I completed the Grand Canyon Half. What? Where you expecting more…okay here it goes. This was by far the most difficult race I have ever had the honor of participating. I will admit from the beginning I could have been in a little better shape for this one. But…it is what it is as they say.
The Expo: I arrived a day early to pick up my packet, swag bag and to spend time in Williams, AZ where my hotel was located and to see the sites. It was windy, sunny and a cool 57. Didn’t worry about that too much and I definitely didn’t pay any attention to what the weather was the next day.
I picked up my bib and made the normal rounds. I found out at the expo that Nuun Energy© was supplying little water pods…somehow I missed the memo on that one and brought my water pods and hydration pack. The information was a little cryptic as to what really was provided. The race promoters didn’t want any garbage left along the route and made it sound like they weren’t going to have any water stations.
I decided to buy a shirt and as I was looking at what was available I overheard a conversation between a participant and one of the race promoters. The participant was talking about what time he wanted to make and the promoter just laughed and said “dude you just need to stay ahead of the weather and finish”. I didn’t really think twice about the weather comment, bought the shirt and on to the hotel!
Williams, AZ: I arrived at the Bates Motel aka Howard Johnsons, dropped off my gear and decided to mosey into town for food and a look around. Williams, AZ is a Route 66 town. I’ve always wanted to experience Route 66 and was excited to see what was in store. The main strip was busier then I thought it would be, mostly likely because the town was so close to the Grand Canyon. Cars driving up and down a strip sprinkled with old and new businesses. I decided to just walk around to see if any restaurant caught my eye. I didn’t want to go to an old “stand by” place like a food franchise. When I travel I like to try different places and experience the culture of the town. The strip had Mom and Pop burger joints, country cooking, Mexican, Italian and shops of course. There were a few high-end artist shops that sold pottery and paintings. It was a strange feeling walking around downtown Williams. It was interesting and sad at the same time. Maybe lonely is the right word. Very hard to explain and pin down. A happiness of people visiting the shops and restaurants but a sadness of just every day life. I didn’t get a peaceful easy feeling. Something very hard to pin down is all I can say. Some pictures I captured.
I stepped into a corner store that was selling local honey. I picked up a jar of honey and walked to the counter. There at the counter was some bright baby blue and pink terry gloves. They reminded me of some Hello Kitty© type gloves. 2.99$. A little voice said…buy them…so I did.
I ended up at a local brewery…of course…that sold Italian food. It was a great experience and a great choice. The waitress was awesome and made me pasta that wasn’t on the menu and even sold me a half growler of Pie hole beer brewed at their micro brewery. No I didn’t drink it there…I did test before I bought though. Amazing Porter with cherry notes. Absolutely unbelievable if you enjoy a good beer.
Williams has a lot more to offer and many other sites to see, here is the city link: . http://experiencewilliams.com/?doing_wp_cron=1463607129.1681571006774902343750 It’s not far from Flagstaff, AZ.
The Night Before The Race: Didn’t really do much but drink water and nibbled a little more on my left over pasta. The race started at 0700 in the morning so this meant I was out the door no later than 0500 to make my 53 mile drive to the start line. Ugh…
The Morning of the Race: Got up at 0200 and couldn’t go back to sleep. I wasn’t nervous, maybe a little excited and so ready to get going. I packed my gear the night before so all I needed to do is take care of…business (runners know what I’m talking about) and hit the road. I almost didn’t bring warm gear to wear…but again that little voice. I looked out the window and it’s raining. Ooooookkaaay…you know what they say if it ain’t raining you’re not training! I gather everything up and hit the door feeling a little sad that I won’t be able to sport that cute little racer T I bought at the Under Armour outlet. I walk outside and it is COLD. I mean what the heck over…cold and rainy. Again, me being the glass is half full type of girl, I say to myself maybe it isn’t raining 53 miles away.
I hop in the car and the gauge says 35 degrees…ok no problem…maybe it’s warmer THERE. Uh no, that’s not how higher elevation works. The higher you go…the colder it gets. I’m on the road and the gauge drops to 32 I’m on this little two lane road leading up to Tusayan, AZ. I won’t lie…I’m cussing for two reasons. One, it’s snowing and two, it’s the caterpillar of cars leading up to the Canyon. There are only two passing lanes and good luck with that one.
Arrive At the Venue: I arrive on time and manage to find a space sandwiched between a creepy camper and a SUV. Now there is the dilemma of how and where to place the running bib. I don’t want to put it on my jacket…what if I have to take that off! Pants…no, too uncomfortable. Unzip the jacket and place on shirt…hmmm. For heavens sake why so cold! I ended up pining it to my waist.
Needing To Use the Porta John: Well it doesn’t get any better than this…using the porta johns in sub temps…I take that back. Use the porta johns in hot weather…like baking Georgia sun weather. Now there’s a winner. Every runner or race participant knows you better use the john before you run. Usually there are long lines, for some reason I happened to hit it before that happened. I walked up and see a group of people standing there…I say “are you in line?” they all shake their heads no. Ok, why people like to convene near the shitters…I’ll never know. So now you have to choose…it’s really like Russian Roulette, a “crap shoot” all puns intended. Spin the bullets and hope you don’t get a LOADED chamber. I zone in on my target and start to walk towards the one of my choice. I open the door and I’m hit with a WWE smack down of putrid stink. So I’m just going to tell you now there is a CODE. You’ve opened the door…do you or don’t you? That is the question my friends. Are you Man or Woman enough to follow through? Do you finish your business or do you cry like a baby and run to a cleaner john? My friends…you Man or Woman up, that’s right…step inside…
I step inside and I immediately try to breathe through my mouth…concentrating on a point on the tan porta wall. They tell us that in yoga. Concentrate on a point and focus your breathing for balance. But this smell…it was so bad…breathing through my mouth wasn’t cutting it. Then…I broke a very serious rule. I’m fighting with the Devil on my left shoulder and the Angel on my right…don’t do it…do it….don’t do it…do it and I did it…as sure as the sun will come up every morning I DID IT! I looked in the hole. And there my friends was what no civilized person should ever see…a fresh steaming load. You heard me, don’t act like you didn’t. A fresh 98.6 degree of Hello…and that was it for me. The old gag reflex kicked in and I began to sweat and urinate as fast as I could. I was gagging so loud the person in the next porta john was laughing. I was opening the door as I was pulling up my pants, still gagging. I threw open that door stumbled out still gagging. There were a few people who saw me and started laughing. This little blonde gal looked at me and smiled as she started walking over to my porta…I put up my hand and said NO, you don’t want that one. Horror crossed that pretty face as she repeatedly said thank you, thank you! I sanitized my hands. On to the race now shall we!
The Grand Canyon Half: There were people there from 49 states and 10 countries. It really was a sight to see. I called this post The Camaraderie of Like Minded Souls because there is nothing better than being in a moment like this even though the conditions are bad with individuals that want to share this experience.
As we were all lining up and waiting for the race to begin the promoters were talking about how bad the conditions were, that after mile three there was no turning back. Of course I was like, meh how bad can this be…I was about to find out.
When you first start a race it’s a bit like cattle coming out of a shoot. Trying to move along without stepping on anyone’s feet and finding a clear path. The race was pretty much all trail. This was something that I wasn’t aware of…or didn’t take the time to research fully. It started on a little gravel path that turned into trail. It is important to note that the trail wasn’t in the Canyon. It was in a close by ravine. Miles 1 through 4 weren’t too bad. It was muddy and raining, but doable. At mile 4 I really started to feel the elevation. People don’t realize but the elevation at the Canyon is around 6,700 feet. I really felt it in my lungs and at one point at the beginning of the race I felt dizzy and sick. It was short-lived but I developed a pain in my upper back early on and I figure this was because I was having trouble with the air and it was causing me to slouch. I really had to focus on running straight to keep the pain down. It was unfortunate because the scenery was so lovely. Even in the rain. I had to remind myself to look up and take in all the beauty. The trees and the rocks on the side walls were beautiful. At one point the rocks appeared a cobalt blue. Just amazing. This was a perfect example that even though it was raining there was still so much beauty to take in…me, perfect strangers and my Hello Kitty gloves which were wet and sagging.
The funny thing about this race was that the trail was so bad most people were running through the woods. That was hard. A lot of stop and go. I would pass some people – they would pass me and eventually one woman looked at me and said “this is a lot harder than I thought are you having fun yet?”. Unfortunately, I wouldn’t have put this in the fun category. Challenging, yes. Fun, not that much.
There were stops that offered water, bananas, oranges and a natural type of goo gel. It was honey based. I took them, but it was almost like hmmmm which flavored turd will I choose at this stop, acai berry or orange flavored. Hey at least they offered it up.
At mile 10 I was ready to be done. This was the hardest part of the terrain. Really a struggle. I was starting to pass the same people over and over again with the stop and go and just wanted this race to be over. The saving grace is there were two female elk close to the path and were spectating! It was so neat. I didn’t bring my camera with me but I wish I had, so many lovely pictures to take.
And finally the results!
Video Of Laurel McClean Finishing Grand Canyon Half
Post Race: Thank goodness for the Hello Kitty gloves. I think they helped a bit but my fingers were so frozen that I had to wait over an hour before I could take my shoes off. I was grateful for the post race recovery food and the medal was awesome too.
Mileage for this recap came to 32.84 this time around. I was even able to get in a nice ride of 9.35 this week. Felt so good back on the bike.
I’m very grateful I was able to run this race. There were many people there that had remembrance shirts or were running for various reasons. The camaraderie of like-minded souls. Such a beautiful thing. I would do this race or something similar again. Maybe not soon, but yes another one some day.
Total miles remaining ~ 8111.05. I hope this finds you in good spirits and thankful to be in the presence of a like-minded soul. Happy Miles to You.