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For reasons not entirely unsurprising, Tucson does not have many summer races, and the <a href="http://azroadrunners.org/events/saguaro.html" target="_blank">Saguaro National Park Labor Day Run</a> serves as an Opening Day of sorts for the fall racing season. Run in the foothills of the Rincon Mountains on the extreme east side of town, the official race website describes the course as "a challenging 8 mile loop with lots of rolling hills". That is an understatement. The route does feature <a href="http://azroadrunners.org/maps/monumentloop.jpg" target="_blank">constant rollers</a>, but the centerpiece is a relentless 400 ft climb from miles 3.5-5M. The key to this race, apparently, is to survive that hill and mash the last 3 miles.<br><br>
I hadn't raced since my hometown 4-miler on July 4. In the interim I've been following a cut-down Daniels Marathon A plan in prep for the Philly Half Marathon in November (my first HM). It turns out the I just finished Phase II, which featured weekly long interval sessions, and I'd just started some tempo paced runs, so I felt pretty confident in my training, and had originally set a goal of breaking 64 minutes. Then I read <a href="http://azroadrunners.org/events/saguaro/wenneborg.pdf" target="_blank">this racing strategy guide</a> written by 8 time winner Greg Wenneborg (9x now, he won again this year) for the Tucson Citizen newspaper. Wenneborg cautions that mid-packers lose 1:00/mile on this course. Huh. Maybe 70+ minutes is more realistic.<br><br>
The long drive out east, 6:30 start time, and limited parking at the park necessitated an early wake-up. I was up at 4:00, gathered my stuff, drank some water, wolfed some vanilla yogurt, and was out the door. I got to the park just before 5:00, and was able to get right in and pick up my number and shirt. (One small disappointment: last year they had tech shirts. This year was just cotton.) After watching a brilliant Arizona sunrise over Mica Mountain, I went out for a short jog to loosen my legs up. At this point it was light enough to see that the course was absolutely gorgeous, and true enough, quite hilly. On the way back to the start I could hear coyotes howling in the distance. I wasn't sure this was a good sign. It's warm (80* or so), but drier than it's been, and there was a slight breeze. The <a href="http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Southwest_monsoon#North_American_Monsoon" target="_blank">Southwest Monsoon</a> is definitely winding down, which will make for nicer running weather.<br><br>
Back at the start, I jumped into the port-a-potty line, where I caught up with Stephen (<b>CactusTri</b> of the CR/KR 30's), and my two usual racing buddies, Kevin and Mandy. Then it was time to line up. Stephen, Kevin, and I found a spot in the middle of the pack, and were off.<br><br>
While I'd been forewarned that the course rolled and that the first 3.5M are all downhill, I was immediately surprised by the steepness of the first down. In fact, there was nearly a pile-up 200 meters from the start as runners hit the brakes. Stephen and I ran together for the first 1/2 mile or so, but with my race-day adrenaline pumping I got frustrated with the congested start and resulting slow pace, and I began to work my way up.<br><br>
I'll let the splits tell the story from here:<br><br>
Mile 1: <b>8:32</b> Crowded, slow start. The scenery is pretty, but the numerous cacti just off the road prevent slipping by anyone on the outside.<br><br>
Mile 2: <b>7:46</b> I've broken free of most of the congestion, and am already passing people who went out too fast. They're going to be in for a long morning.<br><br>
Mile 3: <b>7:54</b> I slowed a bit for the first water stop, and am conserving strength for the hill. At this point I set my mind to chasing ponytails. One added benefit of the heat: it's also possible to chase sports bras. Gotta love the desert sometimes. <img alt="" class="inlineimg" src="http://www.kickrunners.com/forum/images/smilies/smile.gif" style="border:0px solid;" title="Smile"><br><br>
Mile 4: <b>8:20</b> The hill started about halfway through this mile. Yup. It sure is steep. There are some absolutely spectacular views of the desert and Tucson along this stretch.<br><br>
Mile 5: <b>9:15</b> This entire mile was in the hill. I feel reasonably strong, and have been consistently passing people, but I actually thought I was considerably slower than this.<br><br>
Mile 6: <b>7:41</b> The hills is over, and I catch my breath much quicker than I expected. While not planning to start my kick until mile 7, I begin to pick up the pace in the middle of this mile.<br><br>
Mile 7: <b>7:25</b> Maybe I started my kick too soon, as I begin to fade a bit around 6.5 miles. I just concentrate on picking people off.<br><br>
Mile 8: <b>7:26</b> I've been noticing that each mile marker has been progressively further than my Garmin mile laps, so I'm not really sure how farther I have to go. I'm feeling pretty good, so I really start kicking hard.<br><br>
last 0.14M: <b>0:55</b> (6:51/mile) All out mash, trying not to give back any of the spots I've jumped up. I'm successful.<br><br>
Final time: <b>65:18</b>, so not faster than my initial, naive goal, but far better than the 1:00/mile worse than predicted. 8/25 AG, 133/570 OA. 8:10 official pace, 8:01 by my Garmin.<br><br>
After catching my breath I headed back out to watch Kevin, Stephen, and Mandy finish. I beat Kevin (by over 4 1/2 minutes!), which is a first, as he always smokes me at shorter distances. Hanging out at the finish, we met up with <b>mcsolar99</b>, one of the CR Boomers, who happens to work across the street from me. Really cool guy... I may join him for one of his lunchtime runs around here when the weather gets reasonable, though my training pace will be a seriously slow slog for him.<br><br>
We jetted before the awards ceremony, and had breakfast with Jenn at Frank's Diner, our usual weekend brunch haunt.<br><br>
All in all, a successful race. I actually felt much better after this one than any of the other shorter distance races I've run. I think this distance suits me. It's always great to catch up with Stephen, and it was fun to meet his lovely family. I hope to see more of our AZ peeps at this race next year!<br><br>
Finally, I'd like to give a shout-out to the <a href="http://azroadrunners.org/" target="_blank">Southern AZ Roadrunners</a> and race director Randy Accetta, who do a great job with the race, and the dozen or so other races on the AZ RR calendar. Thanks guys!
 

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nice job kris; it was nice to meet you and your fellow runners. great job on the hill and the couple of rolling miles after that.<br><br>
i showed up at 6:10am and had to plead to enter the race... kinda set the tone for my whole experience this year, d'oh!<br><a href="http://www.coolrunning.com/forums/Forum13/HTML/010982.shtml" target="_blank">http://www.coolrunning.com/forums/Fo...L/010982.shtml</a><br><br>
can't wait until it cools down.
 

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Your mile 8 was like my mile 4 & 5 in the 10k on Monday! Your write up is great, I love racing, and reading about racing.<br><br>
Really nice job on the time too, sounds like an incredibly tough course & your training is serving you well!
 

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Congratulations. I love that part of Tucson, particularly the hills to the east. Then again, I love the west end too, it's the middle part that leaves me cold... <img alt="" class="inlineimg" src="http://www.kickrunners.com/forum/images/smilies/wink.gif" style="border:0px solid;" title="Wink"><br><br><br>
Nice race report.
 

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Congrats! That hill would've eaten me for breakfast! <img alt="" class="inlineimg" src="http://www.kickrunners.com/forum/images/smilies/notworthy.gif" style="border:0px solid;" title="notworthy">
 

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Congratulations on such a well-run race!
 

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K-<br>
glad to see your mind is in the right place...<br>
"it's also possible to chase sports bras. Gotta love the desert sometimes."<br><br>
I hate running in the heat and am impressed w/you AZ folks, but that there son is the silver lining.<br><br>
Nice work.
 

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<b>Kris</b> I read this a few days ago and didn't comment on it - what a great job! Sounds like a fun race - properly tortuous! And the sports bra comment is very perceptive. Fantastic finish - I love races where there's a hill strategically placed after the initial rush of the start but far enough from the finish that if you run it smart and don't trash yourself, you can make up some time...you definitely pulled down the avg per mile those last few!
 

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Kris - hey, sports bras are good. Wish we had weather here that encouraged more of that <img alt="" class="inlineimg" src="http://www.kickrunners.com/forum/images/smilies/biggrin.gif" style="border:0px solid;" title="Very Happy"><br><br>
Great job with this race, especially judging by that elevation profile and real time compared to goal time. Looks like you're coming along quite nicely in your training - congrats!
 
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