Mesa Falls Half Marathon

Date: August 25, 2012

race bag

Distance: 13.1 miles

Time: 2:09:48

Idaho is conquered! I took Friday off and drove four hours north to Ashton, Idaho to meet running buddies, Denise and Caree, for the Mesa Falls Half Marathon.

The race website portrayed the race as a beautiful, downhill course along the Warm River. I envisioned forests, gravel roads, and perhaps even a chance encounter with some wildlife. This was mostly true, but I certainly wasn’t prepared for the larger and longer-than-expected hill from mile four to almost mile seven. More about that later.

Race packet pickup was at the local elementary school the night before the race and swag included a nice, long-sleeved tech shirt, the normal ads for upcoming races, blister pads, Quench gum, a Nutragrain bar, and a “lube stick”. These were all packaged, appropriately, in a potato sack–a nod to the fact that the race was held in the “world’s largest seed potato producing” area.

Denise, Caree, and I learned, almost immediately upon our arrival, that Ashton has even stranger liquor laws than Salt Lake City and this made it impossible to go to dinner for a pre-race beer and burger. Quizzically, we were told by one of the locals that none of the restaurants served alcohol and none of the bars served food. Oh, well. We enjoyed Diet Coke and iced tea with our dinners and got a good night’s rest in preparation for the next day.

As we settled into our hotel room, we were annoyed by the four or five ants we saw crawling around our room, and decided to ignore our uninvited guests, until the next morning when we also discovered a tick in one of the beds. That discovery prompted us to change rooms for the next night. While we could overlook a few pesky ants, we weren’t about to sleep another night in a room that had ticks. Ew. I guess the critters contributed to the “outdoorsy” feel of this trip and they ended up being the only “wildlife” we saw–with the exception of a goat Caree reported seeing in someone’s yard.

This race featured both full and half marathon distances and we were happy that the half marathon start time wasn’t until 8:30 a.m. (the full started at 6:30 a.m.). The race was well-organized and the sponsors provided a breakfast, along with great bus transportation to the start. We were even able to leave gear bags on the bus and they were conveniently waiting for us at the finish line.

About 150 people ran the full and just over 200 people ran the half, which made for a nice, small race and no huge crowds to fight.

The half course started at a camping area with the first three miles following along the river on dirt trails. This was my favorite part of the race. The scenery was great, the temperatures were cool (about 45-degrees at the start), and these first three miles were all downhill, which made for a fast start. Mile four was flat, and on asphalt as the course joined paved roadway into town. I ran these first four miles at about a 9:30 pace and felt great.

The dreaded hill forced me to slow quite a bit for the next three miles. I was noticing the higher elevation at this point and was also quite aware of the poor air quality. Several forest fires west of the town contributed to hazy skies and a strong campfire smell in the air.

While my two running buddies and I agreed to simply run our own pace right from the beginning, I was happy to see Caree at the mile seven aid station. We joined forces for the next mile and a half or so and this allowed us to check in with each other. I was feeling really good at that point and decided to kick my pace up a notch to see how fast I could knock out this challenging course so I ran off on my own ’til the end.

As the course took runners into town on paved roads and over rolling hills, I managed to keep my miles at about a 9:20 to 10:00 for the rest of race, which I felt really good about. My really fast running playlist really helped keep me “in the zone” at this point as well and I spent the last couple of miles staying very focused on my music and forcing myself to keep pace with the music’s tempo.

When I turned the last corner, saw the finish line, and glanced at my Garmin, I was happy to discover that a strong kick at the end would allow me to finish in under 2:10–a time I am very happy with, especially in light of the killer hill in the middle.

Caree and Denise finished right after I did. We were greeted at the finish line with unique wooden race medals, coupons for free huckleberry milkshakes at a local restaurant, and we enjoyed some post-race snacks before heading back to the hotel for showers.

We enjoyed the rest of the day, unhurried, because we didn’t plan to leave until the next morning. This allowed us to take our time, relax, and spend more time together. We all said our “goodbyes” this morning, and headed home. Already looking forward to the next races.

Denise and I have plans to run Nebraska together in October and with luck, we’ll talk Caree into joining us. Before then, though, I am really excited to run in Iowa with my friend, Deb. Only two weeks from that race weekend and, it’s guaranteed to be nice and flat!

















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