Tuesday, November 25, 2014

Philadelphia Marathon 2014 Recap, Part 1

Well, I did it.  I survived my first marathon.  Lord knows if/when I will ever run one again (I am definitely on the fence at this point), but for my initial attempt, I am pretty pleased with the results.
In the week leading up to race day, Philadelphia experienced some ridiculous weather.  It was hot, it was cold, it was crazy windy, it was rainy.  I was bugging out checking the forecast each day, but thankfully, we runners were graced with decent conditions (starting temps in the high 30s, ending in the low 40s, little wind, high-ish humidity) on November 23.

On Saturday I went to the race expo at the Convention Center.  I’ve attended two previous Marathon expos, but each time before, I was a volunteer.  There was even that one year when the mean runner people made me cry at t-shirt distribution.

"City of Brotherly Run & Sisterly Endurance."  How's that for the wordiest slogan ever?

I braced myself for similar chaos this year, but as a participant, I had nothing but a good time.  Bib pickup was quick and simple (even if I had overestimated my finish time during registration, landing myself in a way-too-fast corral), and I was able to quickly detour to the official race merchandise tent.  Sadly, most of the items were butt ugly (yo, Philly organizers—who said black and gray are the only colors that exist?), but I did nab a cute race tee (the official tee is made of icky fabric and the ink transfer doesn’t look so hot) and cap.

Why at registration time did I think I was capable of running a sub-4:00:00 marathon???


At the expo, I scored a few of the usual freebies, and I even saw Olympian Bill Rodgers (!) from afar.
Of course, I had a big Sunday ahead, so I didn’t do too much lollygagging at the expo.  I arranged my gear and then tucked in early, around 9:00 pm, and didn’t get a wink of sleep the whole night.  At 5:00 am, my alarm officially roused me from my bed, and I rushed to have my morning oatmeal and coffee before doing a quick change and heading out the door.

I tried to arrange most of my gear and wardrobe the night before.

I had no idea what to expect at the official race area, so I tried to allow for extra time.  I arrived around 6:00 am, and the eastern boundary of the race area was empty (and thus security was a breeze).  I took advantage of this by using some “secret” port-a-potties twice, in between fueling with a banana and some Belvita biscuits, before heading to the more crowded Eakins Oval.  I set up shop in front of those port-a-potties (let’s just say a GI lecture from a Clif representative at my last group run had me terrified for my stomach and bladder on race day), and I settled myself in for a wait.  After 30 minutes of standing around, I finally got to an empty stall, and it couldn’t have come sooner: by this point, it was just 5 minutes until race start!

I jogged to the nearest corral, which serendipitously happened to be the Gray corral, the one behind my all-too-fast Green assignment.  I had been told that everybody is quick out of the gates at this race, but a snafu with the elites at the starting line meant that my group didn’t hit the timing mat until 7:19.

Waiting to start.

The Gray corral was pretty chill waiting for our start.

I had been worried that I would be caught up with faster runners in the first few miles, but that never was the case.  I didn’t feel rushed at all: actually, I felt more packed in at this race than at any other previous effort.  I didn’t feel like I had any real room to bob or weave until about mile 18 (and the course narrowed again between miles 19 and 21, so the relief was brief).  Being slowed down was fine with me: I had no pace expectations going into this race.  I thought I could possibly run 4:15:00 if I pushed myself, but 4:30:00 was much more realistic (and still fabulous in my eyes).  I even welcomed the possibility of a 5:00:00 finish.  After all, FINISHING was the goal.  

In the first six miles, we surged down the Ben Franklin Parkway before heading through the Loft district and along the Delaware River.  From there, we coursed through Society Hill, Old City and Rittenhouse before pointing west to University City.  During this first part of the race, I had issues with my waist pack flopping around uncomfortably, and so I came to a full-stop (on the sidewalk, out of the way of other runners, don’t worry!) a few times to adjust.  I ate my first gel at 0:39, and it was, not surprisingly, disgusting (Clif Vanilla—certainly not as bad as the Gu Vanilla Bean, but it’s nothing I would ever crave).  

Although the early miles technically housed some of the most interesting sights of the course (Love Park, City Hall, Ben Franklin’s grace, the Ben Franklin Bridge), I was slightly distracted by the millions of potholes (seriously, Philly, you need to pave those streets) and my elbow-to-elbow contact with my fellow runners.  Spectators along Chestnut Street had us boxed in to half the normal course width between 6th and 22nd Streets, and so I was ecstatic when we hit the spacious Chestnut Street Bridge: we were about the venture into the part of the course that I know best, University City and Kelly Drive.

Stay tuned for Part 2 of my recap tomorrow!

~Tomato Face

Sunday, November 16, 2014

Countdown to the Marathon: One Week to Go!

By this time next week, I will be home, most definitely resting, after having completed my first marathon.  Even though I have spent the past 17 weeks preparing for that moment, I cannot believe how quickly the time snuck up on me.

I celebrated my taper yesterday by running almost four miles at a slow, easy pace.  I stopped to take pictures (something I have not done on a run in a long time) and admire the beautiful late autumn scenery.

I absolutely adore Philly in the fall.

My Garmin has been acting wonky lately, failing to pick up signals on my last two long runs, and its battery went down to dangerously low levels during my recent 18 milers.  I was hesitant to switch up my gear so soon before the marathon, but thanks to my mom, I ordered an early Christmas present for myself: the Garmin Forerunner 220.  It should be here later this week, and the battery life should safely get me through my first marathon.

In addition to the business of real life (the next two-three months are shaping up to be INSANE in my world), I have multiple other marathon issues to think about.  

·         What will my nutrition plan this week be?  I know I need to carb it up, but I also want to be mindful of getting enough vitamins and nutrients.

·         What will my nutrition plan for the race be?

·         What time should I go to bed each night?  Too early, and I risk not falling asleep.  Too late, and I am setting myself up to be overtired come race weekend.

·         When do I need to wake up, leave the house and arrive at the race area?

·         In which corral should I be placed?  I was assigned to a corral with a much faster predicted finish time than my own (it’s not the race’s fault—I overestimated my ability when I registered.)  I don’t want to block other faster runners, nor do I want to be blocked myself, so I’ll have to decide where exactly I want to be.

·         What will I wear?  The weather has been all over the place.  I have no idea if I’ll be freezing or toasty next Sunday.

·         What’s my pace strategy?  

·         Should I carry my own water?  Should I carry my phone?  Both items add lots of weight to my person, but they’re also valuable resources.

·         Where will my family spectate?  I’ve already scouted out locations for spectating, but now I have to figure out my estimated arrivals for each spot so that my mom knows when to be on high alert.  There will be 30,000 other people running, so finding one another will be no easy task.

The most important thing for me is to stay calm this week.  I’m having to deal with noisy neighbors, stress at work and important life planning simultaneously with the marathon.  Keeping myself centered is what is going to get me through all of this, marathon and beyond, in one piece.

To that end, I started celebrating my Christmas season yesterday (yes, I know that is still ridiculously early), but turning on my holiday lights, drinking cocoa and listening to festive tunes soothes my soul.  

Pooh Corner

So Merry Marathon everybody!  I’ll be checking in with you again soon.

~Tomato Face

Tuesday, November 11, 2014

Marathon Monday: 2014 Fall Marathon Training Week 16

I know, I know: once again, I am posting a “Marathon Monday” update on a day that is most definitely not Monday.  Whoops.  Let’s quick take the focus off my tardiness and concentrate instead on the fact that I can run again.  Yay!!!!

After an anxiety-producing hiatus brought upon by my first genuine cold of the season, I was back to (a mostly) normal schedule this past week:

Monday:  Rest day

Even though I wasn’t able to run on Saturday or Sunday, I decided to take an additional day of rest on Monday so that I could fully recuperate from my illness.  That was wise indeed!

Tuesday:  Running, easy, 5.15 miles @ 10:03 minute mile pace—51:46 minutes

Because I allowed myself to rest, I felt ready to tackle five miles at easy pace on Tuesday.  The weather was gorgeous, and I was blissfully happy to be breathing sans bronchitis and running.

Wednesday:  Running, race pace, 4.01 miles @ 9:00 minute mile pace—36:05 minutes

After a rough day at work, I was desperate to pound out the miles.  I’ve adjusted my “race pace” expectations since I first started training (around week 10 I wanted to hit 8:45 minute mile splits during pace runs.  Oh, silly me.), and I was thrilled to hit my target on the nose.  For my second mile, I settled into a Zen like state where my running felt almost effortless.  If only every mile could be like that!

Thursday:  Butt Bible, lower body Level 1—20 minutes

Friday:  Rest day

I was supposed to run again on Friday, but it was a bit chilly and I was fatigued from a long work week, so I skipped my planned workout (no regrets).  I had family visiting over the weekend, and we explored much of the city on foot, so my rest days weren’t true rest days.  I was definitely well fed and energized by my company!

Saturday:  Rest day

Sunday:  Running, long, 12.05 miles @ 10:15 minute mile pace—2:03:30 hours

I approached Sunday’s group run with trepidation.  I knew that I wouldn’t be able to keep pace with the 9:30 minute mile rabbits like I did during my disastrous 20-turned-18-miler, and I was a little nervous once it was announced we would once again be tackling the marathon course’s big hill past the Philadelphia Zoo.  I know my River Trail by heart, but this particular route is one with several unfamiliar turns (the last time I ran the same segment was on September 7), and I was afraid I would get lost if I fell too far behind the pacers. 

Thankfully, once I turned on 34th Street, I recognized landmarks, and I ran the entire route without losing direction.  I even found a pace buddy for most of the 12 miles!  It was nice to have company and to know that the events of the past 2 weeks were out of the ordinary.  I may be slow, but I am capable of conquering the marathon distance.  

Ack, it’s coming up so soon!

This week my taper takes me down to 19 miles on the schedule.  I’m liking this part of training!!

Couch potato 4eva,

Tomato Face