Race Report, Rock 'n' Roll Series

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???

Race Report, Rock 'n' Roll Series, Walking

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.

Rock 'n' Roll Series

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 Series, Running

Get Fit Seminar and more Rock ‘n’ Roll

Ugh, I don’t know what happened… WordPress somehow ate my whole post. Maybe it was because of the “snow” that I enabled on the blog? Anyway, here I go again.

So for the P.F. Chang’s Rock ‘n’ Roll Arizona races, there’s been a series of free “Get Fit” seminars held monthly that cover different aspects of preparing for a race. I went to my first seminar last night, which was also the last of the series. The main reason I went was simply because it was being held about five minutes away from my house so I figured why not. The seminar mainly consisted of nutrition advice and Q&A. It was definitely geared toward beginners and I already knew a lot of the information being discussed, but it was good to have a refresher. The speakers were energetic and engaging which kept me from being bored. There was a raffle at the end, but by the time my name was drawn the only thing left was a t-shirt that I already have (got it when I registered for the race at an Expo). I was a little miffed because the lady sitting next to me has just barely started training for a race that’s in a month and didn’t even know what an Expo is and she won both a Rock ‘n’ Roll AZ branded slingback bag and the grand prize of a pair of Oakley’s. Aside from those items and t-shirts, there were a few P.F. Chang’s gift cards given away too. Oh, well. I can’t always be lucky.

The one takeaway for me was that it’s a good idea to try to eat right away after finishing a race. I’m really bad at this because it always takes me awhile to get through the finish area to the food, and even then I don’t always eat if what’s there doesn’t appeal to me. To solve that problem, I think I’ll start carrying an extra GU with me to use as post-race fuel. The other interesting aspect of the evening was that I got to try a foam roller. I didn’t go too crazy with it because I was wearing everyday clothes and I don’t really have any sore spots at the moment. But I can see how it would help. Once I start running again, I’ll probably give some serious consideration to buying either a foam roller or “The Stick”.

Speaking of running again, I’m thinking about giving it a try next Monday. RunningLaur is holding another of her fantastic virtual races, the Winter Misery One Miler. (I love the cute snowman graphic!) The one mile distance seems perfect for my return to running because it’s just far enough to gauge my current running ability, but not so far that I’ll strain myself. As I start running again, I definitely want to take things slowly this time around to try and avoid any further illness or injury. I know I’ve got to take the time to build back up to running longer distances. As such, I’m probably going to continue to walk any races I do in the near future. I guess I could do a walk/run plan with say 4 minutes walking and 1 minute running. But I have this weird desire right now to keep walking separate from running. When I’m walking, I know that my time and pace reflect the fact that I’m just walking. But if I throw in an occasional bit of running, then I can’t classify it as a walk anymore and I think I’d start to feel frustrated by my slowness as compared to my previous running stats.

Originally for RnR AZ I registered for the marathon. This was back at the beginning of September when I thought four months was plenty of time to train. Then after I got sick, I realized there was no way I could do a marathon in January. Even if I walked most of it, that would still mean I would be out there on my feet for seven hours. Yuck! So I emailed the Competitor Group and “downgraded” to the half instead. As just explained above, I’m not sure I want to mix walking and running yet, so right now my goal for the race is to beat my time from RNR Las Vegas for walking a half.

(RunningLaur, to answer your comment… yes, I’m still planning on doing RnR AZ and I’d definitely love to meet up with you and other local bloggers either before or after!)

Beyond RnR AZ I’m not registered for anything else yet, although I do have some tentative races in mind. The first is the inaugural Rock ‘n’ Roll Dallas 1/2 Marathon in March. I’ve been tossing around the idea of doing all the new inaugural RnR races for 2010, but there’s already five of them on the calendar and I don’t really want to commit to another year primarily devoted to RnR. It’s time for some new experiences. The reason I’m interested in RnR Dallas though is because 1) I have a good friend who lives there who I haven’t seen in a few years, and 2) the timing is good because I have carryover vacation at work that I’ll have to use up before the end of March anyway. So maybe RnR Dallas will be my target race for getting back to running. Or at least run/walking.

Rock 'n' Roll Series, Walking

5 out of 5

Woo hoo! I officially completed my fifth and last Rock ‘n’ Roll event of 2009. (And my 8th 1/2 marathon of 2009.) My time isn’t pretty – 3:42:37 – but hey, I did all 13.1 miles on my own two feet without cutting any corners along the way. I was 17,005 overall out of 17,827 finishers. I’m really glad that I made the decision to go to Las Vegas because it was a really fantastic experience. I still think the Disneyland Half was my favorite of the year, but RnR Las Vegas definitely comes in at a close second.

I’m going to do a longer race report, but for now I thought I’d mention a few things I noticed that were different than the previous Rock ‘n’ Roll events I’ve experienced.

1) The Expo was packed. There was actually a line to pick up race packets this time. Now, Chicago and San Jose were 1/2 marathons only so there were definitely less participants. But I don’t remember Arizona or Seattle being that crowded either. Also, the set up of the vendor booths at the Expo didn’t help matters. Usually there’s sort of a clear path where you go down one row and up the next so at least the crowd is sort of moving in the same direction. But it seemed like instead the booths were set up in a grid sort of checkerboard style (the best way I can think of to describe it) so traffic patterns were crazy with people cris-crossing everywhere.

2) There were lot less bands and cheerleaders than usual, although I didn’t really miss it because there was so much to see just walking along The Strip. Maybe all the entertainment was out on the marathon course.

3) I don’t know if you can tell from the photo below, but instead of having volunteers handing out GU it was all just piled up on tables. I actually liked this because I didn’t have to figure out which volunteer was holding the flavor I wanted. (It also made it easy to grab a couple extra GUs.) I took the photo on the way out, and I wondered if they’d run out by the time I made it back along The Strip to mile 9.2, but they had plenty left when I went by.

4) So this is the one thing that bugged me the most about the entire event. At the finish line, I was handed my medal like this.

What’s up with that? I just walked 13.1 miles. I don’t want to have to stop and rip the plastic off my medal. I want to put it on right away! I earned it! The rest of the finisher’s area was well laid out and easy to get through, although that might have been a result of me finishing so late rather than the race organization. Like with the GU, there was still plenty of heat sheets, water, and other refreshments left when I got there. Oh, but I did think it was a little weird that the oranges weren’t sliced or cut. Normally I don’t pay attention so maybe that’s how it always is, but lately I’ve been having a craving for oranges. Unfortunately the one I grabbed wasn’t so sweet.

Rock 'n' Roll Series

RnR Vegas Course Preview

I just stumbled across this awesome course preview video for the RnR Las Vegas 1/2 Marathon. (There’s also a course preview for the full marathon.) This is the first time I’ve seen anything like this, although it looks like the Competitor Group did a similar video for RnR San Antonio too.

Watching the video got me so excited about the course. It’ll be so much fun to walk along and see all the sights on the strip. I just hope I don’t get too distracted taking photos. (Note to self: remember to charge the camera battery.) Less than 48 hours until I’m on my way to Vegas!