Running the CanyonLands Half Marathon (Moab Half) for the 4th Time
The Canyonlands Half Marathon (CHM), USATF Certified course and I have a long-standing relationship. I have ran it four times, only missing out on it in 2016 due to injury. It is one of my favorite races because it is held in one of my favorite places–Moab, Utah! It is fun to see the progress I have made with my race pace over the years:
- 2013 – 8:50 pace avg (1:55:55)
- 2014 – 8:06 pace avg (1:46:07)
- 2015 – 7:34 pace avg (1:39:10)
- 2017 – 7:18 pace avg (1:35:44)
My return to the course in 2017 piggybacked our annual family trip to Moab. Both my husband and I had been working on improving our speed and were excited to return to the course.
This year, the race was at the end of the kids’ spring break so we did all of our playing before. The downside of this approach to a race is you: 1) have the race hanging over you the whole trip; 2) feel like you have to restrict your steps/activity to conserve race glycogen; and 3) you feel more restricted in your dietary choices. Not the optimal way to run a race, but family time trumps racing!
As far as destination races go, Moab, Utah, ranks right up there with the best of them! Our traditions always include biking, swimming at the rec center, visiting our favorite food joints, sliding Sand Hill outside of Arches National Park, and hiking in and around Arches National Park. The Fiery Furnace (permit required) hike is always a MUST DO on our list.
Click on image to enlarge.
Race day started with an early morning hotel breakfast and bus ride up the canyon to the starting line. The absolute worst part of this race is the freezing wait and the late, 10:00 am start time. You board the buses at 7:30 am, which makes for a long wait after your 11-mile transport up scenic highway 128. This year, I failed to pack my space blankets and froze during the 90-minute wait up in the windy, shady canyon. But, even with the teeth-chattering cold that was shattering my body, I was excited to test my pace on this course.
I stayed in my extra clothes for as long as I could until it was time to check our gear bags then I stripped off those crucial layers and prepared to find my pace group. As I was adjusting my Ipod Nano and wireless earphones, I was very disgruntled to learn that my earphones had decided to not work. After two months training with this new tech, I had never had any problems, but, of course, three minutes before race start, they decide not to work. I had checked the battery power that morning before leaving the hotel and they were set for 6 hours of performance after being fully charged that night. As the race director counted down the seconds to race start I gave up my attempts to force them into action and stuffed them in my pocket just as the gun went off. Racing 13.2 miles without tunes was not cool. I will forever have a spare set of non-wireless headphones in my gear bag just in case from now on!
The Race Was On
This video clip offered by the Canyonlands Half Marathon organizers can give you a little idea of the race start.
I was totally off rhythm during the first part of the race. I was frustrated that my earphones weren’t working and was struggling with a pace watch that was clocking me going much slower than I actually was. (GPS issues in the canyon). Because most of my training that winter had been on the treadmill, I struggled with knowing what my pace was “by feel.” This challenge, coupled with a skewed pace watch output, caused me to run my first few miles too fast, clocking my first mile at 6:40–much faster than my goal first mile time. Expending too much glycogen in the first few miles of a race can kill your race. Sigh. Subsequently, the race felt like a fight from the get-go. Training on a treadmill just doesn’t transfer well to the road. The speeds I was capable of on the treadmill didn’t sync up with my road performance on this rolling course. You have to log time training on the type of surface/conditions you plan to race on. End of story. I knew this, but thought the impact it would have on my overall race would be marginal. Ha! No. I fought to stay strong even though I was running in the red zone of my heart rate for pretty much the entire race.
Knowing I had kids and family waiting for me at the end of the race drove me forward. My kids don’t get to see me race as much as I wish they could so when they are there I feel especially driven to do well! Much of why I run is for them; to teach them to work for goals and always do their best.
Approaching the finish line was exciting as I knew I was almost to the end and could use the last of my reserves–which wasn’t much, truth be told. I didn’t know where I was in the pack or just how many women were in front of me, but I knew I had put it all out there and had given the course everything I could that morning. I heard my family before I saw them and that was THE sweetest part of the race. Sweeter than crossing the finish line and sweeter than my moments on the stage later. Hearing my children and extended family cheering me on, and being reunited with them after a long haul, was worth the pain and struggles on the course that day!
Surprisingly, my finish time earned me a first place ranking for my division–First Female Master. Overall, I was 14th for my gender which–at the age of 40–I’ll take with a smile! The majority of the women in front of me were in their twenties. . . . I’m determined to keep the aging process at bay as long as I can!
My 1:35:44 time also qualified me for the New York City Marathon if I want to run it again.
My splits were:
You can totally see how I burned myself out in the beginning of this race and it showed as the race progressed. Totally started slowing down!
I raided the recovery tents for water, electrolytes and glycogen-restoring foods and then we returned to the course to look for my husband. Stephen finished strong and made his goal to come in under 2 hours! He finished with an admirable 1:54, 8:46 per mile pace.
Following his finish we camped out to wait for the official results and discovered I had earned first place in my division and would be honored at the awards ceremony. That was an exciting race result for me since I had my family with me to celebrate with me!
The Awards Ceremony
My son and daughter both captured footage on their phones of the awards ceremony. They both caught different parts of the ceremony so I will include both of them. Here is the first:
I love the backpack they gave me for my award. It is hard to read the text in this picture but it says: Canyonlands Half Marathon: Sheri Haymore Award Female Master 1st Place 2017. (Apparently, 12 years ago on this course, Sheri Haymore, a 40-year-old mom of four, collapsed a half mile before the finish line and died so her girls present this award to the first place female master each year. Made me tear up receiving this award from her children!
After you get done with a race, regardless of how you finish, there is a tangible weight lifted of your spirit and body. All the unknowns you carry before a race are gone. Hopefully, goals have been achieved and you can finally just unwind and relax from a season of hard effort!
Being the foodie that I am, I love the extra guilt-free calories that are afforded me on race day to replenish what I have lost. We definitely feasted at Miguel’s Baja Grill that night–my favorite restaurant in town!
Places to See/Things to Do in Moab
- Arches National Park – Fiery Furnace Hike (get permit right when you get in town because there are limited permits and they go fast!)
- Sled Giant Sand Hill (in front of Arches National Park Visitor Center entrance) Bring plastic sleds (discs). If you use Sandboard was you can go faster. You have to do a few runs with the sled to make a track and then you will fly!
- Milt’s Stop and Eat (Burgers and Shakes!)
- Jailhouse Cafe (Breakfast)
- Corona Arch Hike
- Cycling: 1)Colorado River Trail; 2) paved path from out of town into town; 3) Bar M Trail; 4) Countless others, but these listed are good with kids.
- Lions Park Playground
- Arches Thai Restaurant (Huge portions. Plan on sharing)
- Moab Rec Center Swimming (Slide, diving board, zero-entry area, fountains)
- Sweet Cravings Bistro (for sweets and to-go lunch food/sandwiches)
- Rock and Fossil Shop
- Dinosaur Museum and Park
- Miguel’s Baja Grill
- Paradox Pizza – Delicious garlic knots!; Order pizza by the slice.
- MOYO Frozen Yogurt
- Quesadilla Mobilla for Lunch (closes at 5pm)
- Love Muffin (6:30am-1pm)
Until next time, Moab! Adieu!