Sunday, March 4, 2012

A Marathon Blog to Catch Up

(Originally Published on Runners World Loop 10/2/11)
There’s clearly a running boom going on, with local races available every weekend. I’ve run 9 races since September 1st, and except for the Saguaro Monument Labor Day 8-miler, I have not blogged about any of them. I’ve “doubled” the last 4 weekends in a row. So, this will be my catch-up blog; sort of a marathon blog, if you’ll forgive the pun.
September 10: The Great Arizona Grape Stomp 5k. Held in Coronado Vineyard in the small town of Willcox, AZ, this was the first in a series of cross-country events in vineyards around the state. They had a small turnout, but did a nice job making it a class event.   I was surprised to take the lead right from the start, held it throughout the muddy course, and actually broke the tape at the finish line! My prize for first place overall was a big gift basket that included a bottle of wine from the vineyard, a wine glass, and some tickets to events.
September 11: Steven Siller Tunnel to Towers Run 5k. This was a 9/11 memorial run, directed by Tagg Running Events. It was a nice race, mostly on bike path and mud/dirt. The finish line was across a grassy field that had about 2 inches of water on it. My time was 19:14 and I got 4th place overall. I received a commemorative finisher’s coin, but the winner’s awards were only given to public service worker racers. After the race I ran a 14-mile training run along the Santa Cruz river path – rain from the night before caused the river to be flowing, a rare sight in Tucson!
September 17: El Tour Adventure Run 10k. The course along the Rillito River path was about 0.2 miles short of a 10k, but this is a fun event that I have done several times. This year I actually led the field until about 8k, when I got passed. I hung on for 2nd overall, finishing in 38:54, and won a very nice “Conquistador Trophy”. The awards ceremony was fun with a quick interview of each of us!
September 18: Beads of Courage 5k. A new race, run at the Agua Linda Farm in the small town of Amado, south of Tucson. This event was hosted by Tagg Running Events and was a benefit run for the Beads of Courage organization. Runners were given artistic glass beads to wear during the race, and afterwards we placed one bead in a bag with an encouraging note, to be given to a child with a life-threatening illness. I got 4th place overall with a time of 20:37, 1st in my age group. A short distance before the finish, 3 of us took a wrong turn which resulted in perhaps 200 meters extra distance. By the time we turned around and got back on course, an 18-year old runner had passed us; I was very impressed that when we reached the finish line, he stopped and waited for the 3 of us to finish!
September 24: Fiesta Sahuarita 5k. This race is held as part of the Fiesta Sahuarita, a small town festival south of Tucson. The race is hosted by Tagg Running Events and the course is USATF-certified. I felt fairly good and was in 9th place after the start. I gradually moved my way up, and at mile two I gained the lead. I finished in first place overall with a time of 19:02, not a PR but I was very happy with my time! I won a nice clay medal.
September 25: Catalina State Park Reverse the Course 10.35 Mile Trail Race. In April, I ran the original race in heavy rain; this time, we had very nice weather. Everyone Runs hosts this excellent trail race, which is popular despite the challenging course. Trail running is slower-paced but arguably harder than road racing, since it requires some serious caution with your footing and pace. My goal was to beat my time from April, and I succeeded by running it in 1:16:11 (about 1.5 minutes improvement).
I ran the race with only 2.5 hours of sleep, because I had worked at the Mt. Lemmon SkyCenter observatory the night before, so I was extremely tired. Unfortunately I took a wrong turn about 7 miles in – I had no excuse, other than exhaustion, since this was on the second loop! It cost me some time before I realized I was off course, and by the time I got back I had lost 2 places. By the finish I regained one of those places, but could not quite get the other. I ended up getting 5th overall, 1st in my age group. A bunch of my friends ran this race and many of them also got awards; here’s a photo of me and my buddy Bruce (who’s been racing a lot and doing very well!), taken by his wife Terri, with our prizes.
September 30: Nike Cross National Pre-Southwest Desert Twilight Community 5k. Tucked into this HUGE high-school XC invitational is a citizen’s 5k. It was held on the Toka Sticks Golf Course in Mesa, AZ, and started at 8:00 p.m. on Friday night. This is a super high-energy event; fireworks at the starting lines, races go off every 15 minutes, a big mud pit to surprise runners in the dark, mosh pit full of dancing teenagers and loud pumping music, etc. The course has a few hills and winds through the golf course, making it easy for spectators to cheer. I loved the race but made a mistake on my planning. I could have gone up with my wife and her team (she coaches at Sahuaro High School), but decided to work and leave later. Mapquest said 2 hours, but traffic was thick so the drive took me 3; as a result I arrived only 25 minutes before the start, not enough time to get my legs ready to race after the long drive. Also, I had worked late at the observatory on Thursday night, so I was tired. As a result I did not feel good during the race. My time was 19:28, which got me 3rd in the 10-year age group, so I won a medal. My 12-year old son Jason came up with me, and he also ran the race. Despite not training during the past few months (he’s been focused on baseball instead), he pulled off a good race with a time of 29:07.
October 2: The Jim Click Run ‘N’ Roll 8k.  This is a big annual event on the University of Arizona campus, which includes a wheelchair event and benefits the UA’s Adaptive Athletics program.  I had a good run, finishing the 8k in a PR of 31:11. The sun was shining brightly at the 7:40 a.m. start, and I went out fast for the first mile to test my pace a bit. My legs were feeling tired from Friday’s night’s race and yesterday’s training run, so by halfway I had slowed. I’m happy with the results – I was 34th place overall, and got 2nd in my age group; I won a nice gift certificate to Performance Footwear. This event is part of the Southern Arizona Roadrunners’ Grand Prix series, so lots of my SAR friends and members of The Workout Group were out there today; I love to see so many folks who really love to run out there pushing themselves!  Here's me and Martin Pena receiving our age group awards.
After the race, my friend Chris and I ran another 10.2 miles, mostly along next week’s half-marathon course. This included a climb up “A Mountain”. Since we didn’t even start the run until about 10:30, it was really hot – over 90 degrees – so instead of our planned 15 miles we cut it a bit short. My legs are tired now, but in a good way!
3 weeks to go until the St. Louis Rock’N’Roll Marathon!!!!

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