Philly Race Report
Drip.........Drip.........Drip. The adrenaline started to drip Wednesday morning. I was actually surprised to feel it so early since I had not even started to focus my attention on this race since work had been all consuming.
I have to embarrassingly admit that I had done absolutely no research prior to this race which is totally out of character. I had hoped that Friday night would have been relaxing. That I would have had some time to myself. That I'd be able to put my feet up and do some research on this course. Instead my wife and I visited Lowes, Home Depot, and at least two other stores looking for tile. After striking out we made a quick stop at the grocery store before heading home to patch some holes with sheet rock. I was finally able to catch my breath when I laid down in bed still ignorant of this race and without having packed a single thing. Potential disaster.
Saturday morning I was awake before my alarm and had a buzz of excitement. I was certainly expecting to feel anxious but not excited. I took care of a few errands and had everything packed with in a couple of hours. There is such a drastic difference between packing for a triathlon than a running race. The weather for race morning was anyone's guess since the reports swung from one extreme to another. I made sure to pack a few different racing options to cover my basis. I still knew nothing about the race.
The drive down to Philly was smooth as my wife and I carpooled with good friends of ours who were also running the race. My initial impression upon seeing Philly was, wow! It is an absolutely beautiful city. It's super clean, the architecture is beautiful, relatively quiet and peaceful and full of history. I will certainly be returning to the city as a tourist. Our first stop was to our hotel and then to the expo for packet pick up and to meet up with another group of friends that were running the race.
This was the best race expo I have been to; super easy registration and packet pick-up, top notch vendors, highly organized and easily accessible. Bravo Philly. I was able to meet up with all of my friends that were running and quickly realized that dinner reservations for 12 was not going to be realistic. Fortunately, Philly is a dream for foodies so we all went straight to Reading Market so everyone's pre-race, nutritional desires could be accommodated. I had a simple salad and vegetable wrap with a smoothie. The conversation at dinner was relaxed and all over the place. Now that mostly all significant others know each other everyone was much more relaxed and comfortable with each other, we are all becoming friends! Everyone left dinner around 5:30 and headed their separate ways. As my group walked back to our hotel I wanted to stop for a night cap and have a glass of wine. To my enjoyment there were plenty of quality wine bars on the way home. I had a good glass of red Zinfandel and might have tasted the other's Malbecs? I was feeling super relaxed and decided it was in my best interest to leave after the first glass.
We hung out at the hotel for another hour and went through all the race shwag. I would like to highlight the race guide that was given to us. This guide was amazing, totally encompassing. It had every detail any racer or spectator could ask for. I was thoroughly impressed by it. It is the only piece of literature I held onto. Every race should have such a guide.
My wife and I finally made it back to our room for both of us to get off our feet (she's 6.5 months pregnant) and to get ready for race morning. I set my alarm for 4:45, watched some tv and was sleeping by 10:15. Still hadn't even attempted to study the course.
Sleeping is relative term before the night of a race. I finally gave into my body and was out of bed at 4:00. I have a pretty solid grasp on my nutrition and knew if I were to eat 3 hours before the race that I would start to get hungry right before the gun. This would translate into using race course nutrition which I had not planned for nor expected to do. I therefor held back from eating until my alarm sounded at 4:45. My fueling started with a 12 ounce glass of Lemon Lime Nuun. This was followed 10 minutes later by a smoothie containing two bananas, a large handful of spinach and a handful of blueberries. Race morning the temperature was 34 degrees with a "real feel" of 30. The temperature was expected to remain the same until after my planned finishing time. Since I absolutely hate being cold before the race I opted to wear my Pearl Izumi 3/4 length tights, a thin, fitted, long sleeve Under Armour top, my Organic Endurance long sleeve tech shirt and a Saucony Orange Headband.
Jess, my friend, neighbor and fellow runner, and I took a free Uber Taxi to the start of the race courtesy of The Philadelphia Marathon. Once we arrived we made our way through security, used the rest rooms and then hung out by Bag Drop hoping to meet up with some friends. Jess and I had the typical pre race conversations and laughter. At 6:30 I dropped my bag off and began my warm up.
Heading into the race I didn't really have a detailed game plan like I do when racing triathlon. I knew that I wanted to run 1:30 or better and that I need a very good warm up in order to come out of the gates running sub 7 minute miles. Besides those few details I hadn't a concrete game plan or knowledge of the course layout and I was oddly totally at ease with this. I was able to get a fantastic warm up in that included a slow building effort, high cadence work, some accelerations and a few, short, above race pace efforts to really wake my body up.
I made my way over to the starting corral, after asking someone where it was, and attempted to find the 1:30 Cliff Bar Pacer. I found the 3:45, 3:05 and 3:00 hour pacers for the Marathon but not a single half marathon pacer. Not the biggest deal in the world so I figured I would hang with the 3:00 Marathon pace group for a while. As I settled into my corral I began to take in the sights and sounds of race morning. First, I noticed just how close I was to the starting line. I was in the first corral behind the Elites! This was pretty freaking cool. I also noticed a handful of runners that were around me in shorts and a tank top that were shivering, so glad I made the correct clothing choice. I did my best to try and find Matt since we were in the same corral but there wasn't a chance in hell. Apparently you need to be 6 feet or taller to be in the first corral, my perspective from 5'9 just wasn't going to cut it.
I can't remember if there was a horn or if we were just told to go but either way we were off and running at 7:02. As I came around a slight bend in the road I saw my cheering wife and Jess's husband Paul which put a smile on my face. Everyones' watches beeped. First mile completed.
After mile 1 I quickly established a few quick goals; steer clear of the first water station, maintain a high cadence, and switch off my brain until the 5k marker. At 5k I would reassess the situation.
I ticked off the first 3 miles in; 6:46, 6:45, 6:43. These miles felt effortless, as well they should have. The next three miles I wanted to do my best to maintain this effortless feeling and to monitor my foot placement. The more efficient I was early on, the stronger I'd be at the end. I tucked in behind runners when I could and made sure to put myself into safe and strong positions going into any turn. There was no way I was going to be tripped up or taken out by another runner. At the 48 minute mark it was time for my first water. I grabbed a cup coming around a right hand bend and took a sip. Gatorade. WTF? I haven't used Gatorade in years because it just sits in my stomach and is full of sugar, exactly what I don't want to be drinking during an endurance event. Thirty seconds after swallowing it I felt it coat my stomach. Cue angry, gargle sound.
I can't believe I just messed up my race.
Stay right here in the moment.
Focus on your posture and foot strike.
Take a deep breath.
Forget about it and move on.
Miles 4, 5 and 6 (6:42, 6:41, 6:42) were a total blur. I don't remember seeing a single mile marker or even hearing my watch beep. I had shut my brain off and just let my body do what it was trained to do.
At the tail end of mile 7 (7.82 to be exact) Matt came up on my shoulder. We had a quick chat then got back to the task at hand. We ran near each other for the next mile or so. We came to our first extended incline and parted ways. Mile 7 and 8 (6:17, 6:50).
Miles 9 and 10 (6:45, 7:15) were a bit rolling and I felt like we were running through Prospect Park in Brooklyn. I wasn't particularly excited to see my watch beep 7:15 for the 10th mile however, my legs felt strong and was very confident I could quickly and comfortably drop the pace.
The last 5k started with a long downhill that lead into roughly 2 miles of false flat before a short incline that whipped you around into the slightly downhill finish. This was when the runners started to thin out. The 3:00 marathon group was just about out of sight and the large mass I had grown accustom to rubbing elbows with was non existent. This was the first time during the race where I had to take my brain off auto pilot and refocus my cross hairs on reaching my goal. I gradually raised my effort level in hopes of a negative split. My legs felt strong but I was starting to cross my aerobic threshold.
Cadence, placement, stay relaxed.
Don't hold back.
HEART for my love.