2018 Sprouts Mesa-PHX Marathon! Race Recap

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.

this is Elle! I love her. She won one of my Instagram contests in the past!

one of my favourite run bloggers and inspirations, Carlee

the 2018 Mesa-PHX #werunsocial & PRO crew!!! Ryan is holding the AZ sock ❤

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!

Ready to go, equipped with my essentials, including my Volee crop and AZ PRO socks!

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.

Brian, PRO Compression Ambassador Boss haha

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!

it was easy to identify our crew with the AZ socks!

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.

DID I MENTION THE RACE PHOTOS ARE FREE? yeah.

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!

ran a chunk with Carlos!

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.

03:51:58, very happy with that!!

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.

2016 – 2020 will form a 5-point star with all the medals! I know Carlee & Brian have all 3 so far.

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!

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Day 5: WDW Marathon!!

When you hear “Florida” what do you think of? I think of heat, humidity, palm trees, Miami by Will Smith and Dexter. 

After the lightning and rain storm yesterday, cold weather came in fast and I’m still in shock! It was close to zero degrees Celsius and the wind chill was crazy. I knew it had seriously cooled off so I added a thermal layer on top of my throwaway shirt and brought a garbage bag for a wind breaker but I was not even close to adequately prepared (and neither were 75% of the other eighteen thousand runners.) Who knew freezing in Florida was a thing.

Serious Tip: ANYTHING can happen on race day. I thought I understood this but was proven wrong. For real, to have been comfortable this morning from exiting my Uber (3:45 am) to actually starting the race from corral H (6 am), I would have needed an additional throwaway toque, gloves, jacket or thick blanket and sweats or jammie pants. It was FREEZING. It was colder than the Historic Half in Vancouver on November 28th! Mind: blown. On a positive note, the gear-bag check was super fast and easy, which was my first task after arriving to Epcot for the fourth and final race. Huge compliments to runDisney on the organization. I don’t think it was necessary for me to go quite as early as they suggest, but personally the idea of being late is too stressful for me.

To avoid freezing, after a quick pic with Dopey himself I joined in at the pump-up stage where the DJ was directing a massive Macarena HAHAHA! I also hid in a couple Porto Potties for a few minutes here and there to escape the wind. Then I joined the crowds huddled by some patio heat lamps that weren’t even on (LOL) and met a dude from Edmonton who’s teeth were chattering as much as mine. It was honestly brutal.

It was a long wait til corral walk-out and when it was time to head out I was grateful to be moving and jogged pretty much on the spot, shuffling along with the massive crowd for the 15 minutes it took to get there. Thankfully the race started efficiently (sent of by Mickey with fireworks for each corral!) at 5:30 and I was across the start mat by 6.

I didn’t ditch my outer layer for at least the first 6km which is unheard of for me as I am a notorious over-heater. A headwind that felt below zero wasn’t helping anyone warm up and unfortunately this headwind was a factor in other parts of the race, not just the beginning. I did eventually warm up of course, tossing my second layer as we entered Magic Kingdom. Your bib number needs to be showing to get race pics and I was warm by this time but still thankful I wore my arm warmers. At around 8km when I saw this I cried (not my pic, but this is what the castle looks like at this time of year.)

castle

The castle was so pretty I really did actually cry. It’s hard to explain the emotions in your body during a huge run like this but it’s REALLY overwhelming. For example, in the corral there was a woman running her very first marathon and when our starting fireworks went off she started happy-crying and hugging me and we had met 30 seconds prior. Or during my first marathon, BMO Vancouver, I started crying in the first 500 meters running down Cambie Street just realizing that I trained for this and was going to accomplish something huge.

The sun was just barely up and Magic Kingdom was lit up with frosty lights from the holiday season and the most beautiful thing of the entire weekend FOR SURE. This was the first place with massive spectator crowds and it was so overwhelming. People who go out to marathons to cheer should be recognized because it is one of the most inspiring parts of running one!

At all different sections of the course there were characters, gospel choirs, varsity teams cheering and marching bands and cheerleaders, stilt performers, acrobats on trampolines and thousands of spectators. The course starts at Epcot, goes through Magic Kingdom, Animal Kingdom, ESPN Sports Complex, Hollywood Studios and ends back at Epcot.

I am so impressed with the number and quality of aid stations. There were 19 in total I believe and all had Powerade and water, and some also had bananas, Clif shot gels and even candy!! I think I ate a total of 2 bananas and a package of M&Ms during my run which was extremely helpful. As well as my own gels and Honey Stinger Gummies, I tried the raspberry Clif Shot and it was like getting Lucky Charms as a kid when you have Shreddies parents. YUM. I’ll be buying a case of those.

There were also certain stations where the volunteers were handing out little popsicle sticks with blobs of Vaseline and for this I am extremely grateful because my inner arms were chafing like a b!+*# and it was getting hard to ignore. Again, anything can happen on race day. I don’t usually use Body Glide on my inner arms. Suprise.

Towards the last quarter of the race we ran through ESPN Wide World of Sports Complex and through a stadium with a big screen showing all the runners and there were lots of people in the stands cheering and supporting. This was around the infamous 32km (20 mile) mark of any marathon. I was struggling at this point and the spectators are one of the biggest things that helped me keep going.

As was the case in the last full marathon I ran in October (Goodlife Fitness Victoria Marathon) the last 10km were very difficult for me. I took lots of 15-30 second walk breaks and told myself that running slow is faster than walking, and that I could break 4:10 if I pushed. Turns out if I had done a better job running the tangents I definitely could have made that goal. Dammit. At the finish line my Garmin clocked 42.76km, so I ran an extra half-kilometer due to the twisting of the course and the weaving around runners at a slower pace than mine. Regardless, I am overjoyed with a time of 4:11:27 and 103/1523 runners in the Women’s 30-34 division, and in the top 12% of all 17,729 runners! Wooooo!!!

photopass_visiting_wdwrundisney_395935114156

It does not get old haha, my throat closed up after crossing the finish line and I started to ugly-cry a bit while feeling pretty much the happiest and most proud feelings that exist. Volunteers presented us with the Mickey marathon medals right away and after the sports drinks and water section the Goofy and Dopey Challengers got to receive the 1/2 marathon medal from the cancelled race on Saturday (yahoo for every person who ran their own unofficial half!) and the Goofy and Dopey medals! Because I am a nerd I brought the 5km and 10km medals in my gear bag so I had all six with me!! Gear pickup was even easier than check-in and I think knowing this now I might have even checked a bag for the 10km race on Friday. Impressive.

A note about your gear bag, pack more than you think you might need. I was pretty good with my long-sleeve technical Dopey shirt, a thick new Gryffindor sweatshirt (LOL,) my favourite Oiselle toque and the space blankets they hand out, but the way the body cools down after running for that amount of time, I could have used a parka and snowboard pants considering the Florida temperature that I didn’t know existed.

I didn’t allow myself to get distracted and forget about recovery, and chugged a sports drink and a water and ate a protein bar and a banana. I stretched in the reunion area, and then again at home and warmed up thoroughly and put on a super warm outfit. All day long I made sure to hydrate and snack, and on the plane (omg. Do not fly home the day of the marathon. Why do I always do this??) I got up to stretch my legs as many times as possible without being an A-hole to the guy sitting in the aisle seat.

Over 24 hours after getting up on marathon morning I got to the the Fairmont YVR at 2am after a delayed flight from SEA-TAC to Vancouver and had the most glorious birthday sleep in a king bed. GLORIOUS.

To wrap it all up, Walt Disney World Marathon Weekend is INCREDIBLE! True, a lot of the running isn’t right in a magical park, but it isn’t possible to map out courses of that length all within the parks because they aren’t big enough!The courses are mostly flat with just a few small hills going up overpasses or over bridges in the parks. The energy of all the events is unexplainable and the expo, official race gear, organization, volunteers, aid stations, cast-members, medals and finish-line support is absolutely amazing and all very well organized. The time change was a bigger issue for me than expected. I slept a lot after each race and I didn’t do nearly as many activities as I thought I might while visiting the Orlando area, but I came here to do my favourite thing which is RUN and I got everything out of this trip that I wanted, and more. If you are planning a runDisney event in Orlando, let me know!

OH, and my friend Lindsay always wants to know what the post-race meal consists of, so let me tell you, the lobster eggs benny at SoCo in Orlando was possibly the best thing I’ve ever eaten.

Day 3: WDW 10km! (caution, this post contains very bad news)

I couldn’t sleep again! But the nap after race #1 must have been enough because I was functioning fine. Instead of rolling around I got up at 2:30 and started getting the Donald Duck disguise put together and had the standard peanut butter and banana toast race-day breakfast.

My Uber experience was perfect today. We followed the runDisney directions and I ended up in the drop-off/taxi/bus lot where I should have yesterday, and then I walked a couple hundred metres to join the mass crowds from the event transportation from resort hotels and walk to the starting area. Easy. After that simplicity, I now fully recommend my accommodations to others travelling here for a runDisney event!

Almost immediately after entering corral B, I met up with my new friend Dave from yesterday! Unplanned too! We decided to meet in the Reunion Area afterwards and he would give me a lift back to my place since his Marriot hotel was close! I am telling you this because despite what you may think, travelling to a racing event alone is not lonely. Everyone’s here for the same reasons and the majority are happy, excited and into meeting new people, especially the other solo runners. Tons of people come here on a family vacation but just the mom or dad takes part in the running events, or one person is running who travelled with their non-runner spouse, etc. It’s like when you are in the single line for the chairlift at the ski hill, you just don’t actually have to yell out at a bunch of strangers that you’re alone haha.

The 10km had a different vibe than the 5km. It is timed, for one, and not considered a fun-run event. I LOVED IT! But to be honest with you, the first half of the race is not in a Disney park, it’s around it.

10km

I thoroughly enjoyed this race! Even the road running was fun, with so many people and the good energy, almost felt like half-regular racing event, half-Disney event. There were still characters on this part of the course which was awesome. There were a few short, gradual uphills and downhills, and it was kind of a nice warmup to be feeling really good once we entered Epcot around the 5km mark. The second half we ran throughout Epcot, the scenic World Showcase and Disney’s Yacht and Beach Club Resorts. There were way more spectators than yesterday and I loved running on the boardwalk. This place is unreal! Personally, I was feeling amazing and loving the “GO DONALD!!!!” and “I LOVE YOU, DONALD!!!” that I was getting from the spectators and cast-members! Note, I plan to buy my race pics and that’s why I am posting this proof. There are mixed viewpoints on if this is okay or not, so had to let you know.

At some point during this race I officially picked one of my multiple weekend strategy options which was:

  1. Easy 5km, stop for photos if I want, enjoy my first Disney run
  2. Run well and smart, not a race-pace that I’d aim for if I were running only a 10km this weekend, but a good solid effort
  3. Take the half-marathon at an easy and comfortable pace, saving my body for the finale on Sunday (BIRTHDAY MARATHON!!!)
  4. Do my absolute very best effort based on the condition of my energy and physical body.

I did very well for myself and was feeling great after crossing the finish line, but made sure to chug one of the Powerades given out right after the medals (omg look)

and drinking a ton of water and eating a banana immediately. I found Dave easily, who also had a good run he said, and then as soon as he dropped me off at home I ate a Clif Builder protein bar from the race snack box, another banana, more water and the elixir of life: CHOCOLATE MILK. No room for laziness in recovery on a weekend like this! I did a full-body stretch, showered and cleaned up a bit to keep my body moving a little more, and then got into bed for a 4 hour sleep.
I didn’t take many pics today, and I don’t have a ton to report that was different from yesterday, but one thing I didn’t mention was how much discussion was going on about the potential rain and lightening forecasted for tomorrow. All the talk was not creating a good vibe in the corral so I ignored and enjoyed my Prince Rupert rain-tolerant mindset. But now I have to tell you the worst thing ever.

Yes you read that correctly. All races tomorrow are cancelled. Not even lying. Heartbroken. I’m more than a little upset right now. There is lots of talk happening on Twitter about meet-ups being organized by angry Goofy Challenge and Dopey Challenge participants to run the half-marathon distance at some point tomorrow on their own accord. I haven’t decided exactly what my plan is, but Ches from The KOR Project and I have decided to run 21.1 km at some point tomorrow. It will be at a very easy recovery pace. I can’t accept my Goofy and Dopey medals, and rock the race challenge shirts (which are actually nice, I am VERY picky and rarely like race shirts) unless I run a half-marathon distance tomorrow. So I’ll keep you posted on what happens. There is loud thunder crashing and a downpour happening as I’m typing this so I get it, Disney is doing their job with respect to safety, I just wish they would have waited to make a more last-minute decision in the case that this storm has passed by the early morning hours…GAHHHH!!! Talk to you soon!