Wow, a lot of things to report this weekend. On Friday morning I drove to the Phoenix area for the Arizona Half Marathon. My first stop was the Arizona Sea Life Aquarium in Tempe at the Arizona Mills Mall. I love aquariums, and when this came up on a Groupon I couldn’t resist. Exhibits here featured creatures native to Arizona’s riparian areas and sea creatures from the waterways of nearby Mexico. My favorite, though, was Ziva the sea turtle, a rescue from Florida. In addition to aquariums, Sea Life also operates sanctuaries and rehab centers in the U.S. and Europe. Ziva was struck by a boat and her shell still bears the scars, but she’s doing well now.
I really enjoyed Sea Life and it made me feel good to know that they support rehab centers and care about the animals on display. Normal adult admission would be a bit steep at $18, but you can always get discounted tickets on their web site. It’s also a great place to take kids.
After the aquarium, I went to visit the Arizona Capitol building and the Arizona Capitol Museum. The copper dome of this building commemorates Arizona’s mining history. Though it is no longer used for legislative business, the museum is free to visit and has interesting exhibits on the USS Arizona, Arizona history, and mock-ups of the old state legislative chambers. The Bolin plaza next to the museum also has a variety of war memorials, monuments to fallen law enforcement officers, and statues commemorating famous figures in AZ history.
By this time it was after 3:00 and I had a 30-45 minute drive to Estrella to get my race kit. Estrella is located outside of Goodyear and is a uniquely Western concept–a totally planned community. I mean, not just one housing tract but a planned community of many identical tracts, plus matching shopping centers, even parks and trails that are neatly maintained. It’s a little weird, but the place is pretty. This event also features a trail half marathon, and from the beautiful surroundings I’m guessing that would be a fun course.
My road race started at 7:15AM, and I was staying in nearby Goodyear so I didn’t have to wake up too early. There was also plenty of parking close to the start at the Safeway plaza. This was the smallest half marathon I’ve ever run, maybe a few hundred runners at the half starting line, plus more doing the 5K and trail race. The course was just so-so. The first 4.5 miles is an out-and-partly-back along the outskirts of Estrella. The scenery was really nice, and the fans were few but devoted (shout out to the noodle ladies with pretzels and candy!). By about 5 miles in, though, I was tired of the little rolling hills and the scenery. Around 7.5 miles we turned off a road into the developed part of town. It was better running by houses and side streets, but at this time I developed a real annoyance with my hat. I was getting a little warm, and so I kept taking it off, wanting to throw it away, deciding I’d never find it again, and putting it back on. This is what you do when you’re running 13.1 miles and are bored.
Around 10 miles in there was a big freaking hill. I knew this from the map, but it made me unhappy anyway. I ended up walking up it, which is what everyone was doing, but I was worried about how that would affect my goal time of 2:15. I’d kept my miles under goal pace the first part of the race, and I hoped that was enough to off-set the slow down. When we turned onto San Miguel drive (which I had passed the day before in the car), I knew the finish was getting close and I just kept going. In the last mile, passing the park and the Starpointe Residence Club, there were lots of spectators out enjoying the finish festival and their cheers kept me going. It was a nice touch to have an announcer read my name as I crossed the finish line. I could see I was coming in just under 2:15 and it made me feel great. I give a princess wave to the cheering crowd (seriously) and collected my medal with a big smile on my face. Can’t wait to see these race pictures.
My final time of 2:14:– is a PR by over 15 minutes, and a real point of pride for me. I’ve never been so consistent at this distance, and I’ve never put in so many miles leading up to the race. More than that, though, this was an important accomplishment for me in recognizing and rewarding myself for being so conscious this year about health, diet, and personal improvement. A year ago I would not have been able to do this, but willpower and dedication made it possible. Here’s how my times break down:
Mile 1: 10:08
Mile 2: 9:53
Mile 3: 10:03
Mile 4: 10:12
Mile 5: 10:00
Mile 6: 10:16
Mile 7: 10:11
Mile 8: 10:38 (Gu and Water)
Mile 9: 10:23
Mile 10: 10:30
Mile 11: 11:32
Mile 12: 10:07
Mile 13: 10:13 (with 8:38/mi pace on the .1)
Total: 2:14:– chip time, 10:18 pace
After running I had to go back to the hotel and check out, then I came back at 11 to enjoy the awards ceremony and some more free food and a free massage. Overall, this was very good for a small event. A lot of the kinks from the first time this event was held (regarding course, location, and timing) seem to have been ironed out. IO Events does a great job with festivals, medal and shirt designs, and keeping races affordable. With a discount code, I paid $55 for this race just over a month out. They also organized the Temecula Valley race back in January. On the down side, Estrella is a bit in the middle of nowhere and for someone visiting the area there is not a tremendous amount to do. I also get the feeling that these organizers can be a bit overwhelmed at times. They started several new races this year, and it’s obvious that things like course planning, hotel planning, and start times got away from them a little. At one point, this race listed different start times on different web sites, and I also decided to register for this race instead of their upcoming race in Laughlin, NV because the Nevada race had no hotel rates posted at all. Still, if you are in Goodyear, Glendale, Peoria, or other locations in the West Valley, check out this race in the future.
As an epilogue, after getting back to Tucson and to one happy little dog, I had a good rest and woke up this morning to help out at the Tucson ADA Step Out event to cure diabetes. My legs obviously were not happy about spending another couple hours on my feet, but it felt good to give back a little and support another athletic event. I always try to thank volunteers and police officers when I do a walk or run, but knowing that volunteers really make all running/walking events possible, I’m glad I could be one of them today.