Sunday, February 3, 2019

Pancake Run 10K in Phoenix, AZ

What could be better than a race that’s pancake flat with free pancakes afterwards? That was my thinking when I registered for the Runner’s Den Pancake Run 10K. I’m in Phoenix for business, so I figured it would be fun to check out a local race. Plus, I hadn't run a 10K in over two years! The last 10K I ran was my PR of 41:51.

I flew from Washington, DC to Phoenix yesterday afternoon. The flight was over five hours, which I know isn’t ideal the day before a race. But I wasn’t going to come in early for a 10K and pay for an extra night of hotel. Instead, I focused on drinking plenty of water and using UCAN Hydrate to ensure my electrolytes stayed balanced. I think I did a decent job of this, as my urine was a very light shade of yellow; not dark and concentrated like it would be if I were dehydrated.

We ran for pancakes.
I can’t explain it, but I had a sense of “doom and gloom” about this race. It was weird. I was super excited about this race, and I wasn’t being negative. But I had this strange premonition that it wouldn’t go well. Maybe it was because the last time I ran a race in Phoenix I bonked. Maybe it was because my legs had been feeling heavy due to treadmill running. Maybe it was because I had just been feeling out of my training “groove” for a while due to weather disruptions and random bouts of fatigue. But whatever it was, I just wasn’t feeling the good mojo around this race.

I arrived in Phoenix, relaxed in my hotel room for about an hour, and then went out to an Italian restaurant with a co-worker. I had a pretty standard meal: linguine with marinara sauce and chicken. And I continued to drink water. And then I was in bed by 7:00 (9:00pm eastern time) and I fell asleep almost immediately.

I usually don’t sleep well in hotels the night after a long flight, but last night I slept well. The bed and pillows were comfortable and I only woke up once in the middle of the night for a short period. Everything seemed to be in order. Hydration was good, sleep was good, and I had packed my standard English muffin and peanut butter to eat. As for the weather, I was worried it would be on the warm and humid side at 58 degrees with rain. But if it’s going to be 58, then rain is actually preferred to sunny skies.

Before the Race
The race was about 15 miles away from my hotel, so my plan was to take an Uber. But when I hailed an Uber, the closest one was 8 minutes away. And there were cabs waiting right outside the hotel. I didn’t want to be late to meet my friend Alyssa, so I cancelled my Uber request and hopped into a cab. Shortly after getting into the cab, I regretted it. The meter was going up like 2 dollars a minute. I started freaking out, thinking that this would be a $60 cab ride.

I asked the cab driver why the meter was going up so quickly and he said it was $3 per mile. WOW. This cab fare would cost me more than the race registration fee! This would be 2-3 times the price of Uber. The cab driver offered to exit the highway and drop me off so I could hail an Uber. But it was dark, I was alone, and in an unknown area. No thank you!!!

The race started and finished at a shopping mall. After paying $55, I got out of the cab and proceeded to pick up my bib. I got my bib and shirt (gender-specific Brooks t-shirt!) and found a covered area to pin on the bib so I wouldn’t get wet. The rain was medium-light at this point. Not a huge deal, but I did want a dry location for the bib pinning process. I texted Alyssa and told her where I was, and she arrived shortly after. I had met Alyssa on Instagram, and she was a fan of my book. She told me that she records all of her marathon times on the book’s inside cover!

Alyssa’s mom was with her, and just like her daughter, was super sweet. We hung out in the dry car for about five minutes, and then started our warm-up. Alyssa was truly a lifesaver for letting me stash my phone and warm-up shirt in her car. We ran around the mall twice, which yielded just over 2 miles. During this run, I drank my Generation UCAN and we chatted the time away.

Alyssa and I have almost the exact same PR’s for the 10K and the half marathon. She had run a 14-miler the day before and was thinking this would be a tempo for her. By contrast, I had tapered for this run and had only run 4 miles the day before. I was planning to run it at race effort. Alyssa said she might do that too, just depending on how things felt.

After the warm up, we used the porta-potties and then headed back to her car to ditch our outer layers. I did a few strides while she stretched, and then we lined up at the start line. It was there that I saw my friend Carlos, who I had met last summer at a local race in Virginia. Such a small world that we were both in Phoenix!

My plan was to go out at a pace of around 6:42 (my PR pace) and then speed up from there if I was feeling good. I didn’t study the course map or elevation. I knew it was one big square and it was flat. What else was there to know?

Mile 1
The race started and I felt okay. About 2-3 minutes in, I looked down at my wrist and saw I was running a pace of 7:10. That was a surprise, so I started pushing harder. This first mile felt like the first mile of a 5K, but I didn’t judge it too much and I didn’t speculate on what it would mean for the rest of the race. I’ve learned that the first mile is often NOT a good indicator of what’s to come. I later learned that the first mile was slightly inclined, so perhaps the best starting pace would have been closer to 6:50. But I ran a 6:40. So this was probably a mistake, but starting out 10 seconds per mile faster than goal pace in a 10K shouldn’t spell disaster. Plus, I was hoping my race pace would be around 6:37.

Mile 2
This is when things started to fall apart. My “don’t judge it by the first mile” mentality was gone because I was running very, very hard, yet my pace was getting slower and slower. Alyssa passed me early in this mile and pulled ahead quickly. She was with another woman who looked like she could be in my age group. Crap! My split was 6:55. 

Miles 3-4
I was in full-on “bonk” mode after having run just two miles. Yikes. I felt like I was running through molasses. My energy level was decent, but it was my legs that seemed to be the limiting factor. I simply couldn’t get them to go. They were heavy with zero pep. I kept trying to inject the pep into them by surging, but the surge would only last for about 15 seconds, and then I would slow down again. I tried to focus on the positive. I was running a new race in a new place and I could probably still win an age group award. That’s one of the perks of being 40! My splits were 7:18 and 7:13. I was now running slower than half marathon pace and creeping up on marathon pace. In a 10K. But I didn’t get emotional, I just ran. What else was there to do? That was the fastest way to get the darn thing over with.

Miles 5-6
This was weird. I felt like I had energy to give, but I couldn’t access it. You can lead a horse to water, but you can’t make it drink. And my legs were the horse. My upper body felt good and I wasn’t “hurting” like how I normally hurt when pushing to my max. This is why I was able to surge from time to time, but after surging, my legs would give out and I couldn’t maintain it. I was motivated by the idea of still winning an age group award, and not wanting any women to pass me. I was also motivated by the idea of Alyssa starting to worry about what happened to me after the race. I didn’t want her to worry. And I didn’t want Greg to worry, since he was tracking me from home. These little things helped me stay strong during these tough miles. Splits were 7:18 and 7:21.

The Finish
My “sprint” to the finish was a 6:56 pace. Yikes! I couldn’t run any faster than that for 0.25 miles. As I said, it was like running through molasses. Or, pancake syrup! At this race, you can see the finish line from half a mile away. And as I saw runners finish ahead of me, the announcer would say their name, and where they were from, and that made me super excited to cross. As I got closer, the announcer started promoting the events that were happening later in the morning. So my name wasn’t announced as I crossed. Kind of a bummer.

Alyssa was waiting for me. She ran within about 20-30 seconds of her PR! The day after a 14-miler. I was super impressed with her performance.

After the Race
Alyssa and I went to the results tent and looked up our official times. She was the 8th overall female and won 2nd place in her age group. I was the 14th overall female, and won 3rd place in my age group. As I said, there are benefits to being 40 years old. My official time was 44:29. My slowest 10K in over four years. Ah well, this race is in no way an indication of my current fitness.

Alyssa and I with the big pancake!
There was no awards ceremony so we went to collect our awards from the awards tent. Alyssa got her silver medal, but I wasn’t able to get mine because they were still waiting to receive the results of the later finishers. And the salt-in-the-wound was that we kept going back there to get my award, and they still hadn’t received my result. I wasn’t THAT slow!

Alyssa and I cooled down by running one lap around the mall (1.1 miles) and then it was finally time to enjoy the pancakes. And they had crepes too. These were delicious and just what I wanted to warm me up after running in the rain. Finally my results were delivered to the awards tent and I was able to get my bronze pancake medal.

Alyssa then offered to drive me back to my hotel, which was super helpful. It also allowed us to spend more time together and talk about our races.

Final Thoughts
In the grand scheme of things, this is just one race that didn’t go my way, so I am not going to analyze it too much. (I know—SO UNLIKE ME!) Here are just a few things I learned and a few reasons why I think this race didn’t go well:

Always check the elevation. If there is no elevation chart, find someone on Strava who ran last year’s race to see the net elevation gain/decline. Yes, this race was flat, but knowing that it was a little uphill in the beginning would have prevented me from running harder than I needed to.

Don’t take a long flight the day before the race. I think a 2-3 hour flight is probably ok, but any longer and I should probably fly out earlier. I had been considering California International Marathon (CIM) in December, so I will have to think long and hard about that.

Focus on having fun. This truly was an “experience” race, and I enjoyed the new scenery and course. It was also cool to meet up with Alyssa after having gotten to know her a little on Instagram.

I regret tapering. I ran 4.3 miles on Friday and 3.9 miles yesterday. That’s a big cutback for me. Clearly, my legs weren’t fresh, and I think I could have run this time even if I had run 10 miles yesterday! My total mileage for the week was only 51, and that's low for me. And my weekly mileage had been on the lower side in January due to vacation and illness. Anyway, I sacrificed even more mileage for Shamrock marathon training and it didn’t even help my race. But of course, hindsight is 20/20.

I do not think the weather was a factor here. This was a flat course in pretty good conditions: 58 degrees, light rain, and light winds at 8-10 mph.

I had fun and this was a good workout and a new experience. Now it’s time to focus on getting marathon ready!


  1. Ah some days just don't happen. The body is a funny thing and it sounded like the flight did you no favours. Well done anyway!

  2. Smart to skip analyzing this one - same for me at my last 10k. I run a faster pace for similar distance in workouts than I ran at my race - and a slower pace than my half marathon! No point in thinking too hard about that one. If you were just a few seconds off your goal, then I can understand wondering how to get to where you wanted to be, but obviously that just wasn't your day. I wouldn't give it any more thought!

  3. Proud of you for not analyzing too much. Seriously you have ripped the roads up in recent months and I'm sure the travel and stress (even that can ride stress) all played a role and unfamiliar settings. Great to meet a friend who was virtual in ways (an Instagram friend no longer needs to be associated with Instagram except as where you first got to know one another.) Great to see the personal growth in you and your mental mindset!!! It's fabulous!!