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Phoenix Phun!

Eight years ago this weekend, I ran my first marathon in Houston. It was all thanks to my friend, Jessie, who said "wanna go on vacation and we'll just run a marathon while we are there?". Hmm? At the time, I had not run over 5 miles. But I am always up for a challenge. And, thus, my marathoning began.

So this past September, I said "wanna go to Phoenix to run a marathon?" and Jessie was game. :) Plus, now living cross country from one another, it gave us a weekend to hang out, talk and reconnect. Yay! Jess flew in to Denver on Friday afternoon and we reunited for our trip. Trashy magazines and Red Vines- staples for all trips we take together.

With the race in mind, Saturday we spent doing all the pre-race duties like getting our packet from the expo,

And getting into the 'spirit' of the race by rockin' out.

That night was a pasta party with a bunch of running friends from Denver. After signing up with Jess, I kept finding runner after runner coming down to Phoenix. My friend Sonja was in the same boat, so we set a place, time and location and wa-lah! 20+ runners, support people, etc. out for dinner. It was the perfect way to get some good food, ease some pre-race tension and just hang out with friends. I was also excited to spend some time with Dana & Dan. It was going to be Dana's first half marathon-- and I kind of talked her into it... so I was happy she could meet us out. Plus, Dan (her hubby) got some spectathlete coaching from Sonja to help his day go smoother as well. Side note: HIGHLY recommend Harley's Italian Bistro if you are looking for good Italian in Phoenix. YUM!

All hugs and smiles before our race.

The morning came too quickly and I was off to the race. Jessie was doing the half (which started later) so, I got a ride down to the race with Sandy and Michelle. Thankfully, it wasn't too cold, so it made the waiting bearable.

While there, I went for a little warm-up run. Yes, more mileage before the race. It was something new to try, but I did it and I think I like it. It kinda jiggled out the nerves and I think it helped me so I didn't start out too fast.

Coming into the race, I really didn't know what to expect. I feel like I have been training for the Ironman, and this race just happened to pop-up. While that relieved some nervousness about it, I really didn't know what to expect. Since I am swimming and biking more, I have been running less than normal when training for a marathon. Not to mention that I have been feeling less than fast lately.

So earlier in the week, I talked with my coach and set some goals:
- Trying to negative split. (Run the second half faster than the first.)
- Trying to finish the race around a 4:10.

To accomplish these, we came about with a general race strategy of starting off at a 9:50 pace for the first 5 miles, working up to and staying at a 9:30 pace for the majority and then, hopefully, pulling in below that pace for the last few miles ~ so averaging about a 9:30 pace, if possible. This would end me with about a 4:10.

Back to the race. Although I knew multiple people running it, we all had different paces and goals in mind. So, after meeting up in the morning, we all wished each other well and dispersed into separate corrals. This helped as I could focus on me and what I wanted to do.

I started out a little fast for what I had intended, but got my pace down by mile 3. At mile 5, I upped my pace up to around 9:30s and kept it there. Since I was deliberately going slower, I really felt like I was "holding back" for the majority of the race. Somewhere between miles 5 and 10, I decided that I had about 8 miles of pushing in me and that I would hold my 9:30s till mile 18 and then push. I hit mile 18 and pushed. While I felt like I was pushing a lot more, my pace only dropped about 20 seconds. But, hey! that was a drop and I was happy. I kept on like this till the end of the race, slowly quickening my pace and finishing with 4:07:40-- yay!

So, that was it. I did it! I was very happy that I had goals and that I met them. I was also happy to see that my level of fitness was probably better than what I expected.
Part of the gang after.

As for the race in general, I would recommend it. There were lots of people, maybe too many for me for the pre and post activities (35,000 total). While our race course wasn't crowded, I heard the 1/2 was VERY congested. The bands along the route were great. There were even some "unofficial bands" that played along the way. Very entertaining. I enjoyed the humor of most of the announcers. There was tons of support along the way. And they gave out salt packets at 2 aid stations- yum. I had never had that before in a marathon, but it really helped. I think that I will add salt packets (like those you get from fast food restaurants) to my race belt. And the course was flat, flat, flat. While the course itself wasn't pretty, Arizona is. As you can see, they have lotsa funky cactii.
And nothing makes a better post-race celebration than good Mexican food (which Arizona has plenty of)... and margaritas!
Besides friends! Thanks to all (Jessie, in particular) for such a fun weekend! Cheers to a good race and great weekend!