The Zion Half Marathon


*forewarning this is an extremely long post with a lot of pictures and probably a lot of typos.*



It is time I tell you about my race.  I've been super busy just trying to catch up with work and things (naps), but I'm here now to tell you all about it.  And I don't even really know where to begin; probably at the start, huh?

Deal.

I left work early on Friday and the plan was to leave our house by noon at the latest so we could go to the expo that was being held at the finish line location.  It was also where I needed to pick up my bib, Hydrocup (which I didn't use) and my free t-shirt.  The expo was ending at 6 pm and it was a 4 1/2 hour drive from Midway, so I figured leaving by noon, getting there at 4:30, stay for an hour or so, be in St. George by 7, eat dinner and be in bed by 8.  That was my ideal plan.  That didn't happen.  My  sister was running late and on top of that they had some car issues that slowed them down.  We didn't leave Midway until about 1:45 making our estimated arrival time 6:15.  I was bummed that we were probably going to miss the expo, but happy that my mom and sister's car didn't die on the drive up, resulting in us driving down without them.  But lucky for us, I'm married to a rock star who drove 85 MPH the entire drive and got us there by 5:47, giving us 15 minutes to walk around the booths, buy some swag, smash a penny, and get my bib and race supplies.  All was well and we were in St. George by 8 o'clock; only an hour behind my original schedule.


Road trips with us are a lot of fun.  Most of it consists of snap chatting each other's faces when someone falls asleep, aka my mom.  And when we're not doing that, Mariah and I are blasting songs that were played at our 6th grade dance like the Chicken Dance and the Macarena.  And Landon has to try to keep the truck on the road as I climb over the console and get in the back seat to do the dances with her.  But there isn't any room in the back so my legs are spread eagle around both sides of his seat and my feet are in his face.  It's a miracle we arrived safely.

We sent Landon out for food because even though we were only an hour behind schedule, I still needed to get to bed as early as possible because we had to be up at 4 AM to get ready to leave on time.  He brought home Hungry Howie's Pizza and bread sticks and we laid in bed devouring nearly all if it in a matter of minutes.  Landon and I went straight to bed afterward, but the other two were up to 1 AM dealing with Mariah's shenanigans. I had calculated the time it took to drive from St. George to the starting line of the race and it was about 40 minutes, I also took into account the traffic and parking situation, all in all I decided we needed to leave at 4:45 to get me there by the 6 o'clock cut off.  But I didn't tell my mom and Mariah that.  Oh no, Mariah needs at least a 15 minute buffer, so I told her we had to be out of the house by 4:30 or we wouldn't make it in time.  We were in the car, pulling out of the drive-way at 4:45 on the dot.

Funny story, I had been checking the weather all week for Saturday morning; I even got emails from the race people that it was going to be around 67 degrees at the start and rise to about 72 by the end of the race.  Despite that being nearly double the temps I was used to training in, I still wore my long leggings, wool socks and a hoodie over my tank top that I fully planned on ditching before we even got out of the car.  But as I ran out the door to get in the truck, I was hit with a wall of rain.  I'm telling you, I've never been so surprised in my life as I was in that moment.  It was pitch black outside, so I had no clue that it was raining.  And everything leading up to this point had said that it was going to be perfect weather.  It may as well have been a fire hose blasting me in the face and I'm sure I woke up the neighbors with the string of profanities I shouted as I sprinted to the truck.  I was really glad I had dressed appropriately because we didn't have any time to go back inside to change.  Poor Landon wore shorts and ended up buying a pair of $15 sweats at the gift shop because it ended up being so chilly and rainy.  It rained nearly our entire drive there, and I got an email on the way saying to drop the runners off and park your vehicle somewhere else because the mud was so bad.  So I said my goodbyes through the door and trudged my way across a mud field to the tent where we all kept warm until the start time.

The race was initially supposed to start at 6:30, but they pushed it back fifteen minutes due to the conditions and parking situation.  There were six different waves of runners and I ran with the 3rd putting me at about 2 1/2 hour finish time.  This race is entirely uphill, so I wasn't planning on setting any PR's, plus I had been running slower in my training which I am crediting to the cold.  Next race I train for, I'm aiming for at least 40 degree weather; -2 is pretty brutal.  I turned on my music and an app called RaceJoy that allows me to be tracked, so Landon and those guys could see where I was in the race and send me cheers which made me laugh every time.  I had a great start and was loving the scenery, seriously Zion is one of the most incredible places on Earth.  If you haven't been, you must go.
It was about 40 degrees by the time we were a few miles in, so I was comfortably warm and even sweating a little, but not too hot.  Also, Midway is about 1,700 feet higher in elevation than Zion, so I was feeling awesome with the richer oxygen I was getting.  This race was going perfectly and I was on Cloud 9; the mood changed drastically around mile 4, though.

I came running around a long bend in the road and up ahead of me was a bunch of flashing lights.  I could see two police trucks and an ambulance pulled off to the side of the road.  I wasn't sure what to think, but initially I just assumed that maybe someone had hurt their leg or something; the road had a pretty heavy slant to it and I had stumbled a time or two.  But when I got closer I could see about seven people standing around and as I ran past I saw what they were all watching: the medics performing CPR on a man on the ground.  He even had the defibrillator pads on his chest which means his heart had stopped.  I don't know if you guys have ever seen someone getting CPR, but it's pretty gruesome.  They tell you in CPR classes that if you're doing the compressions correctly you'll be breaking bones, so as I run past the scene that is exactly what I saw happening.  My heart dropped into my stomach that was already doing somersaults.  After I passed, I slowed down to a walk and said a silent prayer for the man.  For about the next mile and a half, there was a tangible mood of fear and sadness hanging around all of the runners.  All I could think about was the CPR refresher I just had in MSHA last month.  I was trying to bring back to memory everything they said, the steps, the rules, everything, just in case I needed to be the one to help a fellow runner.  Luckily, that did not happen.  And thankfully that man did pull through.  They sent out an email the next day saying that he was in the hospital recovering and attached a photo of him with the medal around his neck.  I'm so happy he pulled through, no doubt the first responders arriving so quickly are the reason he is alive.
After that part of the race, I hit mile 6 where we were greet with a very long, and relatively steep hill. It was nearly a mile long and when I initially saw it, I thought to myself, yeah, I'm gonna have to walk up most of that.  I decided I would run to a certain point of the hill and then I would be okay with walking up the rest of it.  Well, I got to that point and thought, mm, I could go a little further.  And I chose another spot to run to, and then I made it to that point and realized I could keep running. I did that several different times and before I knew it, I was at the top of the hill.  I turned my head back and marveled for a split second at the hill I had ran all the way up.  I don't doubt for a second that it had a lot to do with the fact that I trained at a much higher elevation and I wasn't getting winded nearly as much as I would have if I had tried to run a hill like that at home.
That hill was the halfway point and I felt pretty awesome until miles 9 to 11, which (aside from mile 6) were steeper than the rest and I was pretty tired at that point.  Another thing was that around that time the road started to get really slanted and it wasn't feeling great on my knees to be running on uneven ground.  But, we had left the highway part of the course and were now running through the little towns around Zion.  There were people outside cheering, the houses and buildings are adorable, and of course we are running through the most beautiful part of Utah, so even when it was hard, it was still amazing.
When I hit mile 12, I sent Landon a text and told him to round up the troops and get ready to meet me at the finish line.  I remember in the half I ran last year, I was all but dead in mile 12; I walked probably half of it.  But this time I was feeling incredible.  I had more energy than I could have imagined and I was would find myself grinning like an idiot at every person I passed, and I even started giggling like a little girl when I saw people walking towards us with their medals around their necks. As I passed the Mile 13 flag I got a little choked up, it is still amazing to me that this is something I can do now when a couple years ago I would have laughed in your face and probably spilled my Cheetos if you ever told me to run 1 mile let alone 13.  When I turned onto the last tenth of of mile and could see the finish line, I full on started sprinting.  I ran as hard as my rubbery legs would take me and laughed the whole way there.  I didn't hear it at the time because I had my music on, but Landon, Mariah and my mom cheered so loud the announcer started laughing over the speaker.  They showed me the video after and it's the best.  They are the best supporters!  
I didn't see them until after I grabbed my medal, but they were wearing neon yellow shirts that said, "Team Whitney" on them and Landon's even had an acronym for my name down it.  It said, "Wild, Hardcore, Incredible, Tall, Natty, Epic, Yummy."  And I asked him what the heck "natty" meant and was that the best adjective he could think of that started with an N.  He pulled it up on the internet and it said, "Smart and fashionable." which I could argue, but it was sweet all the same.  Actually, the other definition is, "denoting hair that is unstraightend, uncombed or matted, as in dreadlocks."  And after running 13 miles in the mud, rain and snow, that sounds a lot more appropriate. haha!!
So once the race was over and I had gotten all my treats and photos taken we were off to hike.  There were three different hikes I could do that if I took my picture at the top with my race bib and my medal I would get 50% off my entry next year.  Two of the hikes were inside the park and one was just outside of it.  We looked around at the thousands of people who just ran the race and were on their way to do the same thing and then saw the line of cars backed up as far as the eye could see just to get into the park and we decided to to the hike outside of it.  It was the Eagle Crag hike and it was gorgeous.  It was around 6 1/2 miles roundtrip and over the entire hike we saw about 6 other people on the trail; we definitely made the right call choosing that hike over the other two.


I was still feeling awesome until about the last 2 1/2 miles and then my body told me it was done.  The trail was narrow and pretty rocky and the bottoms of my feet had had it.  My knees were pretty achey too, at that point.  In fact, I'm still feeling sore from the whole day and it was four days ago!  And- I can honestly tell you that I've never been so ravenous in my (clap) entire (clap) life (clap).  All I could think about was dinner.  We had told Landon's dad who lives in St. George that we would meet up with them for dinner when we got back.  When we were in the truck, Landon called him and I told him to get us reservations for a steak dinner.  I didn't end up going with steak, but I got a plate of fried green tomatoes, a rack of ribs and a plate of sweet potato fries.  I ate nearly every crumb of food and I am pretty sure there wasn't a single person on the planet that was happier than I was.
When we got back to the house it was about 9 o'clock and the gang was all but asleep the second the were in their rooms.  I had to shake them back awake because I wanted to get in the hot tub.  I was already in my swimming suit and everything.  I went to get my towel and when I came back I heard Landon saying in mock tones, "My name is Whitney, I've been up since 4 AM, ran a half marathon, hiked 6 1/2 miles and I still have more energy than all of you."  I walked in the room and said, "Yeah!! You guys have no excuse! Get your suits on!"  And they did.  And they were happy too because that hot tub felt incredible after the day we had.  I nearly fell asleep just sitting there, and I was so relaxed that when we got out and got into bed, I was asleep within seconds.  It was the best day ever.
We had entertained the idea of doing another hike on Sunday, but with the time change, the amount of people still trying to get into the park, and the condition of our sore muscles, we decided to take a rain check.  We stopped by Landon's dad's place again to say goodbye and we were back on the road home by 2.  It was a whirlwind of a weekend and I wish we would have had more time down there because we had such a good time.  I got to hang out with my favorite people, run and hike in the most incredible place on Earth, eat delicious food and soak in a hot tub under a canopy of palm trees and stars.  It was magical.  And I will say this: If you have the chance to participate in one or more of the Vacation Races? Do it.  I want to sign up for every single one of them now because it was that cool.



3 comments:

  1. You are so awesome, and I am so happy for you! I cry at almost every finish line for half marathons, and definitely sobbed my way across the marathon finish line. I think it's normal to get a little emotional about how much we can accomplish when we set our minds to it! Also, this kinda makes me want to start running again...

    And by kinda, I mean it really makes me want to start running again. You are inspiring me!

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  2. You are seriously wonder woman. When I saw your snaps and realized that you went for a hike after you ran the marathon, I was in shock. I would've been curled up in a ball somewhere... probably near the 2 mile mark ;)

    Can I hire you to be my personal trainer?

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