Gail and I headed south to the sun on Saturday for the Tucson Marathon. Well it's not really in Tucson but up in the hills with a start in Oracle. We landed in Phoenix with wind and rain. We grabbed a cheap rental car and headed out for the 100 mile drive south. We had very strong winds and rain. The forecast was for better weather the next day.
We got to the expo late in the afternoon and it was a pretty basic one. Just a 10 booths or so but packet pick up was a breeze. We changed hotels to one close to the the bus pick up location which saved us probably an hour in the morning. Used to be a big deal to only eat pasta the night before, no beer or such too. So we had pizza and beer that night! I guess I am not a rookie anymore! I was pretty tired so we crashed about 8pm mountain time which is darn early.
We got up early to catch the bus which is about 3 miles from our hotel. You had to be there between 5 and 6 am. We then bussed about 25 miles out to the start up in the hills at 4,800 feet.
It was a tad chilly in the 40's but no wind and clear skies. I decided to run in shorts, short sleeve tech shirt and my yelllow Maniac singlet and some toss-able gloves. It turned out to be just right.
The start is up on a narrow residential road and it is big time downhill for the first mile. I started near the back as usual and tried to run loose and not bust my quads early. This race is known for its downhill but really is not all that way. We had a few easy up hills as we cruised through the mining town of Oracle. I was running a 8 minute pace on the downhills and about 9:30 on the flats.
We joined the main highway at around mile 5 or so and had a nice gradual downhill grade. I was making good time but not pushing it. I had to take multiple leaks on the first half of the race. (Too much coffee I guess) 4 times I had to stop in the first 13 miles!! Around mile 7 I turned my running cap around backwards. I like to do this when I get warm so my forehead stays nice and cool. As I did this I passed this woman, then I hear "Little too early for the rally cap don't you think?" I laughed so hard. I used to do that when I really wanted to push it. I would turn that cap around thinking it made me faster. It was my motivator. Well she and I chatted for quite a few minutes. I love the conversations you get into on these runs. It can really make the time pass.
Around mile 8 a woman named Nicole said "Hi, I was just running with your wife, she is awesome!" "I am supposed to yell your nickname (Fat-Boyee) but was afraid you would yell Fat-Girl back to me!" We laughed and had a great chat. She had run with Hippo at Miwok 100 k this year and they had gotten lost together.
At mile 9 you head up towards the Biosphere. This is a pretty good uphill climb for a 4 mile out and back. I could tell the elevation slowed me down but my legs felt real good. I saw Gail on the turn around and we high fived as usual. At mile 13.8 we then turned back on the highway and had a nice gradual downhill and a road so straight I thought it didn't turn till it got to Cali-forn-ee-ah. I ran the first 1/2 in about 2:05 and I was shooting for about a 4:10 race so I felt a bit behind but figured it would be mostly downhill from here on out.
If you don't like the desert and long straight roads this isn't the marathon for you. I was still feeling good and was taking a couple gulps of water every 10 minutes, a Gel every 45 and 3 E-Caps every hour. My blisters on my heels seemed to be fine as I took Olga's advice and put a couple of Blist-O-Bans on them and they were fine the entire race.
Entering this race I had no real goals. But once I got past 15 miles or so I was still feeling good so I figured I would try and not to walk and be strong and pass the "Bonkers" the last few miles. By mile 20 I was at 3:10 and I still felt strong. Nothing was bothering me at all. The course then started to flatten out and then through in some easy up hills.
Around mile 24 I started to get a bit light headed feeling but my legs felt great. My pace slowed to 10:20 or so and sub 4:10 was out of the question. I didn't take my last Gel at 3:45 and I think that was a mistake. I thought I could power through but I probably needed that energy boost. At mile 25 they had a table handing out beer so I stopped and once again they were shocked as I powered down a couple of gulps for fun.
The finish is up an easy grade which is never much fun. I think all finishes should be downhill! I gave it a little sprint to the finish which is rare for me. I crossed in 4:15:30 at a 9:45 pace. I ran the first 6 at a 9:11 pace, the half at 9:33 and mile 20 at 9:31, so I was pretty consistent till the last 3 miles or so.
I got my medal and then went to root for Gail. She was hoping to PR below 4:27. I ran into Nicole again and she and I both cheered for Gail as she made the turn for the finish. Gail crossed the line in 4:34. No PR but one of her better times this year. Plus she had her usual big happy smile on! Did I tell you how lucky I am to have her run these races! She really wanted to run this one. I probably wouldn't have gone without her little push for us to go.
The post race food was a joke by marathon standards. Full banana's, apples, some tortilla with pb and honey, and some other minor items. Not worth staying for thats for sure. Maybe it's an Arizona thing? The Lost Dutchman Marathon was the same at the finish. At least the weather was awesome. It was 60 and clear. I even got a little sunburn on my face in December! We grabbed our drop bags and caught a bus back to our car (5 miles or so). We had decided to head home early so we showered and hit the road for the drive back to Phoenix to catch a flight back to the impending storm in Portland.
Overall the race was a 2 star out of 5. The good part was the ease of the expo and the mostly downhill course. The bad was the traffic getting to the parking, the 45 minute bus ride to the start, the mostly boring course, the lack of finisher food and the fact the course is not really all downhill. If you need Arizona for a 50 state this one would do but if I had a chance I would do The Lost Dutchman in Phoenix over this one even though Dutch is harder.
Everyone was complaining about how bad their quads felt with all the downhill running but I never really had that problem, guess it's all that trail running this summer that saved me. I did get a bit sore about 24 hours later but was probably the best I have felt the day after a marathon. I did open up some more blisters on my heel but for some reason they didn't hurt during or after the race.
So what's up next? Not really sure but I think I will either do the Christmas Marathon or Pigtail's Flat Ass 50K, or maybe the Red Lizzards Fat Ass run on Wildwood this month. Or maybe get crazy and do all three! :) One more will give me 30 lifetime so it is a goal I want to get by the end of the month. I do miss the trails though for sure.