You know you’re a crazy person when you sign up for a race called “Crack of Dawn.”
Yet that’s exactly the race I found myself running this weekend: the Crack of Dawn 8K, an all-downhill road race starting at 6 AM.
I regretted this decision slightly when my alarm went off at 4:00 on Saturday morning.
Buuut it was all good after that. It depends on the day, of course, but I’m pretty good at early wake-ups. I brewed myself some French press coffee, laced up my sneaks, and even ran the dishwasher before leaving the house at 4:30. That’s true adulthood right there.
This race was in Millcreek Canyon in Salt Lake, home to one of my favorite running trails, Pipeline. But this wasn’t a trail race; it started at the top of the canyon road and ran all the way down, finishing in the parking lot at the bottom.
Downhill races seem to be big here in Utah, where we have lots of canyons that you can run down (or up!) for miles. They even have down-canyon marathons and half marathons! I’ve avoided them because they seem like a bad idea with my history of knee injury. But naturally, since I made it my goal not to injure myself this year, it seemed like a great time to try one out. Right. My friend Jacquey convinced me to sign up… but to be fair, it didn’t take too much convincing.
Anyway, we picked up our numbers around 5 AM and got up to the start around 5:15 or 5:30. (Thanks to Jacquey’s brother for the early ride!) It was cooold up there! A 6 AM start means that the sky was just barely getting light when we started (hence the whole “crack of dawn” thing). To add to that, the air is always cooler up in the canyons, with all the trees and extra altitude. We were chilly!
The race started without much warning, since it was chip timed, and you could basically start whenever you wanted. I thought it was odd to chip time a race with only about 200 runners, but whatever. Accurate timing is never a bad thing, so no complaints.
I didn’t really have a goal for this race. I had no idea what to expect for a time given the downhill, so I figured I would just let my legs roll me down at a comfortable pace. Jacquey took off fast from the start, but I didn’t even try to keep up. I know she is speedy! I just stayed at a comfortable pace and let go as much as possible on the steeper downhills. As you might expect, the downhill was pretty hard on the legs, but easy on the lungs. I tried to enjoy the beautiful canyon and cool air as I made my way down the road. The first time we came around a corner and had a view down into the Salt Lake Valley, which was already bathed in sunlight, it was breathtakingly beautiful! I always wish I had my camera during runs for moments like that. But really there’s only so long I can focus on anything outside of my body during a race. So mainly I enjoyed the feeling of going pretty fast without having to work too hard for it.
My mile splits were:
Mile 1: 7:05
Mile 2: 6:58
Mile 3: 6:25
Mile 4: 6:41
Mile 5: 7:00
Last .07: 0:35
The last half mile, the only flat part, was where I slowed up. Just a little reality check that I cannot run that fast on a flat surface.
The raced ended up being a little longer than 8K, about 5.07 miles. At the finish line my watch showed 34:45, but my final chip time was 34:40. That’s a 6:50 pace – crazy! Again, due solely to the downhill course, but I’ll take it. Jacquey finished 100 yards or so ahead of me. I could see her the last 2 miles of the race, but of course I couldn’t catch her!
All the runners looked noticeably happier and warmer after the race. And also more awake!
Once we finished, we relaxed a bit and cooled down. My quads cramped up immediately! Just in case I start to think of running one of those down-canyon half marathons… please remind me that I will have quad cramps the last 8 miles. OK, thanks.
On the bright side, I think my knee was totally fine! It felt a little stiff after I finished, but I chalk that up to running fast in the cold, something that usually bothers it. Knock on wood, but I think I ended my downhill race injury-free. Woo hoo!
When we got back from our cool-down jog, they were just about to start the awards ceremony. I was surprised that this small race would be the type of thing to give out awards. And I was really surprised that Jacquey and I had placed first and second in our age group!
We look really thrilled, but actually we are just cracking up that we somehow won our age group. Let’s just say that the “crack of dawn” tagline didn’t attract too many speedy 20-29-year-olds.
There was a lot of confusion about the awards, and the winning female wasn’t even included in the results sent out after the race. So much for chip timing! So there’s a slight chance we received those medals mistakenly. It doesn’t really matter, though, since I’m very happy with my time… and I have the medal no matter what, muahaha.
Anyway, that’s it – a fun and speedy early-morning run! I’m totally adding my medal to our “trophy room,” a.k.a. the dresser in our guest room where Nate’s impressive stash of running awards is displayed. This is my second medal in there, the first being a finisher’s medal from Moab. Slowly but surely adding to the collection.
Have you ever run a downhill race… or one that started before the sun came up?