Once again we continue to be in awe of how many seemingly normal people we know who have accomplished things we thought were impossible when we started racing.
Ok, maybe ‘seemingly normal’ isn’t quite accurate here.
When we were planning the weekend, we cut back one night to save a vacation day because of a lot of things happening in the back half of 2017 and hopefully early 2018. Then Susan found out she was double counting her days off and we have more days than we thought. We might have even been able to do the 5K on Saturday if we went straight there from the airport, but oh well.
Rock n Roll Arizona is usually our kick off race for the year. While it’s historically cool and a flat, fast course, being scheduled midway through the Eating Season and the horribly brutal California winter training season, we rarely looked at this race for PR’s. It’s also the first race of the Rock n Roll season and in the last 3 years, we looked forward to seeing all of our friends on the Hall of Fame banner. With 162 people in the 2016 class, the pictures were small. And also a little blurry. It looked like the printing bled a bit so the pics weren’t sharp. Hopefully this was a rush job and there is a second banner in the works?
This is the 20th year of the Rock n Roll Marathon series since the first race in San Diego in 1998. There were some really nice retrospective signs leading us past the bib and shirt pick up areas. There are a lot of stars of the running world who’ve made a mark during the Rock n Roll Series – even some we know.
We weren’t sure when this was going to happen, but the redesigned Heavy Medal series was unveiled at the expo. Anyone signing up for multiple races AND registering as a Heavy Medalist could earn some of the new extra bling. Note that the new 15-race Hall of Fame Medal was not yet ready for prime time.
Competitor added two more challenge medals for Coast to Coast racing incentives. People completing either San Francisco/Brooklyn or San Diego/Virginia Beach could earn the Bucket List or Beach to Beach medals.
Another half-zip and random pins later, we leave the expo for food. Drew had planned dinner at Alice Cooperstown and since it also had a decent amount of TV’s we could get there early to watch a few playoff games. We stayed and chatted until dinner. One perk of travel is that friends from former lives seem to be everywhere. We met up with Kate, one of our participants from Team in Training in 2009. She did her first (and only) half marathon at Nike San Francisco that year on bad knee. Since she was raising money for her brother Jared, there wasn’t a force on earth that would stop her from finishing. 7.5 years later, she felt strong enough to try another half marathon. She ended up shaving nearly an hour off her time.
This was another 100 Half Marathon celebration for one of our friends. At last count, this was 10 in the last two years. We presented Drew with a small bib and a lifetime membership to the 100 Half Marathons club. Beth sent us a TeamUp medal which got Drew a little choked up.
The food was memorable. The company, even more so.
Drew had a group of friends in from Dallas. Some, like Stephanie, were joining him for their first half marathon and all of them did the 5K Saturday morning. Drew had a local friend, Rachel, bake a cake for the occasion. The decoration was perfect for Drew. And the cake. I don’t think I’ve had a chocolate cake that good in YEARS.
Sunday January 15th. Half Marathon
Getting to the starting line from the airport hotels via light rail was really convenient. Usually we end up driving since we use our timeshare, but with San Francisco, San Diego and Las Vegas having good spots in the Shell Vacations network, we thought we’d try something different. The all day pass for $4 is a must as there are train stops at both starting lines and the finish line. Arizona is the only Rock n Roll where the full marathon starts in a different location than the half. We met for 7:30 pictures before the 7:50 start.
We had a good group and were able to pair off to match paces. Tamara was a bit under the weather and ran with first-timer Stephanie. Drew bounced back and forth between them, us and for the first mile until he settled into a good slow run with us.
You can learn a lot about someone over the course of a race. This wasn’t a time where we were going to push and ‘see what he was made of’, but to go easy, and find out what makes him tick. We asked the standard questions. What was your first half? At the end, he told a friend “we should take a picture. I mean, how many of these do you think we’ll do?” We heard stories about college and the senior prank week and being dropped off in the middle of nowhere to walk home. We found out that if you state a dress code as “dress comfortably”, you better be more specific or one of your guests might come in a Chewbacca onesie (the host was much more specific the following year).
The Garmin data showed the race to be 13.25 miles. We attribute the extra distance to Drew’s penchant for on-course puppy therapy. These four were all sitting in a line in sweaters just past the first mile.
We had the same out and back at mile 8.5 up the hill crossing East McDowell. This time the Taiko drummers were at the top. Excellent motivation and they kept up a good beat. We even caught Tamara and Stephanie for a shout out as they came down the hill about 10 minutes ahead of us. I’m getting to be a big fan of these high-five tunnels.
One pic with Rock n Roll jesus at mile 11. That nickname is growing on me.
Then we head for home. The finish line used to be at the stadium, but the park is quite a bit more relaxed than the asphalt in the parking lot and a nicer view coming over the North Mill Avenue bridge. I’d asked Drew if he wanted us to go ahead of him to take video from the front as he crossed the finish line for the big milestone. He said he’d wanted to cross with the three of us holding hands. Damn. I didn’t think I’d get that kind of honor two races in a row. Nearly brought me to tears again.
We caught Tamara and Stephanie in the finisher area. Stephanie ran a solid first half marathon and was happy to have Tamara to pace her and give her tips on the way. I think we may see Stephanie at a race sooner than she thinks *coughDallascough*. Everyone got their medals this day. First timers, and 100th timers.
There were no Double Down medals for finishing Las Vegas this time around. And since we skipped the 5K, we just had the one medal for the half. Drew was pretty surprised to be the one with the most medals this time around. Definitely well-earned.
Susan, Gary and I had to grab a quick lunch before getting back to the hotel to check out. Loco Patron was right off the light rail stop just a few blocks from the finish area. We didn’t have enough time to grab an ice cream sandwich at Slickables. It was a bit cold for that this trip anyway.
For the first time, I was able to take a page out of Ann Wessling’s book and survive the whole trip with just a backpack. This was a short one though. It feels weird that we don’t think much about hopping on a plane for a race in another time zone and just going back to normal life less than 30 hours later. I guess that’s the kind of mindset you get when you race 100+ half marathons or so.
Just don’t ask me to wear a onesie.
Rock n Roll Arizona finisher numbers are down about 1,000 from 2016, mainly in the half marathon (2,345 for the full, 10,377 for the half and 2,206 for the 5K). The course for the half is relatively flat except for the hill at mile 8.5 (100′ climb). We haven’t done the full for this event, but a lot of folks say it’s flat and primed for a PR. The short hop from Oakland to Phoenix makes this stop a regular on our race calendar unless we have another high priority like Star Wars in 2015 or a new continent. We’ll be waiting for TourPass 2018 to become available so we can save money on the non-refundable processing fees.
With the light rail running very early and every 15-20 minutes, its very easy to get where you’re going during race weekend. Look for hotels near the airport and skip the car if you’re looking to stretch your marathon dollars. Speaking of which, Marathonfoto actually dropped the prices for their full packages to $20 (and I heard even lower to $10 later). I was considering buying the package anyway, so with the lower price, it was a slam dunk. If this continues, I may be a more regular customer.
We’ll be headed to Rock n Roll New Orleans next for the 5K and the half. Hope to see everyone there!