River Mountain Loop Trail: Part 2

The countdown is officially on- my first half marathon is not getting cancelled and I’m going to have to attempt a distance I never thought would be possible! This week I decided to continue my training on the River Mountain Loop Trail that crosses through Henderson, Boulder City, and the Lake Mead National Recreation Area. I figured I’d treat myself to all kinds of beautiful water views, running right by Lake Mead, but conquering this portion of the trail was not as easy-going as I anticipated. Here’s how I pushed myself to complete 10.85 miles.

Now, I’m no expert at reading these signs before I start a trail (I’m a rebel, I know), but I feel like this one practically promises that I will need to yield to both desert tortoises and bighorn sheep. I saw neither. I’ve lived in Las Vegas for about a year and a half now and I STILL cannot manage to find a wild tortoise or bighorn sheep on my hikes. For comparison, my grad school classmate visited the area recently and found bighorn sheep hanging out at a city park like it was no big deal. No such luck for me! On this run I only spotted some birds, a little ground squirrel, and a tiny squished lizard 😦

Finally on this run I did something smart: instead of running around in a bunch of different directions, I went exactly half my goal distance and then simply turned around. Crazy how I’m just now figuring these things out, right?! I really anticipated that it would be a total drag, running the exact same path in reverse, but it was super energizing. Just a few miles in, as I began to question my life goals, I realized I only had 2 more miles to go before I could turn back to my car. What a game changer! My attitude would have suffered dearly if I started counting down seven and a half more miles to go 😫 Thankfully I learned to chunk the miles into smaller, achievable goals, and as I passed all the familiar scenery heading back to my car, I realized I could totally do this!

What I failed to realize, though, is all the elevation change I’d need to cover in this run. Typically, other runners might plan their route a little more in advance, whereas I chose mine at the breakfast table. I paid no attention to all the hills, or rather, MOUNTAINS, that I had decided to run up. The beginning of my run was great, twisting and turning and winding my way down the path. Nowhere in the back or even the front of my mind did it click that I’d need to actually run back up all these hills, duh. I suppose it was better that I was blissfully unaware of how hard this trek would be, otherwise I may not have shown up in the first place. My hips, quads, and hip flexors are screaming at me today, so I guess this was an experience I needed in order to better prepare for race day.

Would I recommend this trail? Heck yes! Would I go alone again in the morning? Maybe not so much. There were NOT many other people out here for the first hour or so that I was running, so that made me a little uncomfortable. I really only saw about 3 other runners, but the bicyclists are the ones that really love this trail. You know, I was discouraged by seeing how much faster the other runners were than me, but then again they turned around looooong before I did. My endurance and mental toughness have grown so much! One of these days I won’t feel like such an imposter and perhaps consider myself a real runner. I mean, can I really brag about run/walking a 15+ minute mile? I’m not sure I care anymore about whether or not others are judging me for that time, because looking at the big picture, how many people are actually getting out there and attempting a half marathon like me? I’m not doing so terribly after all.

Tricky thing about this trailhead: there’s no address. I hopped on the trail at the Lake Mead Parkway Fee Station Trailhead, at about mile 12 on the map. Luckily Google maps guided me to the provided coordinates with no problem. I was jamming cash in my pockets before I left the house (don’t always count on credit card machines working fast at these remote parks) but in fact I did NOT need to drive into the park and pay a fee. The parking lot for this trail is almost immediately before the gate, so FREE running adventures for me 🙂 Just download your map ahead of time at https://rivermountainstrail.org/trailheads-and-maps/ and as you progress along the trail all the very visible markers will help you count every half mile that you complete.

Maybe consider taking your dog out there too? Mine definitely cannot do 11 miles, but if you think your pup is better at keeping up, make sure to also think through hydration and foot care for your canine companion. The ground gets super hot here when we get into the summer months! For now mine was happy to do some sunbathing this weekend and rejoice that all his surgical stitches are out. He’s allowed to bathe and swim again, woot, woot!

Happy adventuring everyone ❤

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