Biggest plus: A huge, fun, well run race in gorgeous weather (highs of 80F!) when the rest of the US is in the middle of the winter worst.
E & I headed out for an easy exploratory run on Saturday to get
our bearings before the race. That quick 2 miles running and 1.5 walking showed me that it was *dry* (duh) so I spent the rest of
the day shoving as much liquid as I could fit between my lips.
Thankfully, the start and finish (and Kids Run that briefly made me fear
I'd miscalculated race day) were not hard to find from the hotel, just an easy 1.5 miles from the door.
After a lunch downtown, we
made our way to the expo (big, well organized) and weeded our way between the jr. cheerleader
competitors in all of their semi-naked sequined glory. There is nothing quite like
oversexed 9 year-olds to make you feel very, very strange (and glad that you don't have children).
After a visit to the botanical gardens (pictures in the next post), we had a great pre-race dinner of *amazing* green pozole from Mucho Gusto -- highly recommended. E enjoyed his margarita as well, but I was a water drinking fool.
The Hyatt Place Tempe (near the airport) was exactly like all other Hyatt Places in the world (because that's their thing, and I'm not going to lie, it's somewhat comforting to know exactly where everything is and how it all works). They have minimal bar service, great 24-hour starbucks service, immediate service food from the deli case, free Numi tea upon request (I put away 3 "calm" tea bags and about 8 cups of tea on Saturday night), hot food on order, and free breakfast with a full coffee bar.
Sure, the hotel's promised "sign up for a shuttle departing at the time you'd like" business was was more of an "every runner for themselves" experience. But, whatever. We all got to the start on time. Who's complaining? Oh, all the other runners at the hotel. Right. I had some fun watching overly stressed runners try to force the front desk folks "enforce" the shuttle rules. It was clear that they were not paid nearly enough to even consider worrying about this issue. Sometimes runners at races take things a bit too seriously, no?
The race was awesome. Honestly. It was in the high 30s when we loaded into the shuttle van, but by the start, it was easily in the 40s. When I finished, it was high 60s and climbing. If that's not an incentive to run fast and get done as quickly as possible, I don't know what is.
I started too fast with the front-runners in my corral (the wave start was done very well -- I was in corral 5 and we started at 7:56, 6 minutes after the published start time). But, some folks in my corral wanted to close the gap with the corral before ours ASAP. I reigned it in once I realized what was going on, but even after I did so, the Mile 1 marker came quickly. At 1.5 miles my fingers started to thaw, so in I tossed my long sleeve shirt and enjoyed the cool air on my exposed arms. Miles 2-4 were right on target and flat.
Even though I was in a tank top and shorts, I started to feel hot and ready for the water stations by mile 3, so after that point, I took water or gatorade at all of them and dumped an extra cup of water over my head at each one. Unfortunately, Mile 5 started to make it clear that I was not going to be able to make it to the end of the race without a portapotty stop. I was annoyed, but the discomfort was slowing me down, so finally I stopped when I saw the opportunity.
4-4.45: 9:26 pace
4.45-5: 8:53 pace
Miles 6 and 7 made me think it was possible to make up the lost time and still finish under 2 hours (9:09/mile pace), as I knew the climb was subtle 'til mile 10 and then it was all downhill 'til the end.
Mile 8 was probably the hardest for me, in terms of actual effort. There was a bigger hill than most of the other parts of the course (not much of one at all), and I had to stop to tie my shoe. I tried to recover the lost time, but just as we crested the hill, I saw the gu station. I can't recall if the gu station was in mile 8 or 9, but I was definitely needing it, and slowing.
After the gu and water, I started to speed up, and still thought I might be able to break 2 hours as I felt pretty good. Then, my Garmin watch band broke. Exploded really. The pin has been spontaneously working its way out on runs for the last month or so, but this time, I hadn't caught it in time. In trying to fix it, I jogged slowly, accidentally hit the stop button, the start, the lap, and then, finally realizing it was futile, I decided to just hold it in my hands for the rest of the race. My watch measured 1.02 miles over a few lap restarts and stops, but I hit a new lap at the 9 mile marker to get back on track, so we'll just call this whole section mile 9 and add up all the time in the various laps.
In my watch antics, the 2 hour pace group passed me. I spent the rest of the race chasing them. I never caught up, so either their strategy was to run a negative split given the course profile, or they just planned to finish well under 2 hours, as they started far enough behind me that I couldn't find them at the start.
last 0.15 (watch): 1:11 @ 7:52 pace
Thanks to dumping water over myself every chance I got and liquid-loading the day before I never felt overheated, or deprived. Huzzah! My hair and scalp, however, were dry at the end of the race, despite at least 8 cups of water I'd dumped on it. Turns out, my observation on Saturday's run was correct -- the desert is dry, especially in the direct sun, which most of this course was.
As for my performance, I'd been hoping to break 2 hours for the first time in a long while. Unfortunately, my official chip time was 2:01:06. So, I missed my goal.
But, really, I'm quite pleased with my performance. I ran hard, but never too fast, kept pushing the whole time and never gave up. The Garmin claims it was 13.21 total at an average pace of 9:10/mile (I had to do a bit of weaving to get to side with the watch and portapotty issues and to pass folks at times). A good strong run and the fastest half marathon I've done since the first half of CIM 2011.
I'll just claim a PR for my weight. I dropped some weight over the holidays and was feeling a little too easy on myself once it felt good to eat again. Unfortunately, this resulted in at least 5 nacho meals in 2 weeks. Nachos are my downfall. So, while I now need to drop some mass, I am still the most cardiovascularly fit that I've been in the last 13 months.
This is a great place to be, particularly since I start my 8 week LA marathon program tomorrow. I finally decided to enlist some professionals, so I paid McMillan Running to create a personalized training plan for me. I'm excited to commit to training and eating healthy for the race for the next 8 weeks and to see how it all works out.
Overall, this was a great first race to what I hope will be a great year of running.