28 September 2014

Twilight Red Rock Half Marathon

I ran the Twilight Red Rock Half Marathon last night.  It was put on by Calico Racing and was run on the roads at Red Rock Canyon National Conservation Area.

I ran a shorter version of this race last year, the Overlook Ascent  which was a 5.4 miler that covered the first 5.4 miles of the half marathon course.  When I ran that race last fall, it was my first race since 2000. I think that I have partially made up for it in terms of the sheer number of races I have run since that one.

Registration and packet pickup went smooth for this race.  The pickup was inside the Suncoast Hotel & Casino in Summerlin.  When I picked up my packet, I was a little surprised to see Joyce, the owner of Calico Racing, distributing packets with her small cadre of volunteers.  After she gave me my packet with the bib and timing chip in it, a volunteer gave me the choice between two shirt colors:  green or white.  I went with the green tech shirt since the white one looked like it would be slightly see through.  It was the same standard design (different graphics, of course) the previous races I have done with Calico and they hold up well through repeated workouts and washing.

On race night, Sarah and I went out for a light dinner and then drove over to Red Rock around 7 PM. Sarah was volunteering at an aid station otherwise I would have parked at Suncoast and caught one of the chartered buses from there.

Once we got there, it was immediately noticable that the temperature in Vegas has dropped over the last few days. Early in the week, we still had a 100 degree day.  When we arrived at Red Rock, it was 69 with a decent breeze.

a prerace selfie with my lifelong support team
After parking the car, I put on my race chip and got the rest of my gear out of my bag.  Since this was my final warmup before St George, I wore everything I plan on running with next Saturday to include my Hokas, socks, shorts, triathlon club tech shirt and visor (a Headsweats) and my Nathan belt with Powerade flasks and GU in it.  The only extras were the required reflective gear (wore my Amphipod Xinglet) and my vintage headlamp.

At 7:50 PM, all runners were walked to the start line and Joyce gave instructions on the course.  Ten minutes later, we were off.  

The first mile was a quick loop around the triangle parking/entry/exit area by the Red Rock visitor center. At approximately 3/4 of a mile in, the route began to climb uphill.  The elevation at this point was 3,719 ft and by the time the elevation hit the peak at the the 5.4 mile mark would increase 1,030 feet to max out at 4,749 feet.  There was a brief downhill shortly after the thee mile mark but within a half of a mile, the route turned back uphill.   I run this hill a fair amount in training and am convinced that the stretch from Mile 4 to Mile 5 is the hardest section.

At 5.4 miles, the road topped out at the overlook on the scenic drive.  At this point, there was a well stocked aid station with water, HEED, various gel packs, fruit and cookies.  Prior to this, there were three other aid stations which were stocked with water and HEED.  I did get a good shout out from Sarah as I passed the station she was working.

After leaving the peak, the road began rollers for the the remaining 7.7 miles that took us to the finish which was at 3,804 feet.  Early on, the rollers consisted of short steep uphills followed by longer steep downhills.  Between 8.8 miles and 9.8 miles, the course was fairly level as we went into the final short steep climb followed by a long gradual downhill.  At about 12.5 miles, the race began a final gradual climb to the finish.  Along the way, there were consistent aid stations with water and HEED at approximately every 1.5-2 miles.  I ended up crossing the finish line in an unremarkable 2:19 and collected my finishers medal and turned in my timing chip. After that, I went to find my wife who had moved from the first aid station on the course to the finish line aid station after the last runner passed her station.

Calico Half Slam Plaque
The Good: Calico Racing always puts on a good small race event and this was no exception.  As an added bonus, I finished off my Calico Half Slam by completing four half marathons through Calico Racing in a 12 month span and got the nice chunk of slate pictured to the right.  Also, running at night at Red Rock with nothing but my headlamp and starlight is gorgeous and the occasional glimpses of the Las Vegas Strip lights off in the distance were picturesque.

The Bad:  First, the wind sucked.  Or better yet, it blew.  No matter which way the road turned, it seemed like I had a heavy head or side wind that didn't go away until the 11-12.5 mile mark.  Climbing 1000 feet up a mountain is a tough race.  A headwind going up it doesn't help things. However, none of us can control the weather.  That brings me to the second bad thing which is something I could have controlled better.  From the 5.4 mile mark to the Mile 9 marker, I had a small group who I was running with at a pretty good pace.  At Mile 9, I started having GI issues and slowed a lot. A half of a mile later, I came up to an aid station and had to take a restroom break; the first time ever for me in a race.  After that, it took the better part of a mile to get my legs turning over correctly and left me wondering "what if" with my finishing time.  Could a different prerace meal have avoided this?  A different lunch?  Different gel choices at the start line?  Avoiding HEED?  I am not certain which one but know that there is something I could have done differently prerace to not have this issue.  Oh well, lesson learned.

Next up - The St George Marathon on Oct 4th.

another unique finisher medal from Calico Racing

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