I’m close to halfway through my marathon prep in advance of the Vegas Marathon in November. Which means it’s time to run a half marathon.
The way I see it, if you’re going to run 13.1 miles, you may as well do it in a race and get a t-shirt for it.
The problem with half marathons in Utah at this time of the year is they’re all sharp downhill runs. Little Cottonwood Canyon, Big Cottonwood Canyon, Logan…all have altitude drops of hundreds, sometimes thousands of feet.
I don’t do hills, up or down. Sensitive quads, I guess.
So I chose a brand new race for my half – the East Canyon Marathon by On Hill Events.
This half marathon had some downhill, but also a lot of flatness.
Also to my liking, entries two weeks before were $65 after a discount code, which was about half as much as the other halfs around the state.
Leading up to the Race
I knocked out an 8 miler and 10 miler in the weeks leading up, tapering down to a 7 miler the week before. All of those runs were averaging 8 minute miles apiece, with no special enhancements like goos or gels.
My shoes were breaking down, with approximately 350 miles on them (most shoes should be retired around 300 miles in). Mine had a hole in the toe, but I didn’t want to break in a new pair on an actual race.
That was a big mistake. (Keep reading.)
We had a nice wake up call at 4am for an hourlong drive and a “get on the bus” deadline of 6am. That’s early, and a short time to get a lot of hydration in.
First thing: I chugged a big Powerade Zero. (Straight water isn’t enough – you need the sodium in sports drinks to help your body absorb more water, which you drink after slugging the Powerade.)
Breakfast was a Clif bar and some beef jerky. I’m mostly vegetarian, but beef jerky is so badass.
The Race Itself
Well, the bus driver wasn’t sure where to drop us off. So we hung out on the bus for an extra 15 minutes or so, which is great when you’ve been hyper-hydrating. And there were only four port-a-potties at the starting line, so with 150 or so people needing to go, we had one shot before the race started.
In other words, I had to piss the whole race. There were pissers at each water stop (every 2 miles) but I just pushed along.
That’s mostly because my pace at the outset was around 7 minutes per mile, thanks to the downhill terrain. I didn’t want to stop.
The scenery was gorgeous as the sun rose, slowly warming up from the 40 degrees or so at the starting line (bring a blanket). The first half winds down from the dam at East Canyon, with beautiful scenery and pastures full of deer and cattle passing by on the way.
The second half, the flat portion, meanders through the town of Morgan. Which is nice, typical small town Utah. There’s very little uphill to the course, but the downhill makes the few uphills feel like hell on earth.
My only issue with the course was the end. There were four races (full, half, 10k, 5k) finishing around the same time through a busy parking lot surrounding packed youth sports fields.
At one point we had to double back down a sidewalk, where I nearly mowed down some grandparents on their way to Little Billy’s tee ball game. I would’ve rather circled a block in the town to add the extra .3 or whatever, but I understand there are larger complexities.
After the super fast pace at the beginning, I eventually settled down into an 8 minute pace, finishing at 1:38, a pace of 7:38 overall.
At the end, I felt really good, like I had accomplished something.
Then I remembered that I would running double that in just a few weeks. (Remember the Marathon Training Plan.)
And there were a few injuries.
My toe was throbbing, my calf was cramping, my quads were on fire, my glutes had seized up.
Yeah, I had an ass so tight I couldn’t walk.
It still felt good, until I remembered that this is just the halfway point in my training.
And I would be running 10 miles in six days, and 15 miles in two weeks.
The Race Aftermath
I stretched for a while after the race, but my quads were basically immobilized an hour or so later. My calf was sore, but that went away within three days.
The toe. The big damn hurtin’ toe. I think my nail is going to fall off. That’s a marathoner badge of honor, right?
(I’m documenting the process via photos, but it isn’t quite gross enough to share. Soon!)
It was the shoes. All of it except for the quads was my shoes. They were done long before this race and I probably would’ve been better off going barefoot.
Important note: My wife decided to join in on this one. She just started running late last year and she’s already better than I am. She finished in 1:50, and didn’t seem to break a sweat (but she did tweak a knee, lightly). She’s ridiculous and terrific.
Anyway, it was a good race, with a few small hiccups and not a ton of runners (which I liked). The full marathon is a Boston qualifier, so if you’re looking for a mostly downhill course without a ton of packed lanes, this is your race.
For me it’s the halfway point to Vegas, and far longer runs await.