I love the marathon! What a beast of a distance. If you follow me on here, you know I went down to Phoenix to have a good time, do my best, and because I don’t think I could go from December (CIM) until the end of July (Jack & Jill) without running another one! Thank you to my coach and Lifelong Endurance for understanding that!
This trip was a quick one. When I decided to go back to school, I knew I’d need to be conservative going forward to save as much money as possible! So here’s my weekend recap and event review! I won’t lie to you, it wasn’t my best weekend, but the event itself was awesome!
On Thursday I flew out of Terrace super early to Vancouver where I connected to Phoenix. I didn’t check any bags since it was only a 2-night trip, plus my track record with lost bags… Upon arrival, I had no internet on my phone which was a huge pain in the ass and I had to take a real taxi instead of an Uber to the hotel. The result was about three times the cost, but I did what I had to do. Later I found out there was an issue with roaming on the AT&T network or something…it was fixed within a few hours, but unfortunately my trip kinda started with frustration, on top of lack of sleep.
Holiday Inn Hotel & Suites Phoenix-Mesa/Chandler was where I booked for this trip. This was one of the hotels listed as partners for accommodation on the race website, and though not super close to the finish line, it was more reasonably priced. I’ve had great experiences with the Holiday Inn in the past, so I went with it. Next time, I’ll just suck it up and stay at the closest hotel! I was smack in the middle of freeways with not much at all to walk to or explore, and I felt a bit isolated. It wasn’t a good location for final pre-race runs, either. Also, I hate to be negative, but there wasn’t a single thing indicating that this hotel was partnered with the race. Usually host hotels welcome runners in one way or another, and host a buffet the night before. A woman I met was told there’d be water, fruit and granola bars in the lobby for runners on race morning, but come Saturday the gentleman at the desk didn’t know what she was talking about.. As for the hotel in general, it was alright, but a tad dumpy compared to other Holiday Inns, and I definitely wouldn’t recommend the restaurant.
Anyways! Email communication from the race organizers was fantastic all along. After arriving I received more info/reminders about the expo, and then another email addressing runners’ concerns about the new 6am start and whether or not headlamps would be necessary. I didn’t feel I needed a light at all, but lots of people brought them and it was nice to get some guidance on that!
On Friday after a short, tired and less than scenic run, followed by a hard nap, I Uber’d to the expo. I was feeling negative because of a headache, lack of sleep and an old blister on one of my heels that turned into a giant painful owie from wearing gumboots the week before. It was causing me significant pain. I hoped the energy at the expo would cheer me up, and it did! It was set up outdoors in a parking area at Mesa Riverview shopping centre.
It was what I expected for the size of this race – good, but nothing extravagant. There were spots for photos, lots of good vendors, and it was cool that some of the expo was within tents, with another section outside and uncovered. I had no problem quickly grabbing my race packet. The shirts, which are tank tops, are awesome and I will definitely wear mine in real life! There were lots of samples, including Clif, who would be on-course the next day. My favourite running shoe brand, Altra, was there selling unboxed returns for sixty bucks! My eyes popped out of my head and I left with two new pairs of road and trail runners. PRO Compression was there, of course, and the WeRunSocial meetup that they sponsor started at 4pm. We all received t-shirts that were printed with a cool pic from a previous year’s race and they fit amazingly! We all visited for a bit, took a big group photo, and then I went back to the hotel for an early night.
Once back in my room, I organized my race kit and packed a gear bag for after the race, which included a sweatshirt, jacket, sandals, face wipes, Excedrin and a few sample snacks from Carlee. Race packets included a massive sticker with the participant’s bib number on it to stick on to the gear-check bag. Super handy!
Two-thirty am, my alarm went off, not that I was sleeping! Start-line busses ran from 3:30 to 4:45am and the race began at 6. I got organized, microwaved my oatmeal and guzzled some Nuun and coffee, then headed to the lobby to meet my new friend and Uber partner, Eric. My heel was killing me and it was swollen, but since it was mostly painful to walk, vs. run, I tried to forget about it. I recruited another woman in the elevator, and the three of us shared a ride back to Mesa Riverview where school busses shuttled runners to the starting area on top of the Ursery Mountain. This is a point-to-point race, my fave! It was all very easy, well-marked and organized. Zero stress whatsoever regarding the getting-to-the-start process!
This was my favourite starting area of any race I’ve ever participated in! THERE WERE CAMP FIRES!!! And this was good because it was COLD! They were also blasting the best tunes.
I found Elle almost immediately. Yay. And shortly after, Brian, Carlee and Ryan.
Another athlete also coached by Lifelong Endurance, Kate, recognized me and came to say hello and chat before the race. I was so happy to meet her and hear about her goal, which she crushed! I wish we took a pic!
The forecast predicted it to be a cold one relative to other years, but it was colder than I expected, just like at CIM! On top of my race outfit, I had a throwaway wooly headband, a long sleeve shirt, a sweatshirt, my RUNVAN gloves from the Fall Classic, and the thin zip jacket that runners received at the CIM finish line. If it weren’t for the fires, I would have been regretting not having sweatpants. Runners were allowed to stay on the busses as long as they wanted so it would have been fine either way. Bring throwaway layers!
After the national anthem and a couple measly but appreciated fireworks, we were instructed to file towards the starting line, self-seeding based on where the pacers were located. Then we were off!
It was dark, but not pitch black! I could see just fine. I started off pretty relaxed, but had some anxiety since unfortunately I hadn’t been able to go to the bathroom yet…ughhhhh. Not a good way to begin..It was chilly and I kept my long-sleeved shirt on for the first half of the race! It wasn’t overly crowded, which was awesome. I believe there were around 2000 full marathon bibs.
The first almost 7 kilometers are downhill. I’ve heard reports that it’s steep enough to “trash your quads” but I didn’t find that whatsoever. The view from the top of the mountain, although it was still dark, was beautiful! And the cacti!! It was nice to start downhill without too much effort and find a groove, but worrying about an inevitable pit-stop took up some valuable energy.
Just before 7k, the one significant uphill began. It was not steep by any means, but pretty long, climbing steadily for 2.5 kilometers. I stayed loose and maintained effort, not pace, as planned, and it was no problem. Once reaching the top of the hill, I was happy it was over but it’s nothing to be afraid of! However, if you live somewhere flat, this will be a significant hill for you. Now I needed to find a porto-potty and I sped up, feeling a bit frantic and stressed.
Then came another 7ish kilometers of mostly downhill, with a few flat spots or short, mild inclines. Before I knew it I was at halfway. I can’t remember if it was a bit before or after that I found a porto-potty without a line and made an efficient stop. I raced out of there to make up for lost time and it really fucked with my mojo. I had a bad feeling.
Having just passed the half-marathon timing mat, things were feeling more difficult than they should at this point. Dammit. Reflecting on the entire experience, I think my fear of the pain on my heel, plus knowing that this wasn’t a big goal race, I had kind of given myself permission subconsciously to give up a little. That, combined with feeling stressed through the first half, and I hadn’t set myself up for a strong race! #alwayslearning
From half to 30k, I began to fade pretty hard, but I was still really enjoying my run and wasn’t worried about it. This has happened multiple times in marathons around 25k, something I want to work on eliminating! I accepted it and continued forward, but I did stop quite a few times to walk for 5-10 seconds to try to regroup.
Kilometers 36-40, although basically pancake flat, truly felt like an incline to me. I was struggling at this point and in comparison to all that elevation drop in the first half, it was so hard! I predicted this contrast with respect to the course profile, but combined with burning out, it was super tough. Wearing my Oiselle Volée top was so helpful because there was so much encouragement from spectators and other runners who recognize the Volée racing gear!
Finally, the last kilometer! Here we had a little bit of a decline again, which was nice for that final push. I passed quite a few people, which is always great! I wish my brain had have been working a little better, because I didn’t realize HOW close I was to the possibility of a PR, though it would have been tiny. Oh well! Serves me right for experimenting with a new Garmin app on race day!
The finish line area was happening! After receiving my medal and a bottle of water, I was given a cloth bag, which I must say is the greatest idea ever for any finish line. When you have no dexterity left and people are handing you bottles of water, chocolate milk, bananas, bars, medals, etc, you need a place to put these things! I made my way to the FRENCH TOAST STATION and gobbled down a piece, then found a place to sit down and organize myself. I immediately got a splitting headache and was limping a little. Boo!
The sun was out and it was a beautiful but chilly day and there was lots of awesome energy around me. It would have been nice to stick around and enjoy the festivities, but my body gets cold and stiff almost immediately after running for that long, and I was in pain. I called an Uber after suiting up in my layers and downing water, sports drinks and chocolate milk.
The traffic around the finish area was a gong show and it was hard to find a place to get picked up, but my driver and I figured it out and I got back to the hotel quickly without much problem. If I could make a suggestion, it would be to have some signage indicating where to go for runners to be picked up. Maybe that was a thing and I didn’t notice in my post-marathon daze..?
I really liked this event! It was so organized. The location of the expo and shuttle busses was easy to get to and navigate once arriving. The starting area was FANTASTIC with the loud music and fires, and the first section of the race coming down the mountain was gorgeous. There could have been more porta-potties at the start, but that’s always the case when thousands of people are trying to go before the race starts! The aid stations were really awesome and there wasn’t a single point in the race where I found myself thinking “man, I wish an aid station would come up!” because there were so many of them!! The spectator support was very decent, especially for such an early race, and the finish area was high-energy with lots going on and lots of refueling options. THE MEDAL IS SICK! The race tank is awesome and I will definitely wear it in real life, which rarely happens, and the Mesa-PHX sweat towel is also a cool and useful keepsake. I didn’t have any issues retrieving my gear bag, which is a big one.
As for my more personal thoughts on my race experience, I feel pretty happy about it. Although I didn’t have a strong race, and I had some stomach issues and heel pain, there are a lot of positives here, and since it wasn’t a goal race, I feel fine about it!
- zero forefoot pain or discomfort, which I’ve been dealing with off and on since September
- second ever marathon pit-stop was efficient, and I now know that pit-stop does not necessarily = sabotaged race plan!
- came within 40 seconds of my marathon PR, even though I had some issues and struggled through most of the second half! Imagine if everything had come together?!
- fueling was good again, Nak’d bars and Razz Clif shots!
- no chafe
- had fun the whole time
- I can tell by how my body feels as well as from a few photos that my form has improved. Still have a lot of work to do, but I’ve come a long way!
- walked through aid stations to make sure I drank a full cup of water at each one
- Though I faded, I would not say I “hit the wall” hard by any means
Yahoo! Marathon number seven is in the books! I really want to come back to this race, it was awesome. Next time I’ll stay at the Hyatt, stay a little longer and bring a buddy. Normally I love travelling alone, but something about this trip made me want a weekend companion..I didn’t find the area as easy and welcoming as Sacramento. The Sprouts Mesa-PHX Marathon kicks ass and I think you should consider adding it to your bucket list!