Wednesday, May 6, 2015

Broad Street Run 2015 Recap

We have another Broad Street in the books!

Just one year after a fearsome battle between my mucus-ridden lungs and the urban corridor from Fisher Avenue to the Navy Yard, I was back to America’s largest 10 mile road race to have another go at my sub 1:30:00 dreams.

This time around I was healthy (woohoo!) but also undertrained (ahem).  My relaxed exercise schedule this winter and spring has yielded surprising PRs (see here and here), but it also meant that I have not run 10 miles since my fall marathon. Yep, I was a little bit apprehensive going into Sunday, even if the course and race itself are familiar ground.

But first, the expo: it sucked.  Yeah, that’s really all I can say for it.  Last year’s anniversary expo was incredible, while this year’s was a big fat disappointment.  I didn’t even take any pictures.  In good news, bib and t-shirt pickup was quick and simple (although this year’s t-shirt was boxy beyond belief).  But in bad news, there were hardly any freebies, and the small slate of vendors only filled a portion of the expo hall.  AWKWARD.

Due to the lack of excitement this year, I did not dillydally at the expo, leaving me plenty of time to get my pre-race rest.

Sadly, although my Saturday was low key, I barely managed an hour of sleep that night.  WHAT, WHY, HOW?  I am still bitter about my lack of ZZZ’s.

Still, my insomnia allowed me to spring out of bed without delay once my alarm went off (at 4:55 am, the horror!).  I rushed to get ready: I was experimenting with taking the subway from a different station this year, and I wanted to make sure I had enough time (I was also meeting friends, and there was no way I wanted to be responsible for making us late).

As luck would have it, we arrived at the platform just as a local train was arriving—and it had open seats!!!  I counted my lucky stars for this good fortune.  Our early boarding translated into a super early arrival—we were at the start area by 6:40 am (this year’s race had been bumped from 8:30 to 8:00 am).  

I found my favorite porta potties (it’s weird, but as a repeat runner at local races, I always identify my “favorite” pre-race spots) and prepared for a substantive wait until gun time.  Having company made the time fly by (I’ve been to many city race starts on my own, and while that allows me time to strategize, I enjoyed the social distractions).

With 30 minutes to go until the race start, we made our way into the corral (oopsies, guess who bumped herself into a faster corral?  No worries—I was running at the same pace as my fellow runners).  This year there was a multitude of pre-race announcements, so it felt like we were waiting for a long time.

This is one of only two photos I have from race day.  The second is almost identical to this one.  I fail at blogging!
In reality, I was across the start line by 8:15, and it was already warm and sunny.  Not the worst race weather (the Philly 10k definitely takes that cake), but also not ideal for such a flat, exposed course.
I wanted to break 1:30:00 in this race (that was my goal last year, as well), but I thought the odds were 50-50.  If I could stay strong in the final few miles, I might make it.  If I tired too soon before the finish, my PR dreams would be delayed for yet another race.

Per usual, the crowds in the first 5 miles were amazingly supportive.  Here we runners were making a mess of the neighborhoods in North Philly, and yet the residents were cheering us on.

Once we passed City Hall, however, the atmosphere became a little weird.  Like last year, spectators were spilling out onto the course itself, narrowing the cattle shoot for the 40,000 runners (as Michelle Tanner would say, HOW RUDE!).  The cheering also became much more selective in Center City and South Philly (Students Run Philly Style cheer zone and ABC6 water station excluded).  It was bizarre.

As we approached the sports complex around mile 9, the spectators were even more zombie-like.  At one point I took a walk break, which gave me the chance to really observe the observers, and literally NO ONE along my .1 mile walk break was cheering, smiling or waving.  NO ONE.  Strange indeed.

Once we entered the gates of the Navy Yard, however, the crowds started cheering again, and I somehow managed to do my signature sprint to the finish (a runner next to me had the same idea, and we almost collided as we crossed the mat, thanks to other runners surging alongside us).

I had kissed my sub 1:30:00 dreams goodbye around mile 8, so I was shocked to see that I came fairly close to my goal time: 1:30:36.  Sure, it wasn’t what I had really wanted, but it was still a PR.

As far as pacing goes, I probably went out too fast in the first half, but I know I always bonk somewhat in the final miles of Broad Street, so I appreciated the momentum of that positive split (one day I would love to negative split, but I have far bigger running-related priorities at this point).  Here’s what the timing mats declared:

Overall I had a decent race, but I think I may take a break from Broad Street next year.  I am so grateful to have had the chance to race this 10 miler again, but I am anxious to see how I could do on a hillier, greener course (those kinds of races appeal to my strengths as a runner).

Course: B
Expo: C
Post-Race Experience: C
Event Organization: B
*I want to send out a big THANK YOU to all of the police, medics, emergency personnel and watchful spectators who help to keep the Broad Street runners safe.  Two men who suffered cardiac arrest at the race were resuscitated thanks to the fast-acting, capable people who monitor the course. 
Overall Grade: B-

~Tomato Face

Tuesday, April 28, 2015

Run for Babies 5k 2015 Recap

After a very successful 10k in mid April, I registered for the Run for Babies 5k.  I wanted to build off of the momentum from Hershey, but I didn’t want to do something too strenuous before Broad Street.
I’ve been chasing the elusive sub-25:00 minute mark in a 5k for quite some time, and I thought this race might give me a shot at breaking that time barrier.  My last 5k was in June 2014, and that was also when I hit my last PR in the distance: 26:51.

The Run for Babies offered 5k and 10k distance options, and there was also the associated Walk for Babies occurring later that same morning.  Bib pickup was at the Center City Philadelphia Runner store which would have been convenient, except I was working on Friday and out of town on Saturday.

I arrived before the race to claim my bib and was mighty impressed at the setup: a DJ was playing a lively set to get the crowd pumped, and there were sponsor booths with giveaways and contests.  On-site registration and bib pickup had fairly short lines (there was no signage, so I had to ask around before finding the appropriate tent), and the numerous porta potties had minimal lines.  To me, that is ALWAYS one of the signs of a well-organized race.

There was no bag check for the event, but registration for the 5k and 10k was only $30, so I wasn’t even expecting that as one of the amenities.  I managed to stash my t-shirt and packet behind a portable trashcan, and I crossed my fingers that it would still be there when I finished (spoiler: it was).

Close to 8, the race organizers directed us to queue up in front of the starting line.  A woman gave us instructions about the 5k and 10k turnarounds, but somebody forgot to turn off the DJ amplifier until she was almost done with her speech.  I hoped that there would be visible markers on the course since I didn’t hear a word of what she had to say.

I positioned myself near the front of the pack, and with a very anticlimactic spoken countdown (1, 2, 3, go!), we were off.  

Our first tenth of a mile took us downhill.  I loved having that descent at the beginning (I believe Boston would be my ideal marathon course based on terrain—too bad I’m not anywhere close to a qualifying time!), but since we were running an out-and-back, I knew I would loathe that hill on the return.

I could feel myself going out rather fast, but I didn’t reign it in.  I have a poor sense of energy expenditure in the 5k (I normally end up taking walk breaks, no matter how badly I try to fight them off), and since I didn’t have too much time before this race to plan, I didn’t come up with a strategy other than “run fast.”  My Garmin told the ambitious tale: I had a 7:37 minute split in my first mile. 

As for the course… I have said it repeatedly, and here goes again: I am not a fan of MLK Drive (that is putting it nicely).  Sadly, most 5ks in Philadelphia use this course, but I always feel like I am going to roll my ankle or do a face plant on its banked, potholes-aplenty surface.  Thankfully I did not wipe out during my race, but my legs tired more easily on the uneven pavement than they would on another roadway.

Once I hit the turnaround (yes, there were clear signs on the course itself), the sun and wind were in my face full blast (why was the sun so intense at 8:30 in the morning?  I HAVE NO CLUE.  It’s like there’s a permanent headwind and solar force on MLK Drive.), and I started to tire both physically and mentally.

Obviously I do not run sub 8:00 minute splits on a normal basis, and the combination of my irregular speed and fatigued muscles courtesy of hiking at Valley Forge spelled a slow unravelling.

At first in the top 20 runners on the course, I saw people pass by me one by one.  In the first 1.5 miles I was in the top 3 for my age group (or so I presumed based on my admittedly shaky visual survey).  Pretty soon other under-30 females were passing me too, and I saw the possibility of an age group award slip through my fingers.

I was reaching my physical limit when we hit what is typically the finish line of a MLK Drive 5k.  For this race, however, it only marked miles 2.9-3: our last tenth of a mile was reserved for that lovely hill approaching the Art Museum.

I knew I could not do my signature sprint to the finish—I was just too zapped—and I even had a moment where I thought I might black out.  I breathed deeply and made it over the timing mat, in a final time of 25:30 minutes: good enough for a PR (yay!), but not good enough for my sub-25:00 dreams.  Still, I finished in the top 50 of runners and showed my most impressive speed to date.  I will take that as a victory!

The after party was hopping.  People were dancing to the DJ, volunteers were handing out water, soft pretzels (again, another sign of a well-organized race) and fruit, and the to-be walkers were having a blast taking pictures.  I hung out for a little while just because the atmosphere was so darn fun, but eventually my bed called my name, and I headed home for a long nap (6:00 am wakeup calls are not my friend).

I would definitely race in the Run for Babies again!

*Note: The Run and Walk for Babies supports the March of Dimes, an organization dedicated to helping women achieve healthy pregnancies.  You can find out more about the Run for Babies here and the March of Dimes here.*

Course: C
Expo: N/A
Post-Race Experience: A
Event Organization: B
Overall Grade: B+

~Tomato Face

Sunday, April 26, 2015

It’s spring, I think

Mother Nature has been very indecisive lately.  For a while Philadelphia had gorgeous weather, then it was cold and snowy again, then it was rainy, then it was beautiful, then it was windy (and still is).  But it’s finally spring, I think.

Tomorrow I’ll be posting a recap of the Run for Babies 5k, but for now I’ll say that I’m pretty pleased with my overall performance, although I did learn a lot about 5k strategy and pacing (the 5k has been and will continue to be my trickiest race distance).

With the exception of my 5k today and some intense hill work on Tuesday (my body is not used to hill repeats anymore!  I have a lot to work on before the fall race season), I’ve been keeping it chill.    This past week ended up being an unintentional taper for Broad Street—I only ran 10 miles total.  Yikes!  After Broad Street I’ll be increasing my mileage and working on speed (ugh) and more hills, so I’m enjoying the rest while it lasts.

I’m not stressing at all.  I am just happy to have the chance to run Broad Street again and to run it in good health.  Anything more than that is icing on the cake.

Since there hasn’t been loads of running, I’ve been filling my hours with the usual work work and housework, and I’ve been reveling in all the seasonal excitement in the Philly area.

Last weekend I marveled at the beautiful cherry blossoms and other flowering trees on Penn’s campus and along the Schuylkill River Trail…

And this weekend I made it to my very first Penn Relays!  I am ashamed of myself for never going before, but I will certainly be attending in future years.  I was only at the meet for a few short hours, but I had a blast, especially watching the Masters runners.  I hope I’m as lithe and energetic when I grow up as those athletes are!

Yesterday I made it back out to one of my favorite Philly places, Valley Forge.  I am a city girl, but I LOVE seeing countryside.  My friend D. and I had quite the hike out there: 7.5+ miles, and my Fitbit credited me with 113 flights of stairs!  Translation: we had some major elevation gain, y’all.

This week I’ll be prepping for Broad Street, which means getting more sleep and more food.

What do you have on tap for the end of the month?

~Tomato Face