Race Report

2009 P.F. Chang’s Rock ‘n’ Roll Arizona – Part 2 – 1/2 Marathon

(Go To Part 1)

Race Day:
I got up around 6am and drank a couple cups of water while getting ready. We left the house around 6:45. Troy dropped me and his mom off near the start line area so we didn’t have to deal with parking or shuttles. It was cold at 7:30 in the morning, but I planned ahead and wore throwaway clothing. I bought a sweatshirt for $4.99+tax at Old Navy and a pair of pants from Goodwill for $3.99.

At the start line area, they were giving away water, coffee, Cytomax, and bananas. I don’t remember if they had any other food. I grabbed a bottle of water and ate the Clif Bar I brought with me. We walked a bit then got in line for the port-a-potties. The one I used had no hand sanitizer so I went and grabbed another bottle of water and dumped half of it over my hands. Then we started to make our way over to the corrals. I took a short jog to warm up. When we found the corrals, Tami left for hers while I found a place to stretch. At about 8:25 I took off my outer layer and just left the clothes lying on a short wall. Even though I never planned to keep them, it felt kind of strange to just leave the clothes there. By now I felt like making another trip to the port-a-potty but didn’t want to miss the start so I decided to just go to my corral. While I was stretching the number on my race bib fell off so I ended up just going to the corral I was originally assigned to.

The wave start went sooo slowly.  I saw a lady with a WDW 1/2 Marathon shirt for 2009, so I tried to strike up a conversation. She did the 1/2 last weekend and this weekend. Her husband actually did the Goofy at WDW and was doing the full marathon this weekend. I would have liked to chat more, but she was with friends and didn’t seem that interested. As we inched forward, we passed another set of port-a-potties and this time I hopped out of the corral and got in line. The line moved fast as everyone was in a hurry, but unfortunately there was no toilet paper left. I had actually brought some toilet paper with me that morning, but used it all the first time.

Lesson Learned #1: Make sure to keep a stash of toilet paper on hand as long as possible.

Of course there was no hand sanitizer either. I found my corral again. By sheer dumb luck as I was shuffling along I noticed a packet of wet wipes on the ground and picked it up. It was surprisingly clean and unopened so I was able to clean off my hands before starting the race.

Lesson Learned #2: Bring a few packets of wet wipes or travel-sized hand sanitizer.

It was about 9:00 by the time I officially crossed the start line. I took off at a steady pace, I’m guessing around 10:30. Right away I felt some type of ache in my left thigh. I hoped it would go away but it never did. For the first half of the race I feared that I’d set my left foot down wrong and my leg would just stop supporting my weight. Luckily I didn’t fall during this race, despite all the cracks and uneven pavement.

I skipped the first water station around mile 1 because it was way too early for me. Other than the ache, I was feeling good and the first few miles were uneventful. I guess I’ll throw in here that I really appreciated all the crowd support along the route. Even though they weren’t cheering specifically for me, it was great just to see people out there cheering. There were a lot fewer cheer squads and bands than I expected. The cheerleaders were very enthusiastic, although there was one group who was chanting something like F-O-P-E. and I just couldn’t figure out what they were trying to spell. I’m indifferent on the bands. They were a nice distraction but the music didn’t do anything to motivate me. With all the crowd support, I don’t think I would have missed the bands if they weren’t there.

The next water station was around mile 3.5. The way they had all the water stations set up was with tables lining both sides of the course. The first tables had Cytomax and the last tables had water. I didn’t realize this and thought they only had Cytomax so I grabbed a cup. Which was fine, because I just waited a little longer before having my first Luna moon. I still haven’t figured out how to drink out of a cup and jog without spilling, so I took a short walk break through each of the water stations. I think other than the first one, I hit every water station along the route.

Throughout the race, I was running with a decent-sized pack of people. I guess that’s what its like when there’s over 20,000 participants. The organizers did a good job with the water stations. It was a little tricky trying to maneuver, but could have been much worse. I think I did a good job running in a fairly straight line. It was impossible to avoid weaving around people completely, but the distance recorded on my Garmin was pretty darn close to 13.1.

Between about miles 3.5 and 5.5, I felt this odd tingly sensation in my left foot, like it’s fallen asleep. It’s happened before while I’m running so I wasn’t too worried, but I’m glad it didn’t last the whole rest of the race. One of these days I hope to figure out what causes it.

Somewhere around mile 5 or 6, I struck up conversations with a couple people. The first was an elderly man who was wearing a shirt stating that he had completed a marathon in all 50 states. He said that he did it between when he was 50 and 70. And he’s 79 now. I congratulated him on the achievement and said I hope to still be running when I reach that age. The second was a young women wearing a really cute skirt with two layers of ruffles at the bottom. I asked where she got it and she said it was by Nike. She thought it was a running skirt but was actually a tennis skirt. Unfortunately Nike skirts are expensive, while the shorts I wear are only $10 (on sale) at Old Navy. Otherwise, I’d look into getting one for the Princess races.

Lesson Learned #3: Clothing is a good conversation starter.

Lesson Learned #4: Tennis skirts are much cuter than running skirts. (Not fair!)

I saw quite a few people wearing fun attire for the race. I think before the race even started, I saw a couple guys wearing bumble bee costumes. Then during the race I saw someone in a cow costume. There was a kid around 12 or 14-years-old wearing a bright florescent green wig who got a lot of crowd reaction. A lot of people who came together were wearing matching shirts with their group name and/or information about the cause they were running for. Reading people’s shirts helped keep me occupied on the course. I guess that’s a plus for participating in such a large race. I also saw a couple girls wearing pink foam crowns over a white hat or visor. Now I’m starting to think again whether I want to do something like that for March.

For the race, I wore white shorts and the Road Runner tank top with the pocket in the back. The tank top is mainly gray with some white and pink details, so the white shorts were the only shorts I had that really coordinated well. I also wore the white shorts at the Expedition Everest Challenge and I almost never wear them regularly for exercise or training, so I’m thinking that maybe white shorts will be my race thing that I always do. At least for the big ones. The only problem is that with white shorts I worried a bit about spilling the Cytomax on me since it was pink. Anyway, inside the tank top pocket I carried my cell phone, two packets of Luna Moons, and chapstick. I only ate one packet of the Moons during the race and honestly don’t know if they helped or not.

Somewhere around mile 9 or 10 I passed a few kids out on the course with their hands out and gave them high fives. I have no idea who they were, but just felt like interacting with them since they were out on the course with their families supporting us runners. I also passed a guy wearing an Expedition Everest shirt and shouted out to him that I’d been at the race. I debated whether to mention that I won, but decided not to say anything because really it didn’t matter just then.

I think it was at this point (around mile 10) that I really started to get tired. I no longer noticed the ache in my left leg very much because the rest of me was hurting as well. My pace slowed, but I kept running except through the water stops. I’ve heard and read how the last part of the race is all mental, but never really comprehended what that meant until I was actually going through it. I forced myself to keep running slowly, although actually it wasn’t too difficult because by then it actually hurt more to walk then run.

There was a water stop somewhere after mile 11 when I stopped to get water, then pulled out my phone to call Troy. He was supposed to be waiting somewhere near the finish line between miles 12 and 13. Unfortunately I forgot that I had tucked some money into the same ziploc bag that I put my phone in. So when I grabbed my phone I  accidentally dropped the money. I debated just leaving it, but it was $20 so I backtracked a bit to grab it. I made some people mad because I was going backwards on the course, then stopped to bend down and grab it, getting in the way. I do feel bad about it, but it was $20 and I’m never going to see those people again so oh well.

Lesson Learned #5: It’s a good idea to stash money separate from anything else.

Anyway, I called Troy to tell him I was getting close, then focused on just continuing to run to the end. I was so tired at this point that I couldn’t think about anything else but finishing. We ran across a bridge from Phoenix to Tempe, which was a nice change from the previous scenery. I smiled and waved as I passed a photographer, but I guess he didn’t catch me waving because it wasn’t among the rest of my race photos. There were so many people lined up along the fences on the way to the finish line. I tried to look for Troy but it couldn’t find him. And somehow he missed me too! I was pretty disappointed by that.

Anyway, I crossed the finish line and was so happy to be done… sort of. There was still alot of walking ahead of me. I got my finisher medal then stood in line to have my photo taken. Somehow I missed where they were handing out the mylar blankets. Not that I really needed one because it was warm, but I would have kept it as a souvenir. I grabbed some water and a bottle of Cytomax. My left leg was really hurting so I wandered over to a medical tent. I kind of figured there wasn’t a lot they could do for me. I had just run 13.1 miles… of course I’d be hurting. But I did get the good advice to ingest some salt. The medical person put a packet of salt in my Cytomax. I didn’t taste it at all, but I do think it helped.

Before the race, I had considered trying to find Troy so we could both cheer for Tami. But the thought of fighting my way through the crowd to find him was just to much. So instead I went to the “B” marker in the family area where we had agreed to meet. I must have been there for at least half an hour and it was hot and sunny. I ended up with weird tan lines after the race.

Lesson Learned #6: Wear sunscreen.

I ate a little and tried to stretch as best I could. Eventually Troy and Tami showed up and I had to make one more long walk before getting in the car for my reward… bubble tea!

It was a great experience for my first half marathon. Although there were a few times, like water stops, when it was annoying to have such a large crowd of runners, for the most part I enjoyed being out there among all the people having a fun time and aiming for the same goal. I’m glad I chose a big race rather than a small one for my first. I’m very happy with my finish time of just under 2:24:00, especially given my inconsistent training. It was hard, but I’m so proud of myself. I think I can finally call myself a runner.

(View my race stats)


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