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!