Monday, January 10, 2005

Notes from the Half-Marathon 

P.F. Chang's Rock 'N' Roll Marathon, January 9, 2005

2:30 AM -- Wake up groggy from pasta feed the night before.

3:00 AM -- Get up, read a portion Edward Abbey's Desert Solitaire. Almost finished. Try not to think that part of book describing Abbey's near-death experience in Havasupai Falls has any application to running a half-marathon.

5:00 AM -- Finally fall asleep.

6:00 AM -- Alarm goes off.

7:15 AM -- Walk with neighbor and friend Greg to friend Bill's house where Greg's father-in-law is picking us up. (Ah, the complications of marathons on traffic patterns.)

7:30 AM -- Leave Bill's house.

7:50 AM -- Get to the Capitol area.

8:00 AM -- Pick up some water. Discover that marathon planners underestimated need for fruit as none is available. No last-minute banana potassium pick-me-up.

8:03 AM -- Discover method to runner-numbering madness -- your number corresponds to your estimated finish time. Spend next few minutes evaluating fellow runners by their numbers and whether or not they're lower or higher than yours.

8:05 AM -- Enter porta-potty line.

8:22 AM -- Exit porta-potty line.

8:25 AM -- Start trying to find our assigned "corral." Discover that "corral" is not some quaint running term but a perfect term for the wedged mass of people we have no chance of actually joining. Wonder what the term is for a wedged mass of lemmings.

8:30 AM -- Race starts. We think.

8:34 AM -- Slide inside the chutes as the mass of people begins to move.

8:35 AM -- You know, 20,000 people is a lot of people. It looks pretty sparse on a late September day at Bank One Ballpark when the D-Backs are fighting to stay above .300, but crammed into Jefferson Street, it's got some mass.

8:37 AM -- One final pitstop.

8:39 AM -- Actually cross starting line. Squint at Sen. John McCain and Mayor Phil Gordon. We think. (They're so backlit that it could've been Lenny and Squiggy up there.)

8:41 AM -- "Running" is not a good term for what we're doing. "Jogging" would even imply speed we haven't yet reached.

8:45 AM -- Band #1. Vow to count bands as another way to mentally chart progress.

8:49 AM -- Pass one-mile mark, turn north on Central. Still spending time veering from left-to-right, right-to-left, slowing down, speeding up. It's like the shuffle you do at art exhibitions so that you're not in anybody's way, but you're doing at 6-7 miles per hour. Harder than it looks. (In the end, I think I only exhibit poor running etiquette to one person. An honest mistake.

8:52 AM -- Band #2. Some country band, singing about a Mercury. The car, I think.

8:57 AM -- Band #3, starting a cover version of the Cult's "Fire Woman," or "Sanctuary," or whatever their one huge hit was. Best song so far.

8:58 AM -- Margaret Hance Park. A bridge? A bridge? Grumblings ensue, or at least until we pass the top of the bridge and run downward.

8:59 AM -- Completely ignore the Burton Barr Phoenix Public Library, one of my favorite buildings in Phoenix, lovely and slightly modern. As I think about this later, this is probably the first time of many that I ignore whatever else is going on around me...

9:02 AM -- Band #4, the punk band from Sun City. Neither as good nor as bad as the concept sounds. We turn the corner onto McDowell Road. Luckily the sun is high enough up in the sky that it doesn't really bother me, as I've elected to run sunglass-less.

9:04 AM -- As much of the joking camradarie exhibited on our traning runs has morphed into concentration in not running into other runners or figuring out where we are on the course, I'm not talking as much as I have in past runs. So I spend time thinking about the proposed Shawn Green deal. Seeing as I've commented on a trade that didn't happen, and a failed trade that may actually happen, I see no reason not to continue voicing my preliminary opinions, which are basically that $33 million for Shawn Green over three years is too much money, even if the net cost to the Diamondbacks is $23 million, for a team with Carlos Jackson and Carlos Quentin probably ready to be here in Phoenix by July. Could me worse, but could be much better, too. But it's hard to work up much frustration when running. Gotta focus.

9:08 AM -- North on 12th Street.

9:10 AM -- Band #5. Cover of No Doubt's "Just A Girl." Love that opening guitar lick.

9:12 AM -- Pass my wife, daughter and friends as we head east on Palm Lane. My wife cheers loudly, but I mostly remember my daughter, who looks like watching 10,000 runners or so ahead of me has been a somewhat traumatic experience. On the whole, though, a definite confidence boost.

9:13 AM -- Water stands. Not the first one on the course (we've been stopping at all of them). I've made the decision to walk while drinking the water and powerade stuff, which proves to be wise as I a) drink the fluids without choking, and b) get a 15-20 second walking break. In my definition of "running non-stop," however, this is a permissable exception.

9:15 AM -- South on 13th Street.

9:18 AM -- East once more on McDowell. Not quite looking forward to running another nearly 4 miles on the road, but oh well.

9:23 AM -- Pass, what, the third "adult entertainment" venue of the course. As Bill and Greg, who drove the course yesterday, noted, it's almost like the "adult entertainment" industry was another sponsor of the course. Like bands, I eventually lose count.

9:33 AM -- Past the 5.5-mile water stands, Bill decides that he's got a shot at breaking the 2-hour mark, but only if leaves us behind so that he can run his sub-9-minute miles. Greg and I give him our blessing, and he takes off. I decide to stick with Greg as I'm not sure I can handle an increase pace. Besides, Greg has extra powergels and the key to the truck parked at the finish.

9:34 AM to 9:55 AM or so -- Pretty much a blur to me now. I vaguely recall a steel-drum band and what sounds like a Christian rock band. Of course, even when I drive down McDowell Road, which I do on a rare occasions, most of it is still a blur. The full marathoners, getting to go all the way up Central and along Camelback and along the Arizona Canal, definitely get the scenic route. We get, er, a visually dulling experience.

9:56 AM -- Turn right, heading south on 44th Street. As I'm already a hundred feet or so ahead of Greg, I decide to take off. Of course, "take off" is a relative term, increasing my 9:50 mile pace to, oh, 9:46 perhaps. It's about here that I realize that I have no shot at finishing in 2 hours, and so I feel no need to jack up my pace. This will prove valuable later when trying to run an 8:30 mile would probably have resulted in throwing up over the side of the Mill Avenue Bridge.

10:08 AM -- Incredibly, I see a friend in the crowd and give him a high-five. I have no idea why Jim was there. I still don't. Still, that feels pretty good, especially I think only about 2 people not related to me have cheered my name on the course even though I attached my name in big, blue marker to my race number.

10:09 AM -- Turn the corner on Washington Street, heading east. Ah, PowerGels. I had decided before the race that I wanted a "tangy" fruity PowerGel, but decide I need a second one for insurance. Grab the vanilla flavor, then the tangerine. Ah, crap, that's right, the tangerine flavor is double caffeine and tastes lousy. PowerGels, for those of you who haven't tried them, well, they're like eating a lot of toothpaste. They're not bad, but we're in real trouble if that's how we're getting our nutrition in the 22nd century.

10:10 AM -- Waiting for surge of energy.10:12 AM -- Still waiting.

10:15 AM -- Abandon hope of getting any additional energy surge from the gel.

10:17 AM -- Cross under the Loop 202 freeway, 10 miles. "Double digits," I shout, getting a momentary burst of energy.

10:17:05 AM -- Momentary burst of energy passes.

10:18 AM to 10:30 AM -- Also a blur. Lots of hills. I try to go to my happy place. There is no happy place.

10:31 AM -- Ah, water stands! (Yet another thing I've stopped counting.) This is great! Not so much for the water and powerade, but because it's an excuse to walk for 20-30 seconds while I drink.

10:33 AM -- As Washington Street becomes Mill Avenue, I pass band # whatever. One of those percussion bands which gives me a brief burst of energy as we approach the Mill Avenue Bridge.

10:33:04 AM -- Brief burst of energy passes.

10:34 AM -- A spectator on the bridge is yelling, "Where's Gonzo? Where's Gonzo?" And I remember that Luis Gonzalez is running the half-marathon. And, apparently, I'm ahead of him. It's probably why I like baseball -- it's populated with guys whose physical abilities (in terms of pure physical ability) aren't necessarily light-years ahead of mine.

10:36 AM -- Mill Avenue Bridge declines steeply. I don't care whether this is a good or bad thing.

10:42 AM -- Turn onto 5th Street, heading east. Maybe it's because only 2 people shouted my name on the course, I yell at the more-sizeable crowd, "Let's hear some noise!" Crowd responds by cheering, giving me a short energy bump.

10:42:02 AM -- Yes, the short energy bump passes.

10:46 AM -- Pass Wells Fargo Arena and 13-mile point. Yell "Let's hear some noise" once more; energy boost lasts less than a second.

10:47 AM (or something like that) -- Cross finish line. I think I'm throwing a fist and probably look like one of the exaggerated Ben Stiller screams from "Dodgeball." I've finished the half-marathon, my first.

The next two hours are spent getting one of those Kevlar blankets (cool; I mean, warm, but cool), water, finisher's medal, food, then stretching, walking, sitting. Bill finished a little ahead of me; Greg a little behind. I see my co-worker, who also ran; my physician; and others we know.

I'm glad I did it. But I'm never gonna blog about it again...

Bill here - the guy who took off at the 5.5 mark.
You know, for all the excitement of going for that sub-two hour mark, it's sort of disappointing to know that I only beat you by 7 minutes, 13 seconds. I mean, I picked it up and started using "strategy" with regard to my pace with more than an hour left in the race, and yet I was still breathing hard and hoping my heartbeat would calm down when you crossed the line. Not fair! I should have toasted you! By 20 minutes or something like that! Seven is nothing! The only consolation I take from this is that there were 1,351 people crammed in to those 7 minuts between us. That's 3 people per second for 433 seconds, you bastard! Take that! I think.
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