On Sunday a whole crew of us participated in the Rock N Roll Philly half marathon. The crew included four "Garges's", myself, Lauren, my brother Jeremy and his wife Michelle. Michelle's brother also ran. This was to be the longest "run" that Lauren has done in quite sometime as she's on the mend from suffering Rhabdomyolysis this summer. Jeremey, Michelle and her brother Nick all had some goal times in mind. Jeremy and Nick wanted to break the 1:30 barrier for the first time and Michelle wanted to break the 2 hour barrier for the first time. Lauren was going to run with Michelle to help pace her to her goal.
Lauren and I drove down Sunday AM to meet up with the rest of the crew. We were treated to incredible weather....just enough sun and temps in the upper 50's....and slight winds. The race was nearly sold out with over 20,000 participants. It also drew quite an elite field, many of which were hoping to meet the Olympic standards of 1:05 (male) and 1:15 (female) to qualify for the trials in January. It was pretty cool to hang out in the corral and watch the likes of Adam Goucher and Kim Smith (led the first 18 miles of Boston Marathon 2011) warm up and be interviewed by race personnel.
I stretched and tried to come up with some kind of mental game plan. The course, although slightly different than the last time I ran the race, was a fast one. It started out running in down town Philly for the first 4+ miles, then ventured out past the Art Museum onto Kelly Drive, across the Falls Bridge and back down West River to finish at the Art Museum stairs. In all of the running events that I've ever done in Philly, I've never run out Kelly and back West River...odd! Back to my race, in 2008 when I last ran the race, I had a pretty big year - running mileage wise - and I trained pretty much specifically for this race. I ended up with a great time of 1:14:10 and carried that to a marathon PR later that fall at the Philly Marathon.
So what was the plan for today? I had run about 600 miles less year to date than in 2008, I had put some decent training in, but not really focused on this race, more for multisport racing. I hadn't really tapered either. I had no idea what I had in me. 13.1 miles is no short race either, go out too hard and pay for it. My plan was just to go by feel...not by watch, not by HR. So that I did, the gun went off and I just focused on a steady effort and tried to stay out of the wind.
As we took off, there was a pretty good sized group all around me. I just tried to run steady. Hit the first mile marker...5:30...OOOPPS! I did remember my 2008 race where I ran 5:31 first mile so I wasn't too worried. Tried to back the effort down, mile 2...5:39..that felt better. There wasn't a bunch of passing going on, everyone just getting in the groove. I hit the 5K at 17:26. By mile 5 a decent sized pack had come together, there were a bunch of elite females mixed in there marking each other's moves. My first 5 miles were consistently in the high 5:30 range. As we headed out Kelly Drive the pack stuck together, but we started to catch some people that had gone out too fast. Hit 10K at 35:04...a very consistent first 5 miles. My legs were feeling pretty good and I wasn't taxing my cardio too bad. "Seven more miles, I may be able to pull something good out of this" I said to myself....hoping I could even drop the pace more after 10 miles.
Our group's pace slowed slightly, I was no clicking miles off in the low 5:40 range. It was slightly uphill as we reached the Fall's Bridge and subsequently the 9 mile mark. At that point the whole race seemed to change. Those who had it dropped the pace....it went from quiet to much more noticeable and labored breathing (for me and many of those around me). At this point, which I thought would be slightly downhill, my legs started to protest. I upped my effort for sure, but the pace wasn't coming down.
I rolled through 10 miles at 56:50...."One of my faster 10 mile times" I thought, "OK, just hang on for the last 3 miles." Easier said than done! There were some strong runners coming by every once in a while...and I'd pick some slowing runners off here and there. I dug deep, recording my slowest miles of the day in miles 11 (5:47), 12 (5:48) and 13 (5:50). As I hit mile 12 I realized that I was going to hold onto a great time, finally did the math and realized I could break 1:14. The crowds were huge as we approached the line, the crowd was cheering all of the female runners on because they had punched their ticket to the Trials. I soaked it in and came across in 1:14:54. Not sure where I pulled that from, maybe my "Suitcase of Courage" as Phil Ligget and Paul Sherwin would say, maybe just dumb luck on a beautiful day? Who knows, I'm not complaining...I'll take it! The field was deep, a sub 1:15 garnered me 133rd overall which is a testament to that. I was happy to finish 7th in my AG though.
My new found (maybe a fluke?) running fitness has me re-evaluating my fall schedule. I think I'll put cyclocross on the back burner, still racing but not necessarily training specifically for it, and focus on some running races. I'm pacing the 3:25 group at the Wineglass Marathon on 10/2, then racing the Hershey Half Marathon on 10/16. I'm also considering registering for the Philadelphia Marathon on 11/20.