Phoenix Rock n Roll - January 16, 2011

Phoenix is my third half marathon. It’s kind of hard for me to believe that since October 2010, I have participated in AND FINISHED three half marathons. That’s 39.3 miles under my belt. 12 hours and 3 minutes of walking. Five days of not being able to walk. Blisters, toes rubbed raw and one pair of shoes. Since October. And that’s not including the three triathlons I’ve done since June 2010. What in the world has gotten in to me?

I left Saturday for the Phoenix Rock n Roll ½ marathon. I packed about 30 minutes before leaving to take my dog to my Dad’s for the weekend – not breaking any of my traditions in that aspect. I’m a crappy pre-packer. I don’t do it the night before or even a few hours before. Nope. No preparation for me. Almost time to go = time to pack. I must say, packing for a run is a lot simpler than packing for a triathlon. With a triathlon, I have to think in levels. First is the swim, then the transition, then the bike, then the transition and finally the run. I usually need 2 bags for a triathlon – one for the hotel and everyday clothing and the other for the event. Oh, and I can’t forget the bike or the mayhem bar! So much to get ready but with a run, I can throw it all in with my suitcase. That’s actually kind of nice.

My local airport is a rinky dink joint with dreams of playing in the big leagues. It takes about 5 minutes to check in at the counter and 5 minutes to go through security. No fancy body scanners, no awkward pat downs. Just a quick walk through the metal detector (don’t forget to take off your bracelet which happens to have a flexible piece of metal running through it resembling, quite freakishly, a knife on the x-ray machine) a grab of your belongings and you’re done. I used to get to the airport at home at least an hour and a half before departure. Now I get there about 45 minutes before departure and try to entertain myself for the remaining 40 minutes before boarding takes place. Like I said, it’s a small airport with none of the diversions of its bigger sisters so self-entertainment is a must. I find a comfy spot to call home and break out my book. I am amazed at the amount of people who cannot be disconnected from their phones or computers and thinking about everyone on their phones and computers leads me to get on my phone – check facebook, email and play a game or two of “Jewels”. My book goes unread on my lap. However, 2 hours on the plane with no access to my phone gives me plenty of time to read. I’m reading Jen Lancaster’s “Such a Pretty Fat” and cannot contain my giggles, snorts and “oh me”s. The woman can write. 2 hours flies by (pun intended) and I find myself amongst the desert people of Arizona. And it’s WARM. I’m very glad I didn’t wear my heavy coat – even though I froze my toes off this morning, I would have expired after 5 minutes in the heat with my coat on.

Collecting my belongings as instructed, I exit the airplane and make my way to passenger pick up. My friend Digs collects me at the curb and we’re off to the Expo to pick up our packets. The expo is a typical Rock n Roll expo – packet pick up, shirt pick up and then corralled to the merchandise area, winding your way through vendor after vendor before hitting the exit. I’m usually excited about the expo because I’m usually starving and I need to eat. But this expo didn’t quite have the goodies I needed to ease the hunger. Digs finally got properly fitted for a pair of shoes, tho, so it was a success. As we’re walking to her car, I tell her that she needs to take me to Dunkin’ Donuts or I was going to start chowing down on her arm. Have I mentioned that I lose all discretionary ability when I’m hungry?

After gorging on two donuts and coffee with cream (or rather, cream with coffee), we blew some time at Digs’ house before heading off to the Half Fanatic dinner. It was great meeting some of the people I will soon be considered a part of when I finish my next half marathon in February. These are some of the most welcoming people I’ve ever met and they all made Digs and I feel a part of the insanity – even though we weren’t an official part of the group yet. Not yet – one more race for me and then I can join the madness that is the Half Fanatics. It was nice chatting and eating and talking about running with these folk.

At the end of the dinner, I switched “cabs” and moved my gear from Digs’ car to Jackie’s car. Jackie and I were sharing a room for the race and Digs was going back to her house to get ready to head to Vegas immediately after she got done running. Jackie warns me that she gets up early and, by association, so will I. She’s got a group picture for the Half Fanatics and Marathon Maniacs at 0645 so that meant that I would be heading out with her. I was fine with that – not like sleep is necessary or anything! We both get our gear ready for the next day and then hit they hay. I spent most of the night worried I was keeping Jackie up with my snoring or worrying that I wouldn’t finish the race. And I found myself missing my friend Tami who has come with me on my last two adventures but couldn’t make it on this one. 0430 came awfully quickly.

Jackie and I made the 0530 shuttle to the start from our hotel. This means we got to the start at 0600. The Fanatic/Maniac picture wasn’t scheduled until 0645 and our race wasn’t set to go off until 0830. Hearing the weather report while we were getting ready, we both decided to leave our race sleeves at the hotel because lugging them around during 80 degree weather did not sound appealing. However, 0600 in a desert is a quite chilly. We were both regretting our decision to leave the sleeves by about 0605. I found a discarded emergency blanket on the ground after Jackie’s group picture and picked it up. Someone left it, I found it and by gum, I needed something to warm up my arms. Emergency Blankets are a misnomer. Yes, they may be for an emergency but in no sense of the word are they “blankets”. While taking the chill off my arms, it did nothing to keep me from shivering. It was 41 degrees and I was shivering. What a crappy Coloradoan I am. I should’ve been running around exclaiming about the heat, not whining like a little girl who got her pigtails pulled.

In any case, time passes; we spend about 30 minutes in the porta-potty line and then head to our respective corrals. Jackie was in corral 4, I was in corral 26 and Digs was in corral 23. I decided that I would start in Digs’ corral so I go wait in it for her to show up. I get a text from Digs that she’s in 25 and that I should come join her so I do. And together we wait for the start of our race.

The half marathon begins exactly at 0830 and it’s a wave start – meaning, corral 1 goes first and then 15 seconds later, corral 2 is released, etc, etc. 0915, my corral finally hits the start line and off Digs goes. She’s going to finish way before me (and she did – by one hour and one minute) so I wish her well, turn on my tunes and head out.

When I’ve done “half Marys” in the past, it’s never been long before the crowd thins out and I’m on my own with just a few scattering people walking ahead of and behind me. But this time the crowd didn’t thin out. I had to keep weaving in and out of people to keep walking and it was confusing me – why were there still so many people walking with me? I’m the slow one. I’m even wearing my shirt that says; “If it weren’t for me, you’d have no one to pass” so why was I the one weaving between people? What exactly was up with that? A few weeks ago, I had downloaded a program to my phone to keep track of pace, distance, calories and steps taken. When I come up to mile marker 2, I take a look at my phone to see what my pace was. My goal was to maintain a 17:20 pace so I could finish in less than 4 hours. I had to look at my phone several times for the reality to sink in. The reason why the crowd wasn’t thinning out was because my pace was 15:14! I was so flabbergasted that while I was looking at my phone, I must’ve picked up my pace because it then reported that I was averaging 15:04 per mile. Granted, I was only at mile 2 but that’s the fastest I’ve EVER started out. And I wanted to keep it going like that. So I put away my phone and promised myself to only look at it every 4 miles or so – just to keep my momentum up and to keep me from getting discouraged. I turned up my music, held my head square, put one foot in front of the other, and kept going. I was going to kick this pig and call it good. Heck, I might even catch up to Digs! (yea, right)

I found myself thinking of the silliest things on this race:

“Why, in a race designated in miles, do they have kilometer markings?”
“Who in their right mind thinks this warm weather is appropriate for January? Yes, I’m very happy it’s not 21 degrees like it is at home, but seriously. January is SUPPOSED to be cold.”
“I think it’s time for a new play list. If I have to listen to Christina Aguilera one more time…”
“That woman is running a marathon a day after her mother passed away. I don’t think I could do that.”
“Why the hell am I getting tears in my eyes when I read all the “In Honor Of” and “In Memory Of” statements? I am turning in to such a freakin’ wuss.”
“Man! I look goooood! Good form, good pace. Sheesh, I am just totally ROCKIN!”
“Ugh, just got a glimpse of myself. I am NOT lookin’ good. Heck, I’m surprised I’m not getting pointed at and laughed at.”
“Why do I have to be short? Why can’t I be just a half an inch taller? Then these pants wouldn’t be dragging on the ground.”
“Your pants are dragging on the ground, you idgit, cause they’re falling down.”
“Thank god I put on compression shorts this morning so I wasn’t mooning anyone as my pants were falling to my knees. That would be embarrassing.”

(It’s important to note here that the mere fact that my pants were falling down was NOT the embarrassing thing…)

This dialogue carried on and carried me through the entire race. I would occasionally pull out my ear plugs and offer support to someone limping or to tell the mom who was carrying her son’s picture on her back that I was ever so grateful for his sacrifice (he was a Soldier in Iraq) but usually I was talking nonsensical and non-stop to myself. I stayed consistently in the middle of the pack I started out with. There were two girls in pink tu-tus that I tried to keep up with for awhile. Until I passed them. And then there was the old lady with shiny silvery hair that I tried to keep in my sights. Until I passed her. And then there was the “Team in Training” people I kept playing leapfrog with – they all kept me going on. One foot in front of the other, one breath after the other. And I didn’t start whining to myself until mile 11. This, I call, progress.

I finished my walk in 3 hours and 46 minutes. I shaved 7 minutes off my last time and, according to the time keeper of this race, I had an average pace of about 17 minutes per mile. However, I started my GPS program the minute my corral started moving forward. It said (I have yet to name it) that I walked 14.15 miles at a pace of 16:05 in 3 hours, 47 minutes and 41 seconds. While I have to take the official time, the back of my head won’t stop saying, “You walked a 16:05 minute pace. You made that route your BITCH!”

Yea, the back of my head rocks. It has to. Cause my body just laughs when I program that speed in to the treadmill.

Next up – Fruita Sweetheart 10K February 12 and The Lost Dutchman Half Marathon February 20.

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