For Brian and myself, away races within driving distance are also road trips. This weekend, the trip up was both parts fun and frustrating. When Brian and I go to Philly, we have our traditions - Iron Hill Brewery in Wilmington, DE on the way up, and Santa Fe Restaurant (also in Wilmington) on the way back. Our northbound plans were thwarted though, due to a scheduled beer tasting at the Wilmington Iron Hill that would make it hard to get a table. So we rerouted to...the Iron Hill Brewery in Newark, DE (they're a chain).
Alas, we discovered that the restaurants, though superficially the same in name and menu offerings, were very different otherwise. One has fast service, reasonable prices, large portions (good for pre-race), and is right off of the interstate. The other is....none of those things. So - we learned a good lesson for next time: stick with Wilmington.
That lesson charted, we continued on to Philly and our hotel. This year, I decided we'd try the Marriott Courtyard in the Navy Yard - conveniently two blocks from the finish area. This is my fourth time running the Broad Street 10 Miler, and something like my 20th time staying in a hotel in Philly (I've raced there several times, and also gone up a lot for rock concerts, or for work in my previous law firm life).
Despite all my experience with hotels and Philly and the Broad Street 10, I've yet to find a hotel that's really ideal. If we stay in Center City, then we have to deal with the hassles of a) getting back to the hotel post race and b) getting out of the city post race. If we stay near the finish (as I've done twice), then post-race is relatively easy. But the downside is that there's no restaurants in the Navy Yard, and if you drive somewhere else to eat on Saturday night, you risk not having a parking space at your hotel when you return (we learned that one the hard way a few years back).
The Marriott Courtyard opened about 2 years ago (it's been a few years since I raced Broad Street) and I thought it was worth a try. Mostly due to the location - I'm all about staying at either the start or the finish of a race, if feasible. For Broad Street, there's really not much at the start, so the finish was the best option.
And how was it? I'll give it a mixed review. Location was great. Staff was very nice. Shower had very hot water and nice towels. Mattress was nice. Gym was nice and had foam rollers.
The downsides? They were many. For one, I had been assured that there'd be a microwave in our room for me to make my pre-race breakfast. (don't judge - I get neurotic about pre-race breakfast) Only to show up and learn that there would not be one, assurances or not. We also learned that the "state of the art bistro, offering all-day dining" was not all that in practice. While you could order SOMETHING at any time of day, the menu was very limited.
There were also a few other hiccups - a clattering heat/AC system, extra blankets that came with extra hairballs, and very thin walls between the rooms. The last resulted in a 10:30 pm visit between myself and our 20 something next door neighbors, where I explained to them that I could hear them talking loudly. The fact that they were keeping me awake didn't seem to concern them at all. However, pointing out that I could hear the details of their conversations, including some very private stuff, did concern them, and thus accomplished my desired result. They shut up, and I got a good night's sleep.
So after all of that, how was the race?
Building up to it, everyone except me had been concerned about the weather - 48 degrees and a light to steady rain. For myself, every year I've run this race, it's been too hot for my tastes. 48 degrees and a light rain to kill pollen sounded divine. I knew it had the potential to be miserable at the start, but after Grandma's Marathon I had learned my lesson - I donned two throw-away shirts, plus a cheap CVS poncho. Also, unlike Grandma's, I knew there'd be shelter - since I was taking the subway up, I could hang out there for a while.
As I learned when I got up there, a local church had also thrown open its doors, allowing runners to take shelter in a warm reception area (they were even handing out bottles of water). Very nice.
I did about 2 and a half miles of jogging, including some up tempo running, and then got into my corral. Which corral was a matter of debate - I was a seeded runner this year, which meant that my bib was for the elite corral, at the very front. But, if you placed me in a corral based strictly on time, I really should have started two corrals back. I hemmed and hawed on which one to go with - I have enough manners to stay to the side and out of the way of faster people. But it can also be demoralizing to be continually passed. And I knew from the forecast that we might have a headwind - if so, it would be better to be further back.
On the other hand, I was getting cold, and I really wanted to start the race as quickly as possible, rather than wait a few more minutes (the corrals each were delayed in start by a minute or so). And the headwind didn't seem terribly bad. So I went with the elite corral.
The race started (about 5 minutes late), and the front pack took off like a gun, leaving me and a few others in its wake. Within about 30 seconds, I was a pack of one. I just ignored the others and reminded myself to start slow, finish fast. The first downhill mile felt slow and controlled. Perfect.
And then I started to notice the wind. It was nowhere near as strong as Cherry Blossom, but still a factor. It would gust, sometimes fairly strongly, and then let up. I kept looking for someone to draft behind, but with very little luck. So I just dealt with it.
It was tough though. I don't mind running by myself normally - I actually prefer not to be in a pack for tempos. But...when there's wind, it really does make a difference to have others around you.
At Cherry Blossom, I ended up starting too far back, with people aiming to run 5-15 minutes slower than me. And I remember that for the first few miles of that race, the massive headwind didn't seem much of an issue at all. It wasn't until I pulled further ahead, closer to those that I "should" have started with, that I really started to notice the wind.
In contrast here, though the headwind was nothing like what it was at Cherry Blossom, the fact that I had no one near me to break it made it more of an issue. In fact, I noted the wind lessening considerably as I got further into the race, and had more people from the later corrals joining me.
The lesson I'm taking from my combined experiences in these two races - if headwinds are forecast, it's really not a bad idea to seed yourself back in the pack if gun time is not a concern for you. Any energy you lose from dodging people is more than made up for by the wind shielding purposes.
It was also emotionally tough to be passed constantly. Because I started in the corral in FRONT of the sub-64 minute runners, who were released a minute after me, that meant that by the second mile, I had a steady flow of runners passing me on each side - this continued for most of the race. I'm used to a certain rhythm in my races. For the first bit (1-3 miles), I'm getting passed. Then I'm usually running with the same group. And after the 1/2 way point, people start fading as I start building momentum, and I'm passing from that point forward.
This race was different. Even though I negative split the race slightly (34:01/33:39), I probably passed less than 10 people the whole time, while getting passed by what seemed like several hundred. That's a hard way to experience a longer race.
The bright side is that I'm actually a bit proud of this race for that reason, time be damned. Like a lot of runners, I sometimes get sucked into a bad mental place when I race. And it was extremely tempting to go there today, as tides of faster runners continually streamed past me each mile. It was an incredibly hard hour plus of mental focus, as I ignored what was happening around me and just tried to stay positive and do the best I could. And I did just that. Even if the time wasn't great, I'm really proud of that. It wasn't easy.
My plan was to pick it up more in the second half, but I just didn't have much more to give. My legs were running out of juice, and it took what I had just to stay steady and keep on chugging. My teammates Layth and Lisa, who had started several minutes behind me (and both ran massive PRs) passed me around mile 7 and encouraged me to follow them, but I didn't have enough extra to talk back to them, let alone try to hang. So I let them go, and just kept working at staying relaxed and fluid and fast. I held it together, and when I hit the quarter mile mark to go in the Navy Yard, I tried to kick, but had absolutely nothing. Ah well.
The finishing area was pretty miserable - cold and wet. It was very nice to be a scant two blocks from my hotel. What was even nicer was what awaited me in my hotel room upon my return. Brian's been dealing with some tendonitis, so between that and the weather, we had agreed that he'd probably skip the race finish and stay at the hotel. So... he took the opportunity to play race concierge. As soon as he got the text that I had finished, he turned on the shower as hot as it could go and closed the bathroom door. When I got back to our room, the bathroom was effectively a sauna. Just outside of the bathroom were clean and dry clothes, plus my recovery foods. It was awesome, beyond any description I can give in this blog.
Followed by a Facebook debate on whether I should sober up before writing my race report. [Sorry guys - apparently it takes longer for my fingers to type words than for my liver to process blue curacao - hence this post is written with a headache rather than a buzz]
- Splits were:
- Mile 1: 7:02
- Mile 2: 6:59
- Mile 3: 6:38
- Mile 4: 6:46
- Mile 5: 6:37
- Mile 6-7: 13:30
- Mile 8: 6:43
- Mile 9: 6:40
- Mile 10: 6:46
- Temp 45 and rainy. I liked it.
- Got 6th in my age group. Top 5 got trophies. Bummer. (I have one from a few years back, but I'm greedy)
- Left my hotel at 6:05 to jog up to the AT&T Septa stop. Picked up an express train to the Olney Station, and was there by 6:45. Then camped out in the station for a bit.
- My Philly race issue continues. I have yet to have a truly good race in Philly. Yet every time I've raced in Richmond or Virginia Beach I've PRd. So why do I ever go up to Philly?
- Took two puffs of Dulera for asthma; didn't use rescue inhaler. Breathing was good.
- I am thinking that some of my lack of speed today was also due to last week's unfortunate asthma issues - I was pretty much trashed at the beginning of the week, and even as late as Friday I was still a little lead legged (though I felt good on Saturday's shakeout). When I have a blow-out like that, it takes me a long time to recover, and there's really only so much I can do to accelerate the process. So that's a lesson for next time - be really careful about not running yourself into a hole a week before your goal race (you'd think I'd know that by now).
- Just for the heck of it, I decided to list all the Philly hotels I've stayed at over the years:
- Holiday Inn on Arch St (now closed) - Nine Inch Nails concerts, visits to Shampoo Night Club
- Club Quarters Philadelphia - Broad Street 10 Miler, RNR Philly
- Ritz Carlton Philadelphia- law firm work trips, Nine Inch Nails concerts (and yes, the staff loved it when I walked through the lobby in my concert attire)
- Embassy Suites Center City - Philadelphia Marathon
- Residence Inn City Hall - Broad Street 10 Miler
- Holiday Inn Philadelphia Stadium - Broad Street 10 Miler
- Westin Philadelphia - law firm work
- Philadelphia Marriott Downtown - law firm work
- Marriott Courtyard South Navy Yard - Broad Street 10 Miler