The drive from Phoenix to Utah is a long one – luckily we were headed for southern Utah so it wasn’t quite so bad. The half marathon was scheduled for Saturday morning, so we left Thursday night to make sure I had enough time to rest up before the race.
We stayed Thursday night in Kanab which is just a few hours from Bryce Canyon. On Friday morning when we hit the road we decided to stop by the Grand Staircase-Escalante visitors center to get some info about nearby hiking trails. Once I told the girl in the visitors center that I wanted to see some slot canyons she knew exactly where to send us! So lance and I spend a few hours driving and doing some light hiking through some of the most gorgeous canyons.
Once we arrived in Bryce Canyon City we checked into our hotel. I‘m not gonna lie, this was one of the most run-down hotels I have ever stayed in, but I could see the starting line for the marathon out our window so I can’t complain. After my sister in law Candice arrived with her family, we headed over to pick up our race packets.
There was also a spaghetti dinner for the race participants and their families so we ate after getting our race stuff. This worked out quite well since we didn’t have to drive around to find a place to eat dinner in a small town (which can be challenging at times!). After heading back to the hotel Candice and I called it an early night since we were going to be up around 4:30 to get ready for our 6am start time!
Running during the summer in Arizona is a challenging thing – it is so darn hot that I have a hard time running when the sun is out. So going into this marathon I was really excited that I would be able to run at a normal hour in much cooler weather. What I didn’t plan for was that Utah is a LOT cooler than it is in Phoenix. I just about froze on my walk to the start – I decided that I should wear my sweater for the race and take it off if need be while I was running (and I must have looked crazy because I wore a sweater until mile 6!). It was around 48 degrees outside at the start of the race – they had fire pits set up for people to stand by to keep warm – in July!?
Since this was my first race of this size it was cool to be running with so many people. It took me almost 2 minutes just to get to the starting line! Around mile two was when I started to slowly pass people, which felt awesome!
Going into the race I planned to stop for a quick second at all the water stations. Getting enough water was a concern for me because I was used to running with my Camelbak – its way to hot (and dangerous) for me to not carry water with me while I am running here at home. So I ended up taking 2 cups of water at each station and walking until I drank them both. It worked really well for me.
The race course was absolutely beautiful – what’s not to love about running during sunrise through a beautiful canyon?
At about mile 2 there was a major obstacle for me – the course went down a huge hill (I’m talking really big, the kind where the post these signs) – it was a mile+ straight of downhill running at what I think was a 7% or 8% downgrade. Unfortunately for me Arizona is really flat – I don’t have any elevation change when I run here in the valley so this was a big deal. Not to mention that at least 80% of the entire race course was downhill general.
I know what you’re thinking though – Isn’t downhill better than uphill? Well technically yes, but I would say that for runners downhill can be just as bad! Here’s why:
Around mile 9 my knees started to hurt pretty bad – they had been a little irritated since mile 4 but nothing major at all. I think this is where my pace started to really slow. By mile 10 I was in a lot of pain but knew I had to keep going! But by the time I had gotten to the water station around 11.75 I knew I had to walk a little.
If there was one thing I was sure of, I knew I did not want to leave this marathon with a serious injury and/or be picked up on the side of the road by the medics. So I made the decision to walk – after a bit of walking I felt a little better so I tried to run again, but I couldn’t do it. I realized I was going to have to walk the last mile of my race. It was really rough to see so many people pass me right at the end – people I passed at mile 6 or 7, but there was so many kind people who would try to motivate me (as they passed me haha) and tell me to keep running and that I was almost there – even though I couldn’t run I found their kindness motivating.
Fortunately, since my knees didn’t really hurt while I was walking I was able to keep an extremely fast walking pace – in fact I passed quite a few runners when they stopped to walk and stayed in front of them :)
As I neared the finish line I knew I had to run through it – once I rounded the corned I perked up and ran across the finish line (on the verge of tears from the pain). But I did it! I completed my first half marathon in 2 hours and 18 minutes!!! Once I saw my time I was extremely happy – my goal was to finish in under 2 hours and 45 min and I blew that out of the water! And I managed to get the most awesome race photo ever (courtesy of my nephew :))
After talking to a few other runners, I found out that downhill running like that can be extremely hard on your knees – no wonder I was falling apart! I am going to give them a month or so to heal and start running again in September – then start training for my next half marathon in January!