2016 Recap
January 3, 2017

I was noticeably absent from the blog in 2016.  It was an “off” year of sorts for me.  I went through a lot of personal life stuff leading into 2016 and decided to take a new approach to the year. But let nothing be lost, and I figure a little recap is in order. 2017 promises to be a big year, so I plan to update more regularly with those adventures.

January
I started off the first week of the year with major surgery.  With a new 6″ scar across my abdomen, I spent much of that first month on the couch, medicated, and moving at a glacial pace.  For someone who is constantly on the move and fiercely athletic, my new reality was a very difficult adjustment. And although I received some not-great news from my doctor a couple weeks after surgery, I continued to progress with recovery, and began to go for short walks and eventually short swims.

February
I traveled to Mobile, AL to experience the original Mardi Gras in the U.S. with my best friend for her bachelorette celebration. I slowly started to try running again, discovering that trails were easier for me to manage at my slow pace and still gingerly moving body. I returned to work after several weeks off and was immediately immersed in a large project that would last months. I volunteered a race on a bitterly cold day, and attended a Ginger Pub Crawl organized by one of my law school classmates.

March
I began trying to workout more regularly again. I ran a couple trail races to prove I was on my way back to mending, earning 2nd overall in both a 10k and a 12k. I was called for jury duty, but was not picked to serve. And I replaced a water heater and HVAC unit in my house. Nothing makes you feel more adult and broke at the same time as major appliance replacement.

April
My best friend from Mobile got married with a Mardi Gras themed wedding. I joined our local Masters Swimming team. I biked a very frigid organized bike ride with a couple of good friends.  I joined a Ragnar Trail team and raced outside Atlanta. I ran my first trail half marathon.  And I had my first follow up MRIs after my surgery.

May
I ran my longest running event in a 25k trail race that was very difficult. Other than ironman, I have never run a running race longer than a half marathon.
I am fully head over heels in love with trail running.  The woods are where I feel alive and can run forever.  It proves to be very healing for me both mentally and physically. I make a point to start spending quality time with friends and meeting new people and take advantage of my year of fun. I travel to Asheville to visit one of my favorite relay running friends for Memorial Day.

June
I travel to Knoxville to visit my best friend and run another trail race earning 1st in my Age Group, and later the same day completed an open water swim relay race with my friend.  And the next weekend spent the weekend with her and another friend swimming a 2.4mi open water race and training and eating good food.  Nashville starts to really heat up and we are in for a long, very hot summer. I begin running with the Fleet Feet Dirtbags Trail Running Club. The last weekend of the month, I raced the new Chattanooga Waterfront sprint tri, my first tri of the year, and placed 3rd in my Age Group.

July
A very hot month.  I continue to brave the heat with the Dirtbags trail mixer runs, which probably helps keep me running through 100 degree 80+% humidity days.  I spend much of the month immersed in a huge project at work.  I have a few doctor’s appointments and another set of MRIs. I also come down with a cold that leads to a respiratory infection that lasts for weeks and forces me to take it easy on training.  I become obsessed with the Stranger Things show on Netflix and watch it a minimum of three times.  I travel to Knoxville again to go for one last training ride with my best friend, and I sign up for Ironman Vineman (which is later renamed to Ironman Santa Rosa) for 2017.

August
I travel to Boulder, CO with a training buddy to sherpa and spectate my best friend as she completes Ironman Boulder.  I was not as impressed with Boulder or Denver as I expected, it’s very flat and brown and I love trees and green.  But I did get to go see a Colorado Rockies game and check off another baseball stadium.  Work continues to take a priority during the week.  I worked my first race, which was a full 2-day weekend race, and camped.  It was an exhausting, fun learning experience.  I raced Cedars of Lebanon Sprint Tri and placed 2nd in my Age Group. The following weekend, I swam Splashville Open Water Race 2.5k.

September
I traveled to Gulf Shores with friends for Labor Day weekend.  It was so nice to get away and see the beach. I hadn’t been to a beach in a long time.  I had my first really bad fall during a trail run, that turned out to look worse than it was and learned I can successfully “tuck and roll.”  Nashville had a gas shortage and I was thankful for the Adventure Prius.  I traveled down to Chattanooga with my training buddies to volunteer and spectate at Ironman Chattanooga.  It was record breaking heat that day and my heart went out to all the athletes already pushing their bodies to the limit in that kind of race, but also racing a clock and in such heat.  Later that week, I took a midweek personal day and traveled down to Atlanta to see the Braves play at Turner Field during their last week before they move to the new stadium the next year.

October
Started the month out with my third trip to Chattanooga in a week, by racing the Stump Jump 15k.  Couple weeks later, I race the Defeated Creek Trail half marathon that was a total of 2880 ft elevation in 11.75mi and was 5th overall and 1st in Age Group. I had my third set of MRIs.  I hired a new coach for ironman training.  I joined a CSA and continued to revamp my diet and nutrition in hopes of fixing past gut issues and working on overall health and fueling during training.  I traveled to Houston, TX for Halloween and to visit a friend, and flew on a plane with a bald eagle.

November
Following a new presidential election, I began reaching out to old friends and seeking new outlets locally.  Once again I rode as lead cyclist for the Flying Monkey Marathon, something I look forward to every year.  The day after Thanksgiving, I raced the Fiery Gizzard trail half marathon.  It was a brutal course that involved a good bit of traversing rocky faces.

December
I had another birthday.  I traveled to Houston, TX again and got to run along the Buffalo Bayou trail.  I raced the Lookout Mountain 10k Trail Race, my first ever trail race and third time running it.  I finished 2nd in my Age Group in a very foggy race.  I hosted a little NYE get together at my house and enjoyed my last few days of my year of fun.

It has been an interesting year with quite a few highs and lows.  My main focus this year was recovery, enjoying myself and others around me, and trying new experiences.

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Buckhead Border Challenge Triathlon – Race Report
July 17, 2012

I did it!  I finished my first Oly!!  And I gotta say it was a really good race.  I would definitely recommend the Buckhead Border Challenge Tri for beginners or anyone wanting a flat, fast race.

PRE-RACE
About a week before the race, the race director found out that the city would not allow them to close down the bridge for the run portion of the race due to construction traffic because they needed the extra arteries into the city.  The race was prompt about informing us of this last minute change and quickly got a new run course selected, approved, and uploaded to the website.

It poured buckets the day before the race so I didn’t get a chance to run or bike some of the course, but drove as much of it as possible before I went to packet pickup.  They had people from a local multisport shop on site for last minute bike checks and to purchase nutrition.  And they had 2 pre-race meetings so you could learn more about the logistics, race course, and ask any questions.  The swim was self-seeding by time, so you got to pick out your wave and swim cap at packet pickup.  Everything else I needed was in my registration bag.

Passed this on the bike course in Indiana. Really disappointed no Leslie Knope sighting.

About 11:45pm, the night before the race we got several text messages from the race that due to the heavy rains, the bacteria levels in the river were “slightly to moderately higher” than normal.  However the race would proceed as scheduled, but gave anyone the option to switch to the Duathlon if they wanted and had instructions on how to do that at check-in.

RACE DAY
Upon reading my texts about the river after my 3:30am (yes you read that right) wake up call, I sent a couple panicked texts to my Coach.  I hated to bother her at 4am, but I knew she also had a race that morning so she might be up before I had to decide what to do.  I decided I would do the full race.  It was what I trained for and the levels probably weren’t that bad if they weren’t cancelling the swim entirely.  So I made my way down to pack the car and head over to the race at 5am.  There was also a major 3-day music festival going on at the same time, so getting on an elevator with your bike in full tri gear with intoxicated music fest goers who are just coming home is surreal.

I got to the race site and the weather seemed to be looking good, though it was still dark and hard to tell.  Parking was plenty and easy to find and close to the course.  I got body marked and got my timing chip and then went to set up in transition.  First I did a quick ride on the bike to make sure everything was working properly, get a better look at road conditions, and make sure that I was in a low gear for when I first head out after the swim.  Then I set out for a quick 5 minute jog to get warmed up and burn off any nervous energy.  Bonus that this race was sponsored by a restaurant, which meant that they had the bathrooms indoors also open for use!  A real bathroom, with lights, and toilet paper, a toilet that flushes, and had a sink to wash your hands.  So luxurious!!  They also had portapotties and I think everyone else was using those because I had no wait for the indoor toilets.  Lastly, I made sure everything was all set up how I wanted it in transition, and made sure it was USAT legal (i.e., not taking up too much space).  Then I grabbed my throwaway flip flops (thanks Megmo!), my swim cap, ear plugs (yes I’m that person, but I get waterlogged ears easily!), my goggles and a Cliff Shot (mocha flavor for just before the swim), and headed to the big yellow school buses that were shuttling the Olympic swimmers to the Louisville side of the River.

SWIM – 1 mile – 32:56
We had a long delay to the start of the swim because they were waiting for EMS to get set up at the extraction point.  Yeah, I’m fine waiting for that, I’d like medical to be at the end in case I need it!  Then the buoys wouldn’t stay in place and they tried to reset them, but they kept moving and changing the swim course.  Finally they decided to just go ahead and I watched the first 2 swim waves try to figure out where to swim and had mass chaos.  By the time they got to our swim wave, we were directed to just follow the line of kayakers.  I was one of the last people off the dock and into the water and within a few seconds he sounded the horn and we were off.  I was pretty far back in the group and still was met with arms and legs and accidentally grabbing other people.  I just tried to stay afloat and get away from the mass churn of people.  Our wave was one of the largest waves (all us average to slow people!) so it took a while to find a place that I wasn’t completely entangled.  I was a little anaerobic (having trouble breathing regularly) so I side stroked partly to avoid people and to keep my head above water until I could calm my breathing.  Had to flip on my back and kick to adjust my goggles twice.  It might have only been spit in my goggles, but I sure didn’t want bacteria laden river water in my eyes just in case.

After about 200yds or so I knew it was go-time and I had to start swimming freestyle and getting in control of my breathing or I’d never finish this swim with enough gas in the tank for the rest of the race.  With calming thoughts in my head I started doing 2 stroke+breath until it got regular.  I found the heavy rains had made the visibility in the water amazing.  I could see well past my arm and even up the legs of the people in front of me, and the water was a very light green with my goggles on, the best visibility I’ve had in open water so far.  This immensely contributed to calming my nerves.  I got into a rhythm and was able to start catching up with people as the pack had thinned out.  I would ride out someone’s bubbles until I felt like I was going to start swatting at their legs, then I would go around them and find someone else.  This happened for most of the swim.  Find bubbles, ride them out, realize I am going faster, go around and find more bubbles.  Once we got to the other side of the river, we hung a left and just swam along the shore to the finish.  This portion felt like forever!  But I still passed a couple people and unfortunately had quite a bit of time by myself without any bubbles to draft off of.  I got behind one big guy and tried to follow him for a while to save energy for the last 400 meters or so, but some girl kept coming up between us and squeezing me out.  I tried to squeeze back, but eventually got frustrated and sprinted out ahead of both of them.  I knew I was close to the finish and had the energy to spare, so I made sure I sprinted enough ahead so they couldn’t get behind and draft off me either.   Once I could really see the final white buoy I started kicking hard to wake up my legs because I knew had a tough hill to run up to the transition.  I swam until my hands were grabbing sand and stood up.  Turns out it was quick sand mud that last 10-15 feet to the extraction point.  Step down, then sink up to your shin or knee.  A gross, squishy, suction-cup effect.  But they got me out of the water and I started running up the hill.

See the 2 guys on the dock, that’s where we got out of the water. And ran up this hill to transition here.

T1- 2:31
Holy crap a long steep (wet) grassy hill to run up after swimming a mile.  In fact the last super steep part, they put down kitchen mats so you had some kind of traction.  But they had girls at the top with hoses that would spray off the sink hole mud.  Transition was on a nice clean paved parking lot of the sponsoring restaurant.  It was easy to find my rack every time because it was laid out well.  Quickly put on helmet, sunglasses, shoved nutrition in my pockets, rinsed off feet and put on socks and bike shoes, turned on Garmin, grabbed gloves, and did a double check that I had everything I needed and ran to the bike out.

BIKE- 25 miles – 1:22:15 (Garmin showed it was more like 23 miles and other racers confirmed this.)
As I got on the bike I realized I was still holding my gloves…as in I wasn’t wearing them and now had to figure out how to put them on and pedal at the same time.  Oops, but I managed to get one on before the first turn and got the second (without dropping it) after I got to the straightaway portion of the rest of the bike.  Rookie move.  The bike course is crazy flat, but as you would expect in small town Indiana the roads weren’t in the best condition.  So you could go fast, but you had to be very mindful of the road and hazards ahead of you.  There are also 3 separate sets of railroad tracks that you go over, and since this is an out-and-back course with 2 laps for the Oly, you actually cross train tracks 12 times.  I made sure to slow down as I approached them, but they really weren’t bad.  The manholes and pot holes and uneven surface were worse.  Unfortunately the course was littered with people who had gotten flats.  I was terrified I would get one too, but I figure a lot of these people weren’t really watching the course carefully and hit some holes, etc.

Not much to report about the bike course since it was so flat and straight.  Interesting changes of scenery going in and out of industrial areas, residential areas, along the river, and past a ship building company.  Since there were 4 different events (Oly & Sprint tri, Oly & Sprint Du) going on and a loop course, the bike course was pretty crowded and I was always nervous I would inadvertently get a drafting penalty.  Then there were times I was riding along at 20mph and big guys would fly past me.  The bike course wasn’t closed so occasionally we would have cars that didn’t understand what was going on and I heard several riders yelling at them.  Fortunately I didn’t have any run-ins with cars, but there were a TON of USAT motorcyles on the course who would follow me over and over making me nervous and police riding along the course too.  About every 15 minutes I took sips from my water bottle and I took some Cliff Shot blocks on each turnaround.  I think this hydration/nutrition plan worked well for me, especially since I only decided to do that about 15 minutes into the bike!  Hydration and nutrition always slowed me down, because I still haven’t mastered that yet and I’m still nervous about the responsiveness of the tri bike.  But I felt good during the entire bike.  I had my last sip of hydration at about 18 miles and realized my stomach was pretty full and I wasn’t thirsty so I stopped there to keep from getting a sloshy feeling on the run.  Coming into transition was uneventful, but I managed to unclip both feet so I could come off the bike easily.

T2 – 2:05
Racked my bike, removed helmet, and changed shoes.  Clipped my race belt on.  I had already pulled my bandanna off my aero bars and tucked it into my tri shorts while on the last lap of the bike, so I didn’t have to worry about that.  I grabbed my handheld water bottle, and yanked out some of the nutrition from my pockets I wouldn’t need.  I put on my run hat, double-checked I hadn’t forgotten anything, and reset my Garmin as I was running to the Run Out.

RUN – 6.2 miles – 1:00:04 (Garmin and other racers confirmed this was over 6.5 miles.)
The run was along the Ohio River Greenway.  I love running on greenways.  Seriously love it, like a sick obsession love it.  So the change in the run course was a delight for me.  Although I wanted to cross the state border one more time during the race, this potentially offered more shade and less stubborn hills of a bridge to contest with.  Just shy of a mile, there is a “hill” that is terraced (read: EASY) and is very short.  These poor Midwesterners were walking up it and I felt sorry for them.  They better not race in Nashville any time soon.  There were plenty of water stops staged about every mile on the course.  I skipped the first one that was crowded with sprint runners and on the opposite side of the course since I just came off the bike and had a handheld.  At the second water stop, they had water, Gatorade, and cups of ice.  I took some water and dumped it on my head.  I also grabbed a cup of ice and dumped most of the ice in my sports bra* and tried to put some under my hat fairly unsuccessfully.

Not long after the water stop, I felt like I might get a side stitch, and at about 2.5 miles I suddenly realized one of the pieces of ice was skittering across the greenway in front of me.  That’s when I realized I was on the ground.  I fell.  I don’t remember tripping or anything like that.  But I ate it.  Hard.  Skinned the hell out of my right knee, bruised the inside of my left knee, and scraped the hell out of my left hand.  Dammit!  So I got up, assessed my injuries and decided I’d walk for a minute while I took some salt from my handheld.  A guy coming back on the course saw me and asked if I was ok, I said “Yeah, I think I just bruised my ego.”  He laughed and took off.  After I got the salt down and a sip from my handheld I took off running again.

I don’t think I lost much time for the fall and it didn’t hurt to start running again.  But the running made the blood pump more and trickle down my shin.   I was hoping my bloody leg would freak out my competition.  Most people seemed to ignore it.  The rest of the run went well.  Got Gatorade and ice at the water stops and finished off my handheld so I could attach it to my race belt in the back and I wouldn’t have it in my hand for the finish.  I managed to only drink fluids and take salt once during the run and didn’t end up taking or needing any sport beans or other nutrition like I usually do.

Then, with about 1/2 mile to go, my left shoulder started burning and cramping.  I was still doing an ok pace (and thought I was closer to the finish than I was) so I walked a little bit hoping it would let up.  Unfortunately the run was longer than a 10k so I still had a ways to go.  I tried running again and the pain was searing and felt like my left side of my chest was tightening up.  I think it was my PTS flaring up, because it definitely felt like nerve pain.  At about 0.3mi left to the finish (at the true 10K mark when I just wanted to be finished) a guy ran up beside me and I said something encouraging like “Looking good, keep it up,” hoping he’d go on and I could maybe walk again and audibly let out my whimpers from my burning shoulder without embarrassment.  But no, he says back “C’mon! You can’t let an old guy beat you!”  Dammit!  I slowed enough to get a quick check of the age on his calf (you can  never tell with triathletes) and it was 58, not that old, but hell he’s right.  He kept encouraging me every time I started to slow down and really helped bring me in to the finish.  And even picked up the pace and sprinted with me to the finish and shook my hand and congratulated me once we crossed.  Thank you “old guy” whoever you are!

TOTAL FINISH TIME – 2:59:49

Holy crap, I finished about 20-30 minutes faster than I expected!  I attribute a lot of that to the swim course probably being shorter than a mile due to some technical difficulties.  Though I did feel like I was passing a lot of people without much effort.  Also the bike course was super flat, fast, and easy to navigate and was short a couple miles, so that made my time seem faster.  Unfortunately the run was longer and that’s where I took the fall and fought through the shoulder issues.  But all in all I’m really pleased with this race.  I didn’t die (for any number of reasons) on the swim and felt pretty good coming out of the water.  The bike was good, and I fought through the leg burn and managed nutrition fairly well.

After I crossed the finish, retrieved my phone from my car and got my race results receipt, I was finally directed by a volunteer to “medical” which was a golf cart with a bunch of paramedics who seemed somewhat uncomfortable with blood.  But they got me cleaned up with alcohol and bandaids, that promptly fell off.**  I was able to get my stuff from transition and put it in my car because the restaurant needed to open up its parking lot for it’s Sunday brunch crowd.  They had excellent water and Gatorade in frigid ice water tubs at the finish and a huge spread of food at the finish, though it took me at least 45 minutes before I thought I could stomach a bagel or banana.

Post race spoils. Even if it’s cheap crap beer.

PROS:
I felt like there was great volunteer support throughout the race and pretty good spectator support too, especially at the finish line area.  Plenty of fluids along the course (including cups of ice on the run!) and at finish and good post-race food.  I think the race director handled any hiccups very well and quickly got the information out to the racers as soon as possible and kept us updated on any changes.  The immediate race results printed out on a receipt (that included a ticket for a free beer – another perk of a bar/restaurant as a sponsor) were fantastic!  The indoor bathroom access at the start line was a huge bonus!  Transition was laid out really well and not so spread out it took you forever to run to your rack.  The bike course was clearly marked.  The entire race seemed very well organized.  The weather was fantastic; not too hot or humid with lots of cloud cover.  Kentuckiana triathletes are a really friendly bunch.  Everyone was really nice and chatty and seemed pretty laid back which helped put me at ease.  And there was pretty sweet bling at the finish.  I’m a sucker for good swag and bling in a race!

CONS:
I didn’t see any medical at any point other than at the finish line.  I think I may have seen an ambulance drive by on the bike though I don’t know if it was race support, but I never saw any on the run.  It would have been easy to set up at any number of points along the run.  I don’t know if I would have taken advantage of them for my knee because I don’t like losing a lot of time and the bleeding wasn’t out of control, but it would have been nice to know they were there.  I was also frustrated with the distance on the run.  When we were well past the 5k mark on the run and I still couldn’t see the turnaround I was a little annoyed.  There weren’t hardly any photographers.  From the race website, it appears one of the boats must have had a photographer because they have some great shots.  And I saw one photographer on the bike course.  I didn’t see any on the run or at the finish line.  (I’d love to the see the grimace on my face as I crossed and with my bloodied shin). (NOTE the pictures above aren’t from the official race photographer, but from a guy who was on the bike course who posted them on Facebook.)

* I really feel sorry for male racers.  The sports bra is the best invention ever for holding ice and cooling you down.  It’s close to your heart and theoretically can help cool the blood pumping through your body and lower your temperature faster.  And you can dump it in and get rid of the cup quickly.  Plus it makes an awesome percussion sound as you run, and since you can’t wear headphones, it’s like having your own personal jazz drummer tapping on a high hat as you glide along. Tish, tata, tish, tata, tish…

** Note about medical: I did a better job cleaning up my wound when I got back to the hotel and applied some antibiotic ointment.  Given the bacteria levels on the swim and my infection related hospitalization earlier this year, I’m taking extra precautions.  I had some leftover antibiotics I started taking when I got home and I got a new tetanus booster today because I was overdue and we get them free at work.

Philly pt. 1 (the race)
November 27, 2011

For months I’ve been training.  In the heat.  In the rain.  In the dark.  Even in the cold.  All to get myself to the Philadelphia Half Marathon.  With my newly discovered  speed this summer, I realized I might have a chance to PR and run a sub-2:00 half marathon.  That’s running 13.1 miles in less than 2 hours!  I knew I would definitely PR, but there was a good chance I could run faster than I ever imagined my short little legs would take me on Philly’s famously flat fast course.

So, I signed up and since I had never been to Philly before, booked a 5 day trip to see the city as well.  More on that in a later pt. 2 post, but let me just tell you, thank goodness I was running 13 miles that weekend because OMG THE FOOD!!!  I returned only half as fat than I would have if I hadn’t run.  So, stay tuned for that post.

And back to the running.  I hit up the Race Expo the day it opened and wow, it was one of the best expos I’ve seen. Very big, lots of freebies, great companies.  And the swag bag was awesome too. Nice reusable bag, loved the mesh panel, and a whole box of Cliff Crunch Bars, yes I said BOX, not just one bar, but an entire box of 10 bars!

While at the expo, I stopped by the Runner’s World booth and saw they were having a shakeout run with Bart Yasso on Saturday morning.  I wasn’t planning on running any before the race but I couldn’t pass up this opportunity!  So, I got up early and ran with one of my sport’s greats!  How cool is that?! I also got to see some cool parts of the city and the race course, and meet a couple people including some of the editors at Runner’s World, one of my favorite magazines!

Sunday morning: The day of the race.  With a VERY early wake up call for that 7am start time with the starting line a mile from my hotel.  I had laid out my clothes and gear the night before, so getting dressed was easy.  At about 6:15, I started trekking with the masses in the dark towards the race start.  I stood in line for a portapotty for a long time, but as the race was getting started, I just couldn’t wait for the 40 people in front of me to empty their bladders and convinced myself it was just nerves and I didn’t need to go after all.  I  dropped my stuff at gear check and found my corral.  Within a few minutes I was inching my way to the start line and I was off.

I knew that I would be stuck in a crowd for the first mile, so I didn’t stress out too much about my pace for the first mile, trying to take advantage of open pockets when I could.  However, I was able to maintain a decent pace for the first few miles despite the crowds.  I used a pace band from Cliff bars for the first time and that was great, less need to do math in my head and I could just focus on running and breathing.

Although it is very big race, I was able to move away from large packs after a couple miles.  It was only on a couple places where the road is fairly narrow, and the spectators outnumbered the racers was it crowded again.  I even ran into one of the runners I met during the run with Bart Yasso.  He and his wife were both running the marathon.  He seemed to be doing well at that point, I stopped to say hi and wish him luck.

Although Philly is a flat course, I heard rumors about a hill around miles 7-10.  There was a “blip” of a hill at mile 7 over a bridge, but I’m from Tennessee and I hardly noticed it.  Once I hit the true hill at mile 9, I definitely noticed it.  It wasn’t an awful hill, just a little long, but not too steep, but after running 9 miles you’re going to notice any terrain changes.  I made it up the hill without walking (yeah, high five!), and was looking forward to the downhill that was sure to follow.  I think the downhill did me in more than the uphill.  It was a pretty steep downhill, and I usually love to let gravity pull me down and make up some momentum I lost on the uphill.  But this downhill had several sharp turns that forced me to brake my pace and burn up some quads strength and energy.

Usually at some point during mile 11 of a half, I hit a mini-wall.  I walk.  And I keep telling myself this is stupid and I want to go home.  Over. And. Over.  I can’t say I didn’t have some of those thoughts, but I didn’t walk dammit!  In fact for the first time, I hardly walked during the race.  Only a couple paces during a water stop, but that’s it! And then when I see the Mile 12 marker, I know I only have to run 1 mile and surely I can do that, already ran 12. I can run 1 mile in my sleep!

Heading towards the finish, there are about 500 signs warning the full marathoners to go left and half finish is on the right.  Of course this is for the last mile or two.  I appreciated the notice and help in breaking up the crowds of runners so we didn’t cut each other off at the last minute, but it was a little confusing, thinking I was closer to the finish than I was.  But as I saw the back of the Art Museum, and the slight waterfall my friend Bill gave me a heads up to look for, I knew I was close.  I did hate the slight uphill heading towards the last couple tenths of a mile before the finish, but I was so close.

And I did it! I got a new PR and a sub-2:00 Half Marathon!  My final time was 1:57:18.   That’s a PR of 18 minutes!!

We ran through some really great parts of Philly.  Seeing the historical sites,  going through University City, past the Philly Zoo, start and finish by the Art Museum (and the Rocky Statue!).  We had perfect weather, and I was able to run in my favorite shorts and a short sleeve shirt, hi-40s – mid 50s, no rain and partly cloudy blue skies.

PROS
This is a great race that I recommend to anyone wanting to PR.  I think most people I know PR’d or at least had a decent race.  There is plenty of crowd support on the entire course.  There is plenty of interesting things to look at to distract you from the miles you’re putting under those shoes.  Friendly racers, this isn’t a crazy competitive race where people are trying to take each other out.  Plenty of water stops.

CONS
I didn’t see any mile markers until mile 7.  I’m not sure if this is because the course was crowded with spectators and/or racers and I just didn’t see them or there were so few.  I think I only saw about 3-4 total mile markers, thank goodness for my Garmin.  It seemed very random how the water stops were set up.  In some places it was only on the right, some only on the left and some on both sides.  It was a little chaotic when a water stop snuck up on you and you had to quickly dart to one side or dodge other runners in need of hydration.  There were a couple places the race got really crowded, but not so awful I ever had to walk.  I never heard the Rocky Theme.  I had heard you hear it nonstop at the start and finish, but I never heard it.  Oh well, could be worse things to complain about!

And some of my favorite points along the race unrelated to running:

  • Right around mile 1 the Philadelphia Eagle (from the NFL team) was handing out High Fives!  Yeah, I went for it!!
  • Awesome spectator signs:
    “Toenails are Overrated!”
    “WTF! Worst Parade Ever!”
    “Keep Running, Zombies Behind”
    and my favorite: “You’re a better running mate than Sarah Palin!”
  • The hot chicken broth after the finish.  What brilliant soul came up with this?  I don’t eat chicken and don’t really have interest in chicken broth, but OMGITWASSOGOOD!  You finish the race, sweaty, a little chilled and dehydrated…just what you need, something hot, liquid, and full of sodium!  It was made of magic and unicorns!  I think I told the guy handing it out that he was the smartest man ever about 75 times.  I’m pretty sure he was creeped out.