Rock n’ Roll Arizona is quickly becoming one of my favorite races because for the second year, I have run a PR race on this course! (you can read about last year’s experience HERE)
And, I am scary good at predicting my race times.
I went into this race with two goals: 1) to run a PR time, and 2) to run easily enough to not require a recovery period.
We were in Phoenix for a few nanoseconds. Aaron is the manager at a gym and it is January (aka New Year’s Resolution Hell). He is also without an assistant manager or shift supervisor, so taking days off (even MLK Day) wasn’t an option.
On Saturday, we did an easy 2 mile shake-out run after the 6 hour drive. Papago Park in Phoenix is one of my favorite places to run, especially in winter when there is less danger of rattlesnakes. You can mix trail running with pavement running, and the desert landscape is really beautiful. And I enjoyed every second of wearing a tank top.
After the run, we headed downtown to the Expo. I spotted Run Eat Repeat Monica (very blonde, very pretty, and very well dressed) and Boring Runner Adam, both huge running bloggers that I would feel very awkward walking up and talking to. The Brooks expo displays never fail to disappoint (Brooks is the apparel sponsor of Rock n’ Roll, so they get lots of floor space), and their carnival theme was slightly creepy, but creative. We didn’t get to witness the Human Jesus Lizard in action, but I imagine it was quite miraculous.
I know a lot of people think expos and the crowds they draw are a pain, but I love them. We stocked up on GU, Nuun, and compression socks at fabulous expo prices! (We’re trying out ProCompression socks since they were $22.50 for a pair….definitely different than my CEP ones, but I don’t know which I like better).
After the expo we rode the Light Rail (Phoenix’s transportation system) into Tempe and ate some tacos at a really cool restaurant called Canteen on Mill Street (Phoenix’s version of Austin’s 6th Street). By the looks of it, it transforms into a nightclub when the sun goes down, so we got to enjoy our tacos in a very trendy setting.
After relaxing for a bit back at the hotel, we headed to Scottsdale and ate dinner at a casual Italian restaurant called Oregano’s which is a very popular Phoenix chain (we carb-loaded here last year too). Aaron ate a really awesome looking salad (the life of a gluten freer), but I stuck to pasta. And it wouldn’t be carb-loading with a locally brewed Four Peaks Kilt lifter scotch ale.
I woke up Sunday morning with something I’ve never dealt with before a race…stomach problems. Up until now I’ve been very talented at creating perfect race day conditions for myself, but I think a trip to McDonald’s on the drive into town may be the culprit. I had serious paranoia about a terribly embarrassing accident. No runner wants to be that person. I ate a few bites of banana hoping to settle things down.
This race runs through three different cities: Tempe, Scottsdale, and Phoenix. We stayed in Phoenix, so we rode the light rail into Tempe (about an 8 minute ride) along with lots of other runners! I think the one non-runner was certainly not expecting his ride to be high-jacked by a bunch of dry-fit toting people.
We made it to race central with plenty of time. The porta potty lines weren’t as long (I think they had more this year), and gear check was organized and efficient. The race started about 20 minutes later this year than last year (7:50 for both the half and the full). Aaron and I wished each other luck before heading into our respective corrals (Aaron was in Corral 1, and I was in Corral 2). My stomach still hadn’t settled, but at this point there wasn’t anything I could do about it. The gun went off, and after waiting a couple of minutes, my corral got the go ahead to RUN!
This year I lined up at the very front of my corral, so I didn’t have to deal with weaving in and out of runners. This race places you in corrals based on an estimated finish time that YOU provide, so there are always plenty of people who probably should be in a slower corral.
One of the first things I noticed was the lack of crowd support. Last year it seemed like most of the course was lined with cheering spectators, but it was pretty dead this year. I haven’t run with music since last May, but this was the first time I really wished I had something to distract me from the quietness. I also saw very few race signs. We talked to some ladies back at the hotel, and apparently the marathon course was more supported.
And the bands. The whole point of Rock n Roll races are the bands along the course. I think there were fewer this year, and at least 3 of them were on set breaks when I went through. The ones playing were fantastic though, and the all-boy a capella group melted my little choir nerd heart. One of the bands had a huge screen with their lyrics scrolling in case you wanted to sing a long. And I think every race I’ve ever done has had a wildly enthusiastic group of Lululemon girls. They all complimented my skirt as I ran by and Aaron was excited that they cheered a little louder for him since he was also decked out in Lulu gear. Almost worth the price just to get extra course motivation!
And, super weirdness. Some nice man cheered for me by name somewhere in Scottsdale (mile 6 or 7 maybe?) and I don’t know who it was. My bib didn’t have my name on it, and I didn’t really know anyone else running the race, so I’m baffled. It is entirely possible that another person named Amy was right next to me, but after checking out the race pictures of the two other Amy’s who finished around my time, I didn’t recognize either of them from the race (yes, I’m creepy enough to stalk the race pictures of other people named Amy). Regardless, it was a much appreciated cheer, even if it was meant for someone else!
I was seriously worried about my stomach which wasn’t handling the constant bouncing very well until about mile 6, and the sickness went away. I don’t know what brought it on and I don’t know what made it stop, but I’m sure glad that I made it through without any incident. At several points I considered stopping to use a porta potty, but I only spotted one group of them late in the race.
Even though my stomach settled at mile 6, at about this time it became quite apparent that I had forgotten to apply Body Glide. I don’t know what it is about chaffing that is so terribly painful, but I remember encouraging myself to run faster so the stinging would stop sooner. Maybe I should use this as a tactic in future races?
Arizona’s course is flat for the most part. There is a steady uphill that starts at about mile 7 and gets pretty steep at about mile 9. And then the rest of the course is a nice downhill.
I was pretty excited the whole race because all of my miles were sub-8 except for one (the uphill one), so I knew I was going to run a PR pretty early on. I’m actually pretty proud of myself for being a smart and not going out too fast or attempting paces that I couldn’t sustain. I had to force myself to slow down when I noticed my paces hitting 7:00 minute miles. There is no way that I’m in shape to hold that speed for a half marathon without some pain for days after, and I couldn’t afford to push like that during this race when I’m already behind on marathon training.
I crossed the finish line in 1:41:53, a 3 minute PR! I ran a 7:47 pace which is EXACTLY one minute slower than my last long run pace, so I correctly predicted my finish time two weeks ago! I finished in the top 6% of all the half runners, and 42nd in my age group!
After collecting my medal (confusing since they were handing out medals for both the half and the “mini” marathon in the same place…I didn’t want to get the wrong one!), I met Aaron a little ways down the finisher chute. Turns out he’d had a great race and had similarly hit a PR time. He finished in 1:29:11 (6:49 average pace!) in the top 1.6% of all runners! He was pretty happy with his performance, although he wished he’d run just 12 seconds faster so he could dip into the 1:28′s.
Another great aspect of Rock n Roll races is the post race concert. After watching Marathon Legend Frank Shorter (1972 Olympic Gold Medalist and frenemy of Steve Prefontaine) present the awards to a group that included I think 3 people from New Mexico (GO NM PEEPS!), Andy Grammar took the stage.
He’s pretty “up and coming,” but I’ve heard at least 2 of his songs on the radio, and he was really adorable and interactive. Unlike the mean man from the B-52′s who performed last year.
Meanwhile I was feeling pretty sick for a couple of hours post race, but my muscles never tightened, and overall I felt far better energy-wise than I usually do after a half marathon.
We were even able to walk to Four Peaks, home of one of my favorite beers, the Kilt lifter for some post PR celebration!
A couple of months ago I had wanted to run this in 1:35. I obviously came nowhere near that, or even near the 1:40 window. I think if I didn’t have Boston training to worry about, I could have pushed it hard enough to at least get into the 1:40′s if not down to 1:40, but I’m glad that I kept my paces in check instead of getting swept up in excitement. Because of that, I only needed 1 day of recovery while Aaron is still dealing with tight muscles and Achilles issues.
Finish time: 1:41:53
Average pace: 7:47
Placement: 747/13344 overall, 177th female, 42nd female in my age group
Pre-Race Fuel: Luna Bar, about 3 bites of banana, 2 Clif Bloks
Race Fuel: 1 GU at mile 7.7
Issues: stomach yuckiness, chaffing, slight calf tightness and ankle stiffness on the right side
The Race: Fast course, great volunteers, well organized, ample water stations and fueling options pre/during/post race, plenty of bells and whistles, BUT minimal crowd enthusiasm.
Overall Impression: Happy with my performance. It wasn’t the PR of my dreams, but I don’t think I could have gone any faster and bounced back as easily.