Rock n Roll Arizona Half Marathon Race Report

Yesterday I scored a big PR at the Rock n Roll Arizona Half Marathon: I shaved over 3 minutes off my previous best, which was set in 2006.

I don’t remember exactly when I decided to sign up for the half, it was a few months ago when I thought that would be the incentive for me to kick up my speed training. It didn’t work as well as I hoped, and I actually spent much of December not running at all. Come January I had several good speed workouts on the -mill, but I never incorporated any sort of tempo runs or anything into my training. So when this weekend came around, I knew that short of miracle, I wasn’t going to pull out a sub 1:37 to qualify for New York.

Aside from training, though, there have been some changes in my health and fitness. This past year I’ve started biking some and of course playing roller derby. This has meant more explosive power, more aerobic work. And within the past 6 weeks I’ve started going to the chiropractor to straighten out my off-set hips and tight neck and shoulders, and changed up my diet to include more natural carbs, and mucho potassium.

Lastly, I picked up some Zoot compression shorts. Any bit helps, right?

I stayed with my folks, who are wintering in AZ, and we got in a little run the day before the race. Mom and I hit the expo, and she said it was really odd for her not to be running. It was a little odd for me to just be doing the half marathon, too! I came to the conclusion that race expos are now 3/4 “compression clothing” and 3/4 merch that says “girl”. Actually, I was quite disappointed: I like to pick up a running-related book at an expo, and even with Dean Karnazes leading some 50K race in conjunction with the main event, they didn’t even have his books or movies available.

I had eggplant parm for dinner, and headed off to bed. Unlike many marathons in recent memory, I was really focusing on this race: visualizing how it would go, and I didn’t sleep terribly well. I woke up in the night cold, and hungry, and downed a granola bar at 3am before eventually rising at 6:15 to go.

I wore my Zoot shorts, racesox, my ever-present team run wild singlet, calf guards, a hat and sunglasses. I recently started wearing orthotics that irritate my left foot, so I wore an arch bandage to try to limit the rubbing.

We headed down to the start, where the traffic was bad enough that I eventually jumped from the car and walked into the starting area. I stood in line for the portapotty, then made my way right to my corral (#2). I was just barely settled in when the gun went off!

Going into the race with a 1:41:56 PR, I told my parents I’d be ecstatic with 1:36:xx, and really happy with sub 1:40. There was supposed to be a 1:40 pace group, so I actually thought I’d start with them and then pick it up if I was feeling good. As it was, I knew anything better than a 7:48 pace would be a PR.

Well, there was no 1:40 pace group, so I was on my own. Being right at the front, I crossed the line about a minute after the race started.

M1: 7:22 (I actually started this too quickly and immediately made myself slow to this)
M2: 7:33
M3: 7:35
M4: 7:36
M5: 7:36
M6: 7:43
M7: 7:42
M8: 7:34
M9: 7:38
M10: 7:44
M11: 7:30
M12: 7:21
M13: 6:59
.1: 6:18 pace
—-
1:38:44

Now, the RnR AZ course isn’t tough: I pulled out a lot of 7:38 miles last year when I ran the marathon. But this felt really good. I do believe that switching to a half marathon from the full kept me able to feel like I was pushing a bit more through the entire race. Hitting mile 8 and knowing there were only 5 miles to go was pretty nice! I never had to resort to my standard marathon escapism strategy where I try to think about anything BUT running to get me through. My legs felt strong, in part I’m sure from the compression. I barely even felt like I was lifting them! Unfortunately, the arch bandage didn’t do the trick and I ended up with two juicy blisters on the bottom of my foot. Ouch!

I finished, met my folks and did some stretching. But it felt weird: I didn’t feel like I normally do after a race! I know I pushed it, especially at the end, but I wasn’t spent like I would be after a marathon. And I know that will help future races, as I was able to keep pushing and still have something in the tank at the end.

Time: 1:38:44
Division place: 26/2216
Gender place: 150/13486
Overall: 772/21460

The thing is: setting this PR is a pretty big deal for me. In my first half marathon ever, in 2002, I ran 1:42:38. I’d only ever shaved off 44 seconds from that debut. Dropping 3 minutes this weekend, without serious formal targeted half-marathon training, gives me hope! It also puts my half marathon PR more in line with my marathon: in that race, I’ve shaved off 9 minutes since my debut (3:38:45 – 3:29:36, also set at RnRAZ!)

Last year’s run left me discouraged. This year, I feel motivated about what I can improve on!