On July 26th I ran the PA Grand Canyon Half Marathon in Wellsboro, PA. This was the inaugural year for the half marathon and the second year they did the full marathon (the half marathon was on saturday, the full on sunday).
My dad and I drove to Wellsboro after work on Friday, since their packet pickup went pretty late. I was grateful not to have to take a day off of work! Packet pickup was a breeze since this was a smaller race. We got a nice unisex tech shirt and our bibs. They also had a small selection of Gus and other running gear in case you needed anything last minute. We stayed at the Penn Wells Hotel in downtown Wellsboro. The location was great – really close to the school where packet pick up and the race shuttles were – and parking was super convenient since they have their own lot. The hotel is an older hotel that has a Victorian feel. It has a lot of character but don’t stay there expecting a Marriott. :)
We walked around downtown looking for dinner and eventually walked into a local Italian place thanks to Yelp recommendations. I got my typical Cesar salad and Pasta (stuffed shells, yum). And also had a beer… because that counts as additional carbs. Right? Right. :) It didn’t seem to cause any issues with my performance the next day, I just made sure to be good and hydrated and drank plenty of water with it.
After dinner we went back to the hotel and I set out my race day outfit.
I also loved the two digit bib number. How often does that happen?!
Saturday morning we woke up early – like Disney race early – to get ready and head to the school where they were running shuttles to the PA Grand Canyon, where the race was. It was about a 35 minute drive, so the Race Director recommended getting on as early of a shuttle as you could (they started running at 4:15 with the last one leaving at 5:45). I think we caught a shuttle around 4:45. Crazy early. But it was really nice to just drive the short distance to the school and then have someone handle the driving to the race course. :)
Once we got to the canyon it was still dark and we had plenty of time to go to the rest room multiple times, stretch, eat last minute gels, etc. They had an emcee there to entertain us and the overall atmosphere was really relaxed. It reminded me of how I have always imagined a trail race would be. Basic start and finish line with a banner, small, relaxed atmosphere. I think if I did this race again I would take a beach towel or something to sit/lay on while waiting. The bag check was on the honor system though- there was an area to leave it right by the start/finish line so you can literally drop any “throwaway clothes” off at the bag check 5 minutes before the race starts. No need to actually throw them away. :)
I took this photo of the canyon after the sun came up. Gorgeous right?
At 7am sharp the race started and it took maybe 30 seconds for me to cross the start. From the very beginning I loved the race course. It was so wonderful being out and close to nature. Here’s a blurry photo to give you an idea of the course.
Most of the course was packed gravel roads which was a different running surface than I was used to be it was totally fine to run on. Pacing wise, I tried to stick to my marathon goal pace to see how it felt. I took a 1 minute walk break at every mile marker (I’m planning to do the same for the Wineglass Marathon) and walked to take gus and go through the water stops.
I just took in the sights and sounds of nature and smiled literally for the first 9 miles. I was loving it. Around mile 5 there was a pro photographer taking photos of runners at an overlook. I liked the photo so much I bought it.
What other race could provide such an awesome view? :) My pace was good, I was loving the course, and enjoying the amount of runners around me – I was able to run “alone” but there was always someone a little bit in front and behind me so I never felt really alone. It was perfection.
At mile 10 or so things started to go down hill. First up? Chafing. awesome. I have never had issues with my legs chafing in a race before, but I just purchased a new tube of body glide and for some reason it didn’t seem to work as well as the previous one. It hurt really really bad. I have never stopped at a med stop before but I had to this time – he gave me some “surgical lubricant” that sort of worked – but it stung putting it on and by the end of the race it had worn off again. It was SO frustrating to feel good but have my skin hurt so bad that I had to slow to a walk/waddle. So frustrating. Lesson learned. I bought a new tube of a different anti-chafe product the day after I got home from the race.
Around mile 11 the course gets a bit tough. It is pretty much up hill.
One thing to keep in mind with my Garmin data is that because this course is really out in the middle of no where the Garmin doesn’t do the best job calculating. I think my final “distance” was 13.6 or something. So take the elevation chart for what it is – a general look at the elevation but not exact.
The hills felt steep and they just felt like they kep going from mile 11 til the very end. To be honest I don’t remember the downhill that’s shown around 12.5. I just remember feeling so mentally defeated – I’d get up what I thought was the hill, only to turn the corner and see another uphill. It was very tiring. I give anyone who was able to run up those hills a lot of credit.
Looking at my pacing I really did stick to my marathon pace until mile 10, so for that I am pretty happy. But my pace for the last three miles was not good at all. Final Time was 3:22:13. Not a time I am proud of or I hoped I would end in given how great I felt in the beginning of this race.
However, I would do this race again, hands down. I love the relaxed feel of it, the small size and the scenery can’t be beat. Next time I’ll just make sure to use more Body Glide. :)