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!


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