Saturday, July 29, 2023

2023 Deseret News Half Marathon Race Recap - Salt Lake City, UT

Official Time: 1:56:30
Placement: 16th in the 50 - 54, 353rd overall, 254th male
Results: Here
Race WebsiteHere
Weather: Mid to upper 70's / low 80s, no wind
Course Map / Garmin Route: Here
Previous Years: First Year for Me

Mile TimeComments
18:28Keeping it easy
28:53Bathroom break here, probably cost me 45 seconds
38:19Enjoying the downhill.
68:15Feels so effortlessly to speed down Emigration Canyon
78:21Mostly down with the canyon, now I've got to work.
88:48A bit of a climb here. Not used to having to work without the aid of a hill. 
98:27Some downhill. Could this be "my" race?
109:09A bit of an uphill. Still on target but running out of gas
119:12Finally the downhill!
129:31Running along the parade route. Slightly downhill but absolutely nothing left.
1311:04Debating on walking. Just shambling along. Dehydrated and wiped out.
13.121:08Hoping they aren't taking pictures at the finish line.
Total Miles: 13.12 - 1:56:31


Around the time I ran the Utah Valley 10K in June I got a coupon for 20% off the registration for the Deseret News races.  The Deseret News races are one of the most popular -- and well attended races in the summer.  It has 4 distances, the 5K, 10K, half marathon and full marathon and draws well over a 1000 runners.

The race has been on my "bucket list" for quite a while.  The problem is, is that it usually conflicts with other races I am interested in (looking at you Handcart Races).  And it is usually held on a weekday, requiring me to take a day off from work. It is also always held on Pioneer Day, which commemorates the time when the first settlers to the Salt Lake Valley arrived in the area.  Also, summers in Utah tend to be very warm, which isn't conducive to a fun race.

Packet pickup is held the day before the race at the University of Utah's football stadium.  It was easy in and out but had a feel of a big time race.  Blaring music, vendors, and a multitude of volunteers gave this race a big time vibe.

The Race

With a 6 AM race start, the Deseret News Half Marathon is an early day.  I was up at 3 AM, out the door by 3:45 and at the University of Utah Football stadium just after 4:15 AM.  Half marathon busses were scheduled to leave the stadium by 4:30.  By about 5:00 AM I was at the starting line.

The weather was warm and not much as far as wind went.  I was comfortable sitting at the top of Emigration Canyon in nothing more than my shorts and a t-shirt.  It was a quick hour up there as I sipped on some Tailwind and ate a few snacks I had brought.  There were plenty of runners but really not enough bathrooms -- for guys this wasn't a problem but they could've used more.

The race started promptly at 6 AM and we were off speeding down Emigration Canyon.  My strategy in going into the race was to conserve energy.  It was going to be a very hot run and in all honesty, I knew I could cover the distance, but my training has been more focused on speed than endurance.

I was working with the 1:55 pacer. Given my recent times and the downhill nature of the course I figured that was a doable time for me.

Almost immediately, I knew I had to take a bathroom break.  I like Tailwind for longer runs but it does give my bladder a workout.  Fortunately at the first aid station there was a single unoccupied bathroom.  It cost me about 40 seconds, but it helped put my mind at rest.  What upset me though was less than 5 minutes before the start I had emptied my bladder.

The first several miles were a dream. I was turning in really solid splits and it seemed very effortless as I glided down Emigration Canyon.  I was surrounded by nature, other runners, and the scenery was so pretty.  I wasn't breathing hard and it didn't feel like I was using much energy.  I was still tailing the 1:55 pacer but I hadn't quite caught up.  Around the 5K mark though I did start to feel some fatigue creeping into my legs -- given I had just raced a 10K two days prior, I wasn't surprised.

Miles 4 through 6.5 were still in the canyon and I was still going very strong.  Could this be my race?  I knew to temper my enthusiasm knowing that this was the easy part -- all gentle downhill.  Also the temperature was creeping upwards.  I was drinking but probably not enough.

Finally we reached the zoo and I knew the speedy part was over with.  Having reviewed the course beforehand, I knew it was slightly downhill but the massive 100 foot drops that the beautiful canyon had offered were over with.

I decided to pull out a gel and start working on it -- I only got about half of it down.  It was hard to accept reality now that I didn't have gravity in helping me speed along Foothill Blvd.  Somehow, I still managed to run another 2 miles at a solid clip despite having some hills to contend with.

Somewhere around mile 10 I made a turn and suddenly I realized I was simply out of gas.  My pace dropped off of a cliff and it seemed like a lot of work.  The temperature had also creeped into the low 80s.  It had been predicted to be warmer, but thanks to some cloud cover, it wasn't as bad as it could've been.

Just a 5K left but it was going to be about the longest 5K ever for me.

By the time I hit mile 11 I knew my race was going to be a tough finish.  The course was a slow grind at times and I was just warm, thirsty and just shambling along.  One of my goals on this was to pace myself to a successful finish and not be doing a death march in the last 2 miles in front of the parade crowd.  And at the rate my pace was plummeting, I was going to make a spectacle of myself.

The final 2 miles felt uphill -- especially the last half mile.  And I had absolutely nothing left.  I was dying of thirst but it wasn't like more hydration was going to fix the problem at this point.  I do have to thank a young boy who saw me with about a mile to go and he handed me a pint-sized bottle of water. It was like being gifted the nectar of the gods.  I gulped it down greedily.  There was an aid station at mile 12, but again, there was no way it was going to help me.

The final mile was the worst ever.  I felt like I was on mile 25 of a full marathon.  It took a lot of effort just to hold my head up high.  It was my worst mile at 11:04.  

I crossed the finish line and I just wanted to collapse or be sick.  It took a while for me to compose myself before accepting my medal and exiting the finish chute.


I grabbed my medal and sat under a tree for a good 15 - 20 minutes.  A few people I knew came to chat with me as I sipped on some Gatorade and water.  It was fun to watch people finish and see the highs and lows of their race.

Post race refreshments were plentiful.  Some premium food companies were there if you were willing to wait in line for a Chick-Filet thing. Being vegetarian, that was an easy pass for me.  But they had cookies, fruit, and drink.  I wasn't too much in the mood for food but I definitely got my fill of hydration and it wasn't long before I felt better.

Overall with my race performance, I have mixed feelings.  I more or less hit my goal of 1:55.  A 10 - 15 second stop at a water stop and nearly a minute in the bathroom cost me my goal. I didn't really set myself up for success for the race either:
  1. It was hot
  2. I had just raced a 10K 2 days prior.
  3. My focus on training has been more speed than endurance.
As a general rule, I rarely run let alone race half marathons in the dead of summer.

Overall, I was really happy with my experience.  The medal was super cool, the race was well supported and organized.  I do think they needed bathrooms at the stadium parking lot prior to the race and they definitely needed more at the start.

I would've preferred a 100% polyester shirt rather than the blended version.  Just not a fan of those and it'll likely not be worn much despite the cool design on it.

I am already registered for the 2024 edition and am looking for a rematch on this beautiful and potentially PR worthy course (I think if this race was held in the spring or fall, it would've finished much differently).

Upcoming Races

07/29: 2023 Lindon Days 5K - Lindon, UT (Confirmed)
08/05: 2023 Roy Days 5K - Roy, UT (Confirmed)
08/12: 2023 Alpine Days 5K - Alpine, UT (Probable)
08/19: 2023 Rock 'N Roll Salt Lake City Half Marathon - Salt Lake City, UT (Confirmed)
08/26: 2023 Mt Nebo 10K - Payson, UT (Confirmed)
09/23: 2023 Witch Run 10K - West Jordan, UT (Confirmed)
10/21: 2023 Haunted Half 5K - Salt Lake City, UT (Confirmed)
10/28: 2023 Haunted Half 5K - Provo, UT (Confirmed)
02/25: 2024 Las Vegas Half Marathon - Las Vegas, NV (Confirmed)
04/202024 Salt Lake City Half Marathon - Salt Lake City, UT (Confirmed)
07/242024 Deseret News Half Marathon - Salt Lake City, UT (Confirmed)

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