Sedona was beautiful! The hilly course and altitude resulted in a slower pace, but that allowed me to appreciate the scenery longer. There were several "monster" hills, but the topography was a nice change from the mostly flat terrain in the Dallas area. As seen by the elevation profile below, the course was a constant series of hills. About the time I became exhausted from a long uphill climb, it was followed by a long downhill.
The race did not start until 9 AM. Judging by the reviews on marathonguide.com, many runners would have preferred an earlier start. By that time, the temperature was in the low 50's. It warmed up to around 59 by the last hour or so of the race.
The marathon was well organized with plenty of aid stations and clear course markings, as well as ample parking and shuttles to/from the parking areas and hotels. Race organizers even put a piece of plywood over the cattle guard that was on one of the roads. That's not a bad idea. Tired runners tend to start shuffling their feet rather than picking them up.
I usually don't stop at aid stations since I have my handheld bottle with my sports drink. The 20 ounces is enough to get me through a cool weather half marathon. However, I ran out of sports drink as the temperature warmed up. I was grateful for the well-stocked aid station where I refilled my water bottle and had a sports gel and orange slice.
The carbs in either the gel or the orange gave me a second wind. I wish I had eaten something sooner. I had averaged 9:14/mile at the Duel Half Marathon in late January, but that was a flat course, cold weather, and no altitude.
I found it interesting that even though the bibs had the built in chips for chip timing, they were apparently not used. The only race results reported gun time. My Garmin showed my time being several minutes faster than the "gun time", which is to be expected unless you line up right at the front and run all the tangents on the course. However, I expected to see a chip time in the results since they had the chips in the bibs.
I stayed at the Matterhorn Inn in downtown Sedona. The view from my second floor room (photo below) included both downtown Sedona with stunning rock formations in the background. The Inn was clean, comfortable, and had a coffee pot, mini-refrigerator, and free Internet access. There was shuttle pick up right outside the Inn to the marathon start. However, I decided to drive to the parking area since the marathon had such a late start.
I remained in Sedona for a few days after the half marathon in order to explore the local trails. I wasn't sure of local trail locations, but the Sedona Running Company had a list on their web site. With the help of my GPS, I was able to find the trailheads. The pictures at the bottom of this article are from Sedona's Boynton Canyon, Vultee Arch, and Devil's Bridge Trails.
There was a day pass fee at the Boynton Canyon Trailhead, but the price was reasonable. The trailhead had ample parking, a restroom, and an automated machine that took both cash and credit cards for the day pass.
The sign on the restoom door made me laugh. It said to be gentle with the door handle because it would come off and you could get stuck in there! I should have taken a picture of that. I like to have photo memories of everywhere I go.
All of the trails were absolutely beautiful with stunning rock formations. Based upon the descriptions on the running store web site, I chose trails that weren't overly technical. Even so, with my stopping to take photos, my pace was more that of a hiker than a runner.
The Devil's Bridge Trail was quite tame at first, but ended in an interesting rock climbing experience. I had to use my hands to help myself climb to the next plateau. The view at the top (video right) was absolutely worth the climb! I could have climbed a little further, but I was running alone and after hearing several rocks tumble as I climbed, I decided not to press my luck.
I was surprised at the lack of wildlife. Maybe that is normal for a desert region. Since Sedona is in the high desert, it really does have ideal weather with the annual average high and low temperatures at 74.7 and 45.7 degrees. The only wildlife I saw (other than birds) was a pack of feral hogs going down the sidewalk while I was driving back into town. That was a bizarre sight. The sidewalk was right by an undeveloped canyon area, so I'm guessing that was their point of origin. There were both very young hogs and adults. They looked so mottley that I felt sorry for them. But I think it's natural for feral hogs to look mottley. If I had not been driving, I would have taken a photo.
I only had two minor mishaps on this trip: (1) On the drive to Sedona, a rock from an 18 wheeler chipped my windshield. It was just a small divot. However, that evening the low temperature in the 30's caused it to crack. The next morning I had a large crack all the way across my windshield. Murphy's Law: The windshild replacement cost less than my deductible. (2) While trail running, I stepped off the trail for a moment and ended up brushing against a prickly plant that punctured my skin and caused a red rash on my lower leg. The itching was terrible! After the run, I stopped at a Walgreens and purchased some Cortisone cream for some relief. It was really strange because the rash looked like a circle around my ankle starting at where the puncture was. I began to wonder if maybe something bit me. Applying cortisone for a few days took care of it. I am familiar with poison oak and poison ivy, which are common on the trails around DFW, but I did not recognize many of the plants along the Sedona trails. I wonder if they have the desert equivalent of poison oak/ivy.
There are several other activities available in Sedona, including hot air balloon rides, jeep tours, and horseback riding. While trail running, I saw some of the hot air balloons. If I had stayed in Sedona longer, I would have liked to have tried that. There are also several trail excursions you can take with Pink Jeep Tours. In fact, the Vultee Arch trail I ran on was actually a jeep trail.
After my last trail run, it was time to pack up, drive home, and get ready for work the following week. I work hard and play hard, and that leads to a fulfilling life!
Thought for the Day:
"The longer I live, the more I realize the impact of attitude on life.
Attitude, to me, is more important than facts. It is more important than the past, the education, the money, than circumstances, than failure, than successes, than what other people think or say or do.
It is more important than appearance, giftedness or skill. It will make or break a company... a church... a home.
The remarkable thing is we have a choice everyday regarding the attitude we will embrace for that day. We cannot change our past... we cannot change the fact that people will act in a certain way. We cannot change the inevitable.
The only thing we can do is play on the one string we have, and that is our attitude. I am convinced that life is 10% what happens to me and 90% of how I react to it. And so it is with you... we are in charge of our Attitudes."
~ Chuck Swindoll