Sunday, March 4, 2012

Why I Love Arizona - A Sun Run in January! Plus: A Magic PR Formula?

(Originally Published on Runners World Loop 1/22/2012)
Arizona’s “racing season” differs from most of the rest of the country.  Since our weather is generally mild, we start each year off with plenty of races.  Other areas of the country may have the occasional Freezeroo, or Run Through the Snow, but in Tucson we kick off our new year of racing with the annual Sun Run.  I remember when the Sun Run was the State’s 15k Championship event, but in recent years it has become a classic 10k and 5k race.
The race beneficiaries are the Pima College Cross Country and Track & Field Teams, and the course at Reid Park is known to be a fast one.  As a result, we often see some very fast times.  Today’s 5k race, for example, was won by a young man who is in training for the Olympic Trials race that will be held in Oregon soon, and he won with a time just over the 14-minute mark.
Speaking of the Olympic Trials, Pima’s running program has produced several Olympic hopefuls over the years, including Abdi Abdirahman and Craig Curley who raced in the marathon trials in Houston last week (Abdi won 3rd and will be going to London).
Fast times come to those who train, but many of us today were racing just one week after running a marathon.  My legs were still tight from the Houston Marathon last Sunday, and there were quite a few others who ran marathons in Houston or Phoenix.  I think most of us did not know exactly what to expect so soon after the marathon – in my case, I hoped for a reasonably fast time but my expectations were not high.
It was cool with a slight breeze when we started at 9:00 a.m.  I was running along with my buddy Chris.  One of my friends, Joel, had just run a fast marathon in Phoenix last week and I decided to try to stick close to him.  Joel normally beats me but I figured if he also had marathon legs, I was safe to go close to his speed.  As it turned out, my legs felt good and I clicked through the first few miles at about a 6:09 pace.  By 5k, though, I was feeling the weariness and it was getting tough.  There were a few friends along the way who saw me and cheered, which encouraged me some.  I managed to hang in with a little bit of slowing, and finished in 38:38.  That was pretty exciting for me because it’s a new PR.  I only count PR’s when they are run on a USATF-certified course (today’s course is certified, and my GPS watch read 6.208 miles).
After I finished and caught my breath, I grabbed my camera and took some photos.  Here’s one of my friend Melody kicking towards the finish:
The finish line was in the parking lot behind the baseball stadium.  Lots of people, including many who had just finished the 5k, were lined up along the homestretch to cheer the runners in.  Here's my friend Craig in his final sprint:
One of those people was Sharon Bart, proprietor of The Running Shop.  Sharon’s store generously sponsors many Tucson-area events, including the Sun Run.  She’s always got a smile and it’s hard to imagine where the Tucson running community would be if we had not been graced with Sharon’s support for over 30 years.
The Running Shop provided the awards, which were distributed after everyone had a chance to fill up with a pancake breakfast provided by the Pima teams.  Race Director and Pima Coach, Greg Wenneborg, announced the winners.  Here’s a picture of my friend Ed (who just PR'd in the RNRAZ Half Marathon last week), receiving his age group prize:
My finish time put me in 23rd place overall , but that was good enough to win 1st place in my age group, so I won this nice Mizuno tech shirt:
The Sun Run 10k race was the first “SAR Grand Prix” event for 2012.  The Grand Prix for 2011 finished at the Thanksgiving 5k, but it was not until last night’s annual banquet that Grand Prix awards were handed out.  I managed to earn 3rd place in the Master’s division (Joel got 2nd, and 1st was won by outstanding runner and Rob Bell Award winner Benito), and won a couple of nice gifts from the Running Shop.  Since my racing plans for 2012 will likely cause me to miss several of the Grand Prix races, I doubt I’ll repeat it this year, but it was fun to watch the point standings develop last year.
Racing a week after a marathon probably isn’t for everyone, and I’m sure it carries a lot of risk of injury.  But…Last year, the Sun Run was 2 weeks after the Rock’n’Roll Arizona Marathon, and I ran both events and PR’d in both.  So perhaps I’ve stumbled onto a magic PR formula?
Now I need to get these achy legs up and horizontal!

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