Hoover Dam Half Marathon: Race Recap

“After a two-year hiatus from training for an endurance race, why not train for a half marathon for your 39th birthday, Kat?”

Said myself to myself

My last half marathon experience was at the Bryce Canyon Half Marathon in 2017. I thought that I was DONE with racing anything longer than a 10k distance. I was tired of the miles, I didn’t feel I had access to the time TO run, and I had to take a break. So, I took one. I took a two-year hiatus from endurance training. I took the time to go back to school. I took the time to shift our lives into a ‘new normal’ from life happening all around us. That two-year hiatus brought me back to my LOVE of running. For that, I’m thankful.

Ironically, it took an injury on my beloved Peloton bike for me to start walking and then running again. Over the course of the next few months, I built up mileage and got my stride. We then ended up with the Peloton Tread which gave me access to getting miles in while I was still on mom duty. I guess you can call that a WIN!

So, I decided to dive back into the wide world of running. I decided to work on my breathing, my form, and use all that I’d learned in recent programs and be my own personal guinea pig. You see, during my last few semesters of school this year, I’ve taken a Speed Training course and also decided to certify with UESCA as a Running coach. Call me a glutton for learning all things kinesiology!

Back to the topic at hand …

Since my birthday is December 10, my goal was to find a half marathon near that date so I had a training day to celebrate inching closer to the big 4-0 (I just turned 39, Yipee!) This intensive internet search lead me to discover the Hoover Dam Half Marathon on December 14. It was being held in nearby Boulder City with scenic views of Lake Mead. I combed through the course details to review the elevation as well as the terrain.

I could do 7 miles of “packed dirt running”
HILLY. Got it.

Initial observations of the race: Plan for training to include hills and practice on packed dirt while possibly considering trail/road shoes. Got it.

Thank goodness my bestie got me the perfect Altra Superiors to train with and run the race in!

Training for a half marathon this time around was just like training for every other race: each training period brings its own set of life lessons and realizations about yourself. When I ran and ran back in 2013, I loved the feel of running with groups. I fed off of the energy of the group and enjoyed having others to workout and run with during training so that I could push myself to new paces and places. When I ran Bryce Canyon in 2017, that training experience was a journey of finding my new running pace as a new mom. That period of time taught me all about fueling for my runs while also fueling to help feed my baby. I embraced my form as a runner and learned to be forgiving of my body as my little one wasn’t even a year old yet.

My training for the Hoover Dam Half brought me back indoors, loving the ease of running on a treadmill when I couldn’t get outside. This also alleviated a lot of issues that I had breathing in the dusty desert with my asthma. I’ve also settled into a place of comfort running solo, even on longer runs. Sometimes I was able to meet up with others to chat for a few miles, while others I was running back home right away to report for mom duty immediately afterward.

No matter if there was travel or plans during any given week, I miraculously was able to get in all of my programmed runs and workouts. I knew I had a challenging course up ahead, so I praised the Lord above for the amazing training experience to lead me up to it.

Race Day

The start line of the Hoover Dam Half Marathon and Marathon (and 5k, and 10k)

On race day, I headed out early by myself to get to the start line about 45 minutes to an hour early. I didn’t want my little and hubby to be waiting out in the cold for me and knew that the course wasn’t necessarily open to spectators.

Opportunities to chat with some other runners popped up during my time before the race start. To my surprise, most of those who were running both races (the full and the half marathon distance) weren’t locals. Some were from the UK, two cute girls I met were on a girls’ trip from Houston, and another family was traveling over to Utah and stopped at this location for the race. Since I was from the area, they all asked me if I knew the course and I had to tell them I was doing the course for the first time. That immediately made me realize that I had the chance to come and preview the course, but I hadn’t made the time to do that. Oopsie doopsie. I’d gotten good sleep the night before. I did have a little less nutrition than I would like on a pre-race evening, but I felt energized enough with some water sips and a bite of a snack bar before the race started.

Before I knew it, 7:55 came and the marathon runners were off. Before I knew it, we were right behind them with a start time of 8:30 am. When I began the race, I was cruising steadily. My previous PR from the stone ages of 2012 was 1:58:57. So, I had an A. goal of beating that time, a B. goal of 1:55, and a C. goal of sub 2 hours.

As I went through some rolling hills, on the comfortable pavement, I noticed my pace is right on track and evening out at an 8:47/mi pace. I found 3 guys who were seemingly in line with where I wanted to be and decided to cruise alongside them.

Photo courtesy of Kev LV Photography

The guy above in the neon yellow jacket was running with the dude behind me in the all-black outfit. The guy with the red shirt seemed to know them and be pacing with them. I listened to my race-day playlist, playing my imaginary drumset on and off. I would pop in and out of their conversation, like the rudely friendly runner that I am. As we headed into mile 6, they stopped to tie someone’s shoelaces, and I joked “Aw, you guys can’t stop, I’m still cruising with you!” It was then that I heard them all speaking in another language to one another. Insert embarrassed 😩 emoji face. I laughed at myself, which I am used to doing about eight times daily, and trudged along onto mile 7. It was around this point that I said, “What the _______?!” and probably did so out loud along with a few other nearby runners.

a stairwell without stairs = a flat random switchback

My feet started to wobble on the rocky surface of the path as it changed its terrain and then came to an abrupt halt before the above switchback section. Once I saw Elite men slowing down, probably for fear of rolling their ankles or selves, I followed suit. After we came down this section, we had to go back up it and onward to finish the second half of the course.

Oh hey, Mr. Hill.

Still a PR

Two choices came to me at this point in the race. I could feel the undersides of my feet starting to cry out to me from the rocky terrain and my breathing begins to take a beating from the steady hill work I was doing after having some allergy issues in the past week. I could either push through onward with an 8:45 pace and kill myself for a personal best. I could also take any finish time that I received in this race AS a Personal Record: for my first trail half marathon. I’d signed up for the LA Marathon in March. Oopsie doopsie (can’ you tell my kid’s been saying that a lot?) did I forget to mention that? If I ended up twisting my ankle or hurting my foot, my training for the LA Marathon would be canned. I decided on the second option. Miles 8 – 13.2 were all about settling into a happy pace and taking breaks as needed. I fist-bumped runners as they made the turnaround and were facing me on the opposite side of the road. I brought back my drum solo whenever Foo Fighters came on Spotify and sang terribly for everyone around me to hear. I began to think about my little one and husband waiting for me at the finish line and how I just couldn’t wait to see them and go have lunch.

I decided to pause and take in the DAM thing!

I came into the finish speedier than I’d started, so I was happy that I still had energy in the tank somewhere. I was POOPED. I’d fueled well. I took in hydration from my Orange Mud Hydra Quiver whenever I needed a sip of Nuun. I used 2 Clif Gels at miles 5 and 11 as I’d planned. I was sore and tired and feeling every rock that I’d run over. I got down on myself for not hitting ANY of my race goals, and then quickly snapped out of it when my little came up to congratulate me on finishing with the biggest smile she could muster for me.

Worth. Every. Step.
My Cheer Squad almost missed me as I zipped by to finish this DAM race.

My Pros and Cons of the Race


✅ Beautiful course and scenic views of Lake Mead. This course didn’t have any spectators except the race volunteers. I was okay with this since I have been enjoying the solitude of running alone. Who can argue with these views:

✅ Great race shirt and goody bag

✅ Friendly volunteer staff and sufficient fuel/hydration stations

✅ Gorgeous finisher medal:


➡️ $25 Parking Fee since we were inside of a National Parks area (it would’ve been nice to know beforehand)

➡️Was this a Trail race or Road Race? I would’ve preferred this race to be marked specifically for the terrain it was. “7 miles of packed dirt” to me means clay almost. I’ve seen other races note 30% rocky trail, 40% packed dirt and rocks, etc. for terrain specificity.

➡️ Spectators or no? I enjoyed the solitude of the race, yes. However, there were points in the race where I wish I had someone to push me a little whenever I got into my head.

A Dam Good Experience

A finish line is EARNED, never GIVEN. Instagram

There are NO regrets coming out of this race. Not one letter (ever watch Meet the Millers?) I trained with everything that I had and reflected on lessons I can take away as a direct result of my own actions. After being out of the running scene for so many years, I was excited to run a race to celebrate my birthday. As a local, I could’ve come to the race route during a long run and previewed what I had ahead. I go to take in some pretty scenery and meet many amazing runners who inspire me to keep looking ahead with my goals. So, I will!

THANK YOU to the race director and organizers for a great day!

What’s next?

During my recovery time after the Hoover Dam Half, I may have accidentally and purposely signed up for the Surf City Half Marathon as a means of redemption for a legit half marathon PR attempt. That race is on February 2, 2020.

A month later, I’ll be moving right along towards my second marathon ever at LA Marathon on March 8, 2020! It will be 7 years since I ran my first one at the 2013 Marine Corps Marathon in Washington, DC.

Running has allowed me to have a whole new way to meditate between the chaos. As a mom, wife, full-time student, trainer, and coach it’s easy for me to give myself to others because that’s how much I love what I do in every arena of life. I found myself to be training purely to “stay in shape” without any rhyme or reason to lead myself forward towards. I’m the type of person who needs that; I need a reason for ME to be my best ME. Races give me that light to look forward to.

Plus, I guess if I’m turning 40 next year, I may as well knock off some personal goals as a direct result of the aging process, right? 😉

Katrina is a Certified Personal Trainer and Fitness Specialist, Nutrition Coach, Group Fitness Instructor, and Wellness Educator also studying to complete her Master of Science degree in Exercise Science and Health Promotion to focus on issues related to Health Equity. She holds a certificate in Diversity and Inclusion from Cornell University and the University of South Florida. She also has an Associate of Science Degree in Graphic Design and is a content creator and host of various video series online. Katrina Pilkington is a global wellness educator bridging gaps with Equity, Diversity, and Inclusion through coaching as an adaptable champion of change. Her goal is to lead her community by example and relatability to shift the culture in wellness to be one of belonging and accessible means. Her goal is to use her experience coaching and mentoring to lead her community by example and use relatability to shift the culture in wellness to be one of belonging and accessible means for those who are the most underrepresented and marginalized. Katrina has a passion for working with others to find their deep meaning to take care of themselves inside and out to the best of their ability using the means they have access to.

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