Race Recap and Review: Arizona Rock n’ Roll Half Marathon

#2 / 13 of the 2013 Half Marathons

My first traveling race of 2013 begins in Arizona, where it was nice and sunny. I was able to escape the freezing cold California winters for mild, mid 70s desert weather for a weekend.

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Saturday morning Michael dropped me off at the San Jose Airport where I took a flight down to Phoenix. I arrived in the Southwest (after traveling east, oddly), feeling excited. This course was where a half marathon world record was set back in 2006, and I was seriously hoping that I would finally PR on this course.

The Expo

The Expo was held in Downtown Phoenix at the Phoenix Convention Center.

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I’ve come to realize Rock n’ Roll expos are all the same, so refer to my previous posts to see what a Rock n’ Roll expo is like. There’s the bib/swag bag pickup, and the hordes of sponsors.

Lodging:

The weeks leading up to race weekend, I looked through every hotel in the area, only to realize that they were either dirty, expensive, or in a sketchy location. I thought long and hard about my needs and realized I just needed a clean bed and shower. I didn’t need a TV or my own space, like what hotel/motels have, so a hostel was the perfect choice.

I searched around and stumbled upon Camelbackpackers Hostel, and was impressed at everything about it. It had a very clean, homey, and modern feel to it, and was comparable to staying at a friend’s house in a suburb rather than a hostel. The people were great too, and the night before the race we played some really fun games of Apples to Apples, Last Word, and Cards Against Humanity. The travelers and staff were excited to hear that I was running a half marathon, and were okay with me getting up at extreme hours of the morning. They also let me extend my checkout time by several hours so I could get back after the race, shower, stretch, and prepare to travel back to California in the afternoon. I’d highly recommend it if you’re traveling to Phoenix!

Food: 

I turned to Man vs. Food Phoenix (begin at 6:08) to figure out where would be the good eats as a carbo load before a race. I was turned to Los Reyes De La Torta, with its famous dish: The Torta del Rey. It had five different types of meat!

om nom nom

om nom nom

Onto the actual race!

The Race

The Rock n’ Roll Half Marathon course begins in Tempe at 7:50am Mountain Time.

As Rock n’ Roll was celebrating their 10th anniversary in organizing this race, there was a lot of fanfare in the beginning. The temperature was hovering around 45 degrees, and I was dressed in compression pants, running shorts, and a long sleeve technical tee, thinking the weather would stay like this. But this was the desert, and I soon realized that the desert sun would hit me later and fill me with regret.

The race started right on time at 7:50am, and I was off in Corral 8 12 minutes later!

For the first four miles or so, ASU students and faculty were cheer us on via the pedestrian overpasses. It was great!

Later, the course headed north into Scottsdale, and the scenery was not as great. It was full of houses, fast food chains, gas stations (I’ve never seen so many Valeros before), and normal suburbia. Course support, however, was consistently great throughout the course, and made up for the lack of scenery.

The sun also decided to finally make an appearance, and a sub 50 degree race all of a sudden became upper 60s/70s. My winter running gear soon became too much, and I was trying to roll up my sleeves.

After venturing through Scottsdale, the course finally heads south with a (very) slight incline into Papago Park in the 10th mile, where it seems almost like you’re running in open desert. With the cacti and the random buttes around the city, it really distinguished this race from other urban races I’ve ran in and made it much more unique than other city races.

Since PF Chang’s was the sponsor of this race, they posted a lot of motivational phrases in the park (“Pain is temporary, pride is forever”) to keep you going. That was cool at first, but after seeing it for a mile or so nonstop it became very tacky. The Chinese dragon you only see in Chinese New Year parades was also unnecessary.

The course then passes south of the I-10 and crosses a river before finishing in ASU’s Sun Devil Stadium. It was all downhill, course support was everywhere, and I sprinted much longer than usual. Rock n’ Roll sure knows how to bring people out to celebrate!

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I finished in 01:51:48, or 8:32 / mile. Finally! I hit a personal record in the half marathon, last set exactly a year ago on the MLK weekend in Venice Beach. There was definitely some room for improvement, and I know I can beat this time easily. I wasn’t even tired after this race, and usually I’m extremely tired after a half marathon.

Since I ran the Las Vegas Rock n’ Roll back in December, I qualified for the “Desert Double Down” medal, so I picked that up and got two from this race!

Would I do this again? For the wonderful start/finish line scenery, the flatness of the course, and Arizona’s near-perfect weather in the winter, I most certainly would. However, the middle of the course and the extreme weather changes are what discourages me. I had hoped the course would route through Downtown Phoenix, or at least through more open desert areas since it’s what Arizona is famous for.

After the race, I headed back to the hostel for a quick shower, and learned that marathons are on the list of “Stuff White People Like.”

While I was headed to the airport, I thought I’d try some food in Phoenix one last time, so I had a steak and bacon burrito from Filiberto’s, a local Mexican restaurant (think Alberto’s for anyone from the San Gabriel Valley).

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Overall, traveling for a race is really fun. I love traveling, exploring airports and cities, and meeting random, interesting people. Running in a completely different environment is also very cool! I can’t wait to see what adventures the other destinations and races will have.

A big thank you to everyone at Camelbackpackers, Michael for sending/picking me up from the airport, and all the random people along the way that made this trip great!


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