be taking throughout the race.  The first four miles went by pretty easily and uneventfully, with the exception of a nagging hip flexor muscle, but that eventually went away.  I popped the first round of Sports Beans, and almost choked on the first one.  Graceful is my middle name.  Miles 4-8 started to feel a little off, but I still felt strong.  I would stop for a quick second at each water stop refilling my water bottle and drinking from the cups, and the stopping part is new for me - I normall try to drink the water as I continue running, which is difficult, but I worry about the stopping and restarting.  On every restart, I had something that was nagging me - hip flexor, knee, calf, ankle... nothing I had to worry about, just frustrating.  Miles 8-11 were fine, but I was starting to get a little tired.   I popped more Sports Beans at about 8.5.  I took in the last moments of amazing scenery as we left the canyon, and braced myself for the final stretch, knowing it was going to be tough.   The last few miles of the course are pretty flat.  But spend 11 miles running downhill and switch to flat, you might as well be running up a mountain.  For the first time the entire race, I could start feeling the heat.  Mile 12.  So close!  As this point, it became a test of will.  I was tired.  I was sore.  I was aching.  I was hot.  I spent the entire last mile fighting the urge to stop.  Every ounce of my body told me to take a break.  I wouldn't let myself.  I started slowing down.  I didnt' care.  I didn't care how slow I was going, I was not going to let myself stop.  I rounded the final corner and could see the finish line.  But it was still far away... I slowly made my way closer... and closer... and closer... until finally, I made it!

I got my hard-earned medal and placed it around my neck.  I started to get a little light headed.  I looked to my left and saw the medic tent.  Perfect.  I walked over.  "I'm just going to stand here for a second.  Nothing is going to happen, but in case it does, I'm already here!"  They let me sit in a chair, which I knew was all I needed.  I got some of my water and gatorade, and after a few minutes, felt fine again.  I got up and started walking.  That's when everything I couldn't feel during the race started coming full force - my knee started throbbing, my calf started tightening, I had a blister, and I had been chafing.  So I sexy-waddled (that's what I'm referring to it as because I don't want to think about what it really looked like...) my way the 6 blocks back to my hotel and crashed on my bed.  I felt tired, sore, in pain, and exhausted...

...but I made it!

Canyonlands Half Marathon
13.1 miles - Chip time: 2:15:26 - 10:20 pace
New Personal Record

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