It wouldn’t be a race weekend for me without a little travel excitement. I had planned to head out to South Dakota after work on the Friday of this race weekend and do a long weekend of sight seeing, which of course included running the Spearfish Half Marathon on Saturday morning. Well, on Friday morning around 6:30am, my flight to DFW had been delayed. I had a decent layover, but as the day went on, I started getting concerned.
Then, the small delay turned into a 3+ hour delay and me missing my connection to Rapid City. Since I was going to such a small airport, there really weren’t many options. I tried to get onto a Delta flight, but was originally denied. It took me walking from the American ticket counter to the Delta and back and forth several times before I finally got Delta to take me on one of their flights. Now instead of getting into Rapid City around 8pm though, I wouldn’t land until just before 11pm. Once I landed, I still would have to get the rental car and drive an hour to Spearfish.
I finally got to the hotel around midnight, just in time for a 5 hour nap. I had no issues getting my rental or checking into the hotel at least. I quickly pulled out my race gear and climbed into bed. The race was slated to go off at 7am. This was a pretty small race, but they asked us to be there around 5:30-5:45am to get bibs and then take the bus to the start line. This was a point-to-point course so we had about a 30 minute bus ride up to the start.
Getting the bibs on race morning was a great option for out of town people like me. It looked like a lot of people took advantage of this as well. It was very easy and took less than 5 minutes. They had a bathhouse in the park so I hit the bathroom line before heading to the buses. As I came out of the bathroom, they were calling for all runners to head to the buses.
I ended up on the first bus up the canyon. This was nice as we were the first in line for bathrooms (yes, might as well hit the bathroom again just in case), up at the start line. We arrived about 35 minutes prior to the race starting, so we had plenty of time to hang out. I was so amazed by the beauty of the area. Luckily, I noticed some other 50 staters and started chatting with them.
With about 5 minutes to go, we all gathered toward what we thought was the start line. It was pretty low key. There was just a woman with a loud speaker directing us where to go. In fact, this would be my only complaint about this race. No chip timing offered, so I probably had an extra minute on my finish time since I was one of the last runners across the start line.
This course was a gradual downhill, point-to-point course. I was counting on that gradual downhill and certainly did help me during the race. This first half of the course was amazing. It winded along the Spearfish Canyon and much of this part was shaded. The other amazing thing I noticed is that because you were on the scenic by-way, there wasn’t much traffic. If any traffic did come through, everyone was very courtesy on the road. The other amazing thing is that it was so quiet that for most of the course, all I heard was the sound of the water on the creek running alongside the course.
Since I started toward the back of the start line, I started my watch not on the line and the distance was off for the entire race. The course was also pretty windy and I certainly wasn’t trying to run the tangents. We were also kept to the left side of the road.
I stuck to my intervals from the beginning. With that downhill, I was definitely doing better on my pace than I would have thought. For most of the first half the race, I was running mostly by myself with another runner by me every once in awhile. I just kept plugging along trying to take in the amazing scenery around me.
For the most part, the first half of this race went pretty well for me. At some point I saw a photographer out there and made a comment about how it was so nice and shady and he just replied, “wait until you get out of the canyon.” I had no idea what he meant then but around mile 6.5-7, I was quickly made aware of what he meant. All of a sudden the shade went a beautiful thing to almost non-existent and the rest of the race was a completely new beast.
I was starting to struggle right around the half way mark. I was feeling the temperatures go up and the lack of shade really hit me. I thought maybe it would be one or two miles of no shade, but I was wrong. We had the rest of the race with little to no shade. Some runners kept going from the left side to the right side to try and take advantage of any shade possible, but to me, that was not worth it.
As the second half of the race started to tick by, I was coming up to more and more runners. It was nice to have people around, but what I noticed around mile 9 is that every runner was walking and most of the heads were down. It was like we all just hit a wall. I was really driving the struggle bus and just could not keep on my intervals. I was pushing myself as best as I could, but it came down to changing my intervals to do 1 minute off, 1 minute on.
The other thing I noticed is that even though there were a lot of other runners around me at this point, I was passing everyone I came up to. I was really surprising myself since I was struggling so much out there. The other part of the course that I noticed is that the course really started to flatten out. Shady and downhill sums up the first part of the course and flat and sunny takes it for the second half.
Mile 11.8 to the finish was a real struggle for me. I think I walked for the majority of this time. As long as I was moving forward, I wasn’t going to beat myself up too badly. Around mile 12, we turned onto a bike path that took us back to the park and the finish line. I thought maybe we would get some reprieve with shade, but that was another no.
Finally, the finish line was near and I did everything I could to get myself across that line. I was so hungry and thirsty that I immediately downed the Gatorade that they had and immediately walked over to the creek right by the finish line. I stripped off my shoes and socks and waded in and it felt amazing! The water must have been in the 50s and I honestly wish I had a towel or something with me as I would have sat down in the stream.
Overall, this race went a lot better than I thought it would go for me. My foot held up for about 75% of the race and even when it was giving me issues, it was not as bad as it was during Revel Rockies. The net downhill really helped get me the finish time I had. I definitely think if I would have had any incline or just a flat course, I would have been a lot slower.
Even with not having chip timing, I was still more than thrilled that I picked the Spearfish Canyon Half for my South Dakota race. This was my 40th state and 64th overall half marathon. It’s a low frills race but still well supported. We had 5 water stops (and we actually marked a painting to be auctioned at next years race as a fundraiser at the 4th one) and plenty of items at the finish line to eat and drink. Instead of a race t-shirt, they gave women a tank top, which I was thrilled with. Registration was just over $55. If you’re looking for a South Dakota race, a good downhill race or a race with amazing scenery, I couldn’t suggest this half marathon enough! In fact, it’s one that I would go back to run again one year.
Official Finish Time:
36/48, Female 30-39