January 21, 2013

2013 PF Chang's Rock 'n' Roll Arizona Half Marathon

I opened up my 2013 campaign running 1:05:55 for a second place finish at the PF Chang's Rock 'n' Roll Arizona Half Marathon yesterday. This was a very good start to the year for me, and a nice indicator that things are right on track, as I'm 6 weeks out from my spring marathon. I only did a slight taper for this race (100 miles this week) and still felt like my legs had some good "pop" - so with another mini-cycle of marathon training and a real taper, I'm feeling very confident about what I can do in March. Here's the press release from Competitor. And he's my race recap, cross-posted from Fast Running Blog...

My parents dropped me off at the PF Chang's restaurant on Mill Ave in Tempe around 6:30am (that was the staging area for the elite race). Warmed up 3.5 miles including a half-mile at 5:15 pace and some shorter accelerations.

This is a loop course that starts and finishes on the ASU campus, with most of the race up in Scottsdale. The first 10 miles have a gradual uphill gradient, and then you come back down in to Tempe in the last 5K. A very fair course and deceptive due to the gradual elevation gains. I told Andrea beforehand that my ideal pacing would be to hit 10 miles in ~50:30 and then run 15:15 for the last 5K, so I was determined not to go out too fast.

We started right on time at 7:50am. I tried to stay out of trouble as we ran about 150 meters and then made a sharp left turn on to University Ave. I saw my parents around a half-mile into the race and I was in 8th place at that point. I felt like I was jogging at marathon pace yet still hit the first mile in 4:54.

Some guys went out too fast as I suspected, and even though I purposely backed off the pace over the next two miles (4:59, 5:02) I moved up to 5th place by the time we hit 5K (15:27). Glenn Randall was just up ahead but the top three guys were considerably further up. I saw my friends Derek and Allison just as I was passing Glenn around mile #4 (4:58) and then set my sights on the next guy, and caught him by the 5 mile mark (5:10 - noticeably uphill, but it was a good opportunity to move up to 3rd place). Now I knew I was on the podium, but the two guys ahead of me (Scott MacPherson and Danny Mercado) had a big gap. Mile #6 was 4:57 (very encouraging!) and I hit 10K in 31:13 (I love a good palindrome split).

I was down 25 seconds to Danny at this point. He seemed really far off but I just kept telling myself - keep it consistent until 10, and then you never know what might happen. So I just plugged along the gradual uphill for the next 4 miles (5:12, 5:05, 5:05, 5:06) and I could tell that Danny was slowly coming back to me. I felt like I could have thrown in a surge ~9 miles and caught him, but I wanted to wait until mile 10 as planned to make my move. I split 10 miles in 50:33 (although the clock on the road said 50:20, so I thought I had a PR in the bag because of that). Then I made a move on the downhill. I was 8 seconds back from second place at 10 miles, and made up that gap in the next 2 minutes. By 10.5 miles I felt like I already had good gap on Danny. Mile #11 was 4:53. Then I went into "finish this d@mn race and no miles over 5:00!" mode and ran 4:59, 4:55, :34 to close it out in 2nd place, 1:05:55. My last 5K was 15:22. At 12.5 we merged w/ the "mini marathon" (walkers) which made the final stretch a bit of a fiasco. Otherwise, the course was well marked, turns were obvious, and having a bike alongside me for the last ~5 miles was very helpful. Amidst all the people, I did hear my parents yelling for me close to the finish.

Post Race
The first priority after finishing was to find my parents and get them some wristbands for the VIP area, so they could chill out and take advantage of the breakfast buffet while I went out for a cool down. Then we had some breakfast / lunch... lots of free food :-)

Eventually it was time for awards, which RnR makes a big deal. Frank Shorter was there to hand them out!

Most of the athletes on the stage had extensive NCAA All-American / Olympic Trials biographies, so they had no idea what to say about me... the announcer had no clue who I was. That actually made me happy - I beat some very established runners with impressive resumes and credentials that (for now) far exceed mine. I was seeded 8th, so this makes me very confident that I'm on the right track. Fast times are good, but racing well against competition is important too. Its nice when you can do both. I ran a smart race today - I stuck to my plan and almost hit my first 10 mile/ last 5K goal splits right on. Not a PR, but close... anytime you break 1:06 on an honest course you chalk that up as a good day, because its not an easy thing to do.

I always race well down here in Phoenix, and I also tend to race well when my parents are in attendance. So I'm hoping that streak continues in 6 weeks for the marathon!

Top 10 Results (the second place female is 42 years old!)


  1. Great opener and smart, patient racing. Way to take some impressive scalps in the process.

  2. Phenomenal way to start the year Jake. I'm so happy for you. Keep it up and crush this whole year. 2013 is yours.

  3. Great job out there and an excellent start to the year. I saw you after I finished (a good 20 minutes later) and you looked relaxed - like you hadn't even ran! Excited to keep track of what's to come in 2013.

  4. Great race Jake! you are headed for a spectacular year.