Thursday, April 12, 2018

Canyonlands Half Marathon 2018

Canyonlands Half Marathon has pretty much become my March tradition, so I was of course, in for another year - especially since I knew I'd be in the heart of marathon training and it makes a great tune-up race. Even better was the fact that Mad Moose Events took over as the Race Directors for all Moab Half Marathon road events, which made this even more perfect since I'm an ambassador for them and know they do a great job!

With Revel Mt. Charleston Marathon coming up in late April, I figured this would also be a perfect opportunity to go for a Course PR. My fastest time running this race was in 2015 when I ran a 1:45:43, and I knew with my training for Revel I would have a good shot at beating that if the weather was decent!

My friend Rochelle also decided to race this one with me, so we headed down on Friday to enjoy some Moab time before staying with a friend (thank you for letting us stay!) in Moab that night. We spent the day hiking to Delicate Arch in Arches National Park, hitting the race expo, having an early dinner at Pasta Jay's, and then another evening hike to check out Courthouse Panel (some really neat Petroglyphs not too far out of town) before calling it a night.

I love getting a picture under the arch - it gives a much better idea of scale!

Packet Pick-up!

We were up the next morning dark and early and I immediately noticed how windy it seemed outsite... This was going to make my PR attempt a little more of a challenge! Nevertheless, I got ready for the race and we hit the road at about 6:45, stopping for coffee (of course!) before making our way to the bus pickup.

One nice thing about the new race directors, is that in the past, they've always bused you up the canyon extremely early and you have to wait for HOURS (literally) before the 10am race start. Well, the new race directors decided to eliminate that long wait and start the race at 8:45am instead! So, after getting bused to the start line, we had just a little less than 45 minutes until the start - perfect for meeting up with a few other friends for pictures, cycling through the bathroom line and getting in a warm-up before the race start!

With Rochelle and friend/Skirt Ambassador Jayme before the race!

With Ridgway friend Jan and Rochelle (again :) !)

The weather was cool, especially with the wind blowing through the canyon, but after much deliberation I decided to just wear my tank top but add gloves before throwing my drop bag into the truck and lining up at the start line. Barely after getting myself situated at the starting line, the race started! My only slight disappointment this time around was that there was no starting mat, which meant times were going to be gun times and not chip times - so no letting up in the final miles as my time would be several seconds off since I started back a little bit. Hopefully I could still manage my course PR!

The first couple miles of this race are some of the fastest as you get some nice gentle downhill - but right from the start I knew we were going to be battling a headwind (which didn't let up the entire race). Nevertheless I took advantage of the slight downhill and ran my first three miles in 7:43, 7:45, 7:58. Mile 4 slipped to 8:05 but I did my best to keep my head in the game and not start worrying (that's my downfall - one bad mile and then I start to derail mentally). Thankfully I picked it up for 7:52, 7:46 for 5 and 6.

I took a gel around Mile 6 and kept at it, running 8:00 even. The wind was still persistent but we would occasionally get a small break from it as we curved around certain bends in the canyon. I tried to take advantage of those occasions and I had a few faster miles for 8 & 9 - 7:55, 7:47.

I didn't take any pictures on the course this year, but here's one from last year!

By mile 10, 8:03, I could tell my pace was slipping and I was worried for the first time about getting my PR. At Mile 11 you exit the canyon and get onto what I like to call "the horrible stretch." It's really not that horrible, but I always call it this - 1 mile along the main road leading into Moab with traffic right next to you (there are cones for the race) at the same time that you're getting tired and ready to be done. I had really hoped since we'd had the headwind in the canyon that once I turned onto the horrible section the wind would die down.... but unfortunately it was even worse (should I have expected anything less since it is "the horrible section?"). Nevertheless I did the best I could to keep up my pace running 11 & 12 in 8:07 and 8:12.

Finally - one mile to go - I ran as fast as I could (which wasn't that fast), finishing Mile 13 right at 8:00, before finally hitting the last tenth of a mile, into the finisher's shoot, and finishing WITH A PR of 1:44:30 per my watch (1:44:41 official gun time)!

Race: Canyonlands Half Marathon
Date: 3/17/2018 (St. Patricks Day this year!)
Weather: WINDY and overcast - high's in the 50's
Distance: 13.1 Miles
Official Time: 1:44:41
Overall Place: 126 of 1172
Gender Place: 35 of 687
Age Division Place F(25-29): 6 of 95
Garmin Splits: 7:43, 7:45, 7:58, 8:05, 7:52, 7:46, 8:00, 7:55, 7:47, 8:03, 8:07, 8:12, 8:00, 7:13 (last .1)

Overall, I'm happy with how this race went. The wind was mentally tough for me but I'm glad I was able to push through it and still get my course PR. It also makes me think I could've ran faster in better conditions which leaves me feeling more confident for Revel next month! I think Mad Moose Events did a great job for their first year taking over this race. It was already a top notch event and I think they did a good job preserving the good things about the event while also changing some of the not-so-good things such as the earlier start time, and giving out socks instead of drop bags (I actually used to like the drop bags, but now that I have a million - changing it up with socks was a welcome change!).

After the race, I enjoyed some time in the beer garden celebrating some awesome wins by friends - Skirt Ambassador Jayme for getting 2nd Masters Female (and 1st Age Group) and Rochelle for getting 1st in her age group!

Post race Beer and Medal shot! (Also, my calf sleeves had shamrocks on the back side for St. Patty's Day - of course I forgot to get a picture showing those!)

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