Tuesday, December 15, 2009

2009 Tucson Marathon

I made it to the aid/water station just past mile 20 and asked the lady in charge to call a shuttle to pick me up. I was done. One of the bike patrol offered to make the call about a mile back and I said, "no, I only have a bit more than six miles to go." But, then I thought six miles of walking. What will that be for? It won't help me with my PF Chang's Marathon in January. It won't make me a stronger runner. All it will do is get me a medal and my third marathon completion. At the time it made perfect sense to throw in the towel.

The lady in charge of the water station offered me a chair, while she called. As I sat in it, Vince happened to run by. "No way buddy. You're not done. Come on, run with me." I didn't know Vince at this point. He was just a helpful fellow competitor. I told Vince I was done and he went on. I sat. I became a non runner. I hit the stop button on my garmin. The shuttle was a green jeep cherokee and the driver took 5-10 minutes to get to me. So, I sat and watched as runners stopped, got a drink and hurried on their way. I never volunteered at a water stop, so this was all knew to me. A runner would come by, the volunteer would give them a cup and say how great they looked. I was waiting for her to point to me and say, "you're doing way better than that guy." She didn't.

In the meantime, I massaged by calves.

My day started at 4 am. Actually 3:44. That's when I awoke at the Best Western Innsuites Hotel. I wanted that extra 16 minutes of sleep, so I closed my eyes. Figuring I got the extra rest, I looked at my clock again. It was 3:45. For the next 15 minutes I kept looking at the clock figuring time was up only to see a minute had gone by. Finally, I got up and got ready for the 2009 Tucson Marathon.

It was going to be a good day. The first 8-9 miles are ups and downs with a net elevation drop of about 400 feet. Starting at 4800 feet in Oracle, AZ. The plan was to run the downs and walk the bigger ups, but to conserve energy for state route 77. SR77 is where you go from 4400 elevation to around 27oo over the final 17 miles (little did I realize it would also be in the face of a pretty strong wind). The plan worked for the first 10 miles. All my splits were under the 12 minute per mile I planned. All except for mile 8 that was over 15 minutes and was the biggest up hill on the course.

As I sat at aid station 20, I watched runners go in and out and I knew they'd finish. My time to that point wasn't horrible. I was behind where I wanted to be, but it was the calves and feet that were the reason for me stopping. I'm not good with pain. I tried to pretend I liked pain, but that didn't work.

Miles 12 thru 20 were my undoing. I wanted to do these downhill miles in under 11 minutes. My plan was to get to the finish under 5 hours. The hardest part of the course was behind me and I expected to do negative splits. Around mile 12 I could feel the pain from the Oracle hills in the beginning of the race. The walk breaks became longer. I wasn't sure if I was developing blisters on the pads of my feet. I did realize that I should have trimmed my toe nails the night before. I could feel that one or two of them were slicing into the neighboring toe. Turned out my feet came out ok. No blisters and only one toe got bloodied. My splits in these middle miles were in the 14 to 19 range. Any split over 15 is a mile in which I could only walk. Today, it's hard to imagine I couldn't run. But, from mile 16 until the water stop after 20 I walked. I watched my garmin and I thought how could I ever be able to go another 10 miles? I saw the Catalina Moutains way to my left and I knew the road would curve back to them.

I became a non competitor at the water stop. Vince couldn't get me up. It's weird watching a water stop activity as a non competitor. So, I continued to massage my calves and then I stood up. I walked to the street and said, "I'm not done. Thank the shuttle driver. I'm going to head on down the road." Yeah, I thought about what I was going to write in my blog. I thought about what my fellow bloggers would think. I guess you're my enablers. No, there was no Rocky music with this decision. I just decided my legs felt better after the rest and I could run/walk to the next water station and then see how I felt.

I had a new plan. Survival to the finish line. I was going to count my running steps. 20, 30 or 40 right steps and then I could walk. I did this a few times and passed 3 runners that I watched pass me at the water stop. I did it a few more times and then saw the green jeep. She had her window rolled down and asked how I was doing. I tried not to look at the plush leather seats or feel the heat escaping from the car window. I told her I was fine and that I was going to soldier on. Little did I know that Vince, my 'enabler' was a soldier.

After a few more running segments I passed a Team Chances runner from Ahwatukee. Practically a neighbor. She was laboring with her two sons to get to the finish. I was in the middle of one of my running segments, so I kept on moving. Up ahead I saw a guy in a white shirt. Could it be Vince? After a while, I caught up to him. He was walking with a hiking stick. Never seen that before in a race. I tapped him on the shoulder, which scared him to no end. He was glad to see me and congratulated me on returning to the race. We talked for a while. He's in the army at Fort Huachuca (wa-chu-ka). This is where I learned his name and that he almost quit on a 100 mile race. At mile 93, someone got him up and running. He was just paying it forward. I thanked him for his service and we walked for a while. Then, I told him I needed to get running. I didn't think I'd see him again. But, around mile 25 he passed me. Said I inspired him to finish strong and he finished ahead of me.

Then, the Ahwatukee lady caught up to me. We walked and talked. Her boys still with her. I told her she was doing great and she said I was too. The comradiere at the back of the pack is nice. Everyone supported each other, except for the two 'Paris Hilton' wannabes that were running and wouldn't even talk to me. More on that in another post.

Miles 22 thru 25 were 14:09, 13:56, 14:30 and 15:56. The last hill up Hawser Road slowed me down at the end. I was making a lot better time than in those middle miles. Not fast, but at least there was some running involved.

My attitude wasn't very good. I was upset that I didn't properly train for a marathon with this much elevation change. I was a bit naive to think that a couple hill workouts would suffice. I was embarrassed that I wasn't doing 11 minute miles. I had friends that told me, I just didn't listen.

By mile 26 I was toast again. I was walking and people that I had past were now passing me. I was glad for them (not the paris hilton girls). They all passed me, but by then I knew I would finish. I did in 6 hours and 9 minutes. It felt like 60 hours. But, I finished and for that I got my third marathon medal.

Tucson - Twin Cities - Rock N Roll Arizona

Below are pictures I took. I didn't take many during the last half of the marathon. I was not in a good frame of mind then.

The expo was at the El Conquistador in north Tucson.

The expo was small, so I sat poolside and looked at all the brochures they give you. The El Paso Marathon had a booth, so I spent a long time looking at info for West Texas and Big Bend National Park.

The race director had two school buses at the start. You find the window with your race number, put your extra clothing in a drop bag and toss it in the bus. Then at the finish line, they had your warm clothing for you to pick up.

Me at the start line. The start is in the middle of the Coronado National Park in Oracle, AZ.

A beautiful start area, surrounded by boulders and unbelievable views.

As luck would have it, a bunch of porta potties too. I chose to use the tree on the right instead. I'm sure the women appreciated less competition for the seats. However, I did see a few women squatin' in the desert.

Before the sunrise. We had to ride buses to get there and then we sat for over an hour until the race start time.

A close up of the rock climbing runners. I took several pictures from atop similar rocks.

The start.

Miles 5-9 are an out an back. They are also a down and up. I liked it, because you got to see all the other runners. The views were great at this point. I even saw superman running by.

Now I have 35 days to train for the flat PF Chang's Rock N Roll Marathon in Arizona. Yeah, yesterday I would have cancelled my registration.

Monday, September 28, 2009

Jerome Hill Climb 2009

The Jerome Hill Climb Photos for 2009 are in. Check them out, it is one of the most scenic races in Arizona.

Saturday, September 26, 2009

Laveen Fun Run 5k

Last Saturday, was the first annual Laveen Fun Run put on by The Runner's Store. The event was held at the Bougainvillea Golf Club, and it was a beautiful morning for a run. I was excited to get a couple of my cross country kids to come out and run it as well. They were excited to be there too (although I think they were most excited about all the freebies). The course started out in the parking lot and headed out to a dirt road that ran alongside the golf course. After the first mile, which seemed very long, we entered the golf course, ran along a few fairways, and then followed cart paths to the finish.

After a quick start, I settled into 3rd place and watched the top two guys quickly vanish from sight. I knew there were several high school kids right behind me (unfortunately, they weren't my high school kids--they'll get there though!), but I managed to stay ahead of them for the next 1.9 miles. After making my way through the fairways, and heading down the path, I started wondering when this thing was going to end. It kept going and going. I finally rounded a corner and could see the parking lot off in the distance. It was then that one of those high school kids caught me. I thought it was a little early to start my kick, so I just stayed with him. Then, to my frustration, I saw that the finish was not where we started, but much sooner. And there wasn't enough space to catch him again. Fourth place overall aint bad though. I knew I'd still be getting an age group award. Turns out that the top 2 guys were both in my age group, so I still got third. (Age groups were kind of odd. I was in the 24-30 age group rather than they typical 30-34. I probably would have been 1st had it been the typical division. Oh well.

After the race, awards were given, and a Garmin was even raffled off. I ran into some friends who confirmed my suspicions with their Garmin that the course was quite long. I later mapped it out online and found it to be closer to 3.25 rather than 3.1. Knowing that, my 19:40 wasn't so disappointing. Had it been 3.1, I likely would have finished in about 18:40, not to mention a third place overall finish.

Race shirts were very nice tech shirts. Unfortunately, I haven't gotten mine yet. Only 100 shirts were ordered, but over 200 runners ended up registering, so another order was placed. They should be available this week. I can't wait.

The Runner's Store is currently planning a 10k relay series in the near future. Check out the Events page for details.

Friday, July 24, 2009

ARR Summer Series #4

After the Freedom Run, I was dying to run another 5k, so last Saturday I got to. This was the Kiwanis Park in Tempe, Part of the Arizona Road Racers Summer Series. I ran this race a couple years ago and remembered how humid it was. This year wasn't as humid, but quite a bit warmer.

A few minutes after I finished my last race, some passerby made a comment that I wasn't even breathing heavy. That got me thinking... I ran that first mile under 6 minutes. How would I have done if I hadn't known that? Would I have run the last 2 miles harder? What time could I have gotten? So, this time around, I was determined to not look at my watch, and just run by feel. That took some major will power as I'm pretty anal about my splits, but I was able to do it (aside from there being someone at mile 1 calling out times).

As I was getting ready at the start line, an announcement was made that there was a big puddle of water about 30 yards from the line, and that we "will get wet." It wasn't as bad as the announcer made it sound. The course was a little different this year, with no running along the canal. There were a lot more hills around the lake than I remembered, making this course a little more difficult than my last race.

There were some really speedy runners out there, so I was not expecting an age group award at all, I was just approaching this race as an experiment, and hoping to beat my most recent 5k time. When I got to mile 1, where the guy was calling out times, I was a little disappointed to hear 6:35. Was I really going that much slower? Once we got around the lake, there were fewer hills. As I approached the 2nd mile marker, I was sorely tempted to look at my watch. But I stayed strong. Unfortunately, I was so focused on not looking at my watch, I didn't think to hit the split button, so I don't know what that mile was.

From there, the course looped back around retracing our steps around the lake and home to the finish. I was able to pass several people along the way, and finished definitely breathing hard (and avoiding the puddle). My watch read 19:37. Not bad at all. Twelve seconds faster that a couple weeks prior on what I felt was a more difficult course.

I grabbed some Gatorade, watermelon, and bagel and hung out until results were posted. I finished 72 overall, and, much to my surprise, 3rd in my age group! Sweet!

So, when's the next 5k? Check it out here.

Friday, May 29, 2009

ARR Summer Series Race #1

The Arizona RoadRacers put on a 5 event summer series every year and the first event was on May 23rd in Papago Park. It starts just north of the zoo parking lot. Plenty of parking.

This is a unique race because, while it is chipped timed, it has a staggared start. The oldest runners start first, then in the next 15 or so minutes runners are released to run based on age and gender. Don't worry kids, the youth don't start last.

The goal is to have different winners based on chip and gun times. How did that work out? The overall gun time winner was Sara Slattery (27)with a finish time of 29:16. Her chip time was 16:47. That means she started when the clock was at 12:29. She beat Andy Lawrence (58) by 22 seconds. She was also the overall chip finisher.

The challenge with this format is that between 11 and 17 minutes there's a boat load of folks starting. I started several minutes late due to the crowds. It looks like Andy may have started at about the right time. Not sure when Sara was supposed to start. I was in the 48 year old group and our start time was 12:39. It's really hard to start when you are supposed to, so I don't blame any runner for starting sooner than their race bib allows. I was about 2 minutes late starting, but I didn't want to get in the way of any runners that had a chance to place. I would think it would be really hard for race organizers to figure out the time for runners to start.

Anyway, the race overall was a fun one. It's mostly on the canal heading north past McDowell Road. You turn around and head back against the slower runners. I think the speedy runners probably felt like salmon swimming upstream. I always enjoy seeing the faster athletes run by on the return leg. In this race I also got to see the older runners race by.

At the end as you enter the park again there is a slight downhill which is fun to race down. I didn't notice it at the beginning of the run, but I sure needed it at the end.

ARR did a great job with the after race food. Bagels, chips, cookies, soda, water, peanut butter and cream cheese. They did a good job putting the spreadable stuff on a separate table. It sure did make the line go faster. Tee shirts are an option during the summer series. The theme is "Run like it's Hot".

Monday, May 11, 2009

ARR Rio Vista Luck of the Draw

I ran the 3rd Annual Rio Vista Luck of the Draw 8k on Sunday, May 10. The race was well-organized by the Arizona Road Racers club. Unfortunately since I’m horrible at committing to races (being the first to sign up for the Fireside at Norterra Adventure Run was a complete fluke), I couldn’t take advantage of my ARR membership to get a discount on the race. Race day registration was $25. Instead of a t-shirt, we received a participant medal. I thought it was a little weird getting the “medal” when I registered instead of after finishing the race. Participants also got a discount coupon ($10 off a $20 order) for Buca di Beppo, who seemed to be a major race sponsor.

The race was at Rio Vista Park in Peoria. The park facilities were very nice with plenty of parking, a group ramada area, and clean bathrooms. The 8k course was different than the 5k course that I vaguely remember from last year’s ARR Summer Series #3 race. For the 8k we started off running south along the edge of the park, and I think for the 5k we ran north. There’s a course map on the ARR website.

The 8k started at 7:30am and there was also a 2 mile fun run that started 15 minutes later. I don’t have a lot to say about the run itself. With only about 150 participants there was plenty of room and I just settled in to run at my own pace. I managed a 10 minute pace for the first three miles, then ended up slowing for the last two miles. There were a couple small hills, but overall the course was pretty flat.

After crossing the finish line, every participant was handed a playing card which was our ticket to a possible door prize. The post-race refreshments were handed out in pre-packaged brown paper lunch bags with a choice of an apple or banana. The other items in the bag were Pringles, a Nature Valley granola bar, a slice of raisin bread, and Famous Amos chocolate chip cookies. The bags made it easy to grab and go (no waiting in line for food), but I think I prefer being able to select my own snack.

Awards were presented at 9am, then it was time for the door prizes. So the fun thing about the race was that door prizes were given away, as the name of the event implies, by the luck of the draw. For each prize, a playing card was drawn. Everyone who had that card came up to the front, and then they drew another card from the deck, with the high card winning the prize. The door prizes were pretty awesome. The ones I remember are: two prizes worth $100 at Buca di Beppo, $25 at Texas Roadhouse, $20 at Sprouts, and a free meal for two at Sweet Tomatoes. Unfortunately the five of spades wasn’t a winning card for me that day.

I’ve enjoyed all the ARR events I’ve been to and this race was no exception. Assuming I’m not busy, I’ll be back next year to try my luck again.

Saturday, May 9, 2009

Walk in the Wild 5k

Ever since the first time I visited the Phoenix Zoo a couple years ago, I thought it would be an awesome course for a race. So, when I saw this event a few months ago, I got real excited and knew this was a race I wanted to do. I was also excited to participate in the first annual event. I've never been able to do an inaugural event, and I definitely had a good time.

The 5k course consisted of two laps around the entire zoo, and took me on a little desert trail I had never been on before. There were quite a few hills on the course. That's something I grown unaccustomed to considering most of Phoenix is pretty flat. I enjoyed it though, simply for something different. The course was also pretty well shaded, which was especially nice since temperatures are on the rise here in the Valley of the Sun.

I didn't see too many animals. Guess they were all sleeping, or not interested in all the people running and walking by. I had to laugh when I saw the flamingos. They were all standing together in a group, on one leg of course, with their heads under their wings, apparently sleeping. After the race, I also saw an ostrich running across the hill. I thought that was appropriate.

I finished with an unofficial time of 22:07. Not bad, considering the hilly course and the sea of walkers I had to wade through on the second lap. That was pretty poor planning on the organizers part, if you ask me. Not a big deal though, since I wasn't running for time.

This being my first time participating in an inaugural event, I don't know how it compares to others, but I did notice a few things that could be improved on. Only 30 minutes into the registration and packet pick-up, they only had large shirts left, and they were out of safety pins. I had to carry my bib relay baton style. There's gotta be a better way to make this a run/walk. My suggestion, have the 5k walk go at the same time as the mile walk (which started an hour later). That'll save a lot of congestion on the tiny trail and the rest of the course. There was no timer, and no one taking our bib numbers, so no official results. That's my biggest complaint. I don't care to much about the shirt or the safety pin shortage, but I would like to know how I faired with the rest of the field.

This was definitely a nice run though. I loved the course. Plus, it's always fun to go to the zoo.

Sunday, May 3, 2009

Night Run for the Arts - 8k @ 8pm, Scottsdale 5/2

During Ragnar Del Sol, I was lucky enough to have a 17-mile leg starting at 2am. I use the term "lucky" because it was really a magical experience. By that point in the race, the teams were spread out so far that I only saw 3-4 other runners during that whole run. Since then, I've been looking for a reason to run at night again, and the Night Run for the Arts seemed like a good one!
Any race that has been around for 24 years has to be doing something right, and this was a very well-run event. The location couldn't have been better; the start was on the grounds of the Scottsdale Center for the Performing Arts - a little park with with a grassy hill and a live blues band on a stage set up... over water. As for amenities; there was plenty of water, a long row of clean port-o-john's and vendor booths with free samples & stuff. I was especially pleased with the Honest Tea bottle after the race was over. My only knock is the registration was a bit slow and the race-day reg had 1 woman that was really on the ball and two older ladies that probably weren't too familiar with the registration process. They actually slowed the organized woman down as she continually explained what to do. I'm only bringing this up as a kudos to her; she kept a smile on her face while she did all the work. :)

The event had a 3 mile and a 8k; I found it a little strange that they would mix the units of measure like that when they clearly could have billed it as a 5k & 8k or 3 mile and 5 mile. I had to google "8k" prior to the run to see how far it actually is, I've never run an 8k before. The 3 mile kicked off at 7pm on the dot, and there was plenty of time to relax and stretch to get ready for the 8k - they even had a yoga instructor take the stage and lead a stretching clinic at 7:40. Aside form the distance, the difference between the 3 mile & 8k was the sunlight slowly fading, by the 8:05 8k start it surely felt like a night-time race.
The mood at the start line was pretty festive; this didn't seem overall like a very serious race. There were a few gazelles up front, but I saw quite a few recreational joggers at the very front of the pack. There were a couple guys who caught my eye for different reasons; one was the mid-70's guy wearing only a pair of flag-covered running short-shorts and matching cap. It seems every established race has one or two characters like this that become part of the local running fabric - I knew a few of these who I ran with back in CT. I'm not sure what twists my life would have to take for me to turn into one of "these guys". The other runner who I noticed at the start was a 60+ guy who was in the very front of the pack (also shorts only) and was doing some warm-up sprints before the gun. I've seen elite runners do this pre-race ritual, and figured this guy was a serious runner. When I caught him from my mid-pack position before mile 2 I was really surprised. Another running style I'd never seen before was the dude in front of me running with his hands clasped behind his back - he actually looked like a cuffed perp running from the cops. I wondered if he was doing it as a bet: "I can beat you with my hands tied behind my back" and he kept it up for almost 3 miles and then ran with arms at his side about the time I passed him.
The course was great; it was fun to run through Old Town Scottsdale in the dark and take in a couple sections of a park on the way to the finish. Every mile was marked and water stations were well stocked. I didn't happen to see the mile 2 marker, but I think it was at a water station where I had a drinker step right in front of me; it was actually my hardest collision to date in a road race. We both apologized - no harm, no foul. My only question about the course is whether it was truly an 8k / 5 mile distance.
Here are my splits:
  1. 6:43
  2. 13:20
  3. 20:20
  4. 27:35
  5. Finish: 36:45??
I know I didn't bonk in the last mile; I was pretty sure by the number of people I passed that I was moving along pretty well and still on a 7:00ish pace. I was really hoping to break 35:00 for a 5-miler, and was on pace for the first 4 and never let up... maybe my legs were playing tricks on me. I'm still trying to find the results online; but they had a big screen with instant results scrolling -- a very nice touch. Kristen said I was a 7:0-something pace, but I was just really disappointed with the "36:45" and didn't check out the mile/pace. I was 20/99 for the 30-39 age group, and as a 38 year-old guy I guess that's ok. I'd like to see where I would've placed in the 35-39 group. The blurry photo above is me sprinting to the finish alongside Eric, 14 year-old I ran with for the last 2-3 miles. It wasn't my intention to sprint with him to the finish, there was a 3rd runner (not in the picture) that tried twice to pass me on the home stretch and once I got sprinting I wasn't backing off till the finish line. Eric's dad was really cool, he offered to email us the picture he took of us finishing together. We're going to surprise Eric with free entry into our next race. :)

No matter when you normally run, this race is a great excuse to get in 3-5 miles at night in beautiful Old Town Scottsdale. A very well-run event, and I'm looking forward to the 25th anniversary next year!

Monday, April 27, 2009

Fireside at Norterra Adventure Run - April 26, 2009

As soon as I read about the Fireside at Norterra Adventure Run, I knew that this was a race I wanted to participate in because of the unique concept. Instead of all runners following a set course, we got to choose our own course to get to all five of the checkpoints. There were options to do the adventure run solo or in teams of two or three, with unique rules for the teams. The website explains this much better than I can, so check it out for the exact details of the event.

The home base for the adventure run was the Fireside at Norterra community center.

I couldn’t make it to the packet pick-up on Saturday, so I made sure to arrive early the day of the race. The race directors wanted the adventure run to be a green event, so all participants received a reusable water bottle in addition to the requisite t-shirt.

Participants were encouraged to bring the reusable water bottle on the run since there were no cups at the checkpoints/water stations. I did see some people running with the event water bottle, but a lot of people also brought their own camelbaks, fuel belts, and handheld water bottles. I used my Nathan fuel belt, although if I had known ahead of time that the “course” was so short (more on that later), I probably wouldn’t have bothered with wearing it.

While waiting for the run to start, I checked out two of the event sponsors who had tables set up. The first was Mountainside Fitness where I “won” a three month free membership. They look like nice fitness centers, but unfortunately none of the locations are very convenient to my house. The other table was offering samples of Verve Energy Drink. I didn’t want to drink something new before running, but took a can to try some other time.

I knew Chad, another reporter from Arizona Foot Races, was also going to be at the adventure run because of a recent post on his own blog. I made an educated guess as to who he was and introduced myself. Luckily I was right and with the start running late we had a chance to chat.

The start to the event was very informal. I’d guess there were about 50-60 participants and at about 8:20, the race director Brett Stewart spoke a few words then gathered us at the parking lot exit. With a three, two, one, go… we were off.

Prior to race day the course map was posted to the website with four of the five checkpoints shown. The fifth point was revealed on race day. I’ve added it to the map below. (Click to see the full size map.) I was a little surprised that they didn’t have maps available to hand out. I understand it was a green event and all, but unlike with the water they didn’t tell us to bring our own maps. Luckily I did have a print-out of the map with me.

I headed toward the purple/orange checkpoints first. The purple was at the top of an uphill climb. My tactic was to just run half the hill at a time. I veered off to get the orange mark first before combing back to the purple. Each checkpoint had two or three volunteers ready to mark our bibs with a colored marker. The participants were spread out enough that I never had to wait in line to get my mark.

Next I ran over to the other half of the course. I started with the red mark first. The green checkpoint was a little hidden. I got to where I thought I was supposed to be and didn’t see any volunteers. I actually stopped dead in my tracks to look at the map. (It's a bit hard to read a map while running... try it some time if you don't believe me!) Luckily another runner was behind me and yelled out to keep going. The checkpoint was just around the curve in a little park. I found out later that Terrance is a community director at Fireside at Norterra. No wonder he knew the course so well!

After getting my final blue mark, I ran back to the community center. Instead of a finish line, there was a finish table. The volunteers verified that I had all five marks and wrote down my name and time. I finished in a little over 37 minutes. The run was advertised as being about 5.5 miles, but my Garmin had it as 3.7 miles. Of course that would differ depending on which route a runner chose to take. I’m not complaining about the course distance. I thought the checkpoints were well spread out. Any farther away and it could get frustrating to run so far between marks.

One of the teams checking in at the finish table.

The post-race spread included muffins, cookies, fruit snacks, and bananas. Once all the participants had finished, it didn’t take too long until the awards ceremony. There were medals for the top three two-person and there-person teams. They also had something special for teams with kids under twelve, but I didn’t catch what it was.

The winners in the two-person team category. They were also the fastest finishers overall with a time around 20 minutes. In addition to a medal, winners received a $20 gift certificate to Dick's Sporting Goods - one of the event sponsors.

Then it was time for the solo participants. There were a lot of speedy runners, but they were all male. So I was waiting anxiously to see whether they’d break up the awards by gender… and they did! There were only two solo females and I was lucky enough to place first! Here’s a close up of the “medallion of awesomeness”. (Sorry it's a little blurry.)

I had a chance to speak with Kristen Stewart, one of the event organizers. Originally they were planning to do a 5k, but were having a hard time getting road closure permits from the City of Phoenix. So they changed to the adventure run format, which ended up being a perfect fit with the Fireside at Norterra community. From my perspective, the first adventure run was a success and I had a great time. I hope that the word gets out and Kristen and Brett see an even bigger turnout for the next adventure run on November 15.

Saturday, April 25, 2009

Run for the Cheetah 5k

The 5th annual Run for the Cheetah was held on Saturday, April 29, 2009 at Papago Park in Phoenix to benefit the Cheetah Conservation Fund. It was a special event for me because I also ran last year as my first race ever. So this year’s event marked my one year anniversary as a runner. I did the 5k, but there was also a 1 mile run/walk and free kids dash.

I arrived at Papago Park about 6:40am and got through the race day registration process quickly with just a short wait in line to get my t-shirt. Registration was $25 for the 5k and well worth the money. (Early-bird registration was $18 before 3/6 and $20 before 3/27.) The goody bag had samples of Clif Shot Blocks and organic Popumz multigrain crisps, as well as coupons from REI (15% off), P.F. Chang’s (free appetizer), Red Robin ($1 coupon), and Jamba Juice (BOGO free). Participants also got free entry into the Phoenix Zoo on race day.

Papago Park is a beautiful location for a race and offers plenty of roads and trails for warming up.

I just had to stop in the middle of my warm up jog and take this photo.

The 5k started at 7:30am and the 1 mile started about 10 minutes later. The 5k course was an out and back, starting in the park near Ramada 16 and then running out along the canal for the majority of the race. It was crowded for the first quarter mile or so on the park roads, but the pack spread out once we got out to the canal.

Waiting for the 5k race to start. Race director David Bluestein is on the left with his trademark sparkly "hair".

If you look closely, you can see the line of runners snaking up along the curve of the canal.

The course had two water stations. The first was just past mile one. The second was here at the turn around. Thank you volunteers!

This tunnel passes under E McDowell Road. Earlier in the race, I was in the tunnel heading out as the lead runners passed on their way back. This photo was taken after the turn around as I was heading back.

I had another event the next day so I wanted to take it fairly easy. My goal was to finish the race in 30 minutes. As I approached the finish line, I saw the clock read 29:50 so I sprinted hard to try and beat the clock. I think I finished at exactly 30:00. Race timing was done by Arizona Running Events Company and they use the method of collecting the tear-off strip from the bottom of the race bib for timing. This is the only part of the event that I would say needs improvement. For a 5k, the time it takes to cross the start line can make the difference in a PB for some runners. Also, with manual timing it takes a lot longer to get the race results out.

The finish line is near the blue tent. The clock is at 29:49. Right after this photo, I took off and sprinted for the finish.

Another shot of the finish line from a different perspective. I love when it's a downhill to the finish.

There was plenty of water (thanks to sponsor Watermill Express), bagels, oranges, and bananas available after the race. For the early finishers, there were also extra samples of Clif Shot Bloks and Popumz. The Run for the Cheetah was a great event for the whole family. A lot of kids were carrying plush cheetahs from the Cheetah Kids booth and there seemed to be a constant line for face painting. The Red Robin mascot also made an appearance for photos and to cheer on the kids dash.

Two free raffles were held. For participants under 21, the prize was a one year family membership to the Phoenix Zoo. For participants 21 and over, the prize was two bottles of cheetah wine from the Cape of Good Hope Wine Co. There were two grand prize winners in each category. A few other people also won cheetah posters.

Overall, it was a fantastic race experience and I look forward to my third Run for the Cheetah next year.

Friday, April 24, 2009

Run for the Cheetah

I wasn't going to run this event. No way. Until I read that it's 'Run for' not 'Run From the Cheetah'. Now, the ideal sounds pretty cool.

It's a benefit to ensure that Cheetahs don't become extinct. Money goes to the Cheetah Conservation Fund.

You choose between the 5k or 1 mile run and the kids have a dash of their own. I wish race directors would have the 1 mile first and then the 5k 20 minutes later. I'd run both. Anyway, the beauty of this race is the location. Right outside the Phoenix Zoo in Papago park. You'll get to see the unique rock formations in the park, the canal and maybe some fishermen reeling in a big catch. After the race, stick around for music, raffles, food and awards. Then, with your bib you can get into the zoo for free. Here's a tip - if you don't plan on going into the zoo, give your bib to a family that does.

Run For the Cheetah is Saturday, April 25, 2009 at Ramadas 9&10 in Papago Park.

This race is sponsored by The Phoenix Zoo, Harkins Theatres, Watermill Express and more. Please support those sponsors that support your sport.

Monday, April 20, 2009

June 2009 Races

6- Run For The Creeks -Presscott
6- Globe Rotary Round Mountain Sunrise Challenge -Globe
6- Circle the Peak" National Trails Day Race -Payson
7- Run For Vania -Tempe
18- Summer Solstice 5K -Metro Phoenix

Fireside at Norterra Adventure Run

Have you done an adventure run lately? At all?

Our own Brett Stewart brings this race series from back east to north Phoenix. It's part running, part treasure hunt. Brett can explain it better than I can, so check out the website. Just know this, if you like unique races that test your legs, heart and mind you need to run this race on the 25th of April and again on November 15th.

Race by yourself or in teams of 2 and 3. But, don't bring your ipod. You'll need to stay alert on this open course race.

Earth Day 5k

You can expect about 300 runners at this event on the shores of Tempe Town Lake. It's the Earth Day run and it's Wednesday night. It's great for runners that can't make a weekend event or rather run in the evening.
It's only $20 if you sign up at Sole Sports in Tempe, Runner's Den in Phoenix or Run AZ in Gilbert and Ahwatukee. But, you have to do it by tomorrow. Otherwise, it's $25 at the door.
A Green Expo is starting at 5:30 pm right near the start line at the Tempe Arts Center.

Sunday, April 19, 2009

Pat's Run - April 18, 2009 Tempe AZ

As a runner there are certain races in certain states that you "have to do". Some events are even "have to do" for non-runners too -- Pat's Run is one of these events.

Sunday, April 18 marked the 5th running of Pat's Run, benefiting Team Tillman / Pat Tillman Foundation and showcased how much an event like this can grow. 20,000 walkers, runners, stroller-pushing joggers and first-time runners participated along with an army of yellow-shirted volunteers. To put it simply, the city of Tempe is transformed by the number 42. (Pat's number with ASU). Tempe, AZ and ASU are one in the same. The university's campus is directly connected to the main artery of Tempe -- Mill Street -- and ASU students (not to mention parents and visitors) are the life blood of the city. On the Spring day of Pat's Run, Tempe bleeds ASU burgundy & gold and the number 42 is everywhere you look.

Most races it's considered a rookie mistake to wear the event's T-shirt during the race; experienced runners know that race day is not the time to wear anything new (chafing anyone?). There are a few times when that rule can be broken - Pink race shirts during a breast cancer run (Nike women's marathon and Komen Race for the Cure come to mind) - and Pat's Run is one of these times. Packet pick-up is available for days before the event, so everyone has the latest "42" on their backs, and multi-year runners have any of the previous 4 years... although there are very few from year 1 before the current TT / Pat's Run logos. I guess those are collector's items of sort. Pre-race it was fun to point out each of the previous year's shirts to my running partner while we were waiting in line at the port-o-johns. Even with a huge mass of people, the wait wasn't that bad, as the organizers did a tremendous job of making sure there was enough of everything to accommodate 20,000 bodies.

Speaking of my running partner, this was his first running race. He's done a few tris and even an ultra marathon relay -- yet never toed the line for a running race. I got to provide some advice and see the event through the eyes of a newbie; that's always fun to remind you what it was like on your first time. My sage advice wasn't always on the mark though; we picked a corral that had the big #8 on it and I failed to notice it wasn't 8-minute miles (as we'd planned to run) it was corral #8, 11:00 minute miles! Since this is an "event" and less of a running race, I didn't care about time, and settled in with this pack. There were plenty of walkers & runners of all shapes & sizes, and the mood was light - whether they were there to run, walk or just be a part of the event. Aside from the tight quarters at the start (OK, for the first mile) it was a blast to navigate around the rest of the pack. Jason felt it was a great confidence boost to pass ab out a thousand other runners during the race!

As far as courses go, the route is pretty nice; I have run or biked the same area several times for different triathlons or marathons so I know the area well. You start between Sun Angel and Sun Devil stadiums, and end - get this - on the 42 yard line of Sun Devil Stadium. The run into the stadium can be a little tight, but coming out of the tunnel onto the field is an amazing experience. For the last 2 years I've made it a point to all-out sprint the 60 or so yards as soon as my feet hit the turf. Finishing on the field is incredible, the stands are filled with spectators and runners who've already finished and some runners even get their names called over the PA system. The huge crouds work their way up the stadium steps and the concession area is very well stocked with water, bananas and bars.

(I just realized it took longer for me to write this than to run the race!)

All in all, it's a great event. If you're a runner, walker or athlete and live in AZ (or San Jose for that event) then you need to do this race. Period. There's a reason 20,000 people showed up this year and left happy!

Saturday, April 18, 2009

Pat's Run

The first of two Pat's Runs take place at Arizona State University in Tempe, AZ. The school that Pat Tillman played his collegiate football. Next week there will be another Pat's Run in San Jose, Pat's hometown.
This was the fifth annual run that started soon after Pat Tillman, an American hero, died in Afghanistan fighting for America. Just in case you may not know, Pat played professional football for the Arizona Cardinals. When he was offered a new contract, he passed and joined the military. Today we celebrate Pat Tillman and raised funds for his foundation.

The race featured 20,000+ runners and walkers running from the parking lot of ASU's Sun Devil Stadium north across the Mill Avenue bridge and through Papago Park along Curry Road. As you head south down Scottsdale Road you loop around the athletic fields and up into Sun Devil Stadium. It's 4.2 miles and you finish high fiving ASU football players on the 42 yard line. Yes, you get to finish on the field and you're not rushed off. You can stretch on the grass after your run. Plenty of seating in the stands to watch your fellow runners come in.

Why 42? It was Pat Tillman's number when he was a defensive hero for the Sun Devils. This race is unique, in that 70% of the participants wear the technical shirt you get with your registration. Families will also love the play area for kids and the festival where you can get something to eat, drink or even a message.

Look to your right around the half way point and you'll see the stadium. The finish line looms big just a few miles away.

Football fields are marked every 10 yards, but at ASU, the 42 yard line is also marked so that we can always remember Pat Tillman. If you'd like to learn more about Pat click on his name.

As for my race? I planned to run 9 minute miles, or closed to it. Finish under 40 minutes and stop for just a few pics. My splits came in at 9.08, 9.33, 9.33 and 10.41. Not sure what happened at the end. But, I finished with a 9.11 for the last .2 miles entering the stadium. Final time: 40.09. It was a crowded race, but not so much to slow me down. I did a little weaving, but I was able to run the tangents without much interference. After the race, I went back to the stadium entrance and ran back in to take some pictures. Here's where you can find more pictures.

Race stats and map

Monday, April 6, 2009

Lake Pleasant Dam Good Run (Morristown AZ) April 4, 2009

Lake Pleasant Dam Good Run
There are a lot of things that make the Lake Pleasant ‘Dam Good Run’ one of our favorite local running events. It is sponsored by, takes place in, and of course supports the Maricopa County Parks. Between Kimberly and myself we use “our local parks” multiple times every week and much appreciate having them. So to me when they get a chance to showcase (if you will) a Park it’s a great thing. Plus the fact that the Rangers and folks who work for the Parks are all really great people who do one of heck of a job with the resources they are given. This event is one of the places this is highlighted for sure and I love to see the passion they bring to what they do.

I also really like the course. It combines many way cool aspects that most local runs don’t share. The biggie for me being about 2 ½ or so miles of the 7 Mile course is Trail. And cool trail at that. Aside from the Cactus ChaCha, and a couple of long ones by the Arizona Road Racers there are just not that many organized local trail runs. You also get to run across (and back) the New Waddell Dam as part of the course, and it is the only day of the year that you can do this.

Kimberly and I got out to the Park about 8:00 to check in. The race did not start until 9:00 but they have a nice little setup and it’s always good to have a few minutes to check in and say hello to some of the folks you have come to know from other races (or friends in general – Hi there Coulson family :-) ). They have a nice little setup for the races including some cool birds, snakes, and lizards which you know the young runners dig.

There are 2 courses, a 7 Mile and a 4 Mile. While the 4 Mile does get some runners, for the most part I think a lot of the Hikers do the 4 mile and Runners do the 7 Mile. Overall there seemed to be about the same amount of people as last year, maybe a little more. As a quick side, I think this year they would have gotten a ton more runners had it not been the same day as Emma’s Run, the Pioneer Days Run, the Havasu Half, and the Sabino Canyon Tucson event (see report from running friend Pat HERE).

Lake Pleasant Dam Good Run
We were running the 7 Mile course. The race started on time from the 10 Lane Boat Ramp Parking lot. You head out and almost immediately begin a fairly quick decent down toward the Morgan City Wash. While not a true ‘technical trail’ per se, with such a steep decent and the loose gravel, washes, etc you have to be pretty careful running down. When you get to the wash maybe 1/3 mile into the run the next 1/3 mile or so presents a good challenge on the ankles as you are essentially running in the dry river area and it’s that quick sand type of gravel where you sink in some. Good thing this lasts just a bit and soon you are running along water in a true Riparian area. It’s amazing how this seems to come from nowhere. If you drive around Lake Pleasant area you would never guess this type of topography could be there. It’s really nice for the next ¾ or mile or so as you duck branches, cross the creek a couple of times hopping on whatever to miss the water, squeeze between trees and the such. I wish the whole track could be this.

As soon as you head out of the Wash you begin an accent that lasts about 2 miles and 400 foot or so of elevation gain. For a bit of this you are still in the dirt before hitting the service road. While 400 feet may not seem like a lot, the steady, for the most part even, climb up sure makes you happy when you see the Dam finally and know the uphill muscles get a rest (1200 ft elevation gain and decent total for the race). Right before the Dam there is a paved quick drop, maybe 100 foot but you do it in about 10 seconds – so it is very steep (umm… nice to fly down carefully, but you know on the return you will have to climb it). You get to run across the Dam for what seems to be about a mile then return, a quick left off the service road and then a nice mostly even trail run for the last 2/3 mile or so.

The race is really non competitive, but they did do a ‘trial run’ this year for timing the folks who wanted timed. They also gave out medals for the Top 2 runners in each race (2 is odd I know?). This was nice however because I managed to weasel into 2nd Place overall in the 7 Miler this year. The medal was cool with a Lake Pleasant logo and the year customized it. Kimberly while unofficial I am sure was first among any females close to her age and about 12th overall.

We of course will be back next year. I hope the timing lines up different with the other races though as we would have loved to do Emma’s run up in Anthem and hang around with family that live up there or even Havasu would be a riot.

We finished the day by heading over to the Glendale Blues and Jazz show for some good Blues, chair loungin’ and a really good caramel apple. That’s what I call a nice Saturday.



Havasu Half

The second annual Havasu Half in Lake Havasu City, Arizona was on Saturday, April 4, 2009. I was glad my boyfriend agreed to accompany me as driver (and race photographer) since Lake Havasu City is about a four hour drive from Phoenix. We drove up Friday evening and arrived around 10:30, much too late to visit the expo or pre-race dinner. We stayed at the Quality Inn & Suites which was offering special rates for race participants. The Quality Inn was the cheapest of the three race hotels at $72 + tax. For our short one-night stay, the hotel adequately met our needs... the staff was friendly, the room was clean, and the bed was comfortable. I would recommend the hotel for anyone considering the race in future years.

On race day morning, we drove over to the designated parking area promptly at 6am. I wanted to make sure we had a good parking spot because the race instructions said there were almost 700 participants (between the half marathon and 5k) but only space for 200 vehicles. It turned out that I didn’t need to worry though because there were at most 30 vehicles parked in the lot. Everyone else must have walked, taken a shuttle, or found some other parking.

It was a short walk over to the start/finish line where volunteers were still working to set things up. There was almost no one around and I was able to pick up my race number and goody bag very quickly. The goody bag had my short-sleeved cotton t-shirt along with the usual assortment of flyers and a few other things including a sample of Tylenol tablets, a toothbrush, and a small bottle of E-Lyte Sport Concentrate. I stopped by the Gypsy Running tent to try on some running skirts before heading back to the car to finish my race preparations and grab everything I needed for the race… sunscreen, body glide, iPod, Garmin, etc. Then it was back to the start area again for a visit to the port-a-potty and some last minute stretching.

Despite what the banner says, this is the start of the half marathon.

The race started promptly at 7:30am. Going into the race, I didn’t have any specific goals in mind other than finishing and earning another medal. My second half marathon ever was a month ago on March 8 and between then and now I’d been dealing with a bunch of issues from trying out new shoes to a minor injury. Most of my runs had been at around a 10:30 pace so I figured if I’d be happy if I finished somewhere near my previous PR around 2:24. But as I crossed the start line I was near the 2:15 pacer and make a quick decision to try and stick with her for awhile.

The first four miles were a loop around the island that was created when the London Bridge was installed. Sometimes it takes me a mile or so to get into a groove, but today everything was good right from the start. The weather was perfect for a race. It was in the 60s and sunny with a light breeze. I had my iPod, but didn’t turn it on at first because I was happy enough to just enjoy the view and listen to the conversations around me. Around mile 3 I finally struck up a conversation with the pacer and another fellow runner and we stuck together for quite awhile. Typically I run alone and I was pleasantly surprised by how nice it is to run with other people. This was the pacer’s first time being a pacer, and my first time running with a pacer.

I'm in the middle, number 339. The girl to my right is the pacer. The guy on my left is a fireman from Lake Havasu City.

Just before mile 5, we crossed the famous London Bridge. The rest of the race was an out and back. Since this was a fairly small race, only one lane of traffic was closed for us runners. The volunteers were great at directing traffic and making sure we stayed safe. This part of the course had a few small hills, but overall the course was very flat. Some water stations had just water and some had water and Gatorade. I stuck with the water. Again the volunteers were great and the stations seemed to have plenty of fluids available.

I felt very strong and was keeping up with the pacer very well, even though she was actually slightly ahead of pace for a 2:15 finish. We chatted occasionally. I ended up not using my iPod at all during the race. At mile 8 I took a GU, then grabbed some water at the turnaround. I seem to have gotten better at drinking and running and was able to run through all of the water stations, only slowing down just a little.

After the turnaround, the other runner who had been with us the whole time started to pull away. But the pacer and I continued on together. Around mile 11 I finally started to feel tired and it really helped to have the pacer encouraging me to press on. By now I knew I was on track for a PR which also lifted my spirits. Luckily it was mainly a slight downhill from here to the finish. After crossing the London Bridge again we had less than a mile to the finish. With the finish line in sight, I somehow still had enough energy to sprint the last 100 meters.

Here I am approaching the finish. The woman to my right in front of the sign was celebrating her birthday by running her first half marathon.

I was very excited when I crossed the finish line... I could tell by the clock that I finished somewhere just under 2 hours and 10 minutes. Woo hoo! Official results have my time at 2:08:45!!! I got my medal, met up with my boyfriend, then went to thank the pacer because I know I couldn’t have done it without her.

The post-race spread was just standard fare – Gatorade, bananas, oranges, and bagels. I think my only gripe for the whole event is that there was nothing to spread on the bagels. Once I had recovered sufficiently, I saw that it was just after 10:00 and I had plenty of time to get back to the hotel and take a shower before check-out time at noon. I sort of wanted to attend the post-race party, but my boyfriend wanted to start the drive back to Phoenix and since he was doing all the driving I acquiesced. But we did make a quick stop for a few photos on the London Bridge...

Proof that I've been there, done that.

Additional Photos:

Firemen from the M.C.C. Fire Academy running the 5k as a group.

View at Mile 4 of the half marathon.