Sunday, January 18, 2015

2015 PF Chang's Rock 'n' Roll Arizona Half Marathon

There are those days when the stars align and the running gods smile upon us. Today was one of those days.

It all started last night when I fell right to sleep and pretty much slept through the night. When the alarm went off at 5 am I was rested and ready to roll; that was until I got out of bed, put weight on my right foot and realized that PF had flared. No biggie, I brought a ball so I was able to roll out the discomfort. Crisis averted.

After a quick breakfast of scrambled eggs with copious amounts of coffee it was time to get lubed, dressed and over to the starting line.

In the past I would just stretch before a race but since I've begun HR training I like to get in an easy mile or 2 to get warmed up. Today was no different as I got in a nice, easy 1.2 miles and arrived to the starting line with 20 minutes to spare. Knowing that the porta-potty lines would be crazy, I found a secluded bush and took care of business.

What? Like you've never done that before.

As I sidled midway into corral 1 I got my spot picked out took some ENERGYbits and kept moving to stay warm. Even though it was only 50 degrees it was a sunny, cloudless day I knew that it would warm up quickly. I was wearing my warm weather gear, shorts and a sleeveless shirt, but also had a throwaway T which I took off a few minutes before the scheduled 7:50 start. This proved to be a bit premature as the start was delayed for a few minutes to let a train pass a little down the road.

When the horn finally sounded to start us off I was sort of regretting the decision to not bring my gloves but I knew my hands would warm up soon enough. Time to focus on the task at hand and not worry about my fingers.

My biggest concern in any race is that I don't go out to fast and today I was determined not to make any mistakes early on so I held back, maybe a bit too much as I clocked a 7:24 in mile one. Now this was not terrible, only 0:09 off my goal pace and a lot better than going out 9 seconds too fast. I just needed to run a little faster.

With this being the flattest part of the course I picked up the pace a bit and clicked off the next 3 miles right at goal time at 7:16, 7:14 and 7:14. Happy with the way things were going, I decided to try and push the pace even further knowing that I had about 3.5 miles of flat course before we got to the hill.

Feeling strong, I completed mile 5 at a quick 7:05 then fueled up with a serving of 15 ENERGYbits. The next few miles went as little slower, although still at goal pace, as I approached Papago Park to tackle the toughest part of the course; a 50 foot incline over a half mile.

Here is where it got interesting. Feeling as good as I did, I chose to attack the hill instead of playing it safe. I could tell I was flying as I passed people on the way up and my Garmin was reading at around 7:00, This was confirmed when I hit the 9 mile marker and my split was 7:06; the second fastest up to this point. As I crested the hill and began the decent just past the turnaround I knew it was all downhill from here and it was time to put the pedal to the metal.

Last year I made the mistake of holding back on this portion of the course and it cost me; this year was going to be different. After a 7:03 mile on number 10 I had a pack of 3 faster runners come up from behind and I tried to tag along. This didn't last for very long but it did push me to a 6:56 mile 11 before another challenge presented itself.

I had been aware that another runner was on my tail for about a half mile and at around the 11.5 point he made his move to pass me. My guess is that he reeled me in after I had let up when I lost the fast pack and had run a sub-7. This motivated me to pick back up my pace as we went back and forth for the next mile. By the time we hit the Mill Ave Bridge he had another gear that I did not but I was still happy to see another sub-7 mile at 6:58 as I passed mile marker 13.

The end was now in sight and this is what makes the Rock 'n' Roll series races so great, the spectators.

All throughout the race there are plenty of sections where the crowds are big and other than the volunteers runners who push folks who can't run along, they provide the biggest boost along the course. I hope these people who come out on a chilly Sunday morning know how much this runner appreciates their support. I try to let them know by giving them the thumbs-up or if they are close enough I'll offer out a hand. I know that every other runner feels the same way as well.

One of those spectators deserves a special shout-out and that would be my wife Christine. After getting up before dawn on Saturday to work a half day, she came with me to the expo and was up with me this morning to see me off when she could have stayed in bed. Thank you for being there today and every day for the past 30+ years.

Now, as I make the turn onto Rio Salado for the last tenth, the crowd is at least 15 deep on each side and the are LOUD. Here I am feeding off them and I look at my watch to see it is reading 1:33:19 and I'm stunned. My goal for the race was a 1:35 and knew it was going to beat it but it wasn't until now that I realized that I had a chance to better it by a minute. Time to let it all hang out.

As I got closer to the finish I could see the official clock counting up and eventually read 1:34:00 but I kept pushing on until I crossed having started about 5 seconds back. As I crossed the line and stopped my Garmin it read 1:34:02:98. Maybe I shouldn't have gone out of my way to leap and high-five the stilt-walker somewhere along mile 12 but, it was fun and I'd do it again. Officially I ran a 1:34:01.

Now how do you know you gave it your all? In my case today I had no less than 5 volunteers ask me if I was ok or if I needed assistance. I appreciated it but was basking in the afterglow of a 3:40 PR as I tried to catch my breath.

Speaking of my breath, this result is a complete affirmation that the Maffetone Method works for me. Having started it at the end of September and setting a 13.1 PR in early November at 1:37:45, crushing it by over 3:40 should be proof enough. The only point I was breathing hard, other than pushing a 6:15 pace for the last 0.1 mile, was during the hill portion where I really went hard. even then I still felt strong and was never laboring.

Tomorrow will be a well rest day which I plan on sleeping in since I wisely took the day off from work. Then it's back at it on Tuesday in preparation for the Lost Dutchman Marathon in less than a month for the next checkpoint on the Road to BQ.

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