On Saturday night, we went out for Vietnamese food at Saigon Nites with Rahul and family. We ate early. Earlier on Saturday, I ventured to the race expo to pick up my bib. Instead of running the half-marathon, I was running the Arizona Rock ‘n’ Roll 10k race as a training run for the Tokyo Marathon in late February.
The course is flat except for an uphill portion at around mile 5. For me, the entire race would depend on how much steam I would use up before this uphill portion and how strong I would be at the finish.
|Race outfit – Arizona Rock n Roll 10k 2017
On Saturday night, I prepped for the race by laying out my outfit. It would be a chilly day with light winds and overcast skies; quite perfect for running. I decided to wear my Berlin Marathon visor, a gray long sleeve Ironman training tech shirt, blue Lululemon shorts, neon green Zensah calf-compression, Asics performance socks and super-light Saucony A6 shoes. I would also wear my sunglasses, carry my iPod and of course my Garmin Forerunner 35. The neck protector would be a game-time decision but I took the orange one; the one that Missy used to wear all the time. Needless to say, I think of my pups every time I run…
|Bib and medal for the Arizona Rock n Roll 10k 2017
On Sunday morning, I was up early. I showered, shaved, had half-a-cup of coffee, some Greek yogurt with cherries and got dressed. I had decided to drive to the light rail station and ride the train to the starting line. It’s the most convenient way to get to the starting line. Getting to the race start was uneventful. I talked to random people on the train; some were ultra-runners and some were first-timers. Most were running the half marathon.
I decided to run without the neck protector. It was warmer than I had expected. Most folks were in t-shirts or singlets. My bib number 1825 meant that I was starting in the first corral. Of course, I knew that some slower runners had sneaked in. They always do. They are obviously rookies who either think they can go faster than they actually can, or they are just plain rude rule-breakers.
|Right after the start – the crowds cleared
After someone sang the National Anthem, the countdown began. The energy was electric. I was packed in towards the back of corral 1. This morning I was lethargic but I felt pretty good at race start. I wanted to start at a 7:25ish pace for the first couple of miles and then pick it up just a bit. I would be happy with a finish time right around 45 minutes with a pace right around 7:15 per mile.
Miles 1 and 2
As I jogged (note: we runners don’t like to use the word “jog”) to the starting line, it was super-crowded. I knew that the first few yards would be utter chaos. I tried to weave through a few slower runners but was caught behind an old guy whose elbows were flying everywhere and a runner who should have started in corral 5 or above. After a bit of hesitation, I muscled my way through them and found my cadence and some open space. The course starts East on University Dr. in Tempe for the first mile. It is flat and fast.
I had set my Garmin to show me lap pace, heart-rate and distance. It took me a quarter mile or so to settle into a smooth rhythm. I looked down at my Garmin and was surprised to see that I was running much faster than I expected. My pace was around 7:10 per mile. Nice! I felt comfortable when the Garmin buzzed indicating a mile. Mile 1 Pace: 7:09!
The course took a hard left on McClintock Dr going North. It was slightly uphill. I found my first smooth key; a woman in black wearing an Austin Marathon shirt. I was sure she was running the half; but I would have her with me for another mile. I picked up a cup of water at the first station and gulped it down. There was no purpose to this; I just wanted my throat wet. At the mile 2 marker, my Garmin buzzed again. Mile 2 Pace: 7:13!
Miles 3 and 4
The half marathoners split right after we crossed the bridge over Tempe Town Lake. We took a hard left going back West on Curry Rd. I lost the girl from Austin. Instead, I found an older guy in gray (he was probably my age but I think I am 20 years younger than I am). The wind was slightly against us now so drafting was in order. There weren’t that many runners in front of us. I could see a girl and a couple of guys who we were catching up to, and a group of much faster runners spread out in front. I ran on behind the guy in gray as my Garmin buzzed for mile 3. Mile 3 Pace: 7:10!
The course takes a hard left-U-turn and the curves to the right to go south on the Greenbelt path towards Tempe Town Lake. I caught up to a couple of runners as I continued to draft the guy in gray. As I crossed the 5k mark (3.11 miles), I wondered if I had gone out too quickly. I wondered if I would pay for it later in uphill portion of the race. For now, I felt good. As we meandered south and curved around towards the East on the North shore of the lake, the course went through some up-and-down undulations. We were running slightly downhill as we went under Scottsdale road as my Garmin buzzed again. Mile 4 Pace: 7:07!
|Looking good and hamming it at mile 6
Mile 5 and 6
The tough portion of the course was about to begin. After continuing to head east, the course took a couple of sharp right turns and a left turn to go back uphill and North. The guy in gray had stopped to get water as I ran on. I was now running alone with a kid (20-something) in a blue t-shirt and a guy in a neon singlet a few yards in front of me. The course went under the 202 Freeway and zigzagged up back to Curry Rd. I was cutting as many corners as possible as I caught up to the kid in blue and slowly passed him. I could see a few more runners ahead but I could also see the hill as we turned left (going West) on Curry Rd. My pace slowed but so did everyone else’s. I am usually a slower uphill runner than most people my speed, but this time I was actually catching up to the guy in neon green and another guy in front of him in a yellow sleeveless race outfit. For the first time, I saw a runner walking up the hill. Ouch! I felt bad for him and uttered a couple of words of encouragement, “You can do this!” as I passed him. My Garmin buzzed again. Mile 5 Pace: 7:32!
|Kicking it past the guy in yellow sleeveless at the finish
After a hundred yards of uphill, it was all downhill. I had survived, even thrived on the uphill portion. We took a left turn on Mill Ave going South to cross the bridge over Tempe Town Lake. The crowds were thin but a few brave souls were out there cheering us on. There weren’t many runners in sight. My pace quickened. It wasn’t going to be a PR but it would be a good race. I wondered if I would catch the guy in yellow sleeveless. I struck a hang-loose pose for a couple of photographers as I ran on (you can see me hamming it up in pictures above). I could feel the kick in my stride. My Garmin buzzed. Mile 6 Pace: 6:56!
As I exited the bridge to go downhill, the kid in blue passed me – he was in an all-out sprint to the finish. I didn’t even try to keep up with him but did quicken my pace enough to catch and pass the guy in yellow sleeveless (see picture on left) just before the finish line. I finished strong in an official time of 44:24 and a pace of 7:09 per mile. The course wasn’t really hard but had a challenging incline at the 5-mile mark.
I finished 3rd in my age group out of 105 runners. I finished 29th overall out of more than 2200 runners. Not bad!
|3rd place in AG, 29th overall – not bad!
|Mile splits for the Arizona Rock n Roll 10k race
I’m happy with the race as I sit here and type this out. So far, training for the Tokyo Marathon has gone quite well. Next up >> Sedona Half Marathon. It will be cold, hilly and a mile-high elevation. Yikes!