Holy Crap! 3:23!!! A PF Chang's Rock 'n' Roll Marathon Race Report

JonRoig.com | Posted: 2008-01-14 18:21:35 | 7108 hits | View in Hi-Fi Mode

My time isn't official yet -- for some reason the haven't posted my final time -- buat wow... who knew I'd be capable of breaking 3:30, let alone pushing my PR down to 3:23?

This race just went really, really well. That's something like a 13 minute improvement over my previous PR, 3:36:09 at NYC, back in November. For me, that's pretty bad ass.

To put things in a historical perspective for a moment, PF Chang's was actually the first marathon I ran, way back in 2005. My time then was a rather pathetic 4:45, which, in retrospect was actually pretty good, given that I'd really only ran about 13 miles in my training leading up to it. With that in mind, I guess it's kind of remarkable that I finished it at all.

My last attempt at PF Chang's went even worse. Last year, I threw my hat into the ring, attempting to beat at pretty good time at Tucson. That was, obviously, a huge mistake... for which I paid the price. Sadly, I had to drop out after 18 miles, a truly terrible experience.

So, it was with some trepidation that I signed up, rather spontaneously, on Saturday for Sunday's run. Totally last minute... that's the best way. I didn't taper or prepare for the run in any way -- I did something like 22 miles out on South Mountain last week, complete with a trip up and down the entire length of the Desert Classic along with a nice fast climb up Telegraph Pass.

But... how could I resist, given that the finish for the marathon is right in the neighborhood?

Gear-wise, I rolled with the standard local long run configuration. Busted out the long sleeve NYC Marathon shirt so folks would know I'm serious, and, as planned, stripped it off and tied it around my waist after the first mile or so. Kinda weird, maybe, but if I don't have a shirt around my waist, the gu in my back pocket bounces up and down. I began the race with two packets stashed back there plus my little car clicker, with two more gu packs stuffed into the pocket of the Ultimate Direction water bottle. The sports drink of choice was Gatorade Endurace. Seems fine... I dunno. I also sucked down two endurolyte capsules, one at the start of the race, one during the middle. Might've been overkill on the electrolytes, since I finished with a really crazy stream of salt down my forehead, but that's something I'll have to play with.

The race got off to a pretty ugly start. I was in the second coral, feeling pretty good, and surrounded by a bunch of really fit people. Once things got moving, it became quickly apparent that there was no way I was going to be able to keep up with the 3:30 guy... who, incidentally, if you run around here, you probably know -- he was the dude who wears the red wig to all the races.

So... not wanting to drop out again, I just kept it nice 'n' slow. At some point, I stopped to take a leak in an alley, and just concentrated on my form, trying to make my left shin feel... right. People passed me right 'n' left... it seemed like an onset of the problem that took me out of the race last time, so I just kind of took it easy. At that point, there was still plenty of race left...

Right around the 8 or 9 mile mark, things just started going right. I played a bit with my form and eventually the pain just went away. In fact, I started feeling... good.

Running on pavement is a lot different that running on trails... and since I've been doing a lot of my long runs out at South Mountain and whatnot, the experience of pounding out the miles on the streets is a lot different. Bad form isn't such a problem on the trails, given that every footing is going to be a little different. That's what makes it fun.

A race like PF Chang's is totally different... a race like that is run on efficency of motion and just basic physical fitness. Good form goes a long way. I tried swinging up my knees higher, at first in a totally exagerated way. That caused my feet to land squarely midfoot, minimizing the pain to my shins. It took a little while to find the right motion, but once I did, I found that I could really cover ground quickly.

I started to accelerate. Given that I know the course pretty well -- this is, after all, my home turf -- I knew that I could keep up the intensity without fear of hitting some giant, unplanned for hill. I had a bunch of great little mini races with a couple of other friendly guys, and got about the businesses of catching back up with the 3:30 group. When I passed the dude with the red wig around mile 18, I decided to just keep pushing and pushing. I'd found a rhythm that seemed to be working, so I just wanted to ride it out, see what's possible.

It was just such a perfect day for a run. Mid 50's temps, clear blue skies... gotta love running in AZ.

It's funny, dropping back so far in the pack, then pushing back by 'em. It was like a reverse replay of the previous 10 miles... same people, same basic order that they'd passed me, only now I was cruising past them. A lotta folks who looked pretty cool and confident at mile 6 were starting to break at mile 20.

The whole rest of the run just went really, really smoothly, totally a good experience. The little detour through the power station over by McClintock and University was cool -- I've run a million races around that corner, and I'd always wondered what was back there.

I'll be curious to see my final time / pace when it gets posted... and I will say this -- the experience of running a big ass race like that towards the front of the pack was totally different than doing it towards the middle. The course was nice and uncluttered with slow people, all the other folks out there at that pace were pretty much serious runners. The cheerleaders and bands and assorted other well-wishers were still filled with intensity when I passed... no idea if they kept yelling like that all day.

Of course, this kind of improvement makes me wonder if it is possible for me to get into Boston. If I hadn't had such a rough first couple of miles, I would have been close to on-pace. I really haven't done anything in terms of tempo workouts and whatnot... so... we shall see. I guess I have to do that stuff.


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