I ran my first official half marathon today. It was the Valley of Fire Half Marathon at Valley of Fire State Park which is northeast of Las Vegas.
My wife (she ran the 10K and kicked butt) and I got up early and were on the road at 0445. We arrived at the state park, paid our admission fee at the gate and began driving to the parking area. As we pulled into the parking area at 0615 and walked to the start line to pick up our packets, my first impressions of the park were confirmed. This was going to be a hilly race. I knew that going in but didn't get the full impact from the lone elevation chart I saw prior to the race.
Packet pick-up went smooth and I took a walk to look at the hill climb that comprised the first half mile. Yep, it looked steep. On a non-running related note, I saw my first desert bighorn sheep walking along a footpath about 50 meters off the road.
At 0700, the half began. After the first half mile climb, the road dropped in elevation a couple times but ultimately rose in elevation for the first three miles. Part of this was on an out-and-back on a fire road (partially dirt/gravel) to make up the full distance. At that point, we started a big descent with a few small uphill section over the next three miles. At that point, we started climbing up some rolling hills to the 7.5 mile mark where we turned around and began the trek back to the finish line. On the way back, I realized how steep the uphill was at 6-6.5 miles as I ran down it and the legs began to do a bit of complaining. From the 7.5 mile mark to the 9 mile mark, it was more rolling hills. Miles 9-11.5 were uphill. 11.5-12.5 were a rolling downhill/uphill combo and the final half mile was back down the hill to the finish line.
Based on the hills, I went into this race with the goal of finishing in the 2:04:32 - 2:10:53 range. Remembering my mistake from the last race, I went out at a comfortable nine minute pace and held that through Mile 2. After that, I slowed down to a bit and stayed in the 9:30 - 9:40 range for Miles 3-6. At Mile 6, I start up the steep hill and my pace slowed to a 10:53 mile for Mile 7. I rebounded back to a sub-10 pace on mile 8 but once I started up the hill at Mile 9, I didn't get back under a 10 minute pace until the final downhill 1/2 mile. I ended up with a final time of 2:13:13 which was a bit off expectations but given the hills, I am not going to complain about it.
One headache that came up in this race - I like Clif Shot Bloks. About 15 minutes before the race, I had two of them and placed the remaining four in the back pocket on my shirt. As I was coming down the hill into the aid station at Mile 6, I reached back to find out that they had slipped out of my pocket at some point.
Training-wise, I went into this race following a five day a week training plain that topped out at 36 miles per week with a long run of 14.8. My first 30+ mile week was in mid-September and I have been consistently above that distance since that point. I run a lot of hills but today taught me that I need to run more of them at the end of the workouts when I am tired.
Next race - Six Tunnels to Hoover Dam Turkey Trot 12K on Thanksgiving.