Thursday, September 22, 2011

Rock n Roll Philadelphia 1/2 Marathon Race Report

On Sunday a whole crew of us participated in the Rock N Roll Philly half marathon.  The crew included four "Garges's", myself, Lauren, my brother Jeremy and his wife Michelle.  Michelle's brother also ran.  This was to be the longest "run" that Lauren has done in quite sometime as she's on the mend from suffering Rhabdomyolysis this summer.  Jeremey, Michelle and her brother Nick all had some goal times in mind.  Jeremy and Nick wanted to break the 1:30 barrier for the first time and Michelle wanted to break the 2 hour barrier for the first time.  Lauren was going to run with Michelle to help pace her to her goal.

Lauren and I drove down Sunday AM to meet up with the rest of the crew.  We were treated to incredible weather....just enough sun and temps in the upper 50's....and slight winds.  The race was nearly sold out with over 20,000 participants.  It also drew quite an elite field, many of which were hoping to meet the Olympic standards of 1:05 (male) and 1:15 (female) to qualify for the trials in January.  It was pretty cool to hang out in the corral and watch the likes of Adam Goucher and Kim Smith (led the first 18 miles of Boston Marathon 2011) warm up and be interviewed by race personnel.

I stretched and tried to come up with some kind of mental game plan.  The course, although slightly different than the last time I ran the race, was a fast one.  It started out running in down town Philly for the first 4+ miles, then ventured out past the Art Museum onto Kelly Drive, across the Falls Bridge and back down West River to finish at the Art Museum stairs.  In all of the running events that I've ever done in Philly, I've never run out Kelly and back West River...odd!  Back to my race, in 2008 when I last ran the race, I had a pretty big year - running mileage wise - and I trained pretty much specifically for this race.  I ended up with a great time of 1:14:10 and carried that to a marathon PR later that fall at the Philly Marathon.

So what was the plan for today?  I had run about 600 miles less year to date than in 2008, I had put some decent training in, but not really focused on this race, more for multisport racing.  I hadn't really tapered either.  I had no idea what I had in me.  13.1 miles is no short race either, go out too hard and pay for it.  My plan was just to go by feel...not by watch, not by HR.  So that I did, the gun went off and I just focused on a steady effort and tried to stay out of the wind.

As we took off, there was a pretty good sized group all around me.  I just tried to run steady.  Hit the first mile marker...5:30...OOOPPS!  I did remember my 2008 race where I ran 5:31 first mile so I wasn't too worried.  Tried to back the effort down, mile 2...5:39..that felt better.  There wasn't a bunch of passing going on, everyone just getting in the groove.  I hit the 5K at 17:26.  By mile 5 a decent sized pack had come together, there were a bunch of elite females mixed in there marking each other's moves.  My first 5 miles were consistently in the high 5:30 range.  As we headed out Kelly Drive the pack stuck together, but we started to catch some people that had gone out too fast.  Hit 10K at 35:04...a very consistent first 5 miles.  My legs were feeling pretty good and I wasn't taxing my cardio too bad.  "Seven more miles, I may be able to pull something good out of this" I said to myself....hoping I could even drop the pace more after 10 miles.

Our group's pace slowed slightly, I was no clicking miles off in the low 5:40 range.  It was slightly uphill as we reached the Fall's Bridge and subsequently the 9 mile mark.  At that point the whole race seemed to change.  Those who had it dropped the went from quiet to much more noticeable and labored breathing (for me and many of those around me).  At this point, which I thought would be slightly downhill, my legs started to protest.  I upped my effort for sure, but the pace wasn't coming down.  

I rolled through 10 miles at 56:50...."One of my faster 10 mile times" I thought, "OK, just hang on for the last 3 miles."  Easier said than done!  There were some strong runners coming by every once in a while...and I'd pick some slowing runners off here and there.  I dug deep, recording my slowest miles of the day in miles 11 (5:47), 12 (5:48) and 13 (5:50).  As I hit mile 12 I realized that I was going to hold onto a great time, finally did the math and realized I could break 1:14.  The crowds were huge as we approached the line, the crowd was cheering all of the female runners on because they had punched their ticket to the Trials.  I soaked it in and came across in 1:14:54.  Not sure where I pulled that from, maybe my "Suitcase of Courage" as Phil Ligget and Paul Sherwin would say, maybe just dumb luck on a beautiful day?  Who knows, I'm not complaining...I'll take it!  The field was deep, a sub 1:15 garnered me 133rd overall which is a testament to that.  I was happy to finish 7th in my AG though.
I hung around the finish line to see how the rest of the crew was fairing.  Jeremy kicked butt, crossing the line at 1:28:56, Nick not far behind in the mid 1:29's and Lauren and Michlle finished at 1:59:04!  All in all it was a very successful day! 

My new found (maybe a fluke?) running fitness has me re-evaluating my fall schedule.  I think I'll put cyclocross on the back burner, still racing but not necessarily training specifically for it, and focus on some running races.  I'm pacing the 3:25 group at the Wineglass Marathon on 10/2, then racing the Hershey Half Marathon on 10/16.  I'm also considering registering for the Philadelphia Marathon on 11/20.

Tuesday, September 13, 2011

Missing REV3, Boston x 2 and Nittany Cross

Last weekend was a big weekend in many, many ways.  First of all, we will never forget that day just over 10 years ago.  My heart goes out to everyone who has suffered as a result of a loss of life or major life change which directly resulted from that day.  The innocent people at the three major attack sites, the first responders and all of those at war to defend our freedom.

It was a big weekend out in Cedar Point, OH last weekend.  I wasn't able to attend due to some other commitments (see below) but I want to congratulate REV3 on another awesome event and my Trakkers teammates on some awesome performances!!

Saturday kicked off the cyclocross season, not only on the local series level but the UCI calendar as well.  The Nittany Cross was a two day event held at the Valley Preferred Cycling Center.  Typically a flatter, faster race, it took a 180 degree turn this year due to the record rainfall and flooding that has hammered the Northeast over the past 10-14 days.  A quick summary, it was the muddiest race I've ever done.  Mud pits that were un-ride-able, forcing you to run through shin deep soupy mud; standing water / mud puddles that were up to your crank deep; and of course some peanut-buttery mud through the woods.  Throw in some barriers, short climbs and power robbing rutty sections and you've got a perfect recipe for pain and suffering.

I was originally going to race both days, coming back Sunday after pacing Lauren's cousin through a portion of his first marathon.  Then found out Autumn had a soccer game that would conflict with that plan so I decided to move my registration from Sunday's Master's race to Saturday's "Killer Bee's" race (Men's 3/4).  The Elite Masters 35+ race (Cat 1-4) contained a field of nearly 100 starters and started at noon.  The Bee's field was over 100 strong and started at 3:45.  Sounded feasible, but with the caveat that race #2 would HURT and I wouldn't be up to speed there.

So in a rookie move I was scouting the course out and missed my call up for the Masters race. I would have started mid-pack, but as I rolled up to staging to find everyone staged I realized my big mistake.  I slid in the back row, hopped off my bike to clean off some of the heavy mud from my preview lap and all the sudden everyone takes off...while I'm standing there.  DAMMIT, NOT what I had planned for my first race of the season in such a stacked field.  You simply cannot give Cat 1 and Cat 2 'crossers a head start, you will not catch them!
 Coming through the start / finish area on lap 1, I had already made some passes
I knew I had to make some passes early while everyone was bunched up.  I was seriously in the red, it was humid and I was hurting.  The course seemed to get worse every lap.  As you went through the two standing water sections, your shoes would fill up with water with each down stroke of the pedal...
Photo credit to Joe Mallis
 As I ran through the "peanut butter" mud the second lap my cleats got clogged up and I slipped and fell remounting my bike.  A couple of guys back by me that I had just passed...DAMMIT

Right after the fall, trying to bridge back to the guys that just passed me.

I was never quite sure what position I was in, I just kept moving forward.  I was pretty gassed with one lap to go and focused on a steady effort.  I was in a pack, but didn't have much "fight" left for any form of sprint.  I could see my friend a few turns up, but realized that there wasn't enough time to catch him.  My thought was to get through the mud pit quickly and hopefully pass the couple of guys in front of me...and hopefully have enough to hold them to the finish.  It worked, I passed two guys through the mud section, but they crushed me in the field sprint.
photo credit to
End result: 27th place out of 69 finishers.  I unofficially gave myself the "hard charger" award for likely passing the most riders in the race!  My friend and trainer partner finished top 20, right where I thought I'd be.  Bummer, but I'll get them next time!
Photo credit to Dennis Smith (
Now onto race #2.  After I waited an hour or so in line to wash myself and my bike off, I grabbed some food and got to watch some great racing.  The sun stayed tucked away so the course only seemed to get muddier.  I was called up in the last row due to my registration switch.  Fantastic, only about 105 riders ahead of me!  I made quite a few passes in the first few corners and my legs weren't feeling too bad.  It all went wrong not long after that though....
Photo credit to Dennis Smith (

 A clip of the barrier section in my Masters race
As I entered the high speed barrier section all I felt was someone drill me from behind...and land on top of me.  He then proceeds to toss my bike across the track....classy, thank you!  Turns out the impact ripped my saddle off of my rails.  I could have limped more than half way around the track for my pit bike, but that wouldn't really accomplish much, so I packed up and headed home.

With my cross racing out of the way for the weekend it freed me up to run more with Doug in his first marathon / BQ attempt.  The original goal was to have Lauren run the middle 5 mile leg with him, but he started to hurt at mile 12 or so and asked if I'd stick with him the whole way.  "Sure" I gulped...I was in, to run the whole marathon.  It was a decent day, high 60's, no sun but high humidity.  Our first 12 miles were dead on the 7:15 range, but from that point forward I could tell that the race was now more about salvaging a decent time then being a hero and going for broke.  We managed to stick to sub 8:00 pace for a while, but the late hills of the last few miles were tough.  Doug hung in there through some bad cramps, a few walk steps to shake them out, but we made it in, 3:24:15!!  About 7:45 average and more importantly an 11 minute Boston Qualifier time!!  Doug was psyched.....and now he's ready to learn from marathon number one and take some time off his next one.
And speaking of Boston, yesterday was the first day of registration for the 2012 Boston Marathon.  Registration was opened up to runners who had beat their qualifying time by more than 20 minutes.  After the craziness of last year's registration (25,000 people registered in 8 hours), I didn't know what to expect.  Online registration went very smoothly, and I'M IN!!

Next weekend is the Rock n Roll Philly Half Marathon....hoping the legs are recovered!