Monday, September 11, 2023

2023 Cedar City Half Marathon Race Recap - Cedar City, UT

Anticipation Before the Race

Official Time: 1:51:02
Placement: 7th in the 50-54 age group, 178th overall
Results: Here
Race WebsiteHere
Weather: mid 50's with slight tailwind
Course Map / Garmin Route: Here
Previous Years: First year for me

Mile TimeComments
18:01Off to a decent start. A little bit of up hill and at 8200 feet altitude.
27:35Letting gravity pull me down. Feeling so good.
37:36Actually a decent mile here despite the climb.
68:06Slowing coming back to reality.  Some down, but course definitely flattens out.
88:34Felt like at this point, I was tired.  Knew the last 5 miles were going to be a struggle
98:50Gentle downhill but definitely not in the game
109:09Hit the 5K starting point, on a bike trail now.
1210:04Just shambling along
1310:14I'd walk around 30 seconds and then run .1 of a mile.  Never again.
13.100:51Crossed the finish line at 13.06 miles, but kept running to make it official.
Total Miles: 13.10 - 1:51:48

Packet Pickup 


So with me having a serious case of race fever, I had absolutely nothing on the calendar for this past weekend.  I searched for a race -- high and low.  It had to be worthy of doing, age group awards, not super expensive, no major headaches, and it had to be fun and different.  There was a big race in Salt Lake, but I knew that was expensive and I've already driven up the route, so it wasn't terribly new.

My searches did take me to the Cedar City Half Marathon.  It was in southern Utah, something new, and it was a race I had put on my "to-do" list for quite some time.  Most every year it popped up on my radar and I just never pulled the trigger and said "I am doing this".

This year, I made the decision to do it.  I did some research as to what it would cost me in terms of gas, hotel, food, etc and came to the conclusion it was in the budget.  It wasn't cheap -- the week of registration was $100, but I was willing to take the plunge to have a new adventure this week.  Also, the promotional video they had on their site was the kicker: what a beautiful course.

Pre-start starting line

The Race

I managed to pick up my bib on Friday evening.  It was crowded but not terrible and I got a giant swag bag for my troubles.  I don't think I've ever gotten a bag so full of "things" before but already the race was off to a good start.  And the stuff wasn't just "junk" but product samples and things I'd actually try and use.

I had serendipitously gotten a hotel that was near the bus loading and packet pickup.  In fact, it was about a block and a half walk (pro tip: stay at the Best Western in Cedar City) It made it convenient in that I didn't have to fight for parking, let alone move my car in the morning.  So the bus loading process was easy and stress free.

The initial start of the race

The bus ride took about 20 minutes to read a campsite.  They had a plethora of bathrooms (again props to the organizers) and they also had pit fires, music and heating areas.  I had brought a light jacket and tights / gloves but I only wound up using the jacket and tossed on the gloves for a little while.  I had about a 45 minute wait (or less) before the start.

People assembling pre-race.

Wood Ranch starting pen

The race started at 7 AM and we made our way out of the camp and onto the service road that would eventually take us back to Cedar City.

The course is closed to traffic, which means we could take the curves on the street as efficiently as possible.  I had studied the course via their video and knew we were in for a beautiful morning -- with majestic rock formations lining the winding canyon road.  

The initial 5 - 6 miles are a crazy fast downhill and with a slight tailwind, I felt that the running was light and easy.  Especially on race fatigued legs. 

Leading up to Cedar Breaks -- we did not run this wya.

I always have a hard time figuring out how to run these downhill races, but I let gravity assist and monitored by breathing.  Despite the high elevation, I wasn't breathing hard, but I did feel a bit more tired / lethargic than I should've.  I knew I was running fast --- even faster than my normal 5K race pace - but it felt effortless.

Beautiful start to the race.

I was wearing shorts and a t-shirt and was completely comfortable with the temperature.  They had a bag drop prior to the race and I didn't have much to begin with to drop off.  I had thought about wearing more cushioning shoes, but decided to go with my trusty Saucony Pro 2's.  They hadn't let me down before and I feel like they were able to withstand the blows of the descent.

The initial miles were stunningly beautiful.  The sun was coming up, we were mostly in the shade and I could hear the river (Coal Creek) to the left and right of me.  Sometimes it was well below me and sometimes nearly next to me.  The race was a big one and I was always surrounded by other runners.

Bag Pipe players on the course

The first 6 miles flew by effortlessly and I knew I was in range for a fantastic race time-wise.  I was worried about the final 5 miles, as it looked like the massive drops were going to end and I'd be back to reality.  I was hoping, though, that my body would be able to at least manage a decent pace for the remainder of the race.

The had 7 aid stations on the course -- serving Powerade and water.  One of the last stations had pickle juice -- which I thought was odd. I'd rather see that in the middle miles.  The crews running them were amply trained, although some of the water stations had lukewarm water, which didn't really help quench my growing thirst.

One of the treats too was the bag pipe players around mile 5.  It was nice to be greeted by them and hear them play.  It is one of the highlights of the race and one that the organizers appear to celebrate.

Eventually, the good times must end though and eventually the massive downhills stopped and reality hit me hard.  My effortless 7:30 miles turned into low 8's and eventually more typical 8:30's.  I was okay with that but the work it took to hit those paces seemed harder.

I figure I was still at 6500 - 7000 feet elevation, which would explain the effort.  Also, I don't think I was consuming -- or had consumed enough hydration prior to the race.  I was drinking, but it didn't seem to be enough.  I did eat a Gu with caffeine which perked me up a little, but not as much as I would've hoped.

By mile 8, I knew the final 5 miles were not going to be pretty.  The crowds had thinned and so had the excitement.  The canyon was still pretty but I could tell it was less "wild".  I definitely wasn't bored but now it was work.

Crowds at the finish line.

I somehow made it to the 10 mile mark -- not exactly feeling great.  I still had hopes that I'd be able to turn it around or at least run low 9 minute miles for the remainder of the race.  but I was in desperation mode.

The course had left the canyon's road and onto the local bike trail.  The first mile of the bike trail was really nice -- it felt like I was still running in the wild but eventually it gave way to more traditional, urban bike trail.  It was still pretty but in a less wild way.

By the time I hit mile 11, I knew I just wanted to finish. Part of me told myself that I'd never run this one again.  I hate downhill races.  I don't train for them and they always make me feel like this.  I just have nothing left in my legs and I was mad at myself: did I go out too fast? Was it because I let gravity have its way with me?  Should I have purposely slowed up?  I can just never figure out downhill racing.

Finish line photo

The final 2 miles were a grind and the closer I got to the finish line, the worse I felt.  My legs felt heavy and mentally, I was just done.  It was also embarrassing, to me, to be shuffling as slow as I was while the Southern Utah University track team marshalled and supported the course.  I bet they saw me coming and laughed internally.  

The last mile, I did something, I don't think I've ever done in a half marathon:  I started to do a walk run method.  It was either that, or be sick or pass out.  I was still running at higher than normal elevation: about 5700 feet according to my Garmin.  I'd run for about 30 - 45 seconds -- often times too fast - and then walk for 30 seconds.  It worked -- mile 12 to 13 was no different than mile 11.

I was alerted I was about 400 meters from the finish, and I forced myself to just run it.  I slowed up a bit more and I fell into a rhythm.  It stuck -- I wasn't going to finish walking.

Somehow, I did make it and I looked at my watch: 13:06 and I was 1:51 and change.  I wound up grabbing my medal and hurriedly continue to run -- for another .04 of a mile.  As soon as my watch read 13.11, I stopped, doubled over and gasped for breath. 

I do believe the course was 13.10 miles.  With all the canyon stuff and taking the most advantageous route in terms of running the curves, I suspect my watch marked me a little short.  Either way, my watch alerted me that once again, I had set a record in the 10K and half marathon.  Despite my less than "great" finish, I still managed to run well.

All Smiles once I got rehydrated


So one thing I loved about this race -- there is a massive party at the end.  There was more food, drink, and entertainment than I've seen at most races.  The turnout was really good, so there was no shortage of people to mingle with (I didn't know a soul there).  

I managed to snag a spot to sit and sipped on some Powerade.  It took a while to get back to "normal". And it took another jump in time before I was willing to sample some of the food.  The event was catered and they had an ice cream machine.  They also had protein drinks, an assortment of energy / granola bars and candy.

Live band at the end

Prior to the race, I had visions of running back to the my hotel.  It was only about a mile but I just had no energy to do much of anything.  My legs were just cooked -- and I think it was mostly from the descent and not the actual distance.

Fortunately, they did have shuttles to make the drive and it dropped me off within a block of my hotel.  Again, props to me for picking a hotel so close to the finish line.

Overall, I loved the race.  Despite what I may have said up above in the final 5 miles or so, the course was absolutely stunning.  It was fast, well supported, and just done almost perfectly from start to finish.  

I had paid $100 for the race, which is definitely NOT cheap.  With the service fees, it turned into about a $110 race.  Granted, I did sign up for the race the week of, so I expect to see that level of pricing.  I did receive a coupon for next year and I wound up signing up -- so I am in for 2024 for $40.

Medal and shirt from the Cedar City Half Marathon

The medal is one of the bag pipe players and it has moveable parts.  Definitely unique and custom made for the race.  Very cool.  The t-shirt (the back is shown in the photo above) is of nice quality, technical fabric, and one that I'd be proud to wear while running or at another race.

I definitely felt that this race went over the top in terms of what you got for your registration.  The bus ride, aid stations, swag in the bag, everything.  I was happy from start to finish.

My performance -- I still have very mixed feelings.  It wasn't a "great" race for me.  I felt like the course defeated me and while my time was outstanding, the way I ran the final 5K didn't sit well with me.  Again, I am a little undertrained for the half marathon distance and I certainly don't do a lot of downhill training, so I sort of got what I prepped for.  My time will probably be the best of the year for a half marathon, but it probably won't go down as the best race of the year for me, just on account I didn't run the final portion of the race the way I envisioned I could've.

I do plan on coming back next year and am looking forward to doing this race again.  Despite my misgivings (about my performance), I had a great experience and several days later I am still buzzing about it.  

I am hoping for improvement in 2024.

Upcoming Races

09/23: 2023 Witch Run 10K - West Jordan, UT (Confirmed)
10/07: 2023 Apple Harvest Run 5K - Santaquin, UT (Confirmed)
10/21: 2023 Haunted Half 5K - Salt Lake City, UT (Confirmed)
10/28: 2023 Haunted Half 5K - Provo, UT (Can't Make It)
11/18: 2023 Snow Canyon Half Marathon - St George, UT (Confirmed)
11/23: 2023 South Davis Recreation Center 5K - Bountiful, 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
09/07: 2024 Cedar City Half Marathon - Cedar City, UT (Confirmed)
10/XX: 2024 Haunted Half 5K - Provo, UT (Confirmed)

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