Being an Arizona runner, the thought of running in the crisp mountain air “upnorth” sounds like a great idea. Until you factor in the hills. I’ve never seriously considered running Whiskey Row due to it’s reputation as being one of the toughest courses in the country. Nonstop upness!
A bunch of co-workers were doing the race (half, 10k, 2 mile races) and invited me along. I decided to put on some big girl pants and give it a try. I never train hills but was hopeful I would live.
For anyone unfamiliar, Prescott is a town 2 hours northwest of Phoenix, up in the mountains where it is on average 15-20 degrees cooler than the Phoenix area. As we were driving around town the night before, I was getting a first hand view of the hills I had been imagining in my head. Check out this elevation profile!
As you can see, these hills go on for days.
Our first stop was packet pickup (teeny tiny expo) where on Friday the 13th I was issued Bib#666. Seriously?! We went and had a nice dinner the night before and tried to relax and not think too much about the challenge ahead the next day. As a side note, I have been macro counting and limiting carbs for the last month or so, and I wasn’t sure what to expect come race time. I’ve had enough energy for my runs for the most part. Normally I would use running a half marathon as an excuse to fall face first into a plate of pasta with a side of tons of bread. I decided to try to not do that and see what happened. I had a black bean burger open-faced with just a small side of pasta salad (and a beer). Felt pretty good.
I got to sleep with the windows open with that gorgeous mountain air coming in. Delightful.
Woke up to a nice sunrise and a hot pot of coffee and friends. What could be better? We were staying only 2.5 miles from the start so we didn’t even leave the house til 30 min before the race. Crazy! The start line was right in front of the saloon. Did I mention this is an Old West town? And all the hotels are haunted? As we were taking our obligatory pre-race photos, this old west costumed character guy snuck up behind us to photo bomb us. He was carrying a shotgun and said “when you hear this go off…run like hell!”
Race nerves were in full force as we waited for the start. Finally we were off and within a mile my friend let me know she wasn’t feeling well and to go on ahead. Yikes, I was left on my own. The first mile wasn’t bad, relatively flat. Miles 1-2 started with a few rolling hills but still doable. At mile 2.5 we were in the Hassayampa area and all of a sudden the vertical was so bad I had to walk. Even walking up the hill my legs were burning.
The temp was in the low to mid 60’s and sunny. Perfect to me, but probably warm to some. I was worried about getting dehydrated. I didn’t carry my own water, but there were plenty of water stops with Gatorade at every one. We continued on our climb up with a few downhills thrown in there. At about mile 4-4.5 I had to take more frequent walk breaks. It was just too much! I was 100% focused on getting to that half way turnaround so I could start heading downhill.
At around mile 5-5.5 I started seeing the leaders fly past me going down. We hit a dirt road section of the course and were now in a wooded area. Really pretty.
I made it to the top of the turnaround and started heading down. I found my friend who was thankfully feeling much better. I was able to keep moving pretty well (thanks to gravity) but around mile 9 or 10 there were some big hills that required more walking breaks. By mile 11 I was running out of gas, hanging by on fumes. Even in the last mile I stopped 2-3 times for a walk break even though the hills were just about over. Oh well. I guess that's where those extra carbs would have come in handy.
I rolled into the finish to see some of my friends at the finish line cheering me on. That’s always awesome!!! :)
I felt a little queasy but was quite thrilled to have finished intact. My finish time was 2 hrs 16 minutes. All in all, I’m happy with that. I was hoping for 2:15 or less, but not having done it before, I really didn’t know what to expect. I only started doing some moderate hill training in the last 2 weeks.
This is the first of 3 half marathons that I have over the next 6 weeks, so I figured if nothing else this was good training and conditioning.
This was my 44th half marathon, and one of the hardest if not the hardest one. As brutal as it was, I would do this again. I would certainly train on hills so I didn’t have to walk so much, and I also need to figure out a better fueling strategy than just sips of Gatorade here and there.
We immediately started celebrating our finishes at the local saloons. A good time was had by all!
Hi, I'm Emily! I'm an avid runner in Arizona with a passion for travel and racing around the country!