Name of the race: Thelma & Louise Half Marathon
Where: Moab, UT
Date: June 3, 2017
Time: 6:00 am
Distance: 13.1 miles
Terrain: Out and back course, fairly flat with long slight inclines & declines, slight net decline on the way out
Entry fee: $75
Post-race Food: Orange slices, bananas, frozen grapes, ice cream sandwiches, brownies, trail mix, candy, beer, chocolate milk, water, & Gatorade
Swag: Spike bag, finisher’s medal, Clif bars, and tech t-shirt (free pre-race coffee)
Performance: Overall: 17/396; Gender: 17/396; Age (30-39): 4/121
Weather: 63 degrees, 28% humidity (got very warm quickly, was in the 70s when I finished)
I found out about this race from Fit and Feminist when she wrote this blog post on her problem with all-women’s races. Like Caitlin, as soon as I heard about a Thelma & Louise themed-raced, I was hooked! I knew I had to do this race one day. Four years later and I finally got my chance.
I originally intended a girl’s weekend to Moab with my best friend, but unfortunately, a personal situation came up and she was unable to go. Undeterred, I still went on the trip by myself. Before I met Ben, I used to travel by myself all the time, so this wasn’t anything new for me.
Friday evening I went to the expo, which as expected was a tiny one. There were only a few vendors. The nice thing about small expos is that it makes for an easy, no-drama, no fuss no muss bib pick-up. The $15 pasta dinner was next door. I really need to stop going to race pasta dinners. Aside from Wineglass’s, I’ve always been sorely disappointed with race pasta dinners. For my meal, I got pasta with sauce, salad, lemonade, sugar cookie, and chocolate cake. The pasta was overcooked white pasta that reminded me of what I served in school cafeteria in the 80s. The meat sauce was actually good. I also liked the chocolate cake, which I saved to eat in the morning as pre-race fuel. I don’t digest food quickly, so I have simple carbs and sugar for breakfast before long runs and long distance races. Otherwise, I run on an empty stomach. The pasta dinner was a sad affair and my suggestion is that you skip it. If you feel guilty about not supporting the local high school by not going to the pasta dinner, you can always make a donation. Moab has good restaurants and you’re better served by going to those restaurants instead.
The race started at 6 am in order to beat as much of the heat as possible. In early June, the heat is not oppressive – for Moab. While the weather was nice enough if you sat under a shade with a cool drink, it was much too hot to be doing much otherwise. The start/finish area of Thelma & Louise Half is at the Gold Bar campground on Potash Road, which was a few miles away from the AirBnB that I stayed at. A few intrepid runners opted to camp right at the campground. I actually think that might be kinda fun – being in a campground with other runners with the wide Utah sky above you and the mighty Colorado River next to you.
I left for the race on the early side because the race director warned us of limited parking. I was grateful that I got one of the closer parking spots. Plus there was free coffee. I LOVE races that provide coffee for runners. I had a little less than an hour to kill, but it was fun sitting at the picnic tables drinking coffee or meandering around the campground watching the staff do last minute set-up as the early rays of the sun peaked over the soaring canyon walls. Soon music blasted through speakers, and the area bustled with activity. As it lightened, people began taking photos of the Thelma and Louise banner and the surrounding area. Another wonderful aspect of this race was the oh-so-plentiful port-o-potties. Nary a long line anywhere.
Fifteen minutes before the race, there was line dancing taught to us by “Thelma” and “Louise.” We were all shy about line dancing, but eventually a group of women did the steps. I tried, but coordination and remembering choreography are not things that I do well. Finally it was race time!
The race announcer had to coax us several times to come up to the front. While I did want to be near the front, I didn’t want to be right at the line. I turned behind me to try to persuade a willowy blonde who looked fast. She shook her head. I sighed and marched up to the front hoping that others would join me and I wouldn’t be the only there like a fool. Other women joined me.
The lead car was one of the original four 1966 Ford Thunderbirds that was used in the making of the movie. It was really cool seeing the car. I wanted to chase it down so I could get a good look at it, but I also knew that was a surefire way of ensuring a terrible second half of the race. I admired it, but I let it go off in the distance. I knew I’d see it again when it turned around. Only the willowy blonde chased after the Thunderbird.
I wasn’t entirely sure at which pace I was going to do the race. Moab is at moderate altitude being that it’s about 4,000 feet above sea level. I had noticed the elevation when my heart pounded immediately after doing a bit of light hiking. I ran a half at altitude last year in Boulder, which is a thousand feet higher. At that half, my pace slowed considerably (the major hill a few miles in didn’t help), so I was wary of the effects of altitude.
Surprisingly I didn’t feel the altitude while running. There was no shortness of breath. No wild thumping of the heart with minimal effort. Instead, running felt good, even easy during the first mile.
The course was a gorgeous one. Potash Road goes through a canyon with the Colorado River in between. The entire time you’re running, you have a view of the Colorado River. It was amazing. That early in the morning, you’re running in full shade and there was a slight cool breeze coming off the river. Despite that fact that it was on the warm side, running wasn’t all that bad at the start.
The course is pretty flat. A volunteer at the expo reassured me that it was a flat fast course, and it is, especially considering the area. The inclines and declines are long and gentle and ever so slight.
The Thelma & Louise Half also has a relay option, where each partner runs exactly half the course. They shuttle the relay runners by boat. I didn’t know this while running, so I heard the wild cheers coming from the boats and I simply thought that they were the most enthusiastic tourists that I had ever seen.
The first and last water station (you pass each water station twice) is the Brad Pitt water station. It’s staffed by men dressed as Brad Pitt. I felt very tempted to say, “Well, aren’t you a tall glass of water.”
I wanted to keep this race on the easy side, so I kept steady between 8:30 and 8:45. I didn’t want to burn myself out too early because I wasn’t sure how well I was going to handle the rising temperatures and altitude. It was a little difficult letting people go in front of me, but I kept my ego in check and ran my own race. I ran steady and enjoyed the view.
At about Mile 3.5, there were taiko drummers that pumped me up. I love taiko drumming and its rhythmic drumming gets my adrenaline going and my feet flying. Knowing that I would pass them again toward the end of the race was a comforting thought because I knew I would need them to keep me going when I will be fatigued.
As I approached the turnaround point, I saw the green Thunderbird heading back to the start line with the willowy blonde tailing behind. I cheered for her and she yelled, “Good job!” back at me. The roar of cheers at the turnaround point was deafening. Every half marathoner was cheered like a rock star and relay runners were welcomed like warriors coming home from battle. It was fun and a nice boost.
Going back was more difficult. For one, a good portion of the shade disappeared. The sun was higher up in the sky and the shade from the canyon walls receded. The temperature rose quickly to a much less desirable and warmer degree. Plus going back was a slight incline. I kept working away and slowly began picking off the runners who had passed me earlier. I had counted the number of runners who were going in the other direction as I was running toward the turnaround point, so I counted the number of people I passed. I got to a point where I was no longer passing people and running by myself, so I knew I was somewhere in the top 20. I didn’t know where exactly because I had no easy way of distinguishing between the half marathoners and the relay runners. I was pretty pleased with the thought of finishing in the top twenty for a long distance race.
I was grateful for the sponges, the extra cup of water that I dumped over my head, the firetruck that sprayed water on us, and for the spray bottles that the volunteers had for spraying runners. All those things helped in keeping me cooler and not having a melt down.
The taiko drummers drummed for me on the way back. I smiled.
Miles 11 and 12 sucked some. I was tired and hot and ready to be done with everything. I thought someone might pass me, but no one did. I’ve been working on running my last mile fast, so with all the spirit I had left in me, I mustered up the energy to run faster. It was hard. I thought I heard footsteps behind me, but I also know that I mistake sloshing water and ice from my Simple Hydration bottle as footsteps. So I ran debating with myself over what I was hearing exactly.
Finally I saw the finish line and I did my best to sprint to it. I didn’t have quite the same lively step that I did for Run for the Red, but I was extremely satisfied to see my time of 1:51:27. And then 15 seconds later, the lady who had been chasing me crossed the finish line.
There was a nice post-race spread of food and treats. I loved having frozen grapes (heaven on the hot day!), orange slices, chocolate milk, and an ice cream sandwich to eat and cool me off. There was also beer from a local microbrewery, which I couldn’t appreciate because I don’t drink beer. I was sad I didn’t have Ben around to give it to. I sat around, ate some food, and talked to other runners. It was clear from watching people and many runners decided to do what I had wanted to do – make this a girls’ weekend out. There were people there who didn’t run at all, but were simply there to support their friends.
Another perk about finishing as early is that the line for the massage wasn’t all that long. I got a lovely 10-min massage and the masseuse was wonderful about stretching out my hips. I felt so much better afterward.
I stayed for the award ceremony because afterward there were prizes given out to people who could answer trivia questions from the movie, Thelma and Louise. I didn’t get a chance to rewatch the movie, but I found a script online and read that the night before. I don’t have much luck with these things, so my number wasn’t drawn, but I had fun answering the questions in my head. Some of the prizes were quite nice (including a pair of Brooks shoes) and I would have happily taken any one of the prizes home with me.
I had an AMAZING time at the Thelma & Louise Half. The course is absolutely gorgeous, the race is well-organized, but mostly the atmosphere of the race is electrifying. We were all there to celebrate womanhood. It was a different vibe than other races that I’ve been at. What I appreciated about this race that though it was a women-only race, the focus wasn’t on the frilly, lacy, pink, tiara, feather boa, diva aspect of being a woman. Look, I love pink and lace (and being a diva), but I’m also so much more than that. We are so much more than that. It was wonderful to celebrate being a woman without falling down to traditional gender stereotypes. We’re women and we’re badasses.