I had trouble getting myself to write this race report for Philly. I took the spring off of marathons because I had burned myself out after a string of injuries/issues/bad races. Although MCM went really well in the fall, I needed a break to recharge my batteries. This was probably the best thing I could have done. Stevi has still been fighting with her IT band issues that were a result of our Rome marathon adventure, so it seems it is up to me to dust the blog off.
Training went really well for Philly. I maintained my usual paces throughout the summer which never happens, and I decided to try something different for my training plan. I figured I would play to my strengths, and instead of doing a bunch of track workouts and repeats I would do everything as long tempos and marathon pace miles. This training cycle felt different than any of my others. I was hitting all the paces on my workouts (training based on my 1:02:28 10 miler from the spring). I remember coming home a few times in the spring and telling Stevi how I was disappointed from quitting my workouts. I remember glancing at my Garmin a few times on tempo runs or intervals and if I didn’t like the average pace I saw I would give up.
Notable workouts from this cycle included a 14 mile run w/ 12 @ MP (6:37/mi), a 16 mile odd/even run (odd miles near MP, even miles near HMP) that averaged 6:48/mi, a couple of 17-21 mile runs with the last half at MP (6:4x averages), and tempo runs of 6-7 miles @ 6:1x averages. Despite being 10 lbs heavier than my usual racing weight, I was still faster.
Four weeks out from the race Stevi and I travelled to Columbus and I ran my tune-up race there. My prior PR was 1:24:40 that I set back in 2010 and all of my half marathons since then have been disasters ranging from 1:27-1:29. I felt great, training was going well, and I knew I would PR again, but I had no idea by how much. I planned to go out near 6:15/mi and hold the pace as long as I could. I managed a 1:23:09 and I was confident I had a sub 3 hours in me for Philly, and set an A goal of 2:55. The plan was to run 2:57 pace (6:45) for as long as I could.
On Saturday morning I got up early and did a quick 4 mile shakeout run. I drank some Ultra Fuel immediately afterward (50g carbs) and had a bowl of cinnamon chex and almond milk. We drove to Philly and were staying in a hotel, so I brought my pancake griddle and everything I needed to make my gluten free pancakes. I stuffed myself with those and we headed out to the expo, which was a nightmare. I grabbed my race packet and we got out. We waited around for my friend Kevin and we walked around and chatted before we headed back to the hotel. I had my dinner of a gluten free peanut butter and banana sandwich (and a couple of french fries I stole from Stevi) and hit the sack around 9pm. I had been struggling with some neck/shoulder pain for the last couple of days and had been fighting a headache most of the day. I hoped that would be gone by race time.
We got up at 3:55am and I gulped down two huge servings of orange Ultra Fuel and got everything together to head out. The temps were low 30s at the start, which I think is perfect. We got to the race site at 6:15 (7:00 start) and we couldn’t figure out how to get me into the maroon corral. We finally found an entrance in the black corral, but I need to hit the porta john and they had some serious lines. I had taken care of business and gotten into the corral at around 6:45. I took a GU and took a few sips of water. I found Kevin before the start and we chatted for a bit before the gun goes off.
We had somehow gotten behind the 3:05 pace group and I didn’t want to get stuck there so I weaved a bit to get close to 7:00/mi pace. I was going to run the first couple of miles around 6:5x and then try to keep the Garmin in the 6:4x/mi range for the rest of the race. I don’t like lapping manually because my attention span is really short in races and Kevin gave me the idea to auto-lap at 1.01 miles instead of every mile. It is a great idea because the mile markers will line up most of the time, but the pace will be off by a few secs per mile (which will happen anyway). So the splits for this race are the duration it took me for the 1.01 splits.
1 – 6:55
I am starting slow like I wanted. The road is severely crowded and I really have to use the restroom. I figured I would give it a few miles and see how I feel then. I was running with a crowd that was keeping a good pace so I just relaxed and settled in.
2 – 6:46
3 – 6:47
4 – 6:47
5 – 6:47
We are turning around and starting to head back west. Crowd support was great in these few miles, but the buildings were messing with my Garmin pace. I wasn’t sure if I should speed up or slow down because the average pace showed a 6:18/mi at one point but I didn’t feel like I was working that hard. I slowed down a bit until my watch caught up with me and took a GU.
6 – 6:50
7 – 6:45
For some reason, the elevation chart does not indicate it and no-one ever seems to mention it, but what seems like the largest hill is in this section. I remember cutting off to the left to grab some gatorade since everyone else was moving right.
8 – 6:57
9 – 6:43
10 – 6:43
I can hear a lot of chatter behind me and hear a spectator say the three hour pace group is coming up. What??? How in the world are they catching up? I moved up a little bit to try and move away.
11 – 6:34
12 – 6:44
Stevi and Flo are here on the course and I took my gloves off and tossed them to her. I tried to grab Stevi’s hand when I went by but I missed. I told her I loved her and kept moving. I saw our friends Matt and Sarah and waved to them as they yelled to me. I took another GU here.
13 – 6:45
We are coming up on the full/half marathon split and to my surprise there aren’t that many people cutting off for the half. It seems a bit crowded all of a sudden and I turn to my left and running directly beside me is the three hour pacer. What. The. Hell. I thought I was on 2:57 pace this whole time and still he caught up with me. I was suddenly enveloped by a sea of runners from the three hour group. It was getting crowded and I didn’t have any room to move. I needed to get out so I went for it and a couple of guys went with me.
14 – 6:39
15 – 6:32
I am passing people left and right. I can hear two or three guys behind me that are staying with me but we are flying past everyone else.
16 – 6:42
17 – 6:44
This is a section across a bridge with a turnaround and you come back across the bridge. I am starting to feel tired but still ok. The Garmin pace looked off and I heard afterward that this typically happens at this point of the course. I see Kevin and wave to him.
18 – 7:27
19 – 6:42
We hit another turnaround and I am really starting to feel it now. Doubt it starting to creep in and I don’t know if I can hold it for another 6 miles. I see Kevin again and he seems much closer than before. He yelled that we only have 10k to go and I remember thinking to myself “only”? I took my last GU during 18.
20 – 6:50
21 – 6:57
Right now I am just fighting to hold it. I am having trouble with any uphill sections and my quads are screaming. I am telling myself to just make it to 23 and then you are in the clear.
22 – 6:59
23 – 7:07
I had made it. Now I just need to make it to the finish with whatever I have left. I remember thinking to myself that I wish I had brought another GU with me. I will remember this for next time.
24 – 7:07
I am fighting the urge to stop. I had one instance where I actually started to and then jolted back to running. I am literally screaming in my head that I am still on pace for sub 3. There is only two miles to go. Why do I want to stop, I am almost there. Then, I get a side stitch on my right side and I can’t breathe. I tried to fight through it for a little bit but it was the straw that broke the camel’s back. I had to stop. Kevin runs past and asks if I am ok and I tried to tell him it was a side stitch but I couldn’t speak. Then I saw the three hour pacer go by. I am watching in horror as it is getting further and further away from me. He has about 20 seconds on my and then I got the urge to chase him down. Stevi is up ahead at 25 and that is all I need to keep going. I started running again and only got a few steps before the side stitch hits again. It was over. I was done. I didn’t want to fight it anymore.
25 – 8:07
I am jogging off and on until I see Stevi off to the side. I ran up to her and gave her a kiss and told her I had a side stitch. I had completely given up and almost wanted to stay there with her. I started to jog away from her when she yelled to me “You still have a PR to get!”. I thought to myself, “She’s right!”. I am still baffled that someone had to tell me that. I saw Matt and Sarah again and stopped at the water stop to take in both some gatorade and water.
26 – 8:12
I started running again and wasn’t feeling the side stitch anymore and was speeding up. I could hear the announcer yelling that the “That guys is going under three hours! That girl is going under three hours!” and I am still over a minute away. I had lost track of how much time had passed in the last two miles and thought I was coming in much slower. I realized then that I could come in a few minutes under my PR if I just kept running.
.2 – 1:03
Finish time – 3:01:28
I should be happy with the time. It is difficult to look back and wonder if I could have done anything differently in those last two miles. You can’t picture the state of mind you are in until you are actually there. I still can’t believe that I had completely thrown in the towel so close to the finish. I remember thinking to myself throughout the race that you have rough patches, but you get through them and it worked for me several times. I am thankful that Stevi was there to talk some sense into me at the end. Overall, the race is a three minute PR and it proves to me that I have the fitness I need. This is the third marathon I have run that I felt like I actually was able to race to the best of my ability. Even if I didn’t get the sub three this time, it doesn’t seem so impossible now and there will be other chances.