Another Good Show by the RnR, 16.9.12

2012 Rock n’ Roll Philadelphia Half Marathon Recap and Race Report

Entrance to expo. 14 Sept 2012.

Race: Rock n’ Roll Philadelphia Half Marathon
Location: Fairmount/Kelly Drive, Philadelphia, PA
Distance: 21.1 km (13.1 miles)
Date/Start Time: 16 September 2012, 0800
Distance Travelled to Compete: Negligible – 1.8 km (1.1 miles)
Weather conditions: Sunny with a breeze; temperatures started mid-50s, and progressed to low 70s by 9am. Perfect running weather.
Course conditions: Flat mostly with slight inclines and a steep sharp climb at the end. Course leads through Center City Philadelphia, with a turnaround in Washington Square West. Runners head back into Fairmount and deep on Kelly Drive into the East Falls neighbourhood, doubling on Martin Luther/West River Drive and back to the Art Museum.
Preview: Having run this race last year, I knew what to expect. The big problem on my end? School wrecking my training schedule, making this race a lot harder than it ever should have been. Spectator interference was a problem again. But despite fitness issues, I survived.

Expo entrance. 14 Sept 2012.

The Expo:

Like last year, the volunteer “Race Crew” held our expo just shy of Chinatown in the Pennsylvania Convention Center at 13th and Arch Streets in the new wing of the convention hall. Brooks banners and garb dominated the hall, as they are one of the headline sponsors. Packet pick up was very organized, and upon entering check-in was shocked at how many corrals there were. Last year I was in Corral 10 of 23, this year, 9 of 23. And my anticipated time had NOT changed. Interesting.

Even more impressive this go around was the T-shirts. A women’s cut to begin with and I loved the design this go around!

Running shirt. 14 Sept 2012.

Awesome design. 14 Sept 2012.

Like last year, the Brooks merchandise area had a lot to offer for sale, but there wasn’t anything that jumped out at me. Compared to last year, the colours of the running kits were much duller than last year. But it was okay, didn’t need anything so I figured I’d move on.

McDonald’s stand. 14 Sept 2012.

I trudged through all the vendors. Seeing McDonald’s at a race expo still weirds me out even if they offer low-cal options, apple slices and oatmeal, and who’s to blame them in this age of an uptick in healthy living. Although weirded out by the appearance, I still took on free voucher coupons for the oatmeal, figured at some point I’ll try it before I knock it, right?

Other products I took a gander at? Cascadian Farms cereal, Mountain High yogurt (which was VERY good and just making its debut on the East Coast, seeing as it’s primarily sold on the West Coast), Smartfood selects, Larabar (which came out with its Uber line of bars), GU’s new brew tablets, and a few more products whose names don’t come to mind. Normally I don’t often rave about free samples, but the brew tablet mixed with water was excellent, not to mention I loved the apple crisp Larabar Uber and the Mountain High yogurt. Yogurt is a staple product in my diet, particularly greek yogurt, but this product had a great taste to it, even for the plain variety. As soon as I see it in stores, I can tell you I will be buying a 32 oz container of it. (not to mention the $1.20 off coupon helps, considering how expensive groceries are in this city, right? ha!)

The walk up. 16 Sept 2012

The Race:

With my body not receiving the rest needed, I left home at 7am and reached Eakins Oval by the art museum on foot at around 7:30am. Anticipating about 25,000 runners plus goodness knows how many spectators, I expected another cramped experience in the oval like I had last year. Incidentally, the corral system was a LOT more organised compared to last year, which definitely helped. I did not see as many people jumping the fence to get into their corrals which definitely indicates improvement.

The start line. 16 Sept 2012

Bag check-in had gone without incident and pretty soon I found myself in Corral 9. The anthem was played and yet once again, I heard another round of the Rocky music.

Now call me weird, deprived, strange, whatever, but I have yet to see a single Rocky film. Admittedly, as a young girl, my parents hardly ever allowed me to watch TV and were very restrictive on films. By the time I grew up, I was so busy with other academic or professional commitments that I lacked time to watch TV and to this day balancing grad school, work, and running, I still don’t watch any TV, save for streaming Chelsea matches online. That’s about the closest I get, and almost always, I catch them on-demand well after the game was actually played.

Entering the corral. 16 Sept 2012.

But I digress. Another rendition of the Rocky music and again I hated myself for being in school, as it kept me in Philly, unable to test myself outside the city or give me a reason to see another city. Not to mention as fun as Philly races are, I do long for something different.

Somehow in all that, I managed to slip (unintentionally) past the race staff and wound up starting with corral 8. But it was okay. I wasn’t 100% as I had skipped training entirely since my 11-mile run due to the undue amount of schoolwork I had, and it was killing my training, no matter what I did.

But goodness me, I was getting through this race. I wasn’t even going to care about time. Just one foot in front of the other.

Mile 0.5: Unlike last year I did not see any of the leaders mark the pace (we had started 10 minutes after they had) but I did see the leader cars pass us in the opposite lane. We veered right into the business district on JFK Boulevard and soon by 19th Street, we were already down with the first mile. The crowds were their usual, loud and screaming and waving flags. But I had not seen anyone I knew and my parents were unable to support me.

Mile 1 and 2: We veered left on 19th Street and doubled back eastward on Market Street. More crowds. Some people were going faster than I and others much slower. We passed City Hall and back onto Market, passing Macy’s. Onwards Market we went; to my left I saw the first few runners running the opposite way (westward) on Arch Street. The heat started to build up steadily and I felt my own body beginning to break out in serious sweat due to the temperature change.

Mile 3: We were coming upon Independence Mall and hung a left on 4th Street. Another left on Arch. Onwards through Chinatown. Like last year, that neighbourhood was packed with spectators. And yet again, second year in a row, spectators clashed with me as they crossed the street. It got very annoying and all the more so compared to last year as I was not in the greatest of shape.

5k marker: Still in Chinatown. A few more idiot pedestrians tried to cross the street, causing a few collisions with other runners. It was at this point my friend Cintia (@CinBock) passed me and a couple of my graduate school classmates had mentioned they had seen me cavort off on the sidewalk after the second water stop.

Mile 4: We were getting ready to hit the parkway again and my muscles felt the first sign of stress. Christ, THIS early in the race? I just kept on thinking “one foot in front of the other” and trying to think of what awaited me at the finish. Only positive thoughts would do. I saw the crowds yet again going northwest up the parkway and past the start line. Onward right on Kelly Drive and now the first leg of a final swath of the race. The crowds started to thin out here which helped. Normally I find the crowds helpful but seeing as I have tripped over spectators a bit much now, I was glad to not see them around for me.

Mile 5: We passed Boathouse Row and continued northward. The humidity started to pick up. Not good. And not so surprisingly, the effects of school on my training had become all too apparent; my muscles were beginning to ALREADY feel uncomfortable. Crikey, not good. The incline up Kelly Drive eased off and we continued deeper past another band rocking out underneath a tent.

The music was on and off, the bands were pretty solid and I enjoyed what I’d had heard.

Mile 6/10k marker: The crowds thankfully started to peter out even further although they would build up as we continued closer to East Falls. Keep on pushing, I told myself. This wasn’t going to get any easier. I had to stretch my arms to extend my ribcage several times as it became more evident around the halfway point that I just needed more air.

Mile 7-8: Finally it was at this point we turned left onto the bridge. Just before, it was the GU stop and I took the time needed to grab not one but two GU tubes, both mandarin orange. Last year I had issues with my nerve endings on my hands and needed the tubes to keep my hands from going numb. This year I needed to have a backup plan in case my body collapsed although I wasn’t sure if GU would have been the antidote.

Mile 9/15k marker: Coming southeast on West River Drive. Always the part of the loop that I was afraid of and felt less safe. Here was a bit different though. A few more water stops, another couple of bands, the Lansdale HS cheerleaders. All those things did wonders to lift my spirits. But the calf cramps were also starting to settle in; yet again I had to tell myself to just place one foot in front of the other. I was frustrated that school was eating into my training, causing what I was going through. I wasn’t going to get injured (or so I thought), but I was nowhere near my peak. Not in the least.

Mile 10.5: Montgomery Drive. I feel the end getting closer, but the cramps are reaching new levels of annoying. I try to get my mind on various things. A trip to London, a visit to Stamford Bridge with cousins or old friends, somehow travelling somewhere with a significant other that I had yet to meet. That somewhere, my best days were still yet to come. Just imagining that at the finish line, there was someone I cared for that was waiting for me. Crikey that WAS the case last year, but that relationship ended VERY badly. More thoughts raced through my head and before I knew it I was passing underneath the legs of a blown up runner-shaped float at the Mile 12 marker, with a band jamming next to it. Interesting.

Mile 12/20k marker: 20k, baby. 20k. Just across the bridge and that was it. One foot, one foot in front of the other. Pretty soon, I could stop and breathe and somehow plan a survival plan for between now and November’s Philly Marathon. I love running but I am wondering that I’ve bitten off more than I can chew. If I can survive these midterms….ugh, must push these negative thoughts out of my mind. Positive thinking. Just cross that bloody bridge will you?

Mile 13: We crossed the Martin Luther King bridge. I was almost home! My muscles were cramping and then it was that last steep hill, right up the ramp and then the finish. Time to celebrate right?

Wrong.

As I pushed off the back of my left calf, I strained my calf muscle. I had overtaxed my muscles and a shocking 100m from the finish, I had paid the price. A nasty pain shot through my calf and immediately I had to stunt my pace and rather abruptly at that. I limped the final 100m…

Done. And I continued limping through the finisher’s queue, desperate not to get knocked over as I collected my foodstuff and had my finishers’ picture taken.

THE FINISH LINE:

Upon crossing the finish line, I was limping very badly through the finisher’s queue. Medal, check. Background picture, check. Then the food queue. Dole fruit, Snickers marathon bars, Gatorade, water, Herr’s baked chips, bagels, Hershey’s chocolate milk, bananas, pretzels. The works, it was there, and I struggled to hold on to all the food that was getting thrown at me until I could just throw it all in my checked bag.

Of course that queue was not without incident, I had stepped down into a dip in the ground, further straining my tweaked calf. I tried my best not to scream in pain, luckily another male runner allowed me to temporarily lean on him. I stepped off to aside, and gently massaged it. I continued doing everything I could to protect someone from knocking me off balance. If I fell again, I wasn’t getting up.

I made my way to the UPS trucks where we picked up our bags. No issues, it went smooth. Met my friend Natacha who finished around the same time I did. She was having the same problem with her training except for instead of school cutting into her training, it was work as she owns a massage therapy place.

I told her about my injury and split to head to the medical tent. Prompt treatment by an RN from Thomas Jefferson hospital saw my left calf strapped with plastic wrap and a load of ice packs. I limped with ice on my body away from the race scene, just relieved that this was another one in the books.

Overall thoughts:

Like last year, the expo, registration processes, and packet pick-up were VERY well organized. The information booth had all the information I needed for spectators. There were screen displays of the course as one would drive through the race course.

The facilities overall are excellent. The medical tent was VERY easy to find; other parts of the finishers’ area were not, even as much as I studied the maps. Most notably I could not find the beer tent for the second year in a row; had I not been injured I would have sought it out.

One thing that improved from last year was the running shirt and the medal. Appreciated the design a LOT more on both than I did last year. Just more my thing, and these shirts give me a story to tell.

I appreciate the quality of this race so much that I’ve already put down my $65 for next year’s race, there’s no question that I will return (barring injury of course). Rock n’ Roll never fails, at least not here in Philadelphia.

Finishers’ medal. 16 Sept 2012.

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