Thursday, January 22, 2009

P.F. Chang's Rock N Roll Half Marathon

P.F. Chang’s Rock ‘n’ Roll Arizona 1/2 Marathon – 1/18/2009 by Lisa Ngai

This was my very first half marathon, and definitely my biggest race ever, both in terms of distance and sheer number of participants. I went to the Expo on Saturday for packet pick-up and spent at least a couple hours wandering the Expo. It reminded me of college career fairs. I picked up some free goodies and entered a bunch of contests. I also sampled a lot of food, from chocolate milk to apples to saffron yellow rice. Although there were a variety of great vendors, the only things I bought were a couple pairs of Wrightsocks and a commemorative RNR AZ pin.
On race day morning, I was lucky enough to be dropped off near the start line and didn’t have to deal with parking or shuttles or bag check. I think I got to the start area around 7:15-7:30. It was cold, but I planned ahead and wore throwaway clothing I bought at Goodwill and Old Navy. At the start area, they had water, coffee, Cytomax, and bananas. I don’t remember if they had any other food. I grabbed a bottle of water and ate the Clif Bar I brought with me.
I made a trip to the port-a-potty, took a short jog and stretched, waiting until about 8:25 to leave my throwaway clothes behind and head for my corral. The race was supposed to start at 8:30, but with the wave start it went sooo slowly. I had enough time to hop out of the corral and make another trip to the port-a-potty. It was about 9:00 by the time I officially crossed the start line.
I skipped the first water stop around mile 1 because it was way too early for me. Other than a slight ache in my left thigh, I was feeling good and the first few miles were uneventful. I guess I’ll throw in here that I really appreciated all the crowd support along the route. Even though they weren’t cheering specifically for me, it was great just to see people out there cheering. There were a lot fewer cheer squads and bands than I expected. The cheerleaders were very enthusiastic, although there was one group who was chanting something like F-O-P-E and I just couldn’t figure out what they were trying to spell. I’m indifferent on the bands. They were a nice distraction but the music didn’t do anything to motivate me. With all the crowd support, I don’t think I would have missed the bands if they weren’t there.
The next water station was around mile 3.5. All the water stations were set up with tables lining both sides of the course. The first tables had Cytomax and the last tables had water. I didn’t realize this and thought they only had Cytomax so I grabbed a cup. Which was fine, because I just waited a little longer before having my first Luna moon. I still haven’t figured out how to drink out of a cup and run without spilling, so I took a short walk break through each of the water stations. I think other than the first one, I hit every water station along the route.
Throughout the race, I was running with a decent-sized pack of people. I guess that’s what it’s like when there are over 20,000 participants. The organizers did a good job with the water stations. It was a little tricky trying to maneuver, but could have been much worse. It was impossible to avoid weaving around people completely, but the distance recorded on my Garmin was pretty darn close to 13.1.
Between about miles 3.5 and 5.5, I felt this odd tingly sensation in my left foot, like it’s fallen asleep. It’s happened before while I’m running so I wasn’t too worried, but I’m glad it didn’t last the whole rest of the race. One of these days I hope to figure out what causes it.
Somewhere around mile 5 or 6, I struck up conversations with a couple people. The first was an elderly man who was wearing a shirt stating that he had completed a marathon in all 50 states. He said that he did it between when he was 50 and 70. And he’s 79 now. I congratulated him on the achievement and said I hope to still be running when I reach that age. The second was a young woman wearing a really cute skirt with two layers of ruffles at the bottom. I asked where she got it and she said it was by Nike. She thought it was a running skirt but was actually a tennis skirt. I checked out the Nike website, and their tennis skirts are definitely cuter than the running skirts. Not fair!
I saw quite a few people wearing fun attire for the race. Before the race even started, I saw a couple guys wearing bumble bee costumes. Then during the race I saw someone in a cow costume. There was a kid around 12 or 13 wearing a bright florescent green wig who got a lot of crowd reaction. A lot of people who came together were wearing matching shirts with their group name and/or information about the cause they were running for. Reading people’s shirts helped keep me occupied on the course. I guess that’s a plus for participating in such a large race.
Around mile 10 my sporadic training caught up with me and I really started to get tired. I no longer noticed the ache in my left leg very much because the rest of me was hurting as well. My pace slowed, but I kept running except through the water stops. I’ve heard and read how the last part of the race is all mental, but never really comprehended what that meant until I was actually going through it. I forced myself to keep running slowly, although actually it wasn’t too difficult because by then it actually hurt more to walk then run.
Somewhere after mile 11, I stopped for water than pulled out my cell phone to call my boyfriend and tell him I was getting close. After that, I just focused on continuing to run to the end. I was so tired at this point that I couldn’t think about anything else but finishing. We ran across a bridge from Phoenix to Tempe, which was a nice change from the previous scenery. I smiled and waved as I passed a photographer, but I guess he didn’t catch me because I didn’t see a photo from the bridge among the rest of my race photos. There were so many people lined up along the fences on the way to the finish line. I tried to look for my boyfriend but couldn’t find him. And somehow he missed seeing me pass too! That was disappointing.
Anyway, I crossed the finish line and was so happy to be done… sort of. There was still a lot of walking ahead of me. I got my finisher medal then stood in line to have my photo taken. Somehow I missed where they were handing out the mylar blankets. Not that I really needed one because it was warm by then, but I would have kept it as a souvenir. I grabbed some water and a bottle of Cytomax. My left leg was really hurting so I wandered over to a medical tent. I kind of figured there wasn’t a lot they could do for me. I had just run 13.1 miles… of course I’d be hurting. But I did get the good advice to ingest some salt. The medical person put a packet of salt in my Cytomax. I didn’t taste it at all, but I do think it helped.
Overall, it was a great experience for my first half marathon. Although there were a few times, when it was annoying to have such a large crowd of runners, for the most part I enjoyed being out there among all the people having a fun time and aiming for the same goal. I’m glad I chose a big race rather than a small one for my first. And I’m very happy with my finish time of just under 2:24:00.

Paloma PTA 5k

The 1st Annual Paloma PTA 5k was today. I, and about 30 other runners toe'd the line on the Paloma track. Then we hit the streets making a figure 8 around the community.

It was probably 50 degrees at the start, but dry and a good morning for racing. About a dozen runners started out quick and the winner won in about 17 minutes. A cross country kid from Desert Vista HS. My first mile was done in 9:01. Boy, would I like to keep that up for an entire race. The graph below shows my half mile splits and you can see I ran slower splits almost the whole race. Miles 2 and 3 were in 9:34 and 10 minutes flat. Still very good for me. The last mile I ran, I did not see anyone behind me. Wow, I was going to run a good race for me and finish last, or so I thought.

I poured it on at the finish, but gave the man in front of me too much of a lead. I finished at 29:20, my second under 30 5k and only 31 seconds off my PR. Turns out, after about 2-3 minutes there were more runners coming in.

To my surprise, not only did I get a T shirt, but they had finisher medals too. The same medals they give out in the school events. It was a well run event and I thank the PTA. All the volunteers were nice and helpful. The announcer was calling out names when he could. There was even a gentleman that would run down to the next runner, get the bib number, figure out the name, run back to the announcer, so that he could say the runners name. Plenty of cookies, fruit and drink at the finish line.

If you are looking for a small race in west Chandler, this could be it. This was the first year, hopefully it will become a yearly thing.

Tuesday, January 20, 2009

PF Chang's Rock N Roll Half Marathon

Mile 1 (10:23):

30 minutes to start and then an air horn. Not very exciting. Candace and I are running together at a 10:30 pace. Just the speed I want, but Candace is chomping at the bit. Not that she’s a horse, just using the metaphor. Lots of runners, but plenty of room to run. Some weaving, as expected. The first mile went great. My feet would hurt all day, but I expected that. What I didn’t expect was a weird feeling in my right knee. It would go away, but later in the day it was tender.

Mile 2(10:15):

I shed my sweatshirt onto the sidewalk. Then Candace points out the guy collecting the clothes for Goodwill. Oh well. The run is going well. We are still doing 10:30 miles, but everyone once in a while I see a 9:xx pop up and I have to slow us down. It’s Candace’s first half, so I try to be the sage and not let us flame out in the first half of the race. I was glad we were banking some time. 11 minute miles was the plan and I knew I would need these seconds later on.

Mile 3(10:18):
I suggest to Candace that we take a walk break. I know I told her that was my plan before. She says she plans to maybe take a break at 4 and 8 miles only. I’m thinking, why didn’t you mention this before today? We agree to part ways and I tell her I’ll catch up later. I’m sure she thought, “right, like that’s gonna happen.”. I knew it too. Good luck, Candace and God’s speed. She finished 5 minutes ahead of me in her first half marathon ever.

Mile 4(11:01):
I did take about a 20 second break at the 5k water stop. I’ve been doing 10:xx miles and haven’t been spending time taking in any of the scenery. Just running. Said, “Go Boilermakers” to a West Lafayette runner. He appreciated it. Then a little while later I saw a central Ohio runner and said, “Go Buckeyes”. She appreciated it too. Saw a Michigan runner and resisted the idea of tripping her. This was the first plus 11 mpm due to the walk break.

Mile 5(10:20):
Back on track. Running by myself. Two years ago I remembered checking out all the buildings along McDowell. This year I don’t remember doing that as much. I still saw the weird ‘Chinese lettering’ over the street. It’s not really kanji, but everyone thinks it is.

Mile 6(11:38):
I get to the half way point and I don’t remember any of the bands, except for the Buddy Holly tribute band and the one band that was on break. I’ve passed 8 bands at this point. None of the water stops volunteers had any crazy costumes. At the full marathon last year, the creativity was great. Water stops and cheer squads had themes. Not so much on the half course this year. My pace has slowed and is up in the mid 11’s. This was to be the first of six straight miles over 11. Don’t know why I didn’t do a little self coaching at this point.

Mile 7(11:30):
Turning off McDowell onto 44th. I do remember seeing the Chinese Cultural Center. Throughout the entire race the Team In Training fans cheered long and loud. I wore my TnT shirt from the 2007 race when I was a member. Now as an Alum, I appreciate them yelling my name, which was printed on the front. This will probably be the last for this shirt. It’s a bit big on me.

Mile 8(11:16):
Gu city. This is where they hand out packets of Gu. The volunteers do a great job of yelling out the flavors. I took a vanilla and a tri berry. Ate the tri berry and I still have the vanilla. I had a mint chocolate that I didn’t eat either. For the race I had 5 pieces of Power Bar Gel Blasts. I really like them. One Gu. Half a Gatorade before the race. Seemed to be the right amount. Anyway on mile 8 the road is littered with all these gu packets, then all the water cups. I thought about picking up the packets, because Gu will give you free packets for every so many you mail to them. Gu’s attempt at cleaning up the environment.

Mile 9(11:35):
Van Buren Street. Or the hill. Think of the crookedest street in the world. You know, the one in San Francisco that all the tourist go to see that’s very steep and very crooked. The Rock ‘N’ Roll HM hill isn’t. It’s a nice incline for a quarter mile or so. It’s one of the few spots on the course where you can see the backs of runners in the distance. I ran some of it and walked some of it.

Mile 10(11:48):
The race director needed to added some mileage to the course when they had to detour out of downtown Tempe. They did this by having us go down a street and up a parking lot (Oakland A’s stadium lot). It’s a small hill with a band and bathrooms at the top. My family was at the bottom, so I got to spend a couple minutes chatting before I made a bee line for the porta potties. I do appreciate them coming out to the race to see me for less than a minute.

Mile 11(11:19):
You’re in Papago park, but on a road in an industrial section. Not very scenic. In the distance I could see ‘A’ Mountain. Or the mountain next to the finish line. It looked so close, but still 2 miles away. It seemed it wasn’t getting closer. It’s a slight incline too. I was passing quite a few runners at this point. Seemed like a lot of folks were walking and in the ‘getter done’ mode. Two years ago, I was one of them. I was cramping and miserable. I stopped at a porta potty with no success. It was probably the most miserable I have ever been running. That was then. On this day I was starting to get my groove back.

Mile 12(10:59):
Up and over the Tempe bridge. All I saw was the pavement. I don’t remember the decorative stone sides. I don’t remember the lake below. I’ve run over this bridge many times and it’s beautiful. Today it was just ground to cover and I needed to run if I wanted a PR. All day I was looking to my garmin to keep pace. I needed 11 minute miles. I’d do the math at every mile and I was ahead for the longest time. Here, on the bridge I knew that if I ran I had a shot at beating 2:27:41. My pace was slightly over 11 mpm, but I knew I had a small cushion. Not enough to walk, however.

Mile 13(10:42):
You come off the bridge and make a left hand turn onto Rio Salado Av. Lots of fans to run past. It’s my favorite part of the course. You know you are close and you can feed off the cheering. I picked up the pace and was under 10 minute miles, but had to slow down. I still had a ways to go. I kept running. I think I ran the last mile as strong as I could.

The last .1(8:40):
Off the road and into the parking lot. Lots of fans and cheering. Knowing it was going to be close, I was running in the 8’s. I was weaving around folks and I didn’t care about the finish photo or anything but the time on my garmin. I did see the gun clock read 2:5x:xx. My garmin read 2:25:xx and I knew I had a PR. As I’m walking after I got my medal, it hit me. The garmin didn’t account for my family visit or the porta potty. I must have missed the PR. What did the gun clock say. I think it said 2:59, minus the 30 minute late start and my time will be 2:29. No PR. I stopped in my tracks. NO PR! I missed it by a few minutes. I recalculated. No way I spent 4 minutes with the family and in the porta potty. It would be close and I’ll find out at home.

The Ride Home: I thought about the race and how I felt like I ran a smart even race. I was ok with it, regardless of the PR question. I planned to stop at Firehouse Subs to get a sandwich and then go watch the Cardinals play for the NFC Championship(on tv). Then I realized the sub shop has tv’s and they’ll be watching the game. I dvr’d it and didn’t want to know the score. I ended up going to Baja Fresh instead. Got home and immediately went to the computer where I learned that indeed I PR’d by 18 seconds. The fish tacos I had couldn’t have tasted better.

Monday, January 19, 2009

P.F. Chang's Rock N Roll Half Marathon

Race: PF Chang’s Rock-n-Roll Half Marathon by Mike Miller
January 18th, 2009

Well… after several months of training and hard work Kimberly is officially a “half-marathoner”. Of course we are talking about the PF Chang Rock-n-Roll Half Marathon held here in Phoenix which she had a great run that was surrounded by a whole couple days of running focused fun. I too actually ended up running the race with her. Originally Clay was going to come into town to race and I was going to be the drop-off man, but he had an injury that kept him sidelined until just recently, so I stepped in.

The whole thing was more of experience surrounding the sport of running than a race per se. In fact, I would say things kicked off on Friday. You are required to pick up your race bib and packet before the race at the fitness Expo that runs Friday and Saturday. Knowing it would way crazy busy Saturday we headed downtown on Friday lunchtime. The expo was at the Phoenix convention center and was actually quite a lot of fun. After getting our bibs and packets we walked around all the booths. It was nice because almost everything was really related to running. The biggest was all the PF Chang’s official race cloths. Sadly most of the items just did not fit Kimberly, so she ended up with just a hat and a shirt that is more to wear than run in (of course you do get a regular t-shirt in your race packet too).

Some of the highlights of the Expo was the Cliff Bar booth (hey I got a free bar and you know I live on those), the ‘nutrition designed specifically for you via a DMA profile’ booth (cool), the ‘one more mile’ booth that has a ton of cool saying running gear, and finding some rub on ibuprofen. The show was actually so big a couple of hours flew by before we got out of there.

With an early morning wake up coming Sunday, we wanted to have a chilled out day Saturday so we decided to walk around old town Scottsdale. They had a special Art Walk for the Race and I was able to have lunch with a friend and business acquaintance that was in from Portland. It was a beautiful day and I think we spent several hours walking the shops and checking out the art before heading back to our side of town for dinner at Buca Di Beppo.

When deciding to do the race Kimberly joined a running group up at our club, and the group was all getting together (I guess as is tradition) the night before the race for a dinner together. They are some great folks on ‘the team that Kimberly has really gotten to know (and me too somewhat) over the last few months. The dinner was early (for obvious reasons), we all enjoyed some ‘pump up’ conversation, carbed’ up on a ton of pasta and bread and called it a night about 7:00 or so. We got home, laid out all our stuff – which is a ton, you would be surprised – and hopped in bed with hopes of actually getting SOME SLEEP before having to wake up at 4:00 tomorrow and head to Tempe. I emphasize try to get sleep because for both Kimberly and me it seems so hard to sleep the night before something like this. Kind of like Kids on Christmas Eve I suppose. But unlike Xmas Eve, we had to run 13.1 miles starting less than 11 hours time we finally crawled under the sheets.

Luckily, we both fell asleep fairly early for us and actually got about 4 hours sleep before we decided to get up (15 minutes before the alarms went off – not sure why we even bother to set them). We pounded the oatmeal, packed the car, and did everything else and were out the door headed to Tempe about 5 minutes after 5:00am.

Seeing the race is a point-to-point race, you have to park at the end (Tempe) and then get shuttled to the starting area (Downtown Phoenix). We got parked an on the bus without much issue. After a grueling 45 minutes we finally got off the bus in Downtown. We had the stinkin’ heater seats and as cold as it was outside we were about dying of heat on the bus before she turned it off at my request (I was sweating!). Being a little spoiled we headed over to a pre arranged location called Stage Rock. Basically it was a boxing gym with attached tents near the race start. The good was it had heat, bathrooms that you could get into within a minute (versus the 30 minute wait plus around the start line) and a good place to stretch, etc. We enjoyed it for sure and I think it helped having an inside place the last hour before the race to relax and have a coffee.

Thirty minutes before the race we started heading over toward the start. I needed to use the bathroom but with 30 minute waits and (was was by then) only 15 minutes before the gun, it wasn’t going to happen. Hopefully next year they get more facilities! Anyway, with 26 ‘corrals’ (places you are assigned from the start based on projected finish times) we darn near were running to get to ours. Kimberly was in 10 and I was in 4. When we got to corral 10, we had a kiss and I reminded her (and myself) to enjoy. This was going to be a riot. Yes it was something that would be tough for old folks like us, but we trained for it and we were going to enjoy soaking it all in.

13.1 Miles, a lot of bands, a ton of smiles, and a couple hours later Kimberly and I ran into one another again at the gear pick up area where we planned to meet. Each of us were wearing our finisher medals and a couple of big grins. It was really a special experience. Kimberly said for sure her favorite race that we have done to date. I dug the vibe of Bisbee maybe a little more but this was way special for me too. We both had remembered to soak in the experience of doing our first (of what I am sure will be many more) half marathon. We smiled, slapped the hands of the young well wishers along the run and huffed and puffed our way to some pretty decent times for old folks like us :-). There is no doubt this will be an annual thing for us. So next year, put it on your calendar and come out an join us.

BTW have I mentioned: I am proud of my woman!

Race Photos

Sunday, January 11, 2009

We Support our Troops 5K (actual 3.95 Miles)

We Support Our Troops Race

When we did the Frosty’s Race in December we saw a little flier for an upcoming run that was in support of the Arizona Veteran Program Association scholarship fund. Being it was to be held at Scottsdale Reach 11 Park, has a dirt track, supported a great cause, and was fairly close meant of course we had to do it. So another early rise Sunday morning it was.

The Reach 11 Horse Lovers Park really is a great place to run. Like all races here the run starts out on a little paved loop then heads you out in the dirt. Today the trail had much less water and mud spots to avoid versus the Frosty’s run. Plus it was a little warmer for the start – but still chilly pre-race. Overall a nice sunny day though and great morning for a run.

It was pretty cool to see a bunch of current military guys there for the run, including a couple older gents that were obviously veterans. In fact jumping forward for a second I think having the military youngin’s there helped push me as over the last couple hundred yards of the race I was neck and neck sprinting with a Marine.

So a fairly typical 5K race, well ran but the local Arizona Running Events folks again, but with one big exception. Kimberly and I of course got the Garmin watches for each other for Christmas that show distance ran among other things. So it was with much surprise that when we came up to the 1 mile marker on the trail and I looked at my watch, it showed like 1.3 miles. This then seemed to be the case the rest of the race. When my watch showed we hit the 5K (3.1 Miles) we were still well out on the trail with another looked like mile to go! This may not seem like too big an issue as we of course run longer, but your body tends to pick a speed based on distance. And at 3.1 Miles my body said ‘hey we gave you the 3.1 mile speed and there is not much more there old man’. So needless to say, the last bit to the finish line was a little more ‘heart beats’ than normal.

At the finish line everyone was talking about the distance being longer than a 5K. I figured when they did the awards and such that they would tell us it was longer because the military always “goes the extra mile for us” so we did the same or something like that. Well, not really, seems it was really nothing more than a boo-boo on the distance marking that morning. The total distance ended up being 3.95 Miles so over 6K even.

The best news about the race is I finally got my first 1st place showing in my group (Kimberly already had one from another). Kimberly placed 2nd too. After the event there was a nice raffle, some good food and a chance to say hello to some of the troops. Hard to beat starting a Sunday morning like this….

Thursday, January 1, 2009

New Year's Day 5k

New Year's Day 5k by Reid Axman.

Sure, it's a little late, but I haven't written a race report for a really long time, so I had to get it in here.After we had registered for this race, I realized that I had only done a total of two races in 2008 (not counting the virtual races). There was Boston in April and the 1 Mile Race in August, and that was it. I did a lot of running, made a lot of progress, reached an awesome goal, but only ran 2 actual races. So, I was really looking forward to racing again. I sort of felt like a newbie again. A little bit of nervousness before the start, but after the gun went off, it was all familiar territory.

This race was a lot of fun. We had Lani's sister and her family in town for a visit. Her husband, who has really gotten into running last year (and gotten really fast, and possibly more obsessed with running than I am), also ran it with his 16 year old son. Lani and my oldest both ran the mile, with the youngest in the stroller. My daughter got to try out her new running shoes she got for Christmas (unfortunately, she was a little grumpy that morning and didn't actually do a whole lot of running).

The race started in Papago Park and headed out along a canal in an out-and-back course. My goal was to keep my mile splits under 7 minutes. I felt that was pretty attainable despite only returning to running from about a two month layoff about 3 weeks before. That turned out to not be much of a problem with all three splits being around 6:40. I was pretty surprised when I only counted about 11 runners ahead of me at the turn around. A couple sped by me shortly after I made the turn, but I caught both of them before the finish (I also caught up to Lani and the girls as they were finishing the mile. I could tell my daughter wasn't too happy as I got no response to my cheering her on). I ended up with a time of 20:42, good enough for 10th overall and 1st in my age group. Not too shabby. I really wasn't expecting to be first place. But hey, I'll take it. It wasn't too long before my bro-in-law and his son finished. My nephew was obviously feeling it, but his dad enjoyed a nice easy run before his first marathon, which took place on the 3rd. I was actually going to do it with him until I hurt my knee and had to postpone that idea. Sorry about that. That race didn't go as well as he had hoped. He started feeling really sick the day before, and still wasn't feeling good during the race, but he still did it! The first time is always a learning experience. I'm just glad it didn't turn him off from marathons. I still want to run one with him someday. His new rule: "Never eat egg salad sandwich the day before a race."