Running Stories -- 2004
Stubborn as I am I decided to:
A. Hydrate for all runs from this point forward until I got the feeling like I am/was going to burst.
B. Become acquainted with a running group (hence my entry into the lovely world of Philly Runners).
I started out slow (as I needed/wanted to) with the assistance of Jen (a Philly Runner) and Jeff a Chiropractor from NJ. As the course took us towards Lemon Hill (miles 8+..I think) and the hills for the course I barely felt them. I hit the half way mark at about 1:55 and I was confident that today was going to be a very good improvement from the MCM.
As we got onto Kelly I let the slight decline carry me and before you knew it I was running by myself and cutting my split down towards an 8/8.5 minute mile. Traveling along a well-known route helped me and (at least in my eyes) I felt like I was cruising. I passed some fans offering beer close to the movie theater on the outskirts of Manayunk (the place smelt like a brewery didn't it?) and went towards the 20 mile mark. After the 20 mile turn-around point I still felt good and I was as surprised as I could be.
This is when I hit the proverbial wall (mile 22...several minutes after I saw Ryan), and boy did it hit. Physically I was still moving, but psychologically my brain was telling met that the legs weren't there. Somehow I managed to keep going by focusing on a building/bridge that we all have passed on our runs dozens of times. This strategy helped until I hit the crew stands where I changed tactics..here I told myself that I was on another Tuesday evening run and that I had to find someone to trip or scare with my huffing and puffing (Kevin/English Mike).
From there the miles disappeared and right before the finish I had the help from our "support team" to help me gut it out to get a 3:43 (chip time) PR.
So, this is my LBRR, and if you have learned anything I hope that it is that we all have our bad days (my Lewis and MCM experiences), but life goes on and so do we....
As Laura stated in her LBRR, we started with about a 10 minute pace group. I knew I would absolutely not go any faster than that at the beginning, but it was a good starting pace even though I would probably drop it down a little once I got to mile 8.
I maintained a 10-minute pace through the start of 34th street, and by this point Laura was long gone. Apparently her knee was feeling good, as she was way ahead of a 10 minute pace. The 34th street hill was interesting because there were actually more spectators in this section than I expected; I live in that neighborhood and on most Saturday mornings you could hear a pin drop walking down that street. I did the hill a little bit slower, but much of that was due to the fact that I had parked my car at 34th and Spring Garden and stopped and picked up some water and stuff and out of my trunk and re-fueled there.
As I was on West River, I noticed a pain (a new and exciting ache I hadn't had before) on the inner/upper part of my left leg. I didn't really know what to do with this, so for the next few miles around the Art Museum and out Kelly Drive, I just slowed up a little bit. Since my only goal was to finish and not die, slowing down really didn't affect me mentally.
As I proceeded on Kelly out past mile 16, the pain got worse and worse. I was basically doing a stutter step brand of running, as doing any sort of stride or push using my left leg wasn't happening. I stopped and did some stretching, but this only worked for about a half-mile. At mile 16.5, I finally stopped for the first time and walked for a bit. It didn't help.
So, my stutter step was the only way to go for the rest of the race. As I began to run again some time on Kelly, I saw Steve Biz, who was way ahead of his goal of a 4 hour pace. When I got to mile 18, I was at like 3.5 hours and running muuuucccchhhh sloooooowwwwer now. It hit me that even a 15 minute pace from here on in would get me to the finish before they would start to close up the finish area, so I knew I just had to keep moving and I would finish, an awesome feeling.
Steve Met came up to me and shook my hand at about mile 19; I think he was shocked to see me there. The next 7 miles are pretty much a blur of walking, stutter-step running and eating my last remaining gummy bears to keep me awake. As I got to the finish, Seth caught me and "ran" with me the last half-mile or so.
All in all I finished in 5:26, a new PR J. Aside from the thing with my left leg, my body actually felt good, which makes sense given I didn't really push myself that hard. I went home, took a very cold bath, a very hot bath, and a very hot shower and noticed that I didn't have any real injuries. I even made it to a fundraiser down at Penn on Sunday night for dinner. Of course they has pasta and bread (and no meat), which I am very sick of after carb-loading the week before.
What I got out of this:
The satisfaction of completing something that God and my current lifestyle probably didn't design me for. I suppose there are a lot of reasons that most 230 pound, flat-footed, uncoordinated, lazy desk jockeys don't complete a lot of marathons, but I ignored them.
I also created a little "shrine" to myself (is that sacrilegious?) outside my cube at work with my medal, my bib and a printout of my race times from the website.
The benefits of tapering and not running a lot before a race are great. Due to a large volume of injures, I didn't run much the 3-4 weeks before the run. This, combined with my fairly slow (controlled??) pace, left me feeling good in the days after the runs, with stiffness being the only real issue remaining.
Race day: Wake up at 5:45 a...have my traditional breakfast of oatmeal made with milk, brown sugar and raisins. Smear body glide in all the problem areas and dress. I am nervous and excited. I have been training for months, and I know I am prepared (speedwork, three runs over 20 miles, longest being 24 miles) I still have had nightmares that I blacked out halfway through and never finish, or I finish in 8 hours...insert crazy scenario here). Despite what everyone tells me, my goal is not just to finish, I want to finish as close to 4 hours as possible. 9 minute miles will give me 3:56 with a few minutes extra for the inevitable slow down at the end...Based on my training I am fairly confident that unless something crazy happens I can finish in under 4:30...but then again, some of the stories from others recent marathons (puking, heat, plain old bad days) definitely make me aware that nothing is guaranteed. Meet with other PRs at the start and line up behind the 9:00 pace sign with Steve Markey and some others. We meet a woman who is a coach for Team in Training who is 46? and has run 30 marathons...wow. She gives us some advice, us being newbies...she tells me (as I've heard before) that my goal should be to finish and that Tuesday will be the worst (so far Monday was much, much worse). The race starts. There are so many people..I can't imagine running NYC, I can't go the pace I want here and there are not nearly as many people. Mile 1 in 9:38...My parents and boyfriend (Dave) are at 16th and Arch to cheer me on.
Splits: Mile 1: 9:38 Mile 2&3: 17:55 (27:33)(missed mile 2 marker as it was right at a water stop) Mile 4: 8:41 (36:15) Too fast, I consciously try to slow up the pace a bit Mile 5: 8:48 (45:03) A little bit better, still too fast Mile 6: 8:41 (53:45) Faster again....I feel good, I am thinking I will pay for this pace later on. Dave and my parents are at 16th and Chestnut, I inform them I am going faster than expected, so they won't miss me near the Art museum later. Mile 7: 8:35 (1:02:20)whoa....I can't keep doing this pace....bad idea...Hills coming up. vMile 8: 8:54 (1:11:15)After going a bit too fast for a few miles, I sit back and relax a little bit on the hills. From this elevation map, these are the biggest of the race, but I know the ones in Manayunk will be harder. Mile 9: 8:43 (1:19:58) Mile 10 & 11: 18:18--9:09 avg (1:38:17) Missed the Mile 10 marker....I think I was distracted by the chip mat Mile 12: 8:56 (1:47:14) Mile 13: 8:43 (1:55:57) Half-Marathon: 1:56:55....A little more than 1 minute ahead of schedule. I am feeling very strong and getting pumped for the crowds at the Art Museum. I feel very strong, very prepared and although I know I went out to fast, I still feel confident that the day is going well. Mile 14: 8:44 (2:04:44)See my parents and Dave again on West River just before the Art Museum. This is the last time I will see them before the finish. See Russ, Seth and many other PRs around the Art Museum area. The crowds are amazing after a few miles without. Once I pass by them, I decide it time for the Clif bar that's in my back pocket. I've been using 1 GU every 45 minutes like clockwork and Gatorade at each water stop...I finally got the hang of drinking out of race cups today, it only took me 8 races in the last year inhaling a lot of water or not getting enough to figure it out. If it's too full, pour out some of it first, then mash it into a spout. Fantastic. Clif bar isn't sitting well even though I trained with them, so after a few bites I put it back in my pocket for later. Mentally prepare myself for the rest of the race. It is very likely I will not see anyone I know from here on until the finish, I know my mental and physical preparation will have to get me through Mile 15: 8:52 (2:13:36)At some point in here (don't remember exactly what mile) I see English Mike, which was unexpected. He is riding his bike up and down Kelly and I chat with him for a minutes as he rides along the side....I am still feeling great at this point. I tell him some ridiculous number of minutes that I had to play with, and had I not slowed from the pace I was keeping, it would have been true... Mile 16: 9:20 (2:22:57) Slowing down a bit, but this doesn't concern me too much, I still have a lot of time to play with. My hamstring is a little tight. This concerns me a little bit as I had trouble with it in the NERRC 25k, but it didn't keep me from doing well there, and it doesn't feel too bad. Mile 17: 9:14 (2:32:12) Mile 18&19: 18:40--9:20 avg (2:50:52)I am tired. My quads hurt, not bad but they are tired and overworked. They are screaming at me. I am still keeping a pretty good clip. We are heading into Manayunk and I mentally prepare for hills. At least there will be crowds. I see a few PRs who are also running. Run with them for awhile, but lose track of them at a water stop. Shortly after the Mile 19 marker, someone looks to the other side and sees the marker coming back. "It must be the Mile 20 marker" they say. I had a brief hope that I was closer to the turn around than I imagined. It's not. It's the Mile 21 marker. The crowds help. Mile 20: 9:39 (3:00:31)Somewhere in here I see Laura G. She's only about 1 mile behind me, if that....this is a boost to see someone I know and that she is doing so well. After all the knee trouble it wasn't even clear if she'd be able to run at all. Go Laura! I knew at this point based on math I probably won't run under 4 hours, but I am still pretty close. I am happy with my performance so far. Mile 21: 9:45 (3:10:16) Okay the hills in Manayunk weren't that bad...but then there is this exit ramp. It sucks, it's kicking my butt. I am out of breath. Someone beside me encourages a bunch of us (including himself) by saying "Its just a little hill, don't let it win." This gets me up the hill. I am still keeping a pretty good pace. When will I slow down? I feel terrible. Mile 22: 10:16 (3:20:32)Wow, okay I finally slowed down, but still not too bad. This is where my mental preparation and training kick in. I don't even really hurt anymore, I am numb, and shuffling. Just 4.2 to go. I remind myself that 4.2 is less distance than the Tuesday night run, that I have run farther than this 2x before. Mile 23: 10:02 (3:30:35)Hmm, faster than the last mile. Not really sure how I did this. Mile 24 & 25 : 22:05 (3:52:40) Again I missed the mile marker....this time I saw it, but was so tired that my the time I got there I forgot to hit the button on my watch until it was long gone. I am so tired. I want to sit down. I want to stop. I wonder why I decided to do this. At this point I am beyond my longest run, there are no spectators, and my body temp has gone from a little warm to freezing cold (has anyone else experienced this?). I take another Gu even though I probably will be done by the time It kicks in....I just keep telling myself that I've been at this point mentally in my training before and that I can run through it, that I have run through it. Mile 26 + 385y: 12:15 (4:04:55 final by my watch...4:04:57 officially) In this mile I see JMac just before the crowds. I ask how he's doing, he says better than last time and other than a blister left over from New York and general muscle aches, he's fine. I tell him I am hurting but not too bad. At this point there are a few crowds and I know I will see my parents and Dave and others soon. As I get within 1/2 mile, I get a burst of energy from the crowds, wanting to be done and perhaps the GU...I pick up the pace, slap Seth a high five on my way in. As my dad says to Dave, I don't look as happy and chipper as I did at the half, but I certainly feel pumped coming into the finish line. I see Laura B. and a few others and finish strong.
Overall I am very happy. I came very close to 4 hours and well under 4:30....The crowds helped and I think I would do another. I have to do something about going out too fast. I knew this would be a problem before the race, as I have a hard time making my body go slow even when I know it will help in the long run. Overall a great first marathon.
It took me 45 minutes to walk home (less than 3/4 mile). I wanted to stay and try to cheer on other PRs at the finish, but my body wanted to lie down. Went to Nodding Head that night (okay, no restaurants with stairs allowed after a marathon in the future). My hamstring is fine. My quads can barely support my own weight to rise from a seated position. I've come up with some creative ways of accomplishing this. Backward. Occasionally I just have Dave lift me. Once I get up I am okay.
My goal was simply to finish.
Ryan and I parted somewhere on Delaware Ave, after we had a great conversation with a runner wearing a light blue tux. I'd see him again later on, in addition to some other interesting characters.
The miles through Center City went well, and my splits started to go down. I went through mile 5 in 9:42, 6 in 9:13 and 7 in 9:19. It was faster than I had intended to run, and with each split I tried to slow down a little, but I also felt good. My knees were aching, but it wasn't anything too sharp.
The uphills on 34th St. and after the Zoo hurt, and I knew that for the sake of my knees, I'd need to walk the steeper inclines. I walked up the big hill in Fairmount Park, and I went through mile 10 in 10:33.
The rest of Fairmount Park went fine. After Memorial Hall, the downhills helped me pick up the pace. I noticed that my quads were starting to feel sore. I was only at 11 or 12, and I had never really felt this kind of soreness before. But I pushed it out and thought about getting back to the Art Museum and seeing some familiar faces. I took in my first gel on West River Drive and 2 Advils at mile 13. As I passed by the Art Museum, I saw Monika from the club cheering, and I also got to see the male winner finish.
My friend Jenny met me at Lloyd Hall. The plan was for her to run with me to mile 18, where another friend, Maryam, would run pick up and run with me to Manayunk and back.
Jenny met me wearing a shirt that said "Go Laura" and an arrow pointing to me. Though I was slightly mortified, the cheers really helped. At this point, my quads were hurting, but I was otherwise feeling really energized from the crowds at the Art Museum and all the people suddenly cheering for me personally.
We maintained about a 9:20 pace all the way down Kelly Drive. I saw English Mike biking along Boathouse Row, and he stayed with us for a few minutes, which was really nice. Maryam was waiting with a banana in hand at mile 18, which also ended up being incredibly helpful. I pretty much abandoned my training regimen of gels and Clif bars during the race and ate the Gatorade Bar they handed out and Maryam's banana intermittently. But the constant intake of food helped keep my blood sugar levels and energy up.
I saw Ed at about mile 18. He looked good, and I'd see him a few more times on the way back.
The exit ramp that led back to Kelly Drive was tough, but I was also thrilled to be heading back into town. At this point I knew I would finish, and that was all I wanted. Maryam and I met up with Jenny near Midvale Ave., and Maryam bowed out. I now had my cheerleader with me again, and I would need it, as I was about to hit the wall.
Somewhere between 22 and 23 I looked down at my hands and noticed that my fingers were really swollen. I freaked out a little, but Jenny assured me I'd be fine. All of a sudden, I lost any energy I might have had in me, and all I wanted to do was stop running. I knew I only had 3 miles left, but 3 miles had never seemed like such a long distance.
Somehow, with Jenny's encouragement, I managed to keep the pace up. 22 was 9:24, 23 was 9:02 and 24 was 9:17. I saw Ed in here at some point. He looked good as he passed me. When I got to the bleachers, I tried to tell myself I was on a Tuesday night run and I'd be back in no time. That lie only worked a little. Then I tried to remind myself to enjoy the moment and soak in the fact that I was going to finish a marathon. When I went through mile 25 in 9:38, I saw that my time was 3:59. At that point, I knew I could make it in 4:10, and I was on a mission to finish. People were still cheering my name, which I had to smile at, and I was just soaking it all in. As I got closer to the Art Museum, Jenny parted ways with me. I saw Seth right before the finish and high fived him, nearly losing my balance. What a welcome site it was to round the corner and see the finish line! My final chip time was 4:10.37.
The last few days have been painful, and I can finally understand why people always have so much trouble with chairs and stairs after marathons. But it's been worth it.
In the end, I'm glad that I gave it a shot, and I'm incredibly grateful to my friends who ran with me and everyone along the course who volunteered and cheered. I definitely want to repay the favor and volunteer at some races in the future. I suppose I learned in the end that it's worth it to just go for something and give it a try.
So two weeks after NYC (a 4:37 "PR" for NYC by about 10 seconds it turns out) I get to once again do a back to back with Philly.
Sat am I work in NJ at WRSU-FM. I do my show from 10am till 1pm. Then I start to drive - to Brooklyn. I'm going to some dental work done. Mitch (my usual running conspirator and dentist) is busy and doesn't get to me till after 4:30pm. I leave at 5:30pm with a numb jaw, get stuck in traffic, attempt a short cut, which becomes a loooong cut, decide to pick up the wife on the way back, get lost again in NJ and make it home in time of oh after midnight. Since I skipped lunch and dinner I figure I ought to eat SOMETHING and I make um - I fergot what I made.... Oh - since I wasn't drinking anything either I guess I'm dehydrated too... I'm finally in bed at 1:30am.
Wake up at 4:30am and managed to make my usual breakfast (eggs and bacon on wraps with 20oz of Coffee (Kona!) and 20oz of OJ/seltzer). Slosh slosh slosh. Kathy drives me to the start and I play phone tag with Kazik (who along with Mitch did both NYC and Philly last year but he didn't get into NYC this year). I drop my bag, and take care of too much coffee and before I get a chance to find the PRs it's too late and we are in the chutes.
I'm kind far back in the 10min pace crowd when the gun goes off. We are about 4min off the gun time.
Mile 1 - 8:54. It's a tad fast out of the box, so I take it back a notch Mile 2 - 9:44. Not as slow as it looks as there was a "detour" J. Also grab a splash of water at the Fire Station stop. Mile 3 - 9:26. In the groove - oh that's why KYW said I95 was affected - we block access to the ramps. I loose Kazik some where around here. He's thinking he may drop out at the half mark or even Mile 5 (by my house). Mile 4 - 9:44. This is part of the Vietnam Vets 10K course. Flat. I'm on target time. Cool Mile 5 - 9:55. It's not really that slow. I stopped to give Kathy a kiss and grab a 16oz bottle of water. This is a new trick that I practiced at NYC. The idea is to carry a small water bottle which allows me to better track my water consumption amounts and lets me bypass some water stops and avoid the "collisions" that occur there. I already got to bypass the Starr Garden Park water stop. Bystander yells "Don't Stop Ed" (I've got "Ed" written on my thigh in a large marker print) Mile 6 - 9:26. This is a tad fast, but it is a flat section. The crowds are great here. Everyone looks bundled up. Maybe it's colder than I think? I break out the Cliff bar and start nibbling. The idea is to stick a bit in the corner of my mouth and let it "dissolve" for 1/4 mile or so. Mile 7 - 9:41 ish. Somehow or other I do look at the watch but don't press the button hard enuff. Mile 8 - 9:41 ish. I see Agata and Bladik on the side and lo and behold there is Kazik! I stop for a picture and Kazik picks up some Gu. I take off but Kazik claims to be feeling fine (he is normally faster than me but claims to have NOT trained this year at all). We decide to sort of stick together. Well it's more like I'm keeping and eye in my pace and we'll see where we are. The hill up past Drexel isn't that bad. The guy with the boom box and Rocky theme isn't there this year L. I manage to keep an even pace up the hill Mile 9 - 9:58. Dunno why this got to be so slow? Some of it is that there are "rolling" hills here and perhaps the pounding of the bridge and the downhill past the Zoo? Mile 10 - 9:56. There is that "steep" ascent into the park. I recall struggling in the past. This time it feels like an even pace up the hill. I'm still with Kazik and we are passing people on a regular basis. The Civil War memorial provides a distraction - maybe I slowed down to read the names? Mile 11 - 9:39. The park and the scenery provide a welcome distraction. This is turning out to be a nice run. There are some rolling sections, but the scenery is just great. Spot the guy in the Red dress again. Mile 12 - 9:32. We get the downhill pay back for the ascent to Memorial hall. I manage to lengthen my stride to get some rolling in. Down on to West River drive - the recent scene of my PR at the 10K for the Rocky Run (48min). There are glimpses of runners on the other side of the river. Mile 13 - 9:50. Not sure what is going on here - wind? Or quite possibly running on the "high" side of the road is causing a weird gait due to the crown of the road? Split is about 2:06. I don't notice as I'm running this race mile by mile. Mile 14 - 9:55. More issue with the crown of the road. I get inspired by the old man with the 18 years 80 marathons shirt on. He's shuffling but determined. Also the hill up to the Art Museum takes some effort. The crowds are great, but so is the traffic. It takes some doing to keep a steady pace. Kazik is behind me. I'm running solo. I try to add some length to the downhill. The biggest challenge for me is here because NOW is where I start losing time. I'm still working on the Cliff bar ever so slowly. The water bottle helps a lot as I can move through the water stops faster. I do spot Seth and at least one other PR yells. Its kinda a blur. Mile 15 - 9:47. This is the Tuesday night run, but from the road it looks different. I'm trying to stay focused on my pace. I think this is where I see Laura? I start seeing the elite runners. The guy in the lead looks kinda bored. Mile 16 - 9:47. No protesters. Cool. Laura and friends are claiming a 9:30 pace. I'm not sure I can hold that till then end but continue to keep them in striking distance just to see where we are. A 9:47 I CAN hold. Mile 17 - 9:35. I must be getting "towed" by Laura et al. In cruise control and I'm happy that I'm not losing the typical 20 sec per mile here. Mile 18 - 9:34 est. I must have not hit the button on the watch, or a water stop provided a distraction? The hill up to Falls bridge doesn't bother me. I make a mental note of the 22mile marker on the opposite side. Mile 19 - 9:34 est. The pace set by Laura is helping a bunch even though she is ahead of me. I've latched onto runners in "catching distance" and have worked my way up in 10 foot segments. Hold some in reserve for that last 10K though. I spot English Mike, but he's spotted Laura and probably didn't see me 15 feet behind her. Mile 20 - 9:27. Manayunk is uphill. The beer stop is inspiring as always. I feel great. Tired, but good. I'm looking FORWARD to the turn around. It comes sooner than I think. I grab the pole and "spin" around the corner. I see Laura but in the excitement I don't check to see where Kazik is behind me Mile 21 - 9:11. Now the "race" begins. I'm passing runners. Kazik passes by me and motions me to latch on. He's moving at sub 9min - I decline and wave him off. I try to keep him in sight but I cant. I have Laura in sight though along with a "red hat and pony tail". I'm starting to mark runners for rabbits. Time to start pulling em in. I must be doing OK on the food intake - I spit out the last chunk of Cliff bar. Less than 10K to go - wont make a difference now. Mile 22 - 9:22. The infamous "little hill" has given me trouble in prior years. Now I take it at a steady pace. It still takes some time out of my mile pace though. I lengthen the stride for the downhill and take down some more rabbits. Mile 23 - 9:11. Back on target. The water bottle helps A LOT as I can really move through the water stations. I pour the water and drop the cups and take sips 1/4 mile after the water stops. Much better. Now I know - 5K to go. I think I re-pass Laura somewhere in here. I try to say something but it probably comes out as a grunt. Mile 24 - 9:05. I'm thinking - can I go faster? Did I go fast enough? My mind is addled and I'm not sure I'm on target to break last year's 4:11 time. Then I spot a sign on the road - "You gotta WANT it!". Am I hungry enough? I decide that I am. I also decide that I really was pushing at "just below lactic acid threshold" for the first 20 miles. Time to pick it up again. How do I know - my hands have been tingling from the ring finger down to the pinky for the last 2 miles. Time to make the whole hand go numb. We are in "training course territory". I can hold this! Mile 25 - 9:01. The mile 25 marker is in the tunnel. I'm spotting the 1/4 markers on the trail, but I'm not tracking to the watch anymore. I'm reeling in runners. Tunnel vision sets in and there is an eerie silence. To focus, I start running with my eyes closed (when traffic permits) - after 10 or so strides I check on closing distance. If I'm not closing (I usually am) I do a quick pain evaluation....and pick it up again. My hands are numb from the thumb. Mile 26.2 - 8:50 est pace! I've given up thinking if I can break 4:11 - I'm SURE I can now. I caught a rabbit but she keeps breaking away. We dodge each other and other runners as be blaze past them. (I don't let her go until the chutes.) . Pure tunnel vision now. I want to have a faster leg turnover but I just can t turn over any faster. Hands are numb from the wrist. My stomach is bothering me but I guess I'll not be embarrassed if there is an "episode". The pain isn't unbearable, just strange. I need to hold on and I can but I just can't go any faster. The hill provides a mental challenge, but I WANT this one. I blaze past Seth with grunt - too tired to high 5. The crowds help and I hear my name. The Chutes arrive and I actually.
The race begins. My legs aren't feeling fresh and I'm disappointed. I stretch out my arms to loosen myself up, and dart around some runners running at slower paces. I see the clock for the first mile. (I'm not wearing a watch.) I don't remember what it read but it's a little slow. I tell myself it's ok because I was caught in the crowds and was at least a couple minutes behind the official start.
"Why am I sweating?" It's only been a few miles. Not a good sign. I'm thinking, "I just got to get through this." I see a guy from high school. "Uh oh. He's talking a lot." We catch up a bit and then I tell him I'm not one much for talking on the longer runs and go my way.
Halfway along Columbus I have to pull over to tie my shoe (forgot to double-tie. stupid!) then I realize I've got to relieve myself, but I hold out. The spectators in the city are a lift. Even though I don't see anyone I know cheering for me, the crowd's excitement keeps me going. A woman holds a sign, "Runners, you inspire me" or something like that. My head swells and I smile.
The next several miles seem uneventful. My knees are a little sore and I'm not feeling my best but I press on. I have to stop to tie my shoes again and relieve myself by a fence near the zoo. Running again, I fixate a moment on the zoo balloon, thinking it'd be cool to watch the race from it but I see no one in it. I run past some people who I know were behind me before I stopped by the fence. I recognize where I'm at on the course because I drove along this part a week before. I hope we'll take that short little road to West River Dr but no. The course seems to take us on winding, endless loops through the park. It's not that bad though- I resign myself to the fact that this is the course and keep pressing on.
Matt, high school friend, runs up behind me and we run together again. To my surprise I'm actually able to do a lot of talking. We run together for a long while and keep each other going. Along WRD another runner joins us and asks our pace. Matt, who has a watch and was calling out our pace to me, tells him. He tells us he's going to try to run along with us. It's 1:53 at the halfway point. I start to worry I won't make four hours. We encourage each other, "halfway there." I look forward to the familiar ground of Kelly Drive.
Before the Art Museum I take off my long sleeve shirt, intending to pass it to someone I recognize in the crowd. Running around the Museum I don't see anyone. Then I spot English Mike. I call his name, hold up my shirt with an inquiring look, and toss it to him. I see a friend from college. He hurt his foot the week before and couldn't run today. I slap his hand. A few more people- PRs- cheer me on, and I'm psyched, feeling good. Matt, who is running his fourth Philly marathon, tells me that the crowds are sparse on Kelly and I don't look forward to the empty spaces ahead.
At mile 16 I start to tire and think I may start walking at some point, but keep moving those feet. I start using a trick I learned from swimming and close my eyes, opening them every few seconds to make sure I'm going the right way and not about to run into someone. Closing my eyes reduces visual stimuli and focuses me, no longer running toward points ahead but running on the moment, confident that each step is bringing me closer to the end. An older man runs by and tells his friend he's on pace and aiming for 3:45. That encourages me.
Somewhere before I begin to close my eyes, I pick up my pace and pull ahead of Matt, thinking I can do this on my own now. I want to get through Manayunk in the worst way. Past the East Falls Bridge is no man's land for me and I look forward to the home stretch of the familiar ground from the bridge to the Art Museum on the way back. Finally, Manayunk. I feel like I've hit some outpost in the Wilderness. Oddly, the cheering here doesn't lift me as much as the other areas. I'm zoned out from my surroundings and can't wait to turn around along Main Street. As I come out of Manayunk a friend from work runs out to me. He coached me a bit in the past couple months and had run the 8k earlier in the day. He ran along with me for several miles. I thought that was really cool of him. I start to pick it up in spurts, steadily passing those in front. I keep thinking that at some point I'm going to walk but I just keep running, looking ahead, swinging my legs forward. I can't look at the runners going toward Manayunk. Some of them are shuffling or walking and that makes me feel like slowing my pace. I know the distance isn't long now but my pace seems interminable- I feel if I let it all fly now I won't sustain it so I keep going at my current pace. My co-worker leaves me. I pass the bridge where the rock climbing wall is- another landmark. I'm almost there. The crowds begin before the Art Museum. It's all endorphins now. I let fly. Legs swinging out. I see Seth and wind up into a hand slap and pass the finish line at 3:43 for a 3:41:25 chip time.
Fortunately, I felt ok in the few days after the marathon but after the race I couldn't bend my legs, was cold and shivering, and had serious chafing issues (didn't find out about body glide until after the race). I had a red spot on the side of my shirt but wasn't bleeding. (Did anyone else have this?) I saw my family and we apparently agreed to meet outside the tent after I got something to eat, but I completely forgot. As I was getting food and liquid a couple people asked me if I was alright because I was shivering. After standing around for a long while and borrowing a dry shirt from my coworker friend who met me at the end of the race I slooowly made my way outside and met my brother. He gave me his sweater which somehow had been spilled with champagne. I thought about getting a ride with him but since his car was just as far I decided to just go back to my car.
Something like Billy Pilgrim in Dresden I ambled down the Parkway with my unbending legs wrapped in an aluminum blanket and wearing my brother's champagne- doused sweater. I had to go to the bathroom, but I was not close to any stores, restaurants, or secluded trees and was walking like a penguin.
At long last I reached the underground parking garage where I had parked in the morning. I walked around for several cruel minutes looking for the entrance but could not find it. So I walked down the drive ramp hoping not to be killed by a car after having survived a marathon.
I made it to my car and settled in the driver's seat. Wrapped in tinfoil and smelling faintly of champagne, I savored the warmth inside the car and the comfortable seat. As I drove home, my mother called. During our conversation she asked if I would run a marathon again. Despite the protests from every square inch of my body beneath the neck I answered in the affirmative.
The race started at 9 in Bethlehem. I figured if I left at 7:15 that'd give me plenty of time to get there, sign up, and warm up a couple miles before the start. I didn't account for the fact that I am dumb. After getting lost in Bethlehem, I pulled into the parking lot at 8:55. A quick sprint over to the registration table would have to suffice for a warm up. I handed them a check, grabbed a number, and made my way to the front of the field. I only had time to safety-pin two corners of my bib to my shirt before the gun fired. 5 or 6 guys took off hard in front of me. I had one thought: it sure would have been nice to use the bathroom before this thing started.
It was a beautiful, cold morning, and I settled into a nice, easy pace, still behind 5 or 6 runners in varying states of inappropriate dress. One guy in shorts and no shirt, one in full body sweats. I remembered that the registration form said there was "one good hill," and felt quite sure I had encountered it right before the two mile mark. A steep 400 meters through a residential area humbled a few of the guys in front of me, and by the top of it I was in 3rd. "That wasn't so bad," I thought. I passed a spray-painted "2" in the road at 11:40, feeling good, with two skinny gazelles about 200 meters ahead of me.
But as you may have figured, the "one good hill" was not yet behind me. Miles 2-5 climbed the side of what I guess is South Mountain. It was truly brutal--a steady, steep incline. It killed the 2nd place runner within a half mile. I plowed by him on the opposite side of the road. At first, I felt good, but slow. About halfway up I felt bad, but slow. Then I felt like someone was pulling me downward into the bowels of the earth. Right near the peak I passed some cops marshalling the course. About ten seconds later I heard them clap for the guy in third, so I knew he wasn't gone yet. We went downhill about half a mile, then turned around to head home. The leader could see at this point could see he had a quarter mile on me, and I could see I had about 100 meters on the fellow in third.
It felt great to have the hill behind me, and all the people still headed up cheered me on. A couple people said "you can catch him!" I resolved to go for it, and sprinted down the hill. As the road snaked around the mountain, I would lose sight of the guy in first around curves, and then see him again on the straights. Every time I saw him he was closer. We got to the lone water stop in the race, at the base of the hill, and his quarter mile was down to 20 yards. He then promptly took off and left me and my quadriceps to regret our decision to go pell-mell down the hill.
After an easy final couple miles, I came in 59:30, which I'm pretty pleased with, given the course. It was good enough for second place and a large frozen turkey. All around, a great day.
Mile 3 has me running past heavy crowds that line both sides of the long 4th Avenue straightaway that will take us north through Brooklyn. After having missed the sights off of the Bridge this is now perfect for settling into a rhythm where I could enjoy my surroundings and the clapping, yelling and other encouragement that the crowd offers. "Run like her husband is after you" one sign exhorts, but it is too early for that. The miles even out: 6:02, 6:07, 6:10, 6:14, 6:14 and 6:16 as the numbered streets count down the blocks to the Williamsburg Bank building that looms ever closer. The pace feels comfortable and I feel on track, content to knock off the remaining middle miles in the same fashion.
Turning right from 4th Avenue, the course leads up Lafayette Avenue to Bedford-Stuyvesant, and along the way, among the still strong crowds, a dark-skinned middle aged spectator startles me by yelling "Go Steve Metraux" and a high school band plays the Rocky theme. The neighborhoods get a bit grittier now, the streets a bit more pockmarked and the crowds thin out as the course goes through Williamsburg amidst enthusiastic cheering from the Hasidic locals. Mile 10 passes in 62 minutes, and I am right on time. Here the course winds its way through northern Brooklyn and people watch less and go about their everyday activities more - a pickup game of basketball in a park; men working on a car, and a woman with groceries and a small child in tow hurriedly crossing the course before the true hordes come. It now feels like less of a show and more of a serious race.
This is now the legendary First Avenue stretch, where you run down a wide promenade flanked by throngs of crowds making huge amounts of noise from both sides of the street. Where the Brooklyn crowds seemed close and accessible, here the crowds are behind barriers and seemingly far away, as a stadium crowd might appear to a pro ball player. I am deep in the solitary world of my race now, mindful of the countless admonitions against letting the First Avenue crowd drive me too fast. But it is not the crowd that drives as much as the realization that if I don't make up for lost time here then I won't make it up. So I surge, or at least think I do. But mile 17 passes in 6:21 and mile 18 goes in 6:25 and then I do what I have never done before in a marathon, I stop my watch and resolve to just run.
With this disappointment comes a sudden awareness of a mounting inventory of aches and pains. My right knee, which has been giving me low-grade problems all fall, felt weak like it would give out in a pain that stretched down my calf. I judge a good-sized blister to have formed on the ball of my right foot. Both hamstrings ache and I suddenly realize how hot it is. All this brings on an overwhelming desire to walk. The rest of First Avenue becomes an exercise in self-talk. . . "just make it to mile 19. . . okay, lets get to mile 20 and catch the split time. . . maybe its not as slow as I think." Over the Willis Avenue Bridge and the mile 20 marker shows 2:07:22. Even in its state of glycogen deprivation my brain could make out that this means I ran the second 10 miles a full five minutes slower than I ran the first 10.
I pass a man running on two prosthetic legs, with his two banana curved "feet" necessitating a roundabout, swaggering kind of stride. The handicapped race started about 45 minutes earlier than the main part of the race, and because of this they become part of the race as for the whole race we pass athletes in wheelchairs, on crutches and the like. As I approach this guy I just gawk; he is tough.
"Welcome to the Bronx, you're looking good." This refreshingly enthusiastic lie may just as well have said welcome to the wall. Here it is. A New York Times writer, in the post race coverage, observed that the hard lives and rough edges of this neighborhood are a fitting backdrop to entering this stage of the run. The crowds are much thinner but much louder and more pointed. They have to be if they are to get through to me at this point. "Go number 371, you're gonna make it." This section only lasts about a mile and it is back into Manhattan, this time for good. Going through Harlem and down Fifth Avenue the race becomes what veteran runners term a "death march," where the pain of continuing the race is juxtaposed against the seeming pointlessness of it. The urge to stop becomes overbearing and it's only habit and pride that keeps me going. By now I'm regularly passing people who have slowed down or who are walking, but others are regularly passing me as well. Veena, another Philadelphia runner, looks strong as she passes me at about mile 23. At about mile 24 a side stitch starts up, but by now the course is finally in Central Park and the end feels imminent. No drama, no urgency, just need a steady push to finish. The crowds are thicker again and their encouragement conveys a surprising sensitivity to the pain most of the runners are feeling at this point. Then it's the familiar sight of the Plaza Hotel and Columbus Circle. I dig deep and find a finishing kick so as to look more respectable as my image flashes on the TV monitor and past the bleachers where I know that Cindy and Tony are cheering me on. I cross the finish line just at 2:53.
This is without a doubt the most difficult marathon that I have run. Looking back on it brings forth a mix of feelings that are difficult to understand, let alone convey. Thoughts that come out in odd fragments that fit together poorly. How do I say it wasn't my day when I still crank out a 2:53? How could a race that felt so miserable, over such a deceptively demanding course, be so exhilarating? Am I too old to still be chasing ever faster times, or do I need to train harder in '05? And through all this comes an understanding why this has been the race that I've always wanted to run since I was a kid and saw Rodgers and Salazar and Waitz on TV; a race that creates a psychic energy I can only describe as transcendent and which thinking about it even now brings me to tears. A truly wretched run and a totally amazing race.
Staten Island: First of all, the weather was not awful, but not great either. Great if you were a spectator, about 10 degrees too hot if you were a runner. I had to run on the bottom of the Verrazano Bridge, which was a blessing in disguise b/c although the view was terrible, we were in the shade and there was a good breeze. Coming off the bridge, those from the green start had to take a separate route before they merged with the rest of the field in Bay Ridge. With all the turns and twists, at one point there were runners going in every direction. As soon as I got out onto the highway, I could feel the sun and knew the heat would make it tough.
Brooklyn: I was trying to run at least the first half with the 3:50 pace team, which I finally caught up with in Park Slope, Brooklyn. The crowds in Brooklyn were great, from Bay Ridge all the way out to Williamsburg. By the time I hit Mile 10, I definitely thought that is was the easiest 10 miles I had run in awhile - - the crowds made the time pass quickly. But this point, I was a little off the time I wanted (I don't think the 3:50 pace team ran the promised "even splits").
Queens: When I got into Queens, all I could think about was the 59th Street bridge. Everyone had talked about how terrible it was, huge hill, deep into the race, not a lot of spectators, etc. Maybe b/c I had built it up so much, it ended up not being all that bad. I latched onto a group going at a decent clip, put my head down and before I knew it, I was making the turn off the bridge on the Manhattan side. So I managed to pick up a little time in Queens.
Manhattan 1: Once I got on 1st Avenue, I did make the mistake I was warned about - - I cruised up 1st Avenue at a good pace, all the way to about the 18th mile and I overdid it. Somewhere between 18 and 19, I started to feel really really tired. I figured this was "the wall" and it was going to be painful from here on in. But I was able to adjust my pace, take some fluids, eat and by the time I got to the Willis Avenue Bridge, I had my second wind.
Bronx: I had heard that the Bronx was a hard part of the race b/c there were not a lot crowds. But I thought the Bronx was great. Even though we only ran in the Bronx for a mile or so, the crowds were out in force and they were loud. Before I knew it, we were heading back into Manhattan. At this point I felt good and I was about where I wanted to be on time, barring a major collapse I could finish in under 4 hours, maybe under the 3:50....
Coming into Harlem was awesome. From this point on, there were people everywhere, only a few small patches of open space. After mile 22, the miles seemed to take longer but I still felt OK. I had some family at mile 23, which was a great boost. Mile 24 felt like it took an hour. I saw some friends at mile 25, which also helped a lot. When I made the turn onto Central Park South, I was in a bit of a daze, but I had a clear path ahead of me. By the time I turned back into Central Park I could see the finish line and once I could see the clock, I knew I would finish in under 4 hours. I hauled myself up the hill and through the finish - - 3:53 on the clock, so I knew my net would be around 3:45....it ended up being 3:45:51.
The morning was cloudy and chilly, and I lined up with Bike Mike, Mony, Rachel and Seth. The field was small, at about 80, and the mood was low key, as none of us were there to race, but rather to get in miles and to tune up for upcoming marathons.
The other Philly Runners all finished and hopefully they'll give their own account of the race, so I won't go into details.
Ultimately I decided shorts and t-shirt with long sleeve shirt would do......Chatted with PRs before the start, and lost track of time as they were calling the start and I hadn't warmed up! I managed a quick jog to warm up my muscles. My plan was to run 8:45 min/mile....a bit faster than my training runs, but slower than what I felt I could run. Seth and I lined up at the start with a crew of less than 100. Seth and I started out at 8:20/mile for the first 3 miles. This was faster than I had planned, but I felt good, it didn't feel to fast, so we stuck with it. Most of the middle miles were run at about 8:30/mile pace. I felt pretty good, but my right hamstring was a little tight (probably b/c I didn't warm up!). At about 2.5 miles to go, I still felt like I had a lot in me, so I stepped up my pace a bit. I passed 4 (or 5) women in the last few miles, 8:15, 8:07, 8:16 for the last 3 splits. I finished in 2:10:40. This was much faster than planned (avg 8:26 pace), which is somewhat expected, as I have a hard time holding myself back when I feel good and know I can run faster in a race. But, it was a very good mental boost in preparation for Philly in about a month. I definitely feel that my training is on track, and was glad to have a "test run" before the marathon, as I missed the PDR.
After the race Dave met me with hot cider...and I hung around to chat for awhile. That night my hamstring was killing me, lots of ice and pain relievers....today it is still tight, but much much better.
Overall, I feel like I ran a good race but the hills were just too much. Depending on how I recover, I may look to run Philly for another, flatter, shot at Boston.
There were 16000 participants, but I think this was for all the different events not just the Marathon. The weather that day was cold (55F), windy and humid [95%].
I loved the way they solved the "lining up problem". Everybody received a mandatory colored bracelet. Based on the time you put down during your registration, you were assigned a starting section. This worked very, very well. The bracelet also had handy split times for every 5K.
My goal was to run a 3:00:00 pace and see around mile 20 if I had enough left in the tank for an increase in pace. Maybe this will be my shortest running story ever, since I feel I really executed running an equal pace. Stretches with head-wind may have been slightly faster than stretches with a tail-wind.
I didn't feel "great" but I certainly felt "reasonably well" during my race. Mile 13 to 20 went well but I wanted to wait with my speed increase. Actually everything was in kilometers (~.6 mile) which was kind of nice, since it gives you more splits. However, with 7 kilometers to go I had to give up thinking in kilometers since it simply sounded too much. "4 miles" just sounded so much better at that point. This mental trick probably got me through the last 4 miles while I was reintroduced to "the man with the hammer" (the Dutch version of "the wall").
My final time was 3:00:56, not below 3 hours and certainly not anything close to Ian's predictions. But the fact is that it was a great experience. The supporters were great (I must have high-fived 200 kids). Even though I'm pretty sore right now I have a smile on my face and I'm very happy! (Indeed Steve, I did break my PR by 58+ minutes).
PS I would like to thank my family who came out in big numbers to cheer (my nephew of seven, made sure he got an entrance form for next years marathon - someone may need to explain to him that he should wait a couple of years).
The race was in Wilmington and started at the Frawley Stadium parking lot. For once parking wasn’t a problem and there was a tailgate atmosphere about the prerace preparations. Kevin and I warmed up for 2 miles and the knee felt good. By the time we got back the race was set to begin and about 300 people were lining up at the start.
Wilmington is far enough away from Philadelphia that the racing crowd is almost entirely different, with nobody I recognized lining up in the front. Then I did the thing that I now find is peculiar to masters, looking at all my possible competitors and trying to gauge their age. This is usually an unsatisfying endeavor as it's very hard to tell both who may be fast and who may be old. So I dropped it and just told myself to run my race. Break 54 and I’ll have a good shot at a payday.
The race started off slow so that there was a lead pack of ten looping around the stadium and passing mile 1 in about 5:35. Stay with these boys as long as I can, I thought, but one guy quickly threw in a surge that three others followed but I decided not to. This left me in a no-man’s land behind this pack with a couple of other stragglers and by mile 2 (5:42) three of us had coalesced into a second pack and were working together to pace and draft.
This pack was exactly at a pace I wanted to maintain, slow enough to where I could hang but fast enough to where I wasn’t sure I’d be able to maintain it for the whole race. The course looped by the stadium a second time for mile 3 (5:45) and went past the adjacent outlet shops and along the Christiana river walk for miles 4 (5:39) & 5 (5:48) and then put us onto some Wilmington back streets. This had given me time to check out my pack mates. One of them was a young guy about my height and build (i.e., good for drafting off) who did not look to be expending much effort, and the other guy was thinner with straight black hair and it was difficult to make out his age. However the latter guy was known among the bystanders, and their exhortations to "Go Greg" let me know that this was last year’s masters winner. This was the guy I had to beat.
It was still early to think about that, however, as our pack of three hung together past mile 6 (5:48) and the final turnaround at about 10k that turned us back around towards Frawley Stadium for the final time. Turnarounds let you see where the competition is. The first four guys were sufficiently far ahead to where we were unlikely to catch them and I was happy to see Kevin in the pack just behind us. Mile 7 passed in 5:45 and we were back on the boardwalk. Now there was no more working together. The young guy in our pack started picking up the pace and I focused on following him. "Throw a rope and hang on to him" a bystander shouted and I visualized doing that. I was also not putting distance between me and Greg, which worried me because I have not had a great finishing kick this season and was afraid I’d fall victim to this again.
Here the contest became as much mental as physical: alternately focusing on picking up the pace; fighting off the exhaustion that was setting in; and keeping out negative thoughts that I’d blow it. And for all that seeming effort Mile 8 was another 5:45. But I still had a step on Greg heading into the final 1.3 and resolved that if I let him pass me it was over. I struggled to just stay ahead of him and hug the tangents as we again passed by the outlet stores and into the final dash around the big stadium parking lot. I heard him kick once and held him off and vowed that the only way he’d beat me is if I left all of my race on the course. With 200 yards left to go I felt I would do that literally, pushing back feelings of nausea and giving what I had to hold off another kick. Just before the final turn I saw Cindy cheering and realized I had dropped him. The last 1.3 were in 7:32 (5:48 pace; I hadn’t sped up as much as just held on) and I crossed the finish line in 53:21 as first master, with Greg behind me by 3 seconds and Kevin finishing next about another 8 seconds later.
One of the most gratifying races I’ve run. Engaging in that kind of competition is why I race (though not necessarily why I run). We celebrated afterwards by blowing much of my hard-earned cash with a leisurely outdoor brunch at Las Cazuelas.
Of course, runners who stick to their plans are about as common as runners without obsessive-compulsive disorder.
Around mile 7 or 8, people started coming back to me. I felt great. I gave an enthusiastic salute to the drag queen cheerleaders in Boystown, and passed more people. I thought about Steve M. Not because he's a drag queen cheerleader, but because he'd told me about this part of this course.
My pace remained steady and easy, just under 6:20. I came through the half in about 1:22:40. I turned to the guy next to me and said "I'm going to pay for this." He said "Gruh." I didn't see him again.
I kept waiting to blow up. Miles 15-20 were my fastest. One clipped by in 6:05. People were really faltering, giving me the illusion that I was moving faster than I was.
I rounded a tight corner around 22 and then I felt it. Not the big heavy wall I've hit before, but a little telegraph from my legs saying "these next few miles aren't going to be as easy." I managed to run something like 6:24 for that mile. My last 2 were right around 6:40, but I'm prouder of those miles than the faster ones that came before, because I had to work for them. A big stiff Chicago wind hit us with about half a mile to go, but more than anything it woke me up and reminded me to enjoy the last miserable 800 meters.
I met up with my friends at the finish, and we went out for celebratory burritos. My dad called, and he said, "just remember what you did right." To be honest, I couldn't really think of anything. But it all turned out pretty well.
However, with lowered expectations also comes a greater degree of relaxation, a greater focus on enjoying myself and running for the sake of being out there running. In this spirit I ran with Mike D. in the Wanderer's Cross-Country Classic in Chestnut Hill on Saturday for the sheer fun of running around and through a golf course in the pouring rain. While this was a departure from the conventional resting the day before a big race, mentally it put me where I wanted to be for PDR.
The morning of the race was gloriously sunny with only a wind to complain about. At least 8 or 9 PR's were in the race, and we and well wishers all met in front of the Hard Rock before doing final warm-ups and lining up to race. Find a pace and stick with it was my mantra as the race started, and after a first mile split of 5:55 I felt it in me to speed up.
The good thing about starting off slow is that as you speed up you get to pass people. This happened in bunches for the next two miles as I settled down into a 5:42 pace. I hooked up with a guy with a Grateful Dead cap and bright yellow singlet and as we got onto W. River Drive we took turns drafting off each other as we continued to pass groups of 2s and 3s.
This groove was harshly interrupted by an untied shoelace. While this pause took only a few seconds, I lost my drafting buddy and couldn't reel him back in. I was now facing the race alone, and my splits fell steadily to a 5:58 as I crossed Falls River Bridge (mile 8) and romped through the muddy remnants of where the Schuylkill flooded the night before.
The sound of footsteps snapped me out of my mental funk and I picked up my pace a bit to keep up with my would be overtaker. First I said to myself I'd keep up with him through mile 9 (5:54) then we overtook a guy ahead of us and then through mile 10 (5:48 and 58 flat overall). 5k to go and a second wind came on. I picked up a few steps on my rival. Mile 11 went down in 5:44 and I was back in business. The person next up I recognized as Emily Krosus, who I've run with through Phila. Track Club and who is usually faster than I. We dueled a bit around mile 12 (5:52), where a guy shouted out "5:35 pace will get you under 1:16." I don't know how he was able to figure that out but I took off on that to finish the last 1.1 in 6:12 (5:38 pace) to finish in 1:15:46 (the guys math was a bit off) and hold off four others who finished less than 10 seconds behind me.
To say I was thrilled is an understatement. While a bit short of my PR this time was several minutes faster than I expected, and reaffirms that I'm in shape to make an effort at a PR in NYC in November. Not bad for a glorious day on home turf.
I always have a hard time deciding where to place myself at the start. On one hand I would like to be respectful and follow the pace instructions, on the other hand I get burned by it because a lot of people don't respect them. This year I started around the "5 mile pace sign" about 10-15 meters behind the elites. It's incredible how many 9+ milers and walkers I had to pass that apparently lined up right behind the elite athletes. Maybe I'll line up at the 3 mile pace sign next time.
In my first 4 miles I tried to stay as relaxed as possible. The PDR is such a great event with so many runners that it was quite a challenge trying to keep my pace, not wasting energy, while passing people and getting cut-off several times. Walnut was indeed very uneven. Thanks to Steve G. I was prepared and stayed to the right. I knew that the wind was coming from the North today but interestingly certain blocks on Walnut were headwind (to be expected) while on other blocks I felt a tail wind (?). My splits were 6:32, 6:18, 6:25 and 6:30. A little slower than diagrammed; but since I usually run better when I start a bit conservative, no need to panic. Kevin and Ian’s cheers were very much appreciated!
The second 4 miles were fairly uneventful. It's kind of nice to have a "home" race where you actually know quite precisely where the next mile marker will be. I just finished Alberto Salazar's book "Guide to road racing". In this book he suggests that when you race to go "same intensity" up a hill. This means that the pace will naturally slow down, rather than speeding up. His theory is that you would spend a lot of extra energy while relatively gaining little time (like running in sand). Usually I (like most other runners) speed up on hills during a race but I tried his suggestion. On the strawberry mansion as well as falls bridge "mini hills" people would pass me, but I would quickly pass them back since I was better able to take advantage of the down hills (I didn't need to recover). My splits were: 6:23, 6:26, 6:30, and 6:31. Ok, by now I was starting to get a bit concerned since I was way over my original 6:20 pace. However, I was feeling good, I knew I had put in the training, and hoped the tailwind on Kelly would make up some of my lost time. At this point I was hoping to run under 1:24:00.
The last 5+ miles felt great. I knew I could go a bit "anaerobe" here, so I started picking up the pace. My splits were: 6:15, 6:21, 6:05, 6:04, and 6:13. I used to run 800/1500 meters in college so I can usually count on a good kick. The last mile was great, running on the parkway, with the crowd cheering. Kevin's cheers were so much appreciated on the last 100 meters. My last mile was an unexpected 5:35 (since the 6:13 split was for 1.11 mile). Final time: 1:22:35. A PR by over 3 minutes and needless to say I was very happy.
Pre-race routine: Saturday - 1 day until race day. A very relaxing day. Walk to the expo (about 1/2 mile) in the heavy rain and winds. Jen Rhines is there and is scheduled to speak. For those not familiar with her, Jen finished 34th in the Olympic Marathon. An All-American distance runner @ Villanova. Last year she ran this race and finished 2nd. Then she moved on and did the NYC marathon and then the Olympic Qualifier Marathon.
She was recently featured in Runner's World so I was able to recognize her. I went up to her and asked her if I could get my picture taken. She of course said yes. My girlfriend was very surprised when I pulled my camera out and handed it to her. As luck would have it, the batteries died and the opportunity lost and I had some explaining to do. (side note: Jen is very attractive)
Event Warm-up: Sipping cytomax all morning right up to race start. Walk to the race start (about 1/2 mile) with my sister. Drop off bags at the check and go for a 2 mile run to get the blood flowing. Arrive @ starting line with 4 minutes to the start. I get in between the 7 and 8 minute pace signs as I plan on running at a 7:45 pace. The sun is so bright that I have to use my hand to shield my eyes so I can see where I am going. (Sunglasses would have helped but I just can't run with them.) Last minute change - the river has receded and the course is back to the original route. The National Anthem is played and local Olympian Jen Rhines starts the race.
The Run: This is a B race for me and a checkpoint for my training for the NYC Marathon. My goal was 1:41:36 (a 7:45 pace). I have a habit of starting off too fast (don't we all) so I had to make sure I went slower than my body wanted to. I hit mile 1 @ 8:15 and was very happy. For the next 3 miles, I ran through the streets of Philly and just enjoyed the atmosphere. The weather (other than that the headwind) was ideal, and the crowd support was great. I kept telling myself that this was no different than my normal Sunday Run. Along the way, I saw several of my friends and running mates. Kevin was the 1st I saw and he reminded me that I still have to pick up my Philly Runners Shirt. Ian was next, right at mile marker 4 like he said he would be and we exchanged our normal high 5's as we always seem to be going in opposite directions. My girlfriend and my sister's boyfriend were all over the course and I saw them several times.
My left knee (ACL reconstruction in 98) started to bother me from mile 5 on. My left hip (dislocated in 94) started to bother me at mile 9.Neither were of much concern but I figured I better document it somewhere.
The big concern was my cramping @ mile 9. My nutrition for the race was carb-boom gel and cytomax. I also used the water on the course. Was my intake not enough? I thought so, until I started burping @ mile 10 and realized it was indigestion, perhaps from too much gel and cytomax.
Laura B, the 1/2 Ironwoman was right at the top of the last hill around mile 12 and she startled me. I was struggling up the hill until I saw her and she inspired me to kick it in. Finally the home stretch, I sped up and it looked like I would come in right @ my goal pace. About 500 yards from the finish I heard a large group cheering me on. It was the Philly Runners again. I saw Kevin and Raymond but couldn't see who else was there. I put in my spinal kick, in all out sprint mode and finished 9 seconds ahead of my goal.
Post race Warm down: Took off my chip, got my medal and jogged up to about 1/4 mile before the finish to cheer on my sister and the rest of my friends who were behind me.
Got changed, immediately drank endurox R4 and followed that with a Carb-boom Recovery gel and headed to the BEER GARDEN! Also had an energy bar, a banana, a pretzel, a muffin, ice cream and everything else I could get my hands on.
Event comments: Special thanks to Philly Runners and everyone else who has been a part of my training. And to all the people on BT, who keep me motivated along the way.
Along with the Broad Street Run (10 miler) and the Philly Marathon, the PDR makes Philly a great city to run in w/ options for 3 different distance runs that are among the most popular in the US.
The start was Saturday morning @8:00am, with great weather conditions. The triathlon "scene" was fun, but slightly intimidating (it seemed like everyone had a Cannondale/Trek $3000+ bike). There were ~350 people that started in 5 or 6 waves.
The swim was 400 meters point-to-point. Although I felt I was ready for this (swimming 4-8 miles a week in a pool for the last 4 months), ehh, swimming in a lake is quite different. The water was pitch-black, and swimming in a "free-for-all" with ~80 people takes a lot of guts. I have to admit that I kind of panicked after 100 meters and decided to do breast stroke from there on (my body was stiff, I couldn't breathe or see anything while doing freestyle). Actually the one good thing with doing breaststroke was that I saved a lot of energy on the swim.
Even though I felt like I messed up with the swim, it wasn't so bad in hindsight (8:14). In T1 (the transition between the swim and bike) I made 2 mistakes. I put on socks (while standing upright), and I put on a (PR) shirt with my number attached. It must have been humorous to watch me, since I fell almost twice while putting on my socks. Also putting on a shirt on a wet body while not trying to rip off your number is a challenge. Next time, I'll loose the socks and I'll use one of those number-belts. My T1 1:48 transition time was a good lesson for next time.
The bike ride went well. I really hadn't biked too much lately and was just hoping not to get a flat tire. Most athletes seem to be bikers so I was pleased to see that I passed as many people as were passing me. My average was ~21 mph on 11 miles. The bike part is probably the most important since you can gain the most time. The top bikers averaged just below 25 mph.
I ran the mile and the 5000 meter events. I had never run a competitive mile before, and it showed. For someone used to running distances, the mile seems to be over before it even starts. I took up a tempo where I thought I was pushing it but before I knew it we were on the bell lap and I realized that I had all kinds of gas left in the tank. I finished in 5:07, which was a PR but only because it was the first time I ran it. Ian was light years ahead of me with a 4:47 finish. My first thought when I finished was that I want a do-over.
Okay, you read right, and in case you missed it I’ll say it again, Ian beat me. There, its out. But it was the mile. I could chalk up the loss to inexperience and to any number of other excuses. There was still the 5,000 event, and I had my sights set on revenge. The 5,000 was the last individual event, run about a half hour after the mile ended. Only four of us lined up for this event, myself, Ian, another slower guy whose name I forgot, and this Kenyan guy, Eliud Njubi. As soon as Eliud took off his sweatpants it was clear that he was out of our league. Here was a thin, lanky guy who warmed up with the most beautiful, effortless stride – long and light like he was running on an air cushion. So first place was settled, last place was settled, the only outcome in question would be who would finish second and who would finish third.
They lined us up all official, did the “on your marks” and fired the starter’s gun, and the four of us were off. Ian and I stayed more or less together for the first mile (5:17) upon which Ian opened up about a 20 meter lead and held it going through the second mile (5:25 for me). I was thinking there is no way he could hold this. Going into the third mile I started chipping away at this lead, got it down to 10 meters with 3 laps to go, 5 meters with 2 laps to go, and then I made my move and passed him. Pushing it and gasping for air in gulps by now, I kept up this burst figuring to discourage Ian. However, the sound of his breathing behind me told me I didn’t shake him and so, into the last turn, I gave it all I had. I got a few more steps on him before Ian shifted into overdrive and sprinted across the finish line, with me about 10 meters behind. Ian finished, unofficially, in 16:41 and me in about 16:42 or 43. I was totally spent but not so out of breath so as not to let out a few expletives.
I knew this would inevitably happen sometime, but I didn’t think Ian would beat me in a race this soon. Congratulations, though somewhat grudgingly, to you, Ian. Eliud won the event in something like 14:45. In talking to him afterwards, it turns out that he’s a miler on the TCU track team with sub 4 credentials and was trying for an Olympic spot on the Kenyan team (probably harder to do that than to win the gold) when he injured his knee. Running in this meet was part of his rehabilitation, and he was as humble and down-to-earth as he could be and still describe how his injury reduced him to running 68 second 400s during his interval workouts. Ian and I even got him to run on our distance medley team, which is I suppose the equivalent of having Jim Thome playing for your softball team.
Anyway, it looks like we can do this again. Wissahickon Wanderers is having a second track meet next Tuesday, same time, same place, same format. I’ll be there, Ian said he’ll be there, Eliud said he’ll be there. I want a rematch, I want one bad. The Gebrselaise-Bekele Olympic matchup will be nothing compared to mine and Ian’s rematch. This may even call for a wager. . .
I second, the Wissahickon Wanderers put on a good show, some slight disorganization aside (Steve-when the official asked us how many laps we had left, we should have told him we were done, then we'd both have a sub-16 in the bank). There was a casual, fun atmosphere, with athletes ranging from Eliud to A.J., a (maybe) 3-foot-tall six-year-old who braved the mile and the 3000m.
There was a nice spread of some home-cooked food next to the bleachers. Most runners enjoyed it after they ran their races. Some couldn't wait; they learned the hard way why pulled pork barbeque isn't considered a performance enhancer by the IOC.
Steve's disbelief at getting outkicked by me at the end of a 5000 can only be exceeded by my own disbelief at outkicking him. I have to say, I liked hearing "sixteen-forty-one" coming out of the starter's mouth as I crossed the line, but hearing Steve say "you $%&#@!" two seconds later when he finished was even better. Truth be told, I'm pretty sure I surprised him more than outran him.
I hope more Philly Runners will join us at next week's meet. I think Ray, Brian S, and J-Mac are coming. Even if you run just one race, come for the barbeque. Or to watch the rematch. Gulp.
You've heard the hype for a whole week. Ian beat Steve M in two races last Tuesday...who would prevail in the rematch?
In lap 2, the crowd bunches up a bit, and a couple guys fall off the back. We start swallowing up Steve, who no doubt is thinking, "I sure am glad I went out fast enough this time. It would be such a shame to have something left in my legs at this point."
I take a few spikes in the shin, which actually makes me feel like a real runner, at least until I hear my next split time. At 700 m I start feeling great, like we're barely jogging, but I'm boxed in on the inside with two guys in front of me and one guy on the outside, so I can't make a move. I stay in third till the last 100, when I hear breathing sneaking up behind me. I think "if this is Steve, he's not passing me. If it's anybody else, he can have it." It wasn't Steve.
I come in around 4:54, a good bit slower than last week. Steve follows soon after, in a PR, but I don't know what his time was. Bike Mike and John Mac follow soon after.
We watch Bike Mike rock the 3000m. He's in second for most of the race. He bides his time until about a mile to go, then he passes the leader. As if in a game of leapfrog (in which, for the record, Mike was a Division III All-American), he's immediately passed by the woman who had been in third. She puts on a devastating move, and Mike holds on for first male. (Mike-you got a gift certificate. John saved it for you. I wanted to use it. I think it's for the Knit-Wit Knitting Emporium and Puppy Palace in Manayunk.)
Next, John Mac represents Philly Runners in the 800. I saw his first lap, but--please pardon the scatalogy--I was in the bathroom for his second lap. I was only going No. 1, so this should tell you how fast his second lap was. Maybe one of the other attendees could give a more detailed report.
Then comes the 5000. About 12 people toed the line at the start, including Eliud the Kenyan harrier from last week. The pace starts off pretty easy, and I feel good, easing into second behind Eliud. I think Steve and some other guy were right behind me. It stays like this for a couple laps. Then Steve comes up on my shoulder. I try to stay ahead of him, but as I start feeling worse he just keeps getting faster, and he passes me and takes off. I don't have anything in my legs to chase after him. I think he finishes with roughly the same time as last week, maybe a little faster. I come in about a minute slower than last week.
Finally, six or eight teams line up for the Distance Medley. We're an all Philly Runners team. I take the first 1200 leg as penance for my poor performance in the 5000. John Mac takes the 400, Steve runs the 800, and Bike Mike anchors us with the mile. I was too **** tired to pay attention, so I'll leave a race report to somebody else.
I am relieved that the moral order of the universe has been restored. Old age & cynicism did indeed beat youth & idealism last night (at least in the 5000), but the matchup wasn't as gripping as last week.
For the first six laps it was like the Olympics, with Ian and I leading a pack and just behind the lead Kenyan (okay a little more than JUST behind). The pace was steady and I was mulling over strategies for the last half when I noticed Ian was not off of my shoulder anymore. That took the competition out of the race, and for the rest of the race me and Craig Holm, a guy I occasionally run with, basically paced each other for about a 16:50 time. We then congratulated each other on only being lapped by Eliud once.
A few more notes to supplement Ian's excellent summary. I did in fact go out way too fast in the mile, but its more satisfying to shoot your wad early than to hold back (at least in the mile). Ian is the undisputed PR champ in this event.
We did field an all PR team for the distance medley and came in third. John Mac and Mike carried us through this event, as it is indeed penance to run 800 meters all out after just finishing 5000.
And finally, there is the issue of the rubber match. Ian is smart to stall for time, for as each day passes he gets faster and I get slower. However, for the rematch, I propose we head out to the hills for a cross-country run. Check out BMRC's "Triple Threat" on 9/11 and tell me what you think, Ian. And if we get 5 more folks interested, we can get a team together.
At this point, I still hadn’t run further than ten miles in my life; I had almost no racing experience; and I wasn’t enrolled in a marathon training program. However, fools rush in . . . I read every book I could find on marathoning, including Marathon by Hal Higdon and Advanced Marathoning by Pete Pfitzinger and Scott Douglas. (Jeff Galloway’s Book on Running had gotten me through the early days, when I could barely run five minutes without stopping; I recommend it highly to anyone who wants a gentle introduction to the sport.) I drew on these books and the advice of my running friends to create a training schedule for my April marathon.
I also made two decisions that helped immensely with my training. First, I asked Kevin to put an announcement in one of Philly Runners’s periodic email updates that I was looking for partners to train with. This resulted in my hooking up with two cheerful and experienced runners, Tracy W and Leah W, with whom I trained once or twice a week for the next four months. Without their good company I probably wouldn’t have been motivated to put in the miles on all those freezing winter nights, when running along Kelly Drive felt more like fleeing across the steppes of Siberia. They also offered useful tips on race strategies, injury prevention, and which gels taste the least disgusting. I experimented with several brands and judged CarbBoom to be the most palatable. Following the warnings of my running buddies--'Never try anything in the marathon that you haven’t done in training!'--I took a gel carrier on my long runs, only to discover the hard way that in cold weather, the gels turn the consistency of peanut butter and are almost impossible to squeeze out of the container.
My other strategy was to enter a series of shorter races in the months before my marathon: 5K in January, 12K in February, 25K and 10K in March, 10 miles in April. (It’s easy to have PRs when you never run the same distance twice!) Since I wasn’t doing formal speed workouts at a track, these races were a chance to run fast and push my limits, and they gave me feedback as to whether my marathon goal time was realistic. Despite some rough moments--like the 12K on an ice-covered path, where I had a spectacular full-body wipeout and narrowly missed knocking down some nearby race volunteers like bowling pins--these were fun events, and I met or exceeded my goals.
Having never really been comfortable with competitive sports, I was surprised to find how much I loved racing. I think this is partly because you’re really competing against the clock rather than the other runners, so it’s not a zero-sum game, and partly because the running community is so supportive--there are always people cheering you on and encouraging you to find that last bit of energy before the finish. I would urge other new runners to consider racing: it’s a great confidence-builder when you make your goal time (even if you finish at the back!) and adds variety to your running routine. I also got accustomed to the logistics and rituals of racing--what to wear, when to make that last visit to the Port-o-john, how to drink from a paper cup while running--so that it all seemed familiar when the big day came. And I learned that the body is a mysterious thing, and that just because your muscles are sore, you’re sleep deprived, and the weather is terrible doesn’t mean you won’t run a good race. The final weekend before my marathon I ran the Run For Clean Air 5K as part of a Philly Runners team, which ended up taking first place (though my own contribution to this was undoubtedly minor). At 25:36 I had run my fastest pace ever, and I felt upbeat about the quickly approaching marathon.
The New Jersey marathon is held on the eastern shore, starting at Sandy Hook and proceeding along a mostly flat course with a few stretches along the ocean. It’s a well-organized race with great volunteer support--including lots of local kids handing out water and looking awed by the whole thing--and if you don’t need large crowds cheering you on, it’s a good spring marathon option within an easy drive of Philly. We were blessed with perfect weather, in the 50s and overcast, and with a small field of fewer than 2000 runners, there wouldn’t be much crowding on the narrow course. After shivering at the starting line while someone sang the national anthem off key, we were finally off! I repeated my mantra--'Don’t go out too fast; don’t go out too fast'--but it was hard to keep a steady pace while surrounded by a surging sea of runners. Some miles turned out slower than the 10-minute pace I’d planned, some much faster. Finally, around mile 7, I met up with someone running close to my goal pace, and we ran the next ten miles together. He was running his thirteenth marathon and had lots of stories to tell. I couldn’t believe how much easier it was to run side by side with someone, instead of struggling to keep the pace by myself! Unfortunately he had to drop behind around mile 17, and I was on my own again.
Meanwhile, Tom had been showing up at intervals along the course to cheer me on, take pictures, and hand me whatever I might need (lip balm was a big one--I guess slurping all that Gatorade can make your lips chapped after a while). At mile 20, as we had arranged, he handed the camera to my sister and jumped in to run with me. By this time my entire body was aching, including strange places like the back of my knee, where I had never felt the slightest twinge before. My pace had slowed and I didn’t think I could make it to the finish without walking, but I at least wanted to put it off as long as possible. With Tom’s encouragement I somehow managed to keep going until mile 24 or so, when I got my second (third? fourth?) wind and actually picked up some speed. In previous races I had learned to pass people in the final stretch--it’s almost magical how focusing on the person ahead of you can pull you forward faster--and I did manage to squeeze past one or two runners in those last couple of miles. When I turned the final corner and saw the finish line ahead, I felt my heart jump out of my chest. I had tears in my eyes but was laughing at the same time as I rushed across the finish line. My 4:25 time was only slightly over my goal of 4:22, and a lot better than I’d feared during those last tough miles.
As of this writing I’m still recovering from the race, but Tom and I are already planning to do a fall marathon, perhaps Philly. I hope to run the next one faster, of course, and someday qualify for Boston. But even if you’re not breaking any speed records, it’s an incredible thing to know about yourself: that you can do the distance. With a little help from your friends.
This would be the same common sense that advises you not to go running in an electrical storm; to stick with a treadmill instead of trying to maintain footing on a riverside ice rink; to find an indoor exercise that does not involve charging head-on into a 30 mile per hour wind when it's below freezing out. The same common sense that urges you to not to add that extra mile because that strange feeling in your knee might not go away tomorrow. If you're a runner of any ability, you get my point. We wouldn't get anywhere if we gave in to that voice in the back of our heads. However, no matter how willing my spirit seems to be, the old body just isn't keeping up. So, for the time being at least, I have to entertain myself with thoughts of something other than setting a PR.
One of my tricks is to pretend that one by one, the potatoes are falling out of the aforementioned sack, making it lighter and easier to carry as the miles disappear behind me. On Sunday, however, my body wasn't having any part of this stunt. I half thought of quitting once I reached the 10 mile marker and just then, a police cruiser pulled up behind me. "Are you all right?" the officer driving asked me. "Why? Don't I look all right?" I asked. Then I realized: I was one of the last runners, and they were getting ready to close the street. This was a new experience. I reassured him that no matter how I looked, I wasn't about to keel over. I started thinking maybe finishing last wouldn't be such a bad thing. Last is a distinction too, isn't it? And then I heard another voice call out from the highway that runs parallel to part of the West River Drive. "Hey, girlfriend!" a young male hollered from his car. "C'mon, move that thing. You can do it." This was followed by a series of wolf whistles, which trust me, I was sure were directed at a young female behind me. But when I turned around, the nearest runner was male and quite a distance behind me. Ordinarily, such attention would make me feel self-conscious but it had the opposite effect. I started feeling a second wind (not that the first one ever showed up) and slowly, I started to pick off runners who were just ahead of me.
One of these days, I may catch you. But for now, I'll make due with the view from the rear.
© Copyright 2017 Philly Runners