Philly Half Marathon Race Recap

I’ve been pretty stressed out and worn out lately from work, which unfortunately has demotivated me in other aspects of life. So, this post may be a bit delayed, but better late than never! Right? Thanksgiving break has been heavenly and now I’m ready to re-hash the Philly Half Marathon…

Two Saturday’s ago (11/19) I slept in until the nice “late” hour of 10am and then quickly packed a bag of running clothes to head down to Philly. The weather was forecasted to be 48 degree (low) and about 10mph winds on Sunday, so I figured I could leave the really warm gear behind. I brought with me:

  • Lululemon Capris
  • Light-weight long sleeve red shirt (not running gear)
  • A light-weight old zip up that I could toss during the run (just in case!)
  • My new Brooks Adapt Gloves (thanks for the recommendations Katie!)
  • An old hat (also a throw away option)
  • Fuel belt with 2 water bottles to attach
  • Garmin Forerunner 410

I was undecided if I wanted to wear my Garmin during the race. On one end, I have the tendency to run faster if I don’t pace myself. On the other hand, this was the first race where I had an actual goal in mind and pacing could be beneficial. I guess that transitions me to mention my goal for the Philly Half — In terms of distance, I’ve now run past the 13.1 mile mark and completed two 15mile runs. Since I now KNOW I can run 13.1miles, I wanted to push my speed. My last half marathon I ran in 2:08:28. Eventually I’d like to run a 2hour Half, but knew I wasn’t quite up to that yet, so I arbitrarily picked 2:05:00 as my goal time.

Back to Saturday, the BF and I took NJ Transit –> Septa and arrive in Philadelphia City Center around 2pm. The original plan from a few months ago was to stay at the BF’s sister’s house about 40min outside of Philly since all the hotels were $400+ that were anywhere near the race start. I was a bit stressed out with work and such the upcoming week, though, and the inconvenience of having to travel to Philly to pick up my race packet, 40min outside of Philly to sleep and then 40min back to Philly for the race early in the AM was only adding to my stress. I kept checking for any hotel under $400 in the city center to open up and on Tuesday I miraculously hit the jackpot! On bookings.com a room at the Crowne Plaza Hotel for about $230 — sold! I think my BF thought I was a little crazy for paying for a hotel when we had a free place to stay, but I’m sorry $230 is worth my sanity. And that’s why I work, so I can afford to go to races, stay at hotels and have a good time. Any ways, luck has it that the hotel was conveniently located 2 blocks from the train station, and less than 1mile from both the race expo and the race start! We stopped by the hotel to drop our bags off (our room wasn’t available yet since the hotel was filled with runners checking in) and headed to the race expo.

The race expo was packed, but the energy from all the anxious runners in one spot really got me excited. I picked up my race # and goodie back which included a long sleeve “Philadelphia Half Marathon” shirt, a small thing of Body Glide, some coupons, coconut water (which I dislike even though I continue to try it), some other small goodies and an actual draw-string backpack bag to hold all the stuff. Then I walked around the expo floor checking out all the gear and running accessories. I loved a lot of stuff, but managed to make it out with only buying an ear band, which I really needed.

From the expo we headed straight to the Reading Terminal Market next door. My BF has been dying to try this pork sandwich from Dinics ever since we saw it on some Travel Channel show, so it was a MUST that we made it there while we were in Philly. He waited in line for about 45min for this big boy:

Dinic's Roasted Pork and Broccoli Rabe Sandwich

While he waited I walked around the market and picked up a delicious fresh out of the oven, chocolate chip cookie. I don’t really like pork, but I tried the sandwich and I have to admit it was tasty, deliciously garlicky broccoli rabe was my favorite part. I truly appreciated that my BF was willing to carbo-load for me…

Not one crumb was left over

After lunch/snack time, we headed back to the hotel for some tv/nap time. I had been on my feet all day, which is not really what I wanted to do the day before a race I was trying to PR in.

Walking around all day in Philly I was freezing (keep in my I’m always cold) and was seriously freaking out that I had not brought warm enough clothes to wear before the race (you never know how long you’ll have to wait until the start!) and during the race. I contemplated running over to Athleta a few blocks over to pick up warm clothes, but some how subdued my irrational fears and stayed put.

I was really craving some good old fashion American-Italian food for my pre-race dinner. I didn’t want to go far, though, so we found a place close by using Yelp.com. We ended up at Pietro’s Pizza for dinner around 7am. The restaurant was crowded (likely with other fellow runners), but we were able to get a seat. Since the BF had housed down a huge sandwich just 3 hours ago, I was able to convince him to split a meal with me. I was craving carbs, protein, veggies and tomato sauce. Although I don’t often eat meat, the chicken parmigiano kept catching my eye. I really needed the protien so I say “what the heck” and ordered the parmigiano with spaghetti and a side of sautéed spinach — perfecto! The meal was just wanted I wanted and needed. I wouldn’t say it was good Italian food, but it was great hearty American Italian food (I’m an Italian food snob, if you don’t know the difference in Italian and American Italian, feel free to ask haha). Even though we split the meal, there was still some left over — that’s how big the portions were.

We got back to the hotel from dinner around 9pm and I started getting my race gear lined up and ready for bed. The lights were shut by 10:30pm and I drifted pleasantly to sleep. I woke up once around 3am and was happy to see I still had 3 more hours to sleep.

When my alarm blasted at 6am I was still asleep and not real happy to be getting up. I took a warm shower to help wake up and lock in some of the heat. I geared up and realized that my Garmin was out of batteries — guess that helped make my decision of whether or not to wear it! I ate a Clif Bar and down some hotel coffee and then was off to the race start! It was a short 15min walk to the starting line. The sun had not yet risen, but I was relieved to feel the air was already much warmer than the day before:

I reached my coral (purple! Next best color to pink) just on time to catch the 1st wave of runners take off at 7am. Apparently I was overly excited waiting to “get my run on:”

You’ll notice I have my fuel belt on. I realize a lot of runners do not run with a fuel belt during a race since the race will provide water/gatorade and even food (gels, etc), but I like to have my water on me. I don’t like slowing down or stopping at water stops, I don’t like the ice cold water they provide (I prefer look warm, I’m strange), and I like to know I always have fluid around if I’m thirsty :-). It works for me.

I didn’t have a real solid plan, but the gist was to start off slower for the first 5-6miles and then speed up a bit and really kill the last 3miles. I started the race without music — I wanted to be able to take in the crowds and experience the race. The course was a lot more crowded than I’ve ever experienced, or expected. I didn’t have my Garmin, but I assume the first few miles were slow as I was zig-zagging in and out of people. It was early in the morning and I was “in the zone,” so to be honest I don’t remember much of the scenery from the first half of the race, but I don’t recall it being very scenic. The streets were lined with cheerers though, which was awesome! Yey cheerers! The streets were a bit narrow for a big part of the first half of the course I remember as well. It took the first mile or two to warm up, but I was feeling good. By mile 3 I tossed the light zip up I was wearing — the sun was coming out and it was really warming up. The race tag clocked you at the 10K mark, so I know that for the first 6 miles I was running at a 10:10min/mile pace. The pace was a little slower than I wanted, but probably for the best and it was probably strongly weighted by the first couple of miles where I was fighting to get through the crowds of runners. Shortly after mile 6, the streets widened and I was off!  I was watching the clock as I passed every mile to make sure I was under a 10min mile for each mile. I felt good and I felt like I was running strong. Mile 9 -10 was basically one big hill, but I knew the hill was coming up from my kind friend Katie who filled me in on the course. I was ready for the hill. The 9miles leading up to the hill were purely preparation to conquer that 1 mile. As the hill started to come into view I thought “yeah ok, this is big, but Central Park is no flat valley — I totally got this!” — and I did. I can’t say I loved every minute of that hill, or that I flew up it; I had to slow down to make it up and have the energy to complete the next 3 miles. A lady next to me kept yelling “I love hills” — I appreciated her enthusiasm, but I didn’t have the energy yell and join in on her cheers. I decided all my energy was needed for my legs, not my lungs, at that point.

A little before mile 6 I ate 4 Sport Beans; at mile 8 I had 2 more and at mile 10 I had 2 more as well. I think in total I ate about 3/4th’s of the 160 calorie bag, which was probably a little less than I should have eaten, but I felt good and eating seemed to slow me down too much. For the full marathon I will definitely be focusing on fueling more heavily, but for the Half distance my goal was speed.

Around mile 10 I decided to put my ipod on so I could power through the last 3 miles. I was feeling a bit tired, but still felt strong. I struggled with my head phones a bit and my cold hands weren’t working real well on my touch ipod. In retrospect I wish I had just left my headphone’s off since the struggle with them took some energy out of me and added some time onto my mile. Mile 11 I remember calculating a 9:20min/mile on the clocks and I think mile 12 was a bit slower and mile 13 was around a 10:00min/mile (ish). The street for miles 11 and 12 were extremely wide and I found myself zig zagging from one side of the road to the other — probably not the most efficient way to get to the finish line. The last mile is where I really wished I had had my Garmin on me. I wanted to power it out and finish strong, but when it gets down to the last mile I have a very bad gauge of how much distance is left. I started to power too fast and would slow down in fear that I still had a ways to go. The last mile was a little rough mentally and physically because I was trying to give it my all without actually giving it my ALL until I could see the finish line. I can honestly and proudly say, though, that I finished strong.

I crossed the finish line in 2:06:38! A bit slower than my random 2:05:00 goal, but still 2 minutes faster than my last PR at the Queens Half Marathon. I was happy…and tired…and cold…and hungry.

At the finish line they were giving out chicken broth — I thought that was a great idea to warm up!

After the race I found the BF (he was cheering for me at mile 6 and 12) and headed back to the hotel. I took a long hot shower and then got into bed in my race long-sleeve T-shirt. The hotel had a 12noon check out time and since the race was soo early, I luckily had some down time to rest. Around noon we headed to a restaurant (pub-ish) near by to meet up with my BF’s sister (who had run the full marathon), husband and friends for brunch. I was APPALLED when the waitress told me that they did not serve mimosa’s until 1:30pm (seriously!? What’s with that??), but luckily the BF had a better idea — Irish coffees!

I had two. I could have had a million, they were so tasty and warm 🙂

The French Toast with caramelized apples sounded amazing, but I was craving some protein and real food so I went with a homemade veggie burger on a brioche bun with french fries. It really hit the spot. Luckily the restaurant gave us a basket of mini muffins so that filled my sweet tooth anyways.

Pleasantly full, a little typsy and with a winning smile on my face, we headed on our long journey back to my beloved NY…

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12 Responses to Philly Half Marathon Race Recap

  1. PorcelinaTweets says:

    Love this post! – it’s a really inspiring read! The photos are great – you look so strong at the end!Way to go on your PR, fantastic achievement! And I love the idea of Irish Coffee as a recovery drink! 🙂

  2. Dori says:

    Congrats!!!! You did so awesome! Now we have pretty much the exact same PR!

  3. Congrats!! Sounds like a great race … I love the chicken broth at the finish. Nice touch!

  4. candicepeak says:

    Congrats on your race! Love the pictures!

  5. marathon winer says:

    once again…great job! and great recap! i love that course 🙂 and so glad the gloves worked out for you! they are my new faaaavorite piece of gear!!

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