Canyonlands Half Marathon – Race Report

I generally play by the rules, follow laws, and try to respect established boundaries.  Occasionally, I’m ignorant of these things.  Like the time Schlotfeld and I almost caused the end of the Leadville 50 mile mountain bike race as we all know it…  I even accept that ignorance is no excuse, especially where the law is concerned.  But on rare occasions, usually when I feel I have a thorough understanding of the rules, their justifications, and their consequences, I break them anyway.

I’ve never run a race ‘bandit’.  Lets make that clear.  I had a number of college teammates who made it common practice and tried to sway me at times.  I tried not to judge, but it seemed like stealing to me.  I had also never raced with someone else’s paid entry…. before now.  Apologies to all my race director friends and acquaintances out there, but I just don’t see the point in prohibiting the transfer of entries.  I’d love to write a ‘point – counterpoint’ post on the subject, so let me hear it.  But that’s for another time.

I’ve heard good things about the Canyonlands Half Marathon since I moved to Colorado eight years ago.  I’ve always wanted to do it, but its just never fit in.  This year a group of 8-10 friends entered as group and all got in.  The race fills up instantly and apparently entering as group or team reduces the chance that someone will get left out in the cold.  You still have to register though, you can’t just think about it, or intend to.  As often happens, I was asleep at the wheel on registration deadline day and missed out.  Michele and I had planned on going anyway just to get some good riding in, if nothing else.  So when my friend Tyler called to see if I wanted his wife’s entry, I said sure…

I would not make a very good criminal.  The decision to break the rules was pretty quick and painless.  Figuring out how not to get caught, what would happen, whether or not I really cared, took much more time and mental energy.   The basic problem was that if I ran the race I wanted to run, I would likely not be in a crowd at the finish.  There would be some form of chip timing, there would be an announcer, I would cross the line and it would be awkward at best.  I considered several strategies to avoid this embarrassment.  The most plausible seemed to be starting late, weaving my way through the field, and finishing in the middle of the pack.

Well…. 4,000 runners on a two lane road looks a lot different than it sounds.  There are no shoulders, no sidewalks, no yards to pass in.  It’s Canyonlands, for the first 11 miles there is a river on your right and the canyon wall on your left.  I scrapped my plan, lined up where I normally would and prepared for the embarrassment.

My race plan was to ride 4 hard hours in the LaSalle Mountains on Saturday, then try to run fast on Sunday.

LaSalle Mountains

There's already been 3 miles of this...

The sunburn was worth it!

I hadn’t done any speed work yet, so I decided to hang out around or just below 7 minute pace for the first half and then see what I could manage.  I had a great time running the first half with friend of a friend John Van Soest.  We BS’d, made fun of other people, talked stride and footstrike and had a pretty good run going.  I don’t know why we don’t train together?  But I began to pick it up around mile 7 and he elected to leave the cruise control where it was.

The course is pretty amazing!  HWY 128 into Moab is definitely worth the extra 5-10 minute drive next time you go.  Or better yet, run it and take it all in for 90 mins or so.  Moab is obviously surrounded by all kinds of beautiful natural settings, some are just harder to get to than others.  The Canyonlands course is a great way to wet your appetite for an amazing weekend of natural wonders.

I felt pretty good towards the bottom of the canyon.  Passing people, a noticeable tailwind, pleasantly surprised with my splits.  Then we exited the canyon, and turned left towards town.  With one 90-degree turn, a pleasant tail wind turned into a ferocious head wind.  Upon review it would add roughly 40 sec/mile to last two splits, and I think I fared better than most.

Nearing the finish line, it became apparent that I wasn’t going to catch the group of 3 in front of me.  I knew there had been a mysterious and small Asian runner drafting off me for the last 1.5 miles or so, but I couldn’t tell if they were male or female.  It was my only hope to confuse the race announcer.  So I decided it was best to just finish close to this person.

As we entered the finish chute I hear, “…and rounding out our top five women is Anne Walt..the..??” and silence.  Apparently, it wasn’t confusing at all.  I put my head down and exited the finisher area as quickly as possible.  (Thankfully, no one chased me down.)  So fast in fact, that I forgot to stop my watch.  I’m guessing it was around 1:28:30.  I’m guessing because Anne never got an official finishing time.

I’m cool with that.  I paid half price (the t-shirt was NOT gunna fit) for a well supported, incredibly scenic, training run with good friends and fast strangers.  I didn’t screw up the awards, eat or drink anymore than Anne would have, or require any medical attention.  So, no harm, no foul, right?


About acbeeson

Professional engineer, passionate triathlete, once a runner always a runner, Husker fanatic but CO is the place to be!
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One Response to Canyonlands Half Marathon – Race Report

  1. mhutto says:

    Way to mess up their results! Strong run especially after a hard bike the day before!

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