Sunday, November 4, 2012

The Really, Big, Free Half Marathon Recap

Yesterday, I got to be a part of history. The first ever FREE marathon (and half) was held just outside of Las Vegas at Lake Mead, and I got to be a part of it.

I registered for this race back in early July as soon as I'd heard about it. A free race? Sign. Me. Up. Even without running for most of July and August, my anticipation of this race grew and my excitement level escalated as the date approached.

Overall, I was not disappointed! This was a great race experience. I went in totally not expecting anything; I just wanted to, you know, enjoy the course. It was my first race with mountains as my backdrop, and I was mostly excited to simply take in the scenery and bask in the gloriousness of the mountains and Lake Mead.

I ended up pushing myself beyond what I thought was possible. I only walked very briefly through the first two water stops and to snap a few pictures, but ran up and down all the hills of the remainder of the course, and ended up scoring an 9 minute PR.

Around 5:30 Saturday morning, I climbed into the car of one of my soon-to-be-Ragnar-teammates. It was dark and chilly out. I think we were both still a little sleepy because there wasn't a lot of conversation on the way out to the race. Mostly directions, making sure we were going to the right place. We arrived shortly after 6 a.m.

We stumbled to the late packet pick-up tent, wishing we'd thought to bring headlamps or flashlights with us. It. Was. Dark. There were already a ton of people lined up, which we thought was weird since there were about 45 minutes or so until race start. Turns out those were just the marathoners off to a bit of a late start. Apparently it was darker at 6a.m. the marathon original start time than the race directors had anticipated.

After getting our bibs and commemorative tees, we headed back to the car to stay warm until closer to the start time. Little did we know that our start would also be delayed due to parking issues and pissed of park rangers. After shivering in the cool, mountain air I think it was around 55F for a good 30-45 minutes in shorts and a tshirt, I was ready to run.

Boulder Beach Really Big Free Half Marathon

Sort of.

My legs felt super heavy starting out. It probably wasn't until after the first mile or so that they felt loosened up and good to go. I wore my camelback for this race, so I didn't really need to stop at the water stops. I did for the first one as they called out, "Gatorade." I don't normally drink it, but I thought it would help supplement my water.

I was wrong.

It turned my stomach slightly, and I could feel some uncomfortable knots forming. I didn't worry too much - figuring I could easily run through it.

I was right.

Thankfully the discomfort didn't last long. Still, I decided to walk through the 2nd water stop, too. It was the last time I took a walk break the entire race!

Unless you count the four times I stopped to snap a picture.

Lake Mead Really Big Free Half Marathon

It was a very challenging, hilly course. Much hillier than I'd expected. Let me just say that the unnoticeable declines in the beginning this was a straight out-and-back course totally kicked my butt at the end.

I'd kind of been pacing a group of three runners - 2 girls and a guy. By pacing, I mean they'd be a little ahead of me, and then I'd be a little ahead of them, and back and forth. Probably around mile 3, I was running next to one of the girls and asked her if she knew their pace. She didn't really know, but we ran and chatted together for a couple minutes. It was her first marathon, and the other two were there to encourage her through it.

About the time we caught up with her friends, we also approached a nasty hill. I was able to maintain my pace up the hill, but she slowed to walk it.

The hill between miles 5 & 6 was really killer. I was pretty surprised I made it without stopping to walk. At the turn around point, I got a little cocky. I've totally got this! I'm more than halfway finished. Easy-peasy.

And then I saw the sign for mile 7, and I realized that I still had 6. more. miles. to go. Yeah, math is not my forte. I knew I needed to watch my pace in order to be able to finish strong. Halfway was not near the end. :)

Not long after this realization, that small group of three caught up to me. The girl I'd chatted with said, "You're making this look easy." That made me feel good until she picked up the pace and left me in the dust. And thus began our game of the tortoise and the hare. :-) I kept my eye on her for the next few miles - not really thinking I'd ever catch her again, but smiling every time I gained some ground.

The next killer hill was probably around mile 8. This one was a lot tougher. I was getting tired, but I was determined to not stop. Around this time, I ate a few gummy bears to get a little extra fuel and energy to help me through the rest of the race.

mountains Really Big Free Half Marathon

As I approached mile 10, I thought, "Only a 5K left. I can totally start increasing my pace at mile 10." And then I got to that coveted mile 10 marker, and all I wanted to do was walk. It took everything I had to convince myself that I didn't really want to walk.
C'mon, Clarinda! You've ran 10 miles already. There is no way you're walking now. Power through. You can do it!
And I did.

But I didn't increase my pace. No, I decided to wait to do that until mile 11.

And pretty much the same thing happened again. I just wanted. to. walk. This time, I not only forced myself to keep going, I forced to myself to pick up the pace a little. I knew I still had 2 more miles to go, so I didn't want to increase too much but definitely wanted a little more speed.

Before I knew it, there was that marker for mile 12. It seemed I'd just passed mile 11's sign. Even better was that the hare was walking just ahead of me. I'd nearly caught her at the previous two water stops, but just as I'd approach the stop to run through it, she'd start running again.

Just after mile 12, I asked a runner if he knew what his time was so far. He said he'd been in the first wave, and the time so far was 2:04. This pretty much confirmed to me that this would, indeed, be a PR for me. I'd started in wave 4 or 5, and my previous PR was 2:20:40. There was no way it would take me more than 15 minutes to run this last mile.

Lake Mead Really Big Free Half Marathon

Shortly after that, I picked up the pace a little more and actually caught up with the hare. She was walking again, but started to run with me when I caught up with her. We ran together for a bit until her husband met her on the course to run with her to the finish. I really wanted to pick up the pace for this last mile, but there was a sneak hill I certainly didn't remember this decline at the beginning standing in my way. Despite the hill, I gained some distance on her.

It was tough, but I did it! I was so relieved to get to the top and see the decline leading to the finish line. I really picked up my pace at this point. A little too prematurely. Running downhill so fast was really hard on my knees, but I was determined to run through it.

I slowed slightly but kept going. As I got closer, I was able to just push the pain out of my mind and really pick up the pace. I gave it my all. I was so close to finishing. All I wanted to do was finish strong! I was focused on ME. I didn't really even notice that she'd caught up to me again. She was definitely faster on the downhills than I was.

She ended up beating me by two seconds.
Yes, I know a true tortoise and hare story would have me beating her...

Really Big Free Half Marathon

Crossing this finish line was probably one of the most emotional finishes for me. I had to keep walking. My legs weren't ready to stop yet. All I felt like doing was crying. If I'd stopped walking, or if my husband or a friend had been waiting for me at the finish line, I know I would have lost it. Those tears would have flown freely. As that was not the case, I wanted to keep them in check, which I did.

I ate a banana and tried to find my ride. I knew he'd have finished much earlier, so I walked around a bit trying to find him. Eventually I sent him a text to see where he was, and went to a clear area to stretch a bit. He found me a few minutes later.

We walked a bit, grabbed a couple bottles of water, and headed home. We were both much chattier on the way back.

Like I mentioned earlier, it was a wonderful race experience. Despite the late start and all the difficulties the race directors went through in order to have a free race, this race turned out to be very well organized and well supported. I chose to run through the water stops, but there were plenty of them for the runners who needed them. I think they were every 1.25 miles. There were also plenty of port-a-potties, which, again, thankfully I didn't have to use. Post-race there were only bananas and oranges to eat and bottled water, but I'm not complaining. I can't usually eat a lot right after a race anyway, and besides, it was a free race.

Definitely a great start to my weekend. My left knee was throbbing most of Saturday afternoon and a bit today, too. I was sore and tight, but the 30 min ice cold water bath I took as soon as I got home helped a lot.

My husband and I took a short walk in the afternoon to help loosen up my legs. After an afternoon nap, we started a Resident Evil marathon.

All-in-all one great weekend!

Now, I just have to sit back and relax for 4-6 weeks until I get my real reward for running this race - my refund. Well, it won't totally be rest with Ragnar in just 4 days. :-)

The next Really, Big, Free Half Marathon is in the middle of May in Carlsbad, CA. Who wants to join me?

Twitter → @EnjoytheCourse
Instagram → enjoyingthecourse
Facebook → EnjoyingtheCourse
Google+ → Enjoying the Course
Pinterest → clarindad


  1. Way to go! That's cool that it was free.

  2. NICE RACE REPORT!!! and I would LOVE to race any run that's free so cool

    1. Come to SoCal in May!! Of course, if you factor in the flight, it's no longer free. lol.

  3. Awesome job!! I love reading the play-by-play - I can definitely relate to those feelings and thoughts! :) Carlsbad in May sounds enticing... definitely thinking of joining you.

    1. Thanks for reading, Jenna! Definitely let me know if you decide to do the half in Carlsbad. I haven't registered yet, but I think that's likely how I'll spend my refund. :D

  4. Congrats on a great race! Love to see that Ragnar shirt! :). Enjoy your Vegas Ragnar!

    1. Whenever I see that shirt, it's like there is an instant connection. I'm so glad I joined your teamed last year. 3 more days until my next one...

  5. You did awesome!! So what was your final time? Congrats on getting a PR too! I can't believe you ran the whole thing. Especially with all those crazy hills! I have to do the same thing when I'm running- keep telling myself I've run this far, why slow down now!
    The scenery was so gorgeous too. Wow! I can't believe you're doing a Ragnar in a few days. Can't wait to hear about that!

    1. Oops! I can't believe I never indicated my actual time. It was 2:11:37. My previous PR was 2:20:40. I totally surprised myself with the hills! Going into this race, I never imagined I'd perform so well. :)

      3 more days until Ragnar. I hope to get some great pics and fun stories. If you follow me on Instagram or Twitter, I imagine there'll be updates along the way.

  6. Great job Clarinda!! So exciting! Nice job on your PR! The pics are amazing:) I love that the race was so well organized and Free! I have been to way too many unorganized races with not enough water or potties that I have had to pay for. Ugh! I may just have to join you for the next one:)

    1. I agree! It's so disappointing when a race is disorganized or doesn't have great support.

      Yes, come to SoCal!!

  7. Aw, congratulations on a PR on a challenging course. You go, girl.

    Thanks for the good memories, I did have a good time at that race - refund or not!