On Saturday, December 8th, I ran the Summit Rock half marathon in Saratoga. The following Saturday, December 15th, I ran the Hoover Dam half marathon, outside Las Vegas. So, two half marathons... a week apart. Combine them, and I it took my an entire week to run one (relatively slow) marathon.
Summit Rock (Trail) Half Marathon
|Beautiful Sanborn Skyline County Park|
I have a season parking pass to the park, so I try to run there as often as possible to recoup my investment. However, to be honest, unless you go on a weekend you rarely need a pass as the park is usually completely empty during the week with nobody working the entrance booth. So I was pleasantly surprised two years ago when Brazen Racing announced that they would be holding an event at the park.
|Trying to intimidate the competition with my physique|
I ran the inaugural 1/2 marathon at Summit Rock in 2010 and finished in second place, with a time of 1:50:05, a few minutes ahead of the third place guy, but over ten minutes back of race winner Lon Freeman. I didn't run the race in 2011 due to a scheduling conflict, but looking at the results I noticed the first and second place runners from 2011, both of whom ran faster times than me, were also on the entrants list for this year. Considering that I was just getting back into shape and not yet in peak form, I knew it was going to be difficult to try and get up on the podium this year.
|Trying to muster "good form" for the camera|
I decided to go out conservatively, reasoning that if I restrained myself on the first four miles (which were all uphill), I would have more energy left to run the last four downhill miles hard -- and hopefully reel in as many front runners as possible. It was a great plan... but the execution fell a bit short. I did manage to pass several other runners during the last few miles but ultimately I ran out of real estate (and energy), finishing in 4th place just off the podium. My time of 1:50:49 was 46 seconds slower than my PR from two years prior, but not too shabby for a guy who has only been running an average of 15 miles a week.
Hoover Dam (Trail/Train Tunnel/Bike Path) Half Marathon
Looking at the course profile, I had no idea what kind of finishing time or average pace to expect. The course seemed to be comprised of a combination of grades and surfaces including a few miles of hilly paved bike path, several miles of wide dirt road that passed through six or seven mountain tunnels (that used be part of a railway line), with a few flights of winding concrete stairs and some parking lot loops thrown in for good measure.
As the race started, I went out with the front runners for the first uphill section. However two strong-looking runners soon went off the front. I glanced down at my watch to see what kind of pace we were doing. Seeing that we were already doing 6:30 pace (for a tough uphill section) I wisely decided not to pick up the pace any further and eased off a little, letting the two front runners go.
|Running in the desert|
Somewhere around mile 2 I got passed by one runner, and then another. If I wanted to try and finish on the podium with a top 3 spot, I figured I better try and hang with these two guys. And I did. At least for a few miles. However as we approached the mile long uphill climb to the turn-around point at the Hoover Dam, I decided to ease off and run a bit more conservatively. I wanted to make sure I saved something for the way back.
I ran the return section pretty hard, assuming that I was probably gaining on the front runners. So I was quite surprised when another runner caught me from behind, moving fast. I tried to jump in behind him and stay with him, but cranking off a sub 6 minute mile I decided the pace was a little too rich for me.
Just as I was starting to bonk in the last mile I heard the furious horn honks of a passing car and looked over to see my brother Erik and his son Tony cheering me on. I gave everything I had trying to catch a runner about a hundred yards in front of me, but I came up short, finishing 7th overall. However, I did manage to squeeze in just under an hour and a half with a time of 1:29:44. Not bad for a course with over 2,000 feet of vertical gain!