Thursday, June 24, 2021

2021 Lamoille Canyon Half Marathon Race Recap - Lamoille, NV

Official Time: 1:48:21
Placement: 15th overall, 1st in age group
Results:  Here
Race WebsiteHere
Weather: Mid 40's at the start, low 60's at finish
Garmin Dump: Here
Previous Years: [2019] [2018] [2017] [2016]

Mile TimeComments
18:48First quarter mile is up hill at 9000 feet elevation.  Takes your breath away!
37:51Finally the fun part -- glorious downhills
57:34350+ feet per mile of descent == awesome splits
78:28A bit of flat here
87:54Back to cruising downhill.  Wish the rest of the race was like this.
118:56Out of the canyon and into the hot sun and last of the fast miles.
129:02Rolling hills and flat here. Only a tiny bit of downhill running.
139:34Legs were so shot.  Just dying to finish.
Total Miles: 13:04 1:48:21

Typical stretch of road in Lamoille Canyon


Finally this race came around.  It is one of my favorites and one I try to do every year.  Last year, due to Covid-19, the race was altered a bit and during that time I was not comfortable with traveling and staying in a hotel.  So unfortunately, I passed on the race.

This year, however, the race looked like it normally was and with a sense of safety, I entered in it this year.  I wound up signing up a few months before the race's start due to it being close to capacity.  I am glad I did, as a few days later it sold out.

The race is located in a small, sleepy village called Lamoille bordering the beautiful Ruby Mountains just south of Elko Nevada.  The Lamoille Canyon half marathon starts at the paved road's end at the top of the canyon and works its way down to the base.  You get an amazing 3000 feet of elevation drop for about the first 10 miles before having a bit more of a drop (and some climbs) before finishing at Lamoille Grove Park.

The course is absolutely stunning and beautiful.

All smiles before the race.

The Race

The race is an early one.  It is a summer race and therefore temperatures -- once you get out of the canyon -- can be quite warm.  With a race start of 6 AM for the half marathon runners (5:15 for the full marathoners), I was up at 3 AM, driving to the park by 4 AM and on a bus by 4:30 AM.  So definitely a LONG and early morning.

I had loaded up on some black tea, Wheaties and a few cookies before heading out the door from my hotel.

Unlike previous years, the temperature at the top was very reasonable.  I had brought a lot of warm clothes in anticipation of it being a chilly morning.  I was still dressed in sweats but I didn't need any gloves, hat nor jacket.

I easily killed off the 30 - 40 minutes before the race by visiting the restroom and admiring the view from the top of the canyon.  The race started promptly at 6 AM.

I was trying hard on this race.  Given my recent improvements on my weight and doing harder workouts to build my speed, I had hopes that I would turn in a decent time.  My goal was to run under 1:50, which I think was entirely doable on this fast course.

The first half mile is actually quite cruel.  You are eagerly anticipating running downhill, but first you must go about a quarter mile up the canyon (while starting at about 8800 feet) and make a lap around the end of the road's circle.  You aren't even really warmed up and it's already hurting.  Fortunately, this year it seemed easy.  I just bided my time, worked my way around the circle and then accelerated into race pace.  Could I be off to a good race?

The first 2 miles aren't crazy downhills, so you can work your way into the race.  I was pretty excited to see my splits go by in faster than normal half marathon pace.  I was just letting gravity pull me.

I was a little dismayed though -- I was carrying my own hydration and I had mixed 2 packets of powder into my 28 ounce flask.  It was WAY too strong.  I had only needed one.  It wasn't until about mile 7 that I finally had a chance to dump some of it out and refill it with water to dilute it (I had already suffered through using it as well up until that point).

I hadn't been in the canyon since 2019 and all the memories of the times I've done the race before came back at me.  All the familiar sites and smells (the Ruby Mountains have a fantastic smell to them).  I was just enjoying the shade, the mountain air and all the views.  Just a wonderful and beautiful experience.

After 2 miles or so the course really picks up.  The downhill gets a bit more serious and my splits matched the descent.  As I expected, I started to hit sub 8 minute miles.

So questions began to run through my mind: Did I have the endurance to go this hard? Was I going to crash and burn?  Should I slow down?  

I still haven't quite figured out downhill racing, but I was hoping I would get it done and hit my goal.

The miles continued to tick along and I was coasting as best as I could.   Around mile 7 or so I hit a wall -- I think there is a bit of a flat stretch there and my legs just weren't responding.  When you go from letting gravity pull you and achieve a fast pace to suddenly having to work, it feels like you are running through molasses.  Fortunately, the flat section wasn't terribly long and I was able to start running down hill again.

The race finally starts to get serious around mile 10.  At this point, you are no longer protected from the sun and the downhills pretty much stop.  It is still net downhill but there are some serious hills to go up and mentally you have to be prepared for them.

I had been running mostly solo but I wound up catching up with one of the lead women and I overtook her at this point.  But every uphill I did, she'd pass me but I'd regroup and on the flat or downhill, I'd pass her back. Unfortunately, I did lose the battle and by mile 11 or so I was in a world of hurt.  

My pace came to a crawl and it took everything I had to keep going.  I think a bit of it was that my legs just felt like rubber.  The other part was that I was dehydrated and a little undertrained as far as endurance went (my longest run in the past month was about 10 miles).

I kept looking at my watch and doing mental math: could I still break 1:50?  It was going to be close.

As I got into mile 12 I willed myself to just finish.  Every now and then I'd muster up a sprint or so but that was about it.  The heat seemed oppressive and it seemed like my legs felt like they weighed 100 pounds each.

Finally I saw the coned off area for me to make my final right turn and head down under the finish line.  It couldn't come fast enough!  I did my best to show I wasn't dying inside as I ran down the line of US Flags to the finish line banner.


I checked my watch: I hit a 1:48:21.  Well under my time and matching my 2016 time.  The hits continue to come in 2021 as I make gains that are turning back the clock.

I grabbed some water and found a shady spot to collapse in. I was just exhausted.  It took a while for my system to "find itself" again.  I was pouring cool water over the back of my neck to cool off and hydrating myself with what was left with my electrolyte drink.  

Part of me also wanted to soak in the satisfaction of a race well done.  The last 2 miles were definitely ugly, but I nailed my goal and turned in a really nice race.

No pancakes this year, but they did have chips, fruit, chocolate milk, and water.  It took a while for my system to be able to handle a chocolate milk but I got some onboard.  Also, I had brought a can of Pepsi with me, which managed to stay somewhat cool to drink.  It helped my stomach.

It took a while before the awards were handed out, but I am glad I stayed.  I wound up socializing quite a bit and had some fun conversations with people.  I also got to see some of the lead marathon runners cross the finish line.

I wound up finishing in 15th place overall.  Better than I expected (out of about 100 runners).  I also won my age group, which I hadn't expected.  

Finisher's awards were recognition, a special photo and a ribbon.  The t-shirt was nicely designed but not of the 100% polyester material that I like.  The finisher's medal was definitely customized and featured Nevada and the canyon.

I thoroughly enjoy this race.  It has a small town vibe and it is a small-ish race.  People are generally friendly and I came away with a great sense of satisfaction.  In addition, I got to run in one of the prettiest places on the planet.

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