Tuesday, June 21, 2016

Grand Teton Half Marathon

Before I get started, be sure to check out my previous post documenting all of my explorations of Grand Teton and Yellowstone National Parks in the week leading up to this race! This area is truly unique and beautiful, so I cannot recommend enough to stay a few extra days (or a week, like me) to see the area if you do this race. You will not regret it!

As I briefly mentioned in the previous post, the reason we came up here for the Grand Teton Half in the first place was because my mom wanted to walk her first Half Marathon and she loves the Tetons! I, of course, was happy to jump on board and come do it with her, so I met up with her and my brother (who just came to see the area, not run the race) in Jackson on Thursday before the race. We ended up checking out Grand Teton National Park on both Thursday and Saturday afternoons and then a small part of Yellowstone on Friday (in addition to the four solo days I spent exploring).

Packet Pick-up was all day Friday, but since we went up to Yellowstone, we were actually rushing to get there before the expo closed. I was happy to see that all of the vendors were still open for business when we got there just before 6 - so we spent some time checking out the various race clothes you could purchase (I'm a sucker for good graphics, and they have some neat graphics for this race). I couldn't decide, so I figured I'd just see what they had after the race the next day instead. Also offered at the expo was a 'Smores station, so of course I had to stop there:

At the expo!
After we finished up at the expo, we went to Quiznos for dinner, then headed back to the hotel for a quick dip in the Hot Tub (along with everyone else who was doing this race apparently!) before heading to bed early. We got up at about 4:15 the next morning to leave about 4:45, stop by Starbucks for breakfast and get to the race start around 5:15. We got there at the perfect time because our parking spot was right by the announcer, so we could listen to see if we won anything in the raffle without having to stand out in the cold! At about 6:10, we finally got out of the car and headed to the starting line. It was still pretty chilly, but I knew it would be great racing weather (and probably hot by the time we finished).

My #FlatRunner ready for the race!

Once we got close to the starting line, I wished my mom good luck as I made my way into the first corral. After reading about how they "always start on time" and "don't be late" I was pretty disappointed when they announced they would be starting 10 minutes late! Apparently they had ran out of parking and had to shuttle people, causing the delay. Obviously those people deserved to start with everyone else, but it was a bit frustrating.

Finally it was time to start! I didn't have a specific goal, other than under 2 hours if possible. I settled into a sustainable pace and actually ended up chatting with a girl from Colorado for the first few miles. She had seen my "Slacker Half Marathon" shirt which started our conversations. She had hiked all of the Colorado 14ers, so we talked about that for a bit. The first few miles are a loop around the small community of Wilson, WY, which is just west of Jackson. Once we finished the loop we headed east towards Jackson before getting on a back road that would take us north towards the Tetons.

Although the race is actually uphill the entire time, it's very gradual and felt relatively flat the entire way with the exception of some minor hills after going through a few underpasses. Once you get on the back road heading north, you transition onto a gravel road for awhile. It was a little hard to run on since it was rutted out, but I tried my best to stick with my upper 8:00 minute/mile pace. We were also in and out of shade which was nice - it had definitely warmed up and was getting a little bit hot.

The section of the course on dirt - such pretty views!
Views from the course!

I could tell I haven't been doing much speedwork because by the time I reached mile 10, I was having to put some serious effort into maintaining my sub-2:00 pace. But I kept at it as best as I could and was finally almost there! As we neared the Golf Course (where the finish line is), we got back onto a paved road to finish it off. I tried as best as I could to pick it up in the last mile and ended up finishing in 1:56:37 (just 5 seconds off of my time from SLC Half  a month prior!).

Just about finished!

After I finished, I headed back out to find my mom and finish with her. This was the first time I had done this, and wasn't sure if I would be able to get my snack box and finisher's medal later, so I ended up carrying it with me as I ran back towards her...not the easiest thing to do (especially considering the size of the medal - I had planned to put it in the pocket of my skirt, but it was too big!). It was a new experience to hear the different comments people who are still racing give you as you run back (I see people do this all the time, but have never been the person running backwards - some people get very annoyed at you!). I ended up finding her with a few miles left to go, so we walked it in together!

Finishing it with my mom!
My mom and I at the finish line!

Race: Grand Teton Half Marathon
Location: Estes Park, Colorado
Distance: Half Marathon (13.1 miles)
Date: June 4, 2016
Bib Number: 539
Weather: 39 and sunny at the start, probably 65-70 at the finish
Gun Time: 1:56:53
Chip Time: 1:56:37
Average Pace: 8:54/mile
Overall Rank: 323 of 2248
Gender Rank: 135 of 1561
Division Rank: 34 of 288
Garmin Splits: 8:53, 9:03, 8:42, 8:41, 9:02, 8:47, 8:59, 8:49, 9:02, 8:51, 9:00, 9:02, 8:38

Course Map & Elevation Profile
Race shirt, hoodie (purchased), bib and medal! Aren't the graphics good?
The finish line area!

Post Race Thoughts / Race Review: 
This race is put on by Vacation Races, a larger organization that puts on several races throughout the country near National Parks. They charge a HIGH price tag for a Half Marathon, so I had HIGH expectations for this. I wouldn't say they disappointed - it was a very well put on, organized event. They have excellent graphics, signage and pre-race information and finishers medals. The course was definitely beautiful. If you want to travel and see some of these places (Grand Tetons, Yellowstone, Rocky Mountains, etc), paying the high price tag is completely reasonable and well worth it. That being said, there were some things I would have liked to see more of for the price. Here's a little break down of my likes and dislikes:


  • Beautiful Course
  • Extremely well organized event
  • Great weather (not that this is in anyone's control, but it seriously was a PERFECT day for a race, so I had to mention it). Cool in the morning, beautiful and warm (but not too warm) afterwards.
  • Awesome graphics - they had some great swag you could buy with the race logo - and they had several different options, there were all really neat, I wanted it all!
  • Vacation Races offers transfers, refunds and/or deferrals - which is AWESOME. I wish more races would do this. When you sign up a year in advance you never know what could happen!
  • Finisher's Medals - I try not to get too hung up on the bling, but these medals were downright cool, so I had to mention it. 
  • I do really like the concept behind Vacation Races - they're all about seeing the gorgeous places America has to offer which I am all for. On top of this, to motivate people to get out and see the area, they offer discounts to future races if you do certain hikes they recommend - pretty cool!
  • Free Finishers Picture - while I always prefer all the race pictures are free, just offering a "finisher's picture' was neat as well! (And if you paid in advance for your pictures at the Expo, they were only $25ish, for ALL downloads - pretty cool if you think ahead!).
  • Very accommodating of all runners and walkers - there was a time cut-off of 4 hours, but it appeared to me that they let everyone finish no matter what.


  • The finish line food was extremely mediocre, especially given the fact that this finished in a location where you couldn't even purchase food if you wanted. The weather was incredibly nice and I would've liked to just hang out and enjoy being at the finish line - but not if the only thing I can eat post-race is a couple of granola bars.
  • No Beer - okay, this isn't the end of the world, but I've gotten so used to races having beer afterwards, I was kind of surprised this one didn't (and bummed since it was such a nice day!)
  • High price tag - I think early registration (close to a year out) was $99 and it only goes up from there - that is just a lot for a Half in my opinion. HOWEVER - they do allow transfers and refunds, so that somewhat makes up for this.
  • Roads were not closed - this was not the end of the world, especially if they plan for a few miles to spread runners out before cramming them onto the shoulder (which they did), but it's just interesting, especially when paying a lot for a race - what is the money going towards? 


  1. You have me convinced. I'm totally doing this race next year. It's just so beautiful out there!

  2. You have me convinced. I'm totally doing this race next year. It's just so beautiful out there!


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