Half-Marathon, Maybe? – Moonlight Miles Race Report

This might be the most delayed race report in the history of this blog, so I apologize about that. As you may or may not recall, I signed up for an event called Moonlight Miles a few months ago and did an interview with the race director, who just so happens to be my awesome friend Bethany. My goal when I had my surgery was to be able to complete the 10k (the event has both a half-marathon and a 10k) in some form or fashion, whether it involved walking, running, or crawling across the finish line.

Bethany had kindly invited us to gorgeous Grand Junction, CO to promote Ramblen at the event, and Natalie and I were thrilled to have the opportunity to check out some great running and cycling routes and healthy restaurants while we were there. I’ll spare you the complete run-down of how many types of amazing gluten-free bread I had, but suffice to say there were a lot and I would totally be willing to live in Grand Junction.

10502045_585579098222450_3450716774461384548_n-2 The Riverfront Trail is a sight to behold

I really wasn’t sure what to do heading into the race. I knew without question that I could finish the 10k with a solid run/walk combo. However, I’ve also been building up my long run mileage in hopes of a fall marathon, and I had 10 miles on the schedule for that day. My options were to either do the 10k and then turn back around for another 3.8 miles, or do the half-marathon and get some bonus mileage and a medal.

Let’s not pretend for a second like there’s any question about what I picked. Obviously, the half-marathon was the only way to go. My reasoning was as follows:

  1. Out of the 10 miles I needed to finish, I intended to run 8 of them.  If I walked the extra 3 miles, that would not be additional impact on my back, so I wouldn’t be likely to hurt myself.
  2. The course is a double loop, so if I was in any way uncomfortable after the first loop, I could stop.
  3. Medal, duh.
  4. The thought of going back out for another 4 miles after finishing a 10k was entirely unappealing.

Perhaps most importantly, Bethany strives to make her races an amazing and memorable experience for all runners, including the person who finishes last. If there was ever a time to be at the back of the pack, this was it, because I knew there would be plenty of food and fanfare still going on when I was done.

img_20140712_183502_133-1024x576-1-2 I wanted one of these stickers SO BAD, but alas, it was not my first half.

Remember when I held a giveaway on the blog for a free entry to the race? Well, the lucky winner was Whitney! She came all the way from New Hampshire and brought her mom and her sister along for a fun girls’ vacation out in Colorado. How cool is that? See, you can’t help but travel when you join Team T-Rex!

img_20140712_192512_676-e1406063154649-762x1024-1-2 Ice cold cloth for your neck – good idea in theory, bad idea in pictures.

Whitney and I started the race together and ran about a mile before I started my first walk break. My plan was to run a mile and walk a quarter mile, since that’s what I had been doing on my long runs thus far and I wanted to make sure my back didn’t have any issues over the longer distance. Around that time, I saw a woman named Gia who I had met prior to the start. She has been injured and having a rough time training, so we ended up walking together and chatting. I was really worried about run/walking by myself for such a long distance, especially since the race took place at night and I’m not used to running by myself!

img_20140712_203131_616-1024x576-1-2 We started just before dark so I tried to get a few pictures of the path

Gia and I had a great time running and walking together. We ended up walking more than I felt like I needed to, but I think it was probably a good idea since they mileage was substantially more than I had planned on doing. I figured it was better to be safe than sorry. Besides, we were having so much fun that I definitely didn’t like the idea of running by myself! The only thing that wasn’t fun were the bugs. Now, when Bethany warned us that there were lots of bugs, I was super panicked about lots of mosquitos. That’s because I live in the South and our main bugs are mosquitos. What she actually meant was gnats! Thousands and thousands of gnats. I ate more than my fair share and tried to keep my head down as much as possible, but it was still pretty gross.

img_20140712_203637_042-1024x576-1-2 At least there was a gorgeous Colorado sunset to look at while I choked on bugs!

This race really reminded me why I love running so much. Since I normally always run races with one of my good friends, it’s not as common for me to meet someone out on the course and spend the rest of the time learning their life story. Gia and I had such a blast talking about anything and everything (side note: Why is it that TMI never applies when you’re running? You talk about everything!) and it was great to just enjoy being out there again instead of thinking about how hard running is. It also didn’t hurt that the aid stations and volunteers were FANTASTIC and people were always cheering us on!

img_20140712_215238_121-1024x576-1-2 Apples and Nutella at an aid station? I DIE.

And of course, Moonlight Miles got its name for the giant full moon that lit up the skies that night! Watching it rise over the mountains was absolutely spectacular. I’ve never done a night race before, and although I was a little wary at first, it was a lot of fun! It didn’t hurt that I couldn’t see very far in front of me and therefore couldn’t agonize about how far away the mile markers were.

img_20140712_211126_040-1024x576-1-2 I assure you, it was much more exciting in person.

My back never hurt throughout the entire race, and when we crossed the finish line 2 hours and 50 minutes after we started, I wasn’t disappointed about my time. I was just happy to have had a wonderful experience, made a new friend, and finished a half marathon, no matter what pace it took. And Bethany’s whole thing about making sure the back of the pack had just as wonderful of a finish line experience as the front? Totally true. There were plenty of freshly grilled hot dogs, veggie dogs, brats, and s’mores for everyone! They even had free beer. Now that’s my kind of party.

img_0583-1-679x1024-1-2 Me and the best race director, Bethany! Can we all please just take a moment to marvel at how tan I look for some unknown reason? When did that happen?

I have to thank Bethany and the Starunner Enterprises staff for an amazing race experience, and of course, my new friend Gia! Like my favorite quote says: “A journey is best measured in friends, rather than in miles.” – Timothy Cahill