Decisions, decisions (and some free socks!)

It’s finally hitting home that I only have three weeks left before my move… and so much to do! I thought my experience moving from Houston to Phoenix would make things easier this time around, but Baltimore is a lot farther away and there are more decisions to be made than before. It’s like all my time is spent tossing around pros and cons in my head, and trying to reassure myself that I’m doing the right thing.

The biggest decisions were to sell my bike and car. While I like my bike, it just doesn’t really make sense to have a mountain bike in Baltimore, especially when I don’t even like mountain biking that much. I finally put my bike on Craig’s List last night.

It was harder to let go of my car because I’ve had it for almost eight years and A LOT of road trips. Even though there’s nothing remarkable about my car, it’s special to me. I had to force myself to think practically and accept the fact that it’s better to sell the car now than pay over $1,000 to ship it out to Baltimore where I’d be a little uncomfortable driving it around the city (and trying to parallel park) anyway due to the size. Also factoring into my decision was the fact that I had a buyer already lined up so it was a quick and easy transaction and I know my car is going to a good home.

On the bright side, it’s exciting to think about getting a new car. Since I’ve been wanting a Mini Cooper for a few years now, that was a fairly easy decision. But then I had to figure out the colors and features. The Mini USA website let’s you design and build your own Mini and I’ve been spending way too much time playing with it. Here’s what I think I’ve finally settled on… the blue looks a lot better in person than it does in the image.

With everything going on, I haven’t really been in the mood to work out. I’d feel a bit guilty about it, except that doing a half marathon every weekend kind of evens things out. But I did make the time to go to Road Runner Sports on Thursday for the monthly fun run. I have to admit that the main reason for going was in hopes of getting some free stuff. And it paid off because I was the first name called in the drawing. I actually won a free RRS top, but since I’m already stocked up on tops I switched with someone for socks instead. It was a win-win for both of us.

My third half marathon of the month/year was yesterday. It didn’t go as well as I would have liked, but I had fun. I think I want to add a fifth half to the schedule, but I’m still debating which to go with.

Lost Dutchman Half Marathon:

  • I did the Lost Dutchman 10k last year. It was neat, but nothing special really sticks out in my mind except the long walk from where I parked my car to the start/finish area.
  • The course is a scenic out-and-back. I thought I didn’t like out-and-back courses, but then Yuma wasn’t too bad so now I’m not sure. After London’s Run yesterday, I realized that “scenic mountain views” are nice for photos but otherwise don’t really make much of a difference.
  • The finisher’s medals are awesome!
  • RunningLaur and Rio will be there too.
  • Registration is $60 if I do it TODAY. Otherwise it goes up to $75.
  • Day of race packet pick up is available.

MasterBlock Half Marathon (associated with the IMS Arizona Marathon):

  • This race is located in a part of the Valley that I haven’t run in before. I’d kind of like to run someplace completely new. Part of the Lost Dutchman 1/2 course is the same as the 10k.
  • The course is a point-to-point. I think I like this better than an out-and-back. I don’t think the course is as “pretty” as Lost Dutchman, but there might be more to look at.
  • I’d have to park at the finish line and take a shuttle to the start. Good news is that the finish line is only a half hour drive, as opposed to an hour drive for Lost Dutchman.
  • No day of race packet pick up. I’d have to make a 45 minute drive to the Expo the day before the race.
  • Based on photos from last year, the medal is just a basic medallion.
  • Registration is $70.

Arrrgh. I can’t decide! Why do both races have to be on the same day?

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Race Report – P.F. Chang’s Rock ‘n’ Roll Arizona Half Marathon

Wow, has it really only been a week and a half since P.F. Chang’s Rock ‘n’ Roll Arizona? It feels like so much longer. The details are already starting to become hazy. Good thing I have plenty of photos to jog my memory…

Last year I got dropped off at the start which was really nice. This year I was on my own so I parked at the finish and took a shuttle over to the start. It was not much fun waiting in the cold for about half an hour until the bus finally arrived.

Then when we reached the start area it was time to get in another line to wait for a port-a-potty. Check out this guy’s hair!

I overheard a lot of people worrying about not making it over to the corrals before the race started. But I knew from past experience that it didn’t really matter unless you were in one of the first few corrals. The whole morning was basically a big case of “hurry up and wait”. I was assigned to corral 17 but moved back to corral 22 to wait with a friend who was also walking the race. It took about 40 minutes to get up to the start line.

(I found this really cute, comfy fleece jacket at Old Navy for $4 and even though I bought it as a throw-away jacket, I was sad to get rid of it.)

I planned to walk at least the beginning part of the race with my friend, but I ended up being much faster and lost her within the first mile. At first I sort of regretted not having my iPod with me, but I was able to keep myself occupied taking photos and people watching.

One thing I really like about RnR AZ is the enthusiasm of the spirit groups. Unfortunately this year they also reminded me that I’m getting older because all the girls look so young. I used to think that I could still pass for a high schooler under the right circumstances, but seeing these girls I realized that’s probably no longer possible.

It’s hard to see, but there was a steel drum band playing around the mile 3 marker. I remember last year this was where my left foot started to go numb. Luckily I didn’t have any similar problems this year. Despite the KT Tape, my shins hurt a bit during the first couple miles (I should have done more warm-up/stretching pre-race), but after that it went away and I was fine.

This is one of the most picturesque areas of the course. And one of the few parts that’s not a long, straight stretch of road. The majority of the course goes through downtown Phoenix with lovely views of warehouses, trailer parks, and drive-through liquor stores.

Another spirit group. I couldn’t quite figure out what their theme was supposed to be… There was the devil mascot, but then one of the girls looked to be dressed in a pirate outfit?

Yay, something different to look at and read! I think it’s awesome that P.F. Chang’s is such a major sponsor of the Rock ‘n’ Roll Series. It’s just too bad their food isn’t better so I could actually make use of the discount cards I keep getting in the mail every month or so.

For the first 7 miles of the race, all my splits were under a 13:00 pace! During the race I didn’t look at my Garmin very often so I was surprised by these numbers when I went back to look at my splits. It didn’t feel like I was walking that fast. As I always say, the race atmosphere brings out my competitive side. With no iPod to listen to, one of things I did to keep me distracted was find someone else walking in front of me and then focus on keeping up my pace until I passed him/her.

  • Mile 1 – 12:35
  • Mile 2 – 12:42
  • Mile 3 – 12:41
  • Mile 4 – 12:34
  • Mile 5 – 12:29
  • Mile 6 – 12:42
  • Mile 7 – 12:48

I enjoyed going past the Chinese Cultural Center because it was nice to be on a stretch of road that was familiar. With all the destination races that I do, that doesn’t happen very often.

The next couple photos are just things that made me smile. Love the penguin!!!

For the last six miles of the race, my splits were all under 14:00 pace. I was a little slower than the first half of the race, but still going at a decent speed. I fueled approximately every three miles with GU and all that caffeine probably contributed to helping me keep my energy up.

  • Mile 8 – 13:03
  • Mile 9 – 13:09
  • Mile 10 – 13:20
  • Mile 11 – 13:08

With only two miles to go, I looked down at my Garmin and realized that I would definitely be able to make my sub-3:00 goal. I decided to slow down just a bit and have some fun.

There weren’t too many spectators out on the bridge, but I found a friendly-looking older gentleman and asked if he’d take my photo. He seemed a little puzzled about my request (why was I stopping in the middle of a race?) but was happy enough to help out.

Then for this photo I actually handed my camera to a spectator, turned around and walked back a few meters, and retraced my steps to get an “action shot”. Some of the other people gave me strange looks, but who cares? I’d never see them again.

So with the photo stops my last two miles were the slowest of the day.

  • Mile 12 – 13:48
  • Mile 13 – 13:49

Finally I crossed the finish line with an official time of 2:51:32. While I was certainly happy with this new walking PR, it was almost too easy. Everything about the race went so smoothly that I never felt challenged. It was a good way to end my short stint as a speed walker, but I’m ready to go back to aiming for some new running PRs soon.

Overall the race was well-organized, as all Rock ‘n’ Roll events are, but there was nothing “special” about the race that stood out. I do like the point-to-point course rather than an out-and-back, but that doesn’t make up for the slow shuttle service and the boring scenery. Right now I think I’d rank RnR AZ last among all the halves I’ve done so far. Which is not to say that it’s a bad race, just not one that I’ll probably do again since I’m leaving Phoenix. I’m already starting to think about next January… first marathon at Walt Disney World maybe???

Yuma Territorial Half Marathon

I’m halfway to Jupiter status! The race went very well and the best part is I don’t even feel like I ran a half marathon two days ago.

I found a friend who was up for taking a road trip so I didn’t end up having to do any driving. We left Friday night and made it to Cocopah Resort, the host hotel, about 10 minutes before packet pick-up closed. (I could have picked up my packet in the morning too, but it was nice to get everything taken care of that night.) Notable items from the goody bag were a couple Hammer Nutrition products and a pedometer.

In terms of convenience, I think this is the best race I’ve done. The start/finish line was outside the Cocopah Casino, which was literally next door to the hotel. It was maybe a three minute walk from the hotel room. I picked up my timing chip, did a tiny bit of warm-up and stretching, and slipped into the casino for one last bathroom stop. The race started at 7:20am. A few minutes before, we all gathered in the corral and after a five-four-three-two-one countdown we took off.

As you can see, it was still dark when we started, but it didn’t take long for the sun to come up. The course was an out-and-back. I thought it was too bad we were running west for the first half because it would have been neat to watch the sunrise. I was wearing pretty much the same outfit as I did for Rock ‘n’ Roll AZ last week. Unfortunately I didn’t take into account that this race was starting almost two hours earlier than RnR AZ. I warmed up a little once I started running, but I really wished I had kept my gloves on instead of leaving them with my friend. My hands were cold through almost the entire race. At one point I stopped because I had a rock in my shoe and my fingers were so stiff that a volunteer ended up helping me retie my shoelace.

Other than the cold, everything about the race went really well. I went with run .9 mile/walk .1 mile intervals. Mentally it definitely helped knowing that I had a walk break coming up, versus trying to run the entire thing. The only time I broke from the .9/.1 pattern was near the very end where there was a fairly significant hill in the middle of mile 12. I also took a longer walk break during mile 13 because at that point I knew I’d finish under 2:30 and didn’t feel the need to push myself considering that I have two more halves in the next two weeks. I started running again when I could see the finish line in the distance.

My official time was 2:27:58, an 11:18 pace. Surprisingly I felt really good as I finished. My calves were a little tender, but overall my legs were in much better shape than after last weekend. Not that I was trying to go hard or fast, but I expected to feel worse just by virtue of having covered 13.1 miles on foot.

After grabbing a bagel and some fresh fruit, I made my friend take a few photos of me with my new medal.

We also checked out the awards which were pretty cool. Since it was a small, inaugural race there were no age group rankings, just the overall winners.

To round out the trip, here are some random photos from the drive home:

The pretty desert landscape… I’m going to miss seeing views like this when I get to Baltimore.

We stumbled upon Dateland, AZ entirely by accident when we stopped for gas. They had all sorts of products made from dates, and I couldn’t pass up the opportunity to try a “world famous” date shake. It was quite yummy!

We saw the Space Age Lodge & Restaurant in Gila Bend, AZ on the way down and decided to stop by for lunch on the way back. The food was okay, but the real highlight of the place is the theming, including large hand-painted murals on the walls of the restaurant and hotel lobby.

Fanatical or just plain crazy?

Guess what I’m doing tonight? I’m heading down to Yuma, AZ for the Yuma Territorial Half Marathon tomorrow morning!!!

I saw the event posted on a local race calendar and for some reason I really wanted to do it. I tried to talk myself out of it because Yuma is a three-hour drive. But on the other hand it’s an inaugural event, I get another medal, and I get to see more of Arizona before I leave. (Although I’m not sure what there is to see in Yuma… I should probably look into that before I leave.)

What finally pushed me over the edge though was deciding to do The Sedona Half Marathon with RunningLaur. I realized that with Rock ‘n’ Roll AZ, Sedona, and two races in between, I could jump up to Jupiter status in the Half Fanatics.

So here’s what my next three Saturdays look like:

I may even add one more event to the schedule on 2/14, but I’m not sure yet because it doesn’t do anything to advance me beyond Jupiter. By then I may be burnt out and tired of halves. At least I have plenty of time to decide because there are two races to choose from that day on opposite sides of the Valley.

The plan for tomorrow is to take it nice and easy. I’m going to do a combination of running and walking and the only goal is to finish. Right now weather.com is reporting 0% change of precipitation and I hope it stays that way!

Sub 3:00

I’m such a bad blogger. I have all these thoughts in my head but they never make it out of there onto the blog. My biggest hang up, I think, is trying to include too much detail. So I’m going to try and keep this short and sweet…

Rock ‘n’ Roll Arizona 1/2 Marathon
Sunday, January 17
Official time – 2:51:32

Yay, I met my goal of walking a sub-three hour half marathon… and I even had time to spare!!! Compare that to my RnR Las Vegas time of 3:42:37… what a difference six weeks makes!

Overall the race went very well. Suprisingly the time actually passed quite quickly despite the boring course and lack of an iPod. On Monday I was really hurting in the area at the back of my knees. My arms also felt a bit sore (I swing my arms a lot when I speed walk.) But today I’m feeling pretty much back to normal. I even got a short 1.5 mile run in last night.

Eventually I’ll post a more detailed report (and photos!), but this’ll do it for now.

First repeat half – Rock ‘n’ Roll AZ

I’ve done repeat races before, but Rock ‘n’ Roll AZ will be my first repeat half. While I’m looking forward to the race tomorrow, I’m not particularly excited about it. It’s neat to be participating in this huge event that’s happening locally, but I’ve kind of got this “been there, done that” feeling.

I took yesterday morning off work to go to the Expo. There was a “blowout” sale on any official Rock ‘n’ Roll branded Sugoi gear that was leftover from 2009, and I figured that it was best to go relatively early on for the best selection. I was really hoping to get this great tech shirt from Rock ‘n’ Roll AZ 2009, but there was only size L and XL. I did find a cute Seattle “outfit” that I ended up buying.

Every once in awhile there was an announcement over the loudspeakers about the sale and the announcer would say that the leftover gear was being sold “at cost”. Somehow, I highly doubt that’s true. The t-shirt was still $25 (originally $40) and the pair of capri tights was still $30 (originally $60). I hope the gear is of a high enough quality to justify the prices.

I’m not completely sure how I feel about the rapid growth and commercialization of the Rock ‘n’ Roll series by Competitor Group. On one hand, I do like how well-organized the events are. And their size allows them to do some neat stuff like course preview videos. But I’m also noticing areas where it seems like they’re cutting costs, particularly with clothing. I think I’ve mentioned previously that they recycle a lot of the shirt designs from race to race, which I don’t like. Also, for the first time they had the same tech shirt for both the marathon and the half.

This was a surprise because I distinctly remember the website saying that you had to switch races before November 20 in order to be guaranteed the correct shirt for the race you were going to do. I keep hoping that one of these days Competitor Group will start offering tech shirts in women’s sizes, but that seems highly unlikely now that the focus looks to be on reducing variety rather than offering more choices.

Overall, it was a typical Expo… I tried some samples and picked up a few goodies. The most noteworthy thing was that I went to the KT Tape booth and got taped up for shin splints. When I speed walk often times my shins hurt (which is kind of funny because when I run its my calves that usually hurt). I figured it couldn’t hurt to try the tape and see if it makes a difference during the race tomorrow. When I got to the booth, there was just one person ahead of me so I only waited about five minutes.

The tape is supposed to be water proof and can stay on for up to five days. I can testify that it’s still sticking well after a long shower earlier today. I still feel the stretch from the tape, particularly on the left under my arch. I’m actually a little worried because there’s more stretch on the left than the right and I hope I haven’t thrown anything off by trying to counterbalance it. I thought about trying to retape it myself, but then I worried I wouldn’t do it right and just decided to leave it as is. One thing to note with the tape is that once it’s on, it can’t just be pulled up and repositioned. Instead, you have to start over with a new strip of tape.

Of course I spent some time today laying out my clothes and other stuff for tomorrow. It’ll be fun wearing my new Half Fanatics shirt. I also decided to go with new shoes which I hope doesn’t turn out to be a mistake. I’m justifying it by the fact that while the shoes themselves are new, they’re the same old style of Saucony ProGrid Hurricane 10s that I’ve been using since I started running. Look at the extreme difference in appearance between my new pair and my old pair!

Rock ‘n’ Roll Las Vegas – Part 4

(Go to Part 3)

The one day of the week that I have the opportunity to sleep in and I can’t sleep. Ugh. Well, at least now I can wrap up this darn report. At this point I should just call it a photo essay instead of a race report. There really wasn’t much “racing” going on for me that day.

Anyway, I think right here I’m a little over halfway done with the race. I had to take a photo of this restaurant because it combines two yummy things… Chinese food and donuts!

The guy in the plaid shirt was handing out free beer. (No, I didn’t have any.)

This being Vegas, of course I had to get a photo of this Little White Chapel. The sign says they have a 24 hr drive up wedding window!

A little further along, I found another chapel at the corner of these romantically named streets… awww.

I got passed by a couple groups of running Elvi before I finally realized what they were pushing…  a set of speakers blasting Elvis songs. Guess it would have helped if I didn’t have my iPod on.

Now we’re back on The Strip.

At first I couldn’t figure out why I took this photo… But if you look carefully at the guy in the white shirt… it’s my first ever joggler sighting!

The Fashion Show Mall.

The guy in the gold suit did an awesome job directing traffic. He was still enthusiastic even after standing out there repeating the same thing for three hours. The split was at about the 10.5 mile mark and I was glad to only be doing the half. Even 2.5 miles seemed like a long way away.

After the split was when we started passing the more elaborately themed hotels again.

These buildings are part of the new CityCenter project… very futuristic looking.

Mandalay Bay is faintly visible in the background behind the New York, New York sign. Not too much farther to go!

It was awesome to see this billboard right before the finish.

Here’s a closer look at the billboard. I think part of why I rank RnR Las Vegas as my second favorite half (number one is Disneyland) is because of all the little (or not so little) touches like this. Even though it’s not aimed at specifically at me, it’s nice to feel like part of something special.

And 3 hours and 42 minutes later, I’m finally done!

I was tired and a little sore, but overall felt better than after run/walking my last half (RnR San Jose). After doing all the usual post-race stuff (photos, snacks, a bit of stretching), I headed back to the hotel to shower, pack, and grab some lunch before heading to the airport.

I really enjoyed this race and had a fantastic time during my short trip out to Las Vegas, although I do wonder how much my opinion was influenced by the fact that I was walking instead of running. Actually, I guess if I had to pick one course for a personal worst time, this was a good choice even though it wasn’t intentional. At least there was a lot to look at during the almost four hours that I spent walking. I definitely recommend at least doing the race once for the experience. If I was still going to be living in Phoenix, I’d consider doing it again. But now that I’m moving to Baltimore I’ll be exploring options for East Coast races instead.