Flagstaff Half Marathon Recap

“The Toughest Trail Marathon in Arizona” and oh boy was it tough!

Friday morning I went to hot yoga then headed up to Flagstaff for the marathon. This week I really tried to prep as much as I could before this race. There’s not a lot of running training you can do before a half, you gotta just bank on all the miles you’ve put in all summer, so focus shifts to what you eat and what your mind tells yourself.  The race site didn’t have the course map up so I wasn’t really sure what I was getting myself into! But I really tried to eat carbs that would fuel me, lots of water, and stayed away from things like fried foods or dairy that wouldn’t agree with my stomach.

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This race was small. About 400 runners. The expo was just a table outside of a coffee shop but they gave out lightweight hoodies instead of shirts and I was jazzed to say the least.

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I packed my dinner to eat in the hotel. I stayed in the cheapest place possible which meant no fridge or microwave for me. I made a pasta and spinach salad with lemon basil vinaigrette which totally hit the spot!f46

The race didn’t start till 9am for the half-ers which felt so late  to me. But when I woke up it was only 45 degrees! That’s COLD to this Phoenician.

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The course. Okay. Look at this thing. There was a 10K, half and full marathon option. The 10K was the red loop. The Half was the red + black loop and the Full was the red + black loop twice. And the elevation starts around 8,000 feet! And climbs all the way up to about 8,600. I was quite worried about the elevation. That’s about 7,000 higher than I’m used to!

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I got about 3 miles in before I reevaluated my goals. This course was hilly. Plus a trail run plus thin elevation cold air. I just wanted to stay under 3 hours. Actually, I was worried about finishing at all. I have ran trails before. Desert-y dirt trails. That’s NOT what this was. This was forest trails. Let me tell you, it was beautiful when I could look up at it. But I couldn’t look up! Every time I did, I would trip or twist my ankle or slide on a branches and sticks that covered the ground. I twisted my ankle so so so many times. One time was pretty hard and I was scared I was really going to do some damage before the NYC marathon.  I started on my mantra early on, repeating in my mind a line I got from the book Build Your Running Body “There is one finish line and it’s at the finish.”

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I was slipping and sliding all over that course. I trained pretty hard to break the habit of picking my feet / knees up so high that I’m wasting energy but for this course you HAD to pick your feet up so high or else you’d jam your toes into a jutting rock.

So it was slow going. You always go a little slower uphill, right? But downhill I’d have to go just as slow! I was sliding on the dried pine needles or loose rocks that littered the course. I tried to push it on the rare straight stretches of the course when I could.

Now I do want to say that the race support was excellent. The signage was clear and flags lined the course to mark where to run. There were a ton a great volunteers and water stations just about every 2 miles. Plus most of the stations had oranges, bananas and/or pretzel chips. It was a really good set up and that really impressed me.

But the mile markers were a bit of a mess. The provided pre-race info did warn that due to the type of course, the miles were more approximated and “may not match” what your GPS says. And mine sure didn’t. For most of the race my watch was saying I was about 1/2 a mile further than the mile markers so I had it in mind that I was going to run about 14 miles. No biggie.

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Mile 8-10, I was advised, were the big big uphill miles. I ran for as much as I could miles 1-8 and then let myself take a walk break for the big uphill. Miles 10 and 11 we’re okay, I was tired but I was moving. Then I wanted to really lay it all out on the course for miles 12-finish, again thinking it would be closer to 14-ish miles.

I saw the mile marker for mile 12 and my watch said something like 12.25 and a volunteer pointed down the path telling me the finish was that way. So I picked it up and…. ran about 100 feet and there was the end! What??

I really wish I had pushed harder on mile 12 but I thought I had 2 more to go! Not less than a quarter mile! Haha.

Oh well. I collected my medal, skipped the free beer and headed straight for the food truck. This race provided free lunch! It was a bit of a wait since all the runners (for every distance) and volunteers got a free meal but hey, it was free!

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Gringodillas food truck! I’ve never heard of this place before (it’s local to Flag) but it was awesome they set up shop for us and everything looked so good! I got the Sly Dog with bbq pork and cole slaw and it was delish!

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All in all I felt really great during this race. Parts were hard for sure but I wasn’t depleted at the end and I KNOW I can continue on (which I’ll have to come November!) I had a good more miles left in this tank and NYCM won’t be a trail and is basically 0 elevation so all of that will make it a little bit smoother. But NYCM does have all those bridges….

Next up is the South Mountain Classic and then I think I’m hanging up my trail racing shoes!

 

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Pros and Cons of the Wildfire Half Marathon

What a weekend!  I drove up to Pinetop AZ for the Wildfire Half Marathon on Friday afternoon after like 0 planning or training! Let’s do this recap by the pros and cons.

CON:

I realized that driving long distances is an anxiety trigger for me!  I was able to kind of keep my anxiety in check but yeah, I’m not doing that drive for a while.

I was more than ready to be done driving by the time I got the hotel! When I went into the lobby, passing the ‘no vacancy’ sign and said I needed to check in, the manager said those dreaded words, “Could it be under any other name?”

Um… no! Not at all.

CON:

They didn’t have my reservation! I booked through Expedia (which normally is a breeze) but there’s was a problem with their system and long story short, the motel no longer partnered with them so they never got word of my res. It’s all Expedia’s fault and the manager was beyond helpful about it and they got me another room in a near by hotel. Problem was, this hotel didn’t have a microwave! So I couldn’t reheat the pre-race meal I prepped and packed! After scrambling for a new hotel room and checking in for the race and not knowing the area at all, I got the best meal I could think of fast. McDonalds Chicken Salad w/ Balsamic dressing.

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It’s been a while since I went to McD’s and they didn’t even have this on the menu. I probably sounded pretty dumb asking for it but oh well. Plus he called it a “Ranch Chicken salad” so I had to even further ask if they had other dressings. But if worked out enough. Luckily my room did have a coffee maker so I heated up some water in that in the A.M. to eat my oatmeal before the run.

CON:

I did not sleep well!  I think I woke up 4 times during my 6 hour sleep and had 1 dream that really shook me up. I was planning on waking up at 4 but when my eyes opened at 3 I decided I might as well get up and get moving.

PRO:

Pinetop is beautiful!! I loved loved loved running through the trees and part of it was even around a little lake. Ya’ll know how I feel about all bodies of water so that was my fav part.

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CON:

The course was rough, man! It was a trail run for the most part (maybe about 2 miles of pavement?) but lots of either loose dirt or either groovy, rained on then driven over dirt packed roads. Avoiding all the grooves and holes and ankle-twisting paths was definitely a challenge!

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PRO:

The first 4 miles were downhill.

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CON:

The next 3 1/2 miles were uphill and I mean uphill! I didn’t see anyone run up those steep hills. I walked up a lot of this segment. Sometimes it was the kind of walking where you have to hunch over and keep your balance it was so steep. It would level off a little and I would try and catch my breath and then run the straight bits but they weren’t very long till it was uphill again.

 

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PRO:

I saw the mile 8 marker and next thing I know it was mile 10!  I love when this happens. 🙂

CON:

I am not used to running in high elevation. Where I live it sits at about 1,000 ft. This course got up to 7,300 ft! I could feel it for the first couple miles but luckily it wasn’t a big issue and I could breathe the whole time. But keeping this in mind (along with all the other things going on) I kept a very slow pace and put absolutely no pressure on myself time-wise. I knew I wasn’t going to PR so I just enjoyed being outdoors and looked at it like a long hike.

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PRO:
I finished! It may have took me barely under 3 hours but I did it and I didn’t give up. And now I have another medal to add to my collection.

PRO: (CON??)

I was CRAVING ice cream the entire last 5 miles! I knew there was a Burger King across the street from my hotel and so I set my mind to getting a Froot Loop Shake. And while I’m there and just exercised off 1000 calories, dammit I’m getting Mac n Cheetos!!

Both were satisfying as in they fulfilled what I was craving but neither tasted so spectacular that I’d 1) get them again 2) recommend them.

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CON:

By the time I finally got back to the hotel, I had just enough time to eat, take an bath and clean up before I had to check out. I peeled off my shoes and socks and laughed at my dirty self! I really did run through the dirt trails!

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CON:

Ice bath! enough said.

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CON:

Time to drive back home!

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PRO:

But the BIGGEST pro is really, just how freaking gorgeous this Earth is! The older I get the more I just want to be outside!! I love than running takes us all over the world and to such beautiful places and courses and we get to just do what we love in the sunshine (mostly…) and out in nature.

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Overall, even though I think there were more cons on this list than pros, I am happy with this weekend. Normally a 3 hour time would make me so miserably depressed but I just had the attitude from the start that I was going to enjoy the course. There were a few road blocks that definitely tried my anxiety and state of mind  but I’m proud of how I handled it all.

Sometimes races are way more mentally challenging than physically so even though I may not have pushed myself to be fastest or strongest or whatever there, I did push myself mentally to be positive and kind to myself so I still win!

Plus this was the inaugural Wildfire Half Marathon so who knows, maybe I’ll do it again next year!