Race Report: Cedar Canyon Half Marathon

“Whether You Think You Can or Can’t, You’re Right” – Henry Ford

Yesterday (Saturday, September 18, 2010) I ran the first Cedar Canyon Half Marathon. The race was held in the canyon just outside Cedar City, Utah… my hometown. When I heard there was going to be a half marathon there for the first time ever, I knew I had to run it. And I haven’t had the chance to run a half marathon for myself since last December. (I did run the Napa to Sonoma race in July, but that was with Team Challenge as the coach.)

Cedar Canyon Half Marathon
I really wanted to run a sub-2 hour half marathon, and in the days leading up to the race I knew I had it in me. I had done several good long training run with the gal I coached for her first half (a race she did in 1:50 fyi), so I felt pretty good. I was pretty tired all week long from my experience at Rio Del Lago 100 the previous weekend (oh… the stories, the post will come), but overall I was feeling pretty good in the days leading up to the race.

Night Before the Race:
The organizers had packet pickup at a park, which included a pasta party for all participants. So I picked up my goodie bag (which included coupons for several area businesses, my bib number, a Clif bar, my tech shirt) and sat down to eat my pasta. Since I was there all by myself I figured I would eat and leave, but I found several people that I knew from my high school days and ended up eating with them. Many of them were running their first half marathon and kept asking me for advice. I started to feel a little bit of tension, like I was supposed to perform really well just for them since I was the “experienced racer”. By the time I left the pasta party, my stomach was full of butterflies.

Race Morning:
All participants had to board a bus to get taken to the start line, a spot that was about 10.5 miles up the canyon. There were about 6 or 8 big yellow school buses waiting for the runners to board, so I picked one at random and sat in the first empty seat I found. Another woman sat next to me after a couple minutes, she was running the race as part of her taper for the St. George Marathon. Once the bus was full we started the drive up the canyon when the gentleman in front of me turned around and started rambling about how fast he was in his 30’s & 40’s and how he always places in his age group now because he’s old. I thought his rambling sounded familiar, sure enough it was the guy that was chatting up my mom and me at the Brianhead trail 5K the previous month. I got off the bus and headed to the porta-potties, then hovered near one of the fires that were burning for warmth. It was 42 degrees, too chilly for my blood – especially at this time of year. It has still been around 100 in Vegas! The woman who sat next to me on the bus offered me her hand warmers. I declined and she said, “Are you sure? I don’t need them so I’ll just throw them away.” So I took them, they helped me stay a little warmer.

Race Start:
The announcer said we would have the last pre-race instructions in about 5 minutes. Then in 5 minutes they said, “It looks like the bathroom line is still pretty long, so we’ll wait another 5-10 minutes to get going. And we’ve learned our lesson for next year… more bathrooms!” When the announcements finally came, they apologized for not having water at the start because apparently someone had stolen it in the wee early morning hours. They told us that the chip timing fell through, thus we would just have times based on clock and tearing off the bottom of our bib numbers and if we wanted accurate timing for ourselves to “Start a watch as you go across the start line.” The old me might have been frustrated, but the new me is much more tolerant of timing difficulties. Then we were instructed to head out to the road to the start line. I never heard an official gun or “Start!” but the group started moving, so the race was on.

Miles 1-8.5:
The first part of the race I was rockin’ it. I felt great and I maintained an 8:30 pace for that whole stretch, which is incredible for me. Even with a moment at mile 4 where I had to slow down to remove my jacket (which was difficult because my Armpocket was on top of the jacket) I still kept up a good pace. And I was having so much fun running down a canyon that I have driven up and down countless times, it was amazing to get to experience that on foot within the security of a closed course.

Mile 8.51:
“Oooh…. my stomach is kind of hurting.”

Mile 8.6:
“I think I want to barf.”

Mile 8.7:

Mile 8.8:

Mile 8.9:
That terrible slang phrase about “throwing up in my mouth a little” came to fruition. I just wish it had been a full-on puke to get that out of the way.

Mile 9:
“Why am I doing this? This hurts? After this, no more… I’m a walker after this. That’s perfectly respectable and much less painful.”

Mile 10:
“Where’s a porta pottie? I’m going to be sick. I can’t make my time feeling like this.”

Mile 10.3:
“I don’t want to wait in that line…”

Mile 10.5:
I was heading toward the section of the course where we go from the main road, cross a small foot bridge and connect into the canyon trail (a paved path that goes from a park in Cedar City a couple miles up the canyon along the river). At the turn spot, there were a couple volunteers directing people and a man on a bike… that man was my dad! I was so surprised to see him there, I had no clue he would be there. I ran over to him and hugged him, tears had sprung to my eyes I was so excited to see him!

Miles 11-13.1:
This miles were hard, but seeing my dad invigorated me some. I pushed down through the canyon trail, smiled at the little kids that were cheering with their families as we ran through the Canyon Park. My dad had ridden his bike to the point where we would leave the canyon trail and get back on roads, so he yelled out “Go Jill!” But of course, we got off the canyon trail and turned to face a slight uphill. After all that downhill running, my legs were suddenly leaden. I did my best to power through the final miles… which were especially difficult because you could see the finish line, yet we had to wind back and forth a couple times to get the additional miles. I just kept thinking, “I could cut straight through that area and be at the finish line in about 2 or 3 minutes…” But nope, 2 more miles! My pace had dropped dramatically, but I didn’t look at my Garmin. I already knew I was just outside of reaching my sub-2 goal. My negative self-talk was in full-swing telling me, “Just walk. You already missed your goal. You suck.”

Up ahead, I spotted my “friend” from the bus… and he gave me enough energy for a final sprint. Is it wrong that I was so pleased with myself for overtaking a 60-69 year-old man? If it is, I don’t care… he deserved to be passed with his bragging and gloating. I got myself up to a 7:10 pace just to pass him. But as I rounded the corner I slowed back down to a more comfortable 9:30. I don’t really WANT to slow down at the end of a race, but I’d already convinced myself that “I can’t” and I knew I’d missed my time goal.

Garmin Final Time: 2:02:25
Race Result Time: 2:02:37

Yes, it’s a good time. Yes, it’s a PR. But it isn’t what I wanted from my race.
Cedar Canyon Half Marathon

Post-race they had a long finishing chute where we walked down to someone handing out the medals (weak medals) and into the finishers food area (good food… Great Harvest whole wheat rolls, banana, orange, apple and Great Harvest Trek bar chunk all parceled out in a little food-service tray). Maybe I’m just goofy, but I thought the paper food-service tray for the food was genius, so many races you finish with random handfuls of food, this just made it so much easier to carry. After that runners could walk out of the food area, which was roped off from the main gathering area, into the park to meet their families. I saw a co-worker of mine in there, he was hoping to run a 1:45 and ended up running a 1:42! Then I spotted my dad, pushing his bike through the crowd. He sat down on the grass with me to chat while I ate my food. Then we made plans to meet up for lunch and he hopped on his bike to finish his ride and head back to his home.

I started to listen to the awards ceremony. After announcing the top finishers, they moved into the drawing prizes. My number was the third number pulled, I won a loaf of Great Harvest bread! They actually gave me a coupon for the bread, so I walked over to the bread store to retrieve my loaf of bread. I couldn’t go anywhere since the convenient parking spot I’d snagged that morning also meant that I was blocked from leaving for a while because the lot exited onto the finish leg of the race.

Cedar Canyon Half MarathonCedar Canyon Half Marathon Medal
Post-Race Eats Prize Bread

I was happy to get a new PR, but a little bummed that I didn’t get my time goal. But it wasn’t even 30-seconds after crossing the finish line that I started to think about what other races I would get to do in the future. So guess the negative side of me that wanted to quit running mid-way through the race isn’t going to win. And on the drive home, I didn’t get very good radio reception and for a long time the only station that I picked up very clearly was 93.1 The Party… they play a lot of club songs and such. One of the songs they played though felt apropos for after this race, so I’ll leave you with a quote from that:

“And if at first you don”t succeed
Then dust yourself off and try again
You can dust it off and try again, try again “

Try Again – Aaliyah

Photos from the course were from The Spectrum


  1. Haha, I love the barfin play by play! Even though it wasn’t sub 2-hour, it was still such a great race. And for some runners, all the problems in the beginning would have gotten them started on the wrong foot (no pun intended) but you took it in stride and did great!

    nice medal too 🙂

  2. I know how it feels to get a good time but not quite make your goal. You flip back and forth between patting yourself on the back and beating yourself up. It sounds like you pushed through some pretty tough miles. That is a lot to be proud of. You ran a good race.

    It sounds like there were some growing pains with the inaugural race. The medals look pretty generic. I might even have one just like that. 🙂

  3. Sounds like race had a few hiccups but nothing major so that’s good. Kinda cool that they delayed a bit for the portajohn line. I have the same mid-race thoughts! LOL. Funny how we never do quit though 😉

    Congrats on the PR!

  4. I know the feeling! I recently got about a two and a half minute PR in a half marathon, but didn’t beat my A goal (sub two hour). 2:00:16. It kills me. And I measured 13.2 on Garmin so it was actually sub-2 when I hit 13.1. Arg!

    But getting this close lets me know it’s possible 🙂

    You felt sick and kept moving, and still got a PR, so that’s great!
    Next time …

  5. One of the most inspiring things to me about your running is that you usually seem to win the self-talk battles. Your resilience in the face of your own doubts is remarkable. I’ve got more work to do in that area – thanks for the example!

  6. You mentioned something I’ve been thinking a lot about recently… who supports us, and how it means the WORLD when those people “show up” when times get hard. Your dad being there, even being there when you didn’t expect it, must have been a fabulous boost. I’m so glad you stuck with it Jill, and didn’t let the negative mental energy kill what ended up being a great race.

  7. I teared up at the part where you saw your Dad. I’m prepping for the Twin Cities marathon and it looks like my schleppers of years past won’t be able to help this year so I’ll be on my own. I know I can do it, but also knowing that there are people waiting for you at points on the route makes it so much more worthwhile. You continue to inspire me, jill, and I don’t tell you enough. Thank you for this open account of your race day. Your honesty and willingness to share all the dirty details that most non-runners don’t understand is refreshing and welcome. *Hugs* to you – I know you didn’t make your time, but a PR is still awesome. You did great!

  8. Hi! This is the first post of your blog that I’ve read but I had to comment. I, too, am a Team Challenge coach- for the NJ team. Are you going to Vegas in December? I can’t wait! It was SO MUCH FUN last year! I also just ran a half marathon this past weekend (Rock n’ Roll Philly), finished in 2:02:53, a PR, but really wanted to finish in under two hours too. I definitely experienced very similar thoughts and feelings all around the same miles you did, haha. I didn’t feel like I had to puke, but I felt amazing between miles 1-8, and around mile 10 my legs felt heavy and I had to slow down a lot. But as soon as it’s all over the endorphins are flowing and it’s on to the next race!

    Congrats on your PR! I’m definitely going to read more of your blog now. 🙂

  9. That’s a really pretty area – makes me think of Bryce!
    Congrats on the PR, i’m sure you’ll feel better about the race once you get some distance on it, that always seems to help.
    Hope another fun race is in the future though!!

  10. […] Cedar Canyon Half Marathon: This downhill race really worked over my body. My quads hurt for several days after, and while that pain is now gone my right knee is feeling a little off… a little wonky. I don’t think it’s necessarily injured, just a little overstressed. It hurts when I walk down stairs and when I crouch down to play with the puppy. I’ve been icing it and will tape it up when I run next, but for now… I’m giving it the rest it deserves. I also have a ton of bruises on my legs after the race. A couple of them are from the puppy (she gets a little overexcited at times), but some of them are complete mysteries to me and showed up in the days following the race. I don’t know if they are necessarily due to the hard effort, but that’s what I’m blaming! They need to heal some too. […]

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