Tuesday, September 20, 2011

Philadelphia: Race Report

I woke up Saturday morning with a runny nose. Go figure. I went out for an easy 5 mile run. My logic is that with my less mileage(in the 70's) the past few weeks, my body is not used to not running so much, and my immune system is lower as a result(or at least someone has told me this before-I forget who). Or, I just happened to get a cold. Either way, I just sort of knew I was still ready and able to race optimally. I do not believe the cold had any negative effect on my performance. Beth and I left Saturday morning and were suprised at how easy the drive was to Philly. As we passed the Eagles stadium, I thought of my roomate Joe, an Eagles fanatic. I wished he was here racing as well. As we got closer to the city, we went directly to the expo and while parking was a hassle, it was cool to take a look at the downtown area. I was already excited. As we crossed the street towards the Expo, Beth nudged me in the shoulder to look ahead. We saw Olympian Adam Goucher walking right towards us, pushing his baby Colt in a stroller. I glanced at him and found myself staring until he finally noticed and I looked away. Goucher would be on the starting line the next morning, aiming to qualify for the Olympic Trials Standard(1:05:00). His wife, Kara Goucher(a world class runner), was inside the Expo signing autographs. I didn't stay at the Expo long, for I didn't want to waste energy walking around too much. I got my Elite Bib number(#60), bought some shot bloks, and we were out. Beth and I still had an hour to kill before checking into our hotel so we went to a nearby grocery mart where the food was quite good. The hotel location was quite convenient, and I had booked it for that very reason. It was nothing fancy, a Best Western, but it was literally 2 blocks away from the starting line. Will go there again. I then decided to do a 20 min shake out jog in the afternoon, and my legs felt GREAT. I knew I was ready to race the next day. That evening Beth and I had dinner conveniently in the hotel as we watched the Florida/Tennessee game, we both had pizzas which were actually quite good. Later on I walked over to the Wawa to devour a Chipwich.

I got to the Elite starting line with 15 minutes to spare and did some strides. I saw many people who I knew, and many really, really, really fast runners. Gulp. The field was loaded this year. For one reason because many Americans were trying to hit the Trials Standard of 1:05:00. I thought to myself, I will be aiming for that one day, but not yet. For today my goal was 1:07-1:08. Heck, if I broke 1:10:00 it would be a PR. I saw some Georgetown guys and said my hellos to them. Karl, Paul, Dickson, Bryan. Karl looked ready to go. I saw Jordan Zwick out of the corner of my eye in the stands. Jake Klim came to watch as he stood right near Beth near the starting line(but they never saw eachother somehow). The weather was PERFECT-50 degrees, partly sunny, partly cloudy. I felt a little cool at the start and found myself still wearing my gloves. Jake motioned for me to give them to him and I did-he knew that I would not need them once I got going and I probably would've just tossed them aside during the race somewhere. I also ran into Rich Saunders on my warmup, who owns a PR of sub 1:10:00 in the half and ran most of the Shamrock 13.1 with me last March. I saw Peggy(=PR= masters racer) but didn't get a chance to say hello to her. The National Anthem was sung as Frank Shorter was introduced and it gave me chills. The 1972 Olympic Marathon Gold Medalist gave encouraging words to all the runners as we got ready to race. Do not go out too fast. Do not go out too fast, I kept chanting to myself. The Rocky Theme started to play as we got ready to take off...


We surged down Benjamin Franklin Parkway towards downtown Philly. A bunch of Africans surged to the lead, with many, many elite Americans following them. We approached downtown very quickly and heard roars of people cheering. I relaxed and tried to find the right people to run with. One guy running with me, then surging ahead, another running next to me, dropping back. It was all a little chaotic at first. It always kind of is in a big race I suppose. Then Karl pulled up next to me. I ran with him and we drafted off some runners. Karl is just an awesome runner. I admire him a lot for his perserverance at the sport. He has qualified for the Olympic Trials before, and has run 2:20 in the marathon. He is now trying to hit the new 2:19:00 standard for the marathon in Chicago in 3 weeks. We blazed through the first mile in 5:00. WOAH. Little fast, but yet I felt fine. I was calm and knew it would be alright...if I went through in 4:50 I would've been freaking out however. Amazing how fast this race was. We surged through downtown and I got an immediate familiar feeling of Chicago the year before, the adrenaline of running through a big city. Chicago was a terrible race for me last year, but I do have good memories of surging through the city. There is nothing like racing in a big city with people cheering you on. But I needed to remain calm. My fear was definitely going out too fast in this race and bonking, and I wanted to run evenly for the rest. I hit 5k in 15:55(5:07 pace). Karl at this point was surging ahead, and I held back from going with him since it probably would've done more harm than good. For him, though, he was running his pace. I was excited for him. 4 miles in and we began heading out of the city going North. Beth cheered for me as we passed by the start line. I saw Jake and Pat Murphy cheering as I went through mile 5 in 25:45(5:09 pace). At this point I wasn't running with anyone and began to get worried. I NEED someone to run with. I saw a guy furthur up and tried to reel him in, but it would take a little while to do so. I needed someone NOW...

I began to hear a stampeed of footsteps behind me. Then, I realized there was a pack catching me. Now here, this is where I congratulate myself and believe made my race. Instead of saying in my own head, "damn, these guys are going to blow by me..." I said to myself, "this is your opportunity. Take it or leave it." As the pack caught me, I went with them and told myself to not let them go. I hung on and the bunch of us worked together. At mile 6(31:00), I began to feel really great. Halfway through. I hit 10K in 32:09. All I needed to do was stick with the pack. Work together. Encourage one another. I said encouraging words to everyone and they nodded. We were running 5:10-5:15 miles at this point, and it was just what I need to stay on 1:08:00 pace. The course was beautiful, I enjoyed every part of it. We went under bridges and along a beautiful river. There were still people cheering along the course and the bands were pretty good. I enjoy music on the run. There were several squads of cheerleaders who were really into it and I have to say they did a really great job cheering us all on. It's great to get that support when you're working this hard. Because, let's face it, it hurts. I grunted through miles 7 and 8. This is the part where you really have to work the half marathon. It is critical to stay on pace and not fall asleep. We hit mile 9 in 46:something and I began to realize that my goal was going to be achieved. I also realized that I was going to PR at my 10 mile split. I blazed through in 51:57 for 10 miles, pring by nearly a minute in a split. The training is working, I thought to myself. I am GOING to do this. 5k to go...

The pack began to break up. At this point, our fitness levels were microscopically different. We all ran in a line of men, with small gaps between each of us, and one guy hanging with me. Almost at an hour...almost at an hour...then it's just minutes left...I told myself-the other runner and I encouraged eachother and worked together. The crowds got bigger as we approached mile 11 and 12. I knew I was slowing a tad at mile 12(it's always mile 12 for some reason!)...as I saw a slow split. Gotta hang in there, keep the turnover, keep the turnover. LAST MILE. I fought HARD. I was making one final burst of energy that I had in me. The other runner went with me and we dueled it out. People cheered and I could see the Art Museum where the Rocky steps were on the left. The other runner surged ahead and I drafted off of him as we approached mile 13...if it would ever...get...here. It looked like forever I would get there. Jake was going nuts as I saw him just before mile 13 and he yelled, "40 SECONDS LEFT SLOANE!!" As I passed 13 in just a tick under 1:08, the last .1 was UPHILL. GOD ALMIGHTY. But then I thought, what a great way to get ready for Marine Corps. The hill felt really hard, not because it was a tough hill, but because after running on a mostly FLAT course with very little change in elevation there was now a hill at the last .1. How convenient. As I ran up the hill, it hit me and I gagged and slowed down for a moment before working into next gear and pulling myself as hard as I could up...up...up....

I crossed the line in 1:08:39, put my hands on my knees, and let out a very loud roar. I felt somehow an immediate sensation of strength surge into me, as if I had become immediately stronger after finishing the race.

I averaged 5:14 per mile for the 13.1 distance, so I was running faster in the early miles, and actually was on 1:07 pace for about half the race. I PR'ed by 1:25, and it was nice to get a 10M split PR as well.

STATS: The winner was close to the WORLD RECORD, finishing in an astounding 58:46!!! Bobby Curtis was the top American in the race, running 1:01:52, placing 9th overall, and becoming the second fastest American half-marathoner for the year. Adam Goucer qualified for the Trials with a 1:04:52, in 22nd overall. Dave Berdan was the top local MD/DC/VA finisher, in 1:05:53, finishing 25th overall. Karl was the 2nd local finisher, in 1:06:52, finishing 36th overall. My 1:08:39 got me 3rd local finisher in 57th overall. Amazing how loaded this field was. There was another =PR= runner out there. Peggy ran awesome, winning the masters(40+) womens race in 1:20:21.

My next and last race of 2011 will be the Marine Corps Marathon on 10/30/11.

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