Rock N Roll Arizona – My 2022 Half Marathon Race Report

WOW! What a race! Racing at the front of the amateur field was exciting from start to finish. I’m so thankful Elliot and I decided to put this race on my out-season triathlon schedule. It was a large race with over 17,000 participants between the 5k, 10k, half and full marathon distances, so we knew it would be competitive. After racing a disorganized, expensive, and less-than-impressive Seattle Half Marathon in November, I felt like I need a challenging experience to prepare me for another competitive triathlon season.

Training for a half marathon is a lot less hours per week than a half ironman, which is what I specialize in during the triathlon season (which is typically early May through October). Half ironman triathlons consist of a 1.2 mile swim (2125 yards) 56 mile bike and ends with a half marathon (13.12 miles). Of all three disciplines, I’m the strongest at running. We are working to “strengthen my strength” this offseason while continuing to work on my swim form. I’m fairly strong on the bike, and will begin focusing on that discipline after a run focus for the past 3 months. All that being said, I also really wanted to boost my confidence and prove to myself that I can compete openly as an elite runner in addition to racing as an elite triathlete.

I was fully tapered for this race, and got to relax with my amazing Grandma out in Arizona prior to the race. Senior citizens are the best to hang out with before a race! They go to bed early, eat well, and know how to enjoy themselves. My parents were able to come support the race as well, which is rare! My dad is a hard working farmer and road construction operator, and my mom is very active in the local church community, which makes it hard to travel. It was great to have their support before and after the race!

I was lucky to have a friend Erik Chazin racing in the elite field, and he helped me get organized, warmed up and focused prior to the race start. After a quick pep talk from my very first run coach, Susan Loken (who introduced Elliot and I while training for this very race five years ago!) we headed to the start line. The sun was rising, and temps were warm (55*F) but generally still fast conditions. All the fast girls were right at the start, so despite a rolling start instead of the usual mass start we all settled into a pack early on. I kept note of who started in the corral behind me, as a 3 second gap could make a difference at the finish line if we all stayed together.

While I had a race plan specific to this course, I was also fully focused on making the podium. This means that while I was watching my pace, I was more interested in watching what the girls around me were doing. If anyone made a move, I was prepared to defend it. Within the first two miles, we dropped a few girls. I could tell a few females wanted to sit out front and set the pace, so I let them. There were ebbs and flows of effort and pace changes on the flat start, but I stayed pretty consistent. If the female leaders drifted a few seconds ahead, I had fast men to help keep me out of the wind and in contact with the leaders.

I managed to get water at every aid station, and kept myself in top 5 contention. Around mile 6, the terrain gradually trended upwards in a slight ascent, and the pack dynamic changed. The strong males pushed the pace to drop their competition, and the female lead began to drop back. A new leader emerged, setting the pace at 5:50/mile. I stayed on her hip as one by one the pack dropped off. I could tell by the sound of their footsteps they didn’t blow up, so it was still anyone’s game. The lead and I went together through mile 7 or so, until she turned the screws again to low 5:40 pace. I knew step hills were coming, and I let her drift ahead.

At mile 8, I felt someone tug on my braid! I glanced to my right, and to my great surprise and joy, my 50 year old rival Dave Tindall came running alongside me! We have always been really close in triathlon racing, but he always edges me out by a few seconds. I had no idea he was racing. This added another element to the race, as I have committed to not accepting a pro racing license until I can beat a 50 year old dude! He was running well, and since my husband works with both him and myself, I knew our race plan would be similar. I let him bound ahead a few strides but kept in him in sight.

The hills of McDowell road were upon us at mile 9-10: a steep uphill out and back with a pounding drumline at the top to synchronize your steps to. I was able to check how far back I was from the female lead, and confirmed I was in second place with third and fourth place just 10 seconds or so back from me. With Dave between me and first place female, I hit the uphill section with determination. My heart rate surged and my legs burned, but I had done the work to prepare for this. Mile 10 came with the sweet relief of a downhill, and it was go time.

I knew with 5k to go I would at least set a personal best time, so now it was time to race for finishing positions and pride. I recaught Dave at Mile 11 and we ran side by side for a half mile before he encouraged me to go, and go I did! I cruised past him and desperately pleaded with my legs to put a gap on the girls behind me, as first place had continued steadily up the road – too far to catch but still within sight. I heard footsteps behind me, and knew the race was developing behind me.

I could see the finish line, and felt cries of pain leap out of my throat. I knew everyone was hurting and pushed the thoughts of collapsing aside, knowing my dad would be at the finish to carry me if need be. To my utter dismay, 4th place had made an amazing comeback and surged from behind with a quarter mile to go. She was composed enough to encourage me to finish strong, and knew beyond the shadow of a doubt she had planned this move from the start. Incredibly done! I glanced at my watch, and even at a 5:50 pace, knew I could not defend second. I finished in 3rd overall amateur (5th with elites), 30-34 age group win by 10+ minutes, and a new best time of 1:17:55 (5:57/mile average)

The pain of racing, defined
Excerpt from a local newspaper reporting on the race

I congratulated first and second on amazing race, and found my friends Dave and Erik before embracing my dad, mom and grandma. WHAT AN EXPERIENCE. I live for moments like this: moments of battle, fatigue, stress, pressure, success, heartbreak and joy all at once. Icing on the cake was receiving an email from Ironman/Rock N Roll Elite department that I can now enter as an elite moving forward, as I had in triathlon. I had also bested my time from 5 years ago by exactly 20 minutes.

It’s as simple as this: Do the work, and the results will come. I had no doubts Elliot had prepared me for this, and I had done the work to make all my reasonable but challenging goals come to fruition. I know I’ve been on a bit of a hot streak, and that hot streak may end eventually. I’m fully prepared for the day a race doesn’t go my way, too. I’m really in this sport for my own reasons, and the elite/pro shenanigans is just a nice affirmation to go along with the journey.

I’m so excited to race more this year! Thank you for your support and for following/reading about my journey.

Please let me know if you have any questions, or are considering getting more involved in endurance racing, elite or for fun!

Best,

Becca Kawaoka

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