So I rolled into Phoenix on Friday night, pretty late. It was a pretty uneventful flight - lots of runners on board! I chatted with a dude who works at Trek who was running the marathon at the airport and this older man who was running his 25th marathon was seated next to me on the plane.
Saturday I slept in deliciously late - 10am, so really 11am central time - and then Joe and I headed out to pick up race packets. The expo was a little too disorganized in layout and overwhelming for me, so we didn't hang out long there. After lunch, we tried to figure out something to do in Phoenix for the day. There are some local hiking spots, but I decided that hiking probably wasn't in the best interest of my undertrained legs. We decided to drive the Apache Trail. I'd have pictures, but apparently keeping my camera unprotected in my bag finally ruined my camera. Doh! Here is a stolen picture from the internet instead:Due to a SNAFU at the care rental place, we were tooling around like yuppies in a shiny white Prius. About 22 miles of the trail was unpaved and pretty treacherous actually. I was glad there were few other cars around because in many places, the road was really only big enough for one car, with one side of the road being a cliff wall and the other side being a steep drop off. But it was nice to get out into the pretty mountains around Phoenix and be surrounded by desert brush and cacti instead of the ubiquitous palm trees that decorate the city. Hello! I did not see a single palm tree outside Phoenix! I actually don't really like Phoenix. I have been there before in June and was just miserable. That, and as a water resources engineer, I am pretty much morally opposed to cities like Phoenix, which just shouldn't exist (I am also looking at you Las Vegas and LA).
Anyway, after meeting a friend of mine from the Peace Corps for dinner, we turned in early. This whole time I had been fighting a cold which developed on Friday. I woke up several times Friday and Saturday night to deal with coughing and sneezing fits. So not fun! But I woke up Sunday morning actually feeling okay. Not 100%, but better than I had felt the day before.
One thing I am going to give major props to is the race organization. With 30,000 people, you would think there would be some logistical issues, but everything ran supersmooth, from packet pickup to catching the shuttle to the start of the race. No excessive waiting, nothing. They had like 25 corrals for the half-marathon start and they started everyone off in a very organized manner. I rarely felt like there was nowhere to run and I had to dodge people (except for water stops, but that always happens).
Anyway, we were in corral 10 (based on my projected starting time of 2:10, back before I got distracted by politics and thought I would actually train). Here is another thing - this race is a slow person race. Just think about it - 2:10 is about 10 min/mile pace and there were 15 corrals of people who thought they would finish slower than that as opposed to the 9 ahead. Crazy! When I ran the Drake Relays half-marathon in 2006, with my time of 2:19, I came in 45 out of 50 in my age group. It's nice to run in a race where I am closer to average, rather than almost DFL.
I decided that since I wasn't sure how much endurance I was going to have to run this thing that I was going to try and negative split. I know that doesn't seem to make sense, but my thought was that I definitely needed to hold back in the first half if I didn't want this to be miserable and mentally I could only do that if I deluded myself into thinking I could pick up the pace in the second half. To PR (my current best was 2:15), I just needed to average faster than a 10:21 pace, so I used that as my guideline and tried to stay in the 10:20-10:30 range in the first half and then sub 10:20 for the second half.
The first 5k I came in at 31:47 (10:14 pace), so a little faster than intended, but hey, that always happens at the start of a race. I hit the 10k at 1:02, so again a little faster than I wanted. Mile 10.2 (where they had the third timing pad) was 1:47. Wait, what? 45 minutes to run 4 miles? What the hell happened there? I dropped from 10 min/miles to slower than 11 min/miles. So then I got anxious and I booked it. I figured with less than three miles, I could afford to push a little. I passed people left and right, which was a bit of a boost. I finished in 2:13:57, so I polished off that last 2.9 in under 27 minutes. In a total win for consistency (even though I apparently was all over the map in between), my end pace was also 10:14, exactly the same as my first 5k. And I finished like 600/2000 in my age group - I never finish in the top third, just another testament to how this race brings out all sorts of runners. Joe had to stop and walk because of his knees, so he came in a couple of minutes behind me.
The course itself was pretty dang ugly, but it was superflat. Also, the weather stayed in the 50s during the entire race, so it couldn't have been more perfect. In fact, I might seriously consider doing the full marathon next year.
Now of course I am paying the piper for that PR. I am sore. Really really sore. I can barely walk down stairs. And something is funky in my hamstring. And my foot is achy. And running seemed to push that cold to the surface so I am all stuffed up and coughing. I am not a pretty sight. Yesterday, I could barely stay conscious on the plane. I am hoping one more night and I can sleep it off. Because I got a triathlon to train for! I have already missed a 25 mile bike and a 2000 yd swim and I am probably going to skip my run tonight. Lazy bones, I know! Being sick is a good cover for being too sore!