Wednesday, November 20, 2013

Philly Marathon--Two Marathons, Two Weeks, Too Much?

So you might be wondering, why?  Why would I run two marathons in a span of two weeks?  That is a good question!  One that I was asking myself a lot in the first few days following NYCM.  I laid everything on the line at that race to PR.  And not only that but just two weeks before that I busted my butt at Runner's World to PR in the 10K and half marathon.  That was a lot of fast running for my legs in a short period of time.  I was definitely sore and questioning myself a bit about what I got myself into.  But then by that Wednesday I woke up and my legs weren't sore anymore.  I went on a short run after work and felt pretty good actually.  I did another solo run that week followed by 6 miles with Emir and the kids in the stroller over the weekend. 
Emir and Niko running after our 6 miler on the trail
The week leading up to the marathon I did an easy 4 miler and 3 miler.  Every run felt pretty good leg wise.  My problem actually was a cold, actually all 4 of us had this problem.  There was lots of coughing, sneezing and snots all over this house, ugh.  The weekend between the two marathons was the worst.  No one felt very good which equals kids not sleeping well which equals no one sleeping well.  We all medicated ourselves and by Friday of Philly marathon weekend just minor phlegm issues remained thankfully. 

My NYCM medal and Giant 20th anniversary Philly medal
So back to why Emir and I were running two marathons in two weeks.  We signed up for the Philly Marathon a long time ago after we filled out the survey from last year's race.  They gave us a discount and because it was early registration, the race ended up being fairly inexpensive.  We figured that this would be our fall marathon and of course logistically it is an easy race for us.  Plus this year was the 20th Anniversary so we figured it would be great to run an anniversary race.  We were not disappointed as this year's shirts and medals were awesome!  Running NYCM had never entered our heads until our sister-in-law convinced us to enter the lottery (read my NYCM race report).  Once we found out we had spots in NYCM, we couldn't get a refund or defer Philly so the only answer was to run both races.  And yes you would be correct that even if those options existed, we still would have run both anyway ;-) 

Now here we were Friday of Marathon weekend.  Emir's foot was feeling a lot better thankfully so he was going to give it a go.  One nice thing about Philly is that even if you are signed up for the full, you can just finish at the half and get a half marathon medal, food, etc.  Everyone runs together until right around 13 miles where the halfers turn to finish at the Art Museum and fullers continue on for the second half.  So Emir had that as a back up in case his foot was too painful.  We took the kids to the expo after work on Friday.  Very typical big marathon expo with a couple of features that I think make it a little nicer than some.  Not that we could take advantage but one nice bonus is a variety of lectures/talks on running that are free for anyone to attend.  The second thing that I think is great is the Kid's Zone at the expo.  Not only is there a kids race over the weekend but at the expo there is a whole section for kids.  The have a huge blow-up bouncy thing for kids to play on, face painting, balloon making man and kids crafts, ALL FREE.  Niko and Una had a blast.  After that we went out to dinner, put the kids to bed and we stayed up a bit too late watching Breaking Bad. 

My sister Cindy and I at the expo

Niko and Una


Bib #4676
Of course Niko woke up at 4 with a bad dream.  Then Una woke up a bit before 6.  We managed to get everyone back to sleep but then everyone was up for the day before 7.  We went to the small zoo near us since the Berenstein Bears were going to be there (one of Niko's favorites).  It was a great time but several hours on our feet. 

Then in the afternoon Niko had a birthday party for one of his classmates.  More time on our feet chasing the kids around.  Then we took them to my parent's house, which would have been fine if we could have just dropped them off and left.  However, unfortunately my parents had a wedding.  So we put the kids to bed and had to wait for them to get home.  I went to sleep around 8.  I was sooooooo tired from being up late, running around all day and just still feeling a bit under the weather with congestion.  My parents finally arrived around 11:00.  I got up and we made a beeline for my sister's house in the city.  Cindy was running the half marathon and had invited us to stay over since it is literally a 5 minute walk from her place to the start line.  With road closures and then trying to find parking, it would have been way more difficult to go to the city in the morning.  A block from her house is an amazing parking garage that charges $5 for 24 hours so we took advantage.  By the time we got down there, parked and settled in to sleep it was easily 12:30.  Not great for a 5 AM wakeup :-(  But we are parents first so as I have said before "Life happens but so does running"  So despite an exhausting couple of days, I knew we would give it all we had in the morning.

I woke up at 5 with a headache and feeling EXHAUSTED.  I went to use the bathroom and Cindy's roommate had left us a sign that said "You are awesome, Run Fast"  I couldn't help but smile and start to get out of my "early morning, not feeling it" funk. 
Emir and I started getting ready in the dark as Cindy was still in bed.  My head was feeling worse so I finally asked her if she had something.  She did, however I had to dig through her purse for some loose pills.  I found a couple different types.  Cindy sorted through them and gave me what "she thought was Tylenol".  I crossed my fingers and down they went.  We made coffee and bagels.  We had to drink our coffee with just some milk as apparently there was no sugar in the house. Around 6:15 we left for the start line.  There were tons of runners making their way as well.  It's a great sight.  Still slightly dark, runners coming from all directions, exuding energy, converging on the start area.  I just love it!  It only takes probably 6-7 minutes to walk to the start, after about 5 minutes, Emir realized he forgot his "nipple covers" (his little circle band aids to prevent nipple bleeding).  He said he had to go back.  We started walking back with him but then he said that he could just go on his own and meet us at the start.  Cindy and I continued on.  Security was very easy, no lines.  I saw a couple people I knew, always fun then I realized I definitely needed to go #1 & #2 before this race starts.  It was a little after 6:30 so Cindy and I hopped in line for a porta-potty.  The line ended up moving slower than I had thought.  I knew we didn't have to be in our corral AT 7 because the wheeled people go first followed by elites followed by two corrals before ours.  After a little difficulty Emir found us.  There may have been a minor disagreement about what we "should have done" as apparently there were other pottys that were less crowded.  Anyway then we realized there was no one in line at a nearby potty so we ran over and did our business. 

I work for MossRehab as an acute care PT at Einstein Hospital in Phlly

Perfect Motto for my 2nd marathon in 2 weeks" Challege Accepted!"

We then jogged for the corrals.  The first one we hit was black which is the first one after the elites who had already started.  There was a huge opening to get in so we just hopped right in there.  Literally a minute later they started us.  Let me tell you despite Emir's initial "disagreement" with us about waiting in line too long, that was the best timed pottying I've ever done for a race to date!  I didn't feel like I had to pee at all until the last few miles.  They had announced that Mayor Nutter was on the right giving out high fives so I stayed over to that side on purpose.  I am NOT into politics whatsoever so I have no idea if I agree with the Mayor's policies etc but what I DO know is that he comes out every year for the whole Marathon weekend, Broad Street Run and Susan G. Komen race for the cure to encourage everyone and give out high fives.  And those are just the events I know of.  For such a large city, I think it's pretty awesome and I give him a lot of credit for that.  Anyway I stayed to the right got my high five from Mayor Nutter and off we went!

Sisters waiting for the potty
Emir and I had signed up for the 4 hour pace group a long time ago.  Since we had hopped up a couple corrals, we were starting at least a few minutes ahead of that 4:00 group.  At the expo we had grabbed the 4:00 pace bracelets so luckily we had decided to wear those.  I knew Emir really wanted to do 4:00 since he felt that his foot was feeling better.  I was encouraging him however I knew with having a foot injury for over a month now, even if it wasn't hurting too bad during this race, it had taken a toll.  Even when you start feeling better it takes time to get back to your "healthy" self and pace.  But you never know in the race with adrenaline and all the people cheering, he could do it.  I on the other hand, I really had mixed feelings over the two weeks in between NYC and Philly.  The first couple days were "How am I going to run another marathon in two weeks?!?!"  Then it was "Ok I can do this, I will be able to finish"  Then finally a few days before the race "Hmmm legs are feeling pretty good on these short runs...."  But even though my legs felt good on those runs, they were just short runs.  I had no idea what my legs would feel like over the course of a 2nd 26.2 in the span of 14 days, this was a first for me.  I was having battles in my brain the days leading up to the race "you'll be able to go fast the whole time, no problem" vs "your legs are going to be hurting the second half!"  obviously as for any normal person the thought of doing another PR crossed my mind but I knew that was a far reach.  But still it would be pretty sweet, right?  ;-)  So anyway I had no idea what to expect as we started off on our 26.2 through our city. 

All 3 of us started off together.  Cindy started pulling away pretty quickly.  I knew her goal for the half was 1:55 so I let her go.  I really didn't want to go that fast for my first half.  Emir and I were together through the first 3 miles.  I was just going a nice, steady pace that didn't feel too strenuous.  I kept finding that Emir was lagging a bit even though I didn't feel that I was going too fast.  He informed me otherwise :-o  He said he just wanted to hover around 9:00/mile pace until the halfway point and that I was not doing that.  As always our agreement is not to get mad if one person wants to go ahead so that's what I did.  I really enjoyed the first half.  I love how it takes us through Old City, down South Street to South Philly, down Chestnut Street, by the Zoo and then the Please Touch Museum.  There was people out cheering throughout the different parts and I saw some great signs too.  I felt like I was cruising that first half even up the mile 9 hill.  I had set my watch to elapsed time since I know pace is usually off due to my watch having a bit more distance than the mile markers of the race.  I also did this because I had worn that 4:00 pace band.  Since overall I was feeling descent and not having too much trouble with the pace, I would check my elapsed time at each mile marker and compare it to the pace band.  By 13.1, I was at 1:58 and on pace for overall 3:56 IF I could even split which still was a big question mark in my mind. 

Unlike last year I didn't mind the few turnaround points or the out and back nature of the second half.  I also didn't mind seeing the half marathon finishers as I headed out to my second half.  Maybe this being my 5th marathon of the year, I'm more conditioned to have no desire to stop until I reach that 26.2 finish?  Who knows!  The turnarounds this year I actually really liked since Emir was behind me somewhere.  So there was 3 or 4 different times that I was able to pass him as he was going by and give each other a reassuring smile.  I was also so grateful that I could check on the status of his foot and make sure he was ok and just to KNOW that he hadn't stopped at the half. 

Right before the finish
So I headed out for my second half.  Somewhere between mile 14 and 15 I had a bit of a coughing fit, I guess brought on by my phlegm issues.  Next thing I knew I had this awful side cramp.  It hurt SO BAD!  I massaged my side, took deep breaths, drank some fluids.  Eventually it did subside but took at least 2 miles.  One positive thing was that it took my mind off my legs and how I could feel them starting to fatigue.  By this time we were at the Falls Bridge.  The course goes over the bridge down MLK drive for a short distance and then we turn around and go back over the bridge.  Slightly annoying but I know they have to get the distance in.  Going back to the bridge is slightly uphill which at this point was really tough on my legs.  Next the course heads in to Manyunk which really is the PARTY of the race however anyone that knows Philly at all knows Manyunk is a hilly place.  Luckily Main Street is probably the least hilly spot of Manyunk however it's enough on tired legs during miles 18-21 to really kill a person's momentum.  This is precisely what happened to me.  It was hard to enjoy my beer and the craziness of the crowd on this stretch when I was really feeling like I was going to die.  My legs all the sudden just felt like lead.  I knew my pace was slowing significantly and no matter what I did, I could not go faster.  By the time I left Manyunk despite my GREAT appreciation for the beer and the fantastic crowds, I have to admit I was feeling down.  I knew going in to this race that it was more than likely that I would not be able to do some amazing time given I just busted a gut two weeks ago.  However being on pace through 30K to sub 4 felt great to me.  I had gotten in my head during the first half that sub 4 would be my goal and how awesome to do 2 races in 2 weeks sub4?!  But as I exited Manyunk I was hovering very close to the cutoff to make it under 4:00 and I just knew based on how I was feeling that it wasn't going to happen.  After sulking to myself for probably 1/2 mile to a mile, I was like "ok focus!  you are still doing something great here!  This is your first time RACING two marathons so close together.  That itself is amazing.  Now get it together and finish this thing!"  I'm not going to lie the last 6 miles were HELL!!!  My legs just kept getting heavier and heavier.  I just felt so spent like I had nothing left in the tank.  However I had perked up my spirits and enjoyed the people encouraging us along that ending stretch of Kelly Drive.  I love that Philly puts your name on your bib.  It was so nice to hear people cheering my name and telling me that I had this thing.  With names on the bibs, spectators are way more apt to cheer for people they don't know.  It's really an awesome feeling to hear your name about a thousand times throughout the course of the marathon when really I only saw maybe 2 or 3 people that I actually knew.  I sped up as much as I could a few times but it would only last a minute or two.  I literally would start to feel like I was going to just collapse.  As much as I wanted to go faster, I just couldn't.  The weather was not helping me at this point either.  At the start it was overcast and probably low-mid 50s, perfect.  At this point it had really warmed up and now the sun was beaming on me, ugh.  I had rolled my arm sleeves down but didn't help too much.  The last two miles felt so long and that I literally thought they must have taken me at least 20 something minutes.  I had stopped looking at my watch the last few miles because of how I felt and just wanted to enjoy (well survive) my last few miles.  I really thought my watch was going to say at least 4:05 when I saw the finish line.  As I crossed I looked down to hit the stop button and it said 4:01.  At the time I wasn't sure if I was happy that it was not 4:05 or that I was disappointed that I was close to going sub 4 but just couldn't pull it off. 

Challenge Completed!
After I finished I received my medal, got water and food in less than 5 minutes, YES!  And I was allowed to hang around and wait for Emir to finish.  I chugged 2 full bottles of water in like 2 seconds.  I don't know how I could possibly have been so thirsty.  I drank my whole hydration pack of Tailwind and stopped at numerous water stations.  Maybe running 2 races so close together, my body requirements were much higher than usual?  I did also take 2 gels during the race as I felt hungry a couple times.  I guess something to think about for next time I run 2 marathons in 2 weeks ;-)  I will have to consult our friend Jenny at Tailwind!  Just FYI not only do they sell an awesome product but they are very knowledgeable and always more than happy to help plan fueling for a race.

Emir finished at 4:16.  I know he was and still is disappointed but really I'm so proud of him.  He has many reasons in his head about why he's doubting whether he should run road marathons or not (which I'll let him describe if he wants).  But really he has had a nasty foot injury since mid October.  There was a couple weeks where it hurt him just to stand around for a bit, not walking, not running.  He persevered, rested it and treated it with various remedies.  He gave it his all both in NYC and Philly.  I think it's pretty damn amazing for someone who's marathon PR is 4:07 to run 4:26 and 4:16 in a 2 week span dealing with an injury.  I really hope he will try a road marathon again, I just know he will get his sub 4!

Overall I'm feeling pretty proud of all of us.  Cindy smashed her goal with 1:52.  I've already told you why I'm proud of my husband.  And myself despite my few moments of despair, I have a lot to be proud of.  If it was so easy to PR every race then there would be no challenge and no reason to keep working so hard and it wouldn't be nearly as much fun.  The ups and downs are what keep it interesting.  I've had a great fall.  I had fun and enjoyed every single race we ran, Blues Cruise 50k, Runner's World Half and Festival, NYCM and Philly Marathon.  I set PRs in 10K, half marathon, marathon and 50K.  And now I have a new goal, run 2 marathons in 2 weeks and sub 4 in both ;-)  So I guess I'll just have to do this again! 

I will have to find a different race though since I'm committed to not running NYCM again but would run Philly every year in a heart beat.  I love my city and I love this race (and not just because it is in my city although being less than half of what NYCM costs helps!).  Everything was well organized and runner oriented.  The volunteers knew what was going on and super friendly and wonderful at the aide stations.  If you were a runner, it was easy to get in to the start area and out of the finish area and it was no problem to have a hydration pack.  Unlike in NYC we were back at my sister's house before noon.  I love that even though there are over 30,000 people between the half and the full, everyone is able to start within the first 30 minutes of the race no one has to sit around waiting for hours.  I didn't check a bag myself this year but at the finish I saw the UPS trucks and people were able to easily walk up and get their bag within 2 minutes.  So many people had talked up NYCM to us about how you have never seen anything like it.  So many people, so much cheering, such a fun course that Philly doesn't even compare.  Last year was our first time running Philly and like I had said I did have some residual negative feelings about the 2nd half of the course.  I also was thinking hmmm maybe people are right, I can't remember exactly how Philly was at this point so maybe I just thought it was pretty good since I didn't really have much to compare to.  Now having done the two races so close together, in all honesty, Philly is freakin awesome!  People are out (definitely less than NYC but there are less people that live in Philly!), they are enthusiastic, energized, tons of great signs, people shouting your name, handing you beer, fruit, water.  Despite the out and back nature of the second half, I still think it's a fantastic course showcasing our beautiful city and it's diversity.  Nothing against NYC, it was a great race too (nice course, great crowds) even despite the waiting game in the beginning and an hour walk to the exit at the end.  I will always be glad that I was lucky enough to experience the NYCM.  But I'm still left wondering, why is NYC considered the best marathon?  What exactly is it that makes it SO much better than other races? 
My forever bad toe

Never ending battle with chafage!
Also found more chafage later on my low back

So what's up next?  Why it's the Rocky Run 50K!  It's taking place on Dec 7th and being put on by our #ultrachat pal Rebecca.  We will be following the footsteps of Rocky himself around Philly.  This of course is a Fatass style run so we won't be racing just running all in good fun ;-)  So if you are in the Philly area come join us!! I also am testing 3 new pairs of shoes that will be coming out in the Spring so you can look forward to my reviews of them coming soon!!!!