Sunday, October 28, 2012

Snohomish River Run Half Marathon Race Report

We signed up for this race a few weeks back -- kind-of on a whim. But I figured it would be good to get another organized race in -- less likely that we would just sloth around all weekend. And, when we woke up for nasty weather, I was very glad we "had" to run. Well, sorta.

I had decided to sign up because the course was flat flat flat. As I said in a previous post -- it's not that I'm looking for another PR this year, but I would rather have a gentle run than really have to work at the race. Yeah, I'm probably lazy.

The weather was grim -- so grim we ended up running on our Gore-Tex shells. Yeah, that's right. And you know what? I'm fine with that. Miserable.

The course was, for the most part, great. A wide, flat road in the countryside just outside of Everett. Plenty of room to maneuver -- even at the beginning. (Of course, there were only about 500 runners, but still.)  We ran on the road along a river, which apparently floods pretty regularly ... which would explain the weird houses on giant concrete "stilts" I noticed on the way back.

We ran out into a stiff headwind, eventually reached a turnaround, and headed back. Wil had started slowing down a little -- largely because he was feeling fed up with the wind and weather -- but around mile 9 realized that he just wanted to finish the run, rather than take it easy. So he sped up. What felt like a lot.

Eventually -- somewhere around mile 10, I think -- we turned off the road and onto a narrow riverside trail. I was happy to be towards the back of the pack, because the trail was pretty empty. But it was littered with leaves and a bit slippery, so we had to slow down a little. Well, that and we had to avoid the oncoming runners...

We hit the trail turnaround -- not sure where it fell -- and then ran back to the finish line. I was feeling grumpy (didn't like the trail -- even though it was pretty) and just wanted to be done. But we held hands and crossed the line in 2:17. Not bad for having had some pretty slow miles.

This was an inaugural race -- so they will hopefully iron out some kinks -- but this race could have been much better organized. First, some things I liked about the race:

!. I liked the option of the Friday pickup -- but I have to admit that the only reason I drove out to Mukilteo (!!!) to get my packet was to buy a parking pass for race day to avoid having to use the shuttle. 

2. I like the course -- for the most part. The trail at the end was a little difficult to run on. Perhaps running farther along the road and then looping back along the trail (keeping it one-way) would have made things easier. 

3. Good quality race shirts -- Zorrel -- but not exactly as promised. 

4. Custom medal which includes the year. A nice touch. 

5. Water stops, all of which had gels. Very nice. 

Now, for stuff that could have been better...

1. Parking. Look, I drove out to Mukilteo to buy a parking pass the day before the race. When we got to the supposedly reserved parking lot, we were told to "try and find something" and "let them know if we couldn't". Well, we ended up parking in the grass along the edge of the parking lot. I guess that was still parking, but... 

2. Shuttles. Luckily we did find parking, because we heard from other runners that no shuttles ever came, so they were told to just go the 3/4 mile to the starting area. And when we were leaving, there were huge lines for the shuttles. So while the parking was less than ideal, I was still glad to have gone to the trouble of getting the pass. 

3. Race shirts. I ordered a women's XL. I received a men's L. Again, it's a red shirt that I'll never wear. But why offer the size when signing up if you're not going to get one? 

4. Mile markers. I've said this before -- I know everyone has GPS watches. I do. But mile markers are so easy to have made. And, no, orange spray paint on the course isn't good enough. I think the markers are most important at the end. Go to FedEx Office and have 13 signs made. Really. 

5. Pre-race announcements. I think they must have thought that the runners would gather at the "expo". But having the only speaker be far from where all the runners were located was challenging. I didn't head anything until she came out with the megaphone.

That all feels harsh to say, but we did have a pretty good run. And rather than wait in line to see if they had any vegetarian soup (why is it so hard to dispense post-race food quickly?), we decided to go to the car, get out of our wet wet clothes. and then drive to Red Robin for a post-race burger. Whee!

Sunday, October 21, 2012

Pioneer Saloon Ghost Run Half Marathon Race Report

When we were arranging our road trip to show Tony and Sue the canyonlands, I hoped to be able to find a half marathon in one of the states I'd never run in. When we started firming up dates, well, I discovered the Pioneer Saloon Ghost Run. Perfect!

The race started from the Pioneer Saloon -- a 99-year-old establishment in Goodsprings, a spot on the wagon road the pioneers took to California. The organizers had set up the race with multiple distances: 50-mile, 50-kilometer, half marathon, and even a 10-kilometer. I've found that ultra races are super fun -- well, that is, when a half marathon is part of an ultra race! It really brings out the crazy runners, which I enjoy.

We drove out from Vegas in the dark morning and drove south to Goodsprings. I wasn't sure what to expect -- would there be a lot of people, or only a few? Turns out, not too many for the half. But we got there (by which time the sun had come up) and as we walked toward the start, we met Samantha Sweet, who said, "Hey, Brooks runners!"

We ended up chatting with her and her husband Jared -- both Brooks ID members -- essentially until the race started. We were feeling okay -- but I looked around with dismay when I noticed that everyone else had water bottles or some sort of hydration system. Stupid girl. Luckily Wil had brought his new belt, and I knew there would be water on the course.

Desert. No, really. Desert.
We started off running through the small town, but soon headed out on a wide dirt road. We ran for the first few miles, but then felt a little woozy. Even though it was only 9am, it was already getting hot... dry... and a little high (if much lower in altitude than at the Grand Canyon!). After 3 miles the road -- which had been a gradual incline -- became more of a hill. I kept working on not turning an ankle (I'm clumsy like that) and so we decided to just walk the uphills.

Pink "Porta-Jane" at mile 3. 
It was a lovely morning -- bright blue sky, slight breeze. We didn't see any tortoises or jackrabbits, sadly, but we saw Joshua trees and birds wheeling high above. Really nice.

No, really, it's uphill. I promise you, this is uphill.
I'm a Joshua tree!
Up up up we went, and then had a short steep downhill to a water stop and the half marathon turnaround. It seemed a little cruel to make us all go down the steep hill and then back up, but I guess the 50K and 50M routes went that way...

Wil (and his Joshua tree pals) at the turnaround
Eventually we were at the top of the hill and ready to head down... but neither of us really had the gumption to run down the trail. So we turned our race into a brisk stroll. I don't remember much of the way back -- other than we did stop at the 10K turnaround water stop for some salty snacks and some water. I do remember the very sweet man standing at his garden gate in Goodsprings, saying "Welcome to Goodsprings! You're not the first but you're one of the best!" Bless.


We ran the last couple of blocks to the saloon, where we held hands and crossed the finish line with a smooch. We were handed our medals -- bottle openers! -- and a cold beer. Nice.

We wandered around the saloon a bit. We decided against getting any food (nothing vegetarian), but enjoyed the history room and the chill layout of the place. I could imagine going there with friends on a road trip!

Pioneer Saloon History Room

So it wasn't our fastest race... in fact, it was one of our slowest. But we enjoyed the scenery. and I have to say it was a very well organized race.

The ladies from Desert Sky Adventures were pleasant, sent out a detailed email about the race, and had lots of nice little touches that showed they knew what they were doing. Some things I really loved:

- Packet pickup -- wasn't required, but was offered. We picked up our packets on the Friday, but it was nice to know that we could also get them on Saturday morning if we had arrived late in town.

- Packets -- really nice swag in the bags. Gel samples, a water bottle, even a buff from a previous race. Cute.

- Women-specific shirts! Admittedly, I'm probably not going to wear a light blue shirt, but it's much nicer than a boxy white men's shirt. And the design was super cute.

- Mile markers on the course. Yeah, I've got a GPS watch. But I still like seeing mile markers on a race course. DSA has their own very cute mile markers. Great branding, too. Really impressed by that.

How cute are these?
If there was one little niggle, it was with the post-race food. We were told that runners would get lunch -- a burger or hot dog -- after the race. When we went to have a look, we were told we could buy a veggie burger. I mean, I know it's a business, but is the frozen veggie patty really more expensive than the ground beef you serve? But that said, we weren't all that bothered by it. And we hadn't expected lunch.

So after finishing our beers we headed back to Vegas. BTW, skipping lunch meant we felt okay about gorging ourselves at a buffet later. Ha!

Thursday, October 18, 2012

Grand Canyon Half Marathon

Goggle Face!
Please please please let me start by saying this: I wear sunscreen EVERY DAY. I use a moisturizer with SPF 15 in the winter, and SPF 30 in the summer.

Except I forgot to pack my moisturizer.

And Wil, who also has moisturizer with SPF 15, well, he grabbed the tube of MLotion that doesn't have sun protection.

I even had a running hat with my -- it was in my suitcase in the room... doing me absolutely no good.

Let this be a lesson to you!

But I'm getting ahead of myself.

Wil and I got up nice and early -- but not before sunrise! -- to go for our long run. We hadn't really planned on a long run for Thursday morning, given that we had a half marathon coming up on the Saturday. I wanted to go out and run for 45 minutes or so -- more to say that I had run along the rim of the Grand Canyon than for any other reason. But when I noticed that the Rim Trail stretches 13 miles from Hermit's Rest to Yaki Point, well... it felt like destiny.

So we got up, dressed, and took the shuttle out to Hermit's Rest. We rode out with a group of 6 guys, all carrying very loaded packs. They were doing a multi-day hike below the rim. When the shuttle ride started, they were very boisterous... but got quieter and quieter as they neared Hermit's Rest. I think they were getting a little scared. As you would do...

When we arrived, the thanked the driver, took a few random pictures, and set off.

Let me say this... about the sunburn. We were between 8,000 and 7,000 feet in elevation -- thinner air, less protection from the sun. Oops. We were running east into the rising sun. Oops. There's not a lot of shade along the Rim Trail. Oops. There's an awful lot of scenery to look at along the Rim Trail. Oops. And, um, did I mention the lack of sunscreen or hat? Yeah, I'm a genius!

Yeah, that's the rim of the Grand Canyon. Whut?!?
But the run was glorious. Large sections of the trail have been paved as "greenway" -- meaning they're pretty even and level. Those parts were a breeze to run on. Well, except for all the times I hat to stop and ooh and aah over the scenery!

did we mention that we love the new panorama function?
We ran, and walked, and ran, and walked, and stopped, and walked.... and stopped, and walked....

Hours passed while we stood and looked at the Canyon. It's so beautiful, so big, so spectacular. I don't know what else to say. It's the Grand Freakin' Canyon.

yep, that's a tarantula
Eventually, after passing through the visitor-clogged Grand Canyon Village, we were back on greenway trail... and we ran into Tony and Sue. I'm pretty sure we were already completely sunburned, and potentially slightly woozy. We chatted with them for a few minutes, and then continued on our way. Finally we hit the 13.1 mark -- a little way before Yaki Point (I'm sure owing to the detours out to each viewpoint!).

at 13.1!
I'd like to do this run again -- perhaps starting at Yaki Point and running to Hermit's Rest, with the sun at my back...

This little video is from one of my favorite moments of the day -- we came to a spot that was simply FULL of ravens. The swooped and played and croaked all around us -- sometimes so close we could hear the wind rushing through their wings. Amazing stuff.

But all in all, a fantastic run!

Saturday, October 13, 2012

Zion Half Marathon

Got up today to go for a run -- half marathon #22 in the 40@40 project! But today, we are in Zion National Park!

Woke up in darkness, got dressed, and then drove into the park. It was beautiful and quiet, and we got in and to the trailhead just before sunrise at 7:20 a.m.

We started off on the Pa'Rus trail -- 1.7 miles of paved goodness. First you run on the back side of  a campground, and then you just run along the river, crossing back and forth over it. That was a great way to get started in the dim light - no traffic at all.

Then we arrived at Canyon Junction, and then ran along the park road out to the Temple of Sinawava and back. The run was absolutely glorious -- the only traffic being shuttle buses, the occasional car headed to the lodge, and a park ranger making the rounds.

We ran and ran and ran, and had a few wildlife encounters:

some mule deer, including one who quietly walked toward us...

 a flock of wild turkeys, some of whom just came closer and closer...

My favorite, however, were the pair of glossy, "none more black" ravens who croaked at us. One flew off, but the other watched us keenly, hopping along after us. I love ravens. 

Overall the run was uneventful -- we ran past Zion landmarks such as the Grove of the Patriarchs...

 ... tried to decide which peak was the Great White Throne....

...and, basically, just enjoyed the views of the river and the absolute quiet. 

Eventually we reached the Temple of Sinawava -- the end of the line for the shuttles -- feeling great. We did spend perhaps a little too long there admiring the spectacular view, which meant that I was cold and stiff when we started the return journey. 

That said, we still had spectacular views. We even got called out by a ranger on a bus tour -- "here we have two runners ... they will have run to the end of the canyon and back!" -- and got waved at by a large group of strangers. Yep, it was almost as good as having my name called out by random strangers!

Wil and I had decided, yesterday, to go ahead and buy ourselves a National Parks pass. We buy one every year, but had been using Tony's pass that a friend loaned him. But here's the thing -- most races we do cost way more than $40 each. Sure, we didn't get a race shirt or anything, but we had a fantastic, perfect half marathon today.