The Rock ‘N’ Roll Arizona race always falls on my birthday weekend, so I decided to celebrate my 32nd year of life by running a half marathon in my home state! I was super excited going in to this because 1. The course starts on Arizona State University campus, my alma mater (GO DEVILS!) and 2. Several of my friends would be running, including one of my best friends, Julie, who has been running half marathons since before I could run a mile!
My boyfriend, Rich, and I continued training through the winter so we would be ready for race day in January. I was unfortunate to catch the death-cold that was circulating around in December, so I wasn’t able to run for a couple of weeks. I discarded my plan to run this half in under 2 hours, but I arrived at the starting line prepared to give it my best!
Sunday January 19, 2014
Price: I paid approximately $120 for the half marathon, including taxes and fees. If you register earlier the price is reduced. Also, when running a RNR race, keep your eyes open because the promotion often releases coupon codes!
Expo: The RNR Arizona Health and Fitness Expo was held at the Phoenix Convention Center on Friday, January 17th from noon-7pm, and Saturday, January 18th from 9AM-5PM.
The venue is HUGE, providing plenty of spacious room for the numerous vendors. My friends, Rich and I went late on Saturday afternoon and the lines for packet-pickup and swag were easy breezy.
Swagger: The tech shirt is decent, but I have a women’s small and it feels a little short. Even still, I decided to wear it for the race because I liked the design and it was something new to wear.
My boyfriend and I had tickets to a Phoenix Coyotes game in the evening, so our time at the expo was minimal. However, there were ample photo ops…
And free samples galore…
We didn’t get to partake in all of the free-sampling but it was still an impressive expo.
The night before the race…
I am usually calm before a race-right up until I pick up my bib. That’s when IT gets real and the nerves/excitement sets in. Going to a hockey game the evening before was a great distraction. My other best girlfriend, Allison, and her boyfriend came with us and we had a blast!
After the game, Rich and I pinned our bibs like good runners do and retired to bed around midnight.
Race Day: My alarm screamed at 5:30 am and I begrudgingly forced myself into the shower. We were staying with my friend Julie and her husband (who was also running), and she prepared amazing banana and oatmeal cookie bars for breakfast! This saved a TON of time because I was able to take them with me on the road.
We parked at a light rail station and took a train to ASU campus. Our stop was only a short walk to the starting line.
A few observations about the starting area…
Daylight had yet to peak and the weather was chilly at first, but I knew the Arizona sun would make an appearance sooner than I would like. There was an entire parking lot of port-a potties (5-10 minute wait), bag check provided by UPS was cake, and the starting corrals were PACKED. This is a huge race with 20 corrals total. Rich and I were in corrals 5 and 6 and we actually had to wait until the first few waves were off before we could even fit into the corral!
Let’s run this b*tch
Miles 1-3: I loved starting on ASU campus and running through the nearby streets. For me it was like running down college memory lane-so many memories of being completely sober at all times and making it to class 100..no..150% of the time!* There were plenty of people lining the streets and cheering at the beginning, and Allison and her boyfriend were there to take pictures (which were all deleted…boo!)
RNR races are known for their on-course entertainment and there were a lot of bands and other really fun people out:
20’s-themed cheer squad
About to leave the P.F. Chang’s Dragon in my 9 min/mile dust
I thought the course entertainment was ample enough to be fun without being overly distracting, and smartly placed on the least-scenic parts of the course.
Miles 4-7: The course support picked up as we entered Scottsdale, Arizona as did the scenery.
Running toward the mountains
Around mile 5 we passed through the ASU SkySong buildings, and ran underneath this nifty shade:
I really enjoy running over and under cool things, I can’t explain it
The temperature was starting to pick up, but it was still comfortable. Pro Pro Pro: There were tons of water/Gatorade stations along the course. Hydration was my biggest concern running a race in the desert.
Miles 7-10: The second half of the race was even better than the first. There were still plenty of fun things along the course as we made our way in to Phoenix, Arizona:
But the best part was the scenery in Papago Park, which is a beautiful display of red rocks and desert:
Just before mile 9 we hit the most significant incline of the race. It was nothing like the hills of SF I’m used to running, but up is up and I could feel it. This portion of the course was an out-and-back and thankfully we were treated to a nice decline at the turn around.
Down hill baby. Weee—->
Suddenly, I feel soo blessed to be running in this beautiful place, with these beautiful people and all of these beautiful cacti.
Miles 10-12: At mile 10 I knew I was close to finishing in about 2 hours, but my legs were starting to give. I walked through the remaining water stops. My stomach was starting to give me trouble. Being sick had definitely taken a toll on my cardio. Rich stayed with me, even though he can run a much faster half marathon than I 🙂
I was still really enjoying the course, it was quieter and a lot less populous than the first half.
This scenic route we were taken on was a much appreciated surprise-I expected dull neighborhoods and strip malls for the duration of the course and we got peace and serenity amongst the desert landscape-truly the best of Arizona.
Miles 12-13.1: The final mile of the race is definitely the most exciting. The course descends back in to Tempe and over the Mill Avenue bridge.
After crossing the bridge, one final turn revealed the finish line. As always, I pushed myself as best as I could to the end!
I actually pushed a ‘lil too much, and dry-heaved as soon as I came to a stop! Whoops! Luckily, I found water right away and everything stayed contained. We collected our medals and post-race grub, which included dry pretzels, milk chocolate, PowerBars, bananas, dole fruit cups and a full-sized Gatorade.
Finish Time: 2:04
Overall Place: 3937/13500
I was sooo close to breaking 2 hours! Even still, it’s a half marathon PR for me so I was happy. This gives me confidence I’m getting better with each race, and that I WILL break 2 hours this year-my goal numero uno for 2014!
After picking up our checked gear, we headed over to the finish line festival hosted at Tempe Beach Park. There was live music, vendors, beer, and massage/stretch tables.
I was interviewed by a news crew from some website. I don’t know if they will use any of my footage but it was fun!
We lost track of my friend Julie so we spent a little time stretching and taking pictures…
…but I had a 1300 calorie deficiency to make up so we headed over to Ncounter on Mill Avenue for brunch.
Naturally, I selected the carbi-est most whipped-creamiest thing I could find on the menu: French Toast
Healthy? Nope but #yolo
Several more of my friends showed up after the race-a few I haven’t even seen since I moved away to California 2 1/2 years ago!
My Wherehouse crew
We then headed over to a bar to meet up with my runner/yogi friend, Jenny, for a celebratory Guinness!
Nectar of the Gods
Jenny ran the Nike Women’s Marathon half with me back in October!
Fatigue started to set in and we had to eventually say our goodbyes so Rich and I could have one last Mom home-cooked meal before our early morning flight back to San Francisco.
Note: I can’t attest to the experience of the full marathon as the course started in Phoenix and was completely different from the half. However, the half marathon exceeded my expectations. This is my second Rock ‘N’ Roll event and I would not hesitate to sign up for another race from this promotion. From start to finish it was an organized race, the course was entertaining and it showcased the beauty of the desert….I will definitely be back!
Our first official runcation was a success!