I hadn’t raced in over a year but that changed on February 9, 2019. I ran the Phoenix Half Marathon. It was a training run to prepare for the Boston Marathon. My plan was to run the first 4 miles easy (8:05 pace), pick it up for the next 5 miles (7:55 pace) and then give it all I have left for the last 4 miles. Read on…
I slept in the family room today. We have a plush, comfortable rug that makes for a solid hard bed. As expected, I slept sparingly. The night before, I had laid out my gear. From top to bottom, I was wearing my Boston Marathon 2019 visor, my green puppy scarf, a Columbia crew-neck long-sleeve shirt with and blue adidas top, adidas running gloves, CWX tights with Lululemon shorts, Bering socks and Mizuno Wave (Bluebird) shoes. I decided not to wear the Zensah calf-sleeves (it was a game-time decision). As always, I was wearing my Garmin watch and Bluetooth wireless headphones. For nutrition, I had a picky bar and a pack of Gatorade Endurance gel. There was a Gu station at mile 6. It would be enough!
|Phoenix Half Marathon Splits|
2:30AM: I woke up groggy, turned on the Miele coffee maker, ate a Yogurt and relaxed. I felt good. I had no nagging injuries. I checked the weather. It said 42 in Mesa; the starting line would likely be just a bit cooler but they had heaters.
4:00AM: After showering and putting on my gear, I left the house promptly at 4AM. Runners would drive to the finish line, park and take the bus up to the starting line for this point-to-point race. After a bit of traffic near the parking lot, I boarded the bus at around 4:40AM. It was all uneventful. I sat next to someone who had qualified for Boston. Small-talk ensued about Boston and soon we were at the starting line.
5:10AM: As expected, the starting line was chaotic. There were dozens of heaters with hundreds of runners huddled like penguins trying to keep warm. The restroom lines were long (as expected). Nervous energy was everywhere. It was a mixture of first-timers, seasoned half-marathoners and people like me; training for a more significant and longer race. I made small talk with random folks. I had cracked a hand-warmer and stored it in each of my gloves. Time passed slowly but after what seemed like an eternity, it was almost race time.
6:20AM: I undressed from all the heavy clothing I was wearing into my running gear. I still had long running pants and shirt on. Some crazy runners were in shorts and sleeveless tops. I made sure my headphones worked. I was a bit skeptical because sometimes bluetooth connectivity between my Garmin and the headphones is a bit sketchy. Thankfully, it worked!
Someone sang the national anthem. Someone else counted down. A couple of last second stretches and off we went!
6:30AM: I started the race real easy. I wanted to find a pace group at around 8-minute-mile and stay in a pack. It’s always easier running with a pack when pace making is a shared responsibility. This early in the race, lots of runners are too fast or too slow, and you have to make your own pace. In the Phoenix Marathon, there are no corrals; everyone takes off all at once. You will find 7-minute and 11-minute runners all running together in the first mile; this makes for weaving and bobbing around slower runners. I simply managed my heart-rate to let the pace come naturally. In less than a mile we took a quick left turn going south. Soon, the Garmin buzzed at the 1-mile juncture. Exactly 8:00. Perfect!
|Phoenix Half Marathon 2019 – Relaxed First Few Miles|
My rhythm felt smooth. My cadence was set to music. There were still fast and slow runners mixed in but I was starting to find like-paced runners. It was still dark out but early morning light had begun to displace the darkness.
7:00AM: The first 3 miles went by easily. I was averaging just under an 8-minute-mile pace. I found my rhythm running behind a big guy in orange followed by an Asian guy in neon green. They were running a few paces behind a little girl in black. It was still cold out. At the 4-mile mark, I picked up a Gatorade cup and downed it. I felt good until suddenly my left IT band started talking to me. It wasn’t pain I was feeling; rather, it was an awkward discomfort; as if something was holding back my stride. I momentarily thought about stopping but ran on with some discomfort.
The next mile was uncomfortable but I managed my pace just under 8. I’m sure my gait was a little awkward but I didn’t pay it much heed. In the first hour, I had run just over 7.5 miles at a pace just under 8:00 per mile. The discomfort had vanished. I drank a few sips of Gatorade at each stop.
I had a pack of Gatorade endurance gels in my back pocket. I took off my gloves, chucked my hand-warmers and ate the first gel at the 8-mile mark. It was time to kick it up a notch!
7:30AM: With more than half the race gone, I decided to accelerate. I sped up to the girl in black and dropped her. The Asian guy decided to come with me for the next half-a-mile but he too dropped back. The course was zigzagging through the city of Mesa. It was an overcast day with a chill in the air. The temperature had dropped by a few degrees. It was now in the upper 30s. I could see that on a bank-billboard on the side of the road. 38 degrees it said.
I ate the second gel at the 10-mile mark. With 5k to go, I still had a gear left. It was go time! My cadence remained smooth. But…I felt this small splat-splat-splat coming as I ran. I couldn’t hear it through my music, but I could feel it. I looked down and noticed that my left shoelace had come undone. Oh well…
|Phoenix Marathon – Shoelace came off|
I ran on!
A girl in purple passed me. She looked good. She would be my key for the rest of the race; shoelace untied and all! Andrea is her name; I would find out at the end of the race!
8:00AM: With about a mile and a half to go, Andrea and I took turns leading and pushing each other. I could still feel the splat-splat-splat. Plenty of runners were walking (most were 10k finishers). We must have passed at least a couple of dozen runners.
With less than a mile to go, there is a downhill portion where I started to sprint. Andrea fell behind by a few steps. As I took the left into the finishing area in Riverview Mall, I kept passing runners. With less than half-a-mile to go, Andrea caught up and passed to me! I was surprised and accelerated my pace. As I entered the finishing chute, my heart-rate was nearing the red zone now but I could see the finish line. I finished a couple of steps in front of her. I felt good. She felt good.
|Phoenix Half Marathon – Finish Line – With Andrea|
The snap above was taken at the finish line. Notice that I am wearing the Boston Marathon visor and she is wearing the NY Marathon cap. We runners are all the same!
I finished with an official time of 1:41:58 at a 7:47-per-mile pace; a few minutes faster than my target time. I was happy that my last mile was easily my fastest!
Andrea and I exchanged phone numbers after we realized that we were both going to Boston! She’s from St. Louis but we will see each other on Strava!
Best to you Andrea…thanks for pushing me! Hello 2019. I’m back in the game. Next up – a 10k in March!