My husband and I flew out on the coldest day of the “polar vortex” for an incredible visit to the beautiful state of Arizona. The Sedona Half Marathon has been on my race bucket list for some time and I was so excited to finally be able to experience it. I’m on a mission to run a race in every state, so the majority of our trips involve a race of some sort, this trip included. I love to travel, and I love to explore new places while running. However, I don’t by any means “take it easy” before races on vacation. I want to be able to explore as much as I can, even if it involves being on my feet all day, biking, hiking, etc. the day before my race. So with that said, the two days leading up to the Sedona Half Marathon were spent hiking some beautiful crazy trails in Sedona, and biking the very hilly south rim of the Grand Canyon. So our legs were anything but “fresh” for the race, but it was totally worth it because we had some incredible adventures. (But you better believe we said lots of prayers for no bad falls or rolled ankles on our hikes!)
We drove to the race expo directly from the Grand Canyon, on Friday evening. The expo was quick and easy; we were in and out in 5 minutes. We carb-loaded with pasta, planned out our race outfits, and headed to bed early.
On Saturday the alarm went off at 5:55 am. Our air bnb was a 5 minute drive to the race parking lot. We headed towards the start line at 7am, and we got to see the beautiful Sedona sunrise! There were plenty of food trucks, vendors, and porta potties! Gear check was a breeze. The energy was high, and they announced 47 states and several countries were being represented at this race! Talk about a destination race! All week (even the night before) there were predictions for rainy conditions; however it was completely dry the entire morning. Thank You, Jesus!
It was almost go-time! We decided to start behind the 2 hour pace group. My husband barely ran leading up to this race. I ran 3 days a week for a month leading up to this race. We knew with the high altitude, the hills, and our current levels of fitness, going for a PR was unrealistic. We just wanted to enjoy the run. The only performance-based goal I set for myself was to not walk up any of the hills. Justin and I said our pre-race prayer. Right before the start of the race, the mayor of Sedona welcomed us here, and the speakers blew out before the National Anthem could start. However runners are a passionate bunch and we all started belting it out from the top! So much fun!
The gun went off and we darted across the starting line. From the get-go, I really wasn’t feeling great. My body just felt heavy and tired. However, I’m a firm believer in the phrase, “Never trust the first mile.” All I had to do was look up and around, and remember that I was running in one of the most beautiful places in the country! It lifted my spirits!
Early on in the race, we hit a super steep whopper downhill, and we flew down; I literally had to flail my arms out to control my speed. I remember saying to Justin, “Wow, this is going to be rough going back,” since this was an out-and-back course. We brought the go-pro out for some pictures and took in the sites. Everything was just so beautiful. The miles passed, and the hills kept rolling up or down; I honestly don’t remember any flat stretches. We were starting to see the top runners make their return back, and it was inspiring how focused and strong they were! By mile 5, I finally felt in the zone. I stopped being anxious about the return trip, got out of my head, and was genuinely just having fun. That was the perfect time for a mentality change because there was a giant hill ahead. I reminded Justin, “We don’t run because it’s easy,” which honestly I needed the reminder more than he did. We dug deep and before we knew it, the hill was behind us! Shortly after the summit of the hill was the turnaround point, and I started to feel even stronger.
The miles kept flying by, and right before mile 10 was the start of the whopper hill I was so freaked out about at the beginning of the race. In fact, the whole next mile would be all uphill. We charged up. Most people opted to walk, and it was extremely tempting, but I held onto my only goal for this race. At times I felt like I was barely moving, but I didn’t stop running! My watch read 11:30 pace at one point. I repeated to myself, “God made this mind tough, this body strong, and these legs powerful,” over and over until the longest mile of my life was over! I spotted a photographer at the top of the hill, and fist pumped! The hardest part of the race was behind me!
Miles 11-12.5 were a gradual downhill, and Justin and I were taking advantage of it. My watch was reading 7:10 pace. Somehow my legs felt fresh, even after all those hills. Justin took off even faster in front of me. The last half mile of the race was all uphill. I asked myself the classic question, “How many 800s have you ran in your life?” I surged up, so eager to cross the finish line! Justin met up with me right before the stretch to the finish, we sprinted in, locked hands, and put them up as we crossed the finish line with big smiles on our faces!
A recurrent thought in my head throughout this race was, “Wow you are so blessed to be running here.” It’s so true! Sedona is seriously just so beautiful. It’s amazing how just taking in the beauty could instantly change my attitude and mentality. I told Justin that we would probably never run a more beautiful race in our lives. Deep down, I hope that’s not true, but I wouldn’t be surprised if it is true! The pictures just don’t do it justice! We were pleased with our results. We didn’t know what to expect with the high altitude and all the hills. The lady running the race results tent told us that running this course in less than 2 hours is awesome. Maybe she said that about everyone’s time but it still made me smile! According to Athlinks, we passed 94 runners in the second half of the race, and we ran negative splits! We were proud!
After the race, I spotted a guy that had the same jacket as me…a Carroll University XC/Track jacket! I introduced myself and found out he is in his last year of PT school at Carroll, the same program that I graduated from! It’s crazy how small the world can be! Post-race celebrations involved Starbucks, gluten free pizza, wine tasting, and ice cream; pretty much all my favorite things! All the glory to God for a healthy trip, His beautiful creation, our physical health, and all of the wonderful blessings He has given us! Seven states down, forty-three to go! Until next time, Sedona!