Phoenix Women's Half Marathon
I have another Half Marathon under my belt, and a new PR to boot! This past weekend I ran the first annual Phoenix Women's Half Marathon. It was a much smaller event compared to my last few races, with only 182 overall female finishers, and I finished in 57th place. The course was mostly flat, which is usually boring to me, but we ran through a city park and along a small creek, and the view of the mountains to the east was lovely as the sun was rising over the city.
Training for a January race was a great way to maintain fitness during the winter and stay motivated to run outside, even on cold and snowy days. I ran in rain, snow, sleet, and wind, not to mention frequent evening runs after sunset. I never once retreated to the treadmill or indoor track. Proper attire was important and I fell in love with the down vest that the hubby bought me for Christmas, which kept my core warm on chilly mornings and has a soft lining and lots of pockets!
|Mountain Hardwear down vest|
My number one goal for this race was to feel well afterwards. I have struggled in all of my previous longer-distance events with extreme stomach cramping and horrible vomiting after races. I have tried a lot of different solutions in terms of pre-race nutrition, hydration, electrolyte powder, incorporating speed work into my training program to get comfortable with an increased heart rate, abdominal stretching, you name it, and I've had minimal success. After my 10K in Albuquerque last October, I did a cool-down run after the race and felt great, so I decided to try this for the Half Marathon. It made a huge difference! I have never felt so great after 13.1 miles before. (By "great" I don't mean "Let's go have mimosas" great, but more "I can stand upright without collapsing" great, which is definitely an improvement.) The combination of factors that seemed to worked for me included eating a small breakfast (toast with PB&J) 2 hours before the race with a half a cup of coffee, having a few bites of a PowerBar 45 minutes before the start, then eating a small fruit chew every 20 minutes after mile 6 of the race. I also stopped at all of the water and Powerade stations along the course. At the end of the race I jogged slowly for 15 minutes, followed by 15 minutes of walking, so that my heart rate slowly decreased and the blood flow back to my GI tract wasn't extreme. This seemed to be the ticket to success for me!
My secondary goal was to finish in less than 2:15 (although secretly I was craving 2:10). I incorporated some tempo runs and intervals into my training program, but I only ran three days per week and I wasn't cross training as much, so I didn't think I would break any records. I surprised myself, though, and set a new PR of 2:04:40! This was just under a 9:30 mile pace and put me in 9th place out of 22 women in my age group. I was thrilled. It was reassuring to know that I don't have to run 4 or 5 times per week to have a good race, as long as my weekly long runs are long enough, and it also payed off to rest for two full days before the race. I think the hamstring and core strengthening from my TRX class helped a lot too. I've always had strong quads and gluts, but I now have a better balance with my hamstrings. This is important not only for getting a strong pull on the up-hills but also for injury prevention.
One of the things I love most about racing is the inspiration that I gain from other runners. During this race I ran with several military veterans who were wearing matching shirts, a new mommy pushing her baby in the stroller for the entire 13.1 miles, a stroke survivor, and several overweight women whom I knew were busting their butts to succeed at their goals. Everyone is out there doing the best that she can do, leaving excuses behind, and encouraging one another. I feel uplifted by the positive energy!
|Running through the park during the first mile|
|Sunrise over the mountains, somewhere around mile 4|
|Finisher! We even got cute medals.|
It was fun and motivating to have something to look forward to during the dreary month of January! Plus I got a mini vacation in sunny Phoenix. See my previous post Here for a list of tips for traveling to a race. (I would also add to this list how much I loved staying in a condo with a hot tub, which was amazing for post-race relaxation and healing.)
I'm going to end with two quotes, because I couldn't decide which one to use...
"You are truly your own hero in running. It is up to you to have the responsibility and self-discipline to get the job done." - Runner Girl Facebook page
"I've been really lucky. I didn't have any toenails fall off or anything disgusting like that. I still have all three nipples." - Ryan Reynolds, actor and marathon finisher