Tuesday, January 15, 2008

2008 P.F. Chang's Rock 'n' Roll Arizona Marathon

PF Chang's Rock 'n' Roll Arizona Marathon
Phoenix/Scottsdale/Tempe, AZ
January 13, 2008

I ran the Rock 'n' Roll Arizona Marathon on Sunday. I didn't have any PR expectations for this race since I got really, REALLY lazy over the holidays with my training. In the 14 weeks since the Chicago Heatathon, here are my training stats:

  • I ran 23 times with an average of 11 miles per week
  • I ran 10 long runs, with only 1 run over 12 miles – the 20-miler with Paul a few weeks back
  • There was just one week where I actually ran 4 times and stuck to my schedule

I contemplated switching to the half marathon instead, but because I had a pretty decent long run with Paul, I figured I would give it a shot. It would be a low-pressure, “walk-if-I-need-to” race. I decided that I would be happy with a sub-5 hour finish. I wanted to start out a little aggressively with the pace to bank a little time, and then see how things went later on. I don’t usually like to run a race like this (my marathon PR was a 1:xx minute negative split), but I knew I would be slowing down towards the end.

Saturday night came, and I actually started getting pretty nervous about the race. Luckily I had been at my dad’s house for a couple of days and had gotten plenty of sleep on the two nights before. I woke up every hour until the alarm went off at 4:30am. My dad and his girlfriend, Jane, and I left at 5:15am to get to the race start in downtown Phoenix. They live in Sun City West, so it took about 50 minutes to get there. We parked and killed time by walking around and then when it was time we headed over to the start corrals. They wished me luck and I made my way into the corral and stood next to a guy dressed as Elvis. Of course I had to get a picture taken of him and me. ;-)

At 7:40am the race started and off we went. Unlike Chicago, it only took a couple of minutes to cross the start line (only 6500 runners in the marathon compared to the 20,000 half marathoners). We headed north on 7th Ave. after about a half mile and we would stay on this road until mile 5. During these miles my legs felt a little stiff and my shins felt tight. I know it usually takes about 3 miles for my body to get warmed up, so I wasn’t worried about it. This time it took 4 miles. My splits were 10:40, 10:54, 10:34, and 10:55.

Then things started to feel smooth and I passed by mile 5 in 9:51. Nice! I actually surprised myself with a sub-10:00 split. We turned right onto Missouri, which carried us through the next few miles. I felt pretty good, I was in good spirits, and I was actually closing in on the 4:30 pace group. The bands and the cheer squads that were out there made it fun, too. My pace hovered around 10mpm in middle part of the race. I felt like I was in cruise control. It was fun seeing Camelback Mountain in the distance, too, knowing that I would be hiking there in a few days. I also eventually passed the 4:30 pace group. I still assumed that they would eventually pass me later on, but I figured I could push a little harder and try to delay that passing. ;-) Miles 6-13 were clocked at 10:06, 10:12, 10:13, 9:55, 10:31, 10:10, 9:46, and 10:04. The only negative thing at this point was that my PITA (sciatica) started hurting, just a little, at around mile 8. Luckily it wasn’t a big issue and didn’t affect my stride or slow me down too much.

I pass the halfway point at 2:14:52, which I was ecstatic about, to say the least! The time flew by and I was still on cruise control. Miles 14 and 15 were still at a pretty good pace, 10:00 and 10:07. Then my race changed…it wasn’t really a wall. I guess my lack of training finally had caught up with me. I was starting to hurt a little, but I tried to run as much as I could. I still was only walking at the aid stations, just a little longer this time. My dad and Jane had found themselves near the mile 21 marker, so I had that to look forward to over the next miles while I passed through Scottsdale. Miles 16-20 splits were 11:06, 10:42, 10:43, 10:21, and 10:43. During this stretch the 4:30 group passed by me for good, which I was fine with. I didn’t even try to speed up to hang onto them. As I was turning left onto McDowell from Scottsdale Road, I saw my dad and Jane, who were all smiles. I stopped briefly for hugs and a picture and then continued on. At this point I was doing the math to estimate how much I could slow down and still come in under 4:45 – a time I thought was a really optimistic but unrealistic goal I had in mind in the days leading up to the race. It’s amazing how much number crunching make the miles pass by and you don’t even realize it. ;-) Miles 21-24 were 11:31, 10:44, 11:19, and 11:30.

Yep, I was definitely slowing down. Strangely, though, I was fine with it. I knew at this point I would definitely come in under 4:45, so I took time to take pictures and enjoy the bands I was passing by. Turning onto University Drive, now in Tempe, I passed mile 25 in 11:42 -- my slowest mile but still under 12! – and then finally mile 26 in 11:26. Only .2 to go! I pulled out my camera to take more pictures, and then this woman, a fellow marathon participant, offers to take a picture of me with my camera. At first I declined because I felt guilty for slowing her down, but she insisted. I handed her my camera and then she ran up ahead and snapped a picture, gave the camera back, we exchanged congrats, and then she headed to the finish. I took a few more pictures in the final stretch and then crossed the finish line with a time of 4:38:04! (Last .2mi was 2:19)

After I finished, I called my dad and told him where to find me and then we headed back to Sun City West to shower and nap before heading back out to see Kool and the Gang at the post-race concert. :-)

Of the 10 marathons I’ve run, I believe this is the 4th fastest marathon. Needless to say, I am very happy (and amazed) with the result. This race was a lot of fun -- perfect weather, really flat, and different scenery than I usually see living in the Midwest. It was great getting supportive GO KELLY text messages from Paul (thanks, Paul!), along with a couple of phone calls from Brian (thanks, Brian!). I am also glad that my dad and Jane were a part of it, too. They enjoyed cheering for all of the runners and their day passed by just as quickly as mine.

Having a race like this definitely gets 2008 off to a good start! My next target race is the March Madness Half…once I get back in town I’ll need to climb back on the consistency bandwagon and do some real training to get myself back in PR shape!

Here are some pictures I took during the race:
Kelly's Marathon Photos

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