Monday, November 21, 2011

Philadelphia Marathon Race Report

I felt like I had been waiting for this weekend, and race, for a long time!  After a last taper week filled with lots of resting and very little running, by Saturday morning I was ready to go.  Beth and I left around 9 and after a few detours and poor navigation on my part, we made it to the expo and met up with lots of fun people.  I was able to pick up my bib and (giant) race shirt quickly (dear race directors - offer XS or women's sizing please) and switch corrals easily.  We wandered around the expo for a bit, but no one was super impressed.  Afterwards we went our separate ways and I headed over to my friend Katie's apartment.  She was running her first marathon and conveniently lives just a few blocks from the start!

I didn't sleep all that well, but when the alarm went off on Sunday morning I was excited to finally run the race.  Fortunately I had no problems meeting up with Katie, Thom, Beth and Jon, and after checking our bags and hitting up the porta potties, we split up and Thom and I headed into the green corral, while Katie and Beth headed up to black to start the half marathon of awesomeness.  We got into the corral just a few minutes before 7:00, so we didn't have too long to wait before our wave walked up to the start.  Then, finally we were off!

Miles 1-3: 9:44, 9:29, 9:12
My plan for this race was to run the first 5 miles around 9:30 pace and then work on picking it up from there.  Thom and I focused on staying relaxed at the beginning and letting everyone around us take off.  I decided to carry a disposable water bottle so I could avoid the crowds at the early water stations and just toss it when I had emptied it.  I wanted to make sure that I drank enough in the first half and the disposable bottle ended up being a great decision.  Our third mile was a bit quick, but it did include a long downhill so I tried not to worry about it.

Miles 4-7: 9:18, 9:18, 9:14, 9:07
I knew the one thing that I didn't want to do was pick up the pace too much early, so I tried to make sure I was running comfortably and not pushing the pace.  Around mile 5 we turned onto Chestnut Street where the crowds started picking up and the support was great.  There was a bit of an incline, but I didn't feel like it was affecting me.  We hit the 10k at 58:02, which was a little faster than planned, but not by much.  In the first mile or two Thom and I discussed breaking the first 20 miles into 5 mile pace segments of 9:30, 9:15, 9:00 and 8:45.  We wanted to hit 20 miles around 3 hours (9 minute mile pace).  These miles were a bit ahead of that, but not by much.

Miles 8-10: 9:21, 9:34, 9:23
This section contained the bulk of the hills found on the course.  I knew that they were coming, but they were definitely bigger than I had expected (in particular the largest one right after mile 9).  The downhills were particularly steep, which I think took a toll on my quads that would come back to haunt me in the later miles.  I tried not to worry too much about pace in this section and just worked on staying controlled and steady.

Miles 11-13: 9:01, 8:45, 8:45
The steepest downhill on the course came after the 10 mile marker and took us back down to the river.  I was glad to know that the rest of the course was pretty flat.  Since Thom and I had discussed being right around 9:00 pace for miles 11-15, I conciously tried to pick up the pace once we were back on flat road.  Before the race I was concerned about getting too focused on my watch, so I avoided paying too much attention in this stretch. I just tried to increase my effort level a bit.  Unfortunately, somewhere around mile 12 Thom told me he needed to back off the pace a bit and we separated.  I had hoped that we would be able to stick together longer, but we each needed to run our own race so I forged ahead.  I figured I might see a number of people I knew around mile 13 so I had that to look forward to in this stretch.  Somehow I missed my friends, but did see George and managed to give him a thumbs up as I went by.  The race splits say I hit halfway at 2:00:08, but the timing mat was actually at the 13 mile marker, not 13.1.  So I imagine I actually hit halfway right at or under 2:01.  It's not that crucial, but it matters to me that I actually ran more or less even (or possibly slightly negative) splits.

Miles 14-17: 8:54, 8:40, 8:50
This was probably my favorite part of the race.  I had just gone through the half right on pace to break 4 hours and I was feeling so strong.  The course was heading out Kelly Drive which was pretty flat and the views were nice.  It reminded me of running on Hains Point, which I love.  My goal in this section was to just get to the turnaround point (right before mile 20) because then all I would have to do was run back.

Miles 18-20: 9:00, 9:08, 9:06
It was around mile 18 that things started to get painful.  Both of my quads started to hurt and I can only guess that the hills (and steep downhills) in miles 9-10 had really taken their toll.  Still, I was able to more or less maintain my pace so I figured I had no reason to be concerned.  I realized that I might not be able to hammer home the last 10k like I had hoped, but I knew that if I could hold pace, I would still be able to meet my sub 4:00 goal.  One of my friends was going to be somewhere in Manayunk and the thought of seeing her kept me going.  She ended up being right by mile 20 and I saw her on the way out to the turnaround and when I came back.

Miles 21-22: 8:49, 9:05
I had decided before the race that I would put in my music after mile 20.  When Thom and I split up earlier than planned, I thought about starting it earlier, but I'm glad I waited.  As you can see from my mile 21 time, initially it really helped me pick up the pace.  Coming out of Manayunk I was really starting to hurt.  I just kept telling myself that I had come to far to give up and to just keeping pushing and holding the same pace.  I knew that the last stretch was going to be really tough.

Miles 23-26.2: 9:30, 9:46, 10:11, 11:28 (for 1.2)
Mile 23 is where I really hit the wall.  I could feel myself slowing but there was nothing I could do about it.  I wanted to cry and I wanted to walk, but I knew I would never forgive myself for walking when I still had a shot at sub 4.  I only had my watch displaying my current lap pace, distance in that lap and overall average pace.  I knew that I was about 6 minutes behind the race clocks, so I had a general idea of my overall time, but I had avoided focusing on it during the race.  I could tell though as I passed miles 23 and 24 that my shot at 3:59 was slowly slipping away.  At mile 23 I calculated that I had roughly 30 minutes for the last 3.2.  Normally that would be reasonable, but I was slowing and didn't have the energy to pick up the pace.  When I passed the 25 mile marker I switched my Garmin display to show my overall time.  I was at 3:50.  I knew that realistically there was no way I was running the final 1.2 miles in 10 minutes.  But I knew I had to try to get as close as I could.  Beth jumped in with me somewhere right before mile 26 (I never saw the marker) and I was so angry and tired that I couldn't say anything.  I just needed to be done.

Since my Garmin distance had been off on most of the miles (and I missed the 26 sign), I couldn't be positive how much I had left until I could finally see the finish line.  Then I really tried to sprint in to the finish, though my legs really didn't have much kick left in them.

Final Time - 4:01:23

A 39 minute PR and I could not be more thrilled!  Yes, it would have been nice to break 4 hours but this race showed me that I have it in me and I have no doubt that I will get there next time.  I ran the smart race that I wanted to run and left it all out there on the course.  To be honest, while I knew that I should be able to run sub 4, I wasn't totally confident that I wouldn't run the first half on pace and then blow up in the second half.  I've never run close to that fast for that long.  I knew that I needed to trust the training and run and I'm so happy that I was able to do just that and not let my brain get in the way.

In some ways it still feels a bit surreal.  As recently as a few months ago this was not a time I thought I would ever get to and now I know that I can go even faster.  I can't wait for the next one!


Beth said...

CONGRATS!!! You ran such a perfect race. Everyone slows down a bit at the end (uh, 26 miles is FAR!!), but you were still running well and moving at quite a clip for that last half mile.

I also LOVE that you are chomping at the bit for that next, WAY sub 4:00 marathon. It is totally within your reach. But... lets celebrate this HUGE PR first. Margaritas!!

Teamarcia said...

Congrats on a huge PR! Those last miles of a marathon are tough. Way to hang in there!

ImTheMarigold said...

HUGE PR! Way to go! I just did my first full, MCM, a few weeks ago and want to blow the next one out of the water just like you. Well done!

Liz said...

Congratulations!! You executed a perfect race plan. Even if it seemed like you were slowing at the end, those are still very fast for the last few miles of a marathon. Great job girl!!

Victoria (The District Chocoholic) said...

Obviously you are awesome and your race was awesome. And way to resist the urge to walk - I saw so many people walking near the end at Richmond and was tempted and was like NO YOU DON'T GIVE UP. And neither do YOU because you are AWESOME. Way to go!

Victoria (The District Chocoholic) said...

P.S. Why no mention of Pink Pony Pants

J said...

Congrats! Awesome job and awesome PR! You totally rocked that race! Definitely a strong and steady race!

MJ said...

That is amazing! A phenomenal PR! (and kudos on your perspective with respect to your time goal) I just found your blog. You give me hope for myself. Now I have to go back and read about your training. :)

Jon said...

Way to go Allison! It was great seeing you again and even more awesome seeing you SHATTER your marathon PR! 39 mins? Holy crap!!!

It has been fun following you for the last 15-16 weeks seeing you build up the huge mileage and watch your paces drop so much. Can't remember which week it was, but suddenly you wrote some report that just screamed, "I am going to wreck my PR by a LOT"....and you did!

Congrats again Allison!

Jess said...

Congrats Allison!!! You totally kicked butt. Way to execute your plan and run a strong race. Hope you're enjoying some nice rest today!

Jess said...

Congrats Allison!!! You totally kicked butt. Way to execute your plan and run a strong race. Hope you're enjoying some nice rest today!

Heather said...

Congratulations, Allison! What an awesome race and PR milestone! :)

Anonymous said...

Super Congatulations on your race!!!! You ran awesome!!! It was fun tracking you live and having George call with your splits!

YAY!!! Is Richmond the next one?

thom ingram said...

You are my hero. Thank you, thank you.

Anonymous said...

Congrats on an awesome PR! I ran the Half and had a great time on the course!! And yes, I agree my size "Small" shirt is enormous!!

Morgan said...

Well done chica!!!!!!!!! So proud of you!!!!!!!!!!!!! :) :) :)

Sarah said...

You killed your old PR!!! Great job on what sounded like a great race. I love the last line in your post: "I can't wait for the next one!"

LAPT said...

A 39 minute PR means that you not only trained smarter, you were also mentally ready for the difficult patches. I'm so proud of you for pushing through and doing such a great job!!

Anonymous said...

I'm all smiles over this post. You ran a fantastic race -- the PR *and* the execution were huge wins :)

You are definitely taking that 4:00 mark down at the next one!

amy said...

This was the day you needed to have! It totally gets you over that hump and ready to completely smash the next one to pieces (again). Congrats!

Katie said...

I'm so glad that I was there for this. You were ridiculously focused when we saw you at the end and I knew that it was taking every ounce you had, but I was SO HAPPY for you!!! And still am. Congratulations!!

Elizabeth said...

I tracked you online and was soooo excited. You ran this race perfectly! I once read a book on marathoning that said the second half of the race should be about 2 minutes slower than the first half because that means you gave it all you had-- so much so that you had to slow down at the very end. George disagrees about this approach and would argue that if you go out very conservatively, you will run faster without having to slow. But there are different schools of thought on this, and according to that book, your race was absolutely perfectly paced and executed. Anyway, I KNEW you would nail this one-- your training has been rock solid. I am so glad you set high goals for yourself! CONGRATS!!!!!

AKA Darkwave, AKA Anarcha, AKA Cris. said...

Rock on. That's all. Rock on.

(I can't wait to have you back out there on the track with us, so we can see what you do next)

B.o.B. said...

congrats on the PR!!!