2012 Philadelphia Marathon Race Recap

November 26, 2012 § Leave a comment

Well, I certainly let this blogging thing fall to the wayside (shocker).  But on Sunday November 18th I ran (well, mostly ran) in the 19th annual Philadelphia Marathon and would feel terrible if I didn’t write a race recap to at least have some sort of document of the day.

As noted here, I had been training for this race since the summer – sort of.  Life and admittedly poor prioritizing got in the way a bit toward the end and my mileage in the last several weeks were nowhere near what they should have been.  Therefore I wasn’t nearly as excited for the marathon as I had thought I would be, in fact I was somewhat dreading it.  While I was confident I could finish the race based on my 20-miler I had fears that it wouldn’t be so pretty.

But marathon weekend came. I attended the expo on Friday and of course I suddenly got into the spirit of things again!  I was going to be a marathoner!  I had a bib with my name on it and all!   This was really happening!

Sunday morning I woke up on the early side, had a lunch of some Van’s waffles, blueberry syrup, and a banana since that was about all I could scrounge up at home that would be ok for my stomach (the bread I had planned on eating had spots of mold, which gives you a small glimpse of my lack of preparation), got myself ready, and took the trolley down near the start.  It was neat to see other runners walking down there before dawn in the cold.  Gave me a chance to think about how crazy (in a good way) we all are.  I checked my bag and made my way into the porta potty line, where I stood until after the race actually started.  While this made me a bit anxious, I knew I was ok since my corral would have some time before it was sent off.

My A goal when I initially signed up was to come in under 4:45 and my B goal was to come in under 5 hours.  But as time went by I was becoming a faster and more efficient runner and my times for previous races/runs and my slight obsession with the McMillan Running Calculator indicated that a sub 4:30 marathon was a total possibility.  Of course the McMillan Calculator works on the notion that you do all of the training in a best case scenario.  While deep down I knew that a sub 4:30 was unlikely, I still wanted it.  So I started off with that in mind.  Probably not the greatest idea.

Miles 1-7: These were pretty great.  I was excited, keeping my pace, and crowd support is great during these miles.  You basically run into Old City, down into a bit of South Philly (didn’t realize we’d be so close to Beer Heaven at mile 3!) and then back west through parts of South Street and Chestnut Street.  I saw my friend Jenn around mile 6 which was a pleasant surprise during such a big race.

Miles 8-13: I had to pee urgently so I stopped at a porta-potty somewhere during mile 8, which takes you into West Philly.  Took forever.  Next time I’m just going to be more brazen because I lost at least 4 minutes there and thus it seemed like I was now a bit off the 4:30 pace.  I actually saw the 4:30 pace team a few feet ahead of me when I began running again, but I had no idea if their start time was before or after mine.  I had hoped maybe I could pick some of that up, but it never happened.  I enjoyed running these miles because I was still feeling rather strong, though my legs were honestly already starting to show a bit of fatigue.  Around mile 10 there is a hill in the otherwise fairly flat course, though it really didn’t bother me much.  I just slowed down slightly and it was fine.  I also must admit that I didn’t even know this hill was there until about a week before the race.  I saw another friend Greg around this time, which again was nice.  The Philadelphia Marathon has a half marathon component which mentally can be a good or bad thing if you are running the full marathon.  Since I knew this wouldn’t be my greatest effort I had initially feared that the split where the half marathoners were sent off would mess with my head.  I had figured that a big part of me would have wished I were headed their way.  However, my viewpoint totally changed during the marathon, possibly because it was my first, and suddenly I was excited to split.  “This is where the real race begins” I thought to myself.  When we split near the Philadelphia Museum of Art there were many cheers as it was now a course full of marathoners and there is a certain camaraderie to be had there.

Miles 14-16: I was feeling better than I had anticipated, though my legs were definitely fading.  My pace wasn’t too horrible, but a sub 4:30 was not in sight at this point.  A sub 4:45 or even something in the 4:30’s still was however and I felt ok with that.  I made another porta-potty as my stomach was rumbling and to be honest I’m not sure if I 100% needed this one or not.  My stomach kept rumbling on and off and everything is such a blur at this point.  I think I might have been more afraid to risk it than anything.  But again I lost about 4 minutes.  However, part of me relished the break instead of being angered over it like I was during mile 8.

Mile 17: This is THE WORST PART OF THE COURSE.  Ok, I obviously figured I knew the entire course being that I live here and therefore run here so I didn’t really analyze the course map much.  I knew that we went up Kelly Drive and into Manayunk, which I was looking forward to due to what I have heard about the crowds up there.  What I did not realize was that we do a goofy out-and-back loop down Falls Bridge and part of West River Drive before heading into Manayunk.  For some reason I thought we just ran past the bridge.  So initially I was confused, but figured it was just out over the bridge and back.  When I realized we had to go out down West River Drive I was all up in my head.  This really affected me mentally.   I had no idea where the turn-around was.  I knew it couldn’t be far, but I hated not knowing.  I was so angry at whoever designed this course.  This was really the last thing I needed while struggling.

Miles 18-21: These are mostly in Manayunk, which is rather good in terms of support.  And I have actually never been to Manayunk before so the scenery was brand new.  At this point in my life there are few parts of Philadelphia I have not seen already, even a few of the worst.  I knew my friend Dev would be up here handing out small cups of beer, as is apparently tradition, so I also looked forward to seeing at least one familiar face.  The beer stops (which are of course unofficial and illegal) are at miles 18 and 21 which are across from each other and Dev was at 21 which is the one I wanted to stop at anyway.  At the turn around during mile 20 there was a man with the best smelling brownies who I wanted to stab because there is no way my stomach could have handled that.  I got to mile 21, got my beer and a few words of encouragement, took a couple sips, and ran off into the homestretch down Kelly Drive again.

Miles 22-24:  These were brutal.  I tried hard to keep telling myself that I was almost there, but really I was just in a horrible mood.  My legs hurt, I was not going to get a time anywhere near the 4:30’s, and thus just felt like I let myself down.  I hated myself for not making race training a priority.  I wanted a great first marathon experience and this was just not it.  I saw my friend Jenn again somewhere along here and she was struggling but determined as well.  We parted ways after a little bit and I sort of did a walk/run to the end (I walked some in Manayunk too).  None of my walking periods were long at all because stopping to walk and then trying to run was painful just too painful for me.  So basically, I think I waddled my way to the finish area.

Miles 25-26.2:  Once I finally hit mile 25 (that marker seemed to take FOREVER to come) I tried to pull it together, though I think this was actually my slowest mile excluding the miles where I stopped for the porta-potties.  As I mentioned earlier the Philadelphia Marathon issues personalized race bibs and I couldn’t appreciate them more for doing this than during the last mile.  Crowds of course finally start to pick up again and random strangers will start cheering for all of the marathoners by name.  This definitely raised my spirits somewhat and made me feel a bit less disappointed in myself.  While approaching the finish line I saw my friend Jess cheering for me, which was a great surprise.  As we crossed the announcer called out our names and I got my first ever space blanket!  Also, to my surprise my sister was to the side right after I crossed.  It turns out she went all the way up into Manayunk to surprise me and must have been right past the beer stop at mile 21.  Since I didn’t know to look for her I didn’t see her.  Admittedly I’m not the most observant runner, but yeah.  My final time was 4:47:39 which gave my an average pace of just under 11 minutes.

I didn’t really feel much emotion after the race.  I was happy to be done running, but that is about it.  In retrospect I wish I weren’t so hard in myself and actually spent some time in the moment.  But the finish didn’t feel triumphant.  Instead I just felt lucky to have made it through.  I am not even sure that I fully comprehend the fact that I ran 26.2 miles over a week later.  I was so down about not following my training plan well enough that I didn’t really care about much else.  I read an article recently that said training for a marathon was the real accomplishment, not simply finishing one, and I hate that I let myself down in that area.  I know the experience would have been much more enjoyable had I been better trained.   Lesson obviously learned.

Afterward I eventually made my way to Johnny Brenda’s for some brunch and drinks with some friends who were a mix of both participants and spectators.  It was a great time and I started feeling a bit better about things.  After a couple of hours there a few of us headed over to Fette Sau for another drink and a bit more food.  I mean why not?  Even though I wasn’t all that hungry I figured I might as well get as much in as I could while it was acceptable.  Though really I’m not even sure I even consumed close to the calories I burned.   I saved that for the next day (hello Federal Donuts!).

I felt sore after the race, but after a day I was pretty much back to normal.  Or at least close to it.  I still have a few aches and pains that I didn’t have before, but I am surprised that my body actually recovered as well as it did considering how inactive I felt I was the month before.

So now that I have my first marathon experience behind me, I get to decide what to do next.  I am 95% sure I am going to sign up for the 2013 Key Bank Vermont City Marathon before the year is over.  I absolutely love Vermont and have had my sights set on this being my spring marathon for 2013 not long after I began training for Philly and read about the race (representatives were also at the Philly Expo).  This would mean that training for marathon #2 begins in the second-to-last week in January with the marathon taking place Memorial Day Weekend in Burlington.  I am very determined to make this marathon experience enjoyable and I would also love to get that sub 4:30 marathon while doing so.  I am also determined to actually document the process and everything else along the way.  Stay tuned…

Rock ‘n’ Roll Philadelphia Half Marathon Race Recap

September 19, 2012 § 1 Comment

On Sunday I ran in the Rock ‘n’ Roll Philadelphia Half Marathon.  This was my first half marathon race and I am very pleased with my run and the overall experience!

I woke up around 5AM for this race, which seems a bit early.  However it gave me enough time to eat (blueberry bagel with jam), drink a cup of coffee, and prepare.  The race began at the Parkway, which meant I just had to take the 15 trolley down to the area and walk a bit to the start.  I probably arrived there around 7:15 when all was said and done.  It was so exciting to see all of the other runners along with the volunteers and spectators gathering and preparing.  I checked my bag, walked around for a bit, and headed to my corral around 7:50.  The waiting was the worst part of course as I was way back in corral 17.  We actually saw the elite runners loop back around before we even started (the course begins with about a 4.5 mile loop through Center/Old City and back up to the starting area).

Finally we were let out at around 8:25.  I felt like I was doing my best to start off slower, but I realized after about a mile that I was actually moving at a more fast pace for me so I kept trying to slow down a bit during the initial loop around the city.  The course is pretty standard with that first loop and then the last 2/3 or so being the loop along the river.  Mentally this was both good and bad.  Part of me was thinking “Ugh I still have to run the entire loop!” once we got back into the Art Museum area and the other part of me was thinking “Ok I only have to run the loop and then I’m done!”.  I tried to pay more attention to the latter part.

I brought my handheld Nathan water bottle with me (filled with only water) so I didn’t have to get caught up in the chaos of the stands and only stopped twice for Gatorade.  I also brought 3 margarita and 3 black cherry Shot Bloks with me and had two each around miles 4, 8, and 10.5.  I felt really great for almost the entire race and in the end I seemed to really kick it up.  I don’t know if it was adrenaline or what, but I was surprised when I looked at my splits later.

My last 4 miles were all well under 10 minute miles!  I knew I felt fast and strong and during that last stretch I kept wondering if I had been underestimating myself all along (which of course transferred into a deep “running as metaphor” tangent).  However since I was trying not to really pay too much attention to my Garmin I really didn’t know exactly how fast I was going.  I just wanted to go by feel and finish as well as I could.

In the end my official time was 2:10:53 which is an average pace of 9:59 (my Garmin obviously disagrees with the total distance, but I don’t know what happened there)!  Crossing the finish line felt great (except when some jerk sprinted and nearly pushed me over to get in front of the photographer – lame), especially since I wasn’t really struggling to do so at all.  I exceeded my goal of sub-2:15 by more than expected and I am even pretty pleased with how I finished compared to the rest of the field as well.  I know running is all about improving upon your own bests, but it is nice to see that I can hold my own in something that is both so physical and mental when not so long ago neither would have really been possible.

After the race I met up with some runner friends and eventually went out to brunch.  Then I eventually had way too many beers to make up for the ones I didn’t drink the week before the half.  My first beer post-race was a Goose Island Bourbon County Brand Stout, which is perfection any time, but especially after running 13.1 miles!

Hitting the Wissahickon Valley Trails

August 22, 2012 § Leave a comment

On Sunday I went on my first real trail run.  In the past I have done a bit of hiking, but since I wasn’t a runner then I never really ran much on trails.  Philadelphia actually has some wonderful trails within the city in the Wissahickon Valley and one of my summer bucket list items was to hike out there since I haven’t been in quite some time.  I wasn’t sure this one would be completed because I am not too fond of the idea of going out there myself.  Lucky for me however, a group I run with, the Fishtown Beer Runners, was planning a trail run and pot luck.  Perfect opportunity to get out there and I was very excited to run the trails instead of just hike.

Look, I’m running! This is the only photo I got along the way because guess what?  I found trail running to be completely exhausting and about halfway through this 4 mile run I was struggling to keep up with the group of people I was with.  And since I have a hard time admitting that I get lost easily I didn’t want to lose them.  I had run 9 miles the day before, which is long for me at this point, but still trail running seemed a bit more challenging than I thought it would be.  Total respect for those of you who do this regularly.  Of course it is also far more beautiful than the usual sights of the city (especially mine when not out running the Schuylkill River Path), so that helped keep me going too.  In the end it took me 51:10 to run 4 miles.

Afterward we all met up at the picnic tables near Valley Green Inn to enjoy some food and socializing.  Pretty sure I consumed about 4x as many calories as that run burned because everything just looked so amazing that I had not choice but to eat it.

Though I had a lot of fun I am not sure I will be doing any trail races or even runs in the near future.  With my current goals as a beginner runner I’m not sure it would be very smart of me.  I had some near-falls due to sloppy footing and my calves are still a bit sore.  But I am very glad that I at least got to get out there once this summer and I would love to add more trail running to my repertoire next year since I really do love being outdoors.

Weekly Recap

July 22, 2012 § Leave a comment

Exercise:

  • Monday – None
  • Tuesday – 3.5 mile run
  • Wednesday – 2 mile run
  • Thursday – 1.5 mile run to meet up with running group, 1.5 mile run with running group
  • Friday – None
  • Saturday – 90 minute vinyasa flow yoga class
  • Sunday – 5.0 mile run

Running followed my training plan exactly aside from being short half of a mile on Thursday.  I definitely lacked int he yoga department this week, only getting the one class in.  Could feel it while in that class.  My muscles were so tight!  My run today felt amazing though and I wanted to go even further, but being new I am a bit afraid of deviating from the planned runs.  Probably wouldn’t be a big deal at this point when all runs are under 10 miles, but I’m a bit stringent with plans to begin with.

Most memorable event of the week: I attended the WXPN XPoNential Festival this weekend (yet another item on the summer bucket list)!  So many great artists played over the three-day period, but the highlight for me was definitely The Hold Steady.  They are such a great act to see live.  Part of the magic of live music for me is feeding off of the energy of both the performers and the audience.  When either or both is lacking it makes seeing a live show a bit pointless personally.  With The Hold Steady that is never the case.  Both the band, particularly frontman Craig Finn who is quite possibly the most animated lead singer out there, and the fans are always so into every minute of it all.  The band played this same festival in 2009 but had to stop early due to a really bad storm.  Very lucky that this didn’t happen again this year, because at times I was very afraid it might.  It rained all night, but certainly nothing major.  Here is a video from that 2009 performance (Franz Nicolay, the lovely man in the white suit playing the keyboard, is unfortunately no longer part of the band):

Best thing I ate: Probably everything I ate when I went to my hometown on Monday for the Mt. Carmel Festival!

Best thing I drank: While I drank many beer this week, most were rather common for the area.  This definitely isn’t a bad thing.  I had beers by Flying Fish, Victory, Yards, Sly Fox, Weyerbacher, Philadelphia Brewing Company and McKenzie Brew House.  Actually, the only non-PA/NJ beers I had this week were a Founders Porter and a Tecate.  I think the last time I had a Tecate I was actually in Mexico (and a decade younger).

Philly Food Swap

July 21, 2012 § 2 Comments

On Wednesday night I participated in my second, and I believe what was the 4th, Philly Food Swap event!  If you have never participated in a food swap before the idea is pretty simple.  You bring a number of your homemade, pre-packaged goods that you want to trade one-for-one with others.  For this swap which had a maximum of 40 registrants I decided to bring 15 items, but it is up to the individual person in the end.  Each swapper sets up a station with their goods and usually some samples of the items up for swapping.  A sheet is filled out for each item stating what it is and what it might pair well with.  The first hour of the swap is setting up and testing out the goods.  This a group of amazingly talented people who all brought a variety of items.  Above is only a very small sample of some of what was offered.  It is truly impressive!  Anyway, once you have sampled the goods you can write on the person’s sheet what you might be willing to trade them for.  This is in no way binding, but gives everyone an idea of who they might want to approach come time for the actual swap.  Then it is announced that the swapping will begin and that is where it can get a bit hectic.  Everyone goes to up to the people they are most interested in swapping with and the goods end up going fairly quickly.

For this swap I brought three different things: peach mango jalapeno preserves, tomato basil jam, and pickles made with Troegs Perpetual IPA.  I adore the pickles and others seemed to like them as well.  The tomato jam is also a favorite of mine and it seemed to go over fairly well.  However the peach preserves didn’t really get much love I think and it is rather understandable as I honestly wasn’t too crazy about them myself.  I made them last summer and really enjoyed them but this year I decided to use Pomona’s Pectin which meant I could lower the sugar dramatically.  Thus last summer’s were more of a jam and this summer’s were more of a preserve.  While I certainly don’t think they tasted bad I wasn’t that thrilled by them and ended up with two still left after the swap.

I got some really fantastic items in the trade however: nettle pesto, hot fudge sauce, raw peanut butter and fudge balls, a whoopie pie, a vegan fruit tart, a vegan brownie, hot sauce, worcestershire  sauce, pickled red onions, pickled yellow beets, strawberry rhubarb jam, and balsamic black pepper strawberries!  So excited to find a use for all of them.  The tart, raw balls, and half the pickled beets are already gone though!

The setting for this swap could not have been more perfect.  It took place at the Wyck Garden in the Germantown section of Philadelphia.  It is part of a site that was the home to one family for over 300 years.  Such a great place, especially when you are used to a more modern urban setting.  The next swap will be held on October 4th  at Greensgrow Farm, which is a wonderful urban farm in the Kensington section of Philadelphia (and not far from where I currently live).  Go to the group’s Facebook page for more information and to stay connected!

Weekly Recap

July 15, 2012 § Leave a comment

Exercise:

  • Monday – 75 minute vinyasa flow yoga class
  • Tuesday – 3.5 mile run, 90 minute vinyasa flow yoga class
  • Wednesday – 1 mile run/walk with shelter dog, 2 mile run
  • Thursday – 1.3 mile run to meet up with running group, 2.2 mile run with running group, 0.66 run home from bus
  • Friday – None
  • Saturday – 2.5 hour yoga workshop
  • Sunday – 5.0 mile run

I tried to add in more yoga this week, including a workshop!  The runs were mostly what was called for in my training plan.

Most memorable event of the week: The yoga workshop I attended on Saturday was great (and is so far the only thing I can cross off my summer bucket list)!  It was called “Hands to Earth” and it focused on arm balances mostly with a bit of inversion practice.  This is where I am looking to evolve my practice the most as it has not been until recently that I have even been very capable of getting off the ground.  The workshop was taught by John Vitarelli of Dhyana Yoga and emphasized proper forms of chaturanga, upward dog, and downward dog as being the basis of any arm balance or inversion.  So of course this workshop was rather intense!  I definitely have never stayed in chaturanga for such a long time in my life.  Aside from the progress in more commonly performed arm balances like crow and firefly, I got to see some progress in others that are less likely to be thrown into the normal vinyasa flow class.  We did eka pada bakasana II and it felt amazing to find that I could actually go up into it and stay!  So amazing that I have just been doing it randomly around my apartment ever since.

Best thing I ate: I have been preparing meals a lot at home, but haven’t had the desire to prepare much so hardly anything seems to stick out.  Boring.

Best thing I drank: I went to a bottle share hosted by Philly Beer Scene and Philly Tap Finder and got to have tastes of many great beers.  I was pretty nervous about going as I really did not know anyone who would be there and I feel at beer events people kind of stick to who they know.  Then again it also tends to be heavy on the male presence, not that there weren’t some females there, but I just always feel a bit odd when I’m so in the minority.  Admittedly, I’m terrible at striking up a conversation with others and as much as I said to myself I would try I felt a little overwhelmed.  I realize this is turning into a story of my social awkwardness rather than a recap of the best thing that I drank.  Ah well.  Anyway, everyone brought some really great stuff, much of which you can’t find here in PA and/or stuff that has been cellared and held onto for a while.  I used to buy far more bottled beer and share it with others in the past, but lately I don’t really know anyone who is into it anymore so it was a great way to get to do something like that again.  There are talks of this being an ongoing even so hopefully I will participate in more in the future.  Here is a photo of some of the aftermath (I really need to get better with this photo thing, and blogging in general):

Headhouse Farmers’ Market – First Trip of the Year!

June 17, 2012 § 3 Comments

As I mentioned previously, I love running down to Headhouse Farmers’ Market on Sunday mornings.  This is probably my favorite farmers’ market for that ritualistic aspect alone.  Headhouse Market takes place seasonally (early May – early December) on Sundays from 10AM – 2PM at 2nd and Lombard Street.  It attracts many quality vendors and probably has one of the largest selections in terms of variety as far as Philadelphia farmers’ markets are concerned.  Since I was out of town for over a month today was actually my first visit to Headhouse since December!

I usually walk through first to survey all of the offerings and then decide what I am going to buy.  Sometimes I will have something I need a specific amount of an item for (usually canning related), but I also just like to pick up a few things that I think will be fun to use for the upcoming week.  This week I really had no clue what I wanted, though of course once I saw everything I wanted it all.

In the end however, this is what I ended up with:

  • 1/2 Dozen Garlic Dill Pickled Eggs (!) – Mountain View Poultry ($3.50)
  • Garlic Scapes – Root Mass Farm (4 bunches/$5)
  • Pattypan Squash – Blooming Glen Farm ($2)
  • Rainbow Chard – Blooming Glen Farm ($2)
  • 1 Pint Strawberries – Beechwood Orchards ($3.75)
  • 1/2 Pint Blueberries – Beechwood Orchards ($2.75)
  • 1lb Fava Beans – Queens Farm ($2.50)

Few people probably get as excited over pickled eggs as I do and I don’t recall ever seeing them available before.  She had several varieties (beet, mustard, garlic dill, and buffalo are the ones I recall) and I wanted all of them.  I will probably pickle the scapes and use the fava beans to make scafata, a Northern Italian stew that I made for the first time last spring when searching for something to make with fava beans.  One of the reasons why I love shopping farmers’ markets and seasonally is that it allows me to discover new (to me) things all the time.

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