Monday, December 16, 2013

Rocky 50k Fatass Run Race Report - Just the Running

If you told me that I’d ever organize a fatass run just a few months ago, I would say that you’re crazy. Life changed for me when an article was published mapping out Rocky Balboa’s run in his training montage in Rocky II. The story of how I planned the run is for another day; I’m here to write about my experience running with 150+ other crazy runners.

The run started without the hoopla of a normal race, I just told the runners to “Go!” We slowly took off away from Rocky’s and Adrian’s “house” in Rocky II. We made our way through South Philly, passing two ‘famous’ cheesesteak places: Pat’s and Geno’s (tip for non-locals: these aren’t the best cheesesteaks in the city, so avoid the tourist traps that they are). I kept looking around in awe of how many people showed up, many in grey sweats and red sweatbands.
My brother came up for it and ran his longest
run to date, 14 miles!
As we ran through Center City and Kensington (in North Philly), I soaked up amazing conversations with these fellow runners. For many, this was their first ultra. For one, it was his 275th marathon distance race or longer! I enjoyed meeting new people, most from the Philly area, but some from as far as Arizona!

A favorite moment was  running back to South Philly and through the Italian Market, where there were actually flaming barrels! I always thought it was just a prop in the movie, but man, how empowering that was to see! A few miles later, I really needed that strength to keep going.

Flaming barrels! Photo by Loren Thomas
Right around the halfway point my lack of sleep from the days before the run really hit me. I just felt wiped. I was running with a really fun group, so I just forced myself to break the run up into fun segments to check off my list and focus on the fun discussion going on. My legs were feeling tight and I just felt off, but the organizer of the run can’t quit!

The worst of it was around mile 23 when nausea hit me. Our group had separated a bit and I was just with 3 other runners, none of which were talking. I kept thinking about how terribly my stomach was feeling, so I had to spark conversation so that I was distracted. We actually saw my mom around mile 25.5, right by the Art Museum stairs. Sadly, we weren’t finished, so I kissed my mama goodbye and said that we’d see her in a bit!
Attempting to jump/hurdle the benches! Photo by Pete DeCarolis
I had a lot of fun (and pain) the last 5 or so miles of the run. We ran through Center City, even right by my apartment, but the hardest part was that we kept hitting traffic lights! While running wasn’t pain-free, the starting and stopping was hard. The best part was when we got to the benches that Rocky hurdled, though. I was afraid of face planting, so I made an assisted jump.
So happy to be done! I was also super cold. Photo by Jose Magos
As my group of running companions and I finished up the Art Museum steps, I just felt a sense of relief. One, obviously, because I was done and my legs were thankful (50k on city sidewalks is painful). I mostly felt relieved because I aimed to put on a fun run and I had a blast as a runner, as did everyone that I talked to at the finish. People forget sometimes how much fun it can be to just get together with a group of friends and just run for the hell of it. We can get caught up in competition, elaborate races, fees, medals, etc. and forget what we’re even doing to begin with: running. I had a blast making new friends and can’t wait for next year’s run to experience this again, hopefully with even more new friends.

Oh, and while it was unofficial, I did time myself with my Garmin watch and did it in about 5:42 for 31.7 miles. Pretty happy with myself!

Friday, December 6, 2013

Philadelphia Marathon Race Report

This took longer to get written, but life happens.

When I left off in my last blog post, I had just run the Richmond Marathon and my mom, my friend Annie, and me were driving back to Philly. Luckily, we hit very little traffic and it took only about 4.5 hours to get back (this includes our stops for crazy unhealthy foods like fries and Whopper Jrs, but when you BQ like Annie and I did, you eat fast food).

My mom and I dropped off Annie, parked the car, got Vietnamese take out, then finally relaxed on the couch. It wasn't hitting me that I had another marathon the next day as I was trying to stay positive and cheery for my boyfriend, John, who was planning to run his first marathon the next day. To back up a bit, John and I have been dating for 6+ years, most of which he always said running was silly and he didn't get it. Last year, he started talking about possibly running a marathon in 2013. I was skeptical that he'd want to actually do it, but earlier this year, he signed up for a half marathon and the Philly marathon in the same day. Once I found out the Richmond and Philly marathons were the same weekend, I came up with the plan to race the Richmond one and run with John in Philly.

Race morning came upon us and we were up earlier than normal to get to the start. They had added security this year, so I was afraid we'd get stuck in a giant line before the start. There was milder weather than usual this time of year and there was no issue with security, so we were walking around the start for a bit. We met up with our Back on My Feet friends, stretched, and eventually made our way to the start. My mom took some pre-race photos for us and soon enough, we were in the corral to find the 4 hour pacer (John's reach goal was to break 4 hours).
Us before leaving our apartment for the race
We found friends, including Olivia, who also wanted to break 4 hours. The race started and were off! I noticed in the first few miles, the pacer was a bit fast, which kind of got me nervous. We slowly lost them, but we were keeping good pace. My body was sore and I was getting concerned that if John was really going to keep a 4 hour pace, I would struggle myself to keep up.

We made our way through Old City and eventually through Center City, where the crowds were huge. We saw my mom and some of our Back on My Feet friends around mile 5 or 6 and continued west toward West Philly. We hit our first hills and started to get off pace. I told John that he should just focus on continuing to feel good and pace should not be a factor for his first marathon. We eventually came around to the Art Museum and hit the halfway point at 2:04 and change. I realized that we probably wouldn't go sub-4, but I just tried to focus on being a good pacer and supporter to John.
Us about 14 miles into the race. c/o Island Photography
We started the second half, which is a out and back along Kelly Drive and in Manayunk. I could see a bit that John was hurting a wee bit once we got to East Falls and hit mile 17, but I told him that we were pacing great and we only had single digits left! Hurray!

We made our way to Manayunk and that's when things started to fall apart, sadly. Around mile 19, John got his first of many leg cramps. He dealt with them during training, but they had become slightly less of an issue later on in his training. We took our first walk break and I started to panic honestly. We had 7.2 miles left and I was afraid if he kept walking, we'd never get to the finish (okay, we would, but it would have taken forever).

Us about 1/2 a mile from the finish. Thanks, Marisa, for this photo!
This began the tough game we played for the rest of the run. I'd push him and plead with him to try to run, he'd get angry, we'd run a bit, he'd get more cramps, then we'd walk again. I've been lucky enough to never have them when running, so I can't imagine what that's like. He was in a lot of pain, but my job was to keep him moving to the finish. Even having a swig of beer at mile 21 didn't help his mood, sadly.

Each mile took a long time and I hated how hard I had to push him and how much he was in pain, but we had to finish the damn race! If he was truly injured, it'd be a different story, but he was strong enough to push through, I knew it. Each mile took a long time, but we made through together and I made sure we high-fived when we crossed each mile mark (okay, I'm a nerd and had him do this with me at each mile).
Really special moment caught by my mama.
We got to mile 25 and we were sooooo close to finishing! John didn't walk one last bit of the race from then on, although I knew how painful it was. Running up to the Art Museum and finish was so emotional because we were finally finishing and I was about to finish a marathon with the guy I love, which was his first. We saw my mom and his parents at around mile 26 and that gave us the awesome boost to finish together.

Part of the fun we had that day came from what we wore. I have run in costumes the last 7 marathons and was planning on wearing a different costume until a friend suggested we wear our football jerseys. I'm a Washington Redskins fan and John is a Philadelphia Eagles fan. The Eagles hosted the Skins in Philly the afternoon after the race, so when I told John about possibly wearing them, he loved it. We got tons of hilarious comments about how we're an odd couple, how the race would be easier than watching our teams play, and right at the end, a guy yelled to John, "It'll never work out! Dump her!" We laughed a lot. :D
We made the cover of the Philadelphia Inquirer! Can you spot us?
I'm really proud of John for not giving up and not shoving me in the Schulykill river like he wanted to (let's just say I was quite persistent during the race). He's not sure if he'd want to run another one, but if he wants to, I'd happily be there to race with him again. Either way, this day will be a memorable one for me!

Final Times (we tried to cross at the same time, but that clearly didn't work):

John: 4:56:14
Me: 4:56:15