Rock 'n' Roll Phoenix Marathon 2010 - Phoenix, Arizona
The Rock n Roll Arizona marathon is a popular winter race for Coloradoans. With its mild winters and its relatively flat course not to mention being fairly close its no wonder. While it is not at sea level (tops out near 1300') you can expect faster times than you'd normally run at elevation.
Since having a difficult start to the 2009 running season with a number of minor yet irritating and persisting injuries I wanted to be able to cap off 2009 with a race I could be happy with. I ran the half here three years ago and thought the course was superb so I figured it'd be a good bet the marathon course would be as well. I've known a few other people who had run the race in years past and they all recommended it.
With such an odd Colorado Fall and initial Winter, the snow, ice, running on treadmills more than I ever had, plus the lack of quality speed work I had prior to my last marathon in Chicago 'O8, I didn't have exceptionally high expectations. The main reason for running Phoenix was to ensure I stayed motivated to train during the colder months and have a good base before starting my main training for Boston. Fortunately most weekends were relatively nice to allow me enough long runs to ensure proper endurace to complete the race without too much problem. I figured a sub-2:53 would still be likely but since the course is
over 1100-1200' feet in elevation I would have been very happy with cracking 2:49. Anything below that would be frosting on the cake. Chicago was run at 2:47:54 but I didn't really think it was too likely to match that time but that was fine by me.
I wanted to try my best to be smart and not go out too hard. I went through the first mile in 6:19 and the second in 6:14 and felt great but didn't want to get too crazy. At this point I was running in a small group when I was passed by a runner I thought was Ken Pliska - it was and he ended up running an outstanding 2:37. Shortly afterwards he picked up the pace and although I was feeling great I thought better of trying to stay with him. Fortunately I was able to keep my head on straight and me and the little group I was with passed the third mile in 6:21. It continued this way as I passed the 10K in an average of 6:18:03 (39:09) which proved to me I was keeping my cool, and I decided that since this was more of a training run than a goal race I would continue this pace as long as possible to see what kind of strength I carried with me from this odd training period. I felt certain I could probably run a 6:20 pace through mile 20 and even if I was not able to continue on as hard after that I could still finish relatively strongly. It was nice to be running with a guy who wanted to chat. Since I really didn't have much issue carrying on a conversation at that pace I knew I wasn't going too fast. Perhaps a bit faster than I should, but not overly so. He had just run a 1:17 half in Tuscon the month before but had never run faster than 2:57 marathon. But since that was a few years before he felt confident he could most likely improve his PR during this race. He was able to stay with me the first 11 miles before falling off the pace and I found out later that he ran a 2:53.
It also turns out that I went through mile 20 at an average pace of 6:18.14 (2:06:03), virtually identical to my 10K pace. From then on, while I felt pretty strong through mile 23, my pace began to drop off a little. Since the course isn't exactly flat, having several miles with long gradual inclines and a fairly strong headwind at times I slowed to around 6:30 but was able to hold that to the finish. The slowest mile came just before mile 24 where the course climbs over a bridge that crosses the Salt River. For those that have ever run Chicago, this climb was reminiscent of the bridge you climb just before the final turn to the finish - not exactly fun. It was this from here that I was able to pick off about 10 people before the finish. In fact I believe only 4
people who had passed me after mile 4 were able to hold me off, including two women who had run at the past Olympic trials. One got me by a minute and half and the other by only 24 seconds.
My final time? 2:47:09. Faster than I figured I'd run and enough to make me happy with my training as well as prove to myself that I know what I'm doing training-wise and that my performance in Chicago was not a fluke. I was fortunate to have had Scott Kukel, David Rothenburger, and David Cook meet me at some point during a few of my long days which helped keep my mind off being out there for almost 3 hours. I was also lucky a few times have had Yvonne Allmaras keep me company while she rode her bike and carried my water and gels. That really helped. I now feel that when I get back into training for Boston that it shouldn't be too much of a stretch to break 2:45. Track work will be starting soon and being able to once again do some excellent tempo runs on Tuesdays with Niketown, I am looking forward to Boston the third week of April. The first 8+ months of 2009 were a struggle but the year was capped off by a good performance at the beginning of 2010.
Interesting stats (at least to me):
There were 18 finishers from Colorado who ran under 3:00
I was the 7th Colorado finisher
I was the 7th overall masters finisher
I was the 3rd masters finisher from Colorado.
I was 5/522 in the 40-44 age group
Age graded - 78.5% (80% = national class)
Equivalent to 25 year old running 2:40:54
Mike, hell of a race. What's your PR in the marathon though, back when you were a spring chicken!?
Thanks Simon. Back in 'da day'...haha, my PR was 2:31. Too bad I quit running the following year. Who knew I wouldn't run again for over 13 years??? Oh well, I was young and stupid. By the way, I'm planning on hitting that bare foot running seminar at the Runners Roost.