April 1st was my first half marathon of the year, the Zion Half Marathon! I would love to say it started off amazingly, but when your first mile is 18+ minutes, you kinda know it's gonna be a doozy!
My friend and I took off from Las Vegas early Friday afternoon and the drive took us about 4 hrs. Yay for the S-Town Podcastfor the in-car entertainment! Packet pickup was at Zion Ponderosa Ranch which was north of Zion National Park from the direction we came in. So, we had to pay the $35 admission to the park to drive across. Seriously wish there would have been some mention of this on the website. Anyhow, we made it just in time for packet pickup and our spaghetti dinner. The weather was very cold and it was super muddy. The race directors had communicated this to us via emails, updates on facebook, and even text messages, so we knew what to expect when we arrived. As a matter of fact, their communication throughout the evening and race morning was very good.
We stayed in Kanab, UT which was another 30 minutes north of the start line at the same Zion Ponderosa Ranch. Traffic was expected for race morning and we were told to plan at least an additional 30 minutes to our drive. However, the night before the race, we were given notice that the parking area was being moved to their Plan B location due to the muddy conditions at the original parking lot. This created even more traffic and congestion as there was only one entrance to Zion Mountain Ranch and cars were simply parking alongside of the road. We then had to walk back towards the main road to where the buses were picking up runners. This ended up being about a mile away from our car. We finally arrived to the buses, waited in line, and boarded the lovely warmth of the bus! Kudos to the volunteers for being out there in the dark and cold morning in such good spirits! They rocked!
Once we arrived to the start line area we found out the race was being delayed due to the traffic congestion caused by the parking lot change. Once the race finally started it was pretty confusing and rushed so we ended up way in the back of the pack. I thought we'd be ok once we started running and we found our groove but that never happened for me. Unfortunately, all the melted snow created some pretty muddy trails that were nearly impossible to run through. Runners ended up just walking along the edges of the trail or completely around the trail so we just all walked in a row behind each other. Yup, more congestion. By the time we were out of the 1st muddy mile, it'd been 18 minutes and I was feeling pretty defeated. The downhill course that was promised was not really downhill. It was way more hilly and more of an up and down course. Add to that the super muddy trails where we were forced to walk most of them and we had ourselves a PR for slowest half marathon! It was definitely not the race I was expecting. Having to run past our cars around mile 7 was especially cruel!
It hurts me to write this recap because I've seriously loved all the half marathons I've ran. I understand no one can predict the weather and the havoc it can cause on race day and the race directors did a good job handling it. I think they did the best they could with the weather conditions. They also gave all this year's runners a discount for next year's race and sent a very well written email afterwards. However, it wasn't just the weather that did it for me. I wish I could say it was just the wet, cold, muddy conditions that made it difficult for me to enjoy the race, but it wasn't just that for me. I was also expecting a much more scenic race and the locations we ran through just didn't have spectacular views. For this year only, the race was east of Zion National Park, so maybe the regular location is much more scenic, but I'm not sure. Ultimately, I know a race is what you make of it and I am glad I experienced this race. It taught me that I need be prepared for everything and sometimes races just don't go as expected. I need to learn to go with the flow. This race was definitely a mental game for me and I gave up quickly. I did not give it my all and I let unrealized expectations, bad weather, and muddy conditions defeat me. Lesson learned.
I gotta say, I do love that big wooden medal and now I can mark off running while it snows from the bucket list! Ok, it was just flurries but still...
Did you run the Zion Half Marathon? I'd love to know what are your thoughts of the race.