Wednesday, January 21, 2009

Race Report: PF Chang’s Rock n’ Roll ½ Marathon

Pre-Race: As we all know, I’ve been solely focused on the this race since the November timeframe. That kind of focus can be very good, and it can also be very bad. I believe though, that I had the right amount of focus for this race, I arrived at race weekend prepared and healthy. I couldn’t have asked more of myself than that. I felt ready.

The day before the race: Packet pick-up was on Saturday. Lady Tiara and I decided to take a test ride on the light rail to the Convention Center. I’m starting to realize that I’ve done a lot of “tests” for this race. Oh well, it keeps me sane.

We arrived at the Convention Center at about 9:30am, and I have to say that it was incredibly well organized and well signed. It was also heaven/hell for an impulse shopper like me. However, Coach Jenny had alluded to he need to shop during taper in her book, so I had pre-allocated $100 for shopping purposes. Having that freedom definitely made the expo fun!

We picked up our numbers (42738 – bad luck start, good lucky early on, so so towards the end, and a lucky finish) then got our race t-shirts (loved the design) and headed into the madness. I wound up purchasing a white dri-wick t-shirt for the race (which I elected not to wear at the last second, but I’m going to get tons of use out of it) a great pair of pink racing sunglasses, and finally got my subscription to Women’s Running locked on. With the subscription came a pink “Run Girl” t-shirt that I had wanted all along.

Once we walked around the expo, we went to the panel/speaker section, where we got to hear John “The Penguin” Bingham talk to us about race day and what it really should mean. Everything that he says resonates with me as common sense that I somehow can’t see until he states the fact. The two statements he made that stayed with me on race day were “The race is the celebration of your hard work and training” and “Get your money’s worth – stay on the course for as long as possible and enjoy every moment.”

After I returned from the expo I became temporarily insane as I started prepping for the race. I clearly switched into a nesting-like primal preparation mode. I got dressed as I was planning to the next morning to ensure that I hadn’t missed anything. Then I laid the clothes out carefully in the exact order that I planned to put them on in the morning (compression sock must go on before tights, that must go on before the skirt). I applied my bib to Team Tiara singlet, put my chip on my shoe. I methodically reviewed every item in my gear bag. I re-read every instruction, map, and spectator guide. I reiterated the spectator plan to J and Lilac until they were begging for me to stop. I cleaned out my car.

Thankfully, J took it all in stride and allowed me to be crazy without comment. He made pasta for lunch, knowing that my sensitive stomach would have trouble if I ate it for dinner. He made sure I went to bed at a reasonable hour. On race day morning he was up before I was to make sure that he wasn’t a cause of anxiety for me as I prepared, and panicked. He was incredibly supportive, and reminded me that even with all the hooplah, all I was doing was going for a run, and there was nothing to be afraid of. That stuck with me throughout the race.

Race Day: I woke up 30 minutes before my alarm went off and took it as a sign. I’d slept remarkably well – considering that I had trouble sleeping the night before my 10 mile training run. I was feeling unusually calm. I had breakfast, prepared second breakfast, and grabbed something for Lilac. I got dressed slowly. I finished my book. Lilac arrived, and J drove us to the lightrail, where we were meeting with Lady Tiara. It was fairly brisk – about 38 degrees. Everyone was bundled up. Lady Tiara met us at the station and then we were off!

I was still unusually calm. Everything was running smoothly, we were on time, and I had nothing to freak out about. Lady Tiara on the other hand broke everything she touched. Literally. She broke the zipper on her fanny pack, then broke her hand held water bottle, then the clasp to the fanny pack – and this all happened in a span of about 5 minutes. Meanwhile, the train was full of participants, and the mood was one of quiet anticipation. It was the calm before the storm. The train ride was only 20 minutes, and it was apparent that I was the only one who had researched WHEN we should get off the train, because I was the only one to get up for the stop. However, when everyone else saw my gear bag, they all got up and got out of the train as well.

We had to walk from the train to the starting area – and let the record show that it was just over a mile, so you’ve already got to start adding mileage to my legs. We found the portapotties, and good thig too, because the lines were pretty extensive. They were also already in very rough shape, even though we were very early to the race. There were clearly lots of nervous people, if you get my drift. Poor Lady Tiara was heaving. It took her about 10 minutes to recover from the experience. We dropped my gear bag off at Lucky UPS truck #8 and had a look around.

There was a band playing in the warm-up area singing “Sweet Home Arizona”. For some reason, that was the first tear-up moment for me. I have no idea why. I just went with it. We danced around as we walked around, and found coffee, ate a little something, and then walked over to the corral area.

We got into our corral (#22 – repetitive digits are lucky) with about 5 minutes before the start of the race. Lilac stood with us along the side of the corral until the start – after which she had to walk back to the train station, and took it to the mile 10/11 area, where she would meet us when we arrived about 2 ½ hours later. The race gun went off and….we waited. We waited, and waited and waited. Shockingly I was still incredibly calm. I was getting excited, but it was a mellow excited. We slowly walked (another mile) to the starting line, and after 42 additional minutes of waiting – we were off!

My goal for this race was to run strongly for the first six miles, get through the next four, and survive the last 3. We had been training a 6/4 run/walk segment, and I felt fairly comfortable with the length of running. Rather than looking at our watches the whole race (which for me spells disaster in the form of the Goon getting to me) we decided to start with a run two streetlights, walk one streetlight pattern. That went well, and we were both feeling good. I have to say that having people around us that were close to our level was very cool. For the entire race, I felt included and as capable as the people around me. There were also lost of people around and behind us throughout the entire race – something I rarely experience. I didn’t even worry about being last.

Mile 1 went by and we were excited. Mile 2 came and we were finally warmed up. I took off my jacket. Mile 3, and then 5K, where we saw the first set of portapotties. Since they weren’t as frequent as we had expected (and since it had been over 2 hours since the last stop) we decided to pause the race and wait in line. It was also a good time for me to try to get the first half of a granola bar down while we were waiting. Nine minutes later, we were on our way, and glad that we had stopped.

We got back on the race course with the intent of just doing 3 more 5k’s. Piece of cake, when you think about it like that, right?. Mile 4 came quickly, and before we knew it we were at mile 5 and had made up most of our potty stop. Mile 6 seemed a little further away, but part of that was due to the fact that the lights were spreading out as we left the downtown area. At some point between miles 6 and 7, there was an aid station with a woman who was handing out salt packets, and I “did the salt”- which was a very good move since we had been out in steadily increasing temperatures for over 1 ½ hours at this point. I also ate the rest of that first granola bar. I tried to take my water in slowly, to prevent stomach sloshing, but for some reason I was experiencing some high stomach cramps. They actually felt like muscle cramps. It was weird, but more mildly annoying than incapacitating. We walked more of mile 7, most of 8 – because my right foot had now gone Morton’s Nueroma Numb, and all of 9. The record should also show that miles 7- 10 were basically straight up hill and into the Papagos. The incline really started to tax our hips, so I was really glad that I had a short visit with Lilac to look forward to after the 10 mile mark. It kept me moving forward and feeling positive. I also didn’t want to hang back and worry her with the time, so we kept up a good walking pace. We hit mile 10, and from that point on, I was in unchartered waters – and I didn’t feel too scared. I slipped on a cup and fell at the aid station after mile 10, but nothing was hurt except my pride.

When I saw Lilac, she had a strangely familiar man by her side. J had decided to cut his own workout short, and met up with her to surprise me at mile 10 – rather than just at the finish line like I had planned. I was so excited to see them both that I was grinning wildly and waving like a fool. It was awesome. We spent maybe 5 minutes talking to them while I tried to down another ½ of a granola bar, and tried to get some feeling in my foot. For the record, this was a very bad idea. With some blood in my toes, the right foot burned like it was on fire through mile 11 and up to the mile 12 marker. It felt like someone was taking a blowtorch to my toe – similar to pins and needles, but really more like hammers and stakes being driven through. Still, our spirits were high, and we knew we had just a little bit longer to go. We walked all of mile 11, and decided in advance to run the second half (downhill portion) of the Mill Ave bridge, and then run from the beginning of the spectator area to the finish.

My second bout of tears came right at the mile 12 marker, as we were getting onto the Mill Ave bridge. I knew that I was going to finish, and it felt great. We survived the bridge, and walked to Sun Devil Stadium. Once we saw the photographers, we started to run, we hit mile 13, and kept on going to the finish line. I didn’t see J and Lilac, but I felt great!

Success! A dream day come true!

Lady Tiara and I had done it!! We went and collected our medals (which are totally cool, and very heavy) and went to get our post-race pictures. As I looked for J and Lilac, I picked up my gear bag, got out of my sneakers, and went to the family reunion area. Lady Tiara’s brother let me use his phone, and J and Lilac were still at the finish line waiting for me to come through – so we definitely missed each other. They came to the reunion area, where I was sprawled out and stretching on the grass, and we made the long and painful walk back to the train station. It really wasn’t that long, but it sure felt like it was. I hobbled along as best I could, and they waited patiently for me. We packed into the train like sardines, and made our way home.

Once home, I walked to the shower John Wayne style, freshened up, and went for my well-earned hot rock massage. The massage worked out most of the kinks, and most importantly removed a lot of the soreness, since I had to fly cross-country the next morning.

All in all, it was a fabulous race, and I’m so glad that I did it. 26. 2 sounds even more ridiculous, now that I’ve done half of it, but somehow I see long distance running in my future. J

Results: 2268 out of 2458 F 25 – 29 (there were 190 women in my AGE GROUP after me – WOO HOO!) 12240 out of 14046 Female (1,806 women AFTER me), and 19,797 out of 21,953 overall. I’m thrilled.

Chip Time: 3:31:34 – I couldn’t be happier, since that was everything that I had to give.
Splits: 43:26 5K, 1:35:15 10K, and 2:36:18 10.2 Mile


  1. Mind if I copy this?? hahaha!!! You forgot one FUN detail!! When we ran though the cheerleaders bridge!!! Cheers to a great race day, and many more!!!

  2. We look hot after running 13.1 miles!!!

    Oh and I am still bummed I am not listed in the results...I must have put that silly orange thing one wrong (jjusst one more thing to add to the list of things broken that day!!!)