A Simple Running Log

November 21, 2011

Philly Half Marathon recap

Filed under: Uncategorized — aschmid3 @ 5:57 pm

This weekend was just unbelievable. I ran a huge half marathon PR, blasted my goal time and even beat my brother’s one and only half marathon time (which was the super secret goal I couldn’t share Friday for fear it would somehow get to Dave what I was up to), but that wasn’t the coolest part of the weekend.

I’ve been a member of Runner’s World’s online blogging community, The Loop, since about when I started physical therapy last year. The other bloggers (we call ourselves Loopsters) live across the country and in a few cases around the world. I’ve been lucky enough to meet a few Loopsters at some races, like the Shamrock Marathon in March and the Bulldog 25K in August. It’s easy to get along with them all because we all share an obvious common interest in running.

Somehow, everyone decided to converge on Philly this weekend for one huge Loop meet, which was named LoopPhest. I probably never would have considered running Philly otherwise, but the chance to meet 60 or 70 of these people, most of whom live somewhere our paths never would have crossed, was too good to pass up.

Friday night, I parked my car at a train station and took the train into Philly. I got to the hotel a little after 8 p.m. I couldn’t get a hold of Dierdre, the woman I met earlier this year at the Shamrock Marathon with whom I was rooming (it turned out her purse had gotten stolen earlier that afternoon in the hotel bar, unfortunately) so I waited in the lobby for someone I recognized to show up. Most of the Loopsters were staying in the same hotel, so I figured it wouldn’t be long.

About a half hour later, I saw a girl from the Loop walk in and immediately recognized her. We introduced ourselves, and a couple minutes later, everyone else came back in the lobby from dinner.

That was one of the weirdest moments of my life so far. It was like the computer had come to life and all these people I only knew as online pictures and blogs just stepped out. There was a lot of hugging, haha. Most people I recognized pretty easily. There were a couple that really threw me though, especially the D.C.-area engineer who looks so clean cut in all the race pictures he’s posted, but actually has a long ponytail. Who knew?

That night, we just hung out in the hotel bar (and all kept a close eye on our wallets and purses.) It was just me and Dierdre in our hotel room Friday night. We talked until after midnight and finally called it a night.

We were both up before my 7:30 a.m. alarm the next day. At 9 a.m., a couple dozen or so of us met to do a shakeout run. It was breezy and pretty chilly that morning, but it felt great once we got moving. We ran out toward the Museum of Art, where the race would begin and end the next morning. We all ran up the steps and had our Rocky moment, haha. Then we headed back to the hotel. We ran about 3.5 miles that morning. I felt really loose and was hoping I felt just as good the next morning for the race.

That afternoon, we went and cruised the expo. I got my race bib signed by Hal Higdon, who wrote all the marathon and half marathon training plans I follow, and Bart Yasso, who came up with the Yasso 800s, a workout that can predict a marathon finishing time. I figured those would bring me some luck.

We met up with the entire LoopPhest group after that. We all headed to Love Park for a group photo:

Then we headed to Buca di Beppo for our pre-race carbo loading feast of salad, bread, pasta and chocolate cake. I had two servings of everything, even the cake. I was completely stuffed when we left there! But we had eaten early enough that I knew I had plenty of time to digest it before the race.

I'm the third one back on the left side of the table.

That night was pretty quiet. Our other two roommates, Erin and Jessica, had arrived that afternoon, and the four of us just hung out in the room, getting our stuff laid out and ready for the race. We turned out the lights around 10 p.m.

I had a tough time getting to sleep. I was really excited about the race. When I did finally get to sleep, I stayed asleep, but I had this bizarre dream that I lost my race clothes overnight and I only had some stuff I would never wear to race in.

Erin got up first around 5 a.m. The rest of us trickled out of bed one by one. I didn’t need much time to get ready. I pulled on the shorts and tank I had laid out the night before, and the sweats I was going to check with my bag at the gear check at the start and finish area. There were no Chomps or anything to pack since I was running the half. I just dropped one salt cap in the key pocket in my shorts. Done.

We walked the mile or so to the race site. It was a madhouse. I didn’t realize Philly was such a huge race; there were almost as many runners as had been at Marine Corps last year, and I’m not a fan of crowded races. Oh well. No turning back at that point.

When I got to my bag check area, I saw a flash of glitter to my right and spotted these Loopsters, who were running as American Gladiators and therefore had a lot more balls than me:

The girl second from the right had a huge wedgie the whole race but still ran a PR.

It was time to get in the corrals by that point. I found Jaclynn, who was running the full but was aiming for about the same pace I was going for in my half, so we agreed to start together. We found the 3:20 marathon pace group leaders in our corral and waited near them for the race to start. There were a few other Loopsters in our corral as well, most aiming for slightly faster or slower paces. Jonathan said he was shooting for the 1:40 I wanted to run, so he was going to start with Jaclynn and me as well.

After the National Anthem, they let the elites and the first corral go. We were in the third. About two and a half minutes after the official start, our corral shuffled through the start line. We were off!

Jonathan immediately took right the hell off. I figured that was the last I was going to see of him until the finish area. I got separated from Jaclynn but was able to keep her and the 3:20 pace group leaders in my sights. It was really crowded in that first mile. It never really thinned out for the whole race, but the first mile was definitely the most tightly packed. I saw the first mile marker and checked my watch: 7:46. About 10 seconds off goal pace. I chalked it up to the tight quarters and picked it up.

I missed the second and third mile markers, but I was cruising with the 3:20 group. Every now and then I would bump into Jaclynn again. She looked strong. I saw the fourth mile marker and glanced at my watch — 29:56. A 7:29 average pace. I couldn’t believe how easy it felt. I couldn’t believe I only had nine more miles to run. The race was flying by. I grabbed a cup of water, poured most of it down my front instead of into my mouth, and kept running.

At that point, I decided to shoot for 7:30 pace, because the math was easier haha. That would bring me in well under 1:40 if I could keep up that pace.

In Friday’s post, I couldn’t announce my goal time, because I didn’t want my brother to somehow find out I was aiming to beat his one and only half marathon time, 1:39:49, from Virginia Beach two years ago. I wanted it to be a surprise if I beat him. I also didn’t want him to get to tease me if I didn’t beat him!

The middle miles of the race were awesome. They went through downtown Philly and the streets were lined with loud, supportive spectators. I really enjoyed that part of the course.

After the seventh mile marker, it got a little less awesome. The crowds were gone and we hit our first uphill. It lasted past the eighth mile marker. I still hit eight miles just under goal pace though, and was still feeling strong. Somewhere in that mile, some Drexel University frat boys gave me some high fives and called me a hottie, haha. I’m sure I looked like a half-drowned rat after all that water I poured on myself, but it was a nice thing to hear, of course.

I can’t remember my time at mile 9, but I was still holding my pace. Right after that mile marker though, we hit a nasty uphill that seemed to take everyone by surprise. The course was advertised as flat and fast and until that point it had been, for the most part. But that hill at mile 9 was pure evil. It went on forever, and it kept getting steeper. Everyone around me ran slower and slower as we trudged up that hill. If I missed my goal, I was blaming that damn hill!

We finally hit the top and I took off to try to make up any time I had lost. Not long after that was a pretty sweet downhill. I went flying. I hit 10 miles only about 15 seconds off goal pace. At that point I knew I just had a 5K left. I could run a 25-minute 5K and still run 1:40. I was still feeling strong, so I decided to push it for the last three miles instead of just cruising in to my goal time.

The next two miles were pretty uneventful. I was easily humming along on pace. I still couldn’t believe how damn fast this race was going! It was almost over! Before I knew it, I was coming up on the 12th mile marker.

I heard my name and saw Jonathan on the side of the course. He said he’d gone out too fast and was hurting, so he decided to wait for me at the 12th mile marker and run the end of the race with me so he could get his 1:40, but I came along a few minutes faster than he expected haha. He was keeping up with me for the first half mile. Then he told me to go ahead if I felt like I had a kick in that last bit of the race. I did, and I could see the art museum getting closer, so I took off to see what I could do.

The half marathon runners went to the right at the art museum to head to the finish, while the full marathon runners went left to go do another 13.1 miles. I was so happy I’d signed up for the half at that point. I felt awesome, but I could definitely tell I’d been running a PR pace for almost 13 miles, and I was ready to be done.

It wasn’t very crowded any more after the split. I was soon on the street with the finish line. I knew it was coming up so I gave it all I had left.

Bangle pump!

Still holding the Bangle pump!

OK, that's enough.

I  flew across the finish line and checked my watch:

1:37:32!! An eight-minute PR and two minutes faster than Dave’s time! I nailed it!

Posing with my newest finisher's medal.

I was so happy with my race. I felt great when it was over. My legs were tired but not really all that sore. I had no blisters or anything on my feet. I just felt amazing. It was one of those days where everything came together — hard training and perfect weather. It was one of my best races I have ever ran, start to finish.

My stats:

  • Chip time: 1:37:32
  • 35th/1,460 F 25-29 (top 2 percent)
  • 112th/5,901 women (top 2 percent)
  • 454th/9,401 total finishers (top 5 percent)

Jonathan finished not far behind me and we found a few of the other Loopsters who had already finished. At that point, there weren’t many people in the finish area. It was nice to get to take my time gathering my space blanket, medal and food, and then be able to just mosey right over to gear check and get my bag back.

We hung around about 20 minutes, and then a few of us started getting cold in our sweaty running clothes now that we were no longer running, so we walked back to the hotel to shower and put on dry clothes. That hot water felt amazing. I could not force myself out of it! I finally shut it off though, and then we all walked back over to the race site.

By that time, a lot of Loopsters had finished, and we were trying to meet up in the family link-up area. We all hung around there for a while, discussing our races in great detail while we waited for everyone to finish.

I hope you like talking about running, because that's the only conversation here.

Around noon, we had finally had enough of the race atmosphere, and I went with Brad, Brian and Lisa to get lunch at Five Guys Burgers. I’m not a huge burger fan, and I rarely eat them, but that really hit the spot:

I couldn't stop eating for two seconds to take a decent picture.

We went back to the hotel after that. I watched the first half of the Ravens game in my room while once again discussing the race in great detail with my roommates, and then turned on the NASCAR race when it started. Eventually, my roommates left to get their own lunch, so I went up to my friend Chris’ room. I hadn’t gotten to spend a lot of time with her yet. (We also met at the Shamrock Marathon; she’s the one who stayed at Dave’s house with me.)

Later, we went down to the hotel bar, where a lot of Loopsters were hanging out. Then the whole group headed over to a sports bar. They had a little room upstairs and let our group have it to ourselves. We passed out the Loopee Awards, which we had all voted on throughout the weekend. The awards were for things like best costume (of course one of the gladiators won that!), most like their Loop personality, loudest Loopster, etc. I didn’t win any of those, but I did get the Loopee for top female Loopster in the half. I know Vanessa beat me though; she just wasn’t at that little party to write down her time.

I also saw the end of the NASCAR season in the bar. I can’t believe Stewart and Edwards tied in points and finished first and second in the final race. It came down to wins at that point, and Stewart won his third championship.

After that party broke up, a bunch of us weren’t ready to go to bed yet, so we instead went to a karaoke bar. I don’t sing karaoke, but I enjoy singing along with others as they do.  I have no idea when we left that place. It was getting really late though.

I think it was about then when my roommate Erin called and said her room key card had deactivated and the front desk wouldn’t reactivate it for her because Dierdre’s name was the only one actually on the reservation. So I ran back to the hotel at 2 a.m. to let Erin in our room. I understand the hotel has security procedures, but I would think by that point they would know Erin belonged in that room (she had already had to get her key card reactivated once that day) and just fix her card without Dierdre’s permission. Sheesh. The poor girl was almost in tears she was so tired and frustrated.

About six of us were still not ready to call it a night even then, so we found an all-night diner and had a very late or very early breakfast. When we left the diner, we figured we better finally get some sleep. At that point, it was 4 a.m. and I had to be up in two hours to shower, pack and get to work.

The alarm came very quickly! I got up though, and Erin and I said goodbye to Dierdre and headed to the train station together. I got on my train and headed home. My car was still in the train station parking lot, thankfully, and I drove home. A little hungover and sleep deprived, but overall very happy with the whole weekend.

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