Broad Street Run 2015 Race Recap

1-1 expo welcome

Race: Independence Blue Cross Broad Street Run
Location: Philadelphia, PA
Distance: 16.0 km (10 miles)
Date/Start Time: 3 May 2015, 8:00am
Distance Travelled to Compete: 11.6 km (7.2 miles)
Weather conditions: Started high 50s and gradually rose into the 80s by post-race.
Course conditions: The course is mostly downhill leading into Girard and Fairmount but increases slightly and then another drop after City Hall. Starts at Olney/Broad and Somerville Streets and the Albert Einstein Hospital and finishes at Broad and Farragut Streets, at the Navy Yard.
Preview: My experience in 2012 was mostly negative with the registration process and the crowd control. However, as this is my last year living in Philly, this is also the last opportunity I will have to run Broad Street and with everyone I knew running it. Since 2012, the crowd has swelled to excess of 40,000 people, which has made the pre-race and post-race conditions very difficult.

1 cover - welcome

Better late than never! Between life, work-related travel and illness, I’ve been off the grid a bit, but once I’m recovered, things will be back to normal on the blog and hopefully on the pavement! That said, long overdue…

Registration

Registration was done by lottery. I registered on February 1st and was notified on the 17th that I had gotten in. Seamless and easy and at $43 per person, it’s not a horribly priced race at all. I had found out by email and once it was confirmed, zing, I worked Broad Street into my training plan and saved the date. Only thing I know many runners had their gripes about was the seemingly incessant emails from or regarding their advertisers. There were several quips on Facebook about this

The Expo

Unlike the 2012 expo, this year’s expo was hosted at the Pennsylvania Convention Center. For those not living in the city, parking, as usual, is a bit of a problem. Most people who work in the city attempt to make a dash during work hours otherwise, it’s a jaunt in traffic. This year though the race gave runners the option to ship their packet to them for an extra fee which per the feedback on Facebook, a number of people took advantage of.

Expo doors were open on Friday from 11am to 7pm and Saturday from 9am to 5pm. I had gone first thing on Friday and I was greeted with THIS queue:

3 queue

Thankfully the queue moved quickly and before I knew it kit and bib pickup was quite seamless. An array of food and race vendors were present which I had taken the time to check out. The expo was quite expansive though for a race of 41000 runners, I would have expected more food vendors or products to try out. Maybe that was me. But otherwise, the expo was well laid out.

4 vendors

For me, highlights included the Temple station, being a proud MBA grad from last year I just had to take a snap:

5 Temple station 1

Selfie time!

6 selfie tu

And of course before I forget, the race shirt:

2 race shirt

I wasn’t as fond of this year’s design as I was 2012, largely because this year’s shirt was white (blah) and the 2012 shirt was blue. Also the City Hall silhouette…well it was appropriate but sort of meh.

7 string band

The Race

One major change with this race was the shift in start time to 8am (instead of 8:30am as in past years) because of the TV coverage. Instead of leaving at 6:45am, this go, it was at least half an hour earlier. I think I boarded the subway at around 6:15am.

In spite of taking the express train from Center City, it still took us north of 30 minutes, almost 40 minutes to reach Olney. Once we filed out and up from the subway station, our next order of business was to find the schoolbuses to check in our bags.

Then we checked in our bags, they gave us a tag on our bib and the corresponding tag for our bus number and luggage number both on our wrist and on the bag itself.

It was then I started warming up as the crowds started to increase. People were just everywhere strewn at Einstein Hospital.

8 start line

9 scene at 7am or so

And in just half an hour, the pre-game crowd control was yet another reminder of why I sat out the last few years of this race. Too tight, and too many runners in the wrong corrals. This was probably the part of Broad Street that I hated the most. Unfortunately in our corrals we were sandwiched like sardines and unable to move, watched in some disgust as runners of any speed unable to make it into their corrals found themselves pouring in the Somerville Avenue, getting right behind the green corral, which unfortunately happened to be the corral right before mine.

10 pre-race 30

11 pre-race 20

This proved to be an issue largely because of the long start time (we didn’t leave the start line until 8:40am!!!) a concern of mine was the sunlight and the resulting heat – the weather was expected to rise into the high 70s.

Eventually we were off – and I would find that very soon, I would be overtaking everyone well on the way to a respectable time.

Mile 1: Olney That Rocky theme song. Admittedly being bored (and worse) with Philly, the song only grates my ears, forget being inspirational. But I guess having done so many Philly races, I’ve just never found the song to pump me up. Not like some of the rally songs that have done so at many of my non-Philly races. Once we were off, I veered to the sharp left overtaking people well heading to the Temple School of Medicine, the site of my graduate school final project. So many memories from last year with my MBA project group, quite fitting that I would have one more trip by the building that ultimately was the place of conclusion for my graduate school experience.

I paced myself normally, just wanted to finish in one piece and knowing about the heat, didn’t want to kill myself too early.

The road dipped slightly before a slight incline – no issues here. Passed a DJ and a drummer group. It was awesome getting to see North Philly residents cheering us on, a neighbourhood or two that I never had been through in several years now.

Mile 2: Tioga Another uphill and a downhill. And pretty soon, I caught sight of a runner that had fallen down and collapsed, surrounded by other runners directing us away from the fray and a medic trying to revive him. Oh goodness. Seeing that would always give me the chills, and I said a silent prayer for him. I would later hear that medics saved this person’s life, but I feared that despite my good health, that such a thing could happen to me despite all the precautions I would take. The second mile I attempted to stay in the shade of many buildings as by 9am the sun started beating down on the route. Ugh.

Mile 3: Allegheny We continued downward. First water station, first Gatorade. With the heat increasing, I had increased my intake of fluid so unsurprisingly took in more water and Gatorade in the water bottle I was carrying on my person. Again, tried to veer as far left as I could to avoid the sun.

Mile 4: Temple University Temple University. More memories. Graduate School Association. More classes on Main Campus, Liacouras Center, the site of graduation and the basketball games I’d attended. Crazy. The band played loudly and cheerleaders egged us on as did a slew of students presumably in their final exams period.

These positive memories helped me keep up the pace well into the midway point.

Mile 5: Fairmount The masses of crowds were picking up and at this point the cheers were becoming even louder. Bands were playing a variety of music as we passed Brown Street, then Fairmount Avenue, then Green Street, then further south. I then saw another water stop. More water, more Gatorade. I looked in vain for people that I recognised but to no avail.

We continued down to City Hall where we made a right around the loop, closer to Suburban Station and then back left towards the Ritz-Carlton, and then continued south.

Mile 6: Theatre District/Rittenhouse This is the part of the course where the crowds are the loudest and it wasn’t any different from 2012. I was tempted to take a selfie of some sorts once I’d passed City Hall but seeing I was well ahead of time for a PR, I decided to let the mood and my body carry me along. Loads of spectators lined the Theatre District and through Fitler Square as well as spectators standing on the dividers. Still no sign of any supporters I knew. One of my friends had mentioned to me she’d be waiting at Washington Avenue, except I missed her as she stood on the far right of the street, and of course I was on the far left. Le sigh.

Miles 7 and 8: South Philadelphia We proceeded deeper in the course, with the crowds staying relatively populated through South Philly. At Federal Street, I ran into one of my friends from City Sports, Nick, who is a rep at 2XU. Saw many people I knew as I gave them all high fives. It was an uplifting feeling compared to 2012 as I tried to get memories of South Philly out of my mind having broken up with an ex. But those memories have since been replaced with much more positive ones.

The deeper we got into South Philly, the crowds began to thicken again…and even worse, so did the heat. Ugh.

Mile 9: Sports Complex By the time we hit Mile 9, my body was beginning to feel the effects of a long spring term, to the point I was talking to myself. Hang in there Charlene, hang in there, I kept telling myself. I wasn’t delirious but mentally I was just happy to be approaching offseason.

But it wasn’t before another unsettling incident. Off to the left, I saw another girl who had fallen and couldn’t get up. A policeman was trying to call for assistance to help. It was another shocking feeling for me that we were all vulnerable and that with all the miles I’ve done in the heat I have been extremely lucky to not have problems of any sort.

We hit FDR Park, and I took in my last few cups of water. At this point, my muscles were quite tight and I knew that any sudden stop and I wouldn’t be able to pick it up again. I kept pace, well on track for a good PR but I knew not to overdo it given the long trek it would be to the post-game party.

Mile 10: Finish at the Navy Yard This was it, the final mile. “YOU’RE ALMOST THERE!”

I think I heard this phrase endlessly. The Navy Yard gates, I knew it was still 1/4 mile or so to go, and I made sure that mentally I wasn’t going to mess with my mind into oblivion.

The crowds grew louder and we went through the two underpasses adjacent to the sports complex.

The road was narrowing and then, finally, the grandstand. I saw the finish line, the sponsors’ signs and the finish.

Six minute PR, in the bag.

After the Finish Line

My brutal honest opinion here – the post-race scene was just scary. The first thing I thought seeing all the crowds was just getting the hell out of there. Too many people, most of the people I would know would be at the post-race party held by Philadelphia Runner.

We funneled through the finishers’ chute and through the food tent, relatively in an orderly fashion. Volunteers were everywhere, handing out the medals, and they were distributing bags in the food tent. In the food bag were the typical Philly treats, not my cup of tea for a post-race snack admittedly, but still all gravy nonetheless. Two Tastykake fruit bars, a pair of Goldenberg candy chews, an orange, a banana, a bottle of water, and volunteers were handing out a large pretzel from Philly Pretzel Company.

It took me a ridiculous amount of time to find a stack of the medals but they were in the middle of the crowd. No signage. The initial volunteers that had given out medals ran out of them so we were left to fend and find the medal rack. That was just brilliant. Not.

13 medal

I wanted to queue up for the bathroom, but realising the queues were entirely too long, managed to force myself out to the busses where I picked up my bag, swapped shirts (my race shirt was soooooo icky and sweaty) and trudged around to find the exit to the Navy Yard to get on with things and head to the Philadelphia Runner tailgate.

16 party signage

I ran into fellow Philly runner @MalindaAnnHill from @TwinsRun!

14 Twins Run

After which I settled for a few good grilled cheese sandwiches, and tomato pie. I skipped the beer admittedly as I’m not a fan of Yards beer and dehydration was a bit of a problem for me during the race. Not to mention the queue for the beer was stupidly long.

15 grill

And of course, who can forget the view of the lake.

12 bbq view

Overall, I have no complaints about everything BESIDES the pre- and post-race experience. Ultimately though, this is my last year in Philly and most likely my last year being able to do this race. I do hope for the sake of the Philly running community that Broad Street organisers will do what they can to improve the pre- and post-race experience because even if I was still staying in the area, my experience there would really disincline me to participate in future years, even in spite of how affordable the race is. Better signage and organisation of runners in starting corrals would go a very long way.

The Love Run, Race Recap, Part 2

1 title - stadium

The Love Run 2015, Race Recap, Part 2

Race: The Philadelphia Love Run
Location: Center City, Fairmount Park and Strawberry Mansion, Philadelphia
Distance: 21.1 km (13.1 miles)
Date/Start Time: 29 March 2015, 8am
Distance Travelled to Compete: Negligible
Weather conditions: Very chilly, start temp of 27F, windy. Rose to mid-30s by 10am
Course conditions: Course was changed from last year partially because of the regatta. Flat downtown and mile 5 Fairmount hill remains the same. Mile 9 climb to the Strawberry Mansion bridge was new and circle through Dell Music Center was new.
Preview: CGI Racing, a NJ-based race company, runs their second iteration of the Love Run in Philadelphia, with a course change and way more awesome perks this year.

Race Preview

The forecast was clear unlike last year’s rainy quagmire but the downside was the silly low temperatures. Below freezing to be exact. Also because of a regatta, the organisers were forced to change the route of the course – it was certainly different and the second hill into Strawberry Mansion would prove to be quite unkind, though a good preview of a training run for an even more difficult course in Lancaster in two’ weeks time.

The first half of the course took us through Center City and back on the Parkway and through Fairmount Park and the Please Touch Museum. The second half went hairpin on Martin Luther King Drive but took a detour into Strawberry Mansion before getting back on MLK Drive and down to the finish on Eakins Oval.

The Race

Walking up the parkway en route to the start line, my fingers were freezing and freezing fast, despite wearing gloves. I searched in vain for City Fit Girls, but despite searching the group tent area, they were nowhere to be seen. Bag drop off was straightforward, and the corrals were set up the same they were last year, on the East end of the Eakins Oval.

1 start line

Announcements, the anthem, and a loud roar started as the race got underway.

Mile 1: Chinatown

Within the first mile, I passed several Chessie Photo photographers and tried to feature prominently such as to get captured in the moment. We passed throngs of spectators on the parkway and through Chinatown. Right on 6th Street, and another right on Market Street. Potholes on this first mile were quite annoying. Actually they were very annoying.

Mile 2: Market East

Just like last year, 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. I recalled nearly missing this water stop last year, so I positioned myself on the left to collect my first bit of water. Steady and straightforward I proceeded, around City Hall, to JFK Boulevard, and then back on the parkway.

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. I tried to take note of some of the more funny signs, including the Grumpy Cat memes. On the way back up, I caught a few more photographers and I veered as far to the right as I could to again catch the cameras. I always enjoy looking through the race pictures 🙂

As noted in last year’s review, 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

Also like last year, Martin Luther King Drive took on a long stretch, crossing underneath several bridges before heading through the hill leading into Fairmount Park’s west end. As we came onto the slow and gradual painful hill leading up to the Please Touch Museum, I managed to push through and only stopped once when I felt my heart rate whirl out of control. I continued steadily up the path without too much trouble after that.

Mile 6: Please Touch Museum

We hung a right on 41st Street, which to my chagrin, like last year, was pothole central. Honestly, this race reminded me exactly how terrible, no how beyond terrible, the roads were in Philly. We passed two groups of cheerleaders as we snagged more fluid before heading the long downhill back to MLK Drive.

Mile 7-8: Montgomery Drive to Strawberry Mansion

Once we veered left from Montgomery and back through MLK, we eventually hit the second hill that led upwards to Strawberry Mansion. One part that irked me about this was that I was completely unaware of the course change – totally my fault – but also that the gels were right behind the water and Gatorade and I had hit them without warning. I actually had to TURN AROUND and nearly hit two runners as I backtracked. I was honestly pretty annoyed at the lack of warning – there honestly need to be signs on course indicating what amenities are on course.

And if that weren’t bad enough, I was staring another slow steep climb up the way to the bridge. My legs were just not feeling this climb but I forced myself up.

We crossed the bridge across to Strawberry Mansion, and wound up circling near an outdoor music hall before getting back to the bridge we’d come from. Then another right down the ramp off the bridge where we came from. Back onto MLK Drive.

Miles 9-10: Hairpin Run

We kept going up MLK Drive until the infamous hairpin turn. Normally I touch the cone at the very end of the turn for good luck but unfortunately for me, a lady was standing right above it. Darn.

2 mile 9

The way back, my lungs started getting congested. Just awesome. Not really.

Then I had to remind myself yet again that this was a training run. And that time really didn’t matter as much. Not today.

Miles 11-12: The Stretch Home

Last few water stops. I started playing a slew of music in my head. Skillet, Radiohead, Alanis, everything that could move me. It did get harder by the foot and at points I felt like I was overheating. I had taken my gloves off at least by the halfway point, but my chest felt that overheating sensation and I was out of fluid entirely.

Mile 13 and Finish: Eakins Oval

As I crossed the bridge, the spectator crowd grew. Up the last climb. One last push.

3 finish line

And like that, it was over.

Aftermath

Like last year, the first thing I saw were the medals. Quite a nifty design, though I’ve preferred some of my other medals a bit more.

6 medal

I promptly picked up my medal and then a mylar sheet to conserve heat. We made our way down to the main tent, where water bottles were set off to aside and there could have been more volunteers handing out water bottles. Our bags were small plastic lunch bags with tastykakes, a Smuckers circular peanut butter jelly sandwich, a banana, an orange and another bottle of water. Quite similar to last year.

The Love Run, Race Recap, Part 1

1 title - stadium

The Love Run, Race Recap, Part 1

Race: The Philadelphia Love Run
Location: Center City, Fairmount Park and Strawberry Mansion, Philadelphia
Distance: 21.1 km (13.1 miles)
Date/Start Time: 29 March 2015, 8am
Distance Travelled to Compete: Negligible
Weather conditions: Very chilly, start temp of 27F, windy. Rose to mid-30s by 10am
Course conditions: Course was changed from last year partially because of the regatta. Flat downtown and mile 5 Fairmount hill remains the same. Mile 9 climb to the Strawberry Mansion bridge was new and circle through Dell Music Center was new.
Preview: CGI Racing, a NJ-based race company, runs their second iteration of the Love Run in Philadelphia, with a course change and way more awesome perks this year.

2 entrance top deck

Race Preview

For the second year, NJ-based CGI Racing comes through with even more perks for the 2015 edition of the Love Run. The key thing that caught me off guard was the course change, which I will elaborate on in Part 2. The expo was relocated to the Phillies’ Citizens Bank Park, which had the perfect space for a smaller expo, and wasn’t so static as the PA Convention Center can be. Only downside is that part of the expo was outdoors, or rather in the open stands, and given how windy it was and how cold the spring had started, proved to be unpleasant on that front.

The Expo

The expo was at Citizens Bank Park, which for some people, would prove quite convenient whereas drew complaints from others. Personally, living in the city, getting to the stadium is easy using the subway, though the walk from the subway to the first base gate proved quite annoying. We took a few escalators up to the clubhouse level where we were greeted by the welcome arch. I checked in with registration (given that I had a complimentary bib) and then proceeded to the very end of the bib line to pick up my bib. Quite easy and the area was loaded with volunteers. Downside? It was outdoors and quite windy. Thank GOODNESS it didn’t rain!

3 bib pickup

The bag certainly served its purpose, though some said on Facebook that the bag smelled of the worst PVC imaginable. Well I had to try to sniff the thing, but I could see why people were complaining.

4 bag pickup

Once we picked up our bibs, we headed into the club level area indoors, where a few of the race’s main vendors were set up. Mamma Chia, Philadelphia Runner, 2XU and a few others were lined up with their wares. I socialised with a few people that I knew and then proceeded to collect my mug.

7 mug

Pretty awesome.

We were told to go down one floor to check out more vendors and we grabbed a few more goodies. Vendors were lined up along the bottom floor.

6 lower floor expo

Also on the lower floor, was the coveted Phillies’ 2008 World Series trophy, apparently made by Tiffany and Co.

5 THAT trophy

I took a picture of it and with it. Quite a nice treat for the Love Run participants and visitors.

When I got home, I took a good look at the race shirt, which I really liked, although some runners on Facebook complained of the sleeves being too short. They were on the shorter side, but not terribly short for me.

8 shirt front

9 shirt back

Shirt was perfect thickness for a spring marathon.

The expo was on the smaller end for a 10,000 person marathon but the space for the expo was pretty good. Being at a ballpark allowed for a different atmosphere not to mention it was perfectly appropriate given that the Phillies in our race packet dropped two free Phillies tickets up to a $38 value in our goody bag. I redeemed my tickets that day so I’ll be taking the parents out in a few weeks as we always enjoy going to Phillies games. They don’t get any cheaper so this was quite a nice perk.

Expo was better set up in my opinion and those that took advantage of the ballpark tours were in for a real treat. Wind and weather aside, a very fun pre-race beginning!

2015: A Crazy Winter

2015 has brought a number of things both running and non-running related to the forefront.

On the non-running end, is the realisation that my life is in need of a serious change and a lot of change simply won’t be happening until I get myself on the move literally to DC. The job search is underway and I’m open to a range of positions in both the private and public sector. As I’ve said to many of my friends, Philly was great the last almost 15 years, it’s great and practical for graduate students to live, but as a permanent place to live, no way. I’ve met a lot of friends over the years, but only recently have I made 1-2 friends that I could see myself forging long-lasting relationships with.

Even then, the ones that I’ve been extremely fortunate to know have introduced me to new adventures – skiing, travel, more cooking adventures, and ironically, the impetus to move on to DC.

instructor

The ski adventure in Blue Mountain was pretty scary – it look me a bit of time – a bit too much time to pick up the basics of skiing, and I think a lot of this had to do with the fact that I’m not used to moving with my hips and the motion of road running my body was used to moving in one direction. The lesson itself was quite aggravating as I continously was the one to struggle in the class. After the lesson was over though, a few hours later I was slowly getting it. I was fearful of injury though, so I didn’t take too many risks taking on some of the more complicated hills.

$90 was enough for us for a lesson, and access to the beginner and bunny hills. The more complicated ones required more expensive rates or passes, etc. Not that it mattered, the way the day went I was sticking to the bunny hills for quite some time.

ski shoes

The shoes were extremely uncomfortable and almost painful to walk in. Still all in all, a good day, and a good bonding experience. But unfortunately these memories have been a bit too few during my time here, and as I get older the lifestyle amongst people here is very different from the path that I want to take in both career and in life. So it goes. Happy hunting to me.

That said, my moving away has made my spring race schedule pretty solid, cut and dry, although courtesy of several running events, I’ve gotten the chance to secure complimentary entries to both the Love Run, which will be in NINE days…

Love Run free entry

and the Perfect 10 Miler in central New Jersey in October, courtesy of a Valentine’s Day event at Philadelphia Runner.

Perfect 10 free entry

Participation in the latter is VERY much up in the air as it’s in the thick of when I’m looking to move to DC. I had explored car rental, which would pretty much exceed what I’d pay for Broad Street, so it looks like I’d have to pray someone local is also doing that race and hitch a ride or I’d wind up passing my bib off to someone else who I know was at the event, which thankfully I know several people. Everything else aside, though, I do want to run the Philadelphia Marathon. Yes, all 26 miles.

I’ve lived in Philly for 15 years, and been running in Philly for the last six. Graduate school was largely to blame for being unable to run – the one year (2012) that I was slated to run the full, my body broke down under a crazy school load and I had only recovered in time to run the half that year.

I’ve kept up running with City Sports and I’ve had a number of awesome memories with this group. I definitely want to stick with them until I move for good, and seeing as they have 2-3 run clubs with their stores in DC, would hope that the same camaraderie exists with their DC groups.

candy

But most of this winter, my training’s been indoors due to the snow and my long hours at work. The Love Run half will essentially be a training run for my race in Lancaster on the 11th of April.

Broad Street is what I’m pumped for, as nearly everyone and their mother I know is running it. And it is most likely my last chance to be running this race, so I will enjoy every mile.

The training continues, onwards and upwards. And so I continue to work towards my goals, on and off the pavement.

Philadelphia Half Marathon Recap, Part 2

Philadelphia Half Marathon Recap and Race Report, Part 2

5 corrals 1

Race: Philadelphia Half Marathon
Location: Philadelphia, PA
Distance: 21.1 km (13.1 miles)
Date/Start Time: 23 November 2014, 7am
Distance Travelled to Compete: Negligible – 1.8 km (1.1 miles)
Weather conditions: Clear to partly cloudy; temperatures started high-30s, warmed to low 50s. Became sunny.
Course conditions: Flat through most of Center City and South Philadelphia. Turned into Powelton Village and Mantua, where a hill picked up at Mile 8 and another at Mile 10 leading into the concourse at Fairmount Park. Wrapped around MLK Drive and finished back at Eakins Oval, in front of the Art Museum.
Preview: My third time running the Philly Half, and in a bittersweet twist, most likely my last. I didn’t have a great training season, and I was content to get to the starting line in one piece.

Part 1 of this recap can be found here.

Warming Up at the VIP Tent

1 VIP at dawn

The VIP tent was an area on 20th and Race Streets that included separate bag check-in, private restroom, early morning tent/hospitality, select seating near the band post-game, separate massage area.

Runners could get on the VIP tent listing for any number of reasons, either by buying a certain amount of merchandise, being a GORE-TEX Associate, key sponsor, or affiliated with City Sports.

I immediately went to the tent area where I met others from the City Sports run club plus a few people I recalled from university. Everyone seemed nervous trying to warm up. It felt reassuring seeing many of the faces I’ve gotten acquainted with over the last several months if not longer. I grabbed a very small amount of hot chocolate and chatted with another lady I’d met at City Sports, a cancer survivor who was making her comeback race. She was a much slower runner than I was, but that didn’t matter. She had recovered from chemo and the like more recently and seeing her every Sunday pushing herself was an inspiration.

I checked in my bag at another set of black tents, for which the staff gave me a special number to identify it. Signed in my name and then I headed off back on the Parkway towards the starting corrals.

4 start

I tried in vain to find several of my other friends from City Sports; most of us were in the fourth, or grey corral, but to no avail. I saw how long the queues were for the toilets and thankfully I didn’t have to deal with that. (They weren’t much better than the race either.)

I ditched my gloves, wore one layer with a heatsheet for pre-race and then threw it aside, long black race leggings, Balegas, and my usual Asics GT-2100s. Race belt around me with a Clif vanilla shot or two in case things got rough before the 9 mile mark. I decided to not think about time, so in an unprecedented move, I ditched my watch; at the same time I carried a water bottle in case I had dehydration issues.

The Race:
6 corrals 2

Before the gun: The anthem played and one by one, corral by corral moved up. I took one last snap of the starting area and then started up the Nike Running App on my Android. Except I misjudged what our corral was going to do, I thought it would come up to the starting line but no, the gun had already gone off and we were on our way. I should have stepped aside and put my phone in my Amphipod, but I wasn’t able to and within the first mile I had to step aside on Logan Circle for about 15 seconds to do so. That was annoying.

Mile 1: Parkway to Chinatown. Like last year, we started going southeast on Ben Franklin Parkway and veered left on Arch Street into Chinatown. The crowds were their usual on Logan Circle and the Parkway and I wasn’t feeling too cold. I caught sight of an engaged couple who were wearing kits identifying themselves as getting married in six days. I can only dream of finding someone nice, let alone a runner, but I tried purging those thoughts as I turned left onto Arch Street.

Mile 2: Chinatown to Columbus Boulevard. Normally is where potholes can get annoying on the Old City end if you are not careful, but public works had since cleaned this up. This was around when a friend of mine from City Sports, who was dealing with massive knee issues, passed me. I asked how he was doing and at Mile 2, his knee was questionable at best. And he was signed up for the full.

Mile 2 was straightforward even with plenty of crowds in Chinatown. Flat road, left on (I believe) 4th Street and down to Columbus Boulevard where the first water stop was right on the corner. Holy cow, talk about absolute chaos.

Mile 3: Columbus Boulevard. South on Columbus Boulevard into South Philly and Pennsport. The first water step being on a corner created absolute chaos – I actually skipped this station because of the massive pileup of (I presume) newbie runners. Plenty of people also cheered us on from the bridges above us and the open road allowed runners to spread out a bit. Flat, and no complaints. Until we got all the way to Washington Avenue. There was our second water stop and again, it was at the corner turn. Good grief, this was ugly.

Miles 4-5: Pennsport. Very run of the mill, very relatively flat and fast through South Philly. Unlike previous years, the crowd support was significantly better. The roads were cleaned up, unlike two years ago. I looked for anyone I knew cheering in the crowd but I didn’t know anyone. I tried to keep my spirits up, it was race day after all.

Then we hung a left on South Street. So many memories. I wanted to take them in just in case I wouldn’t be back next year.

Mile 6: Washington West and Rittenhouse Square. We turned right on 6th Street, and then left on Chestnut Street. Home hood rally as I called it, Rittenhouse was the area with the greatest (by far) amount of crowd support. Random spectators here called and cheered your name (it was on the bibs) as you passed. This was quite the uplift I needed. The 10k split was roughly at 16th and Chestnut. And that’s when I knew that I was already halfway home.

Just two weeks before I’d done a 12 miler covering this same route but it felt so much better to be doing the real thing.

Mile 7: University City and Powelton Village. The queues for the toilets here were insane – I did not need to go, but 2 years ago I remember losing about 7 minutes to waiting here. Also skipped the water stations here with plenty of fluid in my bottle. Slight uphill as we progressed past Drexel and on the NE corner of Penn’s campus at 34th and Chestnut before making a right on 34th and headed to Powelton and Mantua. Deep in Drexel’s campus, one of the frat houses was blasting 80s music, and what did you know – at the time I passed it, Come On Eileen was on as the boys sang.

Miles 8-9: Mantua. This is one of the poorer communities in Philadelphia and even this area had many supporters lined up cheering runners on as they headed towards the Philadelphia Zoo. Steady incline took some wind out of me but I steadily pushed along. Continued up 34th Street and up the Girard Bridge.

Miles 10-11: Concourse, Fairmount Park. The so-called hill from hell. This somehow did but didn’t take the wind out of me. I remembered what I was told at Nike’s Women’s last year: lean in and breathe slowly. It’s a very slow yet steep hill and despite having trained on it thanks to City Sports, it still was utterly annoying. Came up the hill and hung a right, that was it. Several spectators held up signs urging us on.

Many people were on the concourse cheering us on. They were out of vanilla Clif Bar energy gel, and I had used mine up already, so I had to settle for raspberry. Mocha and Citrus are a no-go for me, as they have caffeine, and my body is hypersensitive to it.

Black Road was soon up and I was surging past a lot of runners. I felt strong, I felt good, which was odd, my training had not been the best this fall.

Miles 12-13: Back on MLK Drive. The loop was straightforward and then the hairpin turn. It was at this moment I realised that this race was coming to an end for me. I tried not to get too emotional, but as I’ve said many times on Twitter, I wasn’t so sure I’d be back next year if I move out. At the same time I wanted to do the full, and illness in 2012 prevented me from running the full that year.

I kept pushing forward as we saw the traffic soar our opposite direction on 76 West. And then I saw a Clif Bar Pace group pass me.

That’s when I noticed how fast I was actually going. I kept powering forward as a PR was in sight but I didn’t notice how well I had been doing until I saw the sign pass. Closing in on Eakins Oval, the throngs of supporters grew until you couldn’t hear much of anything. Instructions in English and Spanish were being blared for the full marathoners to stay left and the half marathoners to stay right. Once I veered right, I kept my eyes peeled for any supporter I could ferret out. No one I knew.

And like that, I crossed the finish line. 20 second PR. Holy smokes.

Post-Race Thoughts:
7 finish

After crossing the finish line, we queued up for Mylar heatsheets, our medals, water, soup, a load of other goodies we received in a Macy’s bag, granola bars, and the like. To my left, I noticed the massage tent was backed up for a ridiculous amount of time, even more grateful I had access to the VIP tent.

8 massage queue

After I filtered through the queue and got past 21st Street, I had to fight loads of spectators waiting for their loved ones. I trudged back to the VIP tent where I grabbed hot chocolate and recovered, listening to the bands play at the finish line festival.

9 ff

I spent about an hour recovering there, trying to mentally pull myself together. I went into the VIP tent’s massage area, where staff from Phoenixville Massage and Bodyworks worked on runners (Phila Massages, whom I have gotten treatment from, worked the main massage tent on the parkway). Much shorter queue, and I told the guy working on me to focus on my shins, as they felt fragile after the run. Shins and knees.

That felt so good.

10 ff 2

I went back to the tent area, and started texting and congratulating my friends, most of whom also either PRed, or did very well. It was a day of stories, a day of triumph for a lot of people and a day of bonding for me, or rather a weekend of bonding. It is difficult thinking I will be missing this come next year….or maybe I might return to enjoy this one last time. Just maybe.

11 medal

Broader Taste of Philly Sports

Obviously lately I’ve been mulling over many life decisions. But even if I do leave Philadelphia some day after 12-plus years of living here, I will always fondly remember Philadelphia sports teams.

My parents and us have attended Phillies games for all we can remember. I’ve yet to attend a Sixers or Eagles game, and I know that the Eagles fans are the most rowdiest. But this year I attended a Flyers game and a Union (professional soccer) game for the very first time. And I thoroughly enjoyed the atmosphere although both teams winning their games helped.

Baseball games, at least here in Philly, are way more affordable and until recently, money was tight, so any other sport would have been out of the question for me. This year, the Flyers ticket ran me $49 and the Union $42, so they are games I’d go to once a season but more often it would get quite expensive!

I went to a Flyers game on Easter, the last Sunday in March. They were playing against the Capitals, and given the intense rivalry, the atmosphere was quite the scorcher. There’s just something about the fighting in hockey that I like, I’m not sure what it is, I cannot place it but it’s just part of the entertainment value.

I had gone with two other friends both of whom were hockey lovers. We got into the main lobby to be greeted by the Easter bunny.

1 easter bunny

Having a little extra time, I wandered about the concourse checking what the food options were, most options were traditional Philly-style cuisine. Chickie and Pete’s, Primo Hoagies, cheesesteak vendors.

2 intro

During the introduction of the players, I got a pure taste of Philly aggression, angst, whatever you wanted to call it. Every player from the opposition that the announcer called, the crowd followed up with the word “SUCKS!” after it, so it would sound like (for example) “Mike Green….SUCKS!” Haven’t heard anything like that in any of the Phillies games I’ve attended over the years, but recently I was informed this had changed too.

5 horseman

I also got my fair share of crazy fans. (See above.)

The game itself was one that typically plagued the die-hard Philly fan, the usual cynicism of Philly falling behind (at one point where Philly was down 4-2) but somehow with just seconds left, we tied it up at 4-4 to send the game into overtime.

4 tied up

This was not however before witnessing a brutal fight from Voracek, who normally isn’t a fighter (unlike say, Scott Hartnell) which left a bloodied opponent leaving the ice after his shirt was pulled over him, leaving him unable to see during the fight. Wells Fargo is OUR house!

6 win

The Flyers managed to score in overtime, capping an awesome game, and considering it was Easter, it was quite impressive it was still a packed house.

A few weeks ago, I attended my first Union game. I’ve been a longtime Chelsea supporter (since 1991, when finances were shaky and were still in the Second Division), but with more than a year until my vacation to Europe, I was stoked to finally realize that someone in my group of friends was also a soccer fan like I was and saw Union games on a relatively regular basis. (I had dated another guy in 2010 who was actually a member of the supporters’ group Sons of Ben, but our relationship was primarily in the offseason…then he graduated from medical school and left the city.)

Sons of Ben

I went to my first Union game two weeks ago with my university’s alumni club. The seats were fantastic as far as I knew, and before we entered PPL Park, we rounded the area to the vendor tent, as several businesses were offering food samples and promoting their wares. After awhile, we got our tickets and promptly took our seats. This game, which was broadcast on ESPN, saw the Union take on the New York Red Bulls, who were heavily favoured to win, with the likes of French elite footballer Thierry Henry leading the line as captain.

anthem

thierryhenry

Within six minutes, the Union struck and about twenty later, the Bulls went down to ten men courtesy of a cynical two-footed challenge.

explusion

After this, the floodgates opened. Some of my friends were watching the game intently whilst others were rather bored and texting on their phones. As for me, I measured this against Chelsea games, and in my eyes, the game moved slower than it would in Europe, but at the same time, I still had fun. I knew the rules, I understood what was going on. And yes, every time the Union scored, I was introduced to the “doop” the cheer that Union supporters cried every time they scored.

Cynically, I knew the Union had never been a great team or anywhere good in recent years and I expected a slaughter but that night I was happy to be wrong. Not only did we “doop” once, but did so three times in a shutout.

Full time

The Sons of Ben also drove the atmosphere insanely as my one friend Cory commented on how much of a workout they were getting, jumping up and down, beating drums, running flares, and the like…for all 90 minutes. If the Union had been losing though, the regulars mentioned to us that they would turn against the referee and hurl insults at him, or even worse, sometimes turn against the team. Yikes.

But that night, Union were victorious and it was another night out with my friends, and this summer was really the first time I had gotten out more than ever. It’s definitely making me appreciate Philly sports and the passion that drives supporters of all types in this city. And it’s something I won’t forget anytime soon if and when I do leave, and for those I know, I know they do miss the passion of Philly sports.

As I’ve been told time and again, “it’s just not the same.”

Resolutions and Goals: On and Off the Pavement

If you don’t like something, change it.

Through my efforts, I gain the serenity to accept the things I cannot change; courage to change the things I can; and the wisdom to know the difference.

Whether concerning running or other aspects of life, there’s a lot I’ve learned from 2012. On the upside, the personal drama was at a minimum compared to 2011. I earned a promotion at work and gained more challenging assignments which I embraced. Socially, I met more friends through running and after the dissolution of my last relationship, realised I needed to spend more time with my friends in general.

Setbacks? The big one was school. My academic performance is fine, however, the amount of work required of me in my second year tripled. Last year I felt I was able to juggle so much more on the same credit load but this year I learnt the very harsh lesson that not every credit unit is created equal. The combination of classes (comprising a schedule which I was forced into due to my work travel) required a disproportionate amount of time that forced me to cut back on the training I could devote as well as the amount of sleep. Between ridiculous lack of sleep (averaging 3 hours or less) and stress overload, I wound up in the ER and later contracted a lung infection that had me sick and off the pavement most of October.

I managed to rebound just in time to roll light training and recover to run the Philadelphia Half Marathon, which was a sort of victory. I was supposed to run – and registered for – the full marathon but illness had me questioned whether I could do anything at all in November.

This year Problem #1 for me is to get school under control by looking for more flexible, weekend only strategic management classes and knocking out finance so that I am not stuck taking it in the summer. I took corporate finance last summer and the pace of the class nearly burnt me out. I need the full 15 week semester to properly absorb what I need to learn, and I can learn the strategic management (generally more qualitative, although some of the classes stress financial and mathematical nous) quickly and on the fly. I feel I’ve taken that first step through the way I’ve staggered my classes. Two accelerated classes in January and only one in early April. That frees up the ability to take one finance class during the week, international financial markets. I could have pushed for private equity but I backed off, as I was more interested in portfolio management and derivatives, both of which are only taught in the fall. Plus 5 classes might have been suicide.

This leads to my second resolution: Stick to a more disciplined running schedule, namely, more sprints, hills and weighttraining. Realistically, I need to start with the weighttraining before I put all that stress on my legs/quads/knees. I want to drop my time but the muscle buildup needs to occur. Diet is mostly under control, and alcohol at this point is slim to none. (Case in point: number of drinks downed on New Year’s? Zero. Dead serious.) Now with the class situation a little more in my favour, the open time frame also helps with my running and training as I don’t have to formally train for the NWM13 half until the end of January, after that second accelerated class will have finished. So during January, I can focus more on offseason conditioning, with maintenance runs of 3-4 miles and a greater focus on sprints and weighttraining. If I can moderate my runs with 2x/week strength training I should be well on my way, but even once per week is much more than what I’ve done all of last year.

The key is I need to be patient and that I’m not going to drop fat and my times right away. The muscle needs to build and I need time.

Now the second major issue to tackle that was a problem the last few years is my social and personal life: namely, being able to forge and maintain relationships. After life in the trenches for the six years after university, running has allowed me to meet people and train for events with other people. However, a revolving travel schedule for work combined with part-time graduate school often forces me more to train on my own and that was painfully evident this past semester. Any gatherings with my non-runner friends has really taken a hit more so as every single one of them are coupled up (meaning weekend outings are generally out of the question) and we generally can only meet for potluck dinners during the week. Unfortunately some dinners were scheduled during class nights or I was unlucky on the weeks I was forced to travel. And while I love my career, I also get the sense that those that might not put as much emphasis on their career are getting frustrated with me.

On another front, I have joined my school’s Graduate Student Association to increase my social opportunities through school, but I am also finding out that the part-time students are very fragmented from the full-time students and even amongst each other. On the upside, being the liaison for the part-time students has allowed me to connect to students and connect students with each other in getting more events through to everyone. Meeting people through this group is probably going to take more time.

On a separate front, a number of people are trying to push the concept of dating on me but regardless of what others are doing out there, this is clearly one thing that will cause me more stress than it’s worth, at least whilst I’m in graduate school. If I was in school for another 5 years, it would be a serious problem, but since I graduate in May 2014, this is an area where I can wait because knowing my limits, I would be biting off more than I can chew. If I randomly meet someone appealing, I’ll figure something out, but I’m not going to actively seek someone out or get myself on online dating sites, for example.

The way that looks more feasible for now to maintain my relationships is to focus on the ones where there’s the most in common in terms of values, whether the friends live in Philadelphia or in other cities. If out of town, just keep pounding away those texts and plan getaway trips around where people live (particularly in the case of NYC and Boston). As work will be sending me back to some of these cities, I will also use opportunities off the clock to meet up as well. (And this illustrates a way I will make my travel schedule work for me!) For everyone else, simply I’m going to cross my fingers and see if I get lucky. The harsh reality is that I can only do so much.

Continued communication with immediate and extended family. Not only is this to prevent any of the disasters that occurred in 2011 and prior to then but also to keep in touch with cousins who also share higher career aspirations and their love of travel as they are also goals and values I share.

So to recap, things I need to improve on:

1 Manage school more effectively (in progress)
2 More ambitious training schedule which includes weightlifting and strength training
3 Focused relationships
4 Continued communication with family

I think if I can work on #1 and #3, then I can enjoy life a little more personally. But the above four are all sustainable, realistic and attainable and I just need to focus on the things I love and value most. In some cases I can kill two birds with one stone so I will use any advantage I have.

What are your New Year’s resolutions (running-related or not)?