Wednesday, September 18, 2013

Race Report: Rock 'n' Roll Philadelphia Rock & Roll Half Marathon

For the third year in a row Julie and I headed down I-95 for the Rock n' Roll Philadelphia Half Marathon.  Our trip started at rush hour as we jumped on the Mass Pike and headed out on our way.  The traffic wasn't that bad but once we hit Hartford the rains began and Mother Nature put on a light show any pyro technician would be jealous of.  The rains grew heavier as we headed south and we turned on talk radio to get a sense of how it was affecting traffic.  What we heard was not good.

Our preferred route down the Garden State Parkway was closed due to flooding.  The alternative way we would normally take, down the Palisades Parkway, was closed due to a tree down across the road.  Both of those we rendered useless anyways as 287 was closed due to an overturned tractor-trailer.  The only way to get down there was to go through NYC and over to NJ through one of the tunnels or the GW bridge.  We picked the bridge and were rewarded with a clear ride.  Despite the weather and the detour our travel time was average at five and a half hours.
A rainy GW Bridge

Friday I worked from the Pasternak house.  I tried to do 5K early in the afternoon, but the time of day and cold or allergies that I was fighting off made me haul back home after just 2 miles.  After no training since Monday night and this episode I didn't have high hopes for the race on Sunday.  After showering up and finishing the day's work we were joined by Julie's friend and co-worker Jen who was going to be doing the half (her first) with us, and we sat down for some Philly cheese steaks.  Later that night we headed out to meet one of Julie's college friends, Heather, at a new brew pub called Vault.  The IPA I had was very good and the food being eaten by others looking wonderful.  After checking out the menu, I think we'll be returning here while visiting for Thanksgiving.

Saturday we slept in and made our way over to Manhattan Bagels for some breakfast.  Julie's mom though that it being a holiday that it would be pretty quiet, but with all the Yom Kippur orders sitting on the counter waiting to be picked up they were out of almost everything.  Luckily they had three jalapeno and cheddar bagels left which we grabbed, but we had to wait for some more plain to come out of the oven!  After breakfast it was time to head downtown to the expo and to meet up with Julie's cousins Sue and Katie.

The expo was packed when we arrived around 12:30.  We grabbed our bibs and shirts and headed out to check out the vendors.  This was Jen's first expo so we made our way around so she could grab some useful gear for the race.  Never opposed to shopping, I ended up with a set of arm warmers proclaiming that I was training for the zombie apocalypse (along with a car magnet to match) while Julie picked up a vest and new pair of running sunglasses.  We stopped to talk to a number of vendors along the way and I even sat to listen to a bit of a training clinic given during the expo.

This year's shirt

Just in case

After we the expo we headed to the Embassy Suites near the art museum to check in.  It's the second closest hotel to the start line (I'm not paying to stay at the Ritz across the street) and was our base of operations last year as well.  This year it seemed a bit more run down and had a bit of a smell but it's all about location and the free beer (and wine) and snacks from 5:30-7:30 which we took advantage of before we headed down to dinner in south Philly for dinner with Julie's family.

View from our room.  Tomorrow this will be packed with runners

So will this
Down in south Philly we grabbed a prime parking spot and walked a couple of blocks to Villa de Roma where we met up with Julie's parents, Katie and her boyfriend Vince and Katie's parents.  Vince wasn't running with us tomorrow.  He needed to do 20 miles as training for his cross country season to get up to his 100 mile week.  100 miles?!?!  I think he should have ordered a couple of pastas dinners.  Villa is typical Italian place in this neck of the woods, cash only, no reservations, loud, dark, cramped and wonderful food.  We sat down after a bit of a wait and started in on a couple of carafes of Chanti and garlic bread.  For my meal I had Penne Abruzzi loaded with sausage, mushrooms, peppers and enough carbs to keep me running all day.  Stuffed and tired we headed back to the smelly hotel to get some rest before the race.

Race day we woke up early and I had my usual breakfast of a bagel and peanut butter. As we got ready I tried to decide on what to wear. It was pretty cool, but we'd be warming up so I debated I bringing my newly purchased arm warmers or not. In the end I decided to bring them and drop them off with Julie's Parents when I saw them on the race course.

At 7:30 we headed down to the lobby and met up with Sue and Katie to head over to the starting line. It pretty packed already and the throng of humanity was only getting more dense.  Katie was checking a bag so I dropped my arm warmers with her before she did (which turned out to be a good decision since I didn't see Julie's parents along the course) and we made our way over towards the gear check.  I say towards because there were so many people there that we sent Katie and Sue in alone rather than trying to push everyone into the sea of people.  A couple of minutes later they returned and we headed over to decide if where we were going to jump into the corals.


We found an entrance near some port-a-potties and coral 5.  We weren't going to jump in that low of a coral we were going to wait for a higher number to come by and jump in there.  As we got to the entrance the first runners were off and I was ready to go to the bathroom since that's when everyone jumps out of line to get going to the start.  We followed this logic last year and it worked perfectly, but this year it didn't.  The lines were so long they were at least 50 people deep.  I had to go but I hadn't trained must off the week and I wasn't expecting to do anything special on this run so I figured I'd just stop along the way.  I waited for my assigned coral, 9, jumped in and took off.

The course takes off from near the front of the art museum and down Benjamin Franklin parkway towards Willie Penn and the Love statue and then around JFK plaza towards the old city hall.  I stared out strong just over 10 minutes for my first mile.  I figured I was going out a bit fast but what the heck.

Running towards old city hall with sun glare...
and without.

After you pass old city hall the course then continues down market/11th street towards the National Constitution Center, home of the liberty bell.  I missed this last year so I made an extra effort to make sure I noticed it all and took in the sights.

Pretty Sure the liberty bell is in there
After that the course U-turns back up Arch street just before the 3 mile mark.  To say that Arch street needs some work is like saying the fat kids love cupcakes.  Seriously, the street has so many waves I felt as if I should be in a speedo carring a long board.  Do you know why Philly has a reputation for giving out so many parking tickets?  Because every car in the city just dies on the side of the road after bottoming out on Arch street.  I nearly fell a couple of times and but managed to keep on my feet (no joke).  When the terrain finally flattened out again I the course headed back up through Logan Square and towards the museum.  Just after mile 4 I was still running just over 10 minute miles, but I had to go.  I came a cross a set of port-a-potties with no line and ducked in.  No biggie I can't keep running at this pace the whole time.

Back to the Museum
After you pass the museum the course heads out along the Schuylkill River for a nice four mile down and back.  On the way out the course was shaded keeping everyone cool, almost cold.  I past a pair of older people sitting along the route with one of the best signs I had ever seen.  It was just while poster board with black lettering that said "Motivational Sign".  I chuckled to myself and kept going regretting I didn't see it earlier to get a picture.  As I passed the halfway mark I looked at my watch and even with the pee break I was just about on pace for a PR, but since I wasn't feeling well all week I knew that this couldn't last.  About this time I responded to JR, one of my twitter followers from Philly taking a small shot at the city.  My first mid-race tweet!

Just short of mile 9 the race heads over the river on Falls Bridge and I grabbed a Gu from a race volunteer.  As you get to the bridge there was a slight incline and I started to struggle, but I was pretty happy where I was.  I had done almost 9 miles just over 10 minute miles, and I was easily going to beat my recent times in Virginia Beach and Seattle.  As I approached mile 10 I was greeted by a Michelob Ultra advertisement announcing that there was free beer at the end, and I realized I was still going at just over a 10 minute mile pace.  OK 10 miles in I can allow myself to start thinking about a PR now, but do I have enough left in the tank to do it?

Mich ultra is waiting...must get to the finish
After mile 11 the trees start to thin out and the sun got going.  It was still cool so the sun wasn't over heating me but I really wanted the shade back.  My legs started to get a bit heavy but as long as I could keep just under 11 minute miles the rest of the way I was golden.

The past two years I've really faded here around mile 12.  The road is angled to help with rain water runoff, the sun is beating down on you, and the road has an ever so slight incline, but this year I had a PR.  I could even walk the last 1.1 mile and still PR so I pushed to keep my pace going and see how low I could go.  As you hit mile 13 you start up a hill towards the steps of the art museum (thankfully you don't have to go up them Rocky style, that would be a little cheesy).  It's the last cruel twist of this half marathon that is essentially flat up until this point.  I powered up the hill and sprinted towards the finish. 

My watch said just short of 2:14. If that was right I had broken my PR by over 5 minutes.  I didn't have anything that was a more accurate measure of my time since unlike other races for some reason the competitor group didn't have spectator tracking so I would have had to pay $5 to track myself then $5 for each other member of our group.  I wasn't about to pay $25 bucks for all those text messages and since you fine readers of my blog can follow me via Runkeeper Live, so I went with less than 2:14.

I felt great, I even felt as if I had something left in the tank.  I grabbed my medal and some Gatorade and headed over to pick up my heavy medal for 7 races in a year (Rock Legend), before going over to the beer garden for my free beer.  I hung out drinking my beer and taking some pictures before I started back to the hotel.

Yup I'm a rock legend
As I was heading out to the hotel I saw the medal engravers booth.  I remembered that I said when I broke 2:15 I would get my medal engraved so I walked over and waited in line.  I filled out my form and handed it in and that's when the trouble began.  Their internet went down and they couldn't find my time.  I looked online and found it at 2:14:05, it was under 2:15 so I guess I'm getting my medal engraved!  "Great we'll call in your credit card while your medal is being engraved.  What's your zip code?"  I told her while she called in the card of the lady in front of me, then mine.  After giving her my zip code 4 times they couldn't get my card to work, but they had already engraved my medal.  They took my information so they could mail it back to me once I had paid.  It was just before 11 and they would be there until noon, but I needed to be back to my hotel by noon as most places shut off your key by then even with late check out.

I had no intention of potentially losing my medal so I started to call everyone I thought would be finished to see if they had any cash.  Katie was already back at the hotel (only a 21 year old could barely train and run a sub 2hr half) and I ran into Sue on the way back to the hotel.  Luckily Julie's parents were nice enough to meet me near the hotel with a twenty so that I didn't need to go all the way back and up to the room.  I headed back to pick up my medal (again) and then back to the hotel. I made it there and back with about 10 minutes to spare. I showered up and waited for Julie and Jen to finish up.

When the ladies arrived Julie was not wearing her Philadelphia finishers medal but a generic Rock n Roll medal.  She said they ran out of Philadelphia ones but they would mail it to her later, and on Monday she received an e-mail saying that a rack of medals were stolen which is why they ran out, but that she would be getting one within two weeks.  Gotta love the city of brotherly love!

After checking out we headed out of the city to Julie's parents with a car full of people (thankfully we didn't get pulled over because there were definitely more people than seats) for a family lunch with even more of Julie's cousins.  There were a lot of people there, so many that Julie felt the need to explain to Jen how everyone was related.  I think it entailed the use of lists, diagrams, PowerPoint's, a strait rule and an abacus.  It's that complicated.  We sat around eating lobster rolls, drinking beers and hurricanes (from the Pasternak's recent trip to New Orleans) and just relaxing and chatting the afternoon away.  Near the end the runners were honored with an ice cream cake (because it's hard trying to replace all those calories burned), but before too long it was time to go.  Julie was staying down south for work so she drove me over to the train station to catch the Amtrak back to Boston.

I slept most of the way.  Seeing as I got in at 1AM I wanted to bank as much sleep as possible so I could function at work on Monday, and when I arrived at Back Bay station I was lucky to catch a cab.   The wheels sounded a bit wobbley as we made out way out the Mass Pike, but it held together and I arrived home safe and sound.  Just 2 weeks until the RnR Providence half!




Segment Pace

Overall Page

















Overall: 10,717 out of 18,068 Division: 822 out of 1,121 Gender: 5,174 out of 7,044


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