Monday, September 12, 2011

Race Report: Dinosaur Valley Half Marathon 2011

This was a tough race for me.   I registered purely for the cute medal and breathtaking scenery (obviously not paying a great deal of attention to the elevation chart).   The closer the date got, the more nervous I was, though.  September 11 is an emotional day for me regardless.  I had an overwhelming need for my family to be there and wasn't vocal enough about making it happen so I ended up going alone.  Luckily, with the help of a new friend, I made it through and finished this tough course.

So - bright and early on Sunday, I was on the road.   Got to watch the sun rise as I drove into it (don't mind the blur and the windshield bugs)

Just after 7am, I pulled into Horseshoe Canyon.  I can't got to Drumheller without stopping here

 Then it was off to package pickup at the community hall.   I was amazed by the number of signs welcoming marathon participants to town.   This race is a big deal for the community!

No one can say Drumheller doesn't know how to do swag.
Once I had my swag bag, I headed over to the Royal Tyrell Museum to park and get ready.

Staging area and where the after-party would be...
 The finish line at Tyrell...
 Even the A&W Bear was there!

After a warm up that was led by a local gym, we headed to the start.   The start line was a quick jaunt away at the little church.  One of the volunteers led us over there form the staging area, often warning us to watch our step because there is dinosaur poop EVERYWHERE!

There was a moment of silence to honour those lost in 9/11 - 10 years ago that day.  Then the mayor blew the horn and we were off.

The first 6K of this race was pure, unadulterated hell.   A steady uphill that only teases you with a downhill in the middle before making you climb a hill you can't see the top of.  I won't lie.  I walked it.   I overheard a girl at the start line say "I'll walk the hill if I acknowledge that I am running slower than I can walk it.  No use expending the extra energy that I could use later!"   Sounded like sage advice to me so I made sure I actually TRIED to put some effort into my walking.

Unfortunately, that climb meant we were actually running away from the pretty badlandy area and into this:

I looked at ALOT of gravel this race - over half of it was on dirt/gravel roads...and not good ones at that.

At about 6K, the terrain leveled off and I started to find my stride, following a pit stop and water break.  By this point, we were firmly in wheat field territory.

I was struggling.  Big time. Between 8 and 10K, I was starting to let my brain get the best of me.  I started to think if a half was this hard, I was in trouble for next month.   I may have actually convinced myself I am not ready for a marathon - that I wasn't dedicated enough to my training and should switch to the half next month (I late chalked this up to taper madness...I'm still doing my full - even if I have to run 5/walk 5 to do it.)

Truthfully, the timing of what happened next couldn't have been more perfect for my mindset.

I was plodding along at a comfortable pace.  Ready to accept a 3 hour finish on this one when a girl came up to me and said "I like your pace!"   I said "Me too..I think it's the only pace I've got today!"  

Anyway - she fell into step with me and we ran in silence for a bit.  Maybe 5 mins later she said "I hope you don't mind that I'm running with you.  I'm struggling and it helps to pace with someone"   I introduced myself and she did the same and we suddenly were runner girls for a day.

Shortly after we met, we hit a big downhill and then were suddenly ejected onto the highway at 13K.  It also brought us back into the scenery we signed up for.

My new friend, Minette.
It was hot on that highway.  They had us running WITH the traffic and on very narrow shoulders.   There was a bit of a breeze, but all it served to do was dry the sweat and leave me all salt-encrusted (seriously - when I brushed my arm - it was like a salt snowstorm).  At close to 18K, I realized how sunburnt I was feeling...

By 19K, Minette's legs were seizing up on her. so we were walking regularly.   Luckily, conversation was good so we just went with it.   At 20K, we decided it was time to just git 'er done...into the turnoff to Tyrell we went and soon we were in the finish chute and crossing the finish line.

My official time was 2:52:03.  My slowest half to date.  But it was just a training run so I don't really care right now.  I have plenty of years left for PRs and marathon training isn't the time to be achieving them.   Just finishing this one was a feat in itself and I'm glad I did it.

crispy, fried me

Cutest medal ever (well - no Footstock still gets that...but this one's still pretty cute)
This is a really well planned and executed race.  Nasty nasty hill.  That hill will keep me from doing the half in future years.  I would come back for a 10K, though (they get a medal too).  

and - lastly - some info from my best running trusty ol' Garmin (the new one does cool stuff like this)

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