Howdy. I’m about 3 days post-race from my latest half marathon – the P.F. Chang’s Rock n’ Roll Arizona half marathon. The race experience has me unusually fired up about running and continuing to improve. I got a little ‘mojo’ back I guess.
This race weekend was special because I was able to meet two women that I have gotten to know both through my blog and through a couple of Optifast related Facebook pages. Both of them have corresponded with me for a number of months.
Jarmila is a “veteran” racer, having completed numerous half marathons (and I think a few full marathons) over the past 8+ years. She is working on her weight with Optifast and has been one of the few along the way that really embraced the thrill of the “race” and could sort of speak that language with me – and understand my enthusiasm as well. She mentioned way back that she was thinking about flying out to Arizona this winter to run the RNR Arizona, and I was happy to possibly get the chance to finally meet her.
I found Christy through her blog, Optifast Adventurer. I’m not really sure how I stumbled across it now – but really enjoyed reading about her Optifast journey because it was quite similar to mine. Somewhere along the line, we followed each other’s blogs and commented frequently. Like me, as Christy neared her goal, she discovered an interest in running and the feeling of accomplishment she had from getting out and doing something she didn’t think she could. Knowing she had grown up in Arizona, I half jokingly suggested that she register for this half marathon and join us! Well, I’m happy to say she DID!
The three of us made plans to meet up for lunch and visit the race expo / packet pick-up on Friday afternoon. We had a yummy carb-loading lunch in
downtown Phoenix and talked for an hour or so outside on a beautiful sunny Arizona day. Afterward, we headed over to the Phoenix convention center to walk through and get our stuff – and some freebies that different racing vendors have. They had most of the major shoe companies, energy bars, drinks, and racing gear vendors represented as well – always fun to look around and see what’s out there. I stocked up on ShotBloks and SportBeans for the race. I have decided that GU might possibly be causing me stomach issues when I run – at least in the runs and races I have done since stopping it I haven’t had a single issue. It was getting time for me to get home to get the kids, so we split up and said we’d try to meet up on race day.
I took quite a bit of time the night before the race to get prepared. Last year, things didn’t go as planned when, as I was getting ready for the next morning, I learned from my dad’s neighbor that there was an ambulance and paramedics at my dad’s house … which you can read out here (this is before I knew things were going to get even worse). It was a bit emotional for me to get ready this time, remembering what went down the night before the race last year – playing back all of those decisions and events in my head.
So, I tried to get every little
detail taken care of so I wouldn’t stress or worry about remembering something in my sleep. I bought a new Nike shirt for the race (same cut/”model”/size as many other Nike shirts I run in so I knew it wouldn’t cause me any issues) and put a new “I Run 4 Brennan” iron-on decal on the back. I bought a new black Nike running hat because I’ve decided I don’t like the white one in pictures (I know…whatever) and I also splurged on some new sunglasses too that I will use just for running. They are lightweight and slightly better looking than the neon green Nike glasses I have been using.
Anyway, I woke up at 5:45 AM, got dressed quickly and headed out. After a difficult time trying to figure out where to leave my car to catch the light rail train near the airport, I finally “ditched” it in some refrigerator school parking lot nearby. It looked safe enough and I think several other racers had done the same thing. I was cutting it pretty close to start time and I was super stressed. I still don’t really know where the “free parking” lot was that was on the map I was given – probably closer to the airport. It all worked out fine and the only damage to my car was from a very angry bird that pooped all over it.
The light rail train worked out very well and dropped me off just a few blocks from the starting line. The train was packed with runners and it was fun. I stood in the incredibly long porta-potty lines even though the race had already started. I knew from last year that it would take forever for my corral to get to the starting line. That is one nice thing about having several big races under my belt. I didn’t sweat the small stuff.
Although I wore one of my dad’s old sweatshirts that I planned to toss off after a mile or so, it wasn’t terribly cold this year and I took it off before we even got started. I did wear my $2 gloves for a bit, since my hands always get cold, but instead of tossing them to the side I was able to stick them in my Flipbelt (another new piece of running gear that I haven’t talked about yet) and they stayed with me for another run in the future.
Unfortunately, I messed up getting my Garmin started correctly when I crossed the starting line but caught it almost at exactly mile 0.1. So I knew where I was distance-wise, but I wasn’t too sure about elapsed time. I kinda had to do some math estimates as I went. Not being too fixated on a time goal was nice this year, but I secretly hoped to finish under 2:40.
In a nutshell, I had a great race. I decided to try to protect my legs a bit and force myself to do some walking intervals earlier, even if I felt OK to keep running. I started this around mile 2. As I’ve mentioned before, the pain in my legs usually starts around mile 7.5 and, in the case of the last half marathon, it was almost debilitating. I was hoping to avoid or prolong the leg pain, especially knowing that we had a climb and downhill descent starting around mile 8. I had problems with my new iPhone and I somehow had managed to delete my playlist. Then I couldn’t get any volume with my headphones (this was the first time I had used this new phone for music, which had just arrived on Friday). I finally got some tunes going on my second walk break.
My family didn’t have any definite plans to attend the race but my husband did talk about going down to see his mom and also do some work at my dad’s house (both near the first
turn of the race course). I didn’t see them in the same spot as I did last year so I just assumed they didn’t want to deal with the blocked streets and hassle. But as I made a turn at mile 7.5, there they were! It was fun to see them – especially since I didn’t expect it! Right about then I had gained some momentum so I didn’t really stop – but I asked them to take some pictures as I ran by – I even back-tracked briefly to give them time to get their phones on. Right after that, there is a fairly large climb west on McDowell Road and then the course turns around and heads back down the hill eastbound on McDowell. They had a bunch of Japanese drums playing and ample water and GU stations along the way. I decided before the race I was going to walk up that hill to save my energy then run downhill as fast I could to make up the time and use the decline to my advantage. That worked pretty well because my legs felt great and I practically sprinted for a mile. Then I was in the home stretch and worked as hard as I could – still not knowing if I’d beat the 2:40. I knew it would be close though.
As soon as I crossed the finish line and got my medal, I got a text from my husband that said “congratulations” – he had been getting text updates from the race timing chip along
the way. He forwarded the text that said that I finished in 2:39:59! Woohoo! Made it by 1 second!
I felt SO much better than I did last year. I walked around a while and got some water and chocolate milk. I was pretty hungry too so I ate a protein bar and sat on a curb to chill for a while. I left the finish area (and once you do, you can’t go back in) and headed back over to the spectator area of finish line to see if I could catch Christy finish the race. I had been getting the timing chip updates on her so I had a general idea of when to expect her. Before long, Christy finished her first half marathon looking strong – at an impressive 3:03. You can read about her race here in her blog. She came over to join me after her finish line refueling. I was so happy for her and excited that she seemed to have enjoyed her first half marathon experience. We waited for Jarmila and her friend to cross then headed over to the beer tent to grab our free beer while they were in the finishers area.
Christy had to meet her sister/ride that was coming to get her and Jarmila’s friend was having some knee issues so they had to leave from the finish line. I wandered back to the light rail station and prayed that my car was still where I left it. I was hoping to go have some beers with the Kilty Pleasures crew but I had so many problems heading east because of all the road closures for the race, I finally decided to just head home. A shower and the couch sounded pretty awesome too!