The Love Run Race Recap, Part 2
Part 1 of my recap covered my arrival, expo experience as well as general observations.
Race: The Philadelphia Love Run
Location: Center City and Fairmount Park, Philadelphia
Distance: 21.1 km (13.1 miles)
Date/Start Time: 30 March 2014, 8am
Distance Travelled to Compete: Negligible
Weather conditions: Moderate temperatures, 50-60s, no humidity, steady rain, windy
Course conditions: Mostly flat but a gradual hill midway with a hill near the Please Touch Museum. Downtown is flat.
Preview: CGI Racing, a NJ-based race company, has their debut run in Philadelphia. The course is mostly like the RnR course in the fall except for a couple of twists.
With the weekend forecast calling for rain, I had been scrambling for a suitable lightweight rain jacket that didn’t cost a pretty penny. There was just one slight problem: neither of the two running stores in my area had anything suitable. Neither had any waterproof spray for my shoes either. City Sports had a lightweight jacket but to the salesperson’s credit, she actually warned me against buying the jacket given the temperatures were moderate, and that even one thick layer would have me heat up much.
In the end, I bought nothing, and settled for a transparent garbage bag. In the end, it might have been the best decision, as the rain became unbearably heavy in the latter stages of the race. A water-resistant windbreaker wouldn’t have helped me.
After a quick kit check the evening before, I was able to hit the bed with a solid eight hours of sleep.
The morning started out with passing amounts of rain, and the skies were as foreboding. Not even a few blocks away from home, the rain became more steady. I couldn’t even text nor Tweet, and I knew this one was going to be a doozy. I trudged up the parkway, trying to keep dry and my phone dry.
Bag check was effortless, I had forgotten the black tab on my bag, but the volunteers in question wrote my bib number on the bag. No worries here.
With a water bottle and a gel strapped to me, I made my way to the star corrals. The race atmosphere did not have as much signage and fluff as say, the Rock n’ Roll Philly race did but enough signage to figure out where runners would get organized. Runners lined up on the LEFT side of Eakins Oval (as opposed to the right) with the start line at the merger.
Despite the rain, the race started on time. The anthem was sung, the enthusiasm was ongoing and picture-taking was abound everywhere. One female runner behind me asked me how the Walt Disney World Marathon was, seeing my race shirt on me. I told her about my experiences, and although despite the rain I had on me, I would ironically take the rain that I had as opposed to the ninety-degree weather I had to deal with.
Once the initial announcements had died down, the emcee led the release of the corrals, one by one. I was in the third corral of at least ten, I think. Given my slow pace, I was a bit surprised at this. But for now, the thoughts were getting through one way or another, without injury and incurring any problems related to the cold. There couldn’t have been more than 40 seconds in between each corral but I’ve seen worse (hello Nike’s Half?)
Mile 1: Chinatown
The rain held steady as we veered onto Arch Street. Plenty of potholes in Arch Street, and one thing I noticed off the bat was that I either missed Mile 1 or there was no marker at Mile 1. Plenty of spectators were on hand even as the rain came down. We went to 6th Street and made a right, and hooked right again onto Market Street.
Mile 2: Market East
A DJ spun tunes as we passed the Mile 2 marker at 7th and Market Streets. It was a routine sprint back to City Hall and back to the Parkway. The rain kept holding steady and spectators again, were surprisingly in hand despite the weather. The first water stop was at this mile marker, one thing that struck me is that all of the water was on the left, and I missed this water stop entirely. Had I not had a water bottle that I was carrying on my person, missing this stop could have caused some hydration problems for me. But I was prepared, and so it didn’t.
Mile 3: The Parkway
An increase in spectators occurred as we hung a right back on the Parkway, through Logan Circle and back towards the Art Museum. The key difference between this course and the Rock n Roll course was that instead of veering right to Kelly Drive, you made an immediate left to Martin Luther King Drive and then onwards to the hill that laid into Fairmount Park. This is a race that for once, does not touch Kelly Drive and it is a good way to mix things slightly up from both of Philadelphia’s fall races.
Mile 4-5: Martin Luther King Drive
Martin Luther King Drive took on a long stretch towards the Philadelphia Zoo, crossing underneath several bridges before heading through the hill leading into Fairmount Park’s west end. This was about the time that the rain started pulling back, much to our relief and it was on this part that I started building momentum. As we came onto the slow and gradual painful hill leading up to the Please Touch Museum, I did as I remembered from last year’s Nike’s Half – lean in and keep forward going uphill. Though I stopped only once, the hill proved no issues as I climbed to the top.
Mile 6: Please Touch Museum
We hung a right on 41st Street, and passed another water stop on the way past the museum, several volunteers manned the area as we were informed there were plenty of potholes in front of the museum. It was at the top layer we could see the runners coming up that long steady hill at Mile 5 and feeling in a positive mood we cheered them from the top.
Mile 7: Montgomery Drive
The way back from the Please Touch Museum was straightforward, but there was a long steep hill that I had to slow down on as the cambre of that road was very steep, and I didn’t want to injure myself. We came down at a sharp angle but I managed to make it to the bottom without any issue. With the rain continuing to hold back I was able to pick up speed and seriously cruise, at one point even hoping for a negative split. If things continued to improve – dare I say it – there just might be the chance of a personal best.
Miles 8-10: Hairpin Run
Unfortunately, the abatement did not last long. It was at this point that the rain really started to come down. Mile 8 was when it started on and did not immediately hit hard until Mile 10. We got our Hammer Gels (similar to GU) around this point; at this point I had used both of my endurance gels and unsure of whether I’d need a third, I picked up two gels – one vanilla and one tropical fruit in case I needed them to flex my fingers. Unfortunately I had missed the apple cinnamon ones, I love anything apple cinnamon, though I was completely unfamiliar with this brand. Incidentally I wound up not consuming either of the gels I picked up. We passed Mile 9 and it was the infamous hairpin turn. As I came back on the homestretch, I cheered those behind me. We’d all get this through together.
Mile 10 though…wow. The rain came down, and my goodness it came down very hard. VERY hard. Several times I had to check my makeshift poncho to make sure my Amphipod bag with my phone inside was not getting soaked. Breathe, girl, just breathe. It was then I passed another water stop but here, I noticed that the volunteers were quite behind at this water stop filling out the water cups, much less handing them out. It reminded me of the Rock n Roll volunteer stations where the situation was significantly worse. However I must stress that this station was the ONLY one with that problem and that I hope CGI Racing do solicit a survey so I can give them this appropriate feedback.
Miles 11-12: The Stretch Home
The rain got heavier as I pushed into the final few miles. The slight climb back through MLK Drive and through the underpasses, we were nearly home free. We saw runners that had finished the course already and they were trying to motivate us with their medals they had received. From here on out it was a flat road, and Mile 12 bore the very last water stop. Personally I felt alright, my knees were shaky but my concern was finishing in one piece and worried about the stress the rain was placing on me. The spectators built up and before I knew it I was nearly home. We crossed the final bridge over the Schuylkill River and people were cheering us from both the side roads and the overpass. And there it was, the Mile 13 marker.
“Believe!” a man said, pointing to my bib. On my bib, a vanity bib perk provided by CGI Racing, we were allowed to have whatever we wanted and not just our names. Believe, it was my mantra, something to get me through not just races but life.
“Believe!” he screamed.
“You have just 200 more yards!” yelled another spectator.
Mile 13 and Finish: Eakins Oval
And there it was, all of a sudden, the finish line. The clock ticking, no I hadn’t made a personal best but that was alright, I had no expectations with this weather but ironically I didn’t do so bad after all things considered. I crossed that finish line with my hands in the air and spectators overriding the rain in spite of the worsening situation.
Once I crossed the finish, the first thing I did was go for the medals as I parsed through. No complaints as it was a spiffy looking medal.
I promptly picked up my medal and then a mylar sheet to conserve heat as it was also getting colder as well. Water bottles were set off to aside and there could have been more volunteers handing out water bottles. After that, we filtered over numerous cardboard boxes, presumably to keep runners’ shoes from getting muddy due to the rainwater, mainly to head over to the refreshment tent to pick up our food bag. Our bags were small plastic lunch bags with tastykakes, a Smuckers circular peanut butter jelly sandwich, a banana, a bag of chips and another bottle of water.
The real mess came in when I went to pick up my checked in bag. The ground around that tent area had turned into mud and it was a royal mess. I joked with nearby runners that I did not sign up for a triathlon nor a mud run. Crikey!
After that, I headed further back into Eakins Oval to warm my body up with some hot chocolate. Very much needed. It was then that I caught up with Rachel from run club, much to my delight. We talked about races, and as I was done for the season, her races in May. After that, I headed on home.
As far as the race was concerned, I had no complaints overall. I was relieved to get to the finish line – and to the offseason – without any major incident. The rain put even more of a damper on things for me coming home as the rain continued to pour down at a faster pace and heavier too.
One thing I did not recall in Part 1 was the volunteer demographic. This was particularly noticeable at the expo on both days (I had gone again on Saturday to meet a friend) but not so bad at the main event. At the expo, there was a glut of teenagers/younger college students manning the booths at the expo and such. I have nothing inherently against kids but the issue is seeing so many blue (the color of the volunteer shirt) shirts running around and in certain roles (i.e. the information booth) if I asked them certain questions about the race, they might not have had an answer to (the lack of a map is not what I am discussing, but general knowledge of running, spectator information, etc) and referral to a website may not always be helpful regardless of the volunteers. But seeing a lot of kids just wandering around I don’t think gives a good impression of the race so it’s important for a director to consider this next time.
That all aside and some volunteer hiccups on course, CGI Racing didn’t do so bad for a smaller race (about 12K finishers, compared to the more massive races in the fall) with a smaller staff, but next time need to have volunteer organization down and definitely needs to have some paper resources or something a little more tangible for those coming from out of town. Not sure if they plan on growing their race base in Philadelphia but those improvements will go a long way. For $60, it wasn’t a bad experience and if they can work on those small points they will be a staple in many local runners’ schedules, firmly cementing a void in the spring.