Monday, September 16, 2013

Race Report: Rock 'n' Roll Philadelphia Half-Marathon

A year ago, I was just starting up chiropractic school, and I was in the beginning of the training cycle building up to the Philadelphia Marathon, a race that I felt I had executed well and signaled a successful return from surgery. A year later, I've returned to Philly and okay race. Not bad, but certainly not good...just okay. But it's only a complete failure if you don't take anything away from the experience, so here goes!

I got into Philly Saturday afternoon, and immediately went to the expo to pick up my race packet. Big race expos with tons of people stress me out, and I didn't really have any interest in riding the mechanical bull the day before I was supposed to race, so I did my best to get out of there ASAP (though I did grab a Powerbar sample on the way out). I then proceeded to my friend Linda's house (massive props to Linda for letting me stay!). We grabbed some dinner, caught up, and then she went to work the graveyard shift at Temple University Hospital's ER and I (attempted) to go to bed. Not that I ever sleep much the night before races, but hey, that's why I make it a point to sleep well on critical night (two nights before). I left Linda's house about 40 minutes before the gun, warmed-up to the line (with some detours so I wasn't only doing a half mile warm-up and so I could find a porta-potty that didn't have a mile long line), chucked my long sleeve after deciding it wasn't worth it to stand in the gear check line, then went in search of my corral. That last part was actually a lot harder than you'd think considering I somehow ended up near corral 18, had to get to corral 1, and I felt like a salmon swimming upstream because it seemed like most people were moving the other way...I haven't a clue how everyone else in early corrals knew where to go to begin with.

Rock 'n' Roll Philadelphia Half-Marathon course map. Click to enlarge.

RnR Philly (originally the Philadelphia Distance Run before Competitor bought them out) is flat and fast. Or at least it should be fast, assuming you run with your head. The goal was to start out slightly sub-6:30, and drop it from there. Almost immediately after starting, I had to pee (what is with my bladder and racing?), and I decided that as soon as the crowd thinned out and there was no one behind me, whatever, I was just going to go. Unfortunately (or fortunately?), I couldn't seem to get the coordination to pee and run at the same time down, so my bladder would have to wait until the finish. However, peeing would soon be the least of my problems. I ran my first mile in 6:22, though didn't hit the actual mile mark until quite a bit later, thanks to my inability to run in a straight line or run tangents when I'm surrounded by a massive crowd. A little faster than I had wanted, but that's kind of expected at this point. The problem wasn't until the next mile...which was a 6:07. Crap! How'd that happen?! Well, that's no good...though at the time, I managed to stay calm and just made a conscious effort to slow down rather than completely freak out and decide my race was destroyed.

Rock 'n' Roll Philadelphia Half-Marathon elevation profile. Click to enlarge.

The next several miles were pretty uneventful. By mile 3, the crowd had thinned out and the winding through the city was mostly done, so after that point, I stopped adding on so much to each mile. I popped my one and only Gu at mile 7. Note to self: next time, actually practice with Gu instead of just deciding to use it for a race, because maybe my stomach would have handled it better. I kind of lost focus around miles 9-10, but rallied a bit at mile 10 for the last 5K. Unfortunately, I went to the well around 400m too early, and ended up staggering in the last quarter mile...and the fact that it was uphill didn't help much. It was ugly.

While RnR Philly is in the same city as the Philadelphia Marathon in November, they couldn't be more different races. Since it's just a half, there aren't nearly as many people hitting the wall and looking like they're running backwards (which is a good thing, since that would have been me yesterday). The crowd support was very different too...rather than the miles upon miles of streets lined by screaming spectators, there were stages with bands set up at various points along the course (there were still spectators, but much less than at the November marathon). I also somehow never figured out the water stops...I know there was Gatorade somewhere, because my friends said they got Gatorade, but I only ever manged to grab water.

World's largest bib number

Splits (most of the extra 0.19 was in the early miles, where you wound around the city and fought the the 4 mile mark, I was at 4.16 on my GPS, so I didn't run too much extra thereafter):
1:45 (0.29 since I can't run tangents)
Final time: 1:25:46

After the race, I met up with some friends for burgers and A.R.T. So thanks to the boys who let me practice on them and bought me food...hopefully the post-race soft tissue work will do you some good! Also, my thumbs may or may not be more sore than my legs today...guess I need to work on thumb strength before I have to do this all day on people.

A.R.T. (Active Release Techniques) after the race. Picture courtesy of Seth Hasty

So unfortunately RnR Philly didn't quite turn out how I would have liked, but I suppose you can't win 'em all, and really, it could have gone a lot worse too. It's a little hard to be satisfied when all of my workouts indicated that I was in better shape than my time indicates (I had a great training cycle, minus a little bit of chaos around Finals Week #2...thanks to Molly Pritz for helping me with that), and it's frustrating that my PR is still from a race run at altitude. When looking at my splits, I feel like I blew my race at mile 2, but you know, lesson learned, time to take some downtime and move on to the next training cycle!


  1. Still a time to be proud of, even if you feel you could do better.

  2. Replies
    1. Yep, spikeless version. Figured a half was short enough for me to get away with them, and considering I've been using them for pretty much all of my speedworkouts lately, it seemed safer than going with something I haven't worn in a while.


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