Hello! The last few weeks, up until April 28th, have been filled with work, half marathon training, and Pilates certification training! (The Pilates certification training literally JUST ended with assessment weekend wrapped up). But as things are starting to wind down and summer is quickly approaching I wanted to share my experience at Vacation Races Zion Half Marathon.
A few years ago I made it my New Years Resolution. It wasn’t one of those half ass goal type things that most people forget about in a month, but rather something to enrich my life. I made a resolution to go somewhere new every year. Since then I traveled to Puerto Rico, LA, Yellowstone, Jackson Hole, Austin (before moving here), Dallas, Arizona, Las Vegas, and now Utah. Some years I was able to go to multiple new places which is why that list was able to grow in such a short amount of time. With so many beautiful places around the world and in the US to see its hard to narrow down where to go each year. Thats where the awesome company Vacation Races comes in handy. They have races all around various national parks allowing you to experience a new place differently then most people. Instead of hiking busy trails you are in desolate areas running along beautiful scenery more spectacular than you can even imagine!
The first race I did with Vacation Races was last year at Yellowstone National Park. I can go on and on about the wonder that was that trip, but I’ll focus on Zion because that is the most recent. After completing the Yellowstone Half Marathon I became more hooked on this type of way to run a race and experience something beautiful. I would get email updates from Vacation Races about when the next races are and when I saw Zion pop up I knew we had a winner.
For this trip it was me, my brother, Mom, and Aunt. We had to fly into Las Vegas then rent a car to drive 3 hours to Springdale, UT, a charming small town right on the outside of Zion National Park. Our hotel had a spectacular view of the mountains where we were able to enjoy watching the sunrise and sunset. Seeming like perfect timing, once we arrived we received an email from the race organizers about the packet pickup/ expo and race day. All the instructions are really clear and the emails are very helpful for planning out your day for both activities. We learned that the race was pushed up an hour due to call in weather for high winds starting in the afternoon. As an early bird myself this didn’t bother me, plus I had been training in high winds (not quite like the 40mph winds they were calling for) and was glad that the race organizers were opting to not make us suffer through that!
The first big to-do was to get our race bibs and packets for the race. If you have ever signed up for a running race before you know that there is typically some sort of an expo for the larger races. This can be in a huge convention center with an overwhelming amount of vendors. For Vacation Races they bring the charm to even the expo. It is outside with a few vendors lined up, a station to make yourself some s’mores and sit next to a fire, and people there are always so welcoming and ready to answer any questions you may have.
After we gathered our necessary items we set off to a mini hike around Zion. Due to our race being the next day our hike was more of a leisurely walk in the valley of the mountains but needless to say it was still something spectacular to see. After the hike we enjoyed some dinner, relaxation time, and organizing for the big race day!
The 4:15AM alarm came pretty fast but we were all excited to go see what was in store for us. We packed up the car and headed to our destination which was described as being only accessible via a dirt road. I always love the drive to a race because you quickly realize that everyone on the road is going the to the same destination and sure enough that was true in this case. The dirt road to get up to the race caused lots of dust making it really hard to see, but my Aunt handled it like a champ! We pulled in to our final destination- a huge open field with the sun just slightly showing us what was around.
Once we lined up for the race the sun started making its way over the mountains showing us the detail and beauty of this spot. There were free roaming cattle in the pasture grazing on the grass, red rock mountains in the distance, and scenery that photos just do not give enough justice to! Then we were off to run the 13.1!
This race I personally started off strong, soaking up all the views, enjoying every dusty, dirty, perfect weather mile. Then we started to repeat some miles for our second loop after mile 7. I didn’t notice in the beginning but mile 1-2 was all soft sand, we had to repeat that same section for miles 7-8 and boy did I notice that time. You know how quickly your feet feel tired after walking toward the beach? That is how mine were starting to feel at this point, but I kept going, taking mini walking breaks just to regroup and avoid foot cramps when necessary. After that was done mile 8-10 felt pretty decent with some rolling hills but nothing major that would stop you in your tracks. Then mile 11 approached. This mile had a hill that was so steep and felt like it lasted forever. No one around me even was attempting to run it and after going a little bit up the hill I quickly realized that I could probably walk it the same pace that I could run this monster. I had a couple personal battles with this hill, my hip started to hurt, and my body was definitely trying to make me realize that this was tough! But with every uphill battle there is a downhill glide waiting on the other side.
Circling back around toward the finish line there were some more new views I didn’t get to see before and a little more rocky terrain on the trail. Once you see that finish line though, whether you are loving the experience or not, there is always a piece of you (or a whole part of you) that is relieved to be there! After crossing the line I met up with my family, cursed the mile 11 hill with my brother, and enjoyed some Gnarly Nutrition hydrate along with the amazing post race snack box Vacation Races passes out at the end.
Overall I would highly recommend the experience! Its funny, each time I train for a race, and the last two years of doing Vacation Races, I have that first feeling of “I don’t want to put my body through this again” but once I am there and once I finish I’m immediately looking up when the next one is! Maybe its a weird runners high thing happening, maybe its insanity, either way I’m looking forward to my next adventure!