Tuesday, March 18, 2008

January Was Not a Good Month for Marathons!

Not for me anyway! You would think with two marathons on my schedule at least one would go well.
After struggling with a knee injury for several weeks, I had cut down on my training runs however I didn’t want to give up my marathons! I planned take it easy and keep my expectations low.
First up was P.F. Chang’s Rock and Roll Arizona on January 13th. Saturday morning, day before the race, I was up and out early for my 8am flight to Phoenix. Fortunately I was upgraded to 1st class and was able to catch up on at least an hour of sleep. Las Vegas to Phoenix is too short a flight!
10am - I arrived in Phoenix- yes, the hour flight takes 2! It's easy to forget the hour time difference this time of year.
I had planned to meet Michael Sullivan –another LVTC, LV Roadrunners and LVM21 club member. His flight arrived about the same time so I waited in baggage claim until his plane landed.
Michael arrived and we headed over to Hertz to pick up my rental car. For once I remembered to use my Hertz Gold number, so I was quite pleased with myself when I saw my name on the board and thought how quickly we'd be out and on our way.....that is until we were driving out and noticed the tire going flat. No problem we'll just get another car. The rental agent probably thought he was being nice by giving me an upgrade to an SUV, until I came back contract in hand and asked for yet another car. The SUV was too bus-like! A nice RAV4 bus, however the little steering wheel freaked me out!
Finally in car #3 we left the garage and drove about 5 minutes to the expo.
The expo was held in the convention center. Good thing, it was one of the biggest marathon expos I’ve ever been to and on Saturday afternoon, it was packed! They had a great selection of "Official" marathon shirts, jackets and souvenirs--although most things that I liked were sold out in my size. Just as well, I saved a little money. That is until I decided I needed the race poster with the artist's signature and a new magnet for the collection and a pin-for a future collection
We split up and walked around with the promise to meet in 45 minutes. No chance - it was so crowded you could hardly move!
About 2 hours later we made a much needed stop at Starbucks, then Michael and left Phoenix for Tempe. I left Michael off at his hotel and met my friend Kathy Kass, at our hotel-Hampton Inn Tempe. Kathy belongs to the 50 State Club as well as my team in NYC.
I had only decided to run RNR a few weeks before the race and hadn't really paid much attention to the logistics until about 2 weeks before the race.
At that time I discovered that there was no shuttle back from the finish line to the hotel. I thought it would be better to cancel the hotel we had booked at the start and find something close to finish-which is how I came up with Hampton Inn.
Certainly not the most posh hotel in town-however they offered a late (4pm!) check out and a shuttle directly from the hotel to the starting line. What a find, I thought-- until Kathy informed me that the shuttle to the start was full for their 615am departure, we would have to take the 515am. With a race start at 740am there was no way I wanted to do that-I planned to wake up at 5am! So we agreed to drive the mile to the finish line and take one of the race's shuttles.
After checking in to the hotel, we went over to PF Chang's- the race’s sponsor, for our "Pasta" dinner with a group of running friends. PF Chang’s had provided all of the runners with a $10 gift card for the restaurant and added coupons for free appetizers to our “goodie bags”.
The Chinese themed pasta dinner worked out fine for me. I ordered vegetable chow fun-which is just some noodles with veggies. Perfect replacement for pasta! We had a wonderful dinner and many tiny desserts, after which Kathy and I went for a drive to figure out where the shuttles would leave from and stock up on marathon supplies-bottled water, Power Bars, etc.
Sunday, Marathon Day!
After a not so restful sleep, we were up at 5am and out of the room at 6am to implement "Plan A"-“standing by” in the hotel lobby for the shuttle to the start. Hoping that someone would "no show" or they'd figure out a way to accommodate us on the 615am shuttle, we waited. If they weren't able to squeeze us in, we always had "Plan B" driving ourselves to the finish line and taking the shuttle provided by the race.
After a few anxious minutes, we did get on the shuttle and had a very hassle-free ride to the start. This is a point to point loop course; the starting line is about 10 miles from the finish-through traffic about 1/2 hour drive away.
We got to the start, saw the sun rise and waited in line for the port-a-potties a few times. There were many so there wasn't much wait time. It was chilly, probably 50 degrees (Sorry to those living in sub zero temps-what can I say? Living in Las Vegas has spoiled me!)
We milled around near the line of UPS trucks waiting to bring the checked bags to the finish line, until just a few minutes before the start. At the last minute I threw my jacket and pants into my gear bag, checked it and hurried to the starting line.
It didn't take more than a couple minutes to get from bag check to my corral 6. Very easy and hassle free race so far! I have to say I really didn't have much desire to run RNR AZ. It did RNR San Diego the second year they ran it and was not that impressed or excited about it as I see some runners are.
I really don't care for the this type of big corporate sponsored race and was only doing it as it's a short trip to Phoenix, Kathy and some other friends from the club would be there and if I do decide to go for completing the 50 states for a 2nd time--it would give me a "second Arizona”. Needless to say, I was very surprised to find this RNR race to be nearly "the Perfect race".
I would definitely recommend this race to anyone, no matter what pace they run. It was a fast course if you were looking for time and there was plenty of company for slower runners. The weather was good-no torrential rain, gale force winds or oppressive heat-in fact, it was actually great!
The water stations were plentiful and set up quite well. The volunteers were excellent-everyone ready and doing the jobs. The bands actually played songs you could recognize and the cheerleaders' energy was contagious!
So what happened to my race and my time?
I started out a little too slow but okay-early on I knew it would be a tough day. After weeks of minimal training due to my knee problem, what could I expect?
I was getting a bit bored and wishing I had someone to run with when I saw James, one of the fellows from the LVM21 Club.. We ran together and spoke for a couple of miles. He was doing a walk/run and seemed to really be picking up the pace on the run.
It became clear to me very soon that I was not going to be able to keep up with him. Oh well, I thought, I'll just take it easy, enjoy my run and listen to my tunes.
At mile 16 I encountered my worst nightmare-the battery in my MP3 player died.
Just like that- one moment I was happily singing along to Rihanna, the next sheer silence! Apparently when I had charged the rechargeable battery my computer was off! This was a cause of a similar mistake with my Garmin, a couple marathons back.
I tried to turn it off and on, hoping that it may come back on, but no luck. There I was 10 miles to go and no music-panic was about to set in. I tried to calm myself down and come up with a resourceful idea. I'd find someone to run with!
Well, at the pace I was running, the runners were more of the type that on another day in another race they may have been fast-but not today. Everyone seemed to be struggling....in silence. Not a conversational marathoner in sight!
UNTIL - up ahead I spotted a fellow running in the most uncomfortable and ridiculous looking costume that I'd see all day. Red tights and long sleeve shirt with yellow shorts and he was wearing antennae! I had noticed when I had been running near him earlier he was getting a lot of cheers and recognition from the crowd so I figured he must be purposely dressed like this as some sort of character that I was unfamiliar with.
I ran up next to him and asked him who he was supposed to be. “Chapulin Colorado”, he responded- a Mexican superhero! This explained why only the Spanish speaking spectators knew who he was!
Chapulin is actually a parody of a superhero. Know as the "Red Grasshopper"", he would unwittingly save the day by somehow bumbling up the situation and then take credit for the outcome.
We chatted and ran/walked the rest of the race. It turned out that Jorge was from Las Vegas, too! Of course, he had run the LV Marathon dressed as Elvis, so he had a lot of experience with dealing with the cheers and sayings from the crowds whether they recognized him or just laughed with him as they thought he was a bug!
It was so great to meet him-it really made the last few miles of the marathon go by not faster, but a lot more enjoyable! Maybe there is something to the USATF "no headphones" rule. I doubt that had I been listening to my music I would have met anyone and had an experience that, in spite of a slow time, turned out to be so much fun.
After the race, I met Kathy, walked around the grounds, paid a visit to the medical tent-just to ice my knee this time. We did some shopping at the Official Race Merchandise store and headed back to Las Vegas that night.
Two weeks later I was back on the road again! This time it was the ING Miami Marathon with two fellow LVTC members-Steffen Schneider and Phil Weiland.
If I thought R&R AZ was a tough race, I didn’t know what I was getting myself into in Florida! In addition to my lack of training I caught a cold the week before the race and been taking Sudafed, the most dehydrating over the counter medication available.
Needless to say the first half of the race went okay. In fact, if they hadn’t offered their amazing ‘Spinning Palm Tree” marathon medal-this year with a “diamond” center, I would have dropped down to the half. No way with this medal at stake-I planned to stick it out, no matter how miserable I felt.
Now keep in mind that this was only MY bad day. The weather was great-temps in the 60-70s, humidity was low and the sky was overcast. The course is completely flat, full of beautiful scenery, plentiful water stations and friendly spectators.
In fact, Phil was so energized that “mid-course” he switched from the half to the full marathon!
I had just finished the race, claimed my gear bag and was listening to the voicemail message he had left for me from mile 20, when he came across the finish line!! What a surprise!
Minutes after the race we checked out of our hotel, drove 2 miles to the Port of Miami set sail for a 5 day Caribbean cruise on NCL’s Norwegian Jewel with a group of friends and fellow runners. Not a bad way to end a month of not so successful marathons!

No comments: