Race Name: Hoover Dam Marathon, Half Marathon, & 10K
Date: December 15, 2012
Distance: Half Marathon
Footwear: Altra Superior (Rob), Vibram Spyridon (Ryan), Brooks Pure Grit (Scott)
Time: 2:00:14 (Rob), 2:10:20 (Ryan), 2:17:16 (Scott)
With this being Ryan’s first official half marathon, and a return to the course that holds my half marathon PR, we had high expectations for this race all year. After running a 1:56 last year, I wanted to better my time — and hopefully beat Dalyn’s PR of 1:53 set at Surf City in 2011. Ryan and I decided that 1:50 was our goal, while Scott just wanted to finish as he was still nursing some injuries from the past couple months.
In truth, none of us were 100% healthy coming into the race, which made our goal time pretty out of reach from the start, but it’s good to have goals all the same. Since running the Bootlegger 25K a month ago, I’ve only ran on Saturdays, skipping the important mid-week runs while waiting for my bruised right foot to heal (it almost has), while Ryan has had knee issues after playing six soccer games in a row a couple weeks back.
The days leading up to the race had us very worried with high winds and freezing temperatures, but we ended up getting lucky as the morning of the race, it was cold and drizzling rain, but the winds were calm. Once we arrived at Boulder Beach for the race start, we met up with and talked with a few friends, including Charlene (from my race last year) and Tony “Endorphin Dude”, and met up with our parents and thanked them for braving the cold and coming out to support us — and also thanked them for watching my 1 1/2 year old son, Zander).
With all the socializing — always a problem of mine — I lost track of the time and ended up downing by banana, Belvita bar, and a Gu with less than 15 minutes before race time instead of the 30 minutes before that I prefer.
With the temperatures being so cold, we all chose to wear the full ensemble of cold gear: windproof jackets over long-sleeve shirts, gloves, and beanies/headbands. We wore shorts, as running in pants just feels weird. Somehow Ryan and I ended up matching, with our shorts/jackets complimenting each other.
Once the race started, and I started my watch as I crossed the timing strip, we began our slow grind uphill, with the first 2.5 miles ascending roughly 400 feet over a paved path. Our (Ryan’s and mine) goal was to stay around 9:00 on this uphill section knowing we’d make up the difference on the way down it at the end of the race. We ended up averaging around an 8:45 pace, so we were just a tad quick, but nothing detrimental to our goal. I warmed up fast and ended up taking off my gloves, beanie, and jacket all in this first few miles, while Ryan took his gloves off (he had a headband and stayed cooler).
Once we passed the second aid station and the parking lot for the “Historic Railroad Trail”, commonly referred to as Six Tunnels, the race flattened out and transitioned from a paved path to a maintained, well-graded dirt road. We thought we’d be able to gain a lot more time on this portion of the race than we were actually able to, possibly due to the slight difference between the ease of running on pavement versus dirt. Even well-maintained dirt takes a little more energy to run through.
After a couple miles of the dirt road through the tunnels, we hit the downhill sections of the trail and just let our momentum carry us, averaging a sub-8:00 pace until we reached the switchback walkway down to the parking garage for Hoover Dam, which functioned as the turnaround point for the race. The walkway is steep and narrow enough that it’s hard to keep any speed going up or down it, and we were required to stay single-file. Once we navigated the switchback and reached the turnaround, we were about 2:00 behind our goal pace, which is right where we wanted to be. On our way back up the switchbacks we passed Charlene, and then Scott shortly after. At this point Scott mentioned he was already hurting, and he still had over half of the race to go still.
The return trip is where things started to unravel. Our lack of training caught up to us running back up the hills we flew down, as our lungs couldn’t keep up with what our legs and bodies wanted to do. Usually running strong up hills is a point of pride for us, so we’re determined to not slack off on training before next year’s race. At the last aid station before hitting the tunnels again, Ryan had to make a bathroom stop so I downed my ClifShot while I waited very impatiently. I was tempted to run ahead at one point, and was trying to ask Ryan if I should, but I was trying to talk to him thinking he was in the porta-potty while he was actually in the real bathroom nearby. I’m not sure who was in the port-potty but they were probably pretty confused. Once we started running again we were about 6:30 behind our goal pace after the uphills and the bathroom break. This is definitely not where we wanted to be at this point of the race.
Running back through the tunnels Ryan’s knee started bothering him and our pace remained between 8:15 and 9:30, which is about 45-seconds slower than we had hoped for. We knew we weren’t going to hit our goal of 1:50, or even of Dalyn’s 1:53, but we still wanted to run under two hours.
After clearing the tunnels and the parking lot it was back to the paved path. The increased force of each step started taking its toll on Ryan’s knee, and he had to stop and walk it out a little to try and keep it from getting too bad. He gave me the go-ahead to keep running and try to hit my sub-2:00 goal, so I took off, trying to run as fast I could down the descent back to Boulder Beach. Even with the downhill my legs were getting tired due to not training — especially at this speed — and the best I could maintain was around an 8:30 pace.
After the descent we run past the road leading to the finish line for about a half-mile before turning around and running back up hill towards the finish line. I kept an eye on my watch to make sure I’d have a shot at my sub-2:00 goal, and pushed myself towards the end as hard as I could to make it in time. Once I made the turn to the finish line, it’s a very steep downhill and I saw 1:59 on my watch, so I started sprinting towards the finish line, pulling out a sub-7:00 pace to finish.
I stopped my watch as I hit the finish line and looked down in horror as I saw 2:00:15, which was verified with a 2:00:14 official chip time. After catching my breath and getting my medal, I ran back up the hill and waited for Ryan before running him in to the finish, and then doing the same for Scott.
After the race we hung out again and socialized with friends and family as we assessed Ryan’s knee. Immediately after the race he couldn’t bend his knee at all, but it seemed to loosen up as the day wore on; until we hopped in the truck to go home anyway, where it tightened right back up.
With the stops we made during the race, I ended up with a 2:00 official time, and my “moving” time per my Garmin was in the 1:54 range. If I had been able to do my mid-week runs I know a sub-1:50 would’ve been possible, but it just wasn’t my time. We’re all focused on coming back with a vengeance next year, with at least a sub-1:45 in sight.