Flagstaff Marathon - RunHalf Marathon

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Flagstaff, Arizona
United States
40F / 4C
Total Time = 2h 43m
Overall Rank = 60/73
Age Group =
Age Group Rank = 0/
  • 2h 43m
  • 13.1 miles
  • 12m 26s  min/mile

Arrived to Flagstaff late Friday night. Got to bed at a decent time, didn’t matter though. The dog was honestly up every 30 minutes to an hour until 3AM (she gets weird sometimes in new places). Up at 6AM for an 8AM race start that was about 30 miles past Flagstaff at the Nordic Center. Ate the typical oatmeal and even tried a little bit of coffee (really needed the caffeine). It wasn’t as cold as I expected but I did decide to go with my long sleeve short that I wore for my last half (good luck maybe?) Also wore sweats over my shorts up to the race.

Took us no time to get up there, passed the 8000 foot elevation sign as we drove up. It was sunny but all of the San Francisco peaks were enshrouded in clouds. I had made a bet with Josh that it would rain on us. We have had amazing luck and have never had to run or race in terrible weather before, either way it did not bother me. I had odd feelings about this race. For it being a trail run, starting above 8000 feet of elevation, a half marathon and having as much elevation gain as it did I should have been nervous about it. But I was just excited to try something completely different.

Checked in about 7:15 got our shirts, numbers, some other goodies and huddled in the lodge. It was pretty windy and COLD. Most women were wearing their running tights (D'oh) its just been so warm in PHX I had never thought to wear anything but shorts! Talked to two people beforehand both running the full marathon. One guy had just run some ultra on the Hopi reservation the weekend before and was running some 100+ mile ultra next weekend too. He must have weighed 90 pounds. Another girl was an NAU student - saw lots of NAU Track and Field sweatshirts.

Loved the race environment, it was SMALL. Limited to only 250 entrants between the half, full and a 10K. After hanging out in the lodge we decided to head out and acclimate to the weather. I took my sweats off and found some sun, it was warm (when the wind stopped). Before we knew it the race director was explaining the course. Seeing as it was a nordic center we were running on Cross country ski trails and snowshoeing trails. We would all start on the 10K course then loop back to the lodge and then head out on another different loop for the remaining 6.9 miles.

SIREN BLAIRS and people TAKE OFF! OH NO...I must take it slow at such altitude and on such footing. It started as a jeep road so it was okay but Josh got seperated from me right away. Looked down at the GPS and held a 9:XX pace for the beginning but before we knew it it was already UP UP UP. We had a mile of gradual uphill which was a nice warm-up and then at mile marker 1 it got steep. People began walking, I tried running lightly for a while. But then you look down at your pace and realize 'I could walk faster than this' so I started walking the steeps (something EVERY trail runner tells you to do anyway) and I actually was passing people - I do walk fast because I stride longer than when I run. This long up kept up until mile 2.5 and then we had a nice rocky downhill. Again I picked people off on this, Josh even commented that our mtn biking skills were handy here because we were able to pick smooth lines where some people would just run on the slip-slidey rocks we would look ahead and bomb lines. That fun downhill was short lived (.5 mile) and then we were climbing again (get used to it!) Climbed up until mile 4 and then we could tell we were at some elevation. We were in aspens and those don't grow very low! We had climbed over 400 feet (again after that nice little descent) and were antsy for a change. It was BEAUTIFUL though, absolutely awe-inspiring. The trail changed often from wider jeep trail to tiny tiny single track that you had to just tip-toe along, then you would be in deep grass which made me VERY nervous as you had no idea where you foot was landing. I truly enjoyed running in the pine trees because it would be soft, until the ground was cover in roly pine cones - yipes! Time would just fly because you were concentrating so hard.

After a quick aid station stop (absolutely impossible to run and drink without rolling an ankle) we FLEW down the 2 miles into the lodge area (my best pace was 7:00 flat!) We made the 10K in 1:12. Not the best 10K in the world but with ALL the elevation gain (nearly 700 feet) and our unsure footing we were THRILLED with it. With some quick calculations we figured we could definitely finish in 2:30 since we only had 6.9 miles left...little did we know what lie ahead!!

We took off on the second loop, it was relatively flat for almost 2 miles (nothing is truly flat on trails!) I saw the 8 mile marker and was ecstatic, I felt great we were making good time - but oh wait - how could I forget...THE RAIN!!! At mile 4.5 it had started raining. Just a light sprinkle. By mile 7 the light sprinkle decided to turn into a moderate steady stream of water to the point that it would drip consistently off the brim off my hat and the trail was now sticking to my shoes and rocks were glistening. By mile 8 I was thoroughly drenched. I didn't mind, only a glancing thought about possible chafing, but otherwise it was okay. At mile 8 the climbing started...and went...and went...and went. I saw my nice pace fall and fall and PLUMMET. Looking at my GPS maps some of the grades on this climb range from 24-48%, I would have to place my hands on my quads and push down to get my legs to move UP the trail. It finally flattened out for maybe 20 feet for an aid station at mile 10 and we thought we had summited, we were above 8600 feet and FREEZING. The man told Josh "take a left here and head over that hill" that is the ONLY time the entire race that I felt slightly defeated. Walking ensued, as quickly as I could and WHEEZING followed. I could NOT breathe. I was fine on the lower parts of the trail, but WOW could you tell when you were UP there. I must have sounded like a 90 year old with emphyzema, but we kept moving, never stopped. The trail was deeply burmed and your feet would either be in straight steps or walking VERY wide on the outsides on the burm (ditch). It had gotten very muddy by now too and you could feel mud and junk being thrown up onto your legs and into your shoes. But we did not stop, had we I am not sure we would have gotten started again.

Mile 10-11 was the darkest hour, but it was not truly DARK by any means (other than rain clouds). We just kept trucking, it was BRUTAL. That mountain had been kicking my ass for over 2 hours now and I had to promise it my first born in order to make that nasty summit. We had been climbing without ANY descent AT ALL for over 4 miles now, my lower back was screaming to just stand up and stretch out from all the leaning forward to make these steep grades. But Josh and I just kept talking about how much FUN we were having, how we were freezing, cold, wet, tired, SICK of climbing, but DAMN what an AWESOME adventure and how excited we were to be doing it. Never once did I regret it, and I purposely hung on to those "trying" times as I know there will be many many more in my life as an athlete.

At mile 11 there was another aid station that cheered us on, I said THANKS and smiled HUGE - we were practically done. However I knew that since we had climbed for such an inproprtionate number of miles the downhill was going to be steep and treacherous (VERY wet). As much as I wanted a downhill I knew I was tired and would have to be extra diligent.

Down we went...dooown doooown dooown for nearly 2 miles until it flattened out at the bottom. I felt phenomenal, I saw some of the marathoners looping around and thought "NO WAY (especially in the weather)" looked down at my pruned hands (from being so wet) and felt another shiver and picked up my speed so I could run the last mile sub 10 at least. I knew with that 4 mile climb our 2:30 finish was loooooong gone but I could be proud with a strong finish. And honestly, would have been damn proud to finish this 45 inutes after I had. I know I did it to the best of my ability and have come a long way in my training and fitness level. This is something I could have NEVER DONE. Even though I ran my first half 9 months ago this was no compare - the challenge mentally and physically of this race meant so much more to me than that race. I could have come in dead last (and who knows maybe I did) but I felt as though I did something truly great out there today.

Elevation Map from my GPS (it is missing some data as I accidentally hit STOP instead of lap at some point - oops!)

What would you do differently?:

Do more trail running.
Post race
Warm down:

Walked around for just a few minutes to get my HR down (which fell surprisingly fast - I was glad). The practically ran into the lodge to get warm!

What limited your ability to perform faster:

HILLS! HUGE GIANT STEEP HILLS! Oh and the altitude, yeah that's not a helper. OH and rocks, twigs, holes, slippery stuff, narrow trails, etc.

Event comments:

This race was INSANELY well organized - way to go NATRA! There were chalk marks on the ground ever .10 or so miles, landscape flags AND signs, mile markers, etc EVERYWHERE! There were TONS of aid stations and a slew of volunteers! The aid stations had plenty of water, gatorade AND FOOD! They even had fires at all of the aid stations to warm up by if need be! This was THE MOST organized, well run race I have ever been to. I was very surprised considering how small it was.

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Last updated: 2007-09-21 12:00 AM
02:43:00 | 13.1 miles | 12m 26s  min/mile
Age Group: 0/
Overall: 0/73
Performance: Good
Course: Flagstaff Nordic Center Cross Country and Snowshoe trails.
Keeping cool Good Drinking Just right
Post race
Weight change: %
Overall: Good
Mental exertion [1-5] 5
Physical exertion [1-5] 5
Good race? Yes
Course challenge Too hard
Organized? Yes
Events on-time? Yes
Lots of volunteers? Yes
Plenty of drinks? Yes
Post race activities: Average
Race evaluation [1-5] 5