Friday, December 03, 2010

Philadelphia 1/2-Marathon (11/21/10)

Summary: 1/2 marathon -- 1:34:59. 10/228 AG, 225/8412OA.

Long report:

I'd decided that I'd close my season this year with a 1/2 marathon. I'd already run a marathon in the spring, and I thought that training for a fast half would be beneficial in building stamina and speed for future longer runs and triathlons. Going into the race I felt good about my training -- I'd had a good series of track workouts and had tapered nicely. I'd even lost a few pounds in the previous month, thanks to some careful calorie counting.

After an uneventful drive up on Saturday, I got checked in, went to the expo and headed out to dinner. It was great to actually meet so many of the regular list contributors in the flesh.

Sunday morning I was up at 4 AM and driving in at 5:30. Got right off the freeway and into a parking garage, then a short walk to the starting area. It was a beautiful morning and I relaxed for a while, watching the hustle and bustle that's such a part of a big-city marathon. With 30 minutes to go I checked my bag, jogged for a while and worked my way up to the first corral.

Standing in the first corral, with about 16,000 people behind me, I reminded myself not to get too amped up, and seeded myself at the very back of the pack in my group. At 7 AM the horn went off and the journey started.

Debi had given me strict marching orders -- first mile at 7:30, then drop it down to 7:05 or so and go hard. "Quit thinking that you're slow," she'd said, and I was determined to break out of my usual conservative racing style (within reason, of course).

I settled in nicely during the first mile, right on pace. The weather was perfect, and I took off my fleece hat and tucked it into my shorts. Now I was wearing shorts, a short-sleeve technical shirt, home-made arm warmers and throw-away running gloves. Mile 2 clocked in at 7:08, as we headed across town. As we turned south along the river I passed the 3:10 marathon pace group and got some open space around me. We turned back and started back across the city. Some great crowds lined the streets in the central city and it was easy to feed off their energy as I kept the pace in the low 7's.

After crossing the river we turned onto the Drexel campus and passed a couple of rowdy frat houses. The first notable hills were here, and I had to push hard to keep up with the runners around me. It was a little humbling to try to keep pace with the marathoners who were shooting for times in the low 3-hour range. They were running easy, and I was having to dig deep to keep up.

Mile 8 was a tough uphill slog, and my speed was dropping, but I kept telling myself I just had to gut it out a little longer then kick the downhill to the river and the final flat stretch. I grabbed a gel at mile 9 (I'd forgotten and left mine in my checked bag) and choked down a little bit. I was into that stretch in every race where your body starts telling you it doesn't want to do this anymore.

Finally we hit the fast descent to the river. I picked up some time, but when I hit the flats along the river I could feel my speed slipping. I had a bad patch from mile 10 to 11, but rallied a bit and pulled my form back together when I saw mile 11. If I could just keep it together I could break 1:35. Off came the gloves and arm-warmers -- pitched to the side of the road.

After the 12th mile I sensed something behind me. I glanced back and saw the 3:10 marathon pace group. They'd gathered numbers and were catching up. I felt like a wounded elk being chased down by a pack of wolves. As I came to the turn-off for the 1/2 marathon finish I had to fight my way through them to get to the right side of the course. Then suddenly I was in the clear, with just a run past the art museum, a looping turn and a short straight to the finish.

I crossed theline breathless and totally spent. 1:35:03 on my watch, but the official results have my chip time at 1:34:59. A fun race on a great course, and then I went and got a cheesesteak sandwich. Good times all around.