I was really bummed back in January when I was unable to do the half marathon I had been planning on. But once I was over my ankle injury, I started looking for another option, and came across the Whiskey Row half marathon in Prescott, AZ. The website touts the marathon as one of the toughest in the country. It starts at a mile above sea level and climbs nearly 1000 feet to the turn around, and then turns around to follow the same route to the finish. I knew it would be a challenge, but I've always considered myself to be pretty strong on the hills, so I was really looking forward to it.I had a bunch of friends running it also. Most of them went up on Friday to spend the night since Prescott is about 2 hours from Phoenix, but I decided to drive up with a friend and her brother the morning of. We kind of cut it pretty close, but we made it in time to pick up our packets, wait in line for the potty, and still have a couple minutes to spare at the start line on Whiskey Row. The nickname for the road comes from the many saloons that used to inhabit the block back when Prescott was mining town.
My goal was to hold least an 8 minute pace up the hill, and then fly down the hill, and finish under 1:40. I started out pretty quick since the hills in town were not very significant. As the hills got a little steeper, I pulled back a little, and tried to hold it steady. Between miles 3 and 4, the hills became HILLS, crazy hills, but I still managed to stay under 8 minutes per mile.
Just before the half way point, I saw the leaders coming down the hill, and they were flying! That was energizing to see their speed, and that carried me on to the turn-around (which was just after a pretty significant amount of water/mud flowing across the road, which, of course, we had to run through twice). After turning around, it was hard to maintain a controlled pace because the hill was so steep. So, I just let it loose. I don't know what my splits were, but it was fast, really fast. But it was so much fun. Coming down, I saw several of my friends and we cheered each other on. I continued down the hill, in a groove, and then I hit an uphill. Not too long, but pretty steep. It really through me off. Once I got over, I just couldn't find myself again. Then, with about 1 mile to go, I ran out of gas. The people I was running with gradually pulled away. I am happy to say that only one other person passed me, so I must not have slowed too much.
Coming around the corner and crossing the finish line was such a good feeling. A feeling I haven't felt since my last half nearly 4 years ago. I finished with a time of 1:38:26, good enough for 24th place overall, 19th among the men, and 4th in my age group. I'm very pleased with that, considering how tough this course was. It got me thinking what I could do on a different course, and couldn't wait to find another one to do (the Hobbler Half in July--training to set a new PR).
This is definitely a race I will do again.