Hard to believe Rock n' Roll Arizona has come and gone already but I now have 11 half marathons under my belt and another sub-1:50 finish for the first time in a year! The race didn't go exactly how I expected it to due to some uncontrollable issues but it was still a solid race and I learned what I was made of when things got tough: a skill that will help me in all races moving forward. So while it wasn't a perfect race performance, that medal sure felt earned when they put it around my neck.
I flew into Phoenix on Thursday night, and after a series of delays, I finally arrived at 3am Phoenix time. After a good night's sleep I headed off to the expo to get my packet and to score some freebies. Oh, and of course I bought a new jacket from the race too. I made sure to get a good night's sleep on Friday in case I didn't sleep much Saturday night.
On Saturday, I had a relatively low-key day between meeting a friend for lunch, taking a little walk, and watching football. After my gluten free pasta with ground meat dinner, I laid out everything I needed for the race and went to bed early after reading all my motivational quotes (a regular part of my pre-race routine).
Race morning started early at 4:45am when I woke up and had some Nuun, with gluten free toast and a banana. I left for the race at 5:50am and my parents dropped me off near the start at 6:45am.
I went to the bathroom and dropped my bag. I got through the line so quickly that I ended up back in the bathroom line because I had 30 minutes to go. The line took longer than expected and I made it to the corral with a little over 5 minutes to spare. Unfortunately the corrals were packed way too tight with only one entrance and so I ended up with the 1:50 half marathoners when I wanted to run a 1:40. I was a little frustrated when I asked people if I could move up and was met with somewhat rude remarks from fellow runners. I calmed myself down and told myself not to stress. I was irked a little more when the wave starts began and the 1:45 and all speeder runners were able to take off and we were held back at the start. I knew my pacing would be up to me as I had no chance of catching them with a minute thirty head start.
We took off and I wove in and out until it opened up enough for me to run comfortably at goal pace. My race strategy was to run the first half a little slower at about 7:45-7:55/mile to hold back before the big hill at 8.5, and then to let loose on the downhill/flat remaining miles. I settled in at a comfortable 7:45 for the first couple miles feeling very strong and knowing my goal was within reach. At mile 2.5 I saw my parents and quickly yelled to let them know that I was actually on pace even though they already saw the 1:45 pacer go by earlier.
Around the 5k mark, the 10k runners split off from us, but I remained in a large pack of runners because of the sheer size (20k+) of the half marathon. At that time I started to notice that my stomach felt kind of off, but it wasn't too bad so I pushed on. I was doing great on pace until about mile 6 when the my stomach felt even worse and I developed a bad side stitch because I needed a bathroom break. I refused to stop because I felt so strong. However, every time I tried to push the pace and drop below an 8:25, I felt like I was being stabbed in the side. I realized at that point, I would have to abandon my A goal of a 1:40 and go for my B goal of a PR.
At mile 7 I saw my parents and gave them a heads up about how I was feeling. The pain was getting worse, so I scaled back a little more, but kept moving and refused to stop.
I knew from my previous year running this race, that a big hill was coming at mile 8.5, so I knew I was going to need all my strength to keep going, given how I was feeling. When the hill arrived, I somehow managed to power up the whole thing (maybe it was Sia's "the Greatest" coming on my playlist) and make it to the top where there were great mountain views and Native American drummers playing and cheering for us. I hit the turn around and cruised down the hill as the side stitch finally subsided a bit. I logged a 7:55 pace down the hill and started feeling a better until mile 10 when the side stitch hit again and seriously slowed me for a bit. I knew I was going to have to go for my C goal of under 1:50.
Once I hit mile 10.25 I decided I didn't care about the pain and I was so determined to be under 1:50. I thought about a million different things to distract myself and tuned into my music. I took in the surroundings and used the spectators and ran smart at an 8:25 pace. Before I knew it, I hit mile 12. One more mile. I looked at my watch and saw 1:39. "Ok, so I could log a 10 minute mile and be in under 1:50. I can do that." Turns out I didn't even need 8.5 minutes as I logged nearly an 8 flat, finishing in 1:48. I don't think I finish line has ever looked so amazing to me.
When I crossed, I didn't feel great (10 miles of stomach pain will do that to you) and apparently I didn't look great either as a medic asked me if I was okay and then advised me to go to the medical tent when I told him I thought I may be slightly overhydrated. Given my history of not going, and then needing the tent when I'm far away, I heeded his advice and went straight there. I was mildly hyponatremic, which could have contributed to the stomach problems, or I could have had multiple issues. The doctors took fantastic care of me, giving me a gatorade and salt solution to battle the hyponatremia and a pill called Zofran to fight the slight nausea I felt. After making sure I was okay, the cleared me to leave and gave me some ice for my ITB (it was fine, but I wanted to ice as a precaution). Definitely need to go back to more closely monitoring my hydration the day prior to a race.
After all the excitement, I enjoyed the post race party, finally looked at my medal, and got a post-race massage that I had won at the expo. I really needed the massage and learned a lot from the man who gave me the massage about getting treatment for my ITB because I'm still lacking 6 inches of flexibility in that leg. Afterwards I got to see Neely Spence Gracey win her first place award and I stayed to watch Toad the Wet Sprocket put on their show.
While I didn't get my 1:40 goal or a PR, I learned so much about how strong I am and how far I can push myself. In retrospect, that is what I wanted to get out of this race. I landed a post-ITB injury PR, ran a time in the 1:40s for the first time since Rock n' Roll Arizona in January of 2016, and I still had a lot left in the tank, feeling like the miles could have been much faster if it weren't for the darn side stitch. Even without a 1:40 half, I'm feeling confident to enter spring marathon training and I know a lot more about what I am capable of.