On Sunday I ran the second annual Xterra Black Canyon half marathon. I went into the race with no real expectations other than to finish faster than I did last year. I was fairly sure that I would be faster than last year, but this year I had run less miles and am a year older, so the thoughts of being even slower (because I am naturally slow as a snail) were creeping into my mind. I felt pretty good going into the race and was planning to go out at a good pace that I was hoping to maintain for most of the race.
Race morning was perfect, a little chill in the air and certainly a day Winnie the Pooh would like as it was blustery throughout. Pre-race was set up well with a big fire and a few heaters set up along with some goodies from Powerbar.
I didn’t see anyone there that I knew so I spent most of the pre-race listening to others talk as I was camped at a heater. I met several people from Sedona, who I am jealous of as I would love to have those grounds as my daily training routes. I heard a guy on my bus as well as at the start going on about how he didn’t train at all for this race but he knows he can run around 6 minute miles based on his past experience as a track and cross country runner. I actually think he was impressing the girl he was talking to, but he did not run that fast as I recognize the names of the first few finishers who were slower than that and he is not one of them.
The coolest part of the pre-race was when I heard a guy talking to an older dude who was milling around. The conversation went something like this. Guy: “I hear that congratulations are in order” Older dude: “For what?” G: “Well I hear that you ran your 100th marathon a few weeks ago”. OD: “Oh, well…yeah I did”. G: “Wow, that is really amazing”. OD: “Oh…thanks”. The most humble old dude I have come across in a while. I think a lot of running and being an old wise dude (although he might not consider himself old, sorry to offend if I did) makes a person humble. Here is the guy…
So the race started and everything went off pretty well, my new Camelbak was slipping and sliding a bit even thought I thought that I had it adjusted well before the race. Once a few miles were under my belt and I did some adjusting on the run it was snug and gave me no problems. I remembered more of the second half of the race than the first half, but I quickly had thoughts rushing back into my head from the first half last year. The scenery was beautiful and the course was pretty manageable and fast, but like last year I found myself in a group that I later wish I would have broken away from as I settled in to their pace and not my pace so I ended up running several miles running their race instead of mine. When I realized that I needed to speed up some and attack some of the climbs I got around most of them, sadly a few of them caught me in the last few miles and I finished behind them but most of them finished behind me (I need to take the little victories). I felt really good even strong in the last few miles, but after the second creek crossing I had a bunch of pebbles in both shoes that were really panful, so I really slowed down as I was altering my stride and pace trying to avoid the pain. I could have stopped and gotten them out but I debated what the give and take would be from time lost stopping to clear out my shoes and get them back on over wet socks so I went on. I still don’t know if it ended up costing me time, maybe it did. I am glad that I wore wool socks because my feet were soaked both crossings.
Oh, the water crossings. The first one was pretty enjoyable except for the people in front who were determined to rock hop across and not get wet. They were holding up about 6-7 of us, it finally dawned on me that I was standing there like a cow in a heard all waiting to take their turn. The stream was very wide and had 100’s of feet of crossing area! I finally stepped out from the group and ran straight across. A few followed but most maintained the heard mentality. The sand on the other side made for some hard footing for a hundred yards or so but then everything was fine. my socks pretty much dried out as did my shoes. The second crossing…much deeper and faster flowing. As soon as my first foot went in I could feel the current pushing pebbles and rocks into my shoes, same with the second foot. For some reason I hoped that by continuing on the rocks would go back out as if they were just visiting, but it didn’t happen.
In the end I felt good except for my chapped lips, and I finished 3 minutes faster than last year. So yes I achieved my goal, but then as my nature started to condemn myself for not getting out of the pack sooner and possibly getting the rocks out of my shoes. Off to the next race and the nighttime series in Arizona this summer.
Here are some pictures “borrowed” from the official race photographer.