A couple of weeks ago at this time I was stressing about getting to the start line in time. With a super storm and rainy forecast, I tried set my expectations at the appropriate level of optimism for Phoenix Half Marathon.
— Olivia Sparks (@snailsis) February 27, 2014
The Phoenix Half Marathon course is mostly “downhill,” but it’s not completely smooth sailing! I’ve been reading other bloggers and their recent half marathon and racing experiences (Hungry Runner Girl, rUNladylike, LIttle Girl Big World, SwimBikeMom; Olive to Run); some had PRs and others had good race experiences. I was inspired and motivated by their races.
Race Expo: The expo was held outdoors next to Sports Authority and 24 hr fitness. Usually, the weather would be amazing for Arizona, so for the most part it was, although it was a little bit windy when I came through on Thursday afternoon. There were a good number of vendors participating. I was interested in RedFox wireless headphones, but with my upcoming triathlon, I’m only interested in a submersible set headphones (Do you have any recommendations?). Dan and the gang from Cadence were there. It was great to see some friendly faces. It was awesome to get to the expo early, there were no lines and I was able to stock up on some Nuun and grab a couple of $2 ponchos while I was here. Sports Authority even offered an additional 15% off for race participants! We had to snake through the store to get to our shirts. The race shirts run true to size, but a tad clingy. The design of the shirts look great and I love the matching arm sleeves. I’ve been looking for a pair of arm sleeves, so these will be very handy.
After I arrived home (I do not miss that commute!), I was definitely full of nervous energy. My husband noticed the change. He asked me, why are you so amped for this race and but you weren’t for the Women’s Half? I tried to attribute it to new race jitters. I haven’t experienced this race before, so I had no idea what to expect. I have also been training fairly consistently and I could tell that the speed work was definitely increasing my level of fitness. I wanted to celebrate my training but I was secretly hoping for fun and an awesome race and outwardly trying to play it super cool. I just didn’t want to admit that I was chasing a number.
I kept checking the weather as I was trying to decide my Race day outfits: tank and sleeves vs shirt and sleeves?
I didn’t get a great night’s rest. I had some nervous energy and Daisy was still feeling a little needy, so I was back and forth to her room and at 2:15am she was ready to start her day! We finally got her back down, but when the alarm went off at 3:00am, I thought the torrential downpour had started. The wind was definitely howling and picking up. I checked the weather and then I started with the tank, because it was warmer at home.
I caught a ride to the start with some of the running buddies. Thankfully, our driver scoped out a super secret back way to the Mesa Riverview so we wouldn’t get stuck in the long lines off the freeway! We got to the buses in plenty of time.
At the start line, there were plenty of Porta Potties and fun music. Most everyone was huddled around the space heaters. There were nearby office buildings and carports, so we relaxed and stretched in that area. Danced our way to the porta potties and then came back to our hideout. It wasn’t too crowded and it was sheltered in case the downpour started. It started to drizzle as we came back from the potties. I changed my mind about the tank and switched to my Cadence t-shirt.
I’m so glad that I brought it with me! We started to make our way to the bag drop and during the national anthem, fireworks went off! Honestly, I wasn’t expecting the fireworks, so it was a little disconcerting.
Rain started falling about 10 min before start, pretty much as we made our way to the starting line. I was surprised that there were no corrals. The race start was very laid back compared to the other races I’ve been doing. There were more fireworks at the start, but I wasn’t quick enough to get my camera out.
We were excited once it was finally time to start! The rain fell for the first few miles. I actually sang out “Running in the rain! We’re running in the rain! Such a glorious feeling to be running in the rain!” My buddy and I ran together for the first 2 miles, and then she took off at her normal pace. The course was pretty crowded and it took a little while for the field to clear out. Some runners started shedding their layers right away. It was interesting to see what people left on the course. By mile 3 there were a lot of ponchos, sweaters and gloves on the side of the road. I carry my tool belt with me, so I have my own hydration (water and nuun) and energy chews (Honey Stinger Cherry Blossom or Orange). I did notice that the first aid station was so overwhelmed by demand, they were not prepared! There were many runners who were frustrated and shaking their heads. Thankfully, for us, it was still early in the race. I hope that they were able to get their system down so that they were prepared for the marathoners coming through.
By mile 4 the rain had stopped for awhile, so I shed my poncho. I kept it on my belt, because I was afraid that it would be storming at the finish. I just had to deal with the weight on my belt. Mentally, I was trying to take it mile by mile. I saw a few friends along the course, so it the race itself isn’t so big that you’ll completely get lost in the crowd.
Just after the 10k point, I could feel my pace slowing down and I was caught by some run-walkers. I would get to a point where I would pass them while they were walking, but then they would start their run segment and get in front of me. Once I would catch up to them, they would start walking again. I decided at mile 8 that I was going to pull out my speed work for a good half mile to get in front of them. Once the half mile passed, I pushed it a little further and made it to mile 9 before relaxing a little bit.
I was so excited that I was speeding up, I did the math in my head wrong! I kept telling myself and people around me that we only had a 5k left! I was excited and chugging along. (No wonder they were giving me funny looks, they knew I was delusional!) I looked at my watch and did the math for the predicted time and saw that I was going to blow my PR out of the water by 15 min… and then I hit mile 10 and realized that at THAT POINT I only had a 5k left. I knew that I would be close to my PR (2008) time. I tried my best to turn on my jets!
I was able to speed up and maintain my speed because I was also motivated by the fact that the first marathoner was coming through. The police escorts were trying to clear the field, and by that time the half marathoners had caught up to the 10k participants, so the roads were really congested. I started being really obnoxious and yelling move to the right, so that the escorts could come by. There were a couple of girls who had their headphones on loud that they didn’t hear the cops on the speakers nor my yelling. I was waving and screaming at one girl and she still didn’t notice. I had to physically pull on her arm to get her to move over. She was so surprised and had no idea.
It was amazing to see the first marathoner run by with the escorts. He looked amazingly calm and collected and I couldn’t get past the fact that he had run twice the distance I had covered that morning. While I was inspired, I still have no desire to run a full marathon!
Around mile 10-11, I caught up to my running buddy. She was walking and ran with me for just a little bit, but then she decided that she wasn’t going to meet her goal time, so she was going to take it easy. At this point, the rain picked up again for a minute or two and then stopped.
My favorite aid station was Radiator Springs! They had awesome hats, a cool theme, and awesome music! They were playing Outkast’s “Hey Ya!” which was just what I needed to hear. The beat helped me pick up my pace, set my cadence, and keep my legs moving along all the way to the end.
Once I hit mile 12, I dug deep and tried to use my speed work to finish the race. I was chugging along at a great pace, but as we hit the curve to go into the shopping center, my legs slowed just a bit and it took considerable work to get them at the right cadence. Thankfully, I was able to get going again and finish strong. It was fun that most runners and spectators were super encouraging. We kept trying to motivate each other through the end. My family made it in time to see me finish! I didn’t see them, but they saw me finish.
Thankfully, the finisher’s area was pretty well organized, so I was able to get out and get my bag without too much delay. I was happy to see my cheerleaders!
We went back to the timing table and I was surprised to see that they gave printouts with the splits and the finishing chip time! That was a really fun surprise!
Now that I’m able to check my numbers, I did get a Personal Record! I beat my 2008 Half Marathon time by 30 sec! I was amazed that I shaved 8 min off time from the Women’s Half (November 2013). Whoo-hoo!!