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.