I have seen the "insides" of cities I've only just traveled through to get somewhere else. Cities like Milwaukee, Little Rock, Cincinnati, Tulsa, Wichita,Wilkes-Barre. Now I'm seeing the treasure that is Scottsdale. A couple of days spent in Old Town Scottsdale prior to the Fiesta Bowl Half Marathon were delightful, as was the post-race lunch at Frank & Lupe's shared with some motorcycle-riding friends.
|Tom, Tony, Lowell (not pictured: Dorsey, Debbie)|
|Chicken mole enchiladas and a mango margarita|
The race - Fiesta Bowl Half Marathon - was small and compact, organized by a group with strong ties to the local running store, Runners Den. It had a low-key start at a starting line just two blocks from the hotel where I was staying. There were no corrals, just a common-sense honor system, where runners seeded themselves using the pacers' signs held high, to put themselves into the generally appropriate area behind the start line.
When the gun went off, we inched our way toward the starting line mat, hands poised over the start buttons on our watches. Once out of the chute, I found myself running next to an older man, a speed walker. We stayed together for much of the first 3 or 4 miles. The field was small enough that I came to recognize the runners who seemed to be moving at about the same pace and stayed in my immediate vicinity.
I could tell that there was a slight but unrelenting uphill grade as we ran up Scottsdale Rd. I could feel it. Scottsdale is about 1500 ft elevation - not so high - but it becomes noticeable to us older sea-level flatlanders, whenever there's added exertion required like walking up stairs or running up an incline. Add to this the fact that these first five miles were a mindnumbingly straight line of code-restricted architecture, where everything looks the same. There was no relief until the race route turned right onto Doubletree Ranch Road five miles later.
That seemed to be the turning point for me, as I was then able to find my comfortable pace and get into a groove. Even though that speed-walking man had gotten ahead of me, I hadn't lost sight of him. This leg of the course was much more scenic, with high-end subdivisions tucked in behind thick plantings and was nicely shaded and curving.
Then at mile seven we turned right again onto Hayden Road, more mindnumbing scenery and no shade. At mile eight I was stopped at a major intersection by the police officers who were controlling the traffic. It was late enough in the race and I was far back in the pack to the point where the police were letting the traffic light control the traffic rather than hold it up for runners. I arrived just as the cross street light turned green so I had to stand there and wait for it to cycle back to red. This created a noticeable blip in the Garmin Connect track uploaded from my Garmin Forerunner watch. It may have also been the difference in my finish time. The delay was at least a minute, as it was a major intersection.
|Still smiling at mile 12|
the last 4 miles along this section were just the mental "shot in the arm" I needed. It was scenic, I was starting to "reel in" the runners ahead of me, and...it was looking like I had a good chance of finishing in under three hours, my self-imposed rule of a good finish time.
A cool 55 degrees at the start had warmed quickly to the low 70's and it had gotten into the mid 70's by the time I neared the finish line. I pushed myself, eye on my Garmin watch, eye on the remaining distance, eye on the elapsed time. Can I get to that finish line before 3 hours elapse? It was going to be close. Very close. Close by mere seconds.
|Chip time: 3:00:15. Almost two minutes|
to get across the start line.
Unfortunately for me, there was no instant gratification of a finisher's medal around my neck. The race organizers underestimated the size of the field and ran out of medals with 50 runners yet to cross the finish line. The downside of being old and slow, I guess. I was assured that more medals would be ordered and that mine would be mailed to me. I hope so. I have spot reserved for it on my cool "50 States-50 Half Marathons" medal rack.
That was the first half of this trip to Scottsdale. Now the second half of the trip unfolds.
Next: A visit to the Mazda dealer for some routine maintenance on my SUV and then a trip up to Page Springs for lunch and to visit some wineries.