Saturday, June 13, 2015

About that time I won an age group award (Girls on the Run Spring 5k Recap)


I wanted to race again before this summer became too miserably hot (haha, too late—it’s still spring and we’ve already had several days in the 90s).  I thought a late spring 5k might present me with the chance to PR, but I did not want to run West River Drive again.  Luckily Girls on the Run was holding their spring 5k at the Philadelphia Zoo on June 7.  Score!

I’ve wanted to work with GOTR for quite some time, but my work and class schedule doesn’t allow me to join regular practices.  The organization also gives the option of being a “running buddy” at their races, but for this event, I elected to run solo.

When I was reading up on pre-race information, I noticed that this 5k would be giving awards to the top three placeholders in each age group.  “Hey,” I thought to myself, “I might have a shot at finally making a podium!”

As I waited for the race to begin, however, I spied some serious competition.  While at first there were only preteen girls and their running buddies onsite, more and more solo runners started to arrive.  So I adjusted my expectations and decided to have fun, in the spirit of GOTR: this run was going to be about positivity and confidence building, not pressure.

And they're off!
With my newfound motivation, I didn’t stress too much as we started queuing for the race itself.  I started out near the front of the pack, but gradually I was crowded in by young runners and their parents and mentors.  ‘Twas okay—this was about the kids (and I was more concerned with not stepping on a youngin’ or accidentally elbowing somebody than I was with getting to the front).

We went off with a very faint cry of “go,” and it was all tangled limbs and confusion as everybody tried to find their pace.  I started off slow so as not to collide with any of the kids, but I was able to pick myself through the crowd within the first half mile.  I was moving along at a fairly fast clip, but still I enjoyed the shade (shade!  So unlike West River Drive) that the zoo course provided. 

With our first loop inside the zoo complete, I settled into a brisk but comfortable pace behind a pack of three girls (these chicks were half my size and kicking up serious dust).  I eventually ended up alongside one of the three, and we began to chat.  “Are you trying to win?” she asked me.  BLESS YOUR HEART, I thought.  

I told her that no, this was not about winning—I was out there to support all the girls and have a fun time.  

Having the girls nearby helped the time to pass quickly.  I followed on the heels of a seven-year-old for much of the race—I swear, she had one of the steadiest paces I’ve ever seen.

Even though I had brushed aside thoughts of a PR, I wanted to run the course the whole way through.  Sadly, I wimped out and took a short walk break on a particularly gnarly hill.  The zoo was full of them hills!  I still like my elevation gain, but my body wasn’t into charging up the steepest one.

My walk break separated me from my seven-year-old "pacer," and without her to guide the way, I became lost several times.  There were orange cones and volunteers at several turns along the course, but other splits (the zoo has many of them!!) were unmarked.  I found myself questioning, slowing and turning around many times.  To this day I still do not know what the course was supposed to be (there is a map online, but being that this was only my second time ever at the Philadelphia Zoo, it means nothing to me).

Thankfully I managed to spot the girl runners or a volunteer each time to lead me back to the main path, but I know I lost some valuable time due to my confusion.

Eventually I found myself at the final turn, and I tried my best to power through.  In the end, I finished with a time of 26:19.  It wasn’t my best 5k, but it was a good effort, especially given my loss of direction.  I knew I had finished near the front, but what I didn’t know what that I had finished third overall, and first out of all adults—automatic age group award!!!  My seven-year-old pacer finished second—she was a little powerhouse!


Overall I loved the zoo setting, but I wish the course had been more clearly marked.  I was happy to support such a good cause and see so many kids achieve their goals.  I’ll be back in future years!

Course: B+ (grading based on course and setting, not the markings)
Expo: N/A
Post-Race Experience: A
Event Organization: C (due to a lack of course markings and chaotic start line)
Overall Grade: B+

After the race, I hung out in the zoo, and it was awesome.

I was probably more excited than any of my preteen counterparts who had been in the race.

I saw lions, gorillas, otters, peacocks and so many other kinds of animals.  I even took a few laps around the lake in a swan boat.





Yep, I am truly a kindergartner at heart.

This weekend I was originally supposed to head to Hershey for a 5k, but then I saw the weather forecast (90s, sunny, humid) and decided NO.  So it’s air conditioning and resting all the way instead.

What are you up to this week?

~Tomato Face

Sunday, May 31, 2015

Vacation is over, time to be real again

Well, hello lovely people!  Yours truly took another long vacay from the blog, as well as a vacay in real life.

Post-Broad Street I’ve been doing a lot of noshing and working and cleaning, but not a whole lot of running.

I’m starting my first grad level course (!!!) over the summer, so before that could begin, I needed some R&R.

I headed to the beach, one of my favorite spots to decompress.  I ended up doing a whole lot of hiking and walking—over 40 miles, to be exact!

Beach storm rainbow!

It felt SO GOOD to walk on the sand (when I wasn’t nearly dying of exhaustion, of course).  I am used to hitting the hard pavement, so switching it up to softer surfaces for a week was restorative for my body.  I struggled mightily when I attempted to run on the boardwalk, however.  

The view on my run was pretty sweet.

After a good showing in last month’s 5k, I thought I would time myself in the mile.  The boardwalk is a straight stretch that seemed perfect for such a feat—sadly, I went out too fast into a headwind (d’oh!) and I didn’t come close to beating my time for mile 1 of the 5k.  I felt so embarrassed by my failure that on my second vacation run, I didn’t even try for speed.  Oh well, a vacation is a vacation for a reason!

I was able to mix it up on a mixture of trails.  I saw dolphins, coastal birds galore and a very grotesque groundhog (the creature was MASSIVE and TERRIFYING).  Other than being attacked by a horde of flies on one walk (I thought I was in a horror movie) and suffering from one giant mosquito bite on another, I loved my time in the great outdoors.

Getting rustic on the trail.


Marsh as far as the eye can see.

It’s always disappointing returning to the real world after time away, but thankfully I had a nice birthday surprise waiting for me courtesy of my friend Nora: Garrett’s Mix popcorn!!!  Yes, I ate the whole tub myself.  Proud of it.

So excited for this treat that I couldn't even keep the camera still.

I am intending to get back to a regular running schedule (promises, promises), but this past week was insanely hot.  I did catch a beautiful sunset though.

Thanks for trying to be pretty, Philly.  You're still my #1 girl.

Crossing my fingers that this week will bring normal weather (and some legitimate workouts and subsequent blog entries)!

Happy June!

~Tomato Face

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