Race Report: Flagstaff Half Marathon

Hello there! I thought I’d write about this race when it was nice and fresh in my mind. I didn’t run much during the week before it–about 9 miles total and nothing too special–so you’re getting this instead of a training log. Without further ado, here’s my experience at the Flagstaff Half.

The Flagstaff Half Marathon was held this past Saturday, September 19, at the Nordic Center, just north of Flagstaff. The race, all on hiking trails, boasted 1120 feet of elevation gain and was just shy of an actual half marathon distance, clocking in at 12.54 miles.

The start time was set for 9am, and my friend Jamie was coming to with to spectate. When I registered for the race, I had planned to do it for fun since it was here in town, and told Jeff not to plan on coming. He, therefore, made other plans and I was excited to have a friend come to watch me race! I told Jamie to be at our place around 7:45 since I wasn’t sure how long it would take us to get out there and I treat races much like I treat being at the airport: I want LOTS of time to use the bathroom and no chance of missing the start.

I climbed into bed around 9:30 Friday night, set my alarm for 7 and had a great night’s sleep. I’ll say one thing, I LOVE being able to sleep in my bed the night before a race. It happens so rarely for me that it’s a real treat! I woke up Saturday morning not sure how much time I had until my alarm went off. I went to check my phone and…it was off! Before going to bed the night before, I had had the grand idea of installing the new system upgrade. Turns out, when you do that, you have to walk through the set up before your phone turns on. Frantically, I started going through while screaming inside “WHAT TIME IS IT?!?!” (nevermind my perfectly charged iPad was laying right next to me). Relief flooded me when I saw it was only 7:15.

I hopped up, got dressed, put on the coffee and started making my toast with PB and banana. Luckily, since this was a fun run, I wasn’t terribly stressed. I ate and drank my coffee, chatted with Jeff and waited for Jamie. True to form she was there right at 7:45. I filled her cup with coffee, said goodbye to the man, and we headed for the race.

We got there in plenty of time. It was kind of chilly at the beginning which was nice. I was worried about it being so hot at by 9 am, but I was able to keep my sweatshirt on for a while before the race. I hit the porta potties a few times, drank some water, and enjoyed hanging around chatting before the start.

At about 8:55 we all started lining up, and the race director went over how the trail was marked and what to look for.

164 runners

Can you spy my orange Rogas?

(Sidebar: I’m due to receive my Oiselle singlet Monday. I was a weeee bit disappointed not to have it to run in on Saturday)

I made sure I had my picky bar in the my back pocket and tried to think of a game plan. I figured I’d take it easy on the uphills and try to gain some time back on the downhills. I didn’t want to go out too fast, so I decided to run completely on feel.

At 9:00 on the nose, we were off!

Heyoooo!

As soon as we were off and running, I felt the heat of the day. There was a nice breeze at the start line, but once we were in the woods, that was blocked and there were several patches that were exposed and in the hot sun. Despite that, I settled in, running at a pace that felt good and enjoyed the scenery.

A quarter of a mile into it, we started climbing. I settled into what I felt was a maintainable pace. Pretty soon, I looked up and realized I was sitting in second place for females. I got super excited and was all “holy shit. Maybe I’ll place!” Not too shortly after that though, a girl passed me. We then started to head downhill, I opened up my stride and passed her again.

My watch beeped for the first mile (yes. We hadn’t even hit the first mile and I was dreaming of placing. Not good) and I looked down and saw 8:18. Yikes. Way too fast. I realized then that I was pushing way too hard and my wheels were going to fall off quick if I kept that up. I reigned it in as we hit the next climb, said goodbye to the dream of placing and settled into a more comfortable pace: 9:33.

I stopped to run/walk on most of the inclines, since I knew that trying to run them all would only make me a mess by the end. The whole first half of the race just went up. Around mile 3, I started running next to a girl and we started chatting. She was great and it helped the miles fly past! Before I knew it we were coming out of the first loop at 6.5 and starting on toward the second.

The course was made up of two loops, that intersected each other at several points. The marathoners, that had started an hour before us, had to do the loops twice, and the 10k, which started half an hour after us, did the second loop once. At times the course was really confusing, and you weren’t sure who to follow, since you’d see marathon and 10k bibs. Overall, they did their best to make it as clear as possible, but I heard a lot of people complaining about getting lost on the trail.

By the time we started the second loop, the heat was getting to me a bit. It was nearing 80* and I was starting to feel a bit lightheaded. Tess and I were running at a pretty good speed, maintaining about an 8:40 pace and chatting away. My legs were feeling good, but I don’t think I had taken in enough water. My stomach and head were starting to feel a bit iffy.

Just shy of mile 9 we started to hit the incline for the last BIG hill. It lasted almost 3 miles and I knew I was going to slow way down. I told Tess to go on without me and slowed to a walk to try to get my head and stomach feeling better before the big climb. When I started running again, I still had Tess in my eyeline and was going to try to catch back up to her. As I was looking ahead of me, I hit a rock and was suddenly facedown on the trail.

I hopped back up and immediately looked around to see if anyone had seen me fall, but luckily I was alone. I started running again and then figured I should stop to inspect the damage. My wrists were a little tender from breaking my fall, my legs were filthy and scratched up, but other than that I seemed to be in tact.

I started running again chuckling at myself when a pain shot through my back. (I should mention here that the Saturday before the race some friends had taken me out for a belated birthday celebration. I woke up Sunday morning terribly hungover and with a sore back. I knew I must have rammed into something, but I didn’t remember and none of my friends noticed. Over the week it got progressively better, so I felt confident it wasn’t a broken rib or anything like that, and figured it was just a deep muscle bruise. I had felt it a little during the early miles of the race, but nothing noteworthy.) I realized my fall must have tweaked whatever I had hurt the week before.

I took the next couple of miles extremely easy. It was hot, my back was hurting more significantly and we were heading up and up and up. It felt like it was neverending. I ran as much as I could, and walked the rest. By this point, I wasn’t terribly concerned with my finish time, I just wanted to finish. Finally, at mile 11 we reached the crest of the climb and the trail started to move back down the mountain. I opened up my stride, hoping to catch a few people that had passed me by, when I realized all too quickly that wasn’t going to work. Each step jostled my back, and the pain had started to move into my rib cage and it was getting painful to breathe.

I pulled back, ran as softly as I could and it was better. I knew I didn’t want to walk it in, and running was tolerable, if a little uncomfortable. I kept the pace easy coming into the finish, with my last two miles at an 8:30 and 8:10 pace.

I came into the finish area at 2:00:48. 2 hours on the nose! I was really surprised and happy about it, since I didn’t think I was going to finish anywhere near my goal time.

Finished

Final stats: 21st overall, 8th female, 1st in Age Group.

They didn’t do Age Group prizes, so that is completely moot, but I’m pretty damn proud of that since this race did not go as well as I had hoped.

This was a really hard race. There’s lots of things that went wrong during this race…my fall and my back slowed me down for the last few miles, my fueling and hydration was off, it was HOT. In spite of all of these things, I am so damn proud of this race. This was, by far, the most challenging course I have ever run. I didn’t have the best training behind me, and I went in with really low expectations for myself.

I’m proud of where I finished, in the shape that I was in. If I hadn’t of fallen, I’m sure I would have come in under that two hour mark, but I wasn’t going to place in this race regardless. And 21 out of 164 people is pretty damn awesome. It was so challenging, but I had such a great time. Everyone I met out on the course was so great and fun to talk to. Despite how I was feeling, I had so much fun!

I walked away Saturday saying I was glad to have done it, but I wouldn’t do it again. But, after having some time to think it over, I think I would like to run it again next year. Especially now that I know what to expect.

Best sign ever

Jamie made the best sign ever.

If you ever manage to make it up to Flagstaff in September, I highly recommend this race. Yes it was brutal and tough, but man was it fun. Aid stations were well stocked and the volunteers were fantastic! The crowd was great and the course was BEAUTIFUL! Full of Aspens and incredible mountain views. I didn’t bring my phone with me, but I’m tempted to go back out and run it again for those views. Man, it was beautiful.

Filth

You’re welcome for this incredible photo.

Plus, anytime when you get to come home four shades darker because of all the dirt you’re covered in is a good time.

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10 thoughts on “Race Report: Flagstaff Half Marathon

  1. CONGRATS on your awesome race! That course sounds INCREDIBLY tough and you beasted it OUT! I am so sorry to hear about your back, but dude, 8th female?!?!?! On that course?! You are incredible!!!! Hope you heal up quickly. You rock!!

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  2. Pingback: Fall Racing: Schedule and Goals | Running High

  3. (Could you delete the previous identical comment? It somehow came from my work blog account. Whoops!!)

    Crossing finish “Ugh, I won’t do that again”.
    An hour later “That was great, I can’t wait to do that again”

    How quickly we forget 🙂 And thank GOD or I’d never enter a race.

    Running in central London, I really envy the beautiful trails you get to run. Between the hills, altitude and heat, I seriously doubt I’d manage a mile. But from the comfort of my desk, it looks lovely.

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    • Done! 🙂

      Right!? That’s exactly how I’ve ended up running four marathons and registering for a fifth! How quickly we forget the pain!

      I think Living and running in central London sounds amazing! So, we’ve got equal amounts of running jealousy. One day we’ll have to pull a freaky Friday and enjoy the other’s scenery 😉

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