I had been struggling to find the right race to do to cross the state of Nevada off on my half marathon quest. I thought I found one to sneak into 2017, but the race ended up being cancelled. Since I pulled my finishing timeline in by a year, I really began struggling to find a race that sounded fun and that fit my schedule. Somehow, the race gods were upon me and lead me to the Saints & Sinners Half Marathon. The race was scheduled over President’s Day weekend and promised amazing views of Lake Mead as well as a net downhill course. As soon as I knew it would fit in my schedule, I registered for the race and booked all of my travel.
The race takes place just outside of Vegas in Boulder City, NV, so flights were made easy by flying right into LAS. Unfortunately, flights into Vegas are so expensive, but I was able to make it work on Southwest for a Thursday night to Saturday trip. Registration was just over $55 for the race. I ended up being able to room with 2 other fifty staters which helped keep the room down. We grabbed a hotel in Henderson about 20 minutes away. I’m not a big Vegas person, but I had never gone to the Hoover Dam, so I ended up going out Thursday night so I could tour the dam on Friday. It also gave me the chance to grab my bib on Friday morning versus race morning. Since I was there a little early, I also got to meet George! He and I have been friends through social media for some time and it was great to meet him in person. He was kind enough to tour us through Red Rock Canyon which was just stunning!
George let me know a mutual friend Susan and her husband were also in Vegas running the Jackpot Ultra. On Friday evening I headed over the race site. It was meant to be because I walked up to the crew area and there was Susan! She and her husband were running the 48 hour race. Insane! I did a loop with her and also got to see some amazing Ultra legends like Ann Trason and Ed ‘The Jester’ Ettinghausen (a fellow Altra athlete). I also got a chance to meet fellow Altra Ambassador, Cory Reese in person. Needless to say, it wasn’t even race day and I was really enjoyed my trip! Friday evening we were in bed around 10pm and planned to get up around 6:30am for the 8am race start.
Come race morning, the 3 of us were up around 6:45am. This was also after a raging fire alarm that went off around midnight. We had to vacate for about 30 minutes. It was pretty miserable but in the end, everyone was okay at least! The time difference really got to me, so getting up felt pretty easy. We ended up getting to Bootleg Canyon, the start of the race, around 7:30am with plenty of time to hit the bathroom lines and take in the views. This race touted that there would be amazing views, specifically of Lake Mead, for the entire race. The race was a point to point race and since it ended in the Lake Mead National Recreation Area, all participants parked at the start line and then were bussed back from the finish line. In Bootleg Canyon, they had an area set up for the bathrooms separate from the start line. Several people while we were in line were asking where the start line even was. No one really knew, but luckily someone who seemed to have run this race before, pointed us in the right direction. With about 5 minutes to go before the start of the race, all of the runners walked up to the start line and lined up by pace. Before I knew it, the starting gun had sounded.
I am breaking the race details out by the 3 parts of the course, which is why the distances might seem a little different than past race recaps. The course description said this was a downhill race, but based on the elevation chart, I just didn’t really know how downhill the first few miles were. I wanted to conserve my legs and energy so I tried to hold back, but that downhill was screaming from the start. I could tell I was turning over fast, but I also didn’t want to pay attention to the pace. I figured if I was going fast and I knew it early, I would freak out mentally.
The first two miles were a little crowded. We ran on a trail coming out of Bootleg Canyon and it was interesting because half of the trail was actually a water gully. Thankfully everyone out there was pretty polite in passing people and the trail itself was wide enough, especially in the gully areas. I knew from these first miles though that this was gong to be a long race on my legs. In fact, I think by mile 3, I told myself that my legs were toast and I was doomed. Coming down this area though, you had amazing views of Lake Mead. They did not lie about that.
While this race was a net downhill, around mile 4, there was a small climb. Starting up that climb was like putting my legs through hell. They were telling me no. I hobbled up a bit and then walked up the remaining bit. Everyone was saying out loud they were feeling the same thing. Once at the top, we immediately started headed back down. It was more subtle than the first three miles though. The only thing about these miles was that it was pretty much wipe open to the sun. Somewhere around mile 5 we passed a random rock formation and I was thankful for the 5 seconds of shade it provided. We did see more shade in the middle part, but the first and third parts of the course, you were open to the sun.
My legs were on fire by the time I was at mile 6. I honestly did not know how the second half of the race would go. I knew I was going fast but I was still trying to ignore my watch. If I would have known, maybe I would have tried to slow down, but honestly, with the downhill, that might have been a little harder on my body. At mile 6.5, we came up to their relay exchange point. This is also where my race went from a fun amazing downhill roller coaster to hitting a big wall.
Miles 6.5 – 10.5
Very shortly after the relay exchange point, we popped onto the Historic Railroad Trail. This trail is exactly what is sounds like. It’s the path of the old railroad going into Hoover Dam. The trail is about 7.5 miles round trip from the trailhead to Hoover Dam, but we ran just about 4.5 miles on the trail. We went from the trailhead to just beyond the 5th tunnel. These tunnels were about 300 feet in length and provide great shade. This part of the course was also dusty since it’s a limestone type trail. The worst part about this trail is that it’s flat. Pancake flat.
As soon as I got into this part of the course, I felt that I was dragging a ball and chains behind me. I was struggling and went from feeling so fast to feeling so slow. At the time, I didn’t know how long we went on this part of the course, but I was hoping it wasn’t that long. For me, it was 2.2 miles too long. For the most part up until this point, I had been running straight through. At this point, I was struggle to run and stay on my 4/1 ratio. I figured since the legs felt like lead, I would drop to that ratio and be okay. I was wrong. Going from that crazy downhill to the flat, my legs were not wanting to do anything. These middle 4.5 miles were so long.
Since this was an out and back section, I wanted to ask almost every runner come back, when the turn around would be. I just wanted to know so in my head I could judge how much more time I had left on this flat section. Thankfully the views on section were even better because it certainly was a nice distraction. It was a public trail and still open to others, so at some points I did have to weave in and out of some bigger groups. For the most part, they were nice to move over for the runners, but some just went 4 across and didn’t move. Finally around mile 10.5, we were back at the trailhead and less than 3 miles to the finish line.
Miles 10.5 – 13.1
I was beyond happy to get off that Historic Railroad Trail. From the trailhead to the finish line, we were back to a nice gentle downhill as we entered into Lake Mead Park. Getting back to a downhill part, my legs seemed to finally work again. I thought I would have to walk a little in these last 3 miles, but I didn’t. I was shocked. The downhill part was just so gentle at this point, you didn’t notice.
While this part was a short section of the course, these miles went a little slower for me. Sure, my pace had slowed down, but I felt like at the same time I just was going no where. Finally we saw a sign that said a half mile to go and we began to turn into the campground where the finish line was located. At the finish line though you had 2 chutes to choose from and one more downhill section. Of course, I went right through the
saint, sinner chute.
The view at the finish was just stunning. After getting a few post race snacks, I waited around for the other 50 Staters. Everyone ended up doing so well on that course! None of us expected the downhill we ended up getting. After everyone finished, we lined up for the us ride back to the start line. We maybe waited about 15-20 minutes in line, but it seemed to go quickly. They had several buses making the loop, so once a few came, the lines cleared out and we were on our way back to Bootleg Canyon.
I honestly could not recommend this race enough! Entry fee was reasonable and the swag was great! Just be ready for that downhill to the flat part! I found that to be harder than the downhill itself. It’s certainly a course for a PR. I would actually go back to do this race again and go for a PR if it fit into the schedule. They say the whole course is full of amazing views and they didn’t lie. While there might not be a ton of options for half marathons in Nevada, I was glad I ended up selecting the Saints and Sinners Half as my NV race.
Official Finish Time:
34/70, Female 30-34