I went to Phoenix last week with Cameron and Faith Ann, running the Arizona Rock’n’Roll Marathon on Sunday, January 16, 2011. I finished in 3:51:08, 29 seconds slower than MDI in October, and had fun doing it! Here is what the weather was like at the airport, hours before we finally got out of there ...
We were happy to arrive in Phoenix for weather like this ...
The bad weather at home meant that our flight was delayed by a day, and we spent an unexpected night in Detroit enroute to Arizona. That also meant that I missed a Leafs/Coyotes hockey game in Phoenix. I had a great seat for it too!
We went right to the race expo after arriving. We didn’t spend too much time there, as Cam wouldn’t have put up with it for too long. He was so anxious to get to the Lego Store! However, there were some things there to keep him entertained.
We took it easy Saturday, visiting the Arizona Science Centre (across the street from the Expo) and South Mountain Park. Sunday morning, I got to the race in plenty of time, getting psyched up by the atmosphere and inspirational signs.
Although this course is flat and fast, and the conditions were perfect, my training since the MDI marathon in October had fallen off and I expected to finish with a time similar to that one (3:50).
There were a little over 5000 people running the full marathon, and we were placed in corrals based on our expected finishing times. This seemed to work out well, as the pace at the start seemed to be a good one for me. I finished the first 5k in 27 minutes, the 10k in 54:35. I felt very good after 10k, and unintentionally did the next several miles at a pace faster than intended. I finished the half at 1:53:06. Faith Ann was tracking my progress, and at one point the website had projected me to finish at 3:44. She suspected I might be headed for a rough finish based on this pace. As it turned out, I wouldn’t keep that pace, but it didn’t end up being too bad.
For the first time ever in a race, I had to take a bathroom break during the run! I diverted to a porta-potty somewhere around mile 14. Perhaps I would have broken 3:50, if only my bladder was the size of Africa!
Around mile 16 things started to feel tough, but I kept trudging along. I ran for a while with this guy below. He’s done a few marathons like this, carrying the US flag. I looked him up later on the web, and he is quite the accomplished endurance athlete.
While the course is short on scenery, there was the occasional nice view ...
... and the course is definitely fast. The most extreme “hill” around mile 24 really wasn’t much of a hill at all. If I ever wanted to try to race for a fast time in a winter marathon, this would be the place. In reality, that’s not likely to happen, since my training tends to decline in the winter months.
Being in the Rock’n’Roll marathon series, there were bands throughout the course, but I barely noticed they were there. Things got progressively tougher over the last few miles, and I walked through a couple of the water stations. My pace didn’t drop off precipitously though. For the 42 kilometers of the race, I only had three where the pace exceeded 9:30 minutes/mile - how’s that for mixing up metric and imperial? Only one kilometre exceeded the 10 minute per mile pace (barely), and that was the one that included the bathroom break.
Some race participants did a good job of encouraging myself and others over the last couple of miles. I took the photo below as I approached the end.
As I said earlier, I was happy with the run. My training since MDI had averaged a little less than forty miles per week, with my left calf giving me issues a couple of times. Other than that pain, and a few added pounds, I stayed on track with my plan pretty well – certainly much better quality workouts than when I was training for Houston at the same time last year. Still, it included only one 20-mile run, compared to five for MDI. If I can get a 3:51 on this type of training – albeit on a fast course –it gives me confidence that I should be able to crack the 3:40 mark this fall.
It is a good marathon, although if forced to choose between this one and my other "large" winter marathon, I would probably choose Houston. Houston has a better expo, more fans, a better facility for the start/finish, and better finishing food and goodies.
One odd thing about this marathon experience revolves around my recovery. This was my flattest course of the four I have run, yet for some reason my quads are more sore than they were for any of the previous three. Running through an airport last night to catch a connecting flight (which of course was delayed anyway) was a painful experience!
My next marathon? I’m not sure. I plan to participate with the marathon training group in the local running club, but that’s really just to stay in shape. Whether it leads to a spring marathon will be determined by the quality of the training and my commitment to it between now and then. At the very least, I'm in a better spot now than this time last year. My "winter" marathon time was ten minutes faster, and I don't have any surgery coming up that will keep me off my feet. Looking forward to some winter training before the spring races begin!