Tuesday, September 17, 2013

2013 Philadelphia RnR Half Marathon Recap

On Sunday I ran the Philadelphia RnR Half marathon. This is my second time at this race; I ran it as my goal half marathon last year, and loved it. Its a beautiful course, the spectators are wonderful and the weather is usually great. This year was no exception.

A couple of weeks ago, I was aiming for a 1:30:xx goal in this race. After a couple of great key workouts, my fitness seemed to indicate I could pretty comfortably aim for a sub 1:30 this time around, so that became my "A-goal". Long story short, I didn't quite make this goal, but came bloody close, and didn't kill myself doing so.

The day before I took a bus down to Philly from NYC. I ate a granola bar on the bus, oatmeal at Starbucks when I arrived, then met with a friend for my traditional french toast lunch at the Black Sheep.

 Sorry, it kinda looks gross all half-eaten like that. It looked much prettier when there was double that toast, with a big pile of fresh fruit. Ate it all except the banana sauce stuff (didn't like) and only a little bit of the maple syrup.

The rest of the afternoon, I chowed down on the ridiculous number of freebies I scored at the expo (all "payment" for how aggravated I was that, after picking up your race packet, you have to walk through several labrynthian miles of expo in order to find the meagerly sign-posted exit...).

After my snack attack, I went for a short 2 mile shake-out jog, feeling pretty good, though knowing that my hip flexor was tight and my groin a tiny bit ouchy.

I then went out to grab some dinner, and caught this pretty little snap of the main strip and capitol building (?) in Philly:

For dinner I ate steamed shrimp, a little broccoli and about 1 cup of steamed white rice... followed by some peanut butter cups. All in all, I think I had more junk food that day than I have consumed in the last six months combined. Sometimes junk is what the bod wants.

Next morning, up at 5am, with a 1/2 cup of oatmeal, a banana, a gatorade and a couple of cups of coffee. Did the bathroom thang, and felt surprising good and not weighed down by all my junk-loading the day prior.

Also took a couple of selfies for blog.

Hey Self!
Not sure what I was going for with the side shot here. Look at my shoes? Legs ready to run?

Got to the race around 7am, and got in a queue for the porta-potties. After waiting 40 minutes, it became apparent that the line was not moving, so I jogged around and found a gas station where a few runners were waiting in line to use the bathroom. Perfect!

Except the very next girl to finish up in the bathroom, locked the keys inside. And the gas station manager didn't have any other keys. To the bathroom. Outside of which, about 10 very anxious and pee-needy runners were waiting.

By this stage it was about 7:45 and I was nervous about getting into my corral on time. So I went up to two speedy looking ladies in front of me and said something like: "Are you ladies interested in a tripartite-public-peeing-cover-up situation?" A resounding "yes" followed. So the three of us sidled up to some parked cars in the lot, and ducked behind them, keeping watch for each other. Of course, it wasn't until I stood up that I realized the gas station manager was able to see me the entire time. And was presently yelling at us for peeing behind the cars at his gas station.

Not my finest hour, I must admit, but a runners gotta do what a runners gotta do.

After Gas-Station-Bathroom-gate-2013, I did another brief jog and some strides. Hip flexor still not feeling 100% but I thought it would be fine. Jumped into Corral 1 with the sweet Megan and some of the other Central Park Track Team girls who were also aiming for a sub-90 half.

And off we went. My childhood friend Rory, had advised me to pace in the 6:50s for the first half, perhaps a little below that in the second and then to push the pace in the final 5k. For the first time ever, I actually followed my pacing plan.

Miles 1-5: 6:57, 6:37, 6:59, 6:51, 6:52. These miles clicked along easily.  It was difficult to gauge how fast I was going because (a) it felt so easy! and (b) in the city center the GPS gets all wacky. But I was happy with these splits. And my pictures tell the tale of feeling pretty comfortable.

 Miles: 6-10: 7:00, 6:46, 6:53, 6:47, 6:47.  I think the 7:00 was when I was telling myself to go easy on the pace and also when I was trying to choke down my Gu. The rest of these miles I just focused on keeping an even cadence. I know what my turnover should feel like at around 6:50 pace, so I just concentrated on that, and my breathing, to pace myself. I was very conscious of not pushing it too hard, as every other of my half-marathons I've really conked out in the last 2-3 miles.

Still feeling pretty comfy.
Miles: 11-13: 6:36, 6:40, 6:39 and 6:18 for the last 0.32. Here is where I turned on a bit of music, and concentrated on dialing up the speed. I wanted to start to feel uncomfortable, but not red-line - a very difficult thing to gauge in those final miles. At any moment I was expecting to hit the wall... but thankfully didn't.

Well, until I began running at my 5K pace for that last half mile, on the only significant uphill of the race. Which is also where my pain-place-face came to the party.

Look away! Look away!
I won't even show you the finish line photos. Suffice to say I looked like I reeeally wanted to be at the finish line.

So the end results:

Garmin times: 1:30:24, for 13.32 miles,  6:47 avg pace.

Gun times:

As you can see from the pace discrepancy between Garmin and gun, I ran 0.22 miles over the course, which represents probably a minute over time (typically I run about 0.1 over in a HM). Obviously running the tangents is part of any race, but on a course with a lot of turns, and a lot of people, this wasn't easy to do. That said, everything else about the race was perfect (weather, nutrition etc.) and there is always at least one thing about any race that you could blame those 23 seconds on!

Anyway, yes I'm a little bit disappointed that I didn't quite make the sub 1:30. But my real wins for the day were (1) finally mastering a pacing strategy; and (2) breaking through a mental barrier by running 13 miles at a 6:47 pace. I theoretically knew it was possible from my workouts, but never quiiiite believed it. Here's proof!

Finally, (3) I didn't want push myself to the absolute limit in this race as I'm still training for my ultimate marathon goal.  I'm pretty sure I met that goal; in the two days post-race, (and apart from an almost expected strained hip flexor, which I hope will clear up in a week or two) my legs and feet feel like I barely even ran a tempo on Sunday.

So for now, I'm resting up, hoping to get back into marathon training, prepping for the ING Hartford HM in four weeks, and Philly in nine!

~ Penny

P.S. I really have to give a shout-out to Jake and Andrea, who I met through the fastrunningblog and their own blog, Wasatch and Beyond. They are some amazing runners, but even nicer people. They are incredibly encouraging, and have provided some great insight and wisdom on running, both to me and tons of other novice runners. Go read them!


  1. Your pee-behind-a-car-gate situation had me laughing over here...but mostly because I can see how easily such a thing could happen! Glad you found some like-minded ladies to team up with - and good thing you were runners (that attendant didn't stand a chance of catching you!).

    I promise not to tell the NY State Bar Association. :)

    And - of course - freaking awesome race!!

    1. Haha thanks Holly! Man, I'm glad there are no professional responsibility rules relating to that... though public indecency maybe ;)

  2. Nice work! Way to run a consistent pace and then pick it up during the last 5k. That's the way to do it!

    1. Thanks Dana! Did you end up coming to the race??! It was really a beautiful day!

  3. Yes! I came out and cheered, but I didn't spot you. I ended up running almost 5 miles, hopping from different points along the course to cheer on my husband. He ended up with a PR too!