19 November 2013

the Philadelphia Marathon, a Perfect Day, and a PR

I declared this The Year of the PR back in February (was that really nine months ago?) and I would be damned if I didn't PR the marathon. I set my marathon PR of 3:50:53 back in 2009 (was that really four years ago??) and although I've run two marathons since then, both were fairly spectacular fails.

I trained my butt off for this race. I followed Hal Higdon's Advanced I plan to a T. I didn't miss a single. workout. I PR'd the 5K, 10K, 10M, and HM.

And I was tapered and the forecast looked good.

I was ready.

(okay, I was super-duper nervous. When everything has gone right and the training is there and the weather is good and the course is [fairly] flat, it's yours [mine] to lose. And unlike the 10 miler, I couldn't easily find, train for, and taper correctly for another marathon. so this was it. So yeah - ready, but READY and NERVOUS and ANXIOUS but EXCITED).


Saturday morning my IronBuddy Deb picked me up (and brought along a new friend, who, I'm sure, thinks that Deb and I are batshit crazy) and headed to Philly. We found the convention center (after asking "where is the convention center?" and realizing we were staring right at it. this is why I'm not generally allowed to play navigator.)

We parked the car near the hotel - which was a couple blocks from the Convention Center and less than a mile from the race village - and headed over to packet pick up. I was in the GREEN corral (for 3:30-3:59 predicted finishes) and I got my bib (chip part of the bib. Remember when you had to turn the chip in at the end of a race? And some poor volunteer had to untie your sweaty shoelaces while you tried not to puke on them?) and the race shit (nice!). It was a nice expo -- huge, lots of booths, buzzing with nervous energy (alas, I didn't buy anything which is as much of a surprise to me as it is to you, dear reader).

After Stacey and I picked up our packets, we headed to get pizza (delicious). Stacey went to her hotel and Deb and I to ours. We checked in at the Hampton Inn City Center and while not exactly swanky - it was AWESOME. They gave the runners a late (1:30PM) checkout and advised breakfast would be ready at 4:30 AND they were giving out to-go breakfast bags with bagels, bananas, and water. Sweet! I put my feet up (literally) and watched Harry Potter and Deb went in search of a cowbell (seriously). Oh, and we watched the beginning of the Kona broadcast which makes me emotional even when it's not the night before a marathon.

My shout out in the race guide!

My friend Hilary drove all the way from South Jersey to meet us for dinner and we had sushi and it was delicious. They did oyster shooters but I figured oysters wouldn't be great on a nervous pre-race stomach. And then back to the hotel to watch How to Lose a Guy in 10 Days which is so bad it's good.

I checked the weather (hourly forecase, natch) for the zillionith time and it looked PERFECT. Low to mid 50s and cloudy. -- the kind of marathon weather you would order from a weather menu if said menu existed. Put out everything I needed for race day: race clothes and socks, shoes, body glide, GUs, hat, bib, pace bands (3:45 and 3:49), Garmin, throwaway arm warmers (thanks Colleen!), throwaway gloves, throwaway clothes.

^^still a shitton less than I brought for Cozumel!
After setting a, um, 'few' alarms -- two on my cell phone, the alarm clock in the hotel room, Deb's watch, and a wake up call (all for around 4:30) -- I went to sleep. And actually slept pretty well.
^^ yup, still predawn
I woke up about 5 minutes before the alarm(s) and started getting ready. Deb made fun of me for following the direction to arrive at security at 5am (7am start time) but I wasn't going to be in a security line or a bathroom line when the gun went off. I ate breakfast - bagel, cream cheese, OJ - and brought a banana and Clif bar with me to the start. Deb walked me over to security (took only a few minutes to get through) and then went back to the hotel to eat and relax before heading out to mile 1. I thought it would suck to have almost 90 minutes to kill, but I spent most of those minutes in line for the port o' potties.
Around 6:45, I headed over to my corral, ditched my sweatpants and Fells Point Figgy Pudding Fun Run 2007 tshirt, turned on Garmie the Garmin, and waited, nervously, for the green coral to go. And at 7:10, we were (finally) off.

I saw Deb at mile 1 ... and then, about 100 feet later:

^^ I didn't take this photo, and I saw her a different location, but you get the idea
So I saw "Harrison" and thought, "well that's cool, someone else named Harrison. Then I saw "Bite" and thought, "hmm.. that Harrison bites too." I then saw the photo and THEN saw the person holding it. OHMYGODCOLLEENWHATAREYOUDOINGHERE?!!? So that was a super duper awesome surprise! I saw Colleen and Deb at miles 1, 6, (should have been 18 but we somehow missed each other), 21 (where they sprinted up 5 flights of stairs to catch the train to the finish), and the finish. It means so, so much to me, especially since James and I decided that bringing H to Philly would be a disaster for all of us. So yeah, you guys are Extra Special Awesome.
The race was pretty crowded for the first several miles (really, until the half split off at mile 12.5) but it helped me keep my pace in check. I felt really good for the first half, and remembered this gem: if you start to feel good during a marathon, don't worry --- that feeling will pass.


1    8:56.2  
2     8:45.1
3     8:40.4
4     8:40.3
5     8:37.3
6     8:28.6
7     8:23.3
8     8:33.1
9     8:33.2
10     8:37.7
11     8:37.1
12     8:34.2
13     8:41.4
14     8:34.7
15     8:36.4
16     8:36.3
17     8:42.5
18     8:51.9
19     8:39.7
20     8:49.0
21     8:41.4
22     9:02.5
23    9:01.1
24     8:34.9
25     9:18.2
26     8:38.3
27     2:49.0
I felt good, physically, emotionally, and mentally for the first half. I was on track (maybe a weee bit too fast?) for my predicted/ goal finish. We split off from the half runners (after listening to a few of them share their glee that they didn't have another 13.1 to go) and headed out of town. It was a lot quieter -- very few spectators, less runners... but I was enjoying it. I needed to settle down into a pace and focus on keeping that pace. Miles 13-20 were all within about 15 seconds of each other. At mile 14 I saw the lead man pass mile 25 and briefly wondered if anyone would notice if I just turned around and joined him (he finished in 2:17, a 5:15 pace. yup. wow.).
Around 18-20, things started getting dark. Mile 18 means 8.2 miles to go... it's a tough place. I had been running for a while but I still had over an hour left on my feet. The pain was kicking in and I kept thinking WHERE THE FUCK IS MILE 20?  I had my Garmin on but I didn't want to look at it every 30 seconds.
I was really glad I had the pace band on. GPS watches are awesome, but they can trick you into a false sense of distance. Most runners run longer than the actual course -- great explanation here - so I could look at my pace band at the actual mile marker to know what my overall time should be at the mile, and then my watch to see the elapsed time. I ended up running 26.36, which really isn't too far off.
I saw Colleen and Deb at mile 21, which gave me an awesome boost, because I was really really hurting. You can see by my splits that I was starting to fade. I kept telling myself, get to 23, get to 23 and then you have a little more than 3 miles left and what's 3 miles? that's a short run. and then, get to 24, get to 24, only 2 miles, that's about 20 minutes to the finish, you can do anything for 20 minutes. then to 25 and you can push hard for the last 1.2. I wanted to take a short walk break around those miles, but: I knew that while I was on track to hit my goal, I was close. I didn't have a lot of wiggle room and slowing down to a walk would eat too much time. And also -- once you start walking, it's a bitch to start running again. It HURTS more than just running. I allowed myself to walk through the aid stations but made myself pick it up again when I was finished my water/ Gatorade. I kept checking my watch. I was still on pace to break 3:50:53.
me at 21 ^^

And then, finally, happily, mile 26. I booked it to the finish. People were going cheering, yelling my name (they printed our first names on our bibs) and I just ran as fast as my short little legs would go. I ran a 7:51 pace for the last .35 miles (more proof that so much of this is mental).
I crossed the finish line, hit stop on my watch, and saw it: 3:49:04. a PR by almost two minutes! happy happy happy happy:
I found Colleen and Deb:
and hobbled back to the hotel. I knew I should take an ice bath but I was really cold and the hot shower just felt so good. Deb and I met back up with Stacey (who rocked her first marathon!) and we went to the market where I inhaled a chocolate milkshake, a cheeseburger, and fries and it was AMAZING.
Stacey and I showing off our medals and shirts ^^
We drove home, where I was greeted by an exuberant H ... who promptly put my medal on and wouldn't take it off:
seriously, it's like the RD contacted Flava Flav for inspiration. This thing is awesome:
I still can't walk up or down stairs. I'm hobbling around my office. And I don't care - it was so, so worth it.


  1. you are amazing. It was so much fun to be there and watch you accomplish your final goal of the year.I know how much those last eight miles must have hurt. You are so strong for pushing through them. I love reading your race reports!

  2. Woohoo!!! That is totally awesome! And inspirational for my marathon in a few weeks. WHAT a freaking medal too! Congratulations - you nailed it!

  3. Very nice...
    Now it's time to go break the Ironman time

  4. reading this is just what I needed today. Great Job!!