One of my favorite trails in Southern Nevada is the Historic Rail Road Trail, at the Lake Mead National Recreation Area, in Boulder City. Yesterday I raced in the Six Tunnels to Hoover Dam St. Paddy’s Day 12k on this trail, as my 42nd race.
This race, formerly owned by Mountain Man Events, is now owned and directed by BBSC Endurance Running, the same company that put on the Mardi Gras Masquerade. Like the other race companies I seek out, they include an awesome shirt, and nice race medal.
A 12k, this was the longest distance I had done since the Rock n Roll Las Vegas Half Marathon in 2013, and I was feeling pretty anxious. As the race approached, social media posts from the company made it clear there was going to be a great turnout for the event, and this was pretty obvious when I picked up my packet. Pickup was held at a local sports specialty store, and it was packed!!
Having done other races on this trail, I knew the parking situation meant parking at a casino located off the main road, and walking roughly 1/3 mile up and down a hill to the event start. My husband volunteered to drive and drop me off (ulterior motive=lunch). I met up with a friend who was also a little anxious, and we chitchatted for a little bit which really took the edge off for me, and hopefully for her also.
The half marathon runners started first, running out in the opposite direction before they back-tracked to the 12k course. A few minutes later was the 12k start. I used to start out a race running, but have learned that it is better for me personally to walk for the first mile or so, before adding any running. I had been having some pain in my SI joints, but with a RockTape application on both knees, my SI joints and back, I was feeling really great. I picked a person to focus on, and keep my pace with, turned up my music and got in the zone.
Participants in the 5k started shortly after I did, and soon the runners caught up and passed me. I always stay to the far right of the course to be courteous, and safety-minded. It got pretty crowded through the first 2 tunnels, but thinned out dramatically after the 5k turnaround. As we reached the last tunnel, the person I was pacing myself with stopped and turned around, along with his companion. I asked if everything was okay, and the companion said yes but there was no one else ahead of us. I assured her we were still on the correct course, but they turned around anyway.
In my training, I had been to this point of the course twice, but had used it as my turnaround point to get in 5 miles. In 2013 I did the Hoover Dam 10k, which continued on this course down to the parking garage roof of the Hoover Dam, but we were transported back to the start line on buses. As i continued, the gradual incline soon transformed into a decline…a big one.
I started meeting 12k runners who had reached the turn around and were headed for the finish. The look on their faces indicated the way back up, was just as bad as I was expecting. I saw several familiar faces from an informal running group I am in, and a couple of friends. As I approached the last steep descent to the parking garage, half marathoners began to catch up to me. I took out my headphones so I could get out of their way, and down the set of switch back ramps I went, stopping at the bottom (out of the way) to grab a selfie with one of my favorite volunteers.
I tried to take in the moment on top of the dam, before turning around and starting the long climb back to the finish line. By this point, it had started warming up, and I was getting pretty hot. I carry my own water with me, so I squirted some down my shirt, under my hat, and took a few swigs, which helped immensely.
The struggle i was feeling must have been written allover my face, as half-participants who I met as they were walking back towards the turnaround, were giving me high-fives, fist-bumps, thumbs-up, smiles, and words of encouragement. What I love about this sport is although these people were covering 13.1 miles in the time I took me to cover 7.43 (closer to 8 according to my gps :-P), no one makes you feel like you don’t belong on “their” course.
I could feel my momentum growing as I reached the beginning of the gradual downhill back to the finish, Crossing the finish line with a sprint, I felt amazing. I finished 7 minutes under my goal, and felt well enough to walk into the park to meet my husband.
I went to my favorite overlook and did some stretching, changed my clothes, and focused on the moment…and then we went and got my husband that burger! 😉
Pros: Challenging course, well organized, great shirt, nice medal, great value for the entry fee, Would definitely suggest!
Cons: people who had finished were actually walking on the course to get back to their cars, maybe a little more marking of the parking lot path could have been done, but for the most part that is out of the race company’s control. Just don’t be a jerk, and when you are at a race, stay off the course. I will yell at you with a language typically reserved for riding my bike.