The Yellowstone Half-Marathon…where do I begin???
When I signed up for the race in February, I was in the midst of training for May’s Lincoln Half-Marathon. I thought registering for a half-marathon a month and a half after Lincoln would keep me motivated to continue running. Sometimes after Lincoln I take an extended break from running and lose my running fitness.
The BF and I were also already planning a trip to Yellowstone. We were planning on leaving June 13, the day of the race. We decided to register for the race, and head to Yellowstone a day early.
However, after the Lincoln Half-Marathon I developed plantar fasciitis and had to put training for Yellowstone on hold. I only did one long run and a handful of shorter runs between Lincoln and Yellowstone. I also never practiced trail running like I had planned.
I was super anxious about Yellowstone because I wasn’t in the shape I wanted to be in for a half-marathon and I was worried about my foot. But I was already registered and driving over 800 miles to get to Yellowstone, so I felt like I had to run the race.
We arrived in West Yellowstone on Friday, June 12 and met the BF’s sister, Betsy, her husband, Matt, and their kids, Payton and Cooper at our hotel. We stayed at the Brandin’ Iron Inn, which was fine but not anything to get excited over.
We walked from our hotel to the race expo to pick up our bibs. The bib pick up line was long. We quickly realized it was because they didn’t have alphabetical pick up, which is what most races do. It was a small expo, so we spent a few minutes looking at the booths. They had a cool poster with all the runner’s names.
We ended up eating at Canyon Street Grill, which was a 50’s diner. I had the Be-Bop-a-Lula Veggie Burger Sandwich and potato wedges. I was pretty worried about the food choice because I normally eat a very basic protein + veggies + grain pre-race dinner.
When we got back to the hotel, I asked the front desk what would be on the continental breakfast. I needed three things – some kind of whole wheat bagel/bread + peanut butter + banana. They were pretty iffy about the bananas, but I decided to keep my fingers crossed that bananas would be available.
This is probably the least prepared the BF and I have been for a race on the food front. We usually plan out our food very carefully but we were so focused on packing for a 10-day cabin/camping trip, we didn’t even really think about the race.
For breakfast, I had a hard boiled egg and a piece of whole wheat toast topped with peanut butter. No banana.
We walked from our hotel to the race start line, which was about a mile away.
The start had coffee, hot chocolate, bananas, sunscreen, bug spray and plenty of porta-potties. Oh, and a mountain view.
Then it was time to go!
I immediately felt pretty crappy. I just couldn’t get my heart rate to go down and I felt like I couldn’t breath. I immediately started to panic and started thinking about how I was going to get out of running the race.
However, the views were amazing!
The BF and Betsy were ahead of me, but kept slowing down to let me catch up for the first three miles or so. Then Betsy went on ahead and the BF stayed behind with me. I walked for the first time right before the third mile.
Around mile five the elevation started to increase. The race started at 6,665 feet. Between miles five and six, the course gained 200 feet in elevation. Everyone was walking this part of the race, which made me feel a bit better.
The race got more technical around mile seven with lots of boulders, rocks and tall grass to run through. Although we were going downhill, it was still hard because we had to take it so slow over the rocks.
At mile nine, I remember thinking, ‘I can’t believe I’ve made it this far.’ I really didn’t think I’d be able to finish the race. Or I thought it would take me all day.
By the tenth mile, I kept thinking, ‘Just run the last three miles.’ But my legs felt like bricks, my heart rate was still crazy high and I was huffing and puffing while I was walking. The BF would run ahead and when he started walking, I’d run to catch up to him. Then we started running for 30 seconds at a time. Then we started running to the next tree then walking to the next tree, etc.
I drank Nuun at every other water station and water at the others. I ate my own Honey Stinger gel around mile five and a Honey Stinger from an aid station at mile 10. I usually only eat one energy gel around the seventh mile of a half-marathon.
When I saw the finish line, I was still struggling to even run a few feet. I felt like I could barely lift my feet off of the ground. But as we were getting closer to the finish line, we talked to a lady from Pennsylvania who said she had run 34 half-marathons each in a different state. It gave me the last push I needed to run across the finish line.
I don’t think I’ve ever felt as terrible during and after a half-marathon as I did at Yellowstone. I felt like I couldn’t even walk any more, my legs hurt so bad. After the race, we grabbed our post-race fuel and took off. The BF and I were in too much pain to stick around. We walked about halfway back to our hotel, then Matt picked us up and drove us the rest of the way.
My shoes were so so dirty! I wore my Brooks Cascadia Trail Running shoes.
Besides the beautiful scenery during the race, there were some other positives…
Our race swag was great – Cave Man bars, Honey Stinger Waffles, banana, chocolate milk, Earnest Eats Superfood Trail Mix Granola Bars, NatureBox Cranberry Medley, 180 Almond Pops with Blueberries, Power Snacks Tropical Treasures and Stretch Island Fruit Co. All Natural Fruit Strips.
The bib, finisher’s medal and t-shirt were also awesome!
And they used a cupless water system to reduce waste on the course. At the expo, we got a cup that we carried during the race (you can see mine on my right hip in the first photo), and we filled it up at each water station.
Registering for this race was definitely not my best idea. Here’s why….
- I had no way of training for the altitude here in Nebraska at 2,152 feet above sea level. I read different schools of thought about running a race in a higher altitude – one said to show up and run and another said to give yourself a few days to acclimate to the altitude. I don’t think arriving earlier would have mattered. By the end of our trip, I was still huffing and puffing as we hiked up mountains.
- My injury set me back.
- I wasn’t prepared for trail running.
- I broke the #1 rule of running a race – never do anything different on race day.
Would I do it again? Absolutely not!! Am I glad I finished? Yes!!
Have you run a Vacation Races half-marathon? What was your experience like?