Rock n Roll Arizona weekend & Race Report

This past weekend was spent in Phoenix for the Rock n Roll Arizona Half Marathon. We drove up Friday after Robert got out of school and then went to the race expo on Saturday. Check in went really smoothly, and they even had the option to exchange your shirt if you wanted a different size. I did exchange my medium for a large since they were running really small. The expo was really nice but there wasn't as much free stuff as there has been at other expos I've been at. I did get to meet one of my Twitter friends and that was fun! It's always fun to meet an online friend in real life. After we were done at the expo, we brought our stuff back to the hotel room (we stayed at the Sheraton in downtown Phoenix, the largest hotel in Arizona with 1000+ rooms) and then headed across the street to Hooters for a light lunch.

I got to finally meet my Team in Training coach when we had our team meeting later in the afternoon. I decorated my team shirt and met some of the other Flex Team members. Then in the evening my guys and I attended the Team in Training Inspiration Dinner. We walked in as a Team – Team Arizona, and all the coaches and other staff were lining the hallway cheering and clapping for us. So very cool and, yes, I had a few tears in my eyes. There were Team in Training members from all over the country present. We had lots of good pasta and chicken for dinner, but the best part of the night was the speaker – John "The Penguin" Bingham!!! He's a big advocate of Team in Training, and he was our speaker. He's a great speaker as well as a writer (I've read books by him, and I've been a fan of his since I started reading his article "The Penguin Chronicles" in Runners World back in 2000). After the dinner was over, I got my picture taken with him!  After dinner was over, we headed up to the room and got the boys to bed and just relaxed.

Sunday morning started early with my alarm going off at 4, but I snuggled under the blankets until 4:30. Then I got up and got ready – ate my bagel with peanut butter that I had bought Saturday night after the dinner and had my Cran-Razz GenUCAN, prepared a bottle for Thomas (he had just eaten a couple of hours prior and was sound asleep), and got into my race clothes. I double checked to make sure I had everything I needed and then I headed down to the hotel lobby to catch the Team in Training bus to go to the half marathon start. It was about perfect temperature for a race – just a little chilly at the start and I was thankful for my sweatshirt that I had bought at Goodwill. I was hanging out with other Team in Training members and we hit the porta-potties – the lines weren't too bad. Then we headed to our start corrals to await the start. The race started about 10 minutes late because apparently they were waiting for other runners to arrive. I don't know why they couldn't be early like we were, but whatever.

Finally the race started, and our corral finally crossed the start line about 20 minutes later. It was easy to not go out too fast with the number of runners there were so that was a good thing, and I remembered my run/walk ratio from the start. My plan was to run 9 minutes and walk 1 and that's what I did throughout. I dropped my sweatshirt during my first walk break. I was sad to see it go as it was rather comfy, but I had bought it from Goodwill to use as a throw-away (although all the discarded clothing is gathered up and donated to charity after the race, so it's not really thrown away). I walked through the water stops as well as my planned walk breaks and I felt really good throughout. The sun peeked out for a little bit, but for the most part, there was some cloud cover and that was nice – kept it about the perfect temperature. I had my first Gu between miles 4 and 5 and my second about an hour later. There was about a 150 foot elevation gain through the first 9 miles and I was about 6 minutes off pace by that point. But then after mile 9, it was all downhill and I managed to run a negative split and make up 3 minutes by the finish. The last 3 miles felt really good and I even felt like I had a slight bounce in my step and my stride was comfortable. My last 2 miles were actually fast enough to pass a PT test!! That's crazy that I ran 11 miles and then was able to "pass a PT test". My guys were about half mile from the finish and it was great to see them. Robert had made a cool sign that said "Go Mommy! I love you!" and had a picture of Thomas on it. I think this was my first long race that I finished feeling really good. I finished in 2:33:06, with an average pace of 11:41! I was 9955 out of 15663 overall, 911 out of 1523 in my age group, and 5323 out of 9505 females. I'm very happy with how I did considering it's been not quite 4 months since I had Thomas!!  I'm also super happy with my mile splits – Mile 1 – 12:08 (fighting through the crowds at the start), Mile 2 – 11:57, Mile 3 – 11:46, Mile 4 – 11:46, Mile 5 – 12:25 (Gu stop, so walked a little longer), Mile 6 – 11:46, Mile 7 – 11:36, Mile 8 – 11:55, Mile 9 – 11:33, Mile 10 – 11:52, Mile 11 – 11:07 (Where the heck did THAT come from?!!!), Mile 12 – 10:43 (end of race and getting faster. Downhill helps!), Mile 13 – 10:40, Last .17 – 1:49 (10:33 pace).  Looking back through my race records, this was a Stateside (for those non-Army types, that's in the U.S. as opposed to overseas) PR!  Although this was half marathon number 6 for me, it was only my second in the US and the other one was a 2:35 half! (My other 4 half marathons were one in Korea (my first) and 3 in Iraq.)

After I crossed the finish line and got my medal and picture taken, I finally made my way to the Team in Training tent and got checked in there and met up with my guys. I got some post race nutrition and relaxed for a little bit before we headed to the light rail (a train system that runs through Phoenix) stop to head back to the hotel. Once we got back there, I fed Thomas, showered, and took a short nap. Later in the evening, we headed on the light rail to a BBQ place that had REALLY good food.

We drove home Monday. It was an awesome weekend, and the only thing I wish I had done differently was to buy tickets for the Team in Training Victory Celebration which was Sunday evening. Next time I do an event with TNT, I will definitely do the Victory Celebration to close out the weekend.

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Catching up – Part 2: 19 Dec-today

I was going to do my catching up in 3 parts, but decided to just do 2. 19 Dec. began the band's block leave period, but I didn't sign out on leave until Wednesday. Monday was a comp day for everyone and Tuesday I took Thomas to formation and the little bit of supply work I needed to do before Christmas. Monday and Tuesday were spent doing laundry and packing. Wednesday was a busy day – Robert had his school Christmas program in the morning and then final packing for our trip to Michigan. Robert had a half day of school and was out at 1145. We picked him up and were on the road about 1230 or so, headed to the Phoenix Airport. Traffic wasn't too bad, but there were some spots of stupid/slow drivers. We were able to find a parking spot right near the shuttle stop, but after we got our 4 suitcases, carseat bag, and 4 carryons to the shuttle stop, we had to wait 10-15 minutes or so for a shuttle. We finally get to the airport and wait forever to check in – finally got checked in at the time our flight was starting boarding. Then we had to go through security – and they only had 2 lanes open. TWO. During the holiday travel season. So we pretty much ran to our gate and were almost the last ones on the plane. Robert and I sat together, but Ryan was elsewhere (we fly Southwest and they have open seating). Thomas did the best he could through all this, but was stressed and fussy until I finally got him settled enough to nurse him on the plane.

We flew from Phoenix to Las Vegas to Milwaukee, and after getting to Milwaukee at 1 Thursday morning, we got the hotel shuttle and went to the hotel for a few hours of sleep. In the morning, I took the hotel shuttle back to the airport to get the rental car, then back to the hotel to get everything loaded up and we headed north to Mom & Dad's. We got home in time for dinner – mom had a big pot of chili ready! Yum!

On Friday, Mom and I (and Thomas, of course) went to Marquette to finish up our Christmas shopping and do grocery shopping. Saturday was spent wrapping presents and relaxing before pizza for dinner and then Christmas Eve service at church. Christmas morning was donut puffs for breakfast (our tradition of MANY years) and then off to church for Sunday/Christmas Day service. After church, we came home and opened our stockings. Santa sure was good to all of us! Then we headed to my Aunt & Uncle's house for my mom's side of the family get-together. There were 22 of us this year, including 5 ages 7 and younger. It was a lot of fun with lots of gifts for the kids and adults. The adults do a drawing so we each only have one name to buy for, and then each family gets something for each of the kids. There was lots of yummy food and it was a great time having the whole family together again.  In the evening, we opened our huge pile of presents to/from our family (me and Ryan and our boys, my mom and dad and brother). There were a lot of great gifts! I think my favorite one was a necklace from my boys – it says MOM on the outside of the heart locket and then opens up and has their pictures inside it! They also got me a pair of earrings. Very pretty! Some of the other stuff I got was a new long sleeved (purple) running shirt, more Gu gel, some books (on running, NASCAR stuff, and a crockpot cookbook), piano and trombone books (Mario songbook for piano!!), CDs and DVDs of the Canadian Brass, a Mom & Me Day (mom and I went and got our nails done – fingers for her and toes for me), a new toaster, and a new electric griddle! It was a great Christmas.

The week after Christmas was spent relaxing quite a bit. My guys and I went to Marquette on Tuesday to do a little bit of shopping and then Mom and I went on Thursday (actually she and my brother went early so he could look at new appliances and then Thomas and I met her at the nail place) and got our nails done and then went to her knitting guild's Christmas party. I had planned on crocheting some, but Thomas was pretty fussy so I walked laps in the yarn store with him in the snugli. He did fall asleep long enough so I could eat, though. It was a potluck, and there was lots of yummy food.

On New Years Eve, we just hung out at home and played Scattergories, watched the ball drop on TV, and toasted in the New Year with some icky champagne. And then I headed out in the dark and cold and snow for a 1.2 mile run to start off 2012!! It was awesome!

New Year's Day was Sunday, so we went to church. But it was a special service as Thomas was Baptized!! His Godparents are my brother Richard and cousin Renee. It was a nice service and he didn't cry at all when Pastor sprinkled him with the water! Mom and I had made a cake and cookies for the fellowship time after the service. Sunday afternoon was spent packing and then on Monday morning about 10 we said our goodbyes and headed back to Milwaukee. Once we got south a little bit, the roads were clear and we had nice blue sky for traveling. We stayed in a hotel Monday night and then flew back to Arizona on Tuesday. Once we got back to Phoenix a little after 9, we got our luggage. Or most of it. One suitcase wasn't there, so we filled out the paperwork and all that fun stuff. Then we had the 3 hour drive home. It was about 2 Wednesday morning when we got home and Robert fell right to sleep and Ryan and Thomas and I were all asleep not long after that.

Wednesday Robert was back to school. He was a little hard to wake up in the morning, but he made it through the day ok. Ryan and I both had chiropractor appointments and did some grocery shopping while Robert was at school and Child Time. I also got a 30 minute run in. Today was school for Robert and just relaxing for me and Thomas. Ryan had Physical Therapy at the local VA and ran a few other errands.

Go to http://pages.teamintraining.org/dm/pfchangs12/laniyearicks to help move my dollar sign down the road!!