Earlier this year, I was looking around on Facebook when I came across a post from Muscle Milk. This post said that they were going to be sponsoring a race in Tucson, AZ and that the first 80 people to contact them would gain not only a free race entry, but a hotel stay and dinner the night before the race. I sent in my email first, then checked with the Wife second...I figured if the race was free, she wouldn't say no! Well, I was able to get one of those free entries, and this past weekend I participated in the half marathon!
|The Muscle Milk vehicle at the finish line|
|The official race logo|
We headed on down to Tucson early on Saturday morning. We planned to get there around noonish, and figured we'd have some lunch and then hopefully check into the hotel a little early. Well, due to things beyond our control, lunch ended up being quite a chore, and we eventually ended up at Subway (which is mighty tasty!). After lunch, we headed over to the hotel to try and check in a little early, only to find out we needed to kill about an hour and a half because our room wasn't ready. We went to the expo for a bit, then headed over to TriSports.com to do some shopping. On our way back, we called the hotel to check on our room, only to find it still wasn't ready. So we stopped off at Trader Joe's to pick up some dinner for the Wife and my daughter (I was attending my included pre-race dinner). We got back to the hotel at about 3:05 pm (we had been told that the room would be ready at 3 pm), and big surprise, our room wasn't ready. So we gave up on killing time and just parked our butts in the lobby for another thirty minutes until our room was finally ready. Once we finally had the keys in our hands, it was time to get to the room!
|We were staying at a Sheraton Hotel, the official race hotel|
The room was actually very nice. There was a separate room with couch, desk, tv and fridge/sink/coffee maker area. My daughter, as you can see from the above picture, had a great time checking out the bed. The next few hours were spent relaxing and killing time until I was supposed to go to the pre-race dinner.
The pre-race dinner was part of the freebie deal that I was lucky enough to get. I hadn't had the chance to attend any of the Muscle Milk training runs that were put together for the group, so this would be the first time that I was going to meet the other runners that also scored this sweet deal. I walked on over to the conference room, only to find that there was only 2 other people there. No worries, I had carbo-loading on my mind. Slowly, a few more people gathered in, and there ended up being around 50 people at this dinner.
The dinner was pretty good. It included a nice little salad, 2 different types of pasta noodles, 3 different types of sauce, and breadsticks. And of course, it was all-you-care-to-stuff-your-face-with. I have learned from my previous races, so I only helped myself to one plate (those of you who know me, I know you don't believe that last statement, but it's true! Only one plate!). I ended up at a table with 3 people who were also part of the free Muscle Milk deal (and also did the race last year) and another girl who came all the way from Florida to run up this mountain. She must have lost a bet or something.
I mostly sat and listened to the others talk, and really only chimed in a few times to tell them about ActiveAmbassadors.com and Team Marathon Bar. I was done with dinner and in bed by 9 pm.
My alarm went off at 3:00 a.m., and I think I finally rolled out of bed at 3:15 a.m. I immediately began my pre-race breakfast ritual, which was slightly different because I forgot my bagel...crap! I made myself a cup of coffee, ate a banana (instead of my bagel...), and enjoyed a delicious Marathon Bar. I tried to be as quiet as possible, but somehow the Wife and my daughter still woke up. It was actually good that they did, because we had the chance to take some pictures before I left and they started getting ready to meet me at the top of the mountain!
|It's soooo early!|
|"What am I thinking!?"|
Getting to the race start was a bit of a mess. Nowhere at the expo, or online, was there a map of where the buses would be picking us up. There was an address, but that address was for an entire medical center. Luckily, there was enough runners who knew where they were going, and I just followed the crowd.
We were told that buses would run continuously from 4:00 a.m. - 5:00 a.m., with the last bus leaving promptly at 5:00. I figured I'd get on the bus at about 4:30, which would leave me some time at the actual start line to use the bathroom and whatnot. Well, apparently the bus drivers had a different plan. They all waited to leave at the same time, which was 4:45 a.m. There were a bunch of runners who came walking up as the buses were leaving and ended up having to run to the buses so they wouldn't get left behind!
But the time the half-marathon buses made it up to the half marathon starting point, it was 5:50 a.m., and the race was supposed to start at 6:00 a.m. That's not much time to get prepared. Well, 200 or so of us runners got off the buses with the same plan in mind...use the bathroom one last time. The only problem is that there were only 5 port-o-potties for all of us runners. Looks like I'll be starting late! The emcee finally realized that nobody would be starting on time and delayed the half marathon race start until 6:15 a.m. I think I was ready by 6:10 a.m., so I had a few minutes to check over all of my stuff and make sure I was ready to go.
My initial plan was to run this half marathon a lot slower than normal, since it was uphill. I had been training to hold a 7:00/mile pace on flat ground, so I figured somewhere around 9:00/mile would be good. It would probably have made more sense for me to actually do some hill training and figure out what really was a good pace. No big deal though, I wasn't really expecting much for this race.
By mile 1, I was somewhere in the top 10 or so, and it didn't really seem like anyone was going to be making a move any time soon, so I just tried to lock in my pace and focus on keeping my heart rate and breathing controlled. By mile 4, only a couple of kids (and I do mean kids...they were 15 years old!) had passed me. One of those kids actually dropped a $20, and I felt I'd be the nice guy and pick it up and give it back to him. Talk about the wrong time to stop! It was pretty hard to get started again, uphill.
Somewhere around mile 6, I was passed by someone, but I locked onto them and ended up passing one of the people that was in front of me. After that, there wasn't really much change until near the end of the race. Somewhere in the last mile, I caught back up to one of those 15 year old kids. The other one was still kicking my butt.
You can see on the elevation chart below that there was 2 nice downhill sections. I failed to remember that at the end of the second downhill, right before the finish, was one last uphill. This last hill about killed me, but, I made it through, and actually had some company for the last little bit...
|The elevation profile from my Garmin...2,786 ft of climbing all together!|
|The course map, from my Garmin of course.|
|My daughter, who I can't believe was awake this early, waiting for me at the finish.|
|Trying to make it up the last hill!|
|I decided to take my daughter with me through the finish!|
|If you enlarge this photo, you can see that she thought it was pretty fun too!|
At the time, I thought it was a great idea to pick up my daughter and take her across the finish line...I forgot that I had just run uphill for 13 miles and my legs were dead. Oh well. Here's the video of that finish:
My finishing time was 1:53:04, which is nowhere near my PR half marathon time, but this was uphill! I'm definitely happy with that time. And as an added bonus, I finished 13th overall (11th male overall), and 2nd in my age group!
|My daughter holding up the finisher medal|
|A close-up of the medal|
I was pretty surprised with this result. I was even more surprised that there were trophies for the top 3 of each age group!
|The preliminary results had me at 14th overall, and the official results moved me up one slot to 13th|
|My 2nd place in the M25-29 age group trophy!|
One of the coolest parts of this race was the views during the race. I didn't carry a camera with me, because I figured I'd end up falling over an edge or something stupid, but the Wife took quite a few pictures. Before the race, while she was driving up the mountain, she went with a crazy camera-out-of-the-sun-roof approach, with actually took some pretty cool pictures!
|Yep, that's the moon way up there!|
Once they made it up to the finish area, it was time to take some photos of the surroundings!
|My daughter peaking out through the sun roof (I can only assume that the car was parked at this point!).|
|See that little blue tent near the middle of the picture? That's the finish line!|
After I had received my little trophy-guy, it was time to head back to the car, drive down the mountain, and pack up at the hotel to head home!
|Walking back to the car...|
Pretty cool views! So with that, this race recap is finally complete. I hope you enjoyed hearing about every little detail from this race!