RnR Arizona Race Weekend Recap!

February 28, 2018   /   byrunningwhilevegan  / Categories :  Food, Running, yoga

Mike and I are starting 2018 with some pretty hefty racing goals. While at dinner in San Antonio in December, Mike signed up for Ironman Whistler 70.3! We are also signed up for LA Marathon and Zion Half Marathon this spring, along with our Rock’n Roll 10 race tourpass! It’s going to be a wild year.

I used to sign up for races few and far between, mostly because of the amount of training I wanted to accomplish to hit personal record goals. (Races are also expensive and I had a hard enough time making rent. Moving in with Mike’s parents has afforded us the freedom to sign up for many more races this year.) I trained pretty rigorously for RnR San Diego to make a sub-2, and that didn’t happen. My best half time, as of writing this, is from RnR Vegas ’16, with a 2:06. San Diego was a more challenging course and I finished at 2:09. Looking back now, that was great time, and I gave it my all! But I didn’t enjoy the race because I was so focused on my finish, and I was anxious the whole week leading up to it. Afterwards, I felt like things had to change, my mindset had to change.

Throughout the year, I watched some running peers of mine chase after the RnR Hall of Fame – the goal was to finish at least 15 half marathons within the series to become hall of famers! They traveled the world, finishing race after race. They weren’t making PRs or running particularly fast, instead they were experiencing all these different cities, staying fit and having fun! I realized that’s what I wanted more than personal bests. There will come a time again, and there will be particular races that I want to come in on top, but not every race has to be that. This is all very new thinking to me, and I still struggle when I finish with longer times. The medals look the same no matter what, I’m staying fit, I’m visiting new cities, and I’m not getting injured – those are the things that matter to me most. Travel races are such an awesome and unique way to see a new city, or even one you live in, and I want to enjoy that feeling fully!

This brings us to Rock’n Roll Arizona, and my first race of 2018. I bought our tourpasses over the Christmas holiday, when Mike had the flu and unbeknownst to me, I was about to be knocked out by what felt like bronchitis. I excitedly signed up for Arizona, which would take place in about three weeks, and when I bounded into the room Mike was bed-ridden, to ask him to sign up too, I got a flat-out “no way”. My heart was still set on it; it’s close enough from LA we could drive and we could make it a quick, budget-friendly trip.

Always chasing the race day feels!

By New Year’s Eve I was bed-ridden with a fever, aches and a horrid cough. RnR Arizona was being held on January 14th. I didn’t have much time for a full recovery but I am stubborn, and was confident in my ability to run a half marathon in two weeks. There were ginger shots and turmeric shots, green juices, and days called out of work (I’d rather be on my death-bed than call in sick). By the end of the week I was back at work, covering my co-workers for the days I had missed and feeling much, much better. Not quite 100%, but getting there.

RnR Arizona weekend came! We rented a car, an Extended Stay in Phoenix and it was time to go! First stop: Chef Tanya’s Kitchen in Palm Springs. Chef Tanya was the original chef and owner of a well-known vegan chain called Native Foods. Some (me) might argue the business model inspired another famous chain called Veggie Grill. Native Foods used to be the Creme de la Creme of vegan fast casual dining, but once Chef Tanya left, things have not been the same. I’ve been so excited to check out her new vegan space in Palm Springs, and I’ve only heard fantastic things! It did not disappoint!

The Chupacabre Chicken sandwich – seitan filets, avocado, cilantro, house-pickled jalapeños, lettuce roasted tomato and chipotle mayo with a side of Fleetwood Macaroni salad!

The space is in an industrial part of Palm Springs, off the beaten path. The interior is spacious and because of that, they are able to teach cooking classes during the days of the week they are closed! The menu is mostly sandwiches, and salads, with a cold case full of desserts, and take-home meals such as ribs, meatloaf, deli salads and vegan grocery products like cheese and salad dressings. Chef Tanya was there, as well as her front-of-house employee; both were so friendly and excited to tell us about the space and their house-made products, including the pastrami which is now also served at Follow Your Heart Cafe in the San Fernando Valley.

With full bellies we were back on the road for the remainder of our trip. I always forget that Arizona is a different time zone than California, so we did lose an hour. We booked an Extended Stay for the duration of our trip because, the price was extremely low and we wanted a kitchen to make our own food! If we want to travel this year, we have to figure out how to make it low budget, and the first thing that has to go is eating out constantly on the road. We then hit up 99 Cents Only store for food, Whole Foods for some fun condiments (vegan cheese), and then Helton Brewery to cheers our arrival! Gotta try the local IPAs!

Vegan options at the 99 Cents Store!

The next morning, Saturday, we had some breakfast and coffee in our room, I did a couple yoga videos, as I was in the middle of Yoga With Adriene’s 30 Day True series, and we were off to the expo. Because we had a car, we were picking up some friends from the airport later in the afternoon, about an hour and a half before the expo closed down. I had already had anxiety dreams about forgetting my running shoes, and I make us leave on Fridays so if there are any delays or issues arriving to our destination, we still have a full day to hit up the expo so I can get my running bib. It’s just one of those things for me – neurotic yes, but better safe than sorry! So we went to the expo before the airport to get the bib and browse. I’m trying to refrain from buying a RnR tank top of each city I run in, starting this year. If we plan on running ten of these, I can’t spend $30 at each expo on these souvenirs! Besides, you get a free tech shirt at each race. There were cupcakes to buy at Nami anyway!

When the lighting in the Convention Center is subpar for pics, you go outside amongst the cacti!

We had some time to kill, I wanted sweets from my favorite vegan bakeries, Nami. I ended up spending the money I would’ve on a tank top at Nami Vegan Sweets, which in my mind is better because: support small, vegan business and DESSERT! We toyed with the idea of splitting a vegan Big Wac next door at Green but decided to hold off. We had plans with our friends to go to Olive Garden for dinner and did not want to spoil our appetites (all-you-can-eat breadsticks, soup and salad!!!).

Me with my bounty from Nami, back in April! Didn’t get any good shots this trip, but I can assure you, my cupcakes and samoa were delicious!

Off to the airport to pick up our friends! Everything in Phoenix is about 15 minutes apart at most, which is so different than LA! I’m still used to being stressed out trying to get anywhere, at any given time, and it is such a relief to just get to a destination. We scooped up our friends, went to the expo for round two, and headed to Olive Garden.

Olive Garden was not my idea, but I fully backed it. Our friends are omnivores and wanted to carb load before the race the next morning. Olive Garden does have vegan selections, so it was perfect for all of us to find food to eat and be happy with! I hadn’t been to Olive Garden in over a decade and it was a trip to walk in. All the sentimental feels of dinners spent there with my family came rushing back! I was pretty excited about all this (it doesn’t take much when food is involved.) If you are vegan at Olive Garden, you have to make very few modifications, mostly with the salad. The breadsticks and minestrone are already vegan, but the salad you have to get with no dressing (ask for olive oil and vinegar) and no croutons. Their pastas are vegan as well as their marinara and their tomato sauce. It’s not the most adventurous meal, but for $9.99 it’s filling and satisfying.

On the way out the door! Had to remember the RnR Marathon Finisher’s jacket from San Antonio!


Race morning came! I had done a quick yoga for runner’s video the night before, as I can never get up early enough on race day to do it. I got dressed, I got ready, and we were out the door! It was a big race – fortunately we had no trouble finding parking close to the finish line! The corrals were crowded, it was the first race of the 2018 RnR series after all! Marathoners were starting in Phoenix, and we half marathoners + 10k runners were starting together in Tempe. I started the race at 8:17am, and finished at 10:44am with a time of 2:27. Not a bad time at all, but for me personally, not great. The course was great – mostly flat, with an incline around mile 8 that did last about a mile. That was tough, for me, that morning. Once you get to the top – it’s a beautiful scenic overlook. The scenery at that point in the race cuts away from the neighborhoods in Tempe and Scottsdale and becomes more picturesque of the southwestern desert, with red rocks and cacti. By the time we hit the downhill, I was tired. I didn’t want to walk during this race but I had to. My glutes were sore from the 30 Day Yoga practice, I hadn’t been training because of getting so sick, and the heat was starting to tire me out. For January, it was a warm one! I really liked this course, and I have no complaints about the race itself – I just wasn’t in shape to run strong.

Not my best time at 2:27, but the most fun I’ve had at the finish line fest! First race of the year, done!

I crossed the finish line, I met up with Mike, and we settled in for some beers to watch the finish festival headliners – Everclear! We were stoked; our 90s dreams were coming true with this free concert! I was tired but Mike got up by the stage, so full of enthusiasm! It was a blast to watch, it’s definitely the most fun I’ve had at the RnR finisher festival! Snoop Dogg played for the RnR Vegas start line festival, that race is at night so there’s no finish fest, and that was also up there for me as far as lifetime, bucket list concerts and RnR shows. Nerves, unfortunately were just running very high. Along with….nevermind.

Post-race pizza?! Yes, we will eat the whole thing in one sitting!

We were having so much fun. We walked the streets of downtown Tempe, ducked in a local watering hole for a couple more rounds of beer and then made our way to Mellow Mushroom for vegan pizza. It was our first time at that chain and we are fans! It was over slices of pizza that we made a new plan – it was Sunday and having just received my work schedule, I didn’t have to work until Thursday…what if we went to the Grand Canyon? We could stay in Flagstaff Monday night and head back to LA Tuesday. I could take my medal Monday pick at the Grand Canyon! Mike added, “What if we went to Vegas after?”. And so a new adventure began!

Did we go for the Medal Monday pic? Maybe!

We picked up a small ice chest at Target Monday morning, bought sandwich supplies and we were off! We spent a couple hours at the Grand Canyon, and left for Vegas. We gained the hour we lost in Arizona, got a room at Rio, ate more sandwiches, and played around in the casino til 3am. The next day Mike recuperated from the drive, I ran on the treadmill and did my True yoga videos, we met up with some friends at Pancho’s Vegan Tacos for dinner, walked around the strip, got Fat Tuesday slushees at Caesar’s Palace, decided we were still hungry and got some Taco Bell, and called it night around 10:30 (so early for Vegas!).

Massive plate of nachos from Pancho’s Vegan Tacos in Vegas!

We came home from our extended road-trip Wednesday, really happy. We had spent a lot of time together, which is normal for us, but a lot of time traveling and in new situations, and that can be kind of stressful for anyone. We had a really good time together and even though we’ve been adventuring a lot lately, this one felt different. It was a trip that really bonded us, and left us feeling even more optimistic for the year ahead.

It was time to get a good night’s sleep, my head in the game for work and the next race, the Pasadena Half, taking place on Sunday morning….

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