Sedona, Arizona, USA
Take off your rainbow shades
This was a race I signed up for basically for the scenery, and because the course would be great training. My long runs suggested that I was capable of covering 13 miles in about 2:19, but that was on a flat course at a much lower altitude and not counting stretch breaks.
Friday starts off a little inauspiciously; I’ve been having some lower back pain this week and just feel kind of blah. Consequently it’s no surprise that by the time I roll out of bed, do a short run, pick up some last-minute groceries and pack, it’s mid-afternoon instead of noon like I planned. Blah. Nevertheless the drive up to Sedona goes well, with a traditional brief stop at Sunset Point, and I pull into Tlaquepque shopping center for packet pickup by early evening. It’s chilly at this altitude!
Normally I like to browse the artsy-fartsy shops, but I know I have no budget for that this time, so I just pick up my packet, including a very nice copper-colored tech shirt, watch the Zumba in the courtyard for awhile, then head off to my hotel.
The pasta feed is at the Elks’ Club a few blocks from my hotel – no streetlights this side of town, so a good thing I brought my little flashlight! The dining hall is super warm and super busy – generous helpings of spaghetti, salad with dried cranberries (the woman in front of me was really loading up on those), garlic bread, and chocolate or tapioca pudding. Every half hour they have a drawing for door prizes, including some really awesome ones like local wine or a pair of Asics! No, I didn’t win anything. I get into an interesting conversation with a couple down from the Hopi reservation and decide I want to do the Tewanima Run next Labor Day.
As usual I wake up several times during the night but I’m used to this now so I just glance at the clock and go back to sleep. Finally I roll out of bed and snarf a pop-tart. I can’t find my flashlight, so it’s a dark walk ¾ miles to the nearest shuttle pickup, but there’s no wait once I get there and the yellow school bus is nice and warm. So nice and warm, that we’re all reluctant to get off at the stop and walk to the start area in the dark.
Eventually the sun begins to rise over the red rock hills. The rest of the runners and volunteers trickle in. I wait till they start calling last call for the marathon before I ditch my outer layers and check my gear bag. The half is set to start 15 minutes after the full. I try not to get too far forward in the chute, and dance along to the music to keep warm. And then we’re off!
The first half mile is a gradual downhill along the main street, then we turn onto Dry Creek Road and the real fun begins! We have the left-hand lane on a rolling residential route through gorgeous desert scenery: red buttes, blue skies, and twisted pines. It’s an out-and-back route, so every slope we speed down we know will be a tough climb on the way back. There’s one around mile 3 that I’m sure I’ll need a ladder for on the return! I’m determined, though, to tough it out and not walk any hills for as long as I can. Around this point we also start to see runners on their return leg – apparently the 10K race was started early and now they’re lapping us.
One of the sponsors of the race is Pink Jeep tours, who are providing some support vehicles; the famous pink jeeps are sprinkled throughout the course and occasionally one comes by stuffed with tourists found for the nearest vortex. Nearing the five mile aid station, do I hear – a tuba? A band of zombies is there, handing out “WAAA-TERRRRRR!” while a live polka band plays merrily nearby. Gotta love Sedona.
I’ve been monitoring my Garmin but not getting too concerned about it; I’m mostly just trying to push a little without killing myself, plus my pace has been all over the place because of the rolling terrain. But around Mile 6 I glance down at my cumulative time and realize that I am just killing it – even assuming my 2nd half is slower, I could actually PR on this course!
The 6.5 Mile turnaround is near the bottom of the hill. Going back up – this is not the steepest hill on the course, and even though there is a headwind it’s really no more than a breeze – but it’s the hardest damn slope in the race, and I checked this with a few other runners afterwards. Must be a psychological thing. This was also the only section of the course that was in the shade. At the top of the hill a quick pit stop, where I intend to re-tie my right shoe but forget.
By now it’s warm enough that I’ve shed my wooly gloves, carrying them because they feel weird and bulky stuffed in my back pocket. I pull out a GU and sip from it over the next few miles. I’m feeling pretty good and just monitor my pace so it doesn’t drop too far. There’s a lot of jockeying over the final miles as every runner has their own individual strategy on the hills. I have to walk for a bit on the steeper slopes, but pick it back up as soon as I can because I don’t like to lose momentum. (One of the things my coach taught me is that when you run up a hill, don’t stop or slow to a walk at the top – keep going!) A far too cheerful guy comes running by and reminds us all to look up and enjoy the scenery.
At Mile 12, of course, my right shoelace comes untied.
The rest of the way is a gradual uphill grade to the finish. I just have to take it easy now, take it home and not get carried away. There’s a silver-haired gentleman pacing me, who pulls slowly ahead. A few hundred feet from the finish I think what the hell, and sprint like a maniac to cross the finish line just before him!
Official time: 2:18:48 and a PR! A PR by almost 11 minutes!
In the finisher’s area, there’s a tent where they’re offering a rub down for sore muscles with some kind of organic cream. My sorest muscles are my glutes, and I’m not dropping trou here in the finisher’s area! I settle for calves instead.
After an hour’s wait for a shuttle that’s supposed to run every 20 minutes, I join the ranks of the disgruntled and start to walk the 2 miles back to my hotel. After about a mile 2 gals in a rented SUV, fellow racers, give me a lift the rest of the way.
First priority is choco milk and a bean burrito heated in the microwave. (It’s 1:00 by the time I get back to my room.) After that I have a date with the Jacuzzi in the garden. It’s quite pleasant, watching the bluebirds and yellow verdins splash about in the fountain nearby. I splash out on a big dinner at Heartline Café (butternut squash & roasted pear soup, mmm) because it’s almost my birthday, and hey, PR!
The Seonda Marathon medals 2012-2015 are designed to fit together as one big mega-medal if you collect all four. This was such a fun race that I just might do that!