I’m back in the half marathon business!
I just ran the Saints and Sinners Half Marathon on Saturday, September 26, 2015.
This was the first half I have attempted in almost a year and my main goal was just to finish the race without injury, I’m thrilled that I was able to do that! I had no time goal in mind and really didn’t know what to expect. My strategy was to go technology free, with no watch or music and totally just listen to my body and run by feel. To start out, I planned to go out super conservatively and hold back from wanting to go out too fast. This is a common race mistake (something I’ve done on several occasions) and I knew if that happened I would fade before the finish. Further into the race, if I felt good, I planned to pick up the pace at the end and finish strong.
So on to the race! The Saints and Sinners Half Marathon was held in Boulder City, NV and started at Bootleg Canyon Trailhead on a warm 80 degree morning. The race was organized by members of the Mormon church and was staffed with many volunteers, including missionaries. The race had small local feel and a fun theme. Organizers had set up “saints” and “sinners” aid stations, with saintly items such as water and fruit, and sinner type items such as cookies and candy. They invited participants could then decide if they were more “saint” or “sinner” as they made their way through each aid station. I was a saint, in that regard. The first 6.5 miles of the course traveled mostly downhill along The River Mountains Loop Trail, which is a paved bike and pedestrian path. I took it easy in the beginning, as planned, and felt good. I tried to focus on taking in the scenery, enjoying myself and people watching. To go with the saints and sinners theme, several runners had dressed in various costumes of angels, devils, or both at the same time. My favorite pair, however, was a runner I’ll call DJ Dad who was pushing a child in a stroller. The two of them were having a great time, rocking out to tunes blasting from the stroller and rolling along. As for me, I was doing fine. A lot of the other runners passed me, but not all of them. I just let them go thinking I may see them later if they slow down. It was all going according to the plan. The only real uphill section of the course was at about mile 4. I decided to do some walking here for a few minutes to catch my breath and conserve energy for later. The hot, dry, desert heat was my companion. As we crested the hill, a fellow runner pointed out 2 bighorn sheep running down the mountain and passing us in the opposite direction. This was really neat because even as a resident of this area, I had never seen the sheep live “in person.” As the miles slowly ticked away, the temperature was steadily rising, and I really started to feel the effects of the heat. The aid station at mile 5, was a welcome oasis in the desert, equipped with ICE water, which I noticed some of the other runners taking advantage of by drinking and pouring it over their heads. I hoped the race organizers had planned for enough water for those still behind us. I’ve been to other races where they have run out. It was HOT! Luckily, the sun went behind the clouds between mile 5 and 6.5 for a little while, and that seemed to help just a little.
Miles 6.5 to mile 11 covered the Historic Railroad Tunnels trail with amazing views of Lake Mead and the surrounding desert area. The trail consisted of dirt and loose gravel and traveled through 5 railroad tunnels that were once used to carry supplies during the building of the Hoover Dam. There was a group of spectators at the beginning of the tunnels trail at mile 6.5, which gave us a nice boost to morale. However, I was starting to feel hot and tired. So I took a walk break. Or three. The tunnels were cool to run through so I tried to focus on that, but I was feeling it.
Once through the tunnels and back, Mile 11 to 13.1 continued on the paved bike trail down to the finish line at
Boulder Beach, Lake Mead National Recreation Area. This was a rough two miles. By this point, the heat had soared over 90 degrees and I just wanted to be done. My energy tanked and I was reduced to walking a lot more. I noticed that I was passing the same people over and over again. I would pass them, they would pass me, I would pass them and on and on…the finish line seemed so far away. The heat affected me more than I expected, but then, everyone
else seemed to be having the same struggles. I swear it was like march of the dead toward that finish line.
Finally, we did made it. The race organizers had set up “Heaven” and “Heck” finish lines for runners to choose their final destination. I chuckled at the Mormon version of “Hell,” but my path was clear. “Heck” it is. My official finish time was 2:37:37.