Monday, September 22, 2008

RACE REPORT: Philadelphia Distance Run

RACE: ING Philadelphia Distance Run
DISTANCE: Half-Marathon (13.1 Miles)
DATE: Sunday, September 21, 2008
LOCALE: Philadelphia, Pennsylvania
PACE: 7:51 (new Personal Record)
PLACE: 2105 out of 13181 finishers (top 16%)
RATING: 10 out of 10

I never have been to Philadelphia, except for once, and that was when I was driving through Philly to see a co-worker of mine, Jonathan Wellner, getting married in a nice upscale suburb not terribly far from it. My only recollection of this city therefore, are the images that have been plastered in my head from the many times I've seen the Rocky movie series. Unfortunately, they do not paint the city of Brotherly Light in such a favorable light either.

However, I had heard a lot about this race among runners. I heard that it was a good place to get a PR because of the flatness of the terrain. I heard that it is very picturesque, and that there would be plenty of spectators lining up the streets to watch too.

Jack had mentioned this race to me back in the Spring, and having followed his good advice from other races, I signed up immediately. At the time, I was with Ileana, so instead of taking one of Jack's pre-reserved rooms, I just decided to book my own room to share with her. Well, the relationship did not last long enough for us to be together, but the race and all the hype that came along with it, did too.

It's been pretty amazing how quickly this year has been flying by. Also, and with little exception (ie. Hartford), I've been very fortunate that my professional life, private life, and running life have not really interfered with one another. Sure, Ily watched the kids some of the races that I've been to, but it's been karmic bliss, schedule-wise, in 2008.

(top: from left: Our beloved president, Jack, John, Barbara, Stella, Scott, Carol, Tom

(bottom: Alex (me!), Bonnie, Pauline)

This past week I trained about 20 miles prior to the run. Early Sat. (Sep 20), I left for Forest Park, and parked my car at Bonnie's house. From there, I waited for Scott, where later we both walked over to wait by where our team normally meets up. It was nice to see a lot of members I haven't seen in a while, like Ben, Tom & Andi, and others. Once Barbara pulled up in her car, and the rest of the caravans showed up, we all said our goodbyes, piled into Barbara's car and took off. Like Carol, Barbara and Stella were going to Philly not to run, but to cheer us on, and museum hop.

The drive to Philly was fairly uneventful, including the expected boring New Jersey rest stop along the way, blah (added for effect). When we got to Philadelphia however, I was already becoming pleasantly surprised. This city was fairly nice looking after all.

We checked into the Best Western. It was in a prime spot. About a block away from Benjamin Franklin Parkway, and three blocks from the starting line. Sweet!

Since we were all pretty hungry (even though I just had BK for breakfast an hour ago, lol)
two of our groups met up and ate at Friday's. As usual, Scott and I acted like complete clowns. Well, I'm not sure I could say that we "acted" because it seemed so natural to me!

After we finished at Friday's, we left for the expo about a mile away to get my running number.

The convention was typical of what one would expect. Plenty of sneaker and attire vendors from the running world were there, and plenty of carbo loading foods and liquid samples to choose from as well. We walked back to the hotel then and rested up for a little while.

I had recently switched the room out from a king to 2 doubles, so that Scott could stay and we could split the bill. I was watching the Brew crew playing on the TV and fell asleep for about a couple of hours.

The restaurant we went to that night was called "Iluminare". Located on Fairmount Avenue in the Northside of Philly. The prices were reasonable, and the food and service were very good.

Photos from there:

I had a "Four Seasons" pizza, and a Yuengling beer. After we wrapped up Jack invited me to hang with him at the bar, but having remembered what happened at Ottawa, I chose to play it safe, went straight to the room, and was out like a light by 10.


Scott was up well before me and wasted no time telling me that the hotel had little hot water and even less water pressure (lol). Other than that, all went well. We went outside and had little doubt where the start of the race was, as thousands of runners were cheerfully making their way to Benny Frank Pkwy and into their corral. I was in corral #6. to correspond to my running number.

Outside of the corral we saw Carol. I gave her my camera and she took some pictures of us. In all, there were 16 corrals for the 16,000 or so runners that ING claimed had registered. I don't think the race ever sold out, but there were over 13,000 finishers, a healthy turnout nonetheless.

I was getting pumped for the start. I turned my iPod on, and was bouncing around, eagerly waiting for the air horn. And then.....

Like they say at the start of a horse race.....

............................................................................."And they're off!!!!!"

(that was the airhorn sound, lol)

Once our corral made it to the starting line, we still were in a huddled mass. Having been in other big races, I knew this would happen. For most of this mile I was still with Scott. He had actually gotten off to a fast start, and I remembered how he mentioned how his Reach The Beach relay was so challenging that it would improve his race here. No doubt. He looked as if he was on his way to shatter his own PR.

But I had myself to think about. And I knew that there was plenty of time to get tired, and injured, and I wasn't about to kick it into high gear just yet. Negative splits (which is when one person runs the second half of their race faster than their first half) have become my specialty of sorts. Fearful of running out of gas and not having a good kick, I tend to like starting off slower than normal in long races. Although, I did pass Scott right before the end of the 2ndmile, I made sure to keep track of my pace at all times to make sure that a repeat of Ottawa did not occur.

Like in other big races, there were bands playing along the route, but in a pleasant twist, there was a jazz band near mile 3 called the Frank P. Jackson Big Band. Everyone was sitting down playing their horns and reading their sheet music. Awesome!!!!

I did the first mile in 7:55.15 and the 2nd mile in 7:23.13

Going towards the 3 mile marker, most of the run was on Walnut Street, towards City Hall. At some points the course was getting tighter again, which was interesting. Races start to open up as the miles start to pile on. It kinda reminded me around Mile 12-13 in the New York City Marathon, in the Greenpoint section in Queens.

From what I saw, the city is very beautiful. When we came back towards where we started, we then headed north along Schuylkill River. As we ran, the river was to our right from Mile 5 till almost Mile 9. I even saw a dam. Eerily, this reminded me of the area in Ottawa where we ran alongside a river in both directions. too where I started to die out. I started to die out, because I thought it was okay to hang out with Jack so late. We didn't get back from Miro's house until nearly midnight. I was a complete waste of life the next day. With Ottawa as flat as it was, I think I could have definitely gotten a PR then. But there's next year for sure. In the meantime, was my fate to repeat itself? Was this deja-vu the beginning of something ominous or was I just being a "nervous nelson"?


I am not the New York Mets. I don't choke and repeat it again. By the way, have I mentioned that the New York Mets suck and have no will to fight and win? But that's for another blog.

Despite the occasional concerns of myself. My body kept on trucking. All my miles were very consistent as I was less than 8 minutes per mile for every mile. The course was very flat indeed. The worst of the grades came in crossing the Falls Bridge. It wasn't even a hill, but more like an annoying bump at worst.


When I got to the Strawberry Mansion bridge headed south now on the river, I wanted to use my mental visuals now more than ever to get me to kick it into high gear. Still, I held back. My personal record of 1:43:52 in Long Island this May, was in reach, but any bad moves now could cost me the record, and I wanted to play it smart.
Closing in on Mile 11 was the Conrail Railway overhead. Long before I could think again, I was already passing Amtrak's crossing overhead too. Seems like a lot of trains cross over here.


Yirefu Birhanu of Ethiopia and Lillya Shobukhove of Russia registered victories
in competitive fashion as each athlete completed the race with a powerful sprint
to the finish line

Ahead in the distance I could see the 20K sign, followed by what looked like the Museum of Art. Wow. Mile 12 in the distance! Looking down at my watch, I could see that I was at pace for a PR! "Just hold on speedstah. Just hold on!!!!"

The one thing I always like to do in a race is to finish off with a good, final kick. I love having a strong leg at the end. And I always do this when I start to see the finish line, but damn me, the finish line was around a bend and I could not see it right away. Making my way past Eakins Oval, I suddenly knew why....There was a bend in the road!! Ah-Hah! And there it was...The finish line..... 13.1 !!!! And now it was time to give it all I had. I already knew I had the PR in hand, but I wanted to do even better than that. Leave it all on the ground behind me. Lay waste to Philly by burning Mizuno Wave Rider Rubber on Philly's asphalt.

I surged. I was passing more people, faster. My mind became a rabid rabbit, while my peripheral vision blurred out anything that was not the banner and clock at the finish line.

There was some tall, lanky chump at mile 12 dressed in orange with orange sneakers, who elbowed me at a water stop and passed me by. Yeah. I beat his ass in the end. I burned him with 300 yards to go, as we had approached the bend. Oh, and yes, I saw him speed up, but I wasn't going to let him pass me.


.......................................................IN ........................................................

..................................................THE ....................................................


Up ahead were the steps that 'Rocky' used to run up to signify his triumph in achieving his goals. I swear if it wasn't for the normal finish were you walk in a crowd to get your banana, and water, I would have kept up running past and up the stairs yelling like a lunatic!!! BOO-YAH!!!!!

I finished up, and the medals they gave out were gorgeous. Nice and thick and full of weight. Serious hardware!

This was a great race. The exit was a little tricky I admit. But the planning, organizing, crowd control, race course, hell, even mother nature. Everything. And the city was warm, friendly, and it was pretty too. A perfect 10. With any hope, maybe the race organizers from Nike have found a way to get off of Randall's Island and have come to Philly to see how a REAL race is PROPERLY organized.

After the run, I walked around a bit, spoke to some of the race officials indicating my pleasure over the run, and made my way back to the Best Western for a much needed shower.

YAY! I GOT A PR!!!!!

Another sub-8 1/2 marathon... 2 in 1 year. Incredible!!!!!

Not longer after I showered and dressed, Scott came in next. After he was done, we went to the Wawa for some G2. He went back to the room, I went back to the post-race festivities to meet up with the rest of the team and to get the camera from Carol. Unfortunately, I did not see her or Brian during the race. I was so focused however, that I rarely looked at the sidelines.

Well, I only found Barbara and Stella, but they were on the way back. Ahead of me was the steps that Rocky ran. So, yes, I know this is an incredibly cheesy thing to do, but I had to run up the steps. Just had to!!

DA-DA..... DA-DA-DA.... DA-DA-DA-DA-DA-DA.... (Rocky Theme)

.........................(damn, I look like I am about to take a dump!)

As I came to the top step, I handed over my iPhone that I took with me from the hotel room earlier, and gave it to an unsuspecting set of tourists to take pictures of me.....

After I finished up, Saturn was prototyping a new race car, so I hopped inside!

When I got back to the hotel, most of my team was there. We looked at race results. I came in 3rd in my group. Marilyn Charles who is an extroadinary runner. She actually wins races outright. Tom Brogan came in 2nd, nearly a full 5 minutes ahead of me. He is an amazing runner himself. Scott was right behind me, and while he did not break 8 minutes, he absolutely obliterated his previous half-marathon record by nearly 12 minutes. Awesome job, Scott.

Truth is, everyone had great times, both during the race, and throughout the weekend as well.

After we printed the results we checked out, and while everyone decided to go sightseeing a little bit more, we opted to get back home a little bit early. But not before having a famous Philadelphia Cheesesteak, so we went to Tony Luke Jr.s on 18th street in downtown Philadelphia for one.

The food was awesome. It totally lived up to it's hype. And it's not processed meat either. We're talking freshly sliced tender beef that's been marinated with onions and sweet roasted red peppers... Mmm Mmmm Mmmm. Topped with either American, Provolone, or get this....Cheez Whiz! I chose American. The bread was incredible too. Light and crispy on the outside, and ohh so chewy on the inside. Perhaps the best thing of all was that as big a sandwich as it was, I never felt overstuffed. Now that's a mark of a truly great food offering.

We got lost afterwards going home, but s'okay. I got a medal!

Below is a description of the race...

Half Marathon Mile-by-Mile Course Description
Start Line - Benjamin Franklin Parkway east of Eakins Oval - 34 feet southeast of light pole Japan. Runners will head east on the westbound side of the Parkway.
0.4 - Left around Logan Circle.
0.8 - Cross 16th Street bear left to Arch Street
0.85 - Right at 15th Street
1 - Cross Market Street
1.05 - Left at South Penn Square
1.2 - Left at Juniper
1.25 - Right at Market Street
1.3- Past Marriott
1.6 - Past 9th Street
1.9 - Right at 6th Street
2.25 - Right at Spruce Street
2.3 - Right at 7th Street
2.4 - Bear left on Washington Square
2.45 - Right on 7th Street
2.5 - Left on Walnut
3.3 - Right at 16th Street
3.7 - Left at Benjamin Franklin Parkway - Heading west on eastbound side
3.9 - Left around Logan Circle
4.4 - Pass start line on eastbound side
4.6 - Left on to MLK Drive
5.3 - Pole WO17 - Lighthouse Boathouse on other side of river
6.1 - Past Sweetbriar Drive
7.0 - Past Montgomery Drive
7.3 - Boelson Cottage (1684)
7.8 - Under Strawberry Mansion Bridge
8.7 - Right at Falls Bridge
8.8 - Right at Kelly Drive
9.2 - Under bridge just past South Ferry Road
9.7 - Past Hunting Park Ave. (Laurel Hill Cemetery)
10.1 - Under Strawberry Mansion Bridge
11.4 - Grant Statue on Left / Fountain Green Drive
11.8 - Through Rock tunnel
12.3 - First boathouse on right
12.6 - Past Sedgeley Drive
12.8 - Past Fairmount Avenue
12.9 - Past 25th Street
13.05 - Turn right into painted lot
13.1 - Finish line 340 feet into the parking lot.

And here were my splits....

Mile 01 - 7:55

Mile 02 - 7:53

Mile 03 - 7:56

Mile 04 - 7:55

Mile 05 - 7:59

Mile 06 - 7:58

Mile 07 - 7:57

Mile 08 - 7:56

Mile 09 - 7:54

Mile 10 - 7:40

Mile 11 - 7:39

Mile 12 - 7:36

Mile 13 - 7:27

Last tenth - :42 (and that would have been a pace of 7 minutes a mile even.. what a way to finish!!!!)

AND NOW.....

19 RACES DOWN.......



Anonymous said...

What a tease!

DGA said...

I am still trying to figure out what, in this case, means "What a tease" by anonymous. Maybe I missed something reading your blog.
I have these comments:
1.- The lobster that elbowed you at mile 12 was already fully cooked and that is why 300 yards before the end you were able to pour the hot butter on for a tasty meal.
2.- Scott must be tired of you saying "I passed Scott" on every race. He's going to kick your ass one of these days, and deservedly so.
3.- That Philly Cheese Steak picture looks so unappetizing I will probably stop eating for 3 days now.
4.- Any city looks good compare to Queens or the bronx. Well, maybe with the exception of Forest Hills and part of Kew Gardens.
5.- The medal looks heavy and worthy. Take good care of it in case Wall Street is not bailed out by the government and our money goes down the drain by next week.
6.- What's with the hairy face? Are you planning to run the Tibet Marathon replacing the Yeti (Abominable Snowman)?
7.- I thought Silvester Stallone looked bad at the top of the stairs!
8.- OK. One good line: Great time and splits on every mile! You did very well.
9.- "WHAT A TEASE". What the hell is that?

Anonymous said...

what a tease?! I think he meant "it sounds wonderful sorry I missed It"
And it WAS wonderful. I too ran the race and even though I am older and still hoping to break the 10 minute mile, I had a great time as well. I have ran this race before and without a doubt it is one of my favorite. Very well organized, beautiful course, and always perfect September weather!
Thanks for the blog it was fun reading it. It doesn't matter how fast we go. The feeling and the cheer challenge of a well run race is always the same no matter what your PR is.

DGA said...

Additional comment on your bragging every time you pass Scott on every race: I strongly recommend, if you are running in another city...don't share a room! But if you have to because of financial reasons...DON'T FALL ASLEEP!