I absolutely adore Saturday races. Maybe it’s because races feel like they should be on a Saturday or maybe it’s because I still have some weekend left to celebrate the race and recover. Whatever the reason, I feel like I am more relaxed and have more fun with them.
I have done this race once before and enjoyed it. Mammoth Marathons does a good job putting on an event. There is always plenty of race support, plenty of food (even for me, the back-of-the-packer), a nice medal and shirt and a decent entry fee. With my Half Marathon Club discount and an early entry, my race cost me $35.00. Having spent $125 on a Rock-n-Roll race, $35.00 was a steal. Small races are nice, too. You never have to worry about parking, getting stepped on, spending hours looking for your corral or hoping there is still hydration left at an aid station. You can arrive 15 minutes before the race, park, stretch, get a cup of coffee or water and wander to the start line with plenty of time to spare. The Grand Valley Marathon was no exception. This event included 5K, 10K, Half Marathon and Marathon distances with staggered starts for the individual events – enough time for the crowd of the previous event to be out of the way of the next event – a concept that is physically impossible for an event with 20,000+ participants.
My friend, Tami, signed up to do the 10k event and I was signed up for the Half. Because it was a small race and because it had a 6 hour time limit, I began to develop a plan to have Tami do her first half. When we picked up our packets Friday evening, I changed her registration to the Half. I figured I could just ask her to walk with me a “little bit more” until it was too late for her to turn around. I was so excited about my evil plot that I had a hard time keeping the secret.
This out and back course begins in the heart of Palisade and heads out of town, following the Colorado river for a bit before turning onto Highway 6’s Scenic By-Way through the heart of the Grand Valley’s Fruit Orchards and Vineyards. It is not an easy course. It ascends and descends gradually throughout the course and at Mile 4 you get a rude awakening – “Throw Up Hill”. At mile 4 you find yourself staring up at the hill wondering why in the world you even bothered to get up that morning. The hill at mile 4 ascends 195 feet and it is not gradual. Tami and I drove the course the night prior because I wanted to see if the hill was as bad as I remembered it being. It was. And Tami even said to me, “There is no way I’m doing that hill with you tomorrow.” It was like she read my mind. But I just said to myself, “Hmm. We’ll see.” In any case, I digress.
We started off at a gentle pace heading out of town. I knew I was going to be asking a great deal of Tami so I didn’t want to have her feeling exhausted before she even hit the 10k turn around. So we worked on a 19 minute mile pace and chatted while enjoying the scenery. Before we knew it, the 10k turn around was upon us. I then asked her to keep walking with me, just a little bit, she could turn around any time she wanted. She said she wasn’t doing that hill. I said ok, let’s wait and see. She said there was no sense in doing the hill if she wasn’t going to get the medal for it. I then told her that she was, in fact, registered for the half and she might as well do it ‘cause we had 6 hours any way. Before we knew it, we were at the base of the hill. The hill is a killer. I kept rambling on, trying to get her mind off of it, and she was not happy with me as we climbed up. We reached the top and I turned around and looked down. The view was amazing.
Finally we come up on the “1 More Mile” marker and I get excited. We’re going to finish and we’re going to eat! I picked up our pace a little and before we knew it, we were crossing the finish line, getting our medals and searching for some place to sit in the shade and just revel in Tami’s accomplishment. Tami crossed that finish line and completed her first half marathon. She told me then that there was no way she was going to do the Slacker Half Marathon in Georgetown, CO with me – she was done. But that was Saturday. Today we made plans for the Slacker Half and she even mentioned it without me asking…
Mammoth Marathons does a good job. With the exception of being handed the medal still in the little baggie and no photographer on the course (well, there was one, but he stuck with the fast people), I have no suggestions for improvement on this course. If it continues to grow, they might actually have to block off the road for a while (the hill had no shoulder on which to walk which meant we were in the road and there were quite a few blind spots going around corners) and that would mean a more strict time limit but for now it is a small-town race with small-town charm. And it was Tami’s very first half marathon.
Is it a coincidence that Tami’s time for her first half was the same as my time for my first half? We walked across the finish line 4 hours and 25 minutes after we started.