Tuesday, July 10, 2007

Spearfish Canyon Half-marathon 2006 Race Report

For whatever reason, I skipped the half-marathon on my progression from being a fat couch potato to a marathoner. I've run several 5Ks, a couple 10 milers and two marathons but never a half. Spearfish Canyon is only 12 miles from my house and it fit in well with my marathon training plan for the Montana Marathon in September so I decided to give it a shot.The race, obviously, follows the Spearfish Canyon highway, which winds into the northern Black Hills and is one of the more scenic (and therefore, popular) driving routes in the area.

We showed up at the Spearfish City Park to register at around 6:20 (my wife ran the 5K with our son and daughter in the jogging stroller). As soon as I was registered I jumped on the first bus to the starting line and was off. On the way, I realized I was sitting across the aisle from Dick Beardsley from the legendary 1982 Boston Marathon shootout with Alberto Salazar. He was the special guest for the day and ran the race and then gave a short speech afterwards at the awards ceremony. The bus ride seemed like it took forever but we did eventually arrive. It was immediately obvious that there would be a port-a-potty situation because there were only two and about a hundred runners. I stood in line for about a minute before opting to jump over the guardrail and water some trees. Once the important business was taken care of I started my warmup jog and found myself running right behind Beardsley....turns out this would be the only time I ran anywhere near as fast as him.

The race started nearly on-time; not too bad considering they had three or four busloads of runners to deliver up the canyon. I knew going into the race that it was a downhill course, because I had run in the canyon before. What I didn't realize is how much of a downhill it was. My goal for the race was a 1:40 (7:30/mile pace), which I knew was definitely achievable. At the mile 1 marker I was at 7:00 and hardly feeling it. I didn't want to push it too hard though because I knew that 13 miles of downhill would take its toll eventually, so I settled in to a comfortable pace and enjoyed the scenery as much as possible. There really wasn't anything significant to write about during the race other than I probably saw a couple hundred motorcycles (the Sturgis Bike Rally starts this weekend and there are approximately 500,000 bikers converging on the Black Hills). The field spread out pretty quickly and I ran alone most of the way, although I could always see at least one person ahead of me. I followed one lady in a green shirt for a good nine miles before I finally overtook her with about 2 miles to go. Like I said, it was pretty much all downhill other than the last 1.5 miles where we exited the canyon (into the sun) and headed toward the city park. With a mile left, I tried to find another gear so that I could catch up to a guy who had passed me with about six to go. He was fading fairly quickly but I didn't have quite enough left to catch him and finished about 5 seconds back.
My splits look liked this:

Mile 1 - 7:00
Mile 2 - 7:13
Mile 3 - 7:11
Mile 4 - 7:10
Mile 5 - 7:22
Mile 6 - 7:13
Mile 7 - 7:06
Mile 8 - 7:17
Mile 9 - 7:00
Mile 10 - 7:05
Mile 11 - 7:07
Mile 12 - 7:16
Mile 13.1 - 7:46
Total Time - 1:33:51, 7:10/mile pace

So, I easily achieved my goal time, thanks in no small part to the course. I'm not sure where I came in overall but I finished second in my age group. Beardsley ran a 1:18 and finished second overall, not bad for 50 year old:)!

Overall, the race was organized very well and things ran smoothly. There was more than enough food and refreshments at the finish line...they were actually giving away cases of water and orange juice and fruit afterwards because they had too much. The only issue that arose was that they only ended up with half as many awards medals as they needed so I'll be getting my age group medal in the mail which is no big deal in the long run. So, if anyone has an urge to experience the Black Hills and wants a good course to set a half-marathon PR on, come check out Spearfish Canyon.I should also point out that in a couple of weeks (Aug 20?) there is a woman's only marathon and half-marathon called the Leading Ladies Marathon which also goes down Spearfish Canyon. I won't be participating because, well, I'm not a lady, but I've heard it's a great event. And no, they're not paying me to say that. But if they want to, they can:).

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