Saturday, September 12, 2009

Little Grand Canyon Half Marathon Recap

A Runner's Ramblings: Volume 4; 19th Edition
466 miles raced in 2009

Race: Little Grand Canyon Half- Marathon
Place: Huntington, UT
Miles from home: 140 miles
Weather: 50-80s; clear skies

Let's play Racing Jeopardy!

Answer: By eating an entire Little Caesar's Hot-n-Ready pizza all by yourself the night before the race.

Question: How does one win either a marathon or a half marathon at the Little Grand Canyon Day of Races (I invented this name)?

Yep, for the second straight year, the night before the Little Grand Canyon Marathon and Half I devoured every slice of an entire pizza, barely stopping to taste it. Last year this was almost folly. This year I did not care. Why? Well, I was not competing in the full marathon but simply the half-marathon. And as I was injured I wasn't expecting much. But this is getting a tad ahead of myself.

When I ran the Little Grand Canyon Marathon last year I mentioned to many how nice and beautiful the second half of the course was and how I would love to run it as just the half. The problem is, when I go to a race weekend and am able to run, chances are pretty darn good that I will choose the marathon option to the half marathon one. (Considering I have run 11 half marathons in my life and 100 marathons, I think the numbers illustrate my point). So in my continual effort to always look on the bright side of life, I used my car accident and subsequent injury as away to see my friend Lisa Smith-Batchen last weekend and to run the Little Grand Canyon Half this weekend.

Packet Pickup
I had a little table set up next to the packet pickup and for two quick hours got to spend time signing books and getting to know the runners of the race. As always there was the usual assortment of first time runners with their own inspiring stories as to why they were taking on the task of the 10k, half-marathon or marathon being offered. I got to spend a good deal of time speaking with the organizers of the Mammoth Marathon series of races and really enjoyed getting to see them again. Stand-up fellas these guys are, and runners to boot who know how to put on very fine races. it is amazing that this is only there second year of existence with these races!

After the pickup was over I went back to my hotel room and got completely entranced watching the History channel which had a riveting series on September 11th. Footage from dozens of people who were in lower Manhattan that day was spliced together chronologically. As I inhaled my entire pizza (even after having had Taco Bell about three hours prior) I could not stop watching. We all obviously know of the horrific events of that day but I think it should be required viewing to watch these videos every year to remember exactly what it was like. I had so many thoughts coming back to me about that day. How beautiful of a late summer day it was and wondering how much worse it would have been if it has been a cold and deary day marked with rain (Or would the rain have deadened the dust cloud that covered Manhattan that day? Not sure.)

I finally forced myself to turn off the TV and fell asleep around 1:30 AM. Not too brilliant with a 5 AM wake-up call.

Race Day:

I knew this course and knew that it was mostly a downhill course. But I also remembered it was not exactly the easiest course out there. The footing was solid but definitely not the fastest one could run on. The elevation had us starting at a place where even when it is flat it can be a little hard to breathe. But it was a beautiful day and I was ready to run. I had no idea what to expect from my body so I just decided to roll the dice.
Miles 1-3: 6:31, 6:50, 6:51
As with all of the Mammoth Marathon races, the miles are counted down backward. So after the first .1 of a mile has gone by, runners will see "Mile 13". It is an interesting way to go about posting the miles and I really enjoy it. The first marker seemed to be a little off from where we started the race (meaning the .1 was a smidgen too long) but every subsequent mile seemed to be spot on.

Even with all the actual possibilities of running fast in this race against me, I was curious how fast I could run. When the first mile came in a time of 6:31 and I felt like it was about 30 seconds fast at least, I knew today was no day for a PR.

The first few miles were spent feeling out the competition. Myself, and some fellas named Steven, Patrick, Brad, James and Joe, were in the main pack. Brad and Patrick separated themselves from all of us and within a few miles Brad separated himself from everyone. He was on a tear and was just motoring down the road. I smiled inwardly as the first few miles had us run past a long straight section which I had used last year to try and see what the guy behind me in the marathon was made of. To quote:

Around mile 11, the chap behind me (I would later learn his name was Bronson Dameron) had shed his sweatshirt and hat and was still roughly 35 seconds behind me. We then hit a very flat and very straight section of the course. Here, with almost nothing around to pinpoint pace, I would make a surge every telephone pole and then back off for two telephone poles. I hoped the surge would be unnoticed by the runner behind me and before he knew it I would have put a few more seconds between us. However, at the next right angle, he had gained ground! Well, crap!"

There was no such need for these tactics this early in the race on this day but it brought back a good memory.

Miles 4-7: 6:48, 6:32, 6:22, 6:38

As we jockeyed for position in the first few miles my breathing was erratic and my ribs were far from ideal. My shoulder only ached for about a mile or so and then slipped silently into the no pain zone. That was pleasing to say the least. However, with my miles being on pace to just have me breaking 1:30, I was none too pleased with my effort. However, as we neared mile 4 I seemed to finally settle down a bit. As James, Steven and I would alternately lead and then fall back it felt like it was a chess match of sorts. All of a sudden my breathing seemed to get under control, my ribs hurt less and I put on a surge.

I separated myself first from Steven, and then James. Joe and I ran together for about a quarter of a mile until I sped up a little bit again. Soon, I was in sole possession of third place with only Patrick in sight. Brad was quickly becoming a speck on the horizon.

However, as the sun began to illuminate the cliff walls of this fantastic beautiful scene, my energy level seemed to pick up. I began closing in on Patrick (who took 5th in the marathon himself last year) and soon was running in his shadow.

Miles 8-9: 6:29, 6:52

I exchanged a few words with Patrick and then in proper racing smarts did not allow him to stay with me as I passed him. This little spurt of speed also put Brad in sight for the first time in miles. I began using markers to see how far he was in front of me. He passed into the shadow of that big boulder now and then...55 seconds later I passed into that shadow. He went over the cement culvert ditch now and then...40 seconds later I did the same. I had somehow reeled Brad in and while he looked strong I knew it was only a matter of time that I would catch him.

Miles 10-13 6:44, 6:51, 6:40, 6:40

Right before mile 9 I was able to saddle up next to Brad, a really nice South African fellow who I got to spend time talking with after the race and shared a few seconds running with him. "I went out too fast!" is what he said to me as I appeared on his right shoulder. "Looks like that might be the case!" I replied. I then informed him that Patrick was about 100 yards behind us and then no one else for a long way. So just hold onto this pace and you have a guaranteed third.

Over the next few miles I could see that I wasn't going to be challenged for the win. I really began to take in the view around me and just enjoy every second of it.

My thoughts once again gravitated to my grandparents. For whatever reason, I had forgotten that the next day was Grandparents Day. If you have read See Dane Run, you know how much my grandparents, who have both passed, mean to me. You would know what amazing event transpired on Grandparents day during my 52 Marathons. And if you read my posting about the Little Grand Canyon Marathon last year, you will know how happy I was to win a Marathon on that same holiday to honor them both. Well, here I was again about to win my first half-marathon ever and lo and behold it is on Grandparents Day weekend.

I spent the last mile of the race alternating thinking about Bette and Jim (my grandparents), conversing with a very friendly sheriff who was leading me into the finish in his SUV (and kicking up dust around me at the same time) and just soaking in the good rays of a Saturday well spent.
Before I knew it, I was crossing the finishline in a time somewhere around 1:28. Darn near a full 10 minutes slower than my half-marathon PR it was still super sweet. I was presented with a fantastic overall award (pictured below) to bookend an equally special award from the previous year.
Patrick would finish behind me a little while later with Brad indeed taking third. When the marathoner winner came in to claim victory around 3:10 it meant I was fortunate enough to keep the course record I set last year on this course and also set a new course record in the half.

As I told many, including second place overall female finisher Lisa Boshard (who was not super pleased with her time or her placing given that she succumbed to the overall winner with about half of a mile to go) while these times may not be our personal bests, you only need to race who shows up on race day.

Final results:
1. Me...............................1:28:29
2. Patrick Clifford..........1:29:44
3. Brad Gayle.................1:32:26
4. James Ross................1:34:03
5. Steven Jones.............1:34:35
6. Joe Berman...............1:35:09

So I will take my two course records, new friends made and big old slab of rock along with many smiles back to Salt Lake and be happy. If you are fortunate enough to have your Grandparents with you today, take the time to tell them how much they mean to you.


HEATHER @ runfastermommy! said...

Wow, that is a fantastic award! Congrats on the win!

Chris White said...

Hey Dane, let me (again) take the opportunity to congratulate you on an awesome race. You are a freaking stud.

Tom said...

Enjoyed the story. Congratulations on your win!

Brit H. said...

Wow! What an amazing blog! It was so nice to meet you after the Little Grand Canyon Half on Saturday. Thanks for being a friend! Although, I have to admit, I feel pretty silly NOW! I was asking you if you are a "runner" and if you had "done this before" ha ha. You are awesome! You should have told me that you WON! Way to go! I will definitely keep up with your blog!

1L said...

Ok, so eating a whole pizza is the trick, huh? Nice job, Dane - how are you feeling today - legs, ribs, collar bone??

Evan S said...

Congratulations Dane!

You are really tearing up the roads and trails this year.

Maybe Little Grand Canyon can be a special "shoulder injury recovery" PR. :-)

Julie said...

Hi Dane! It was a pleasure meeting you at packet pick-up (I'm the girl from Oklahoma) and I'm so glad that you were able to run the half marathon and that the pain wasn't very bad. Great job! Loved your race report.


Dane said...

how did I not respond here?!

Thank you Heather!


Great seeing you here and in Mesquite.

Glad you liked it, Tom!

Brit, the pleasure was mine. :)

Pizza is the trick, 1L!

I need all the categories I can get!

Thanks so much! Hope your running continues to be fantastic!