BRYCE CANYON HALF MARATHON
Ben and I went down and ran the Bryce Half this weekend. The race is unbelievably beautiful and it's fun to get out to a part of the state we don't often see. We stayed in Panguitch and they bussed us to the start line, but we got there with 15 minutes to go. So, we found secret bathrooms, ran to the start line, dropped our bags, and then basically started without a proper warmup. I did get almost a mile in between all that, but would've preferred more and strides!
The race was quite stacked, you had Brett Hales (two-time defending champ), Kyle Perry (All-American at BYU a few years back), Ben, Jason Holt, Tyler Jermann (I found this out once I uploaded to Strava, but he's a pro runner based in Flagstaff), and then some other guys I don't know who went out FAST!
The race starts at 7,600 feet and is flat-ish for two miles and then mile three is bombing downhill, four through six are also quite steep, seven and eight are rolling but net down, and then most of the rest is more of a gentle downhill with another 15-foot rise in mile 11, but nothing too bad. So, tons of downhill (finishes at like 5,900 feet?), but at a really high elevation.
I planned on running the first two miles very conservative no matter what happened in front of me. I ran at Flagstaff a few times in college and understand how easily you can get into oxygen debt at that high of an elevation if you aren't careful and respect the altitude. The gun went off and at least 10-12 guys literally sprinted off the line! I was probably in 10th place a half mile in and I was already maybe 15-20 seconds back of the leaders. It was crazy. I have no idea what these guys were thinking! Ben and I stuck to our plan I ran 5:23 and 5:14 for the first two miles and he was a bit behind me.
By the end of mile two I was at least 40 seconds back of top three guys (unknown kid, Brett, and Kyle), 20 seconds back of 4th (another unknown guy), and maybe 5 seconds back of Jermann (again I only know this now from the Strava flyby feature, but at the time didn't know who he was). I started moving at mile three with the downhill, here I passed Jermann and started gaining on 4th too. The leaders continued to run insanely fast and by mile 4 were at least a minute up on me with Kyle out in front, Brett 10 seconds back with unknown, and then me likely 50-60 seconds behind those two. I was a bit shocked, as I didn't expect this competitive of a race. But I had a really good feeling most, if not all of those guys were coming back. No way were they all going to run 1:03-1:05. So, I kept working through miles 4-5 and passed the guy I didn't know around 5-6 miles in and was now in 3rd place. Splits for miles 3-6 were 4:30, 4:40, 4:45, 4:45.
I looked up after mile six and Brett had passed Kyle and Kyle was coming back quickly. But, Brett was also coming back. I got quite encouraged and kept pressing forward. I passed Kyle in mile 7 and at mile 8 I clocked Brett at a 20-25 second lead. So I had made up likely 20-30 seconds over the last few miles. This was encouraging. Miles 8-10 were 5:01 5:14 5:06.
At mile 10 I measured the gap again and it was 19 seconds. I may, just may be able to win this! But Brett held on very well. I expected to keep decreasing that gap, but at mile 11 it was only down to 17 seconds. I had only made up two seconds and at that rate I wasn't going to have enough real estate to catch him. I tried to move faster, but my legs were shot! My calves were screaming from the downhill pounding and blistering pace. At mile 12 the gap was 15 seconds, only gained another two seconds. I pushed hard the last mile, but Brett did too and he beat me in the end by 12 seconds. He ran 1:04:55 and I ran 1:05:07. Mile splits 11-13 were 5:01 5:11 5:02.
I was thrilled to see Ben finish 3rd with a very solid 1:07:07 (though he'll tell you he ran 1:07:03). The cool down was a joke. I could barely even shuffle. My quads were blown! My calves killed! But man oh man what a fun race. Technically a PR for me, but it's so much more downhill than TOU where I ran 1:05:16 in '13 that it feels dirty to count this.