Last weekend I took a trip to Flagstaff to participate in the "Coolest" Marathon in Arizona (this is how it was advertised). The Flagstaff Marathon is a fund-raiser for North County HealthCare and offers several events. There was the marathon, of course, a half-marathon, a 10k, and a 'Kids-K.' I'm not exactly sure what the 'Kids-K' was, but I'm guessing it was a 1k race for kids.
I really haven't been running all that much (I was regular about running until July) and I was looking for a way to get back into the habit. My friend at BYU called me and told me that she was going to do the 10k in the Flagstaff Marathon. This would do very nicely. I could drive just a few hours north to visit with some friends, and force myself into running again. So I signed up.
I got an e-mail from the Race-Coordinator (Tim Allen- not the actor, I checked) shortly after I registered:
"The Flagstaff Marathon is 100% off road and includes difficult terrain. Elevation gains are approximately 2200 feet for the full marathon, 1100 feet for the half-marathon, and 450 feet for the 10Km loop. The course ranges from 8000 feet to 8600 feet above sea level. Please be prepared for weather ranging from sunny to snowing."
The last race I had done was between 0-100 feet about sea level. The race before that was in Tucson which is about 2400 feet in elevation. That is a pretty big jump.
I woke up early on the Race Day, about 6:15 . I left for the race at about 6:30, armed with two chewy bars, a nature valley bar, a Red Bull, a bottle of water, and directions from Google Maps. The directions turned out to be wrong and led me away from Flagstaff on I-17. Using a forest service map from the Marathon Website, and the wings which I had sprouted from drinking the Red Bull, I flew to the race site, which turned out to be out in the middle of the forest.
I arrived at 7:15 and I was shivering. It was pretty cold, something like 40 degrees. After eating some orange slices, banana-halfs, and a bagel, I started to warm up a bit. Once I stretched I was no longer cold. My friend showed up at about 7:40, and we proceeded to the start line, where the race started right on-time.
The run was actually a little harder than I thought it was going to be. The first 15 minutes or so I walked/jogged with my friend. She had rolled her ankle earlier in the week and was having a little trouble breathing in the altitude. She told me to run on ahead, so being the gentleman I am, I did what I was told and I left her.
The first half of the course was more or less uphill. Going uphill combined with the elevation and my lack of training made things a little difficult. The whole race was off-road, which was good for my knees, but the unevenness seemed dangerous for my ankles. I also drank too much water before the race, and I had to stop and pee about 30 feet off the trail.
The surrounding atmosphere was beautiful. The sun was peeping through the serene and peaceful pine forest. There was nothing man-made out there, to the point where you felt like you were a trespasser on mother-nature's property. It was just you and nature...and a few aid stations with water and Gatorade.
I finished at 1:17:14, about 20 minutes slower than my last 10k. Not an impressive time I know, but the important part is that I did it. They didn't have any age categories so I finished 20th out of 24. If I were to separate the results into age categories, I would have finished 2nd in my age group. Unfortunately, that is 2nd out of 2.
It was a pleasant experience overall. I learned a little about high altitude racing, and I had a very fun weekend in Flagstaff. So yeah.