First Race of 2018: My Long Weekend in Phoenix

Earlier this fall, I was trying to plan a winter half marathon that would double as a weekend getaway from Chicago’s frigid winter. I should have planned it around the holidays had I known my work schedule, but MLK Jr. weekend was close enough and I was able to plan a trip to Phoenix for the Rock ‘n’ Roll Half Marathon.

Coincidentally, I went to Tempe for a work trip just a few weeks prior. I ran my last long run of 10 miles in Phoenix so I wouldn’t have to in Chicago, and I got to try out some good restaurants with my per diem. I’ll include those recommendations in with the rest of my travel log, but keep that in mind in case you’ve been following me on Instagram and were confused!

Friday, January 12, 2018

Evening though Thursday was a warm 60 degrees in Chicago, a snow storm was coming as I headed to O’Hare on the blue line. I had been receiving emails all day about my flight being delayed, but thankfully it only ended up about an hour behind. After a surprisingly short Spirit flight, I was in Phoenix by the early evening and took a Lyft to my Airbnb in central Phoenix.

My hosts, Monica and Jimmy, were the parents of two college-aged daughters with empty rooms up for grabs. They had a gorgeous home, pool, and a super cute puppy. They had a cat too, but I don’t fxck with those.

I personally love staying in Airbnbs, not only because it’s so much cheaper than a hotel, but you get more of a local experience. I felt like I was staying with a family friend, and I had some awesome conversations with both of them. It turns out that the daughter whose room I stayed in is actually a big freakin’ deal. She received the Ronald McDonald House scholarship that is paying for her bachelor’s degree at Stanford. The $100,000 check is still in her closet. Of course I dug it out and looked at it! She also received the Bill Gates scholarship that will fund her master’s and PhD one day. She’s 19. Hearing her mom gush about her was too much fun.

Did I mention their dog, Nuno, was so loving and adorable?

Saturday, January 13, 2018

Fortunately, I had two CHAARG friends that were running the race with me. Jenn is my best friend Brittany’s best friend, so therefore we are best friends by the transitive property. Jess was a fellow Chicagoan that I still had never met after years of being Facebook friends, so it was awesome she decided to run the race as well. Saturday morning, she and her dad picked me up to go to the race expo. We tried out all of the recovery options, got our gummies for the next day, and took pre-race pictures with the three of us.

Afterwards, I got a ‘Feeling Fabulous’ green smoothie from Grabbagreen before going hiking with Jenn and her boyfriend.

We hiked Piestewa Peak, which is supposedly less crowded than Camelback Mountain but still just as good views. Everyone else was huffing and puffing, but they were also wearing long sleeves in 70 degree weather. The hike was challenging, but super fun on a beautiful day. I’m grateful Jenn and Brad didn’t mind me being the third wheel!

To refuel, we ate at Two Hippies Beach House. It was so freakin’ cute and the tacos were honestly some of the best I’ve ever had, and I’m very particular about my tacos. I wish I would have tried fried cactus… but that’s the last thing I should try the night before a race.

Back at my Airbnb, I showered and did some work while watching Frozen in bed. I ordered in Pad Thai via GrubHub, and I carb loaded in peace. I had been nervous all week about my race, and was slightly nervous about hiking before the race, but I stretched plenty and was feeling ready to go!

Sunday, January 14, 2018

On the morning of the race, I fueled with oatmeal and peanut butter. The race didn’t begin until 8am, which is relatively late for races I’ve been in. But, Phoenix is cold without the sun, so I didn’t mind. Jenn picked me up and we headed to Tempe!

The weather ended up being perfect: sunny and warm, but a good breeze. My first half marathon was cold and rainy and I had been on my period, and I was miserable to say the least. This half marathon was the complete opposite! I held a steady pace the whole time and didn’t stop at all other than walking through a couple water stops. My calves were burning the entire time, as they had been all week, but I kept pushing through, running a pretty similar course to what I had ran just a few weeks prior. I still think I could have gone a little faster earlier on, but I finished in 2:06, beating my first time by 4 minutes. I was so happy!

My family and friends were texting me cheers that I was able to see via my watch. The hardest part was definitely the one hill, but those were also the most gorgeous views, so I pulled out my phone to Snapchat and distract myself. My mom never gets how I can use my phone while running, but it’s a learned skill I’m not super proud of.

When I made it past the finish line, I ran into one of my ENRGi clients that also ran the race. She finished less than a minute after me! I’m proud that my training plans work 😉 We hung out together as I waited for my friends and she waited for her sister, stretching lots and talking about when we were going to get back to our workouts that week. LOL.

I was so excited to hear Jess and Jenn ran the entire race together! Yay for new friends!

We took our pictures, got all the free food possible, and then Jess and I headed to Chillfit Cryo to try out cryotherapy for the first time. I’ve always wanted to try it in Chicago, but I wanted a good reason to. You stand in a freezing cold chamber for a couple minutes, and basically dry ice helps relax your muscles to reduce soreness. It also burns calories and supposedly has a bunch of other age-defying benefits, but I just wanted to stop waddling.

We undressed from our salty clothes, wearing nothing but a robe with socks, slippers, and gloves. Jess went first, and I followed second. It actually didn’t feel as cold as I expected, and it takes a whole minute to get to the coldest temperature of -280 degree Fahrenheit. It’s cold alright, but it reminds me of when you’re a kid in the snow having so much fun that you don’t actually feel the cold.

I stepped out of the chamber and felt so energized! I immediately did not feel any soreness in my calves, and I also just felt ready to go. The first chill was $30, and it was well worth the splurge. I wasn’t sore at all the next day or week. Sorcery.

Now that we were recovered, I ate brunch at Snooze AM Eatery. I couldn’t decide on all the yummy options, so I got a half order of both. Their breakfast tacos were to die for, and their OMG French Toast is definitely well-named. I hadn’t been super hungry after the race, just dehydrated, but this food hit the spot.

Before taking a Lyft back to my Airbnb in Phoenix, I stopped at the Original ChopShop. I got a Pina Kale-ada green smoothie for the road, and then I got a big protein bowl to save for dinner together. Ugh. So yum. If you’re in Tempe, I also recommend Culinary Dropout. It’s hipster bar scene with awesome healthy food.

The rest of the day, I relaxed by the pool, reading and playing with their dog. Living my best damn life.

Monday, January 15, 2018

I worked remotely on Monday, which I didn’t mind at all. Ideally, I will be a digital nomad in the next few years and will be able to work anywhere that has wifi. I worked from bed in the morning, then I headed downtown to explore a couple of cafes. Just imagine me schlepping around with my giant backpack and parka on a sunny day in Phoenix. I can’t help but laugh at myself.

My first stop was Rollover Doughnuts + Coffee. My cookie dough donut was out of this world, and I had this awesome view working outside for a couple hours.

Next, I walked to my next stop and got to enjoy more murals.

I spent the rest of the day at Kaleidoscope, which was my favorite place of the entire weekend. The aesthetic was on point, and the food was so good. I started with another protein bowl, eating all the veggies and nutrient-dense carbs. For dinner, I had an acai bowl, adding extra kale and my own Vital Proteins packet.

Some people think that working remotely might distract you from your work, but I often find I’m most creative when I’m working in new environments. I have newfound energy, and I’m often able to chug away at tasks I’m not able to do in a social office setting. Oh, and it’s warm outside. That helps too.

I took a Lyft to the airport, sitting in a straddle to stretch as I waited for my flight. It was slightly delayed, but I didn’t mind a little extra time on my weekend getaway. When life gets crazy (like it has been especially the last couple of months), it’s so good to get away and get out of my head, reminding myself what I’m most passionate about in life.

I’m running my next half marathon in April in Nashville, also the Rock ‘n’ Roll. I’ll be running with even more CHAARG friends, and I can’t wait!

++ Mary K

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