Tuesday, May 27, 2014

The story of my first half marathon at Zion National Park PART ONE

I have an "after 30 bucket list", which includes running a race that requires all my mental and physical strength".  I just completed my first half marathon in March!  However, this race didn't require all my mental and physical strength...soooo, I think I need to sign up for a full marathon to fulfill this bucket list dream. ;)
My heart has always had an admiration and deep connection to running. I just shared about that in my last blog post: learning to run free.   Registering and completing this race was very important to me.  I'm a sentimental kind of girl so I wanted to race in a special spot.  The Zion Half Marathon was the ideal location!  Zion is close to my childhood home.  Growing up, we spent many memorable moments at Zion National Park, camping in tents, camping in motorhomes, tubing down the rocky river, and hiking all over the gorgeous canyons.  This was JUST the place I wanted to experience my first big race.

A half marathon is 13.1 miles.   And a half marathon with Vacation Races organization is 13.1 miles surrounded by the breathtaking beautiful wonders of our earth.

photo via Zion Half Marathon facebook

Vacation Races...Run where you Play.

Vacation Races is a racing organization that host their race events at gorgeous National Parks.  Their destinations include Yellowstone, Grand Canyon, Lake Powell, and more!  Destination races are a genius idea!  There is a lot of emotional power in joining the breathtaking beauty of natural wonders with the physical accomplishment of a long run.

Zion National Park is mighty and majestic.  The canyon gives peace the moment you enter.

photo via Zion Half Marathon facebook

I raced this event with my super talented friend, Kristen.  She is a seasoned racer and has given me a lot of tips along the way.  My parents also drove down to support us, which I was extra thankful for!

Our roadtrip to Zion kicked off with a fun surprise from my trainer and friend, Derek.  He surprised us both with running treats!

When we arrived, we ate a delicious steak dinner in Springdale, Utah.

Our hotel was very fitting for the Zion terrain and area, serene modern with a lot of outdoor desert influence...a little Desert Rose Inn.

Our room opened us to this incredible view.  I was in love.

The night quickly came and I tried to jump into bed early for a well-rested, long night of sleep.  I was SO excited and nervous too!  We did our "rise and shine" early in the morning.  It was finally race day!

Kristen and I in our matching race socks, ready to run!

Chris drove us to the start line.  It was still dark when the race started.  I am VERY much NOT a morning person, but I was moving on adrenaline and excitement.  Kristen paced herself with me the entire race.  I am extra thankful for her!  I decided to keep a steady, "do-able" pace the entire time.  My goal was to enjoy every part and to celebrate the joy of running.

Watching the sun rise over Zion National Park was truly glorious. Streams of runners in brightly colored clothes, running in unity, chasing the sunrise together, every step taking us closer to God's great masterpiece, is a moment I have tucked into my heart, as a gift to keep for always!

I run because I can.  I run because almost nothing makes me happier.

I actually couldn't stop smiling the entire time.  My soul was wide open, taking it all in.  My chiropractor and friend, Bryce, gave me the best advice of all.  He told me to smile when I raced.  He said if it got hard to smile.  I think I'll remember those wise words forever.

And Kristen was a constant source of energy and light!

We were loving every minute of this experience!

Each mile flew on past.  Again, we maintained a comfortable, mid-pack pace.  My goal was to enjoy every step, not to feel miserable every step. It worked!  Everything fell perfectly into place.  Each mile was motivating and exciting!

 My family was cheering for us around mile 10.  It was super fun to see them as they cheered and rang their bells.  And of course Dakotah was giving all the runners entertainment as he stood on his head while people passed.  My mom said he was on his head forever.  Gosh, I love that kid. ;)

I got a side-ache the last 2 miles of the race, which disappointed me a teeny tiny bit because I had hoped to break open and push myself fast on the last stretch.  But it's OK.  Cameron had jumped in and joined us the those last two miles.  My heart soared with contentment when he paced along beside us.  I had to slow down because of the side ache, but we kept on running along to the finish!

This race actually wasn't too difficult, I was happily surprised.  I've heard that full marathons are another story though...so I need to sign up! 

And, we did it! Thank you again Kristen for your encompassing support and smart advice!  Having you by my side made this amazing.

An excited hug captured on camera after we were given our medals...

Titus showing us the finish line the day before the race.
What a visually gentle way to crossover the finish line at my first big race!

Leaving the FINISH LINE after my first half-marathon with my family five!

Vacation Races is an excellent race organization!  They are creative, organized, and helpful.  They gave out Fitful boxes at the finish line, which are cute little boxes full of post race goodies.

So happy to have my parents at the finish line.

We found a grassy area to relax and stretch out.  

And to do headstands of course.

These next ones are my favorite pictures from the race.  
Insanely happy and satisfied. 

We did it,

We celebrated with a big mexican meal afterwards.  Then, we took off into beautiful Zion and did some hiking, only a couple hours after we raced!  Vacation Races offers a challenge to the runners called the Zion Trifecta.  We had to do 3 specific hikes right after our race, showing a picture with our race bibs and medals at the end of each hike.  If we completed it, we were awarded into the Trifecta Club.  So, we absolutely DID it. ;)  We hiked over 5 miles after our half marathon, OH yes.

That night, we got milkshakes and relaxed in the hot tub underneath the Zion stars.

Thank you Chris for always supporting me 200%.

Chris also surprised me with a necklace for completing the race.  It is the National Park symbol, with 13.1 engraved in it. I am in love with it and wear it all.the.time.

The next morning we went to an adorable cafe with guitars propped up ready to play and with a big area where they make fresh-squeezed orange juice.  It was a winning restaurant! Their crepes were heavenly.

Post-race breakfast feast

It was a perfect weekend, celebrating our bodies, doing new things, taking in the natural beauty everywhere, spending time with special people...and turning dreams into done!  My heart is full.

In Part Two of this story, I'll share more about our hikes and views in gorgeous Zion National Park.  So, check back soon!   Thank you for following along my story.  I am enthusiastic about all things running right now.  If you run, do races, or anything, pretty please leave me a comment and share some insight and tips!  

If you're searching for just the right race to experience, 
I am 100% in love with Vacation Races!  
Check them out to find your own 
beautiful and memorable race event.

*The government makes me say that I was compensated for this post.  However, all thoughts and opinions are my own and always will be. 

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Jenny said...

I'm so proud of you Lisa!

What a wonder you are!

Shana M said...

That is so great! Congrats!
And you look HAPPY the whole time!

Cara Zimmer said...

Way to go Lisa!!! I also took up running this last year and ran my first half marathon the beginning of May. One of the BEST days of my life! I wrote about it here:

It is an accomplishment we will never forget! Are you thinking of doing a full now? Its on my bucket list, but not for a LONG time!