Whiskey Row Half Marathon – 5/5/12

Prescott, Arizona, USA

Couldn’t good be good enough?

My times have been steadily improving since Instanbul, including smashing through my HM PR twice, prompting my coach to boost my goal pace for Easter Island and ratchet up my training plan.  This Cinco de Mayo, though, my goal is have fun and don’t kill myself a month out from my marathon.  Whiskey Row is a tough course!

Pre-race:

I don’t get Fridays off anymore, so it’s leave work early, swing by the house for my suitcase and make the 2-hour drive up to Prescott for packet pickup at the Y.  (I’m really pleased with how the Prius C handles The Hill between Black Canyon City and Sunset Point.)  At the mini-expo, a woman is giving pre-race chair massages – what a great idea!  She releases a trigger point in my back that I would’ve hated to run with.  The carb load dinner is in the picnic area out back – it was probably really nice around 5:00 but now the sun’s going down it’s turned into a breezeway so I scarf my bean tostado and rice and head to my hotel, St. Michael’s.  After laying out my stuff I spend some time working on the mess under the ball of my right foot (big ol’blister that tore off half a callus) before turning in for the night.

I wake to the Olympic fanfare (my phone), grab a pop tart, and head downstairs.  The full marathoners are lining up at the start as I head the other way for an awkward 2-mile warmup carrying my gear bag.  The sun has fully risen when I re-join the halfers milling about Courthouse Square.  The announcer jokes that the Phoenicians are all huddled in the sun and the Prescottonians in the shade.

Race:

With a real-life shotgun start, we all head south down Whiskey Row, then loop around and start the first easy uphill on Gurley Street.  In the distance, Thumb Butte shines in the morning light.  I’m trying to stick near my goal HM pace for the first leg, but also really feeling the altitude – so are most of the people around me, judging by all the heavy breathing going on.  A left onto the rolling hills of Hasayampa drive, then a right onto Copper Basin and we’re climbing, climbing, climbing through pine forest.  “Al says – don’t look up now!”

For several miles I’m behind a gal with a long, swinging black braid, but eventually I overtake her.  A Cologne Marathon shirt appears in front of me, then gradually pulls away as the climb gets more intense and I have to take walk breaks.  I wind up pacing a woman doing the Galloway method for most of the rest of the race.

Only a few spectators along the Copper Basin stretch, among them a man handing out bananas.  Mile 6 to the turnaround seems to take for bloody ever!  I take a short stretch break and grab some orange slices, then it’s back down the hill again!

I’m a little inhibited on the downhill this year – it seems crazy steep, and I’m afraid of falling and messing up a knee a month before my marathon!  Here’s where my callus problem starts to come into play – I keep feeling a twinge shoot up from the ball of my foot up through my leg.  (Afterwards I’ll find out that the moleskin had come loose and slid up the side of my foot.)   The good news is that the water stations seem much closer together on the downhill.  There’s banana man again; I just don’t know what I’d do with the peel!

Hitting Hasayampa Drive I start to meet the tail end of the 10K-ers heading out – one walker is singing and playing a ukulele, while his companion looks very unhappy.  About one mile out from the finish I pass a guy wearing a full-body tri suit and singing along with his iPod.  Once again the final block, a stealth hill, is grueling.  Tri guy passes me, and I force my legs to get back into running mode, and cross the finish.

Official time:  2:18:10 – not a HM PR, but about 13 min faster than last year on this course!

Post-race:

I grab some goodies, have my photo taken with a big tacky sombrero and an inflatable saguaro, and head back to the St.Michael’s to rinse off.  Afterwards I inhale a big plate of huevos rancheros at the hotel’s breakfast counter while talking to a guy who does sculpture work for Hollywood films and just came off production for the new Star Trek movie.  The afternoon is spent shopping and hanging out at the block party at the finish line.

Thanks to the hills, my quads hate me for the next week.

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