There was a lot of energy and build-up to last weekend, which usually isn't a good thing for me as I like to stay low key, but in the end, this race went well. I started getting back in shape last August with a couple of friends in the area who had similar goals, and I really owe it to them for my fitness. Some athletes can get by through months of solo workouts, but when I take that route I am sure to be slower and far off my potential. For the first time since college I started doing weekly speed workouts on the track. It has been a long journey the last couple years since I decided to return to chasing running goals and breaking my PRs, because I wasn't able to pick up right where I left off like Justin. I learned quickly that I had to let go of college PRs in shorter distances and start focusing on the longer stuff, because short-distance speed is a thing of the past. Onward and upward to better (and longer) things!
The best part about the Phoenix Rock n' Roll Half is that I didn't have to drive to the start line and deal with the 56,000 other participants trying to arrive before the gun went off. My apartment was 2 miles to the start line and 1 mile from the finish. It doesn't get more convenient and stress-free than that! It was nice to be in my own world as I warmed up toward the start line.
I usually get to the start with at least 20 minutes to spare so I can stretch and do dynamic drills, but on this day, I cut it close. I planned it that way because I found I always feel flat when I'm not running up until the start, so I reversed my warm-up and drills. I was literally pulling layers off seconds before the gun went off, and then jumped the fence to the first corral, and suddenly everyone was sprinting down the first stretch.
In my rush to the start I completely spaced out with my nutrition. I had left my GU in my warm up jacket that I tossed to Justin, which wouldn't have been a big deal but Phoenix Rock n' Roll does not hand out GU or any kind of gels or blocks at their aid stations for that matter. Cheapskates!
The picture above is a look of sudden distress. After the start, Justin biked to mile 1 to cheer for me, and as I approached him I felt in my pocket that I had forgotten my GU. Crap, I'm gonna bonk at the end of this race!
It's illegal to receive outside support or hand-offs, and even though I was not in the elite pack I upheld to the rules. After panicking for less than 2 seconds I found a rhythm and kept my goal pace of 6:38/mile (sub 1:27 total time). I realized this race was now going to test my limits with nutrition.
The miles clicked by and I felt surprisingly smooth. The voices in my head wavered back and forth and I tried to keep the positive talk rolling, tricking my brain by telling myself 6:38 pace is easy. It was at mile 5 that I realized it was going to be a good day. I was trying to hold back the reigns and be smart about my splits but I got excited when we passed a band that was playing Van Halen on the sidewalk. My watch beeped at mile 7 and it read 6:25. Stay mellow, you're only half way there.
There was a climb at mile 8 that I was dreading in the back of my mind. Will the hill kill me? Will I break down and walk? I was nervous, but the positive voices continued to overpower any negativity. We hit the hill and I fully embraced the climb, clocking my fastest mile thus far in the race at 6:19. There was a band stationed at the top of the hill and it got me stoked. They were a group of Mongolian drummers in traditional robes, waving their sticks high in the air before beating down. I nearly psyched myself out seeing my watch and decided from there on that I would not be looking at my pace - I was going straight for the finish.
My breathing was laboring and I could feel the lactic acid begin to build in my legs, but the pain plateaued and I welcomed the suffering. Justin was popping up along the course every mile or so (best husband ever!) which was fueling my spirits. It's always hard to describe this point in the race because there is a lot of discomfort, but it is offset by a great amount of adrenaline and enjoyment of the sport, because months of hard work are being implemented. I think I'm just a sucker for suffering when it comes to running.
Once I hit the bridge I was less than half a mile away from the line. I knew I had a sub 1:27 in the bag, but had not looked at my watch to see exactly how fast I was going. When I turned the corner at the homestretch there was a big, red "1:25:00" on the reader board. I nearly tripped out of excitement and sprinted in for a final time of 1:25:41. I was elated!
This race was a good tune-up for the Phoenix marathon at the end of February. After a week of recovery I'll be back into the grind of training!
I am an outdoor and travel junkie who is currently completing my doctorate in occupational therapy overseas in rural Fiji. On Sweet World Travels you will find stories of my life with my husband, the communities we serve, and the many adventures we take.