Let me start off by saying, I have never been to Phoenix before so this was a real treat for this Nebraska girl. I left some pretty cold temperatures at home to arrive in 60 degree weather – with full sun shining. I did look a tad out of place walking to the race expo in jeans and long sleeves. This was the first race expo I have attended that was held outdoors. Midwest weather doesn’t generally lend itself to this type of set up. The expo was on the small side compared to others I’ve attended. I really enjoy going to the expos and meeting other runners and checking out the latest gear. Even though it was small, it was very well organized.
One of my first tasks was trying to figure out where I would need to show up the next morning to load the bus that would take us to the finish line. One of the gentlemen volunteering at the information booth was taking the time to draw out directions for those of us who needed a little extra assistance. Super helpful! There were plenty of samples to runners to try as well. I was suprised to run into one of my running friends from home as I was wondering through the expo. I knew she would be there, but we hadn’t made plans to connect. She was there with some college friends and they graciously invited me to join them for dinner. Yah! Dinner with company of fellow runners before a big race was great! They had found a place in Scottsdale for us to try. It was a great little family owned Italian restaurant. I must say, it was some of the best pasta I’ve had pre-race. Lots of great flavor in the dish and the staff was great, too.
Race morning was predicted to be windy and wet. As I loaded the first bus at 3:45am, it was definitely windy. The buses were set up to take us to the starting point of this point to point race. It was still dark, so there wasn’t much of an opportunity for me to sight see or take pictures. The staging area by the start line was at a shooting range. You could see from inside the bus how windy it was out there. It looked a little like a dirt storm to me. But, so far, it was still dry! It was obvious the race directors took some time planning and had really thought out the needs of the runners for the staging area. There were ample porta-pots, outside heaters to keep us warm, AWESOME pre run entertainment, and an aid table if you forgot something. I was already impressed, but when it came time for the national anthem, they took it up another notch! As the anthem finished, they let off several beautiful displays of fireworks! How’s that for getting everyone fired up?? A+!!
It was about this time the sky started to open up. Yep, the dreaded rain was there just as we were getting ready to start. My understanding is that is hadn’t rained in over 150 days in Phoenix. Great timing eh? Glad I packed my poncho. It was originally intended to keep me warm while waiting to start the run. The race started at 6:30am, one of my earliest race start times, and the first time I’d started a race in the dark. The first half of the run was as promised, mostly downhill. There were a few, I think two, uphill climbs that lasted for quite a bit, but we were rewarded with a nice downhill after. Somewhere in that first half the rain stopped. I carried my poncho for a few more miles, just to be on the safe side. Unfortunately at this point, my socks were soaked. The second half of the run was pretty flat as we ran through the downtown and residential areas.
The aid stations were well placed and ready for runners. There were several aid stations that even offered Cliff products for fueling, and bananas and oranges, in addition to the traditional water and gatorade type products. The volunteers at the aid stations were great. Lots of smiles and cheering! The crowd support was somewhat limited, but those that were out there, they were smiling and encouraging. I saw many of the supporters at several points throughout the race – including what apeared to be one of the race directors.
The finish line is always a bit of a blur for me. At that point in the race, it’s often about survival – one foot in front of the other, and I don’t see much of the finish chute. I did hear my name being announced on the loud speaker as I crossed the finish line though. Finishers were presented with some pretty nice hardware. The medal is heavy and a great design. Basic food, such as bagels, fruit, pretzels, and water were offered to finishers. This is one area that I think could use some improvement. The best part of the finish area for me is always the massage tent! Standing in line for the post race massage I noticed there was probaby about 40-50 tables set up. I didn’t have to wait in line long at all!! Getting stretched out post marathon is one of the best ways to improve recovery. I am always so grateful to those volunteers that handle our sweaty sore muscles.
After the run, I sought out a place to refuel. I usually seek out some greasy pizza post marathon, but another friend had given me a few recommendations for places offering vegan/vegetarian options. The one I decided on trying was True Food Kitchen. Hands down, fabulous establishment, and right up my alley! I had the best pita and hummus, and brussels sprout salad. I enjoyed the food so much, I ordered a salad to go for my plane ride home the next day.
At the end of the day, I would absolutely recommend this race to fellow runners. I think the race organizers spent some time planning and organizing, and it definitely showed.
And here’s a few random pictures from my trip:
I was surprised to see actual fruit hanging on the trees outside of my hotel:
Nice shopping area – Tempe Marketplace:
Local running store – with super friendly staff:
And the view of the mountains looking out my hotel room: