As some of you may know, I spent yesterday in Philly running the marathon (and if you don't know and are here via Google search looking for a course description, skip down a few paragraphs past the fluff...I'll get there). This is the second marathon I've done, and the first that wasn't a complete disaster (brought on by being the first 88 degree day of the spring and terrible pacing for my first marathon). Not somewhere I really expected to be given where I was last year at this time, but my friend Molly, who agreed to coach me, was convinced that my body would be better able to handle the high mileage and long tempos of marathon training than the fast intervals and tight turns of the track at this stage in the game, and considering her propensity for coming back from her own injuries faster than before, I figured I'd listen. So at some point in August, it became time to stop messing around and actually begin marathon training (which meant taking a week off first, but downtime is pretty necessary, you know). And now, about three months and nearly 1300 miles later, here's what I have to show.
My plan was to leave school after class and drive to my parents' house on Friday, pick up Gu, Powerbars, and shoes (not the ones I planned to race in, obviously) from The National Running Center on my way home, and sleep at my parents' house Friday night. Then on Saturday, I'd leave for Philly, pick up my stuff from the expo, and stay at my friend Maria's house Saturday night, since she lives a little under an hour from Philly. So shout-out to Maria and her husband Justin for letting me crash on their couch! They also told me where to park, but of course in the dark of 5:30am all the streets looked the same and I missed the turn and parked on some random road that I figured was okay since other people were parked there too. Upon exiting my car, I was greeted by 30 degree weather, which I figured would be perfect for the marathon (way better than 88, anyway). I finished breakfast and killed some time in my car, then followed the crowd and jogged what I figured was around a mile to the start, checked a $7 pair of warm-up pants from Walmart that I figured would be nice to get back but I wouldn't be heartbroken if I lost (I had a $5 sweatshirt and cheap gloves on too, but the sweatshirt was going in the donation bins on the side of the corrals and gloves I figured I'd lose at some point on the course), took one look at the Porta-Potty lines, and then crawled under a truck to pee. I finally got to my corral at about 6:45 (which was fine, despite the pre-race instructions saying to get there by 6:00).
The plan was simple: 7:20s for 7 miles, 7:10s until the half, 7:00s until 20, then GO miles for the final 10K. I had a dream on Friday night that I deviated from the plan (and forgot my flats), so Molly flew into Philly and killed me with a chainsaw, so I was pretty determined to stick to this plan. I knew very well that given my corral (maroon, so the sub-3:10 corral right behind the seeded/elite corral), I'd likely be running backwards in the beginning, so I went somewhere to the middle-back of the corral and hoped I wouldn't be completely in the way (it was chip time and I wasn't in the running for prize money or the Trials standard that isn't even out yet so who cares). Sure enough, the gun went off, and everyone from my corral and probably the next two corrals behind me flew past me like I was standing still. My first mile? 7:06. So faster than the plan called for, but not nearly as bad as it could have been, given how crowded it was and how crazy running through the streets of Central Philly was.
|Philadelphia Marathon course map. Click to enlarge.|
The first few miles were flat and wound through the city. Lots of turns, and I didn't know the course, so of course I ran terrible tangents, though even if I did know the course, it wasn't like I could fly across the road since it was still so crowded at that point. My legs felt like I was absolutely walking, which I figured was a good sign (though my Garmin was getting super confused by the buildings and was spitting out ridiculous instantaneous paces I knew were wrong), but my stomach was feeling off and starting to cramp, and I was kind of unhappy about the thought of running 26 miles with an upset stomach. People finally stopped passing me in droves somewhere between the second and third miles (though it was still super crowded), and my stomach managed to calm itself down somewhere around the 10K mark. Score. Unfortunately, I realized I had to pee again, but not enough to justify peeing my pants so I just figured I'd deal with it. I took my first Gu right before the 6 mile point, because for some reason I thought there was going to be water at the 6 mile mark, but there was not. Luckily, I seemed to handle it alright, other than getting Gu all over my gloves since I had to carry around the packet until the next water station (which was where I also ditched my gloves).
|Philadelphia Marathon elevation profile. Click the picture to enlarge.|
There were two hills, one somewhere around mile seven and the other somewhere around mile nine, with a downhill in the middle. Neither was all that huge, though they were big enough to be noticeable. That was where the crowd started to thin out and I went from being passed to passing people. I purposely made an effort to keep it easy and relaxed on the uphills so as to not waste energy early, though in actuality, the uphill mile splits really weren't that much slower than my others. I really had to be careful on the middle downhill though, since along with a steep downhill, it was also a designated cheer zone that was lined by screaming fans, and the last thing I needed to do was get carried away and trash my quads that early in the race. (On a side note, the crowd was great. Thank you, Philadelphia!). There was another downhill after the second hill, and then it was fairly uneventful until mile 12, when I again miscalculated water stations and took my second Gu with no water and had to carry around another packet for a mile.
That was also when signs started appearing for the marathoners to stay left and for the half-marathoners to stay right. These signs went on for about a mile, so there was no way you could miss them, and I honestly don't even think I saw that many people branch off for the half. My half split was 1:31-something, so I was kind of surprised because I feel like that would be a common time, but whatever.
My anterior tibialis (the big muscle in the front of my shins) started cramping around mile 15, soon followed by my quads and calves. Hm, that wasn't good. I had no idea why they were cramping up that early, and I wondered if I should have stuck to the conservative start plan (I was averaging just under 7:00 pace at that point). Molly's guess was hydration, but I digress. Now...here's where it got confusing. Miles 14-24 have a bunch of very small rollers (though at the time, I didn't know this since I hadn't paid attention to the minor stuff on the elevation chart) with no real elevation gain or loss, and the second half of the race is basically one big out and back out to Manayunk (which is, according to my friend Seth, where the race begins). However, during the race, I somehow had myself convinced that 14-19 were one long gradual downhill (so I guess I didn't feel as bad as I thought), and all I could think was "Oh my God, this is fun now, but it's going to be terrible coming back. Who designed this course?!"
|Falls Bridge, mile 17 (I think, maybe it was 22, you go over it twice, but I look pretty relaxed for it to be 22)|
I was secretly dreading the 17 mile mark a bit, since that was where the wheels fell off for my first marathon (and I do mean they fell off...I went from 6:50 pace to 9:00 pace within a mile and was completely unable to do anything about it). This dread was made worse since I thought my wheels had already started to come off when my legs started cramping at mile 15, and that the only reason I was able to keep hitting just under 7:00 pace was because I was running this "long gradual downhill" that I had somehow convinced myself was there. Mile 17 came and went, and I popped a Gu to further try to ward off the bonk (by this point, they were pretty gross, and the fact that I had no water really wasn't helping). I felt myself losing focus a bit around mile 18 (the second half really has some long boring stretches to it), but told myself that if I made it to 20, I could start my kick then and it would all be okay (in retrospect that makes no sense whatsoever, but I guess at that point in a race I can be stupid and gullible and think that's a good idea). I also saw someone in a Bucknell alumni singlet who was way ahead of me coming the other way at one of the points where the course doubled back on itself, which was pretty cool (nice race Andrew!).
You hit the sign for Manayunk somewhere around mile 19, then turn around not long thereafter and hit the sign again around mile 20. Needless to say, I did not start my kick then. However, that was when people really started coming back to me. I had been passing people the entire race (at least after those first couple embarrassing miles where I had felt like I was out for a jog while everyone around me was racing), but it was always one here or two there, the people who had been drawn out in those early miles and had settled into their goal pace after the initial excitement. These were casualties...people who had hit the wall and now looked like they were running backwards. People who looked...well, probably how I looked at Frederick.
I took my last Gu at mile 22, and this time I managed to time it so there was actually a water station, so I was able to wash it down with water and didn't have to carry around the empty Gu packet. By this point, I had figured out that the way back wasn't one long uphill, and for as screwed up as my legs were at this point, and for how many times I was sure the wheels had come off and I was running on borrowed time, I did manage to convince myself that if I felt like hell, everyone else probably felt worse (which may or may not have been true, but it wouldn't have been the first time I lied to myself during a race).
|JUST KIDDING I DON'T LOOK RELAXED AT ALL. Sometime late in the race.|
With 5K to go (well, actually 3.2, but I lied again and told myself 5K), I attempted to start my GO miles, but really I just felt like I was trying to sprint through quicksand and was pretty sure it was going to be a slow and ugly last couple miles (in actuality, my attempt at GO miles was very far from a "kick," but still allowed me to keep almost the same pace I was running for the rest of the race, which is fine, that could have been much worse). With about a half mile to go, a woman I had been trading places with since mile 14 blew past me. That was my wake-up call, and I went after her. By the 26 mile point, it was clear she had a better kick than I did, but I still held out hope that I could catch her. However, the last .2 felt like it was uphill (probably because it was), and she turned on the afterburners on me and kicked my sorry butt. However, she did drag me to run my last .39 at 6:09 pace, and we passed a whole bunch of other athletes, so thank you Afterburner Girl, whoever you are.
|Eff yeah, negative split! (I think, anyway, assuming 1:31:3 means 1:31:3X)|
Splits (most of the extra .19 was probably run early when there were a lot of 90 degree turns):
2:24 (.39 because I do not run tangents and ran a little extra at some point, probably early on because my watch consistently was beeping before the mile marks; 6:09 pace)
3:02:30 (avg 6:57)
After the race, I grabbed my dropbag with my pants, paid another visit to my spot under the truck, got a post-race massage, saw one of my engineering profs from undergrad (who I called by the wrong name, since I was completely out of it at that point, sorry Dr. Buonopane), and then asked a police officer for directions back to my car since I don't know my way around Philly. I guess I must have said the wrong streets, because he laughed and said it was about 5 miles away. I had thought the race started and finished in the same spot (which it did), but at that point, I believed him and was seriously about to cry. Luckily, my sense of direction (which oscillates between being terrible and awesome, with no in between and probably more terrible than awesome days) decided to be awesome that day, and I managed to find my way back to my car (which was, as I thought, about a mile away).
I'll take it. I really can't complain knowing where I was last year at this time. I'm very happy with the way I paced it and how I managed to finish fairly strong, and I think it sets me up pretty well to go sub-3 next time. But for now, it's two weeks of being completely sedentary, and then on to a speed segment...spring track season!