RnR AZ 2015 kicked off my year of racing. It was a two day event full of running fun that included getting state #10, Arizona, checked off my list. You can check out how Day 1 at the expo and my first tweetup went here.
RnR AZ 2015 Race Day started with breakfast, an E2 and a short drive to plenty of free parking next to Sun Devil Stadium. I parked in a lot with plenty of space 50 minutes before the official start time and began walking to the starting area with a sea of fellow runners. While replying to a good luck text from Doug, I realized my GPS watch was still on its charger. Oh well, the let’s see what happens race would end up being just that. I still wanted to come in under 1:40.00 but am not too great at pacing myself with race day distractions around and wouldn’t be crushed if I missed. I walked past the Start line, 22 corrals, four massive groups of Port-a-Potties and dropped my gear with a friendly volunteer. After emptying my hands of pre-race clothing, phone and bag, I jumped into a Port-a-Potty line that moved at a reasonable pace then found some space to warm up.
Stretching, jogging and three strides sent me Corral 2. It had been chilly after shedding my hoodie at gear check and standing in the open air potty line but crammed in there with a few hundred other runners, things warmed up a bit. The Corral 2 start was a bit late due to a passing light rail train and we were let loose at 7:58. I settled right into a comfortable racing pace and figured I would ask someone near the Mile 1 marker how I had been doing. My plan worked out passing the Mile 1 marker when I came up on another female runner who was moving along at roughly the same pace I was. I asked her what she had clocked, 7:20, and we started to chat. She wanted to PR by breaking 1:40.00 with the goal of averaging a 7:30 mile for the entire race. We stuck together through the flat and fast first 5k in 23:16. Enjoying one another’s company, we continued to chat for the next 11 miles. A Phoenix local, she had run this race before and was familiar with the course, which I thought was fantastic.
Now, to be honest, after that first 5k, the rest of the race is kind of a blur. Between chatting and not having my watch to look at, I was mostly just enjoying my first race with a buddy. We grabbed some fluid at Mile 4 still clicking right along at our target pace and had settled in nicely to hit our sub-1:40.00 goals. I’m guessing it was around Mile 5 when I came across a gentleman wearing a shirt I recognized from RnR Las Vegas. As we passed, I asked him if he was indeed the gentleman I had seen in November wearing the Lt. Joe Kenda: Homicide Hunter tech shirt. I had made note of the shirt during that race because Doug and I are big fans of the show and I had never seen one like it before. He (this super runner) replied that yes, he was, as I exclaimed that Doug and I love the show. As I came up to his side, he stated that he plays Lt. Joe Kenda on the show and when I took a second glance to my right, I was so excited! I told him we are big fans and wished him luck on the rest of his race.
Next up was a water stop my buddy was able to run through while I walked to avoid choking. I picked up the pace a bit to catch up and we ran a 7:40 as we climbed another short, steady grade into a right turn and the 10k mark (46:28). Near the Mile 8 marker we finally got around to introducing ourselves. Neither of us had ever run with a buddy before and we both agreed running, chatting and passing the miles with a pal was definitely more fun than without. Megan is a super runner mom to three little ones who had qualified for and run Boston a few years earlier. We had lots of the same strategies, such as telling ourselves 10k was halfway plus a little speed work and chatted for 80% of the minutes we spent side by side. The exceptions were a few moments where I was playing catch up after slowing through one of my three water pauses or we were both puffing up one of those ‘flat’ hills.
Heading uphill towards Mile 9, I again walked for water, still managing to choke, and powered up the hill to a tight turnaround as I caught up to Megan just before the 15k marker. We stuck together through the next few miles as some banking started to bother my knee a little bit and the tough workout I wasn’t mentally, or physically, prepared for began to take its toll. We hit the Mile 10 mark at 1:15.22, exactly where both of us wanted to be. I planned on cruising in and told Megan she could go for her PR whenever she was ready. She stuck with me until the Mile 12 water stop, where I came to a complete stop to avoiding choking on water and she hit the gas to get her PR. I struggled to start running again on legs that weren’t happy to have stopped but cruised through an easy last mile to hit my sub-1:40.00 goal and finish in 1:38.54.
After collecting my finisher’s medal, water, chocolate milk, pretzels and PowerBars, I picked Megan out of the crowd and congratulated her on her amazing run. It was so awesome to share that with her. Next up was watching the marathon winner cross the Finish, collecting my Desert Double Down medal to commemorate my running of both RnR Las Vegas and Arizona and stretching out on the grass a bit before calling it a day.Overall thoughts:
* The course was well prepared with hydration stations and Port-a-Potties on the sidelines as well as rocking bands at each mile (or so, I think).
* If anyone ever tries to tell you this course is flat, it isn’t. Maybe compared to Boston, the Philadelphia Marathon, Run the Bluegrass or Richmond. I’ve run flatter here, here, here, here and here. True, it’s not hilly in the traditional sense of steep climbs followed by coming down the other side. It’s more subtle than that. With long stretches featuring 7-10% grades at several points on the course, it can get challenging if you’re not mentally prepared.
* Getting parked before the race was free and easy.
* Getting back to the parking after the race, not so much. There were a number of racers wandering around trying to find our way back to the Start so we could then navigate to our cars. It added a nice long walk to shake everything out post-race but if you’re not in the mood to stroll around ASU’s campus and don’t know where you’re going, study the map.
* The weather was great for the half (50 at the start, 62 at the finish) but might get a little warm for the full. It’s dry and mostly sunny on the course, so hydration is important.
* The tech shirts, medals, post-race goodies and party are high quality as expected from Rock n Roll.
I still have 41 places to race to accomplish my goal but RnR AZ 2015 makes me think about heading back again next year, especially because the medals for the next three years will fit like a puzzle with this one to make one giant Arizona shaped prize.
Have you raced in 2015 yet? Which one? If not, when’s your first?