Who Put Those Muddy Trails There?
Today was half marathon day. We were anxious about the weather and we were hoping that the snow storm would blow over overnight, but no such luck. We left Kanab at 5 am to freezing rain on our way to the starting line. At one point the freezing rain was really thick and flying right at us, so it looked like we had broken the speed of light in space and all the stars were becoming blurry as we were passing by. It was really disorienting. Somehow, Olivia is always the one driving in inclement weather. Luckily, the rain stopped as we approached the East side of Zion.
The half marathon this year was on the East side of the park due to road construction on the West side. Part of the new course was on trail, but it wasn’t supposed to be much. The start was at Zion Ponderosa Ranch, from there, we were supposed to run for 4 miles on road, then a few miles on a dirt road, cross highway 9 and get onto a double-track trail that ran parallel to highway 9 till the finish.
Parking the half marathon had been moved from its original location (an old air strip) due to the rain, and the new location was a small paved road off of Hwy 9, along the half marathon course. We were supposed to get on a shuttle there and go to he starting line. Unfortunately, there was only entrance into this road, and it was already bottlenecked by the time we arrived. We had to park a good half mile down the road and walk back out to get to the shuttle. Well, the shuttle was going up and down highway 9, the same road everyone was on to try to get to the parking… lots of headlights were visible along the road as we got on our shuttle. It was clear that this Plan B parking situation was going to delay our start. At Zion Ponderosa Ranch, where there start was, the warming tent was busting at the seam, so Olivia and I got some coffee and chilled outside. Once the race began, she made her way to the finish line on another shuttle, where she was going to be volunteering to give out medals to people as they finished. I very much looked forward to her draping that damn medal on my neck.
As each wave started the race, the announcer said that our first mile is a figure 8 in Ponderosa Ranch before we get on the road. She also said “embrace the mud”. Well, that entire first mile was mud. Muddy mud mud. I keep my shoe laces loosely tied on my running shoes, so I almost lost my shoe at one point. We were so happy to hit the 1 mile marker and start running downhill on a paved road for the next 4 miles. I passed a girl who was on crutches – yes, she had decided to not miss the race because of an apparent ankle injury of some kind, and she was making her way on crutches down the hill. That helped me get over my bad mood, but only until it started snowing. Nothing heavy, but just enough to make you realize how could it was and to **** you off.
Eventually, the snow stopped and we went off the road onto a dirt road, which was muddy in places but mostly ok, except for one section pictured below. It was till nothing like that mile 1 mud!
We passed by a fire that had gone out but the trees used in it were still smoldering. We crossed over highway 9 and found ourselves running on the same road we had parked our cars several hours earlier. Mile 8 went right by our rental car, and it was soooo tempting to just jump in and go pick up Olivia… But no, I decided to keep going. At mile 9, we went back on a trail and from there, it was a grueling, sticky, annoying, rolling hills terrain, which I mostly walked.
My hips and my glutes, which had suffered during the LA Marathon 2 weeks ago, were reminding me they have had enough as well. The mile marker for mile 12 was missing, so there I was, walking what seemed like a death march with a bunch of other tired runners around me, with the finish line nowhere in sight.
I finally decided to check my phone for the mileage – 12.54. I crossed the finish at 3:05 clock time, about 2:57 according to my watch (since I had started a few minutes after the official start). I gave Olivia a big hug when she draped that medal around my neck. She had been giving out medals to runners for over 2 hours, so she had heard how grueling this race was. Just for reference, I usually run half marathons under 2:30, and my personal best is 2:23. My personal worst, until today, was my very first half marathon, at 2:44. My average pas was over 13 minutes per mile today, a full minute per mile, slower than I ran my very first full marathon. Do you get the idea that this was a very hard race? I was not a happy camper at the finish line. 🙂
Olivia snapped a couple of photos of me, and on we went back on the bus to the parking area, with a long walk to our car still ahead. We had to rush to the hotel to check out but luckily, we made it right on time. We had lunch at a place in Kanab called Rocking Vs. We split the bison burger (a first for me, very yummy, nice and meaty and not greasy like beef) and chicken enchiladas with green sauce, and washed all that down with a beer.
Afterwards, we were on our way to Page, AZ to see Horseshoe Bend.