Let's first state by saying that this half marathon was a bit of "bucket list" half. I wasn't here to race it, I wasn't here for a personal best -- I was here for the challenge (and an opportunity to get out and let me hair down a bit).
The Race to the Angel half is not an easy race. Only a handful of people do it not only because it is sort of in the middle of nowhere it involves hills -- lots of HILLS... Non-stop hills. I like to joke about it -- in Utah races run down canyon roads. In Nevada they run UP them.
The Race to the Angel starts in downtown Wells. This year they made it an official half marathon (I believe in years past it was just shy of it). The whole point of the race is to run up a mountain pass until you reach Angel Lake. The trip up involves no less than 2700 feet of climbing (with only about 300 feet of descent).
I lined up with about 50 other brave souls (after watching the walkers head on out) and took off at a very cautious pace. Again I wasn't racing this, I was doing to experience it and to see if I could do it.
I also carried my phone (camera) along. Normally I never stop and take pictures in a race. But for this one, I'd make an exception. Again I was doing this for the views.
The first two miles or so take you through the downtown and residential areas of Wells. It is purely flat and I headed out at about 8:30 minute miles. I was saving my strength and pace for the hills. Also, the altitude is a bit higher than Salt Lake City, with the race starting at about 5300 (and ending at close to 8000).
At round mile 2, the ascent begins. You make a slow grind up to about 6 miles where the "fun" starts. For a half mile the grade easily goes up to 9%. As I huffed past a pair of walkers (who started 30 minutes earlier) I jokingly said they weren't kidding about the hills. They laughed and said you haven't seen nothing yet, wait until mile 9. I think you could hear me gulp...
After mile 6.5 the hills mercifully end -- for a bit. I was able to get back up to an 8 minute per mile, despite being at close to 6500 - 7000 feet.
Sure enough at mile 9 the hills started and they don't stop until the end. I am told the average grade of the hills is about 9%. As you climb, the oxygen gets less and I was getting that fuzzy feeling in my head. At this point, the few walkers that were up at this point were making about the same progress as I was. I doggedly kept at it, periodically stopping at the water stops (there were plenty of water stops with excellent support) and taking pictures. There were no bathrooms on the course so if you have to go, you have to use the brush...
I crossed (or limped / half walked) through the finish line in 2:34:59. This was my slowest half and with good reason. I was pretty sore when I finished too --but not necessarily winded. The views along the course were just spectacular and I hope you enjoy the photos.
For $40 you got a t-shirt, a timed race, and support along the course. I felt they sort of skimped on sports drink -- it was water or nothing. Luckily I brought a gel with me and that helped during the middle miles. The pickings were pretty thin at the finish line too -- just oranges and water.
Getting back to the motel was a bit of a challenge and involves making friends fast. Since this was a low budget race you either rode your bike back to town, had a spouse pick you up, or make friends fast. I opted the latter since I was solo and found a van that was willing to take me back.
Unfortunately I got back to the Super 8 just after my room was cleaned, so no shower. I was starving, so I headed on over to Subway and got a bite to eat. I had plenty of extra clothes and changed in the parking lot and went commando for the afternoon.
The race puts on a picnic at the city park afterwards. I wasn't quite ready to head further west to Elko quite yet and I figured I'd socialize and see if I won an age group away. Wells is a small town so finding the park wasn't hard at all. It is situation in a very nice residential area and the school / city hall area looked promising. It seemed like they had abandoned the old section and sprung the town up around this area (it could be that the cathouse was located on the other side of the old section of town).
The picnic was good -- they served up a variety of BBQ things. They also had locally brewed beer (all you can drink) as well as iced / lemonade (Arnold Palmer's) I sucked down the APs and quickly made friends with a trio of miners from Elko. I got the lay of the land from them and got to talk about local lore and what to do -- and not do in Elko.
I snagged an age group award (2nd in my age division) so you may see my photo on their website.
Overall I was pleased with my experience for this race and I would do it again. This isn't an easy race nor is it one to try and get a PR on. You are definitely coming for the bragging rights and a story to tell. Also for $40, I got a t-shirt, an age group medal, wonderful views, instant friends, a nice lunch and bragging rights.
Enjoy the photos.
Up next, my trip to Elko and Elko itself.
The start of the hills - Yes I am climbing to the TOP!
Horses of courses
The City of Wells Below
Yeah! A down hill!
The climb continues. Probably 9% grade
A stretch of flat
About half way up...
Still more climbing
9% grade, about 4 miles to go
View from Above. Wells is below
Me at Angel Lake
Lots of fishing here, not much catching.
The finish line
Subway parking lot, Highway 80 above.
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