Dogtown seems like an odd name for a race void of canine athletes, but the name is a nickname for Washington City, Utah where it is held. With a nickname like that, it seems appropriate that the race is also a fundraiser for the local Homeless Animal Rescue Team and the proceeds are used to provide shelter for homeless animals as well as helping the local police department purchase a dog for police work. It’s been two years, since I have run this race and the race officials have made two great changes. First, they pushed the start time back an hour to 8 am. I love races with an early start time, when your body is used to waking up and running at 4 am, a 9 am start feels like it’s nearing lunchtime. Next, they changed the course by adding about a mile at the beginning. Previously, the end of the race had an out and back portion which is always a slight mental challenge when you’re running farther away from the finish line, and those out and backs always have a tight turn which means you lose a little bit of speed for the last push.
About an hour before the race, I had some Redbull, a chia seed muffin, and a heaping spoon of peanut butter. I carried one chocolate Honeystinger Energy Gel (which I took at mile 8) and a packet of Honeystinger orange blossom chews (I had three at mile 4 and three at mile 10) for fuel. I knew I would see my husband at mile 8 and that he would have a sports-bottle-topped Smartwater for me because no matter how I try, I cannot drink out of a cup while I run. I end up getting half of it in my nose and whatever water does get in my mouth is gulped down with so much air it usually results in a side-ache.
I met up with my friends and teammates about twenty minutes before the start. We did an easy half mile warm-up jog, and talked through our race nerves. My friend Sarah, who is an amazing runner, was able to be a pacer for the American Flyers Pace Group. Friends and teammates make every race better, and there’s something so comforting about knowing your teammates are out on the course with you.
I always choose a mantra for each race, it’s usually a quote I find that helps me focus on whatever goal I have set. This time it was, accept the challenge and push through pain, this one was a little more hardcore than usual, but I had just finished reading How Bad Do You Want It by Matt Fitzgerald, and a particular thought from the book stayed with me. It is the idea to simply accept and brace yourself for the discomfort associated with racing. The race will hurt, but no more than last time. That idea really resonated with me. I’ve run half marathons before, I know what kind of “hurt” I’ll be facing, and approaching it from the perspective of-it won’t hurt any more than previous races helped me climb over the mental hurdle of this race.
Before this race, I received some of the best racing advice I’ve ever gotten from my friend Amber, who that same morning was competing in the Olympic Trials. She said the only number to focus on is the mile time you want. In many races I’ve thought things like “I don’t run sevens,” or “I only run sixes,” or I do the mile countdown: “Eight miles left, 5 to go, anyone can run 3 miles.” But these were never very good numbers to focus on. For me, her advice was a racing revelation! The only number I had to think about was 6:20 and somehow that laser focus helped clear my mind so I felt controlled and present for each mile.
The computer animated voice did a 10 second countdown and we were off. The first mile was uphill and slower, but by mile 4 I felt like I found my sweet spot and was getting into the racing groove. I stayed in second place from about mile 4 to mile 9. I got to run with an amazing runner named Melanie, we both have the same coach, and she’s so encouraging and supportive. I met her last year at the St. George Half and she shared her local winnings with me since she’s not from St. George and was headed back home that same day-like I said, amazing! When I passed her she said, “Go get it girl!” I love that, I love seeing and hearing runners supporting other runners. It’s something that makes our sport unique, there isn’t a lot of ego or bravado, just great people sharing our collective love of running. I tried to run strategically and reserve some energy for the finish. At mile 10 there’s a very long, steep hill that had to be pretty close to a mile long. By mile 11, I knew the course wouldn’t get any harder so it was just a matter of holding onto my pace and giving it everything I had for a strong finish. I was able to finish as the first female with a time of 1:23:35.
My parents, who are visiting from Seattle, and my husband were there to cheer me on at the finish line. My sweet neighbors, who are always willing to help, were watching my daughter. It is not lost on me how many people make sacrifices to support my running and their love means the world to me. I am so grateful for races where I feel so inspired by runners who encourage, support, and cheer each other on.
What’s your favorite part of running a half marathon?
How do you fuel for a half marathon?