Race recap: Canyonlands Half Marathon

Yes you read that right – a half marathon. And I know it sounds crazy – considering my limited running over, well, pretty much the whole of 2015. So let’s rewind and figure out why I thought that this was a good idea.

I was given the all-clear to run back on February 18th so I started a run-walk program – doing 30 minute workouts and gradually building up the percentage of running vs walking. I did manage a long “run” of 5.15 miles, followed by 7.5 miles the next weekend. Then my first race of the year – the RUN SLC 10K. This was actually the first non-stop run since my injury setback. The next week was a little rough – my calf was a little stiff but after an extra rest day I was feeling pretty well recovered – and still taking regular walk breaks to keep things nice and easy.

I think that I mentioned previously that the Canyonlands half marathon had a five mile option that I could switch to at packet pick-up. And originally that was the plan. Because that would be the smart thing to do. But I reasoned that if I could survive a longish run the weekend before the race then I would stick with the half marathon distance. And I survived 10.5 miles of mostly running. Still with breaks. It was tough. But I made it and felt pretty good, and more importantly I recovered from it pretty quickly. As the week progressed I was becoming more and more settled on doing the half marathon. I know a lot of you are thinking “This girl is crazy!”, and I admit I would never advise anyone else to do this. And if it turns around and bites me in the ass in the next couple of months feel free to call me out on it.

So in summary my half marathon training plan went like this:

1. Pull calf muscle in January. Repeat a week later.

2. Take 4 weeks off from running.

3. Run-walk 3 times a week for 5 weeks.

4. No speedwork, tempo runs and limited long runs.

5. Volia! Half marathon ready……….

I headed down to Moab on Friday afternoon to pick up my bib and check into our condo. Moab is crazy busy on this weekend so I would definitely recommend making a reservation or renting a place with a kitchen. Pick-up was really easy – a cute t-shirt (although the sizing ran on the large side) and a reusable shopping tote that doubled as your drop bag. I feasted on pasta and beer (carb loading like a champ) and headed for an early-ish bedtime.

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The race started on Saturday at 10 AM but being Utah you had to catch a bus to the start line between 7.30-8.15 AM and hang around trying not to freeze to death. Actually, it wasn’t that cold but we were in the shade for the whole two hours. They had coffee, hot chocolate, gatorade and water, plus plenty of porta-potties. At 9.40 we had to walk to the actual race start (about 0.4 miles further up the road) and drop our bags.

I wore my arm warmers for the first time – along with a tank and shorts. I was seriously cold at the start but once we got moving I warmed up quickly and running in the sun was pretty warm. Here’s some of the footage from the race organizers showing the start. Let me say that this is a really scenic race. You basically run along the Colorado river in a beautiful red rock canyon. Any time I was starting to feel bad I would remind myself to look UP and take in the scenery and enjoy just being outside and running in such a picturesque place. The other advantage of running in a canyon is that a lot of it was run in the shade which helped keep me cool as the temperature increased.

There were plenty of water stops – every 2 miles – and a Clif shot zone halfway through. The course was pretty rolling (about 375 ft elevation gain over the course and about 450 ft drop) with one short, steep hill at mile 9.5. At mile 10.5 you left the canyon and started heading towards the town. This meant running on the shoulder of a pretty busy road which was not fun but you quickly turned into some more residential areas that were closed to traffic. The race finished at the town park where you picked up your medal, race goodies and complimentary beers. The weather was perfect for post-race beer drinking – sunny and in the 70s. And also perfect for getting my first sun burn of the year. Boo! You’d think I’d know better having the whitest skin possible.

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As for the race. Well, it went about as well as I could have hoped for considering my lack of training. I thought I could run around 1.50 so I wanted to start out around 8.20 and see how it went. I knew the last couple of miles would be tough but I gave myself permission to walk if I needed to. So here’s the mile-by-mile:

Mile 1: 8.21  Feeling pretty good.

Mile 2: 8.14

Mile 3: 8.16

Mile 4: 8.18

Mile 5: 8.11

Mile 6: 8.15

Mile 7: 8.23

The first half felt pretty comfortable. I was feeling a little hot and a little hungry (which was a pretty worrying sign so early on). During the next mile I stopped to walk and take my Gu.

Mile 8: 8.39

Mile 9: 8.21

Mile 10: 8.26

Mile 11: 8.28

Things started feeling pretty hard around this point. I was now doing all of my mental tricks to convince myself to keep going but it felt hard. Bonus: we were now completely out of the shade and running alongside some semis in single file. At this point I had to stop to walk. This is the first time I’ve ever had to do this during a half marathon but it was the right choice. Then I got myself going again and convinced my legs they could keep moving until the end.

Mile 12: 9.11

Mile 13: 8.39

Final time: 1.51.21 with an average pace of 8.30 min/mile. I managed to finish in the top 20% overall and really couldn’t have asked for better considering the circumstances. My calf was feeling fine until the last 4 miles or so, and never really got painful enough to change my gait. It felt tight afterwards and I managed to ice it at the finish area. The next day it was a little sore and hello quads! how you doing? But, if I’m being really honest it’s probably the least bad (sorry English language) I’ve felt after any of my half marathons. And I know – that doesn’t make any sense at all!

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29 thoughts on “Race recap: Canyonlands Half Marathon

  1. Good for you and considering your training for the last little while that is a heck of a finish and something to definitely be proud of. I would have definitely have ended up doing the half too….we are a stubborn bunch. And I am glad you were able to just have fun with it and enjoy. Sounds like a great race!

    • Stubborn is the perfect word. Luckily it seems to have worked out for me – so far! And I’m actually pretty glad I ran it, which is nice because I wasn’t sure I’d be able to say that after. Hopefully it’s the beginning of a full return to running!

  2. That is a serious time after taking that much time off! But I think maybe the reason you felt so great after was both mental as well as physical–no pressure, just chill, no problem! Great job!

    • Thanks Susie! I think being able to run for fun was a definite plus. And I realized that I really really love the atmosphere of running a race and being surrounded by such a cool bunch of runners. Runners’ high all over the place!

  3. FLRunnerBoy says:

    That’s a pretty impressive return to the land of 13.1’s Irish!!! I’m so happy for you! You and Charissa are making me smile ear to ear this week!!! I’m so glad to see you both on the mend 🙂

    • Thank you Lee! When I read her race report I was thinking that it could have described my race exactly – well apart from the PR part. Hopefully I’m close to being able to train properly again. Fingers crossed!

    • It’s such a beautiful course – well most of southern Utah is pretty! And thank you for writing about your last half marathon that you were unsure about but ran anyway and pulled off an awesome time. It helped me make up my mind to run this.

    • Thank you! I was pretty happy – and I realized that I really really like to race even if I’m not going all out. It made me want to get back into full training and plan a new PR-goal race (although that might have to wait a little longer).

  4. Impressive! HA! I love your training plan..right up there with Hansons and Higdon 😉 But seriously, amazing job…it must feel so great to overcome that frustrating injury. Congrats!!

    • Ha! Yes I am totally going to patent my training plan and watch the dollars roll in! This has been my most annoying injury yet (and that’s saying something), just based on how long it has taken to even feel a little normal.8+ weeks and counting…..

  5. charissarunning says:

    Congratulations!! That’s a really great comeback race! Kinda funny that we both ran a half on the same weekend after dealing with our injuries! I’m so glad it seems like your recovery is headed in the right direction. You’ll be back at it in no time! That medal is so cool too 🙂

    • I’m a little behind in my blog commenting but I read your race report and was thinking that I could have written the same report (minus the PR). I’m hoping we’re finally over the injury hump and can get back to normal ASAP!

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