The Dream Star's Corner

Dare to Dream...and DO!
walk. run. fly.

Tuesday, September 18, 2012

Rock 'n' Roll Philly Half Marathon Race Recap

The next day after the triathlon, I traveled to Philly to run in the Rock 'n' Roll Philly Half Marathon. Why? I honestly can't remember if I had a reason for running in this race that was any more purposeful than fulfilling the gluttonous desire to earn this medal.

Earlier in the year, I ran in the Rock 'n' Roll USA Half Marathon in Washington, DC and questioned my sanity the next month for wanting to complete the Titanium Girl Challenge (which included running the Iron Girl Half Marathon and the Frederick Half Marathon within 7 days of one another). Yet, I'm pretty sure that crossing the finish line at Frederick knocked a few more screws loose and before I knew it, I was signed up to complete the Atlantic City Triathlon and the Rock 'n' Roll Philly Half Marathon in the same weekend.

Tri training partner signed up to be a volunteer at this race out of the kindness of her heart (read: to give herself something to do while I ran the race) and with that assignment, we scored some nice VIP parking. But let's back it up...

The alarm clock went off on Sunday morning at 3:45 a.m. We were still in New Jersey and had to pack up the car and drive to the Philly in time for Tri Training Partner to report for duty at 5:30 a.m. Well, I turned off my alarm clock and closed my eyes for 2 minutes *cough 30 minutes* only to see that time raced on and it was now 4:15 A.M.! Ugh... we jumped up and scrambled to get dressed and to get the car packed up without waking our gracious hosts. We were out of the house by 4:50 a.m. and on our way to Philly and actually made it to the parking lot after circling a few times by 5:55 a.m. Tri training partner met up with her volunteer group, and I sat in the car, sleepy and a little hungry. Yep... that's right, I didn't have time to eat a thing.

I went for a walk to try to wake myself up and watched the sun rise over the buildings. It was beautiful!

Good mornin' Philly!
I'm a city girl so I can appreciate every single dynamic and moment that a beautiful historical city has to offer - from the grime, to the noise, to the eclectic mixture of people, to the quiet and still moments in the wee hours of the morning. Awesome.

Anywho, I wandered back to the car and stopped to ask someone waiting in line at a porta-potty what time the race started. I seriously, had no clue. That's what happens when you do upwards of 10 races in a calendar year. lol After hearing 8 a.m. I decided I'd head to the start line around 7:50ish... baaah! I was in no rush.

I went to the car and double checked my new Spibelt to make sure I had everything in place and rummaged through our bags to find the snacks that were given out at the expo. I chowed down on some granola and a Larabar and that seemed to take the edge off. It was a pretty chilly morning and I really wanted to stay bundled up in my long sleeve pull over with the fleece lining but I decided to leave it. Glad I did. By the time I walked to the start line, the sun was up and the jittery folks in the corral were keeping the area pretty warm. I still hadn't decided what I wanted to run...what conservative... and I had no idea if my legs would actually work. I didn't see why not. All summer, I trained for the triathlon and the full marathon by completing a swim-bike-run workout on one day and the long run on the next day so my body was pretty used to it.

After setting up the Garmin, I decided to head down to a corral closer to the one I was supposed to be in and then I waited. I met up with Ashley, the friend that ran with in the DC half marathon and we chatted for a little while. Then the race started... I found that I was pushing a 9:30 min/mi and made myself slow down to a 10:30 min/mi pace.

After mile 3, I found it hard to slow down anymore than that. I wanted to run an 11:15 min/mi...or at least that's what I told myself at the start, but my body wouldn't cooperate. It wanted to just RUN! So I let it, but I still held back a little, telling myself, "I'll let go a little more if you can make it to mile 5... mile 7... mile 9...oh alright, let 'er rip!" I was a little worried because the course seemed to either lay flat or we were going downhill. I was worried about the one thing that usually rings true in EVERY race - what goes down must come up. I was anxious for the massive hill that might be waiting for me at mile 11 or something.

I didn't bother looking at the course map or an elevation chart before the race. My only goal for Philly was to make it there on time...seriously. So I was relying on my wisdom from other races. I took two walk breaks to make sure I got the Gu gel down at mile 4 and mile 9. But other than that, I pushed through and ran a negative split. I tried to pick up the pace toward the very end, but the lay of the road didn't help. It switched from flat to a lopsided decline then flat to a lopsided incline. It wasn't conducive to picking up speed but I tried to maintain a quick cadence. I noticed a lot of people stopping to walk at mile 11 and 12 and found it to be completely odd.

But honestly, back in October of 2011, I remember stopping to walk at mile 11 in the Baltimore Half Marathon - my first half marathon (for time). I remember that being the toughest point of the race. But now that I've run six half marathons in a year and now that I'm in the throes of full marathon training, I have surpassed that mileage threshold. I can run long. I was finally on the other side! I was seeing people lose their determination, their fight! Interesting, to say the least.

I kept plugging along, and at mile 12.5, we had to run up a very short but steep incline. I lowered my head, and dug in and climbed it, passing people who couldn't make it and opted out to just walk it. It wasn't the end and I could see the finish in the distance. I felt amazing! I couldn't believe that I was finishing a half marathon the day after a triathlon in another state and still felt like I could run on for another 5 or 6 miles. So I posed for the camera, holding up my arm in a bicep pose to show off my strength in that moment and smiled! I crossed the finish line, grabbed my medal and my favorite snacks, met up with Tri training partner and headed for the car.

I finished the race in 2:19:37. I ALMOST PR'd and missed it by 2 minutes. I look back on those walk breaks and think that if I ate something that morning, maybe I wouldn't have felt so compelled to stop and walk to make sure I got down every drop of Gu gel. Perhaps there was a chance at a real life changing PR. Dah well... there's always Baltimore.

The course was great! Nice and peaceful winding roads along a river basin. It was a great blend of the more scenic historical streets and monuments and the beautiful natural treasures that Pennsylvania has to offer. Course support was okay. Water and Gatorade all around. But there were points where runners had to pass 3 or 4 tables before getting to a table with Gatorade and water. That's a little scary. Good thing I always bring my own hydration with me. Pretty good crowd support at the start and at the finish but I was a little surprised that there weren't more people out along the course since it's a major city. DC crowd support was WAY better. All in all, it was a good race. Nice and fast course! Great place to PR if you do it right, line up with your proper corral, and bring your own fuel and hydration.

The medal is a nice addition to the rack, for sure.


  1. that's a cool medal....and it sounds like it was a great race! Well done, KJ!!!

    1. Thanks Bill! :) Can't wait until the Double Encore Heavy Medal arrives in the mail!!

  2. I've heard good things about that race - sounds like a very different course from the Philly Marathon/Half marathon.

    Congrats on a great run - especially after your tri!

    1. Thanks so much Michelle! I don't know much about the Philly Marathon/Half Marathon course but I can imagine that it's a lot more challenging than the one mapped out by Competitor.