With the 2017 hall of fame behind me, I had a few weeks of downtime. The school year came to a close, and so did Q4 at work. Christmas and New Years came and went. We stayed in Denver for the holidays, because we closed on a new-to-us townhouse!
By the time Rock n Roll Arizona rolled around, I was exhausted and one week into a cold. I was certainly not prepared for another race, and had not even anticipated another flight. I was, however, looking forward to making some new friends in a new city, and meeting up with a co-worker. In the middle of unpacking our new home, we bid our kitties adieu and set off for our midnight flight.
Phoenix was nice and warm – a wonderful change from chilly Denver. We made it in time to hit the In-n-Out, which is something we will always do when we’re on the west coast. Phoenix is one of my favorite race cities. It feels at home, because of the desert scenery, warm climate, endless open skies, grid systems, and plentiful In-n-Outs of course. Getting in at 2am at the Airbnb wasn’t new to me. Our place was private and cozy, and just down the street from my 9:30 meet-up with my co-worker at a local donut house.
The morning after, we met up with some new friends – John and Sara of Not Real Runners – for brunch! It was great chit-chatting with them about all things running. Over the course of the weekend we’d to meet their significant others too! It’ll be great to see them again soon. Afterwards, we headed to the expo and to an early carboload linner (lunch + dinner), and then climbed into bed well before sunset. Erik was feeling pretty tired and I was sick, so we enjoyed Old Spaghetti Factory and then had some In n Out shakes, burgers, and fries again later that night. We even heard back from an old friend and chit chatted the night away before turning in.
On to the race recap itself…
I’ve historically loved Arizona. However, this is the first time I’ve ran the course with someone where their start line was in a completely different city. YES…a different city! I did my best to navigate the road closures by referencing the map the night before, scribbling down driving instructions on paper since it seemed like the information wasn’t imported into Google Maps ahead of time. I drove Erik to his start line in Phoenix, and then booked it to my start line on the other side of town in Tempe. It was very odd.
The course itself was nice, as usual. There were a few familiar sights, but I was much more interested in blue skies and warmth. I was torn between running the half or the full, but it would seem that mother nature had plans for me since I had come down with a cold about a week before the race. I carried some tissues with me, but my congestion got the better of me. I felt pretty miserable and slow throughout the whole thing. I’ve never wanted a race to be over sooner than this one. (Maybe if I think really hard about it, I can remember another race in recent memory.)
However, this was the first race of the year — and therefore, it was the first race that Ironman had officially revamped the race series. How did they do?
- Mile markers: They had these really cute fabric (half?) arches for mile markers. I really liked this because you could see them from far away, and they were mostly unaffected by the wind. In some cases, they didn’t seem to be set up properly and the numbers were sideways.
- Aid stations were well stocked: As a back-of-packer this is especially important for me. I’ve been at previous races where they run out of supplies or just shut down stations. For the half marathon, they seemed to do a good job on the course with water and electrolytes.
- There were noticeably more bands. I wasn’t looking for them, but they seemed to be out, and their sound systems seemed to be nicer because I could actually hear them.
- More porta-potties. I didn’t use any of them, but I didn’t notice a very long line for them on course.
- Red carpet finish for the marathoners. It was a really nice touch and reminds me of the Ironman finish line.
- I watched my friends who finished the full marathon miss out on the perks that were promised to them. The marathoners were supposed to have a private finishers zone with massages, hot pizza, and Snickers bars. When my friends finished, they were greeted with an empty baseball field and one or two boxes of very cold pizza. And some leftover Snickers.
- I saw lots of people towards the end of the race walking out with 3-4 boxes of pizza. Again, this was completely unacceptable! At the 6 hour finish time, there was still 1 hour left of the event and the last of the pizza was nearly gone. There was no reason why runners and their families should have been stealing pizza from the back of pack runners. (I had even forgotten that pizza would be provided to marathoners…I ordered one and had it ready at the finish line for my husband!)
- Start lines for the half and full in different cities. My husband and I travel to lots of races together in the Rock n Roll series and we generally swap out which fulls and halves to run. If we have to coordinate travel to TWO different start lines, logistics are going to become a nightmare. (For context, he ran 13 races last year with three of them being marathons. I ran 15 last year with 2 of them marathons.)
- Poorly marked finishers area. At one time the Rock n Roll series did a great job at signage for their finishers area. It rivaled runDisney signage in terms of the family reunion area, gear check, etc. Now, you’ll end up walking around the finishers area a couple of times looking for something that was underneath your nose.
Arizona is usually a PR course for me. The only thing I PR’d was probably the amount of times I blew my nose over the course of 13.1 miles. After I got back from the race, I ended up getting sick again and it escalated into an ear infection. I don’t think it was directly because of the race, but it was probably related to the change in temperature and the exhaustion from travel. Until next time!