Rock n’ Roll Arizona Half Marathon Race Recap

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.

PRE-RACE:

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.

IMG_0554IMG_0556IMG_0557

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.

IMG_0560

I’m not sure why they have space ships, but Journey is cool!

IMG_0562

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.

IMG_0566IMG_0565

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.

IMG_0570

RACE DAY!

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.

IMG_0571

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.

Slide2

Go Aaron, Go!

Go Aaron, Go!

Running uphill through Papago Park

Running uphill through Papago Park

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.

Slide4

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!

Spring toward the finish line!

Sprinting toward the finish line!

Look at that Garmin stopping action!

Look at that Garmin stopping action!

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.

IMG_0575IMG_0577

All races have giant horses don't they?

Giant horse!

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.

Frank Shorter on the right

Frank Shorter on the right

IMG_0586

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.

It takes a brave man to jump into an audience of smelly women

It takes a brave man to jump into an audience of smelly women

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!

IMG_0589

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.

DETAILS:

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.

Advertisements

Heading to My Warm Happy Place (aka RnR Arizona)

In true pre-race fashion, my body has been bothering me since this past weekend.

I keep hoping it will go away, but essentially, it feels like both legs and my lower back are all in a giant conspiracy against a half PR. Everything hurts all day long.  Hips, piriformis, knees, calves, Achilles  even obliques and rhomboids.  Strangely, I had all of these problems LAST year right before this very same race.

It started on Saturday after our sub-freezing run.  I took Sunday and Monday easy with lots of stretching and felt great on Tuesday, so I pushed myself speed-wise on a tempo run only to have everything start hurting again.

So, we’ve been spending some quality time with our Yoga for Runners DVD. If any of you Yogis can help with a modified version of the cow face pose, we would appreciate it since neither of us can get our legs to do anything resembling the nice man in the video. We are however, really good at mooing every time the word “cow” comes up!

Yesterday’s Easy Threesy felt ok, but still not 100%.

I don’t know if this is taper weirdness, or something I’m making up in my head to get out of running in the cold (p.s., the “magic” is gone now that everything is just muddy and icy and cold), or if I do really have body issues that need addressing by a professional.  I’m also planning on buying some new shoes this weekend, so maybe that will help? Mostly, I want to make sure that come next week, none of this is an issue.

So, as I attack Half #6 this weekend, I am going to approach it far more cautiously than I would like to.  I’m going to run a comfortable pace, but if I start feeling any tightness anywhere, I’m going to lay off of it a bit (This is a lie.  Put me in a race, and there is no way that I’m backing down if I have the energy not to…but I’ll try!). PR’s are fun, but not being injured is more fun, so I’m attempting to prioritize my options here!

And regardless, this is a fun race.  They have giant Chinese dragons along the course, and local bands every mile to add to the flavor.  Plus, Phoenix is WARM! Looking at the forecast has been almost heavenly this week.

We’ll see how it goes.  Marathon Reflection Monday will make it’s return next week (weird that I’m more excited for that than for actual marathon training), but until then, enjoy your (hopefully) holiday weekend! Meanwhile I’ll try to make it through 13.1 miles without breaking myself.

Mapping Out the 2013 Race Schedule

One of the most overwhelming parts of reading running blogs is the exposure to the endless race possibilities.

A year and a half ago, I had no clue that more than 5-10 marathons even existed let alone what they were called.  I didn’t know that there was a Chicago Marathon, and while I think I knew that there was a Boston Marathon, I didn’t know that it was any sort of a big deal (now we’re all on a first name basis).

But with all this exposure comes tremendous race envy.  *Almost* every recap I read drives me to look at my bank account to analyze if next year’s race fits into our budget.  I mean, all of the sudden I want to go to places like Duluth and Cincinnati for fun? What is going on here? (keep in mind that I say this out of love if you live in those places.  Albuquerque isn’t a dream boat city either).

But we can’t leave town every weekend to run races, so choices must be made.

This will be the 2nd time that I attempt to map out our race schedule for the entire year.  Realistically, we can afford one, maybe two, major “destination” race per year (last year it was Chicago, this year it is Boston), so everything else has to be regional (Arizona, Las Vegas, Colorado, or West Texas).  And timing plays a big part.  We need to have plenty of rest in between races to recover physically and financially.  And as a glass half full type person, I’m always under the impression that at any given time I will injure myself and never be able to run again, so I want to run the “must-do’s” first whenever possible.  Running Chicago as my first marathon was no accident.  I wanted my first time to be with a marathon that I really loved.

This year I’ve had a few other considerations while planning our race schedule:

1) Boston.  Everything else this spring has to revolve around it include filing taxes.

2) Aaron has expressed that he’s getting burned out with our constant road racing, so I want to incorporate more “non-traditional” races in the mix.

3) Training for a triathlon.  I’m going to need a few months off of running just to focus on swimming and bike riding because this IS happening in 2013.

As of right now, I’m only officially registered for 2 races (Arizona and Boston), but here’s what we’re thinking for 2013:

JANUARY: Rock n Roll Arizona Half.

MARCH: Bataan Memorial Death March 14.2 miler (Las Cruces, NM about 3 hours south of Albuquerque): This race has a full marathon and a “half” option that is actually misleading since it is more than half a marathon.  This is New Mexico’s “big deal” marathon and it is really geared toward veterans and active duty service members.  Many members of the military will run it in full uniform with a loaded backpack.  Lots of uphill, REALLY warm temperatures, lots of loose sand, and likely some rattlesnakes nearby. This is actually considered one of the hardest courses in the country. My dad is planning on running the full marathon (WHAT????) and even my little sister is planning on running the half.  I don’t even know my family anymore.

SOURCE Photo by David Young

APRIL: Boston Marathon. Considered the most prestigious road race in the world.  Still somewhat in denial that I’ll be running it.

MAY: Run for the Zoo Half (Albuquerque):  This falls just a few weeks after Boston, so this is a BIG maybe even though it has become a yearly tradition for me.  It took me a month after the Chicago Marathon to be able to run again.  I’m hoping for a faster recovery time this go around, but I probably won’t register for this until the week of.

JUNE: Garden of the Gods 10 Mile Run (Colorado Springs).  This race is full of rolling hills, but at least each uphill is matched with a downhill. The views are gorgeous apparently.

SEPTEMBER: Imogene Pass Run 17 miler (Ouray-Telluride, CO): Aaron has run this race before.  It sounds miserable yet amazing.  The website says the following: “The reality is that despite whatever emotions we may have for the mountains and their environment, they are in fact unfeeling objects and they follow the natural rules of physics which are not always benevolent toward living creatures, great or small.”  I guess they all can’t be easy.  Check out that elevation climb!

Please note the trail. And the lack of trees. 

OCTOBER/NOVEMBER: We’re going to put in for the Nike Women’s and ING New York City lotteries (if New York opens it up).  Statistically we’re not likely to get into either one.  But a girl can dream.

DECEMBER: Rock n Roll Las Vegas Half (Full?).  It is pretty pricey/cheesey, but Las Vegas is close, and I think running the strip at night would be pretty awesome. And Las Vegas at Christmas time is actually really pretty.  Plus, the race falls right around our wedding anniversary, and I’m not opposed to renewing our vows along the course at the “Run-Thru Wedding Ceremony!”

SOURCE Photo by Steve Marcus

Other Possibilities:

Duke City Half (Albuquerque, October): This was my first half marathon.  Not the most amazing course, but it will be good to do if (when) I don’t selected for NWM or NYC. Plus, you can’t beat a local race where you can go home and nap in your own bed right after.

Tucson Marathon (December): A downhill marathon!  I don’t really want to get into the marathon habit, but if I decide after Boston that I MUST RUN MORE MARATHONS, I think a downhill one will be a nice option.

Rock n Roll Denver Half (September):  This is a back up if Imogene fills up before we register (last year it only took a few hours).

I plan on spending the summer in the pool or on a bike, so I don’t want any big races during those months.  Otherwise, everything is pretty open and subject to change.

Anyone else doing any of these races?  Any other good recommendations in the Colorado, Arizona, or west Texas areas?

I hope you have a WONDERFUL weekend!

Lesson Learned: I’m a Hibernator

Operation Fast Half is coming to a close here soon (the race is in a week and a half), and if I could sum up my lessons learned during this training cycle into one phrase it would be: people don’t change. Or maybe more accurately: after 28 years of life, you should probably know yourself a little bit better.  Maybe: You can take the girl off the couch, but you can’t take the cou…I guess that one doesn’t really work.

A couple of months ago I made some cock-eyed statement about trying to hit 1:35 for this upcoming half marathon.  I ran this same race last year, coming in at just under 1:45 (1:44:53), still  my best half time yet, but I thought I could train myself down 10 minutes to a race pace I’ve only hit a couple of times during 5-K’s because:

1) I’m faster overall thanks to some intense marathon training,

2) I’m a “real” runner now who takes training more seriously than Christmas cheer,

3) I have blog friends to keep me accountable for my workouts,

4) I’ve tasted goal crushing victory and I don’t ever want to eat anything else again,

5) I didn’t train very well last year.  My last/farthest long run was 8 miles, so anything more productive than that should surly produce extraordinary results.

Slide2

I’m going to beat you! 

What I didn’t account for is that:

1) I AM faster, but it takes a bit of time to get a LOT faster (i.e. a superstar transformation usually doesn’t occur within 10 weeks),

2) Um, was I high? (No, I wasn’t, I promise).  Christmas cheer will always trump running. Always.

3) Y’all are pretty easy to ignore if I turn off my computer,

4) Cookies are pretty tasty, oh yes they are.

5) People don’t change.  Little runners who would rather hibernate than train all winter will probably always be this way.

I was doing great all November.  Speed workouts were going amazingly, and long runs were flying by.  I was eating really well, and I was motivated.

And then I transformed back into Amy circa winter 2011, going around saying, “but, it’s Christmas”  as an excuse to not get a run in, or to pick up fudge square #3.

I’ve still been running and maintaining, but I don’t think I’ve been getting the type of quality mileage required of a significant improvement.

And then all of the sudden we’re having a really cold winter.  Albuquerque can get cold, and we usually have one miserably frigid day, but we’ve had multiple days in a row where the morning temp is under 20 degrees which seems out of the ordinary.  I’m not willing to head outside for an 11 mile run on  Saturday morning if it feels like -3 outside. I know most of you deal with this all winter every year, but I am not acclimated to cold like that.

So, I’ve been running on the treadmill more. It gets the job done, but I don’t think it really translates as well into the real world.  And I definitely cut runs shorter on the treadmill than I would outside because my wall is boring to look at.

We opted out of using a formal plan for this reason.  We knew we’d be busy and cold, and that we’d spend a lot of time rearranging workouts, but I guess we thought we’d be more disciplined (Um, WHY did we think this?  PEOPLE DON’T CHANGE).

And I’ve been eating non-stop since Christmas Day (slowly getting the cookie habit back under control).  I’m probably going to run this half about 5 pounds heavier than I did last year, which translates into extra effort and likely extra added time.  (Update: Tracie posted a chart on how many minutes extra pounds add to your race time.  If’ that’s not enough to make you depressed over holiday gain, I don’t know what is).

IMG_5648My sister made us our own special batch of gluten-free cookies for Christmas morning.  Guess who ate 95% of those…

So, there you have it. I’ve been training, but not very well, and certainly not enough to shave 10 minutes off my PR time.

In retrospect, I don’t think it was a realistic goal for me to increase speed that much knowing that I’d be distracted. I think we did better on our training this year than last, so improvement was made, and  I’m faster, stronger and more race savvy thanks to a year long effort toward improvement and I can appreciate that accomplishment.

I know that I don’t slack off all the time, and I think I have a better understanding of when I thrive and when I’m better at simply maintaining.  I’ve realized that I can seriously push myself during one training cycle per year (by seriously push myself, I mean stick completely to a plan, give each workout 100%, and have running be a top priority, while consistently remembering my goal and evaluating my progress toward reaching it), and that training cycle can’t fall during the holidays.

I won’t hit 1:35 next Sunday, and I’ve already moved past it.

What is kind of worrying me is that I should have been base-building for Boston.  The day after the half, I am jumping in head first into a more intense 12 week marathon program.  I’m taking my weekly mileage from about 15-25 miles all the way up to about 55 pretty fast, which isn’t really what I wanted to happen.  And if I only want to seriously push myself for one training cycle per year, then I want this one to be it, so slacking off for the first couple of weeks isn’t an option.

So, I’ve decided to:

1) Still go for that PR next weekend.  I can always predict my race time based on my last long run pace (without fail, I can run a full minute faster per mile).  I ran 12.35 comfortable miles on Sunday at an average pace of 8:47.  Based on this, I should come in at 1:42 which will constitute a PR.  I think I even have a decent shot at 1:40 if I suffer a bit. If I can’t be faster than I was 10 weeks ago, I can at least be faster than I was last year.

2) Go harder than I typically would for a goal race taper.  For half marathons, we typically taper for 2 weeks, but I’ll probably reduce it to about 4 days.  My priority needs to shift to marathon training.  I need all the preparation I can get to run a strong PR marathon.

I really hate giving up on something that I said I would do (though it kind of seems to be a theme recently), but I should have known myself better.

I have a general hatred toward the fitness models used in these.  What is up with this lady’s hair?

Any lessons you’ve learned about yourself during your training?  

Hope you are having a great (loooong) week!

Kicking Off Another Training Cycle and Annoyance Toward the Oldies Station

Good luck this weekend to Hyedi and Kelly (running her 2nd marathon in 2 weeks!) who are racing this weekend!

This weekend we are kicking off Operation Fast Half.  I’m ready.  To run AND to have something running related to talk about on the running blog.

On Sunday, it will be 5 weeks since the marathon (say what?).  I really like spacing big races out so I have a good month to rest and relax.  That way, when I have to jump in again, I’m itching for it instead of feeling burned out.  I’m ready to push myself to new goals and for goodness sake get my calf muscles back.

I will say I’m a big fan of this half marathon mileage.  This weekend we”ll start off with a 5 mile run! As a long run! I won’t even need a Clif Shot or water break!

This will also be our first weekend of “winter weather,” so it looks like I’ll have to pull out the gloves, running tights, ear muffs, and running jackets that have been buried deep in the closet since March.

In other news, the other day I was listening to the radio while driving to work, and Kokomo by The Beach Boys came on.  I love this song.  It reminds me of lounging on the beach in Jamaica, (it reminds me of the movie, Cocktail, but I don’t think it is part of the soundtrack), and reminds me of Full House.  I REALLY liked Full House growing up.

Aruba, Jamaica, Ooooh I wanna take ya

My day dream was rudely interrupted when I looked down at my stereo screen and realized that I was listening to the Oldies station.

Kokomo came out in 1988…I was well into my childhood in 1988.  Songs from my childhood are being played on the OLDIES station.

Just thought I’d share.

Random question (that will become less random in the next few weeks): What kind of sunglasses do you like?  I’m a big fan of the big bug ones or ones that look retro. 

I hope you have a wonderful weekend!

 

So…Now What? Or, Accepting that Chicago is Over

This past weekend I went to cheer on my dad (and a bunch of other people I know/don’t know) at the Duke City Marathon.  I came bearing big race signs and I wore my Chicago marathon shirt so people wouldn’t think I was a non-runner just because I wasn’t racing! (just kidding…sort of…).

My dad had a great first half and finished in 2:06:something! AND he wasn’t even sore the next day! Pretty sure an addiction was created.

I rarely spectate at races (I know I should probably be volunteering more), so it was interesting to experience it from the other side.  For one, cheering is kind of awkward.  I have the same two phrases, and I was stressing the whole time that I was saying the wrong things and causing runners to lose motivation in the home stretch.

I was also pretty stir crazy, standing there with my race signs watching all of the runners coming into the finish line area.  I wanted to be racing!

But two weeks after Chicago, I’m still not able to run.  I have nagging issues in my calf/shin area.  As far as I can tell, it is just muscle tightness, but it is pretty annoying.  I’m doing all the usual rehabbing efforts, but I have to keep in mind that supposebly it will take 26.2 days for me to be all better.

Luckily, I don’t have anything to train for until the second week of November, so I’m able to not run without affecting any future race times.

I’m trying to really enjoy this time off, but boy am I really taking it off.  My workouts have included walking the dog, “weight lifting” (and by weight lifting I mean squats and curls), a single elliptical workout and my 1st swim lesson (attempting to put my head underwater without plugging my nose with my fingers…I think progress was made!).

I’m amazed at how sluggish I’ve become just from not working out regularly.  I always feel tired and I can feel my body slowly getting more lard-esqe.  Luckily I think I’m over the post marathon blues because of the excitement over the upcoming holiday season (OMGSOEXCITED), otherwise the combination of not working out and depression might have driven me to eat lots and lots of ice cream and potato chips.

On the plus side, all this lack of activity has given me the chance to reflect on what I’m going to do now that Chicago is over and establish what my goals are for my upcoming races.

First, in mid-November I will start half marathon training for Rock n’ Roll Arizona (January).  I’ve decided I want to train into running a fast half (1:35 or 7:15 average pace).  9 of my marathon miles were sub-8, so I feel like this is a reasonable goal to reach for.  It will require a lot of speed work (more 400’s instead of 800’s! Hooray!), but it is nice to have a base established.

I will start training for Boston the week following Rock n’ Roll.  I want to have a completely separate training plan for each of these races.  Instead of the 16 week training cycle, I’m going with a 12 week cycle.  After a training into a fast half, I should have the speed, so I’ll just have to work on re-building the endurance and focusing on becoming a strong downhill/uphill runner.  Unlike Chicago, Boston is not flat.  That little tiny hill felt epic at the 26 mile marker at Chicago.  I’m dreading the Newton Hills.

I’m not quite ready to call my Boston time goal.  I obviously want to put in my best effort and train hard.  EVERYONE is fast at Boston so I’d at least like to not feel like the one slow person in the bunch.  But now that I’ve qualified, I don’t know if I want the same pressure to hit a certain goal. I kind of want to see how Arizona goes before I start thinking about whether I’m ready to prepare for a sub 3:30.

I do also want to learn to swim by the end of the year, per my bucket list.  Saturday showed that I really have a looooong way to go.  But with coach Aaron leading the way (did I mention he’s also an accomplished swimmer?) and a new-found confidence that I can do anything I put my mind to, I think it can be done.  I’ll consider myself sufficiently schooled in swimming if I can make it across the pool and back using proper free-style stroke, and employing a solid breathing strategy that doesn’t include keeping my head above water at all costs.

I also want to get back some of that muscle definition that I’ve lost ever since I started running half marathons last year.  It was near impossible to do any quality weight lifting while training for a marathon because my muscles always felt fatigued, but now that we’re back in half marathon land for awhile, I want to focus on a supplementary workout program.

I’m also excited (surprised but excited) to see most of my marathon buddies signing up for a second round! We must all be nuts.  But it will be awesome to follow everyone’s training again come spring!

What’s your winter/spring race schedule?  (or, if you’re in the southern hemisphere…your summer/fall schedule!).  

I hope everyone is having a fantastic week!

Do I Get Presents on Runner’s Day?

Today is National Runner’s Day.  Hooray! Does this mean we get presents?

UPDATE: Apparently it is National RUNNING Day, not RUNNER’S day.  So I guess we’re all supposed to run?

Actually, I have no idea what we’re supposed to do to celebrate this occasion, but there are some great things going on!

Like the $20 off of any Rock n’ Roll race discount when you register today.  This is part of their Runners Day promotion.  Aaron and I are registering for the RnR Arizona half in January 2013.  Today, we are only paying $70, which is about HALF what we paid last year.  If you are wanting to do any of the Rock n Roll races, today is the day to register (except for Vegas. Sorry, Whitney). I ran a PR half marathon at Arizona last year so I feel like I should pay homage to the race that did so much (like convince me that I could qualify for Boston), plus Phoenix is a mere 6 hour drive from here AND I have college friends there.

Other exciting news includes winning the May #runchat challenge! You may remember that I won a medi-dyne range roller from participating in runchat a couple of months ago.  I kind of figured that meant my days as a winner were over. But the May challenge was to run someplace new, so I entered my Durango Trail run into the mix, and I was randomly selected as the grand prize winner of some Pearl Izumi gear.  I’ve never bought anything Pearl Izumi, so I’m excited to try it out! I’ve only ever heard good things.

Turns out getting involved with #runchat has not only provided me with valuable knowledge and great twitter/blog friends, but I’ve also scored some great swag! Thanks to the #runchat peeps for hosting such a great twitter chat AND some awesome contests!

Even MORE excitement comes from knowing that while Aaron and I are training for our first marathon, Rachel (NOT Raquel as I have been calling her), Hyedi, and Dominick will all be training for their first marathon at the same time! Marathon training is more fun when you have friends running along with you!

So, HAPPY RUNNER’S DAY my run-tastic friends!  

Question: has anyone seen any good gluten free food blogs?  Aaron thinks he might be allergic to gluten, so we are thinking of trying out the gluten free lifestyle for a couple of weeks to see if his stomach issues go away. Thanks!

Phoenix In January is Heaven

In the middle of a cold, dark January, Phoenix is a warm haven of happiness, al fresco dining, and palm trees.  During the summer it gets pretty dang warm (and by warm I mean cooking an egg on the sidewalk warm), but this weekend, 70 degrees has never felt so good.

In addition to the Rock n’ Roll race that brought in hoards of runner people, Tough Mudder Arizona  and some sort of big deal Super Cross event happened on Saturday, so the city and every restaurant/bar/hotel in it were pretty full of crazy athletic types along with Super Cross types (whatever that means…they were all wearing “Monster” shirts).

We went for the half-marathon and made a long weekend out of it.  Aaron actually lived in Phoenix for a few years during college, so he knows his way around the city.  This is a good thing because it is one of the sprawling urban masses and I would have gotten very very lost had he not been navigating. Not good when it seems every freeway exit lets you off in a different suburb.

Even though I’ve probably been there well over a dozen times, I’ve never really explored all there is to do in Phoenix.  Of course I’ve been to Scottsdale’s Fashion Square and toured the ASU campus in high school, but surely a city that size has more to offer than Louis Vuitton and dorms.  At least let’s hope.

Unfortunately we didn’t really explore this time either.  With all the race weekend activities, we didnt’ have too much extra time to get down and dirty in the desert.

But we did….

…stay at the Doubletree on 44th Street (all the rooms are suites, and you get free breakfast). We made friends in the hot tub with marathon people from Montana and Tucson.

…run through Papago Park (an inner city desert and likely home to lots of rattlesnakes but oh so scenic).  Also, I’m going through a weird phase where I make myself look ridiculous in  photos.  It just happens. I can’t stop it. I call the thumbs up pose “The Cheryl”  after its creator, my sister.

…ride the Light Rail ($3.50 for a day pass.  HELLO cheap public transit!).

…go to the awesome RnR Race Expo.

…enjoy the really good beer at Four Peaks Brewing Company (if you like microbreweries, this is the place for you in Phoenix).  I recommend the Oatmeal Stout and Kilt Lifter. Notice that we are seated OUTSIDE!

…carb load at Oreganos, where once again we ate OUTSIDE!

race our little Rock n Roll hearts out.

…jam to the B-52’s.

…eat at In n’ Out (a Phoenix/ California MUST in our book). We may have missed out on some of Arizona’s natural wonders, but by golly at least we got our Double Doubles with Cheese. You’ve got to have priorities.

…go to Four Peaks again to meet up with a Beer Runners Group (Run4Beer) I found on facebook (the couple who runs it is from Florida and they post running/ beer drinking inspiration all day long.  They were also in town to run the race and organized a happy hour). Very cool meeting people with similar interests from different parts of the country! If you like running and beer, you should “like” them on facebook!

meet my college friends Luke and Allie for dinner and drinks at Z-Tejas in Tempe. I’ve only seen them one other time since Allie and I graduated 5 years ago, so it was great catching up.  I’m also a little freaked out with how grown up we all look.  Weren’t we just 21 the other day?

Here’s what we looked like when we were 21 (College 70’s night.  It was the only picture I could find with all three of us in it…I promise we didn’t dress like that all the time!). How far digital cameras have come! (I’m the one in the center, Allie is to the left, and Luke is in the back).

shop at Ikea (we don’t have one so we have to stock up on the unassembled goodness when we can).

eat at In n’ Out. Again. Ok. If you are wondering why I would pass up what I’m sure is plenty of Phoenix culinary goodness to visit a fast food joint twice in a 24 hour period, let me just say, BEST BURGER EVER! Five Guys doesn’t come close.  Barbara Streisand used to fly to California just to eat there.  That’s saying something.

It was a short vacation, but a wonderful, somewhat relaxing and warm one. Even though we didn’t get to do a ton of stuff, we met some great new people, reconnected with old friends, ran the good race, and enjoyed some tasty food and beer. And really, what else is there?

Rock n’ Roll Arizona

Sometimes, I am an unintentional drama queen.

I kind of made a big deal out of not preparing adequately for this race.  But seriously. We only did 4 long runs (3 of them were under 8 miles) and our last long run was 3 weeks ago.  We did a total of about 4 speed workouts.  I was putting in a weekly mileage between 15-20 miles when I should have been putting in 35.  My sciatic nerve was bothering me (made worse by the 6 hour drive to Phoenix).  On Saturday I walked 3 miles in 4 inch heels resulting in 2 blisters. And did I mention that I bought new running shoes last Sunday out of desperation and didn’t really break them in?

Physically speaking, I was in no condition to run 13.1 miles much less run them faster.  I was, however, prepared to meet some hunky EMTs.

But, despite any reasonable explanation, 

I finished Rock n’ Roll Arizona in 1 hour, 44 minutes, and 54 seconds….A PR! (albeit a 44 second one, BUT A PR!).  I finished in the top 7% of the over 15,600 runners, and placed #52 in my division!

 

Does anyone else find this completely nuts? This isn’t supposed to happen.  Years upon years of research have shown exactly what you need to do to improve your speed.  I didn’t do them. I powered myself completely with an unmaintained base, positive thinking, good vibes from sympathetic people (THANK YOU FOR THOSE!), and the desire to not suck.  Apparently that was enough. Not that I’m planning to tempt fate again.

**********************************

Rock n’ Roll Arizona

There has been a lot of bad press about Rock n’ Roll races recently because of the December Las Vegas disaster.  This was the first RnR race since then, so the pressure was on Competitor Group to redeem themselves.

Most people (at least the ones on facebook) agree that they did!

Honestly, this race made the other two I’ve done look like amateur hour.  Granted RnR had 6 times the number of runners and cost twice as much. But WOW.

The Expo 

SO. ORGANIZED.  There was no waiting in line for your bib, they didn’t run out of t-shirts, and every station was neatly labeled.  Lots of quality vendors, lots of giveaways, lots of discounts, and lots of informative booths. 

Prep and Pre-Race

Saturday evening we carb loaded at Oregenos, an Arizona staple for casual Italian food.  It was tasty.

Sunday we got up bright and early ate a banana, then headed to the village.  There were plenty of porta-potties and the gear check ran like clockwork. I felt very comfortable leaving my stuff there.

***COMPLAINT ALERT****  Because we took the Light Rail (Arizona’s cheap public transit which was suggested in all the pre-race information), we had no parking issues.  They even doubled the number of trains on Sunday morning. But apparently, some people had a hard time finding parking. Um, DUH! Any time you have that many people trying to get into one place, parking will be hard to come by.  We talked  to several people who said they had NO PROBLEM parking because they followed the suggested routes and allowed ample time to get there (the pre-race packet suggested getting there AT LEAST 1 hour before schedule).  I even heard people in my corral saying that they were stuck in traffic…but they still made it.  But a small, vocal group got stuck in a traffic jam and couldn’t get to the start line in time.  

Obviously the parking issue isn’t my complaint.  However, the officials delayed the race start.  The half marathon started 10 minutes late (which wasn’t too bad), but the half marathon started 30 minutes late! If you are warming up/eating /planning your day based on a certain schedule, that delay could really throw you off.  I appreciate the race organization trying to make everyone happy.  But why punish what appears to be 90% of runners who were there on time and ready to go for the 10% who weren’t?

13.1 Rockin Miles

I was assigned to corral #2,  so I didn’t have to zigzag around walkers and slow people. I was the slow people.

The course is new.   Aaron said the new course is much nicer and more interesting/scenic than the old one. You travel through 3 municipalities (Tempe, Phoenix, and Scottsdale). The elevation is mostly flat with a couple of long uphills, but after San Francisco, this was nothing.  According to the course elevation map, the first 9.5 miles are all uphill, but I didn’t notice until mile 8.

{I was trying to wave. Obviously not what happened.}

A signature of Rock n’ Roll is the course support.  Every mile featured a local band, and/or a cheerleading squad.   Plus, there were TONS of spectators all along the way, so you were being cheered on or sung to the entire time!

There were ample water/Gatorade stations and GU at mile 7.  (I’ve heard about 10 complaints about the water making people sick and tasting bad.  Arizona water tastes bad.  And seeing as how like, 10 people got sick and 20,000 didn’t, I’m guessing the water was fine).

I started to get a blister on the bottom of my foot from my new shoes at mile 4.  My knee and sciatic nerve started hurting at mile 7.  My body didn’t want to go very fast, and if I looked away from my Garmin for a few minutes, I would look back at it to find that my pace had dropped significantly (check out my pace chart above.  Bipolar speed  much?).

{Promoting World Peace? Lord knows what goes through my head when I’m trying to pose for the race camera.}

But, I repeated GO! GO! GO! GO! and THIS FEELS GREAT! over and over again in my head and  I actually started to believe it!  Apparently my mind isn’t all too bright. The miles flew by, and at each mile, I was in disbelief that I had made it that far. As we hit mile 12 (and really, at this point I am GOING NUTS because I only have 1.1 miles left) I picked up my pace.  I crossed the finish line to Journey’s Don’t Stop Believin, checked my Garmin (GLEE!), and ran and jumped on Aaron out of sheer joy.

And then I got really dizzy and light-headed and thought I was going to pass out.  But I didn’t.

My mom texted me right away because the race website actually provides live updates for each runner as they progress through the course.  They knew our official times the moment we crossed the finish line!

In case you’re wondering how Aaron did, he came in at a “disappointing” 1:31:16.  He was sick all morning and didn’t feel well during the run or after, but I wish my good races could be as good as his bad ones.  He finished in the top 1% and was less than a minute off his Duke City time (which we actually trained for). He beat his San Francisco time by a landslide, and overall did really well considering he was combating a migraine the whole time.

Post-Race

Another signature of the Rock n’ Roll series is the concert.  After getting medals, Jamba Juice, Snickers,  Gatorade, water, and bananas handed to us, we made our way to the ASU stadium  to pick up our free beer (which, sadly, was Michelob Ultra…but we totally drank it anyway). 

The awards ceremony was inspirational. The third place female marathoner pulled her groin at mile 4, and ran the rest of the 22.2 miles in a total state of agony and STILL FINISHED THIRD! Completely insane.

The B-52s of Love Shack and Rock Lobster fame were the headliners (we were front row, center!).   The lead singer is adorable and rocks her fishnet tights and pink hair despite being 63.  Unfortunately, the male vocalist was rude.   Runners who raised lots of money for the MS Society got to be in a VIP area right in  front.   The male lead singer demanded that one of the fundraisers turn off his camera over the microphone.  I thought that was uncalled for.  He could have at least asked nicely without announcing it to the entire audience. But other than that, it was a fun show.

In other news, the race photos are already up which is UNHEARD OF! (I promise to order pictures, race picture people!).

So, that was our race.  It was a wonderful experience, and I hope to do more Rock n’ Roll races in the future (San Diego’s June race is seriously calling my name). I had to stop myself from signing up for another one right away (that’s how I got into this mess in the first place), but we will be taking a half marathon break for a little while. At least I can end my streak on a positive “PR” note!

   

 

 

A Mental Workout

Aron Ralston sawed off his own arm with a dull pocket knife after drinking his own pee for “127 Hours.”

THEN homeboy scaled a 65 foot wall to get out of the cave and deliriously hiked for 8 miles with his self-amputed arm before running into somebody who could help him (Lord knows how long he had to wait to actually be rescued after that). 

If he could do all that, then surely I can run through 13.1 miles of muscle tightening, side stitches, stomach discomfort, and blistered feet after not training into it. 

….Right?

(Since I haven’t done the adequate physical training to run a 1:40 half, I’ve been doing a lot of mental training for it!).

…ANYWAY…

I always have travelling anxiety.

I want the house to be cleaner than it is when we live in it.  I want all the laundry to be done.  I need to know if I die on this trip, people will come into my house and not judge me for being untidy and having dishes in the sink.

And I want to be sure I pack for every possible situation. Nevermind that most of the places we go have at least a Target (most likely laid out exactly like mine) and a mall.  But I’m always afraid of being in some foreign city (or you know, Phoenix) and being unprepared.

Plus, it’s not like I can go and buy another Garmin just because I forgot mine.  And what if my socks disintegrate while I’m putting them on at 5 am.  I need back-up.

*****************************************************************

My nerve/muscle issue has been feeling better.  I’ve been nursing the area like crazy.  I can still tell that something is not quite right with it, but I don’t have the constant pain that I was having a few days ago.  I opted not to do any procedures I haven’t done before like acupuncture or going to a chiropractor before the race out of fear that my body would have a freak out session, but next week I’m going to make a commitment to taking care of my poor body.  We’ve been training for various half marathons since August, and even though we’ve incorporated yoga and weight training into our plan, I think our bodies need some adjustment. 

So, it is time to head to the gloriously warm land of sunshine.  Hopefully everything goes well, and hopefully I can buy myself a present for not having a complete failure of a race (thoughts of a Scottsdale shopping spree are definitely part of the mental workout). 

Thanks for all of the encouragement and well wishes! I hope to have good things (or at least not really bad things) to report next week!