It’s race day. The temperature was not as crazy high as it has been all summer. The field was divided into 5k, 9k, 10k and 15k races. I expected a decent time and a decent place in my age group. I got one of the two!
In my pre-race plan, I expected to finish the race in less than 45 minutes. It was not to be. I finished in just above 45 minutes but took first in my age group. As a prize, I received a Maggie’s Place water-bottle that I promptly gave away!
4:45AM: I was up early as usual. For a change, I had a decent night’s sleep. My neck was stiff when I woke up and I had a fleeting thought of dropping out of the race. After a self-talk WTF to myself, I was up and about. 20 sips of water, iced coffee, a fig bar and the usual morning race-prep later, I was off.
6:00AM: Dawn had broken. Venus was high above the horizon. There was light in the east as I drove down to Tempe. The drive and parking were effortless. From top to bottom, I was dressed in my new blue NYC Marathon visor, my white Snapathon tech-shirt, my blue Lululemon shorts, performance socks and my Boston Marathon Saucony Kinvara shoes. I expect to use these same shoes during the NYC Marathon in exactly 4 Sundays from today. I was also carrying my iPod and headphones. My power song today was “Come and Get it (Remix)” by Selena Gomez!
7:00AM: The atmosphere was electric. The race organizers at Maggie’s Place had done a terrific job of recruiting volunteers and vendors. The vendors were offering free snacks and swag and the volunteers were manning the water stations and doing umpteen other things to make sure the race went smoothly.
7:23AM: At exactly 7:23AM the 10k group was off. I had decided to start a few rows back out of courtesy. Next time, I will remember not to be so courteous. I had to weave through traffic for the first 100 or so yards before I was out in the open. After running half-a-mile, I could see 8 runners in front of me. Three of them were women. The guy immediately in front of me looked older than me. He was wearing a navy blue top. Everyone else in front of me was younger. The older guy in blue was the one I would have to beat to win first place in my age-group. Of course, anyone in my age group behind me could catch me!
We were running with the wind as we ran westward on the south side of Tempe Town Lake. The sun had risen behind us. In the first mile, my pace was faster than I wanted and my heart rate was already into the 160s. After a mile, the course crosses a bridge to the north side of the lake and loops around back east. As soon as we looped around, I felt a stiff wind in my face. I was running right behind the older guy in blue. A guy with a stroller passed me. Right behind him was another guy with a stroller who also passed me. Right behind him, wearing the same blue top was another guy who also passed me. Now there were 11 people ahead of me.
The older guy in blue had picked up his pace. I was falling behind at the end of mile 2. My pace had also slowed with the wind in my face. The sun shone through the clouds as I squinted my eyes. It was glistening against the water of the lake. With the wind gusting at 20MPH, the water shimmered but the wind slowed me down.
7:38AM: After 2 miles, the 5k course splits to the left while the other distances keep going straight. With the stiff wind, I decided to catch up to the older guy in blue. This was my smartest move of the day. It took me more than a minute to accelerate and close the gap. I was now drafting him. He was bearing the brunt of the wind. My pace was slower than my race-plan but I was conserving valuable energy. The course veered slightly left and went under the 202 overpass before we saw the 10k turnaround point. We had run around 3.5 miles, but the last mile had been relatively slow for me. Fortunately, I still had legs!
7:50AM: We were now running back towards the start line. A girl in neon passed me after the turnaround. I easily passed the older guy in blue with the wind in my back. After the 4-mile point, we crossed the bridge on Scottsdale Road to go back to the south side of the lake. The climb up the bride slowed me but I quickened my pace going down the bridge. Two guys; one in grey and another in red passed me. They were both in their 30s. We still had more than a mile to go. I was now running in 14th place with older guy in blue running a few yards behind me.
8:00AM: With just over a mile to go, I quickened my pace. We were now running back east with the wind on the south side of the lake. The course here has a few unnecessary undulations that are really tough on the heart. With every slight uphill, I was slowing down only to quicken my pace on the downhills. I could see the girl in neon and the guy in red running ahead of me. There was no chance I would catch them!
I was dying but kept my kicks up. I was now using my arms to run as fast as I could. With only a couple of hundred yards to go, the route meets up with the 5k runners. I passed dozens and dozens of them in the final 100 yards. I finished strong but my official time was 45:04 at an average of 7:16 per mile for 14th overall but first in my age group
. The older guy in blue turned out to be younger than me. He finished 4th in his age group. My guess is that the two guys with the strollers and their friend took the first 3 spots. I was unhappy with my time but happy with my place. It was a windy and humid day. Running conditions were moderate to tough. At least my neck didn’t bother me one bit!
8:45AM: The rains came. It started with a soft drizzle and then it began to pour; this turned into a torrential downpour! A few dozen of us were huddled under the results tent. A few moments later, I collected my award; a blue water bottle. I have a dozen of those collecting dust!
All in all, it was a decent race for me. 1st in age group is worthy of writing home about! Also, the shoes I plan to run the NYC Marathon in are nicely broken in now. Also, my neck pain is gone! 28 days to go…