2012: Walking. Blood blisters. Struggling to the finish.
2013: No walking. Enjoying even the hills. Finishing with a 7:40 mile. Woo hoo! I’m telling you this at the beginning so you can know how the story ends :)
Now, I know I’m not as speedy as many of you reading this. But for this very average runner, this was a good race! I’m still psyched about it and felt it deserved a blow-by-blow, hence the long post. With no food at the end, I’m not sure what your motivation is to keep reading… So if you want to skip out in favor of tomorrow’s food post, I promise not to be mad :)
Four of us drove down to Moab this weekend for the race – Nate and me plus our friends the twins, Pete and Kate. It’s our usual group for weekend long runs, so I was happy to all be heading down to this race together! Also, Moab is one of my favorite places on earth. I’ve said this before, but I just love that I live in a state with crazy scenery like this!
It blows my mind every time.
We arrived in Moab Saturday afternoon, grabbed lunch in town, then headed right to the packet pick-up. The “expo” for this race is pretty dinky – only 1,100 runners means there’s not really any free food or schwag available. We picked up our numbers and the (horrible) shirts. I love this race, but it just seems to have the worst shirts. I didn’t take a picture, but this year’s is bright green, has a hood, and the arms are just WAY too short. I wonder if they have a contract with some terrible t-shirt company? Whatever.
Next on the agenda was driving the course.
I had run this race before, but the others hadn’t, and we all wanted to check out those hills. The course starts about 30 miles outside of town and runs back in to finish at a resort 17 miles from town. It is absolutely beautiful. We got a good idea of where the hills fell (all of the 8th mile, then a few more around miles 9 and and 11). I wasn’t nervous before this, but ohhhh wow 13 miles is a long way, even in a car. And the hills seemed even worse than I remembered (eek), although the first 7 miles were pancake flat. I began to get a little nervous, and also realized that my plan to stay with the 2 hour pacer for the first 5 miles might not be realistic. If I went that slow for the first half of the race, then hit those hills in the last 6 miles, I might not make it in under 2:00 after all. Hmm.
After our drive, we had a pasta dinner in town, followed by watching most of the Red Sox game at the Moab Brewery. Beer for the boys, water for the girls!
Kate and I got the “last two waters in the house,” according to the bartender. #runnerproblems
We headed back to the hotel to finish watching the Sox game while getting ready for bed. Huge win! Nate and I are definitely fair weather fans, but are still happy to see our team in the World Series! Woo hoo!
Alarms were set for 5:15, and I was fast asleep when they they all went off in sync the next morning. Soooo early and dark. We got ready and I ate a pre-run breakfast of oatmeal with peanut butter, banana, and honey. Mmmm my favorite. Next was a drive out along the same road we’d driven the day before, then a shuttle to the start. It was chilly! I looked very puffy in all my layers of pre-race sweats. Ohhh race day pictures – you are not my favorite.
In the cold, it seemed like an eternity waiting for the race to start. The worst was having to strip down to our running clothes so we could check our gear bags. And I don’t run with my iPhone, so that went into the gear bag too – no race pictures! Sorryyy. These next pictures, as you’ll be able to tell, are from the drive rather than the actual run.
At the starting line, I said goodbye to the boys, who made their way to the front, and to Kate, who was starting up with the 1:50 pace group. I hung back with the 2:00 group and waited for the gun to go off. It finally did, and I fell into step with the 2:00 pacer.
During the first mile, I could see Nate leading with one or two other guys. Then they turned a corner, and that was the last I saw of him as things got spread out along the windy canyon road.
Mile 1: 9:06
The beginning of a race always seems so slow – it felt like we were crawling! And when a race volunteer with a stopwatch called out “9:22″ at the first mile marker, I knew I needed to ditch this pace group. That was gun time, of course, but still, this felt too slow. And thinking back to driving the course the day before, I decided to let my watch pace me instead.
The next few miles ticked by. I was feeling good and relaxed, knowing that this was the flat and enjoyable part of the race. The 2:00 pace group was right behind me for most of the time, and it was nice to listen to other runners’ conversations without having to carry one on myself. Two runners behind me were discussing their marathon plans for the coming year. I gathered that one of them had a goal of running a marathon in each state, and was crossing 3 per year off the list. I must have listened to them for at least a mile, and it was a welcome distraction.
Other than their conversation and a few others, things were pretty quiet. There are really no spectators at this race, because it’s down a canyon road in the middle of nowhere. I find it funny during races like this that I’m with 1,000 other people, yet running in almost complete silence. We’re all just shuffling along.
Mile 2: 8:37
Mile 3: 8:55
Mile 4: 8:53
I grabbed a cup of water as I ran through the aid stations every 2 miles. I think I managed to get more water on the volunteers and up my nose than actually in my mouth – oops. Luckily, the sun stayed behind the clouds, and I never got thirsty.
At about 3.7 miles, a shooting pain went through my hip. Uh oh… too early for the ol’ joints to start giving out! I crossed my fingers that it wouldn’t get worse. And it didn’t – phew.
Mile 5: 8:57
Mile 6: 8:50
Mile 7: 8:53
During mile 7, I made myself look around at the scenery, knowing the hills were coming. I told myself it was probably the last mile of the race I was going to enjoy! That seventh mile stretches out in a straight line, and you can see the mile-long hill looming at the 7-mile mark. Pretty daunting.
That first hill hit, and it wasn’t too bad – definitely not like I remembered. I knew that the mile after was almost all downhill, so I breathed a sigh of relief when I reached the top.
Mile 8: 9:05
At this point, I knew that Nate was done with the race. Crazy – I really didn’t feel like I’d been running that long. It’s insane to me that he can cover 13.1 miles so quickly. In my head, I congratulated him for a job well done, hoping that the race actually had gone well for him.
Then, time seemed to stand still. Or rather, time kept going, but the mile markers seemed to stop. My watch was out of sync with the race signage (and ended up recording the race at 13.3 miles), which was kind of distracting. (It also means that the mile splits I’m giving here are probably a few seconds faster than I was actually running.) Whenever I looked down at my watch, I would add 0.15 miles or so to figure out how far I officially had left. I still felt good, but I was dreading the coming hills. I had no idea if I would hit a wall or die on a hill and have to start walking. The whole second half, my inner monologue went something like “Wow, I feel pretty good, but you never know about that next hill. That could be the killer. It doesn’t feel like I’ve been running for an hour and a half already. This doesn’t feel that bad. OK, just stick with it!”
I ate Shot Bloks from a Ziploc bag tucked into my sports bra – one before the race and then one each at miles 6, 8 and 10 (I think – it’s kind of a blur!). At one point I felt pretty close to a stomach cramp, and regretted my rather large bowl of pre-race oatmeal. But popping the next Shot Blok made it go away, thank goodness. Other than that, I didn’t feel any difference from the Shot Bloks. I like to eat them during long runs and long races as a preventative measure (and because they’re freaking delicious), but I’m not sure I ever really need them. Still, so tasty, and hey, I didn’t get any cramps.
Mile 9: 8:30
Mile 10: 8:41
Mile 11: 8:28
Mile 12: 8:41
The hills over the last few miles didn’t turn out to be too terrible. With each one, I knew that was one more hill that hadn’t slowed me down. And finally, I hit the 12-mile mark, and the beginning of the downhill to the finish. Almost there – I knew I could make it! I picked up the pace with the last hill finally behind me.
With a half mile left to go, the course turns into the driveway of the Sorrel River Ranch, where it finishes. As I was nearing the turn, I spotted Nate returning from his cool-down. I flagged him down (he wasn’t wearing his glasses and almost missed me!) and he turned up the driveway with me. Sprint for me, cool-down pace for him – no big deal. What a great way to end the race! That last half mile is tough, because it flattens out after you’ve grown accustomed to the downhill, but having Nate running next to me was was just the support I needed. He gave me a few encouraging words, and I tried to maintain the fast pace I had set on the downhill.
Mile 13: 7:40
Last 0.3 (according to my watch): 2:15
As I turned onto the last straightaway, Nate had to stay outside the fence so he wouldn’t get stuck going through the chute twice. I could see 1:55-something on the clock at the finish line and my only thought was, “Yessss, I could walk and still make it in under 2:00!” I didn’t walk, of course, and my final chip time was 1:55;30, an 8:49 pace. 6 minutes better than last year! As I crossed the finish line, a huge grin spread across my face - I did it!
Nate met me right after receiving my medal and I finally got to ask him how his race had gone. He won – no surprise there – with a time of 1:11:53. He had run the entire race by himself and beat the second-place finisher by almost 3 minutes. What a speed demon! It’s actually pretty funny if you take a look at this picture of him crossing the finish line – no one there but him and the two people holding the tape. Womp womp.
Nate hasn’t raced much since we moved out to Utah, and he also won the only race he did last year, the San Francisco Marathon. So, not to brag (OK I’m bragging), but he hasn’t lost a race since 2011! So proud of him.
Kate and Pete did amazing, too – Kate won our age group in a smoking fast 1:42:22 (beating me by a minute per mile! yikes!) and Pete set an almost 10-minute PR with a time of 1:22:45, placing second in his age group. Smiles all around!
Among the four of us, there was a lot of hardware. I was the only one with just a finisher’s medal, but that was juuuust fine by me. I was pretty thrilled with my PR! And to have such awesomely fast friends, of course.
We hung out and drank beer after the race – I love the finisher’s area at this event! You are allowed 5 beers each, which I obviously did not claim all of. However, I did need a nap in the car on the way back into town. The rest of the day was filled with eating, driving home, more eating, and showering – I won’t bore you with the details. I collapsed into bed in time to get 10 well-deserved hours of sleep. So necessary.
Post-race, I am feeling quite sore, particularly in the quads, thanks to all those hills. I may schedule a massage for later in the week – we have a massage school in town that’s super cheap. But mostly, I’m just feeling elated that I could run 13.1 miles at my 3-mile pace and it just wasn’t that bad. Who’d have known?!
Of course, we’re already talking about which race is next up on the calendar. I am thinking a Salt Lake-area half marathon this spring, probably in April or May. Race requirements: Flat, flat, and flat. Capiche?
And that brings us to the end of this very long post. Phew. What about you – any big runs coming up??