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Running Stories -- 2010

Phil -- Caesar Rodney Half-Marathon -- March 21, 2010

Before I go into my Caesar Rodney LBRR, I should disclose that I'm new to running. I've only been running on a regular basis for about 1 year. Before that, it was just short trips from the couch to the fridge during TV commercials. Also, in fairness I should also disclose that I don't even know what a LBRR is or even stands for...but I promised Seth that I'd write one so here's my attempt:

I've gotten this crazy idea to try my luck at running a marathon so I've signed up for the NJ Marathon on May 2nd. Because I'm a very detailed person (OCD), I've been following an 18 week training program and the CR half marathon fit into my schedule. I've heard good things about this race and I figured I'd give it a shot. My first, and only, half marathon was the PDR so I was a bit intimidated because everyone who has run CR has said how hilly it is (more on this later!). In fact, I've only run 3 races in my life and they were all in the past year: a 10K, PDR and a 5 mile Turkey Trot. I'm still a novice when it comes to racing.

The weather couldn't have been any better. It was cool in the morning, but not too cold. It was one of the few days this year that I've been able to run in shorts & a short sleeve shirt. Mareese and I carpooled down to Wilmington and the drive only took about 35 minutes, which was much faster than I expected. The parking lot & start line are just a few block off of 95 South so it couldn't have been any more convenient. Also adding to the convenience is the free parking and free use of the local YMCA. Not only can race participants use the very clean bathrooms, we had the ability to use the locker room for changing, lockers to store our items's the best part...the ability to shower after the race.

So we took advantage of the YMCA's facilities and headed down to the start line. As we were milling about, we saw Seth, Brian, Stephanie & Jerry. We headed over to where the racers were starting to gather and Mareese and I started to talk about our race strategy. Brian proceeded to start laughing and said "It's 9:25 and the race starts in 5 minutes. Don't you think you should have discussed this earlier than NOW?". He was right and we all had a good laugh. Stephanie provided me with the best advice of the day: be aware of the start gun, it's a cannon. It was so loud, most of the runners screamed! As it went off, I looked down at my heart rate monitor and watched it move about 10 BPM.

What I didn't realize was that I was the furthest from the start line when the cannon went off. Therefore, I spent the first 2 or 3 miles trying to get out of traffic. I ran up on the sidewalks, on the curb or whatever it took to get around the crowds. I felt like a Brian Westbrook trying to make my way through the offensive line to get to the end zone. I'd accelerate, cut left, stutter step and cut right. It felt more like a dance than a road race. Oh well, I guess I learned not to start at the back of the pack. After a few miles, things began to spread out. I was still passing people, but not as frequently as the first 3 miles. My other big mistake was over hydrating before the race. As I approached the start area, I felt the need to "go" but I assumed it was just my nervousness and I figured I'd forget about the urge as I got moving. Big mistake. By the time I got to mile 6, my body told me that I needed to stop. I found a remote area and took care of business. Looking back on the race, this mistake added about a minute or so to my time. Next time, I'll make sure not to over hydrate.

The course is really nice. Some of the course is on a boardwalk along the water. There is a long slow uphill around mile 6.5 but it was manageable. There was a turnaround soon after mile 9.5, so you get the opportunity to run back down the hill. The killer is the hill at the end of the race. I was warned about the hill, but I didn't anticipate it being as steep or long as it was. As I was running up the hill, I remember what Seth said about the hill a few weeks ago at the coffee shop: "it's just mean!".

After the race and a shower at the YMCA, I went to the Washington Street Ale House for a beer & burger with Seth, Mareese, Rachel & Jerry. Actually, I was the only one who ate a burger and had a beer...everyone else was being healthy. Anyway, a good time was had by all.

To conclude, I crossed the finish line at 1 hour 44 minutes and 45 seconds. This was 10 minutes faster than my last (only) half marathon 6 months ago. In that race, I averaged 8:45 min/miles...this race my average was 8:00. I couldn't have had such an improvement if it wasn't for PhillyRunners', the A-/B+ Group and especially Mareese who put up with all my complaining while we did our speed workouts (they really DO help!!!). I'm looking forward to my next race!

Mallory -- Boston Marathon -- April 19, 2010

Thank you! It was an amazing time! The city of Boston really gets into the race, and it's non-stop noise for all 26 miles. I didn't really have a goal in mind - just wanted to run and have fun (which I did - slapping spectators hands and waving at the cameras and really taking it all in lessened the pain I was in for sure). I think the carefree attitude helped a lot. I started out running 8 minute miles - it was weird because EVERY runner is fast so it's hard to go slow at the beginning! I thought for sure I would get tired later, but I figured I would give it a shot to see how long I could maintain the 8 min/mile. Turns out,I was able to do it for the whole race! Finished with about a 7:57 average split. For some weird reason, I never really felt too badly during the run and didn't really hit a wall - that has never happened before! But I am very happy. A great weekend overall! Congrats to everyone else who ran - I know several Philly Runners had great races!

Seth -- Broad Street Run -- May 2, 2010

I had a pretty decent race despite the weather.

Last week, I ran the Bryn Mawr Out & Back and it was my fastest in a while and my first negative split in something like seven years. Unlike for Broad Street, the weather was absolutely perfect. I started out at a fast, but comfortable pace, which turned out to be 8:34. My next mile was 8:35 and at the turn-around, I was still feeling good, so I picked up the pace and mile 3 came in at 7:57. I still felt good so I ramped it up even more, which at that point pretty much felt like an all-out sprint. My last mile was 7:41. I honestly didn't think I could run that fast anymore. It raised my hopes for a good BSR, but the weather got in the way of that.

I started out the morning of the BSR driving to FDR Park, parking my car and hopping on the subway. I chose the local over the express because everybody else was choosing the express and I figured I'd rather sit for 30 minutes than stand for 20. Got up to the start, ran into Jeff, Mike W, Megan, Steve G, Rach, Holly, Jerry, Mary. When it came time to get into corrals, I ended up in the corral for everybody who said they were going to run 1:29 to 1:30. As far as I could tell, nobody was enforcing the corrals, but the staggered start was appreciated. I started out fast and felt good. My first two splits were sub 8:30 and for some reason I thought maybe I could keep that up. It was not to be. For mile 3 I struggled to keep it below 9 min/mi, but then I fell into a reasonably steady pace of around 8:50. Just being able to keep any kind of steady pace in that heat was a victory for me. Usually in hot weather my speed drops sharply and just finishing becomes a huge struggle. Towards the end I was really feeling the heat and I had a mile or two that came in above 9 minutes. the crowds at the end didn't help either, but I didn't have it in me to go any faster at that point anyway. Final tally was 1:29:20, the slowest I've run Broad Street, but faster than I thought I could run it in that weather, so I'm pretty happy with it.

Thanks everybody for coming out, cheering, volunteering, running, and eating, drinking and napping at the BBQ afterwards. Congrats to everybody who finished BSR and the marathons and half-marathons yesterday.

Jill -- Broad Street Run -- May 2, 2010

Congrats to all the BSR runners! Major accomplishment to tackle this race on such a hot day. Seth, of course, your Pittsburgh experience must have been instructive.

I got off easy this year -- instead of racing it, I paced my sister, who was running it for the first time. My sister, Michelle, is 43, was never a runner before, and last year at this time was undergoing chemotherapy. Her goal was to finish, a) not last, and b) under 2:30 (a goal set before the temperature was announced). She finished in 2:27, and that was with a porta break that took at least 12 minutes. Bear in mind that the last hour for us was between 10:30 and 11:30 (took 35 minutes for the pink corral to get to the start line!), when it was just scorching outside. I've never been so emotional crossing a finish line in my life. Just a reminder that it's not only the race winners who are triumphant.

Was it just me, or was it nice and overcast and cool until exactly when the airhorn went off?

Janine -- Broad Street Run -- May 2, 2010

Seth, what a great race for you! Congratulations! Even though it was slow, you have to be happy with running it strong in the heat.

Jill, that's an awesome time for your sister, considering the circumstances. I had an experienced runner visiting me who finished in about that without the potty break - the heat just destroyed people. Next time, try ducking behind the trash can in front of Benjamin Franklin HS - that is my BSR secret weapon.

I went out too fast. I ran steady 11mm last year and my first mile this year was in 10:00 which didn't work out very well after mile 7, but I was pleased with my pace until City Hall.

Here is my official race report:

I was fretting about what to wear on my feet for this race since I have just recently been building up to running barefoot and in minimalist shoes and don't have alot of experience in the heat with my preferred shoes of the moment - neoprene boat shoes from Teva (Protons). Neoprene is the insulating material in wetsuits - it's hot. And it's even hotter when the temp on race day is supposed to go into the upper 80's. I was going to go for my Saucony racing flats, but I could not find the insoles and I knew they would blister without them since the bottom is kind of rough, so I went with the Protons thinking maybe I could do some barefoot miles at the end.

In the end, the day was so hot I could not think about doing any part of it barefoot since I could not know if the asphalt would be too hot. I did get blisters from being waterlogged (from running through the hydrant sprinklers) but otherwise the shoes were perfect. I did get complimented on them from a guy in Zoot triathlon slippers - those of us in slippers have to stick together :).

I am not too disappointed even though the heat sucked the life out of me. It was triumphant for me just to be there and finish. It was my longest run since my injury in November (sports hernia) and I felt very good about my pace until the heat got me. It's gratifying to think I could not run 10 feet at Christmas (I couldn't even put on pants without assistance) and yesterday I was able to run 10 miles. My last mile probably took me 20 minutes from the stopping and walking/slogging, but that happened to many others just from the sheer heat and humidity. I didn't fuel properly with electrolytes beforehand and the Gatorade stations didn't pop up until too late in the race to make a difference. In hindsight, I should have brought my own throw away bottle of sugar and salt solution to sip over the first few miles. Many ended up needing medical attention (39 went to the ER) so I feel lucky. My injury flared in the last mile and the blisters got me, but I managed to rally for the finish 1/4 mile. It would not have been surprising to me if I had DNF'ed at mile 9.5 - things were that bad with the heat.


Mareese -- The NJ Marathon in record breaking temperatures -- May 2, 2010

So this was going to be it.....I was going to shave 11 seconds off my Philly marathon time and qualify for Boston. The training was good and I was feeling pretty confident that I could do the required 3:45 pretty comfortablely until I started watching the long range weather forecast from the week before. As the day grew nearer, the temperature predictions went higher.....hmmm....I wondered if this might not work out after all!

Race day dawned muggy and humid and we set off for Long Branch NJ about 6:15. The race was to begin at 9am and as we were lining up there was a pleasant breeze from the sea and we were feeling very comfortable. Once we left the seashore however the wind disappeared and the sweat started pouring off us. Residents were out with there hoses sprinkling us as we ran by – a total lifesaver. I headed off at a steady 8:25 min/mile pace and pretty much held to within a few seconds of that for the entire first half crossing the ½ marathon in 1:51.
The Long Branch marathon is two loops of the same course. I had it in my head that I like running in familiar territory so I wasn’t too phased by the two loops aspect of the course but as soon as I started the second loop, the doubts started to well up. Could I really do this entire course again at this pace? I knew that it was even hotter now but I managed to keep close to my target pace for another few miles and reminded myself that I had a few minutes allowance to slow up a little. At mile 18 I needed a bathroom break and I think the stopping was the first crack in the mental degradation that continued until pretty close to the end. By mile 20 I was frantically doing mathematical calculations of the required pace for my last 6 miles if only I could manage to climb this wall. By mile 21 the dream was well and truely dashed and I wallowed in self pity until about mile 24. At the same time there was a sense of relief that I could take walking breaks to relieve the physical stress. I pulled myself together to finish the last couple of miles with some dignity albeit at about 9:30 min/mile pace. Crossing the line in 4:02 I was feeling pretty distraught. The physical and emotional stress of the race was rough. It contrasted sharply in my mind to the finishing of the Philadelphia Marathon which was the best feeling in the entire world.

An hour later I had a little more persective as I watched people continue to struggle over the finish line, some of them collapsing into exhausted heaps and heard the ambulance sirens heading out to rescue people. At least I had made it in one piece.
Today, I checked the online race results. Turns out that I finished 14/106 in my age group, 71/569 women and 264/1376 finishers. Not too shabby. It also consoled me considerably to read that the first place woman had been aiming for 3 hours and had finished in 3:13. It was never going to be the day for a PR!


Brian M -- Philadelphia Distance Run -- September 19, 2010

Summary: it was a great day to run and I can't imagine having more fun.

Started out the day before by fasting for Yom Kippur. I wasn't worried about not eating but the lack of fluids for 24 hours had me a little worried. As is traditional I ended the fast with my family by eating smoked fish, which is quite salty. That proceeded to make me nervous about hydration, so I did the least intelligent thing and drank most of a gallon of water from the time I got home until the time I went to bed. Slept for an hour and then was up every 15 minutes to use the bathroom. Duh! Around 3am I heard someone driving away so I moved my car from my yard to the street so we could use the yard for the party after the race. I figure I fell asleep around 3:30, and of course the alarm woke me up at 5:30.

The second the alarm went off I was wide awake. Adrenalin is a good thing! Ate some oatmeal and a cup of coffee, and did a couple things to get ready for the post-race party. Met Seth and others at 7:15. Found an unused bush prior to the race - last year I missed the start waiting in the porta-potty line!

Took off with about a million other people. Really was tripping over everyone and dealing with the new course for about 2 miles before I could fall into a decent rhythm at around 7:40 pace. As an aside, I thought the new course had some tight turns and was difficult to navigate for the number of people racing.

Once I was heading back towards the Art Museum I was really feeling great, and talking with someone from out of town when I realized I was down to about a 7:20, which was too fast, so slowed to around 7:30 and felt like I was in a groove. My lap pace to the Falls bridge was 7:34 and I thinking maybe a PR.

Crossed the bridge and sped up a little bit knowing this was the home stretch. Slowly my average pace dropped... Could I run a half at 7:30? Around half a mile out it dropped to 7:31 and I knew I could suck it up and do it. I crossed the finish line chest heaving, with the time on my Garmin reading 1:39:51, average pace 7:30. Details here.

No rest, I had to get home and get ready for the BBQ. Which was the best part of the day, being able to enjoy that post-race high with my running friends. Thanks!

Yesterday was a major psychological boost in my quest to run a 3:30 marathon. Just gotta stay focused and healthy.

Seth -- Philadelphia Half-Marathon -- November 21, 2010

So, here’s my Philly Half-Marathon LBRR, sub 2-hour edition:

I started training for this race the week after a disappointing PDR. My time for that race was 2:02:59. I had been on track for a sub-2 until the final 5K. I think my last mile was over 11 minutes. I wasn’t planning on doing this race, but my training partner for the PDR, Heather, convinced me that we should both sign up and aim for a sub-2 since neither of us got it at PDR. As it turns out, Heather got injured while training for this half and I ended up on my own to bring home the sub-2.

For starters, the weather today was perfect and that was a huge help. I wanted to try to keep a relatively steady pace of 9:00-9:10. I ended up with splits a little more variable than that, but they were generally in the proper vicinity. My GPS was a little off and seemed to be telling me I was going faster than I was and shorting the miles. Nonetheless, it definitely helped me with pacing, particularly by letting me know when I was getting caught up in the crowd and slowing down too much.

I managed to hold a reasonably comfortable and consistent pace through Center City. By the time we got onto 34th Street, I was a little worried that the sub-2 wasn’t going to happen. I was definitely over at that point and didn’t yet want to pick up the pace. As we hit mile 10 at the Please Touch Museum, I was somewhere around 1:32 (I have my GPS set so that it doesn’t display seconds once it goes over one hour, I really need to fix that!) and I knew I was cutting it really close. We headed down to West River Drive, out a little (I was not expecting that) turned around and started heading back in. By that point we must have been around mile 10.5. This is where the course really opened up and I made a decision to give it everything I had. I wasn’t sure I could sustain the pace I needed all the way in, but I also knew that I’d rather die and walk in and come in at 2:15:00 than try to pace myself at a comfortably fast pace and come in at 2:00:15. I was in this for a sub-2 and I was going to come in at sub-2 or splatter myself on the pavement trying.  Not logical, I know, but then again, deciding you want to wake up on a Sunday morning at 4:30am and run 13 miles really isn’t logical at all. Clearly, logic has nothing to do with this, so why pretend otherwise? Mile 11 I still felt good and I was really hauling. Mile 12 I was under 1:50 and I knew I was good to go as long as I kept up the pace. I pulled up around the art museum circle and into the finish line cutoff and started sprinting. I knew I was right there, but, again, my watch wasn’t showing seconds so I didn’t know my exact time so I wasn’t leaving anything to chance, and anyway, I was feeling good, so why not. I came flying through the finish line and almost flattened somebody who stopped right on the line. Watch time 1:58:24, chip time 1:58:21.  My last three miles were the fastest three with the last one being my fastest mile for the entire race. This is, of course, the proper way to run a race and all my best races have been like that. But it’s also easier said than done. Running 10 miles at a decent clip and then a final 5K as fast as possible doesn’t always happen. In past races, I have always planned to do this, but when the final 5K came along, I didn’t have it in me to pick up the pace. I trained harder for this race than other half-marathons I’ve done recently and the awesome weather didn’t hurt either.

Thanks to everyone who was out there today: Jaime, who I saw cheering in two different spots, Ron, who organized our volunteers while I was out running the race, the rest of our volunteers, who woke up earlier than I did so they could cut open medal boxes well before the crack of dawn and congrats to all of our runners who competed today and yesterday. You are all awesome and you make this club awesome! So, Brian, to answer your question: yes, it was awesome.





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