Sunday, March 22, 2015

Zion and Moab

It's race report time again! Another two-for-one, because I know how popular those are. I love when March rolls around because that's when race season really starts to take off. From here on out, I'll be running at least 2 races per month, with 4 in the month of May. Everyone has their thing, running a zillion races is my thing, okay?

So last week, I went down to the town of Springdale, just outside of Zion National Park to run the Zion Half Marathon. I was excited about the race, since it had been an entire month since my last race (gasp!). Plus, I always enjoy a chance to have a three day weekend in a gorgeous setting. We arrived Friday afternoon and the weather was just perfect. And when I checked into the hotel, I was informed that we were in the moose building. And boy howdy, there were moose everywhere! Moose on the door, moose paintings, moose lamps, and even a moose Kleenex box. Right then and there, I knew I was going to have a good race. (For those who are unaware, the moose is my spirit animal. I have had the best runs when a moose has been sighted, or even when there is a moose motif present.)

With the blessing of the moose bestowed upon me, I picked up my packet, had a nice dinner, and got a good night's sleep. I made it to the starting area and found my friend Jamie, who was running this race for the third time. She had found a small group of other Half Fanatics that we chatted with for a bit before the start.
Ready to run or die. Photo credit: Jaime Eckles.
The race started and we trickled through the bottleneck to the open road. Right off the bat, the course was uphill. Fortunately, I have been doing my time on the inclines, so it really wasn't too awful. I put on my music and just settled into a nice rhythm. I was clicking off the miles without quite realizing it. My  watch would buzz, showing my split, and I would be pleasantly surprised each time. The scenery was fantastic and the weather was very nice. I was expecting to be by myself for portions of the race, as happens at most races, but there were people with me the entire time. That was different, and enjoyable.

The only difficulty I had during this race popped up at mile 8. I felt a hot spot on the side of my right foot. It was the same place that I had blistered the week before on my 32 miler. I had thought it was just a sock issue, but when it happened again, I had to admit that my favorite race shoes had actually hit their mileage limit. I was able to ignore the blisters for the last five miles. It was slightly uncomfortable, but bearable. I really felt great throughout this whole race, which is not the norm. I have only ever had one other race where I didn't have a moment of questioning why I do this.

As I was getting closer to mile 12, there was a long line of cars making their way to the finish line. My mom was in that line of cars and she yelled out the window"You're going to beat me!". I yelled back that I would try not to, but I was still moving along really well. She got the car parked and was walking to the finish line. I passed her just before mile 13. She told me to just go finish fast and she'd just take a picture after. So that's what I did. I was thrilled with my finish time, since the race was pretty hilly. I was expecting to come in about 10 minutes slower. Coming off a big training week and feeling that good was a great confidence booster.
A successful run of fun and frivolity.
After the race, Jamie and I had plans to get into the Angel's Club. The race organizers offer a 50% discount to people who hike to the top of Angel's Landing in Zion within 72 hours of finishing the race. So we got cleaned up a bit and headed into the park. There were hundreds of people with the same idea so it got a little scary in sections. If you're unfamiliar with the Angel's Landing hike, the last section is very narrow and steep. There are chains anchored into the mountain that you have to hold onto so that you don't plummet to your death. It's so narrow that it's a one way traffic situation. We spent many tense moments trying to find a safe place to wait while a group worked its way up or down, We did make it to the top without dying. I did slip once and the chain is the only thing that saved me. I loved that chain more than I had ever loved anything at that moment.
Proving we made it to the top.

It's quite the view from up there.
After that epic adventure, I endured four more days of work before I could take off down to Moab for my fourth running of the Canyonlands Half Marathon. As you're all very well aware, I love any chance I get to run in Moab. It's a magical place. I wasn't sure how I was going to do at this race. I had been feeling all kinds of aches and pains since my Zion weekend. I wasn't going to push for a PR, I just needed to finish upright, possibly with a smile on my face.
The sun rising over the red rocks.

Getting all set up to run.
It was a weird day temperature wise, It was very cold in the shade. My feet actually went numb while we were waiting to start the race. But as soon as we got into the sun, it felt entirely too hot. By the first aid station, I was pouring water over my head to cool off. But then we would round a bend and be in the shade of the cliffs again and it would be too cold. I am not the biggest fan of bipolar body temperature. I thought it was affecting my pace; it certainly felt like I was working harder at this race than at Zion. But when I crossed the finish line, I was only 30 seconds slower than last week. When my watch was showing my splits, I didn't think that I would be anywhere close to last week's time, so that was a nice surprise.
How could you not enjoy running here?

Half number 61, done and done.
Now that I've wrapped up these two weekends of racing, I will be doing my best to recover and feel ready to run my second 12 hour, the Pickled Feet event next weekend, just outside of Boise, Idaho. I'm trying to be excited about it but the little aches and niggles are worrying me. So this week is going to be a full on recovery week. All the focus will be on making my body as ready as it can be to take on this next challenge.

Until next time, happy running!

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