Marathon #26: Rock ‘N’ Roll Arizona

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I'm happy to share that I just completed my 26th marathon, the 2023 Rock 'N' Roll Arizona race out in Tempe/Scottsdale! Despite being only two weeks post-Covid, I was somehow able to eek out a sub-3 hour run, finishing with an official 2:59:45 time, putting me 4th in my age group, and 40th overall.

Race Results
  • C Goal: sub 3:15:00
  • B Goal: sub 3:05:00
  • A Goal: sub 3:00:00
  • Stretch Goal: sub 2:55:00

The race started off at 7:50am, which is just after sunrise in January. While you would expect a desert race to be hot and dry, on this particular morning, we had some light-to-medium rain, cloud cover, and low 50s temperatures. It ended up raining for the first hour of the race, which left me with soaked socks and gear, but kept me cool.

Marathon #26 splits

The course is very flat except for a small section of hills around miles 17-18, and a few small bridges near the end of the course. This was great as I was really able to dial in my pace and find my targets pretty consistently. I started off at 6:40/mi, but felt pretty good after the first 4 miles so ramped up to a target 6:35/mi and sustained it more-or-less until mile 12 or so. I felt good, and my stretch goal of a 2:55 time seemed plausible.

Miles 12 through 17 had me dealing with a minor blister, and looking out for a bathroom, and I ended up losing about a minute here in this section. I hit mile 17 and some steepish hills going up into the park, which disrupted my rhythm and had me doubting my stretch goal. I ended up losing about another minute and a half on miles 17-18, and started to doubt myself… I hit the wall! I abandoned my Stretch goal, but was still hoping to meet my A goal.

A rare peek of golden-hour sunlight on a cloudy day in Papago Park @ Phoenix, Arizona. Photo by Tim Chow on Unsplash

Luckily for me, what goes up must come down, and eventually the course left the park with a downhill section, allowing me to pick up the pace a little bit post-wall and allowed me to hit around 6:55/mi on miles 19-20. At this point though, I was really starting to feel the exertion and was not able to pull my pace back up to my target 6:50/mi, which is the pace needed for a 3:00:00 time. I was now hoping I had enough time in the bank to make it, but doubted my legs' ability in the final stretch and mentally prepared myself for my B goal or even C goal.

I ran miles 21-26 in wildly varying paces, with splits all over the place from 6:44 to 7:40. There were a few times where I needed to stop and walk for 10 seconds at a time, catching my breath, and attempting to remotivate myself to push on. I stopped looking at my watch and dug deep. To be honest, these miles were a bit of a blur to me. I remember passing some runners, I also remember being passed. At some point I trailed two really strong finishers (likely in my 6:44 mile 23) which helped a ton.

Somewhere near the end of mile 25, I looked at my time and saw that indeed, my A goal of a sub 3-hour time was still within reach. The split time does not reflect it at first glance, but that 7:40 was me pushing really, really hard over that last bridge and through the finish line.

Here is a the full race analysis on Strava if you are curious.

One thing that really stood out in this race vs others in the past year is that my average heart rate was about 10-15 beats per minute higher than my average rate of 162 bpm. This is likely a combination of post-Covid lungs, and a higher elevation which would give me less oxygen per breath and more bodily stress. I had no mechanical problems in this race, fueled well, was well-hydrated, received enough electrolytes, but just felt as though I was running out of gas anyway. I think my end-of-race fatigue was ultimately due to my muscles not getting all of the oxygen they needed… but who knows really ¯\_(ツ)_/¯

Marathon #26 Tattoo

I was able to find a local tattoo shop in Tempe open on Sunday and able to accommodate my walk-in! Thanks to Ronny at @skinlabtattoo!

Marathon #27 is coming up in April, stay tuned…

Matt, Di, and Eli celebrate the finish.

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