23 March 2015

Zion Half Marathon

On March 14th, I ran the Zion Half Marathon.  It was put on by Vacation Races and this was the company's third year of putting on this race.

Packet pickup was the day prior to the race.  It was at the Springdale movie theater which was also the site of the finish line. Packets were quickly found by volunteers and then I moved on to the t-shirt table.  T-shirts were available in two colors and size changes could be made at that time.  There was also a table to pick up bracelets for the shuttle to the start line. There was a small expo but I didn't pay too much attention to it.

Race morning started with getting on the bus at 5:30 AM. I got on the first bus and we made the 13.1 mile drive to the start line.  At the start line, there were a massive number of port-o-potties, a refreshments table with coffee, hot chocolate and bananas, and a spot for drop bags.  There was also a very nice feature in that Vacation Races had a tent set up that was large enough to squeeze in virtually all of the 2000+ runners and had heaters piping warm air into it.  While waiting for the time to tick down to the race start, there were a lot of raffles of equipment from sponsors.

At 7 AM, everybody moved from the tent area to the start line.  Everybody lined up in a chute that was 6-8 feet wide and waited for the time to tick down.  During this time, there was a small quadcopter being flown around getting photos (was also on the race course in several spots) and the music was rocking.  I lined up about 300 meters back in the chute and waited.  At 7:25, the race director came across with final directions and reminded everybody that results were going off chip time, not gun time, with the exception of the overall winners so there was no need for people to stress over their place in the line. At 7:30, the National Anthem was played and then the race began.  It took me a little over 5 minutes from the start for me to shuffle through the chute and across the line to begin running.  This did raise one interesting thing.  There were pace crews but where were they? All of the pacers ahead of the 2:45 pacer was already gone by the time I started actually running and the majority of the runners were behind me which meant that there weren't many people with the faster pace crews.

The course was primarily uphill and went along Highway 9 from Virgin, UT to Springdale, UT. The course wasn't overly steep with the exception of a 3/4 mile section that topped out at Mile 7 but was more of a steady uphill grind. Aid stations were consistent at about every two miles and were stocked full of Nuun and Honey Stingers.  There were also a lot of bathrooms available on the course at the aid stations.  Traffic control was great and the weather was nice with temps in the 50s and the sun rising.  Winds were low until we hit a section starting at Mile 9 when the road turned to the north and we continued to have a decent headwind until we reach Mile 12 in Springdale.

The finish line was a short downhill into the parking area.  As I ran toward the finish line and crossed the first mat, I heard the announcer call out my name and a few seconds later, I crossed the finish line. I got my medal, had my chip cut off and headed into the post race area.  It was well stocked with food (lots of bananas and oranges) and drinks (chocolate milk, Nuun and water).  There was also medical support and massage stations set up.

Overall, it was a well managed race in a scenic location.  With 2098 finishers, it was definitely the largest half marathon that I have been in. Time-wise, I finished with a 2:22 chip time which was good for 864th overall and 55 out of 108 in the Male 40-44 bracket.

Next up: Summerlin Half Marathon on April 12th

01 March 2015

Road Rage Duathlon

On Friday, Sarah and I made the trip up to St George, UT for the Road Rage Duathlon.  Upon getting there, we checked into the hotel, dropped off our bikes in the room, and went to packet pickup. Packet pickup was at Rapid Cycling and while there, we were able to get directions to the race start and Sarah was able to swap out her shirt for a better fit.  The shirts were bright yellow tech shirts which fit a little large for their size. After packet pickup, we grabbed a simple dinner and headed back to the hotel.

pre-race with Sarah - not too cold yet
On race morning, we checked the weather and were happy to see that the forecast was calling for a zero percent chance of rain in the 9-11 AM time frame with temps in the mid to upper 40s. After grabbing a quick breakfast at the hotel, we loaded up our bikes and drove over to the race site for the 8AM opening of the transition area. On the way there, it began to rain and from that point on, the forecast did not match reality.  By the time we arrived in the parking lot at 8 AM, the rain picked up to a steady drizzle and the temp was steady at 41.  We unloaded our bikes, set up our transition area, touched base with a couple other Vegas area racers and quickly retreated back to our car to stay warm.

About 20 minutes before the race start, we got out of our car and migrated to an overhang by the start line.  The rain was still coming down and had picked up in intensity.  Clouds were low and obscuring the nearby mountains.  A few racers made the decision to not race due to the conditions and there were a lot of racers wondering if the bike portion was going to be cancelled.  About ten minutes before the start, the race director announced that they were cutting the bike down from two laps to one lap (10.something miles) for the Olympic distance due to the conditions.

The race began promptly at 9 AM.  The run course was a well marked P-shaped 1.5 mile loop that took us through some local neighborhoods and was uphill on the way out.  The sprint distance racers ran one loop and the Olympic racers did two loops.  There was an aid station with water and Gatorade at the midway point on the loop.

After burning through two loops, I hustled into the transition area where I swapping my soaking wet running shoes for a pair of soaking wet cycling shoes and donned my helmet.  Once that was done, I hustled across the transition mat and hopped on my bike.  After that, it was off to the races as the rain continued to fall.  As we came out of the transition area, the road took a slow climb for roughly a third of a mile before making a 90 degree turn at a stop light.  Given the slick conditions, I slowed down to almost a crawl to make that turn.  That was a trend that would continue for all of the upcoming turns.  Shortly after the Mile 1 point, we began a one mile hill climb and I began to realize how cold my hands were as well as the small amount of exposed skin on my ankles and one of my wrists.  By the time I reached the top of that hill, I felt like there was a pond in my right shoe from all of the water flying off my crank.  After cresting the hill, the course took a general downhill trend for the next three miles.  This section was nice due to having a lane blocked off for us and it would have been an awesomely fast section if it was dry.  At about 5.5 miles, the course switched to a series of short up and down hill sections that took us the approximately five remaining miles to the finish. Overall, the course was well marked with police support every time we crossed roads and lots of volunteers at the turns to keep us from getting off course. 

Once I got back to the transition area, I hopped off my bike and went to park it. Unfortunately, somebody had parked their bike over my transition gear so I went down the line and found another spot to park before hustling back to get my gear.  At this point, my hands were a little numb and I had some trouble working things like the buckle on my helmet, the velcro on my bike shoes and pulling on my flats. Having lock laces and not having to try to tie my shoes was awesome.  I quickly managed to get out on the race course but couldn't generate much speed for the second run.  My thighs were feeling a bit numb from the cold rain coming down on them and just didn't have much get up and go. On the second lap, the rain tapered off for a bit and actually briefly stopped as I crossed the finish line in a time of 1:45:03.

After I got my finisher's medal and walked into the finish line aid station to grab a drink, the rain started back up. We loaded up our bikes and other gear and then went back to the finish line area for the awards announcement (Vegas racers won both distances) while hanging out with some friends. Once that was done, we beat feet back to the car to warm up.  On the way back to the hotel, we began to get sleeted on in addition to the rain.  I'm glad we didn't have sleet hitting us while on the bike.

Next up - Zion Half Marathon on 14 Mar 15
cold and wet as I finished my first race in the 40 and over category