Monday, January 18, 2010

Phoenix R&R Half Marathon

So I ran the Phoenix Rock n Roll half marathon yesterday, and I took almost 9 minutes off my PR!! I had a really great race. My previous PR was 2:23:50 and I finished in 2:15:22. I was aiming for 2:10 but honestly I feel like I ran the hardest I possibly could have for the whole race with the exception of getting held up through the water stop areas, so I don't think I could've done any better. Yay!

I got into Arizona on Thursday night and took a shuttle up to Prescott where my friend lives (about 1.5 or 2 hours outside of Phoenix). We stayed there a couple days. I went out for a short run on Friday and it was really disappointing and made me anxious about the race, but I'm thinking part of it was the altitude difference (Prescott area has some mountains) and some of it may have been all the uphills on the run. It was hard not to get discouraged before the race even started!

The night before the race we got a hotel closer to Phoenix (but not that close to the race). The hotel offered a shuttle to the starting line and even though the half marathon didn't start until 8:30 we had to be on a shuttle at 6:00am. And then the shuttle driver got lost. Seriously, this guy has one job and it's to get us from the hotel to the starting line and he got lost. We were on the shuttle for over an hour as he drove slowly in circles, drove around parking lots to turn around, blocked traffic, everything. A couple of the full marathoners on the bus almost missed their 7:30 start and we were all just really stressed out by the time we got there.

The race had tons of stuff out for breakfast (piles of bananas and halfs of bagels, coffee, water) which was nice. They also had a really organized gear check. My only complaint about the starting area and the finish area was that there was no clear signage to tell you where to go for ANYTHING. I probably walked at least 2 miles before the race even started trying to find breakfast and then the starting line, which was confusing because there were different starting lines for the half and the full, and buildings in the way so you couldn't see what was going on. They could've easily put some signs up and life would've been so much easier. After the race it was similar... there was a generally labeled "reunion" area and a sign for gear check, but where was this alleged concert that was going on somewhere? We were too tired to walk around and find anything or see what was available, so we ended up just leaving.

This race was also very...couple-y. It seemed like everyone was there with a significant other or something. and there were a lot of walkers and a lot of first timers....more like a celebration party support-each-other kinda race than an omg serious race like a couple of the others I've done.

The Race
The race had a wave start with corrals, which I've never experienced before. I thought I'd hate it but it was actually really nice because there wasn't that discouraging feeling of being passed on all sides or having to weave around other runners who were going slower. I met this cool older guy in the corrals who has done 20 marathons and countless halfs...he was probably like 60? 65? It was inspirational. We ran the first 5k together but then I lost him at the first water stop. I looked for him the rest of the race with no luck, which was kind of sad.

I was aiming for a 10-minute pace, but I usually start slower and go faster, so I figured I wouldn't kill myself for the first few miles and then would pick it up as I went on. This was my first race with my Garmin, which I've been training with since the last week of November. My other strategy was to pay more attention to my heartrate/effort rather than just pace. And thanks to the Garmin I could actually see my pace and I really think this helped me stay focused and keep moving.

My heartrate zones are weird... my max according to the age formula is supposed to be 193, but it's actually somewhere around 208. So I was coming pretty close to my max for a lot of the race.

Splits: (mile: time /avg heartrate)
Mile 1: 10:01 - 172 bpm
Mile 2: 10:21 - 188
Mile 3: 10:32 - 191
Mile 4: 10:20 - 192
Mile 5: 10:22 - 195
Mile 6: 10:14 - 194
Mile 7: 10:07 - 197
Mile 8: 10:19 - 197
Mile 9: 10:13 - 200
Mile 10: 10:48 - 201
Mile 11: 10:32 - 201
Mile 12: 10:35 - 196
Mile 13: 9:50 - 202
0.1 : 0:56 - 205

The only thing notable here I guess is that a) I probably could've done those first couple miles a little bit harder (but was worried about blowing up later in the race, and was running with that nice older marathoner who kept talking about the importance of being patient), and b) I don't think I've ever kept my heartrate near 200 for that long of a time period. It was pretty intense. I really felt like I couldn't have run any harder from pretty much mile 4 onward. Also, c) during several of the miles I was running a lot faster than the time listed above, and then I'd hit a water stop and lose time whether I was taking water or not because they were too crowded. That was really really frustrating.

There were some gradual hills starting around mile 10, but I didn't walk at all and tried to keep my effort consistent. On the gradual downhills I tried to make up time and was running about 8:30-8:40 at about the same effort level. I felt really really good and happy and excited about how I was doing until around mile 9 when I really started to feel it. The gel I took made my stomach feel a little sick, my legs were hurting, breathing was harder, I felt a blister under my toes on my right foot. But whenever I started to feel awful I'd just try to correct my form/posture. I can't believe how much that helped. So I was doing these periodic "how's my form?" checks, and then I'd correct it and keep moving on at the same pace or faster. I was listening to music but not really paying much attention to it, and thinking thoughts like... "5 miles? youve run 5 miles lots of times, that's all that's left" etc. By mile 11 it was getting really really tough, but I just kept thinking of the previous races I'd done and how I felt shitty at mile 11 and how even though I felt worse now than I had in awhile, it would be over soon. Mile 11 was really hard, and I caught myself thinking "Why the hell are you doing this again??" which I had to quickly put out of my mind.

My garmin was displaying lap time, pace, distance, and heartrate, so I had no overall sense of what my race time would be until I finished. I think that was good too because I didn't get discouraged and then there was the "fun" of checking the race history after I crossed the finish to see what my time was. When I crossed my legs felt like collapsing and I checked and saw that my garmin time was 2:15:22. I really felt like I'd done 2:10 mentally so I was a little sad, but then I did the math and realized I took almost 9 minutes off my PR, which is a pretty substantial improvement--at least for me! And I feel like I did the absolute best that I could. I'll take it!

I was following a Jeff Galloway "old" program for this race's training (one from before he started all the interval stuff). But I didn't have quite enough weeks to fit in the whole training program (I was 2 weeks short, so my longest training run was 13 miles and I was 2 weeks short on speedwork). Also during my training I had walking pneumonia and a nagging cough for 4-6 weeks, it's winter in Ohio so I've been running in windchills, snow, ice, everything, and also I had a week for the holidays where I was fitting in runs as best as I could during travel. Makes me wonder if I'd been able to do a better job with the training program if I could've taken off even more time.

Also this time around I was starting to pay attention to heart rate training, taking my long runs much slower than I had been and pushing on the speedwork. So I'm not sure what exactly helped me improve my time.

Weather was great, and the runners high just wouldn't quit from this one. If only every race could feel this good!

Time to pick the next goal! This year I want to get my half time down to 2:00 or 2:05 and I also want to do my first full, so I just have to decide how I'm going to accomplish those things (and if they're even possible).

First time in the I am with a cactus! My friend/former roommate ran as well and she finished in 2:39--her first half ever (she normally does triathlons). So a good time was had by all.