Inaugural races can be tricky, and Craft Classic Phoenix was my third inaugural half marathon. I am happy to say it was also extremely well “run”. And although it was definitely a challenging, warm, hilly race, I felt I ran it well.
Packet Pickup was at the Road Runner Sports store in Scottsdale. Right next to the cute rescue puppies at Petco, by the way.
Packet Pickup was relatively painless. You got your bib and tank, then your pint glass and your sunglasses. I was expecting a pint glass for beer; it was more like a mason jar, which is kind of cool, actually. Except it just had the beer company name on it and nothing about the race. Boo.
The free sunglasses were a nice touch, but also not really running glasses, although I saw some people sporting them the next day. My running sunglasses get scratched up so quickly, I was really hoping . . . still, as far as I’m concerned, you can never have too many pairs of sunglasses.
They also gave you a $10 off of $40 coupon for any purchase in the store (I think that was the amounts). My rocktape was not adhering on my runs leading up to the race. I think tape not adhering may have something to do with its age; I hadn’t really had to do much taping leading up to the race.
So I bought some Rocktape (which did adhere great). I really prefer nude, but since they didn’t have any, I just went with the pink camo. The announcer actually talked about it as I crossed the finish line — but hey, whatever works, right? A couple of gluten free Honeystinger waffles and a pair of Balega socks (you can never have too many running socks as far as I’m concerned, too) got me to where I needed to be.
Then we headed out for some sushi, my preferred prerace meal.
My Race Plan
If you follow me, you know this wasn’t a great training cycle for me, although I did my best. If you don’t follow me, here’s what happened in a nutshell: it started off well. Then I was sick, thankfully briefly, and missed one long run. No biggie; it’s happened before, it’ll happen again.
Then we adopted a rescue dog who turned out to have more issues than advertised, including some separation anxiety, causing me to be unable to run with my group and/or friends for about a month (and barely able to leave the house at times).
Then at the end of August my mom, who is 88, had surgery. The surgery went well, the recovery did not; I spent most of the next 2 1/2 weeks down at her house (90 minutes away), squeezing in runs whenever I could. And there were more trips down later, visitng my inlaws in Seattle a week before this half, then on to Sedona where I did a lot of hiking, running, and some yoga.
I worried a bit about doing too much before the half. You’ll have to finish to find out if I did!
My plan? Don’t go out too fast. Don’t worry about the finish time — hot and hilly? Very unlikely to be a PR.
So how’d that work for me?
- Mile 1: 12:22. The race started on a downhill. It was still a little dark, and even with my backlight, I couldn’t see my pace.
- Mile 2: 12:53. Already with the hills; still running by feel. Still couldn’t see my watch, and I wish I could have — I definitely could have picked up the pace here.
- Mile 3: 12:33. Still probably a bit fast, but I was actually holding back.
- Mile 4: 12:44. I think the long hill started somewhere in mile 4.
- Mile 5: 14:19. The hill that killed my PR. I did my run/walk intervals all the way up it; most people were walking. I also had trouble getting off the caps on my water bottles, and I lost precious minutes getting them refilled with water.
- Mile 6: 13:32. Still climbing . . .
- Mile 7: 11:47. What goes up, must come down. Very steep — otherwise it would have been an even better pace — I love me a downhill, but I was afraid of a faceplant.
- Mile 8: 11:40. Still going down.
- Mile 9: 11:47. Still going down!
- Mile 10: 11:55. Starting to level off, and the sun was beginning to sap my energy. You can see the difference between this race and Shipyard, though (by this point in Shipyard, I’d slowed down to 13mm, no doubt because of a water station running out of water, and continued a downward spiral from there).
- Mile 11: 12:20.
- Mile 12: 13:06. Damn you, RD! It was a small hill, but by this point it felt a lot larger. Another point where I just couldn’t dig deep enough and lost that PR. My toes were threatening to cramp up, which is a common problem for me, but thankfully they held off until I’d finished running and then they definitely cramped — but no hamstring cramps post race, or inner thigh cramps — I’ve had those sometimes in hotter races.
- Mile 13: 12:31. I rallied coming back downhill.
- Last .1: 9:14. Sprinting to the finish line
2:45:12 — Official Time
12:37 Average Pace
My Garmin had me about half a minute faster — even closer to that PR — which is a bit puzzling since it actually had me at 13.1 miles and the event was chip timed.
Deep down, despite the circumstances, I just had a feeling it would be a good race. I had worried about the heat. Turned out what I really needed to worry about was the unrelenting hills.
I am very happy with this race. Could I have dug deep a few times and caught that PR? Probably. But even though it would have been nice, I’m not kicking myself for it. I trained smart, I did my best, and I did much better than I’ve done in a few previous hot, hilly halfs.
The weather & dressing
Phoenix in October . . . there was no weather stalking at all; never any question of what I was going to wear: a sparkleskirt and a Skirtsports Take Five Tank. It was going to be hot and sunny, end of story. But thankfully that dry heat makes a lot of difference. Still, Shipyard wasn’t humid and I beat my finish time in that race by a lot.
I went with a sparkleskirt over my beloved Skirtsports because I could fit two small water bottles in one pocket; my phone and ipod in another; my license, a credit card, and some cash in the zippered waist pocket. I needed all that space for this half.
Was the race well run?
I was so impressed with this race — inaugural races are often a bit of a mess, but this race was very well run.
- The volunteers were ample, on top of things (except for packet picket — they didn’t know when the race started! Good thing we did ), and enthusiastic.
- It looked like there were no long lines for portapotties, but I was able to use my hotel bathroom and didn’t need to use one. Keep in mind there were less than 400 runners.
- The course was well marked with cones and tape on the road and course marshals directing you correctly. Which was pretty amazing, as the night before the race you wouldn’t even know something was happening the next day!
- I never came across a water stop that had run out of water (or cups). As far as I could tell, they didn’t run out of anything.
- When I asked volunteers to refill my water bottles halfway through, they weren’t at all surprised. Unfortunately it took a long time, but that wasn’t completely their fault.
- Mile markers were spot on.
- Started on time.
- Early start — 6:30 am — good for a hot one!
- Free photos.
- There was plenty of food at the end, which I finished in true BOTP style (323 out of 384).
I was highly impressed with Craft Classic Phoenix and would definitely recommend it. And thank you, Deborah @ Confessions of a Mother Runner, for my free entry!
- Hot and hills that go on for days
- Rolling hills throughout the entire course
- A small hill at the end that seems a lot larger than it really is
- Not super scenic
- Very little spectator support
What I learned
Carrying my own water was key for this hot race, but stopping to refill my water bottles on the hill killed my pace and probably cost me my PR — the volunteers were great and accommodating, but it still took too long. I had enough water and probably should have just grabbed water at the water stop there. Or finished off my water bottles and then just relied on the water stops.
Some of my best halfs are run mostly by feel, like this one. I noted the pace each mile, but that was about the only time I looked at pace. I do wish I’d been able to see it that second mile — again, if I’d pushed just a little harder there, I might have caught that PR.
I stayed at the Lexington Inn & Suites. The hotel itself was nice, but it had a funky smell. I was willing to overlook that (and you got used to it) for the refrigerator, microwave, and the being able to use a real bathroom and then just simply walk to the start line.
There were also quite a few restaurants that were walking distance from the hotel — once we got there, we didn’t need the car until we left. We ate at the Euro Pizza Cafe the night before the race. It got mixed reviews, but I enjoyed my kale salad and stromboli. The full moon over the fountain wasn’t bad, either. Or the fact we could walk there from the hotel.
If you enjoy a challenging course with great support, you’ll enjoy Craft Classic Phoenix.If you need a lot of spectator support to get motivated, this is not the race for you. If you prefer flat and fast, this is definitely not the race for you.
I can’t speak to the beer after-party. I don’t drink. I especially don’t drink beer. And who wants a beer at 9:30 in the morning? A lot of runners, apparently!
I always thought I would do my half in AZ in Sedona, and while I loved every minute I spent in Sedona, I’m glad I didn’t race there. Sedona almost makes this race look flat and fast, and it’s at altitude. It’s also stunningly beautiful and cooler, of course.