Round 2 of the Canyonlands 1/2 Marathon did not go over quite as well as year 1. For starters, I should probably listen to two golden rules before starting a race, 1.) don’t eat spicy food for dinner the night before and 2.) don’t go out too fast and burn out before the end.
The race itself, was just as awesome, organized, and fun as I remembered it to be. Packet pick up was a breeze, I walked in with my confirmation card they mailed right after signing up, I showed them my ID, and I was out of there. Well, close to out of there. I made my FIRST EVER race expo purchase. A cowbell. Obviously. It was only $5 – how could I pass it up?!
We stopped at Pasta Jay’s (a Moab must) for dinner before heading back to the hotel to get some shut eye. I knew I wanted to get pizza, it’s a safe night before a long run food for me, and Pasta Jay’s doesn’t put much cheese on their pizza so I knew it would be a good choice. The bad choice? I went with pepperoni and spicy chilis…whoops! After dinner we headed back to the hotel. I chugged a couple of water bottles of Nuun and got my things all in order before laying down around 9:30pm. To say I was anxious and nervous before this race would be an understatement – I really didn’t even give myself a chance to do well before race day even got there. I was so convinced I wasn’t ready, that I don’t think my mind or body ever thought there was a chance. Definitely something to change before the next race.
5:15am Saturday morning I was up and getting ready. The buses left between 7:30-8am from the city park, so I had until about 7:20 before I had to be out the door. Hotel breakfast didn’t start until 6am, so I made some coffee in the room and tried getting everything together that I could. I headed down to breakfast at 6 so I could toast my bagel with peanut butter, grab a banana, some more coffee and some OJ.
Before I knew it, it was off to the bus line to head up the canyon. One (minor) con to this race, is that because the canyon is closed to cars during the race, they need everyone to be dropped off super early so the buses can get back down the canyon highway before the race starts. My bus dropped us off around 8:15, and the race start wasn’t until 10:00am. <– I also don’t love later start times but I think I may be in the minority on that one. Last year the 1.5hr wait was freezing cold. This year was not nearly as bad, thankfully! I ended up sitting near a girl who was also from PC and eating my banana and Luna bar while waiting for the .5 mile walk to the actual start line.
10:00am WE WERE OFF! I felt awesome, just absolutely awesome, for the first 5 miles. When I hit mile 5, my time was 40 minutes, 8min avg pace, exactly where I wanted to be. I was fully aware that the first half of the race is a little bit easier than the second half, but I was still feeling strong and definitely confident at this point. I was running up the rolling hills with no problem and without feeling like it took everything out of me.
Mile 6. NOOO. Things seemed to really fall apart at mile 6. My stomach started hurting, my legs just felt off, and I was feeling really dehydrated (one down fall to morning running, you don’t get used to the heat). I went through the Cliff station and didn’t take anything since I had my own energy bites, but they didn’t have water here which was a big bummer. I finally hit the 6-7 mile aid station and contemplated a quick bathroom break but decided against it and kept on going. I couldn’t make up my mind about stopping at the next water stop for the entire next 2 miles, and when I got there I finally decided I would feel much better with an empty bladder. Mistake. They only had one porta potty and it was being used. But I had already convinced myself I needed to stop so there was no turning back from that decision. Once I was able to get out of that aid station (it was about a 4-5min stop), I realized I didn’t grab any water. Normally not a huge deal, but I haven’t run in the heat since November, and my body was not ready for something like that. Around mile 9 is when things started to fall apart even more. I was getting really short of breath and every couple of minutes I had to stop for a second so I could take a full breath in. I’ve never had an asthma attack, but from what I know of them, it was a little bit like that. I could only take really small short breaths but it felt like I couldn’t actually catch my breath. Like the breaths I was able to take, weren’t going down my throat. Super weird feeling and it sucked. So, that kept up until the end of the race…yippee!
Mile 11 is when you exit the canyon and turn onto the main highway through Moab for about 1 mile, until you turn on another road that takes you to the finish. The main highway mile is my absolutely least favorite mile of the entire 13.1. It’s hot, you are running directly next to traffic, and it’s just a flat, straight mile that seems to last forever. Everyone I talked to seemed to hate the exact same part of the race. It’s not a complaint from me about the race though, it’s literally the ONLY MILE in the entire 13.1 miles that isn’t closed to traffic. It sucks, yes. But you get to run 12.1 miles traffic free, which is pretty freaking awesome.
Somewhere between miles 11 and 12, my watch hit mile 13.1. This was pretty discouraging. I know the course isn’t 1.6 miles longer than a half marathon. They’ve been doing this for 40 years! But when your watch hits 13.1 at the time you actually wanted to finish, but you haven’t even seen the 12 mile marker yet…you want to jump right in front of one of those cars. (slightly exaggerated) I’m not sure if it’s because my watch has an update I keep pushing off, or because of the hard to get signal back in the canyon, but when I crossed the finish line it said 14.70 miles. Super weird! But I do know it’s my watch and not the course.
I finished the race in 1:57 and some change. Not happy with my time/performance at all, but things happen. I still came in sub 2 hours, and I know exactly where I stand in my training. I also know that I need to fuel and hydrate better next time around. I was trying to untie my shorts at the end of the race and my hands couldn’t stop shaking long enough to undo them. There’s always next time, and I can 100% say that my training week this week is going super well, and I think it has a lot to do with the realization that I haven’t been pushing myself as hard as I need to if I want the marathon results I’m trying to obtain.
All in all, this is still one of my favorite races. Can you tell that’s a theme with Moab races?! It is so well organized and I can’t say enough about the volunteers and course support along the way. Even though the canyon highway is closed for the morning, plenty of people still camp or bike up to a spot to encourage you along the way. My two favorites are the guys that have literally nothing to do with the race, but camp along the way every year and hand out whiskey and PBR as their own aid station. The second is the drum line that’s at the top of the last (and biggest) hill the starts around mile 9. It’s a little celebration that you made it through the toughest spot!
If you get the chance, I highly recommend heading down to run this race. It’s a fun weekend all around, and what other Utah race gives you 3 free beers once you cross the finish line?! For me, I think this race will officially become my kick off to race season each year