Saturday, January 21, 2023

2023 Rock 'n Roll Arizona Half Marathon Race Report - Did I Get the Goal?

I woke up to dark, cold and wet. Well, it was dark, warm and dry in my hotel bed, but outside it was rainy and pitch black. I got up and started messing with the pile of running clothes I'd thrown onto the floor the night before. But, the most important order of business, coffee, needed to be tended to. I filled the Nespresso water canister, popped in a capsule and hit the "on" button. Nothing. I fiddled with the power cord and yes, it was plugged in. I moved all coffee machine parts around. No go. I started to panic. Coffee was as much a necessity as my running shoes and a pre-race poop. I called to Ken, who doesn't drink coffee (freak), to help me. With half closed eyes, he looked at it, pressed buttons then declared he was sorry but he had to poop. Sigh.

In the meantime I was getting behind on other things like eating my oatmeal (didn't have time to get hot water in the lobby so used lukewarm tap water - don't recommend) and pinning on my bib. I also still needed to jug some Nuun and poop ( don't mean jug poop; just get out some poop). I pleaded with Siri to tell me how to work a Nespresso maker, which she kindly did, but it still didn't work. I looked around, tears welling in my eyes (haha okay, so dramatic) and held my gaze for a moment, deep in thought. Then just like that, Christmas Vacation Style, I flipped on the light switch near the coffee maker and VOILA, a steady stream of hot liquid finally made its appearance. Problem solved. It's true I am a social worker who is very much not STEM-like in any way.

Dressed, hydrated, caffeinated and full of cold oatmeal (and poop ugh), we headed to the start.  I said goodbye to Ken, handed him my jacket, and got into my corral in the rain. I failed to wear a hat to keep the rain out of my eyes. It doesn't really rain in Colorado. It also doesn't really rain in Phoenix, so there's that. I'd just suck it up. I told myself to embrace, not resist, the conditions. I'm very wise that way.

Let's pause here for a moment. After my accident in August I've had to stay off of the trails for fear of falling and re-injuring myself. Therefore, once I was given the clear to run in September, I decided to set my sights on road running and qualifying for the NYC Marathon with my half marathon time. In the 55-59 female age group that's a 1:54. Before November, I hadn't done a road half marathon in years. My last one was the Utah Valley Half in 2017 - one of those common Utah races where they drive you to the top of a canyon and you run down (800 feet of elevation loss, no turns). I did that one in 1:50:21 and that was when I was 50. Gulp.

Yes, I'd done my long runs consistently as well as speed workouts on the treadmill. But, based on my half marathon time in November (2 hours), 1:54 seemed like a lofty, although not impossible goal. If it was easy to qualify, everyone would do it right?

The gun goes off and so do I. I decided my approach would be to not look at my watch until mile 12. I've never gone totally by feel before. Lets try it! I also promised myself that if at the half way mark I felt good I'd pick it up. It rained hard for the first 7 or so miles. So hard I thought I'd lose a contact lens. I didn't. At the halfway mark I took a Maurten gel (consistency of pure Jello) I had in my pocket and knew I had enough in the tank to pick it up. I couldn't believe how good I felt and how much energy I had. I kept telling myself to keep pushing and that I didn't do all those freezing cold long runs in the snow and sweaty interval runs on the treadmill just to not make my goal. 

At mile 12 I gave myself permission to look at my watch because I didn't want to miss my goal by seconds. My watch said 1:41. WHAT??? I knew I had it. I sprinted that 1.2 miles and seeing Sam with about 1/3 of a mile to the finish line was a huge boost. I ran the second half faster than the first.

Thing is, this time qualifies me for NEXT year's NYCM - so 2024. Hopefully I'm still alive by then.

Overall, I really liked this course. It's not especially scenic, except for one part around 9 miles when you climbed a hill up between two buttes and have a gorgeous view of the city (Papago Park). I also like that it's pretty flat with only about 200 ft of elevation gain. Rock 'n Roll has it dialed in with their aid stations, excellent tracking app, post race party and multiple porta potties (I never did poop). And, Phoenix in January is usually a sure thing weather wise for a race. 

Clearly not my photo as I wasn't in a helicopter, but you get the idea.

Thanks for reading along. I'm a big fan of race reports so thanks to anyone who has written one and has filled me in on their experiences and what to expect.

What's your next race? I don't have anything officially signed up for until the Bolder Boulder in May. But, will likely do something before then.

Are you obsessed with your watch while running or do you go mostly be feel? What watch do you have? I've been going by feel on my long runs, but use time/pace for speed workouts. I have a Suunto 9 Baro and absolutely love it. Been using it for almost 5 years.

Favorite pre-run fueling? I usually do oatmeal/graham crackers and/or a Honey Stinger Waffle


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