Race Recap: Philadelphia Marathon

Tuck in guys and gals, I have a long one for you today.

Prologue

The Philadelphia Marathon was my 6th marathon, but my first in nearly 13 months due to a tibial stress fracture last winter.

I didn’t run Dec. 8, 2014 – March 10, 2015, with the exception of a few short runs before I realized I was definitely still injured. Then, I gradually built up my mileage using a run/walk program for a few weeks before transitioning back to normal running with a strict 10 percent rule for my build up. This meant that I was up to 40 mi/week by the start of my 18 week training schedule in mid-July.

That left me in the best position that I’ve ever been in at the beginning of a training cycle by far. For context, here is what my previous marathon times and training schedules look like:

Race Avg. Mileage Peak Mileage Finish Time
Marathon 1, April 2013 28 mi. 40.6 mi. 5:09:11
Marathon 2, Oct 2013 20 mi. 36.8 mi. 3:43:25
Marathon 3, Apr 2014 30 mi. 39.4 mi. 3:28:15
Marathon 4, Sept 2014 32.1 mi. 46 mi. 3:21:53
Marathon 5, Nov 2014* 27.2 mi. 29.5 mi. 3:38:24
Philly 2015 45.9 mi. 57 mi. See Below!

*Not a goal race

What was different?

Beyond having a nice base, for the first time I ran almost every single scheduled workout this cycle. The few exceptions include when I incorporated a race into my training schedule, and a couple times when I was feeling run down. I ran 24 workouts in all, and three races (1 mile, 5k and a half marathon).

My average and my peak mileage were both significantly better, but more importantly, I really took my easy runs easy. When I was building back up after my stress fracture, I started doing runs where my watch only showed my heart rate, and not my pace. This really helped me listen to my body and to keep it easy enough for it to recover.

Some fun facts: over the past 90 days, my average pace has been 7:56 min/mile. In February 2013, my trailing 90 day average pace (thanks, SmashRun) was 7:57 mi/mile when my mileage was significantly lower and my shorter-distance PRs significantly slower. I think you can begin to guess why I had such an epic blow up in that race.

Beyond that, I focused on eating better to get the nutrition that my body needs to sustain higher mileage and to keep my healthy and injury free. As a result, I was about 9lbs lighter on race day in Philly than I was last September when I ran my last PR. (I’m down to about 17-18% body fat. I think I can only safely get to 15% without risking the female Triad.)

Pre-Race

I took the train to Philly on Saturday morning, getting into 30th St. Station shortly before noon. We went to the hotel to drop our stuff before heading over to the expo. I tried to meet up with some friends, but one lost his wallet and one was prioritizing the Real Madrid/Barcelona game.

We had some great Italian food at a place called La Viola at around 5 p.m., and then headed back to the hotel for an early night. In the morning, I had my standard bread with peanut butter and sliced banana on top. I left at 5:40 for my 1.5 mi. walk to the start area.

pre race

Goals for the day:

A: 3:07                  B: 3:10                   C: 3:15

The Race

The race started 15 minutes late — apparently some idiot crashed their car on the race course, so the cops had to clear it away. That extra 15 minutes was enough time for everyone to get nice and cold, since they didn’t tell us about the delay until about 6:58. I had already taken my throwaway pants off, but luckily not my sweatshirt. I took in three ShotBloks (100 calories) and a Salt Stick while in the corral.

Once the gun went off, we were on our way, and things were a little bottlenecked. Part of the problem was some early turns, but part of it was that some spectators about a mile into the race decided it was really important for them to cheer from the road rather than the sidewalk. I decided that was bullshit and ran right at them along the curb yelling to get off the course. I needed that space to pass some people. It was effective. I felt a bit like Jesus parting the Red Sea.

7:04, 7:22, 7:03

We wound around through the city, and then out toward the Delaware River and back. I spotted my boyfriend with this awesome sign:

Sign

Nothing too exciting here, but I got up to pace, so that was a good thing. My GPS, on the other hand, started to have some issues, as evidenced by my data.

GPS Fail

I should note, I was maybe 50 meters behind the 3:05 pace group all through here. I thought they should be opening up more of a gap, but they didn’t seem to be.

7:08, 7:03, 6:52, 6:44 (I’m pretty sure those last two should have been around 7:00)

Official 10k: 44:24 (7:09 pace)

I had my first snack (three more ShotBloks) at mile six. Shortly after the seven mile mark, I was right on top of the 3:05 pace group, which didn’t make any sense, because at that mile mark, I was about 22-24 seconds behind pace per my 3:07 pace band. Anyway, I hate being around pace groups during water stops, so I just decided to put on a burst of speed and pass them. That put me into the beginning of the first of two major hills (mile 8 and 10).

I had heard the first hill was the worse one, but I found the second one to be harder. The first one was so gradual it didn’t really faze me too much, and I really took advantage of the downhill to try to eat away at those 22-24 seconds.

7:17, 6:53, 7:11

Philly

After the second uphill, I powered through the downhill and settled in through the half, where I saw my boyfriend again and where the half marathon runners would split off. We had our first good dose of the wind in this section right after we turned a corner into a park at the bottom of the second hill. We were largely protected by the city up to this point, and entering the park was a bit of a wakeup call, but short lived. I wasn’t super familiar with the course map, so it didn’t seem too ominous.

I managed to cross the half two seconds ahead of pace, and I was feeling pretty good about that….But I also knew I would have to suck it up and duck into a porta potty soon. My mouth felt really dry in the corral, and I kept sucking down water, even though I kept thinking to myself that I was taking in too much water so close to the start.

6:56, 7:00, 6:59

Official Half: 1:33:28 (7:07 pace for split, 7:08 pace overall)

I started eating my second snack right after the half (I forgot at mile 12). And of course that’s when I see a porta potty up a head, so I chew like mad to finish before I get there. I managed to duck into one and I think it only cost me about 30 seconds. I felt much better as I got on my way…until I turned the corner. Holy hell. There was that wind again, dead on in my face. It was sustained wind around 14-15 mph (or 22-24 kmh), according to Weather Underground.

Wind

I knew this would be a long out and back — with the turnaround at about mile 20 — so this was going to be painful. But I just kept grinding. I tried to draft off of people when I can, but a lot of people were slowing down, and I had trouble finding someone to stick with so I just went forth alone.

7:21, 7:06, 7:04

It was around here — right before a quick one mile jaunt back across the river — that I heard a spectator yell, “Guys! You’re supposed to let her draft off of you, not the other way around!” That’s when I looked over my shoulder and realized that some of the guys I had passed decided to latch on to me and my pace. It was less than ideal, but also a sign that I was keeping a good pace.

Around mile 16, I could also feel myself mentally flagging, which is usually a sign I need more electrolytes, so I decided to take a second Salt Stick…the problem is I had it in old Sports Bean packet (small, resealable, waterproof), and my fingers were so cold and immobile that I struggled for a good few minutes to get it open while in motion.

Then at mile 17 there was the quick trip across the bridge, which offered a nice half mile respite from the wind. I had my third snack at mile 18 and I continued to pass a lot of folks all through here. I saw that the 3:05 pace group was about a minute behind me. The only thing I was thinking was, “Hang on, you just have to make it to 20 and you’ll be done with the wind.”

7:06, 7:15, 7:02, 7:09

Official 30K: 2:13:10 (7:10 pace for split, 7:09 pace overall)

I made it to the turn around and was so happy to have the wind out of my face, as evidenced by a few sub-7 miles. Now, all I could think about was how I needed to just let the wind carry me and just get to mile 24. You can get to mile 24, that’s nothing! I continued to pass people during this stretch, and it was clear I was passing people who had been totally crushed by the wind. I wasn’t feeling particularly lucid at this point, so I can’t tell you much. I was driven more by single-minded determination.

6:53, 6:59, 7:03, 7:02

When I finally made it to mile 24, my next mental trick was to tell myself that I only had about 15 minutes left, and that’s nothing, so I better just suck it up and push on.

I saw my friends again at about 24.5, and that was really helpful. Then I was just counting down until when I’d see my boyfriend at about 25.5. My boyfriend then proceeded to say, “You’ve got this final hill, you’re so close.” And that’s when I realized I was in the middle of one last uphill. F*ck. So I just pushed. The faster you run, the sooner you’ll be done, I told myself, but I was on the pain train.

7:07, 7:02, 2:57 (for 0.43…because GPS error and poor tangents)

Final 12.2k split: 7:02 pace

The Results

Official finish: 3:06:34

460st Overall, 55th Female & 16th in Age-Group

I’m really happy with how this race shook out, especially given the less than ideal wind situation. The effort I put into miles 14-20 I know were far faster than the time on the clock, so that makes me optimistic.

Also, the 3:05 pace team never caught me, and I don’t know how far behind they were at the finish. Seems like a pretty big fail for that pace group, which was pretty sizable when I last saw them after the turnaround at mile 20.

I also got the coolest medal yet for a race. It has the Liberty Bell, and it is an actual bell that rings.

Medal 1

Looking Forward

Now that I have figured out how to run more while staying healthy, I want to try to bump up my mileage in the next training cycle (peaking at 65 mi?). My next race is Boston, which I’m pretty excited about as someone who spent her college years celebrating Marathon Monday on the sidelines. I’m also pretty excited because I think this should get me into Wave 1.

I’ll have to see how the winter goes, but right now, I’d like to target around 3:03. This marathon was key in helping me overcome the mental hurdle that is seeing a 6:XX on my watch during a marathon.

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