It's a very slow process - two steps forward, one step back - but I'm inching in the right direction. - Rob Reiner

March 09, 2015

Phoenix (BMO Harris Bank) Half Marathon Review

I'm having difficulty finding the motivation to keep up with my blog.  So sorry, I know it's been awhile.  But I had a race - so yes- something to talk about!  It was a week ago, but we stayed for 5 days after the race for a little vacation and unlike my husband I did not take my computer and write my recap while on vacation!
One of many beautiful Phoenix skies

This was mine and Jim's second trip to Phoenix and can I just tell you how much I love it there!! I love it! I think it is absolutely beautiful! Plus, with snow on the ground in Kansas City it was a nice getaway - even though the weather wasn't quite as nice as I was hoping/expected.  I was planning a bit more pool/lounging time, but the weather didn't quite cooperate for that.  I was able to get in some pool time though and we made it to a Royals Spring Training game, so it was still a great trip.

But let's talk about the race.

This was my first real race since November, which is a really big gap for me.  I had a couple of 5Ks somewhere in between there but nothing major.  My last two half marathons of 2014 were a huge struggle and in both of them I ended up finishing in the mid 2:40s which was a super slow time, even for me.

Early in the Winter we had some unusually warm temps here and I was feeling "ok" about my running and training, but as Winter continued it seemed like we got more freezing temps and weather.  I ended up spending the last couple of weeks on the treadmill, so I wasn't really too sure what to expect in Arizona.  I felt like my speed was starting to come back some, but I still don't feel like "myself" right now as far as running goes.  I'm not in the best running shape right now and I'm overweight. Period. I keep "trying" to lose weight, but I do ok for a few weeks and then slip back into bad habits, always back where I started again...but we'll save that for another day.  I only mention it now because a 20 pound weight gain does not translate to the best running times.
Obligatory Pool/Feet shot

Anyway, Jim and I arrived in Arizona late Thursday night.  I think we crawled in bed around midnight which was 1 am Kansas City time...not exactly a norm for us.  I'm usually always in bed by 10 pm and Jim is more like 9 and 8 if he can.  So with the late arrival we both slept in a bit Friday morning, but we still got up and around  fairly early, had a little breakfast and headed straight to packet pickup.

Race Expo/Packet Pick-up
The outdoor packet pickup area

The race expo was a pretty good size and had several of the typical vendors, but also some local stuff which is always nice.  The really great part is that it was outside.  I love any opportunity to enjoy the warm temps and Friday was the warmest day of the 6 we were there.  Packet pickup was pretty seamless.  The swag was great. For the women you got a race tank (I had never gotten a tank before), which I absolutely LOVED.  It is truly my favorite race giveaway ever.  You also got a pair of arm warmers which was a nice bonus and they were also handing out cowbells.  Jim and I wandered around the expo for a little bit and then headed back to the hotel.  He chose to go check out some Royals Spring training while I decided to hang poolside and read for a little bit.  It was wonderful.  It was sunny and warm and I wished I could stay there all day.  I decided getting a sunburn right before the race was probably a bad idea, so I limited my exposure to about an hour and a half.

Race Morning

On race morning we were up early and I mean early.  Everyone has to take the bus to the race start. There are separate buses for the marathoners and half marathoners so Jim had to drop me off.  The first bus leaves at 3:45 with the last bus scheduled to leave at 5 am.  The race starts at 6:30.  We had planned to leave the hotel about 3:15-3:30 so that we were there early, but maybe not the first people there.  I set everything out the night before and set my alarm for 2:45 am.  No surprise, I was still up before the alarm - I think around 2:30.  Jim was up way before me.  We got around and left the hotel somewhere around 3:15.  We stayed at a hotel about 35 minutes from the drop off point, so I don't think there were too many (if any) other racers at our hotel.  We were definitely the only ones milling around at that time of morning.
Me & Allison

We made it to the drop off point with no issues and I met up with Allison of Daily Runs to ride the bus with her.  We actually ended up on bus number one - though it didn't roll out until a few minutes after 4 am.  Allison is a 16 - yes 16 year old high school student/runner.  Her parents took her and her family out to Arizona for the weekend for the race. How awesome is that?  I think this was her 3rd half marathon - and she's already signed up for 3 more this Spring.  I don't know too many high school kids doing stuff like this. I think she's really awesome! It was also nice to have someone to chat with before the race.

The bus dropped us off about 4:30.....2 hours before race start!!  That is definitely one of the downsides to this race.  Not only is it an early start, but there's a lot of waiting.  They had several heaters around the office complex where they dropped us off.  We found one and sat down and before long had a little crowd around us as everyone waited for the race to start.  The temperatures weren't bad at all - it was around 45-50 degrees. I had brought a throw away jacket and sitting under the heater I was comfortable. We chatted with the people around our group. One lady was from Canada where she had left the 30 below temperatures behind....ugh no WAY could I live there!  A few other people were locals who had done the race before.  They had a DJ playing music as well so at least it kept the energy up.
Me & the BMO Lion after the race

Finally at 5:30 I decided it was time to drop my bag off and hit the porta potty.  I was in SHOCK when I saw the lines.  I figured it would take 20-30 minutes tops for the bathroom.  I'd be done around 6:00, then have a little time to stretch and warm up and it would be race time....but no.  It took an hour to get through the porta potty line.  To me this was the biggest disappointment with the race. Everything had been so well organized up til this point, but there were not nearly enough bathrooms. As we got closer and closer I had to go really, really bad.  I seriously got to the point where I thought I might pee on myself.  I was looking everywhere for a place to just run out of line and squat if I had to, but we were in a business park area and there really just wasn't any place.  They started singing the national anthem and I was still in line - as a matter of fact there were probably still 20 to 30 people in front of me.  Finally at about 6:29 a bathroom opened and I rushed in.  Inside I heard the gun go off and the race start....without me.  Of course the race is chip timed, but it always sucks to start after the race.  I ran out of the porta potty to the start line - no warm up - no stretching - just start running...not exactly what I had planned.  Luckily at least, there were still people crossing the timing mat, so I wasn't starting all by myself.

The Race

I was quickly winded from running to the start line, but tried to settle in to a comfortable pace.  I pulled my Ipod out of my pocket only to find the cords tangled together.  I was frustrated and mad at myself.  I had literally just stood in line doing nothing for an hour----during that time I couldn't untangle my stupid Ipod??  So for the first mile I was trying to get the cords untangled.  Dumb.  I finally put in my Ipod and settled into the race.  I was expecting a downhill race - which it technically is...but really it's just flat.  For some reason, I hadn't actually looked at the elevation myself...I had listed to Jim who said it was downhill.  It's not.  It's flat.  My fault.  It has 163 feet of elevation decline over 13 miles - it averaged about 20 feet per mile with several miles of 0 incline or decline.  It is a very, very flat course, but I never felt like I was going downhill at any point.  I was disappointed by that because I love downhills.
Tank and Arm Warmers

It would still be a great PR course - if you were ready for it...but I was not.  I just wanted a decent finish.  I had told a few people that I felt like I was ready for an 8 to 9 mile race and I was right (get to that in a minute).  The weather ended up being near perfect.  Sometime during that first mile I threw off my jacket and ran in capri pants and a tank and was very comfortable.  It was around 55 degrees and overcast.  There was a bit of a headwind toward the end, but nothing too bad.  The first miles went by very quickly as they usually do in a race. I really tried to focus on not going out too fast in the beginning.  I often trick myself in those first few miles of thinking "this is easy" - "this is going to be a great race" and then dying at the end.  I did pretty good.  My first 6 miles were pretty consistent around an 11:20-11:40 pace.  I slowed a bit in mile 7 and had my first 12 minute mile (12:07), but then I picked it up again in mile 8 and ran an 11:53 - still slower than my first 6 miles, but better.  And then that was it.  Just as I had thought I was ready for about 8 or 9 miles.  Miles 9-12 were all in the 12s.  I was definitely starting to feel it.  My legs hurt and even though  my effort felt the same, my pace was definitely slowing.  I hate that feeling.  I feel like I am trying just as hard, if not harder than those early miles, but my pace says - nope you are going ridiculously slow!  Reaching the final miles gave me a little boost and I finished mile 13 at an 11:41, with an additional little kick the last .18 (on my Garmin) at a 10:57.
Me & Jim after the race

I finished with a time of 2:36:31 a pace of 11:57. It certainly wasn't my fastest race ever, but it was faster than my last two half marathons so I was happy.  It's difficult to be in the best shape for a February race when you live in a cold weather State.  I do think the flat course probably helped my time, but I'm not sure by how much.
The medal

I crossed the finish line and got my AWESOME medal!  I love the Phoenix!  Super cool.  I then went through the finish line festival which had a variety of items.  It was nice.  One of the best was some amazing bread....sorry I don't know the company, but it was a delicious chocolate bread!! So good.  I found Allison and chatted with her for just a few minutes and then was off to the finish line to watch for Jim.

He came across not that long after me!  He had a great race and was just a few seconds off his marathon PR.  You can read his recap here.  I was super proud of him.

Overall we both had pretty good races and we are ready to do it again.  It really is a great race.  A nice flat course, great swag and well organized.  The course itself isn't super exciting, but it's still fun.

We've already decided to make this an annual race/trip.  Combining a fun race with a great break from the cold Feb weather in Kansas City and some baseball for Jim and we have a perfect vacation!
At Surprise Stadium - Royals vs Rangers

We stayed in Phoenix through Wednesday and took in a baseball game and some hiking.  I also got in one other day at the pool.  The weather was a little cool in the lows 60s and was cloudy and rainy for most of the time but that was ok.  We still had fun, and the sun did come out on Wednesday before we left and it was perfect for the game.
Alice Cooperstown 

Artwork in downtown Phoenix

We'll see you next year Phoenix!  Hopefully I'll be ready to PR!!
Our final sunset


  1. The whole time I'm reading this I'm thinking "why didn't I fly to Phoenix??" You're right though, it is tough to be in good running shape in February. A good racecation though it looks to me :)

  2. I find it hard to be race ready in Feb for the opposite reason. Just way too hot to push things over Dec and Jan. But having said that it sounds like a pretty good race for you. Apart from the toilet queues.

  3. We went to the Florida Keys in February hoping for some relief from VTs bitter cold winter, it wasn't hot. We had several days in the 69's, not the beach days I was expecting.

  4. Thank you so much for letting me hang with you before the race! I am almost positive if I would have been by myself, I surely would have freaked out. I'm sure with the warm weather I'll see you around. It's almost time for 39.3!

  5. What awesome race swag! I love the arm warmers. Most races these days just give you a sub-par tee. And well done on your time. For being "undertrained and overweight", you freaking kicked ass! I wish I could be "undertrained and overweight" like that :)

  6. Nice race! I felt your frustration untangling your iPOD wires that first mile and being in line for an hour!! Yikes. Overall you had a good race and are improving. For me it is so hard to give up beer, and you Chocolate (thanks for the comments on my previous race!). This winter has been tough all the way around for us in the northern hemisphere. On ward and up ward to better race times and less frustration!!