I decided to use the Mountain Madness Half Marathon as a training run for my Under Armour 50k Race that was coming up in a few weeks. I hadn't really had too much desire to run super long since MS Run The US (but still knew that I had the fitness), so running another half was a perfect way to kill two birds with one stone! My goal was to do around 18 miles total that morning and to also see where my fitness was. The half course is pretty hilly and it's a no-frills race. You can pay more if you want a t-shirt (I opted for the no-frills) and you need to carry your own hydration as there's really only 3 aid stations that you go through on the race.
The race started at 7am, so I parked my car along the Yampa River Core Trail a few miles away from the start at 6am. Used the restroom where I parked my car (bonus: running water and zero lines) and did an easy 2.66mi run @ 9:55 min/mi to the start (with a few surges sprinkled in towards the end).
I did some stretches once I arrived at the start with around 15 minutes before 7am, checked in and got my bib, used the porta potty (bonus: NO LINES!), and took a Honey Stinger gel with some water.
Before I knew it, our small group of ~40 runners were ready to GO! There's no official "start" balloon, so I just started my watch once I passed the cones (I think that was the start?). My goal was to keep each mile under 9 minute pace and slow down on the hills (as needed). I used my marathon playlist that I never really used for the SLC Marathon which was spot on. This was also mainly the course where I did the majority of my tempo runs (minus the hilly side road), so that boosted my confidence that I may be able to get a PR without even really trying.
The first 3 miles flew by and we passed by aid station #1 as we turned right to begin our hilly side road. I had previously driven this road a few times the week before, so I knew how many turns/ "small hills" we had before we would begin our descent. At this point, everyone started to spread out so it was good that there were signs along the course (or else you could definitely have gotten mixed up a few times)! I remember thinking to just follow the woman infront of me and I continued to feel strong climbing over the hills (my pace slowed to an 8:50 min/mi). I took another gel at mile 4.5 (earlier than normal, but I felt myself starting to lose some momentum).
Before I knew it, we crested the top to a fantastic view of the Yampa Valley and I began to FLY down the roads (below 8 minute pace at times). I felt strong and listened to my breathing, while still holding a bit back so I could go *all out* on those last few miles. We passed by aid station #2 around mile 8 and continued out River Road for another ~1.5 miles until the turn-around. I always enjoy out-and-back courses because you normally get to see the front runners (plus you already know where you're going)! Once I ran around the cones, I took one more gel to get me to the finish and let myself fly (as best as I could). They weren't my fastest miles, but I was able to keep them under an 8:20 min/mi pace and knew that I would get a significant PR of 5+ minutes even if I slowed down A LOT in the last mile.
I had 1 mile left and at this point, the 10k had just started so I got to see all of those runners heading out as I was heading back to the finish (which was pretty exciting). My music continued to pump me up and I saw that I had less than a mile left, which would get me to the finish right around 1:50/ 1:51 (8-9 minute PR!!). I was ecstatic, but I also was left wondering how this could be because I knew where the finish was and knew where a mile out from the finish would be (and knew that I had already passed it- according to my garmin). So I flew into the finish line with a time of 1:49:13 and my garmin had the distance as 12.8 miles @ 8:32 min/mi pace. The race had it as 13.1 miles @ 8:20 min/mi pace. I was honestly kinda bummed that it didn't match up! I'm still calling it a PR because either way, I would have either shaved 9 or 10 minutes off my time, but it was still a bit of let-down that either my garmin or the course was off by a 1/3 mile. I was just glad that I still had to run back to my car to get in a few more miles!
No medals for the race or "timing chips" and nothing really at the finish line, but a few family members so I grabbed my long sleeve that I ditched in the bushes, drank some water, took one more gel and ran 3.0 miles back to my car at 10:36 min/mi pace! Total of 18.46 miles for the day an the half gained 577' !
We celebrated my 2nd place age group (they only did Female awards for 1st-3rd overall) placement with pizza at Mazzola's (YUM)!