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.

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