Lucky Number 7

Half Marathon number 7 was three weeks ago!  The PF Chang’s Rock n Roll Half Marathon in Phoenix, AZ.  I’ve been on the road for work non-stop since then, and trying to stay trained-up for my next (8th) half marathon race in about 5 weeks – the Rock n Roll DC race.  So I’ve finally made the time to report on this, my FAVORITE race to date!

Have you even been to Phoenix?  In January?  Oh my God – it’s like heaven.  The weather is perfect, the landscape is mind blowingly beautiful- mountains and valleys and puffy clouds and light breezes.  The Mexican food will bring tears of joy to your eyes.  Go – I’m serious.  Plan a trip for next January.  You won’t regret it.  Especially if you live somewhere that gets that nasty white stuff falling from the skies around this time of year.  Ick.

So for the third year in a row, I picked a winter race (last year was Vegas in December, the year before was Disney in January) for a couple of reasons:

1. See above – bye bye 32 degrees and sleet, hello 78 and sunny.
2. A winter race is an EXCELLENT way to stay on track during the holidays.  Training programs for the two months leading up to the race (Thanksgiving/Christmas time frame) require a lot of hard work, and you have to fuel your body to be able to do it, so as long as you eat smart, you can really enjoy the holiday festivities.  You’ll burn it off tomorrow.
3.  A winter race gives you enough time to recover before the real race season starts – in the spring – and for me, gives me some momentum to carry into the spring races.  If I took the winter off from racing, I would feel like I was starting over and, as they say, an object in motion tends to stay in motion…

So, we left for the race on Friday the 13th (surely a sign that the weekend would be AWESOME!) and gave ourselves (I went with a friend) a full day to acclimate, and to wander through the race expo.  It was a good idea.  Being in a different time zone, different environment, and different elevation isn’t something I wanted to mess with my race.

On race day, the shuttle took us to the start line around 5:00 am, and we did what I always do.  We got in line for the spot-a-pot.  Once we finished, know what we did?  We got in line for the spot-a-pot.  And so on and so on until it was time to line up for the start.  There are a few reasons I do this – mostly it’s because I’m aiming for a very specific window of time for my finish, and I REFUSE to spend any of my race time on a potty.  But also, stopping during the race guarantees you’ll see and smell things you won’t soon forget.  So I avoid course pit stops at all costs.

I was in the 5th of 14 corrals.  The first 4 corrals started the race with the typical 45 second or so pause between them.  When our corral reached the start, the race was paused so a TRAIN could pass.  The start line was about 10 feet from a train track.  Who plans this stuff?  Anyway, about 6 or 7 minutes later, we were off.  In hindsight this worked well because it put a nice big gap between our corral and the one ahead of us, and race course congestion was blessedly light.

The race was… uneventful.  I felt fabulous.  I ran fast.  The only blip came at mile 10 when my legs started feeling heavy, so I broke open a salt packet I had stashed in my oh-so-fashionable running skirt, and dumped it under my tongue.  Now, this is a highly debated practice but as the God of Running is my witness, it works for me.  One little salt pack under the tongue is like a reset button when I hit the wall (or even see it off in the distance).  It works for me and that’s all I care about.  Here’s some info if you want to read about it.

The finish came faster than I expected.  Acutally, about 2 minutes and 21 seconds faster!  My Garmin read 1:57:38 which turned out to be my official finish time too (good job, Garmin!!).  My pace was an 8:59 average, and I ended feeling like I gave it my all.  Final stats:

  • Overall: 3274 out of 15695
  • Division: 200 out of 1523
  • Gender: 1200 out of 9517
  • 5 Km – 27:44
  • 10 Km – 55:38
  • 10 Mi – 1:30:10
  • Pace – 8:59
  • Chip Time – 01:57:38
  • Clock Time – 01:57:38

I thought I’d share a couple of things I did this time that I truly believe helped me on race day:

  • I did an actual training program for the first time.  There are tons of them out there, and my friend did a different one that was COMPLETELY different than mine (  But overall, I thought it was pretty good and although I didn’t/couldn’t follow it religiously, it gave me a great framework for what was needed for a great race.
  • Starting about 10 days before the race, I consciously drank water.  By this I mean I drank it when I wasn’t thirsty and aimed for about 8-10 glasses a day.  I think this REALLY helped.
  • I had been flying a ton before the race, so on the day of the flight to AZ I drank even more water.
  • I allowed myself whatever carbs I wanted for the week before the race.  Again, this is a highly debated practice (carb loading) but I don’t eat that many carbs (definitely not the highly refined type) so I gave myself a pass for a week.  I really think this helped a bunch too.
  • After the flight and the morning trekking around the Race Expo, I took every opportunity to put my feet over my head.  While this may sound like more fun than it was, I think it made a difference.  I laid on the bed with my feet up on the wall, or in a lounge chair by the pool with my feet up on the head rest.  This seemed like a good idea and my feet felt fresh afterward so I think I dig it as a pre-race practice.
  • The night before the race I ate whole grain pasta, and I kept the meal small.  In the past I’ve taken ‘carb loading’ very literally, thinking about filling up the tank the night before with as much pasta as I could hold.  Then, when I push myself to my limit during the race I often spend the rest of race day with an upset tummy.  This time, that didn’t happen.  Carb loading for the week before, then topping off the tank with a small meal was perfect.

So, in the end, it was a great race and it put Phoenix on the top of my list for destination races.  Arizona is state number 5 for my races.  I think I’ll try to hit them all…



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