Monday, September 16, 2013

Rock N Roll Philadelphia 1/2 Marathon, Philly, PA. 9/15/13

First, I must thank Brooks for comping my entry into this race.  It means a lot to get perks like this as a member of the Brooks ID team.  This does not happen often, so I would like to make sure Brooks knows how appreciative I am.   However, I just was not sure how I felt going into this race.

Last Week:
Last weekend I missed a marathon. Like every marathoner's nightmare,  my cell phone froze in the middle of the night and my alarm didn't go off.  I did jump out of bed at 4:45 with possibly enough time to barely make the start out in PA.  However, I had run an easy-paced 20 miles the day before (I am working on Back to Back LR now) and at the very end of that run I experienced a sharp pain in my left foot.  As I hustled around the house like a crazy chicken without a head, I could feel the residual soreness in the tendons.  Realizing that if it hurts, even mildly, to walk on it then running a marathon surely is a bad idea.  So crawled back into bed and enjoyed the first morning I did not have to get up and go somewhere right away in a long time.  I still got up 2 hours later and when Sidney wanted to take Enzo for a short 4 miler.  My foot did feel irritated during that run and although it was not terrible I knew I made a good decision.  

Missing that marathon, which was really just a long training run, rocked my confidence a bit.  Not only was I now concerned about my foot, I also felt sluggish from taking a lighter week of mileage (60.2 miles vs the 87 miles I had the two weeks prior and the 100 before that). 

Sometimes when I back off, I feel more stiff and achy.  This week my calf and achilles were tight and sore all week.  Very low level irritation, but definitely not 100%.  Because I rested more in the start of week, with lower mileage runs, most of those 60 miles were accumulated from Wednesday onward.   One thing I have learned a long time ago is that if I catch an issue early, when it is just starting to act up, and take 3-4 easy days of running 1-4 miles as tolerated, I usually feel a lot better and can resume training. 

Yesterday (day before the half):
Yesterday, I had only planned to run about 10-12 miles but when the weather is perfect the miles come easy.  I logged 17 miles with TNT, before deciding it was time to go home.  I also needed to take Enzo for his run so that added 3 more easy miles to my day. The rest of the day was spend running errands.  I ended the day fighting my printer to give me a usable copy of all my paperwork for this RNR race day packet pick up, so by the time I got to bed it was 11:30 pm.  I had a 4:30 am alarm set. I was so concerned about it not going off, again. Consequently, I woke up each hour worried I had over slept.  

Today (race day):
In my effort to try to eek out every last minute of sleep possible, I ended up leaving the house 20 minutes behind schedule. The drive was easy but I was incredibly concerned that the lot I always park in would be full.  I like my lot.  It is .75 miles from the starting area. I have to jog up there to get my bib, jog back to my car to get ready to race and jog back to the start and then I usually get a final cool down jog back to the car.  As I approached it, at 6:50 am, it looked ominous but there were a few spots left when I got in there! Phew.  Next time I need to leave earlier! 

(Super Secret porto-potty tip - shhhh! dont tell anyone!):
Once parked, I ran off to get my packet... hoping to find a bathroom with a short line on the way.  I was so late, that the lines were already too long.  It takes a few minutes to get to the Oval.  To get a race-day bib pick up means you have to go to the three different booths (One to check your ID and get a sheet of paper. One to collect your your bib. And one more to get your T-shirt and bag... AND they are not all next to each other!).   When collecting my bib, the volunteer handing me mine was Sarah, who has been a virtual teammate of my on my Tramps team!  What a great surprise! The Tramps started out as a Beginners Running Group where we played a game online logging miles as a team in competition between other teams.  We no longer compete as a team, but we stay in touch via a FB group.  Some runners on that team have reached impressive levels of success! It is really nice to say in touch and was wonderful to see Sarah!

I was worried about time. But one secret tip... everyone waits at the first bathrooms they find.  Keep on going all the up to the info booth and beyond.  Walk all the way into the staging area and continue walking in the Oval and you will find tons of port-o-potties with 0 lines.  Year after year I remember this and never have I had to wait longer than 1 person for a clean bathroom with plenty of TP.   

By the time I had gotten all my stuff, it was 7:15 am.  I still had to jog back to my car, change and get organized, then jog back. I was starting to get stressed out that I was cutting it close. In addition I had to pee again (nerves, I am sure).  Lucky for me there was a port-o-potty in my parking with no line, so I was all set.  I was back at my corral by 7:45.

I knew Susanne was coming to this race.  Back in 2009, I remember walking into the Corral and she was standing right there.  I know her from a running group.  That half in 2009 was a break through race for us both.  We pushed and pulled each other to a 1:34 with us both being around 1:39-1:40 half marathoner prior to that morning!  

I lined up in my corral, today, and watched the entrance.  I was hoping she would walk in and this time see me standing there. I didn't tell her I was coming.  I don't like to clutter my race day mornings with meeting and greeting people when I am trying to focus.  I am usually running late and I have no time to chit chat pre-race.  I prefer to socialize after.  But I hoped she was assigned to Corral 1 and would pop in at the last minute!  I imagined a repeat of 2009 where we would join forces and energy and do something potentially amazing... or blow up trying.  But, not this year.  We were about to start. I was on my own. 

The Race:
Weather: 52-60 degrees, clear. 
Running Gear:  Sports bra, shorts, T-7s. 

Gun goes off! 
I start my watch as I cross the start mat. I get a good start... There is not a lot of traffic in Corral 1. Some people are clearly in the wrong corral, but hey that is part of racing.  I avoid being blocked in, but my tangents are a mess.  My Garmin is going crazy and the data is not helping...I am either running a 5:54 mile or a 9:35???  Mile one comes as my Garmin read 1.05 Miles... But this is irrelevant and the mile markers on the course are the only miles that count. I split my watch at the first official mile marker. M1: 7:09

I am cruising but honestly I dont feel awesome.  My shoulders feel tired, like my arm are just too heavy to carry. I shake them out, but it really doesnt help much. I worry that 20 miles yesterday is going to catch up with me, but when?! I try to focus on one mile at a time.  The crowds help.  I feel like I am in a herd of cattle.  M2 also reads long by .05, again. "Man I must stink at tangents today!" M2: 7:05

By mile 3 I am starting to ponder my split personality of racing.  Sometimes, I show up and run an impressive (for me) race.  Sometimes I show up and just can't perform well at all.  The problem is, I just never know which version of myself will show up on race day.  I would like to think I have some way of predicting this, like on the days I run 20 miles the day before and then try to race a half, things will go crappy and other times tapering will allow me to shine.  BUT it rarely works like that for me.  Some of best races come at the end of a 100 mile training weeks or the day after a Long Run.  Some of worst after a taper... BUT not always. There is simply not a clear pattern. Sometimes I know when my immune system is struggling I just cant run fast no matter what kind of training I have done. But sometimes my race day success is simply random and this suggests that part of my issues are psychological.  So I decide today to not let the weak version come out and play.  At least not now.  Each mile, I battle my internal quitter.  M3: 7:05  

I notice my 5k split is just over 22:0x minutes.  As I approach the start of Mile 4, I hear my name and it Bill W., a runner and coach from TNT!  This gives me a boost.  The downhill part of 4 is also helpful.  M4: 6:58

By mile 5 I am starting to feel tired. I am trying to hug every turn, but the course winds and weaves so I am just all over the place. Split continue to read long.  M5: 7:06

I try to convince myself just staying under 7:10 is good.  However, I don't like fading this early. Some of this is due to the gently rolling nature of the course.  I start doing math and know if I get to the 10k in 44:00 or better I am speeding up.  M6: 7:05.  I hit the 10k mark just as my watch flips to 44:00.  I know I was only a second or two faster, but I will take it.   

Now I start setting goals.  If I can get to 15k in under 66 minutes then I will be negative splitting and only have about 4 miles left and a chance at a PR. I know there is some incline coming as we approach Falls Bridge, but it is not too steep.  I focus on even effort for the next two miles, planning to unlock something as I hit 9 miles.  M7: 7:04, M8: 7:03.

I grab a gel at 8.8.  As soon as we cross the bridge we get a gorgeous down hill to use. I take full advantage and watch the pace on my Garmin fall, but we level out and roll a little.  My mile 9 is not as fast as I hoped it would be, but I am finding renewed strength. M9: 7:01

I dig.  I know I have a shot for a PR. My best was run the week after this race last year at the Newport Liberty half with my chip time being 1:32:07.  I do the math and know that I may be able to break 1:32, but just barely.  It all depends on how far under 88 minutes I am at the 20k.  I dig a little more and then actually taste some of that gel coming back up.  Awesome.  You know you are running hard when you throw up a little along the way. M10: 6:51

Five K to go! I am running well. I am passing people left and right.  This is the perk of a big race!  But I am also being passed as well. I am truly digging and the course is fast here if you have something to give. I fight hard and try not to puke. M11: 6:54 

I pass an older guy and he says, "My legs are telling me I am old".  I tell him, "Your legs are telling you you are awesome and you are almost done!"  A young kid says "Just 2.1 to go!" and then apparently hits his turbo boost, takes off into the sunset and I never see him again! Where do I get speed like that!

A woman in black comes up on my side and says "You are doing a great job!" and then she get a few steps on me.  My inner psychologist picks this apart. I always have odd feelings about telling people I am passing things like "You are doing great!" as I pass them. It seems a little condescending,  like the subliminal message is "You are doing great for YOU but I am simply better." So I try to save the "Great work" comments for those how are passing me (since they are clearly doing better). I try to either invite people I pass to "You look great! Come with me! Let's do this together!" which to me sends more of a positive message. But the reality is I usually simply just say nothing as I pass people. We are all racing. And when I am racing hard I am not both racing and cheering-leading.  I can only do one thing well at a time.  I am not saying there is something wrong with being supportive, but sometimes it is just odd. 

I do recognize her positive spirit and return her compliment, telling her she is doing great too!  She comments back just one more hard mile to go and then the crowds will carry us home.  We hit M12: 6:50 and I push past her!

I thought she was going to come with me, but she did not. I am sure she was close, but I was more focused on those ahead of me.  I hug all the tangents I can because my watch is already reading .18 long and that could mean I am just giving away time.  I work for mile 13 but I feel myself struggling. 
M13: 6:48

Finally, the last tenth or so.  I just want this to be over. I don't look at my watch but I believe I have a real shot a breaking 1:32 for a new PR. I kick as hard as I can and finish the Last .12: 044 (6:23 pace).
Garmin reads a lovely 13.29 (6:55 pace) giving me hope that I can actually run faster in a smaller race.  I also know that Negative Split this entire race, running each 5k faster than the 5k before it and I proud!

As I am walking through the finisher area, I hear my name.  It is Susanne. :)   She just ran a great race as well! If we had started together, we would have likely run the entire race together again.  We find out that we parked on the same street and walk to our cars.

Time 1:32:00 (7:02 pace).  
OA: 676 / 18068
Gender: 144/ 11024
AG: 18/1846

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