Monday, February 11, 2019

Mesa-PHX Marathon Race Recap

Saturday morning I completed my TWENTIETH marathon (and my FIFTH Mesa-PHX Marathon)! For someone who said she would never run a single one (and who didn't start running until 2012, when she was 27), this is a pretty big deal!

Left: The hubby and I (he ran the half while I ran the full) / Center: SOLO SHOT / Right: Brian and I (since we ran together)

For someone who tends not to repeat a ton of races, it's pretty crazy that the Mesa-PHX Marathon accounts for a fourth of the marathons I've run! But I guess that's what happens when you make it a party in the desert ;) #ItsGoingDownAtPHX

In case you are interested, you can check out my recaps from 2015, 2016, 2017 and 2018 at your convenience! 

The hubby and I left early Friday morning to head to the Phoenix area. The drive usually takes about 6 hours (if there's no traffic), but then we lose an hour thanks to the time zone difference, so although we left around 6am we didn't pull into town until closer to 1:45pm (there was also a gas stop, a potty break and a lunch detour).

Thankfully we didn't run into much traffic while on the road.

Our first stop was the Expo. Seeing as the race is in the Phoenix area (technically we run through Mesa and Tempe), the weather tends to be on the nice side so they are able to hold the expo outside in the parking lot of the Mesa Riverview.

Lucky to have perfect weather since it had been stormy for the past week.

Packet pick-up was easy peasy and we were able to stop by the PRO Compression booth to say hi and chat with a few friends. Otherwise we walked through and checked out a handful of vendors before heading to drop our stuff at the hotel.

Let's do this thang!

In the past, we've stayed at cheaper hotels further away from the race (as you all know, I am just about as frugal as they come ;)), but Brian suggested we splurge and snag a spot at a hotel that was in walking distance from the race and I have to say - it was AMAZEBALLS! We stayed at the Sheraton Mesa Hotel at Wrigleyville West. Now, this is in no way a sponsored post (but, hey, Marriott, if you need an ambassador, hook a sister up ;)), but the fact that we didn't have to drive to the race the following morning and could walk to the buses was worth the pretty penny! {Don't get me wrong, they have a ton of parking, but the line of cars can be crazy and not having to deal with it was definitely a convenience I see we missed out on the prior four years... Lesson learned! We will be watching prices so we can book here for 2020.}

Of course the hubby had to hit up the hot tub ;)

After maxin' and relaxin' for a bit, we decided to go grab some pizza at the Mellow Mushroom for dinner before calling it a night. (In the past we have always gone to La Grande Orange Grocery for dinner, but it is a bit of a drive, so we decided to stay local since we knew the following morning would come quickly.) Thankfully I had everything all ready to go.

The theme for this race's #FlatCarlee was "Ninja with a side of Arizona" ;)
Two Pair Don't Care PRO Compression Socks (Arizona State of Mind and Red Marathons), Midnight Sparkle Athletic Skirt, homemade
trucker (felt and hot glue are magical), WeRunSocial thingamajig, black Brooks FastForward Crossback sports bra, Nathan handheld,
PROBAR BOLT chews, New Balance muscle tank from TJ Maxx, elite Road ID, black and red QALO silicone wedding bands,
black and red Momentum Jewelry wraps, Garmin Forerunner 935, and Brooks Ghost 11 (with navy Shwings).

I set my alarms (I set multiple alarms and 99% of the time am awake before they ever go off) and got ready for bed.

I think I was up around 2:45am...

As we expected, race morning came quickly, but seeing as we were staying close to the bus pick-up (it was about .4 mile walk to the full buses and 1 mile walk to the half buses) we were able to bank an extra few minutes of sleep. We got ready to go, filled our handheld bottles, ate our PROBAR BASE bars and bundled up (the weather app said it felt like 42* out).

Prior to adding my jacket, Mylar blanket and hand warmers ;)

Brian and I walked to the marathon buses and wished the hubby a great race when he split off to head to the half marathon pick-up. (This was the hubby's first full marathon last year, but his knee has been less than 100% so after we ran the Ventura Marathon in October he has pulled back from the longer distances and is focusing on half marathons.)

Let's just say that this is where one of my very few complaints can be found. In the past I don't remember the bus loading being an issue (that may also be because we normally drove and got there super early to try and avoid any traffic issues), but this year it was less than stellar. I think we stood in line for maybe 15-20 minutes before we got on a bus and it wasn't because of a crazy long line or anything... it was because of the inefficiency of the loading process. There were tons and tons of buses, yet the line felt like it was never moving. We all mumbled how they could fill say the first 3 buses with the folks standing next to them, have the driver count the runners and then once the line started moving up, fill the remaining seats on the buses. Instead they were filling them one at a time. In fact, when we got back on the bus after using the port-o-potties at the start, we heard communication on the bus radio saying that the final bus (which was supposed to leave at 5:15am) didn't pull out of the parking lot until 6:05am and was hoping to make it to the start on time. Hopefully this issue is corrected for future races... but, a word of warning, always give yourself extra time in the morning! (FYI: If you're running the full, they keep the buses at the start line until after the race starts, so even if you are on the first bus of the morning, you can sit on it until the race starts - they don't kick you out into the cold {there are space heaters and fire pits if you want to get off the bus and stay warm before the race starts}. The half, on the other hand, cannot have buses on the course, so once your bus arrives you have to get off. If you're running the full I'd suggest getting on a bus as early as you can and if you're running the half, get on a bus as early as you can but expect to be in the elements until the race begins.)


The bus ride was smooth sailing (I'm always a little nervous when it comes to the race transportation because I've had bad experiences in the past at different events, but thankfully the bus driver knew where she was going and got us there with no issues). Once we got to the starting area Brian and I decided to get off the bus and get in line for the potties. As we were expecting, the line was super long, but I was impressed because there were bathroom attendants/ volunteers. This made filling the port-o-potties run super efficiently. The way that the potties are set up, there are two rows facing each other, so you can't line up in front of them, you have to have a line at the end of them. This makes it difficult if one opens up in the middle and you don't know if someone went in it or just walked by it. Having the volunteers holding the doors open when people stepped out or calling out "one more open down here" seemed to make the line go much quicker than I was expecting. Kudos on this - I'd never seen this before but thought it was an awesome idea!

There were 3-4 volunteers helping out while I was in line.

After we used the bathroom we got back on a bus for a few minutes to stay warm. I truly do appreciate that the race allows the buses to stay so the runners can utilize them if they would like. Around 6:15am we got off the bus and made our way to the start. Brian threw his drop bag in the truck (since it's a point-to-point race, meaning you finish 26.2 miles away from the start, you aren't starting and finishing in the same general area) and we went to find a spot near the start.


Our game plan was to shoot for a 2:05 first half (trying to hold ourselves back and run 9:30/mile pace so we had gas in the tank for later in the race) and then start speeding up a bit. The hopes was to run somewhere between a 4:00 and 4:15.


Brian and I joked because I am pretty terrible when it comes to pacing and tend to go out too fast. He said he would do his best to reign me in and keep me on pace. Running conservatively at the beginning of this race especially is tough for me because A. race adrenaline and excitement always gets me pumped up and ready to run, B. it's dark and I am not looking at my watch, C. it's chilly and I'm trying to warm up and D. it's downhill for the most part so gravity is helping you go-go-go.


After each mile I'd check with Brian to see how we were doing... "Too fast", "we should probably slow down a bit", "about 15 seconds faster than we should be", etc. At least I'm consistent ;) Nothing too crazy, but closer to 9:00/mile than the 9:30s. We knew we'd be hitting uphill during miles 5 and 6, so figured our slower speed on the climbs would even out.

Just like we suspected... 1 through 10 are Brian's favorites, with miles 5 and 6
having a continual uphill in them. Then we started slowing when we leveled out.

On the uphill section was where I came across my first character stop... The scary clown from It! (If you know me, you know I do NOT do scary movies, I even have to close my eyes when a scary preview comes on the TV, so all I know of this character is he is scary and maybe eats kids. I originally was going to run past him, but Brian nudged me to snap a picture with him so I did.) Funny story, when I posted the picture in my IG stories I had multiple people tell me that Bob (the runner under the mask) was in their running group and did scary things like this all the time (once, apparently, he took the group down a dark, deserted road and had already tied a red balloon to one of the sewer covers to freak them out).

A little freaky, right?!

I came across another few fun character stops near the different aid stations (I believe the organizations manning the aid stations can win money if people vote that theirs was the best so they normally try to do something memorable).

Who doesn't love a good spectator sign?!

Around Mile 10 I could tell than Brian was starting to get tired because his footfall was getting louder (after running with each other for so many miles, you start to pick up on little things like this). I asked him about it and he mentioned he could tell our 50K, half marathon and his recent 20 mile training run were definitely making their presence known. Also, the course starts to flatten out around this point so if you want to keep the same pace you have to increase your effort level.

Despite not having "fresh" legs, we were chugging along. When we came to the halfway point (which is also the start line for the half marathon), Brian pulled over to use the bathroom and I dropped my jacket so it could be donated. (The sky was overcast but probably in the high 40s, low 50s {aka perfect running weather} and I had warmed up so shed a layer.)

It's like a fake start line selfie ;) 

Around this point was when Brian mentioned the second half of the race might not be as awesome as the first. He was struggling to be able to get a deep breath, his legs were tired and his body was a bit achy (first it was his back, then it was his arm/ shoulder). I told him not to worry, that we would finish when we finished and we would keep on keepin' on.

I wouldn't say the wheels fell off... but they may've been a little wiggly... 

Not every race (or run) is perfect. Some runs are harder than they "should" be, some runs hurt and some runs just suck. But no matter how the miles go, we need to be grateful for the ability to lace up our shoes and get after it!

Thankful for fun signs to keep us entertained along the route.

One of my faves!

Love me some food puns!

We did our best to keep smiles on our faces, thanked spectators, told jokes, cheered on fellow runners, a just enjoyed each other's company. The fifth time might not have been a charm (although, truth be told, we may have been going at a slower pace the second half, but it seemed like we were still running more of the time than we had in previous years), but I'm pretty sure the sixth time will be the best time... Or at least that's what I'm claiming when it is still 361 days away ;)

I think I was starting to say "thanks", but looks like I'm laughing or sticking my tongue out!

Unofficially we were able to finish in 4:39:39 - which is what you can consider "positive splittin' like a boss". I know I've mentioned it before, but I'll say it again - running, for me, is not about my finish times (I am not breaking tape or winning races), but it's about finish lines and who I cross them with. I am forever grateful to have been able to run another 26.2 miles with an amazing friend, THEE Pavement Runner. (Let's be real, I will probably forget what our finish time was in about a week and a half, but hopefully the memories we made along the way will last a lifetime!)


Twinning is winning!

Some of the crew who was hanging around the finish line when we came through

This guy is a ROCKSTAR! 

After snapping all the pictures (I am fairly convinced that free race photos might be my favorite race perk EVER), we went into the post-race area to grab our goodies and cool down a bit. Unfortunately since the majority of the Kids' Race, 10K and Half Marathon finishers had already come through it was pretty much cleaned out. There was still some Kneader's Crunchy French Toast (which is worth the registration fee in and of itself ;)), but all of the other items (like bars, coconut water, chips, etc) were gone. (I know it may take some logistics to make it work, but I would LOVE to see races put the post goodies together in a bag and give out a single bag, that way people aren't going through and grabbing 4 or 5 extras of something and leaving nothing for the later finishers. Shoot, even if only a few people are grabbing an extra item here or there it can still have a huge impact and leave some runners empty handed... but that's just my two-cents.)

ProTip: Cut into "sticks" so you can dip, eat and walk at the same time.

There was a #WeRunSocial meet-up at 1pm, so after we grabbed our goodies we walked back over to the hotel (again, it was so nice not having to deal with the parking lot traffic, closed roads, etc) to shower, pack up and check-out.

We didn't have a ton of folks at the meet-up (post-race can be hard because some folks are too pooped to want to party, some have other celebratory plans, etc), but it was still great to see everyone. PRO Compression even covered the first round of drinks for us - WHOO HOO! The hubby and I ended up hanging out for about two hours before hitting the road.

One Pink Cadillac Margarita please ;)

They had a fun little photo booth you could take pictures on. Of course we used it!

Of course the hubby fell asleep shortly after we got in the car for the drive home. (He's like a baby, the movement of the car just rocks him to sleep ;)) Thankfully I had the end of an audio book to keep me entertained while he snoozed.


And in Yuma we had to make a pit stop at Kneaders Bakery & Cafe (yup, the same company who supplied the post-race french toast). You see, originally the hubby wasn't registered for the race, but then about two weeks beforehand he asked about signing up. Luckily for us, right around that time Kneaders and the Mesa-PHX Marathon were hosting a giveaway on Instagram for 4 free entries (each with a $25 gift card for the restaurant). Lo and behold - I WON! That means the hubby got to run for free and we had a $25 gift card to use on the drive home to pick up a sandwich and a dozen cookies.

There are locations in Arizona, Colorado, Idaho, Kansas,
Missouri, Nevada, Texas and Utah. We stopped at the Yuma Palms
one since it was a convenient stop on our drive back home.

And, just like that, we were home about 38 hours after we had left with full bellies, tired legs and smiles from ear to ear.

If you want to run the Mesa-PHX Marathon in 2020 (race day will be Saturday, February 8th), don't miss the Early Bird Pricing - it ends TONIGHT! You can run the full marathon for $89, the half marathon for $79 or the 10K for $39. You better believe that I will be there! (I need to get my fifth piece in the PHOENIX5 Copper Star.) #EarnTheBird

If you missed any of the races since 2016, you can still run them virtually to get the missing bling so you can complete the star next year!

Is there a race you run year after year?


Bain said...

Holy cow that MEDAL!!! Congratulations on #20!

SD Mom said...

This almost. Almost. Almost. Makes me want to sign up for the half.

Unknown said...

I kept my eyes peeled for you at the expo and race morning, but sadly I didn't get to see/meet you! I agree the morning bus situation was a little chaotic and I definitely didn't expect the ride to the start to be so long, but overall I had an incredible experience...and I PRed by 14 minutes and BQed with 12 minutes to spare :) I saw the It clown and gave it a dirty look! And that Christmas cheer section made me smile. I've been in more pain this marathon attempt than any others, but 100% worth it! Congrats on your day as well :) - Kim K.