Wednesday, March 2, 2016

Race Recap: Phoenix Marathon

Phoenix Marathon | Mesa, Arizona
February 27, 2016

Isn't it amazing how fast race day comes? After some less than stellar sleep, our alarms started going off about 3:15. Our plan was to be out the door by 3:45 to get me to the right drop off area with enough time for Tina to get over to the half drop off area in time too. 

We left about 3:50 but were early enough to my area that we hung out in the car a few more minutes and got my nerves in check and supplies together for the day. I finished my bagel and peanut butter in the car, got my stuff together, hugged Tina and made my way to the buses. There were a ton of buses and I was able to walk right on. Guess there's no turning back now... 

I sat in the second row behind the driver, tried making friends with the guy next to me, but he was already asleep as we pulled away from Mesa Riverview. I quietly texted Tina, played on Instagram and Twitter, and tried to calm the swirling thoughts in my head. We left Riverview probably before even 4:30 and I was already dreading spending an hour+ at the top of the mountain. We were on a freeway a while, made a turn somewhere... and then some man comes parading to the front of the bus and gets in the driver's face about how he's going the wrong way. The poor driver insists we're going the right way and kindly asks the man to get back to his seat. Onward. 

At 4:57, the driver pulls to the shoulder of this two lane mountain road - the stop engine light had come on and then the engine just died. 4:58, driver calls in, they're sending a bus up. Good thing I got on a fairly early bus! I was calm - I mean, at least I was in a warm(ish) bus, not freezing on the top of the mountain! The guy next to me was awake, looking at his map and also agreeing that we'd been going the wrong way. He ran the race last year and was hoping for a BQ this year. 5:10ish: man comes back up to the driver, map on phone pulled up, and insisted we were going the wrong way yet again. Driver asks him (a little more sternly) to go back to his seat, that we were going the right way. People are getting on and off the bus to use the desert as their porto-potty (because why not?). 5:15: grumpy people in the back very rudely ask for an update, "It's been 20 minutes!" Driver says that yes, he called 20 minutes ago and that it was going to be 20-30 minutes from when he called in. "Well where is the bus coming from, the start line? The finish line? Your base?" and "How far to the start from here?" and frankly, being unbearbly rude in a less than ideal situation. Finally, three or four of us from the front turned and asked them to calm down and remind them that our driver was volunteering his time to take us to the top and that we'd be fine. It is only 5:15 after all. 5:23: Rescued!

We were, in fact, going the right way and about two miles from the start area where the bus died. Less than 5 minutes and we were right where we needed to be. Still an hour early. I hopped off the bus, straight to the bathroom line and found a few campfires and heat lamps to hover around. There were more than enough and people were chatting it up. I couldn't find anyone I knew (womp), so I just buzzed from heatlamp to heatlamp, hoping to calm my nerves by striking up a conversation with someone. No dice. And then... I saw my Garmin had died. Well if that's not a sign I need a new one... maybe that was the sign I needed that I needed to hang with the pacer (a debate I'd been having all week). 

Sure, there's an uphill. One. Not steep, just long. Not worth running 9:30s for, dude.
Before I knew it, it was time to head to the start line. After national anthem and fireworks (!), we were allowed to inch our way closer. I saw a few pacers come forward (3:25 and 3:55) but no others. Behind me, 4:55 and 5:10 eventually rolled in. It's 6:20... where on earth are these middle pacers? Kid you not, about 6:27, a few more pacers rolled in. 4:25 finally showed up, headphones in both ears already. Great, so it's gonna be that kinda race. I let him get to his spot, tapped him on the shoulder and asked what his race strategy was. "Um... 10 minute miles." "Yeah, I know that, but what's your actual strategy? Are you negative-splitting? Or consistent throughout?" He kind of stumbled and said he'd run "about 9:30 on the downhills to save it for the uphill." At that point, I knew I was in trouble. But I decided I'd give the benefit of the doubt and the pacer and give it a shot. 

Mile 1: 9:09. No, sir, that's not how this works. I know this mile because I very quickly befriended some women about a half-mile in who had planned to run with this guy too but knew very quickly it wasn't going to work. We formed our own pace group - me, Stef, Mikie and Rosie. A mile in, 4:25 guy was running right next to 4:10 lady. Um... no. 

Stef, Mikie, Rosie and I decided we'd hang out together and hold each other close to run a great race. Two of the four of us had watches on and I had printed out a 4:25 pace band, so at least we knew we'd be on target. After mile 1, we literally didn't see 4:25 again until mile 8. At mile 8, we were at a 4:22 finish and he was a solid 100 yards ahead of us. Not okay. 

Mile 17 and feeling good... so, so good.
As a reminder, I had three target goals for the race:

A) A Time
B) Just a PR. 
C) Run a strong race.

Besties! Love race weekends with her so much!
Since I don't have a Garmin record I even race this sucker (womp), here's what I can tell you:
  • 4:25 is in my reach. Up until Mile 20, I was close. I was rockin' and happy. 
  • Look at the last 10K. I can honestly say it wasn't a wall. I was hot and tired. Mentally, I was psyched.
  • Ultimately, I met goal C and I am elated with my performance on Sunday. I've only run three fulls, but this was by far the smartest race of my life. I Gu'd every 4 miles, alternated between water and Gatorade, and when it got hot, started taking two waters to drink and dump on my head.
  • Taking my Orange Mud Hydraquiver was a genius idea.
  • Mountain Dew at Mile 17 is life-changing.

Doug and Tina were waiting at the finish line for me and Tina asked Doug if I'd be disappointed I didn't hit my supreme goal time and he just said, "I don't know." Truth be told, given the training I had (or lack there of, really), I am damn proud of the race I had. Four days out, I am mentally in a better place than I was going into the race, and am pumped to jump into training for the OC full on May 1. 

I know I've got what it takes. 

Oh? And those pacers? I told Doug at about mile 17 that I was way behind the 4:25 pacer (as he was one of the two that knew that plan). 3:25 came in about 5 minutes early; 3:55 came in at 3:52 and 4:25 dude came in 5 minutes early also. 

Post-Phoenix here are my thoughts. An amazing race, overall, and I'm signed up for the half for next year. 

- Aid stations. They do an awesome cheer station contest and they go all out! Otherwise, a fairly quiet course.
- Race swag. Singlet, socks, arm sleeves and a book all came in my race bag. Sweet! 
- Great course. The one uphill isn't hard, just a long grade, but nothing anyone can't handle. 
- Phenomenal post-race party. Famous Dave's and French toast are a little much for me right after, but there were tons of food options. I had ice cream. It was amazing. 
- Who doesn't love a PR bell to ring?

- Pace Team. I mean this overall. I recognize that this is a large BQ race, but if they're going to be running for BQ times (i.e. 3:55 coming in at 3:52 to make the window), the race needs to advertise as such. Ventura does and is effective. 
- Quiet course. If you need loud, energetic course sidelines, this isn't always your kinda place.

Overall, I'm happy. Happy, happy, happy. As I said, I'll be back next year to run the half and hopefully all the way through 2020 to earn this: 

Have you ever been happy when you didn't meet your A/B goal?


  1. Congrats on running a SMART and STRONG race!! You've got this!!

  2. Congrats on having a good race! There's still more time to get the time goal, if you choose to =)

    1. Thanks Lauren! I totally have time to get to the goal. All the time in the world. <3

  3. I didn't meet my A/B goal at Chicago but I was so happy to be finished after being injured for so long! Way to run smart and happy!

    As for pace teams, I totally agree with you! I joined the 3:55 pace group at Madrid and they took of running 8 minute miles so I dropped away from them in Mile 2. I finished the race in 4:22 and they came in 10 minutes behind me!

    1. I ran smart and happy. And I'm even happiER because of that - smartest race I've had, so I know I'm making progress with even listening to my body and how I train. Wins all around, right?

      Ugh. I'm far from a pacing expert, but I've paced enough halfs that I feel like I have an idea of how it's supposed to work, so it kills me! Argh!

  4. Megan,

    Just stumbled upon your review of the Marathon. I flew in from Kansas City and absolutely loved the race. I also happened to be on same bus as you that broke down a few miles before the start. Overall, I thought everyone handled it fairly well. I was towards the back and was unaware that there were people chirping to the driver that he was going the wrong way. I'd be lying if I didn't feel at least one moment of panic, but I kept telling myself that there was still PLENTY of time before the race actually started. I was proud of the people who chimed in that the bus driver was a volunteer and he was doing the best he could. Great stuff with your review. I plan on being back next year. Nice change of pace from training in the Midwest!

    1. Thanks for commenting, Nate! It was a little disappointing how some folks reacted - while we were all stressed in some kind of way because after all, it was a race mroning - we need to remember that 99% of these folks are volunteering for us!

      I hope you had a great race! I'll back next year as well, just for the half! :)