Tuesday, April 22, 2008

2008 Penn Relays Distance Classic 20k Report

Pictured above: (1) The marker, outside of Franklin Field, noting the historical significance of the Penn Relays. (2) The finish line of the 20k race (and races for the Penn Relays) (3) On the left of the picture, is where the runners entered the stadium and ran the 3/4 lap to the finish (click on the pictures to enlarge)

With the training I did over the winter and the disappointment of not getting into the Boston marathon, I needed a 'carrot' to carry me through April. The 2008 Penn Relays Distance Classic 20k became my Boston.
I previously have given you some information about what a truly classic event the Penn Relays are. The 20k race is the start of the Relays and is open to the public. When I did some searching for past finishers and how I might do against them, I was surprised by the modest turnout.
Franklin Field, at the University of Pennsylvania, is about an hour's drive from my house. I got there in plenty of time and did a few laps around the track for a warm up. The race started at 7:30a, goes through West Philadelphia for a mile and is mostly run on the MLK Drive next to the Schuykill River. In truth, most of Philadelphia's big runs use this drive. The course is an out and back with the finish inside Franklin Field.
The day started very cool. I wore a short sleeve shirt when most were wearing a longer sleeve or even a sweatshirt. But, the temps were suppose to climb into the mid-60s by mid-morning so I just needed to keep warm until the start.
As in seemed to be in the past, there wasn't a large number of runners for this race. I've seen bigger crowds at the Bucks 5k series. I'm not sure why. Early morning? Who does a 20k anyway? Don't know. But, I knew I was going to be running alone for most of the race.
As the gun went off and we headed toward MLK Drive, I noticed that my right hip was bothering me. Usually, I can shake this type of pain out but it was still with me after the first mile. Then, after the second mile, my right knee started bothering me. Again, it didn't go away. My breathing was a bit labored and just couldn't get into a comfortable rhythm. Still, I did the first 10k in 54 minutes.
(Pictured below are some shots I took during the race. The first picture was about 1/4 mile into the race. The second picture was starting to head towards the Art Museum area and MLK Drive. And, the third picture was a scenic shot of Philadelphia that I took while running the race. I thought it came out well.)

At about 7/8 miles, the sun popped out with little shade on the course. There were water stations along the way, and, in most cases, I have trouble drinking straight water while on the course (it gets my stomach upset). I had to drink something because I started to feel dehydrated. So, I took a few sips.
Up to this point, I was running around an 8:50/mile pace. But, by mile 9, I was toast. My legs were heavy. My hip and knees were still hurting. The sun was hitting me. And, I started to walk in some spots. My pace was nearing 9:30/mile. This wasn't the day I had planned.
Still, it was a thrill to enter Franklin Field. I just imagined 60,000 people cheering me on. In reality, there were a few in the stands but they did make me feel I was winning the race.
As I rounded the last turn and headed down the stretch, I had a big smile on my face. (I tried to take a picture of my view of the finish line but I aimed too high. :-) Oh, well.) Despite the pain I was in, I was finishing my Boston, my Penn Relays, my race. I crossed the line at 1:52:37, about a 9:03/mile pace. If it was a half marathon, it would, most likely, have been a sub-2 hour. And, when I finished and walking around, I wasn't necessarily out of breath but my lower half of my body was aching.
So, I don't know what to make of this race. I guess the fact that I did reasonably well and didn't give up should be satisfying enough.
(Note: Congratulations to my friend Steve, on a 4:44 Boston marathon time. Steve was exhausted at the end and in the last few miles had the right attitude finishing the race. He said to me, 'It's Boston! I'm just going to enjoy every moment I'm out here')

Wednesday, April 16, 2008

Darn, darn, darn...

This past Sunday, I particapated in the second race of the 2008 Panera Bread Bucks 5k series, the New Hope-Solebury 'Spirit Run' 5k. Not having run in the past week and a half, I wasn't sure how I was going to do. It was a beautiful day for a race--cool temperatures with cloud cover. If you ask 10 people what to wear that day, you would have gotten 10 different answers.

The race also featured a team event. There is always last minute scrambling involved in this as you don't know exactly who is going to be showing up that day. But, with one minute to spare before entries were due, Team Blue Dawgs was formed and was an official entry.

When the race started, I had a lot more energy that I imagined. (I also started my watch a little late as I didn't know exactly where the start line was). The first mile is mostly downhill from New Hope-Solebury High School down into the town of New Hope. My first mile was around 7:30/mile pace.

The second mile goes through the town of New Hope and starts to climb up to a beautiful country lane that is part Mechanic Street/part Stoney Hill Road. It is not a terrible climb to get to Mechanic Street but will slow you down. At the two mile mark, the timekeeper called out 15:45.

Now, my PR for a 5k is 24:43. In the back of my mind, I calculated I needed to do the next 1.1 miles in a little less in 9 minutes in order to PR! Not a course PR! A 5k PR! The fastest I ever ran this course was 25:18. And, I knew what was coming up. And, it's not pretty (well, it actually is pretty if you are walking, biking, jogging. If you are racing, it's not pretty). For the most part, there are a series of hills you need to climb for that last mile. And, mentally, I knew these hills can whip me.

After climbing the 'big' hill on Old York Road, you start the last 1/4 mile again going uphill on Route 179 and then around a corner, back into the NHS High School parking lot for the last 100 yards. Going up Old York Road always, always makes me feel I am about to lose my breakfast. At that point, you just want to finish. But, as I rounded the corner for the final 100 yards, I noticed that I could finish under 25:00. So, I made a mad dash and finished officially at 24:56. My watch said 24:48 but, as I stated, I was late starting it, so I estimated I did 24:53, just 10 seconds off my PR. (So, so close)

(BTW, you can watch parts of the race on the Bucks 5k Series Homepage on B5k-TV (http://www.bucks5kseries.com/). The Blue Dawgs finished second in the team event and I won a dinner at a Mexican restaurant in the raffle at the end of the race)

In truth, I didn't expect to do well. But, I broke my course PR by 20 seconds. And, I was about 10 seconds off my 5k PR. Thinking back on it now, I know I could have made up the 10 seconds some place. The questions I have are--can I reasonably expect to ever set another 5k PR? At what age do I have to be before I can expect that I would never be able to break that record? In some ways, I was lucky to start my long distance career so late. Talking to different people who have been at this longer than I have, their PRs were in their youth (teens, twenties, thirties).

But, yes, I think physically I can break a 5k PR. But, mentally? After that two mile mark, I have to admit, I didn't have the confidence to be able to stay on the pace I needed. I have to get over the fact that I think I am going to explode holding a pace for a PR. And, I truly believe, if I can get over that mental hurdle (and, I understand, this is NOT an easy hurdle to get over as I have been trying to overcome it the past 5 years), I will break my PR. Should I wear my Garmin for the race? Does this help me set the pace or hurt me by my mind falsely telling me to slow down even if my body is not giving any warning signs to do so?

I need a flat, 5k course in cool weather in the next few years before its too late.

(Note: Good luck to SteveRunner at the Boston Marathon. Steve, I know your ankle is hurting so be careful. Some advise: either rest the ankle for the next, oh, three months and I'm sure it will be much better before Falmouth. Or, keep running on it, averaging 50 miles or so for, again, the next three months and it will all be fused together with your leg and foot before Falmouth. Just wasted energy anyway keeping your ankle nimble.
I will be running the Penn Relays Distance Classic 20k this Sunday with the 10 mile Broad Street Run two weeks after that.
Happy Anniversary to ME! It's been one year since I started this blog. I didn't realize I would look forward doing it so much each week. Thank you all for your kind words along the way.

RIP-Joe F. You were truly one of a kind.)

Thursday, April 10, 2008

Plan C

Very short post this week as my personal and professional schedule has been filled with unexpected stuff that has come up in the past week.

As I wanted to exact my revenge on the Ocean City, MD half-marathon course this weekend, I will not be able to do that for various reasons. Last year, I ran the half-marathon course in a blinding snowstorm (no, really, my eyes were hurting for days afterwards). This is a great course as it is a point-to-point from Ocean City, MD to Asseteague Island with great views beginning and at the end. The race itself was ok. There were certain things I liked and certain things I didn't like. But, if I didn't like it overall, I wouldn't have thought to drive there 3 hours to run in the race. Maybe next year.

So, Plan C. As I have not found a suitable marathon nor half-marathon, I have decided that I am looking into partipicating in the Penn Relays 20k Distance Classic to be held on April 20, 2008. http://www.pennathletics.com//pdf4/110676.pdf

If you don't know about the Penn Relays, it is one of the truly great track and field events in the country. As a grade schooler, I was able to participate as a alternate in the sprint medley representing my school. Ever since then, I try to get down to the Relays as a spectator when I can. The 20k kicks off the Penn Relays and is open to all. The race starts and ends at Franklin Field, home of the Relays, University of Pennsylvania outdoor sports and once home of the Philadelphia Eagles. This gives me the chance to be able to participate in the Penn Relays once again. Let the games begin.

Wednesday, April 2, 2008

And now, the rest of the story...

First of all, I am very grateful for the overwhelming response I received from everyone on last week's blog. The comments I received on the blog and the people who I know who asked me about it, truthfully, surprised me. Thank you for asking about it and encouraging me. No truer comment was from Kelly (yes, the Blue Dawg Kelly) telling me that 'hey, I'm a marathoner. Don't let negative thoughts enter your head as you are about to finish. Think positive.' (Sorry, Kel, I'm paraphrasing here). But, she was right. So, I called the BAA.

I asked for my friend from last time but he was not available. I explained my situation, again, to 'Linda' this time (not her real name) and she said, all the numbers have been assigned to people. I'm afraid it won't be possible. But, I will look into it.' So, I thought, well, that's it. Time for Plan B. Except I had no Plan B.

A few days go by, I'm on a conference call when the area code (508) appears on my phone. Thinking it was Steve or someone I know from New England, I let it go into voice mail. Except it was the BAA and they wanted me to call back. Really? Could it be? So, I called and they were very nice about it. And, again, they are looking into it.

It has been another week since that call. And, it looks like this time, I will not be receiving my invitation for this year. Even if I did, I will be hard-pressed to make the necessary travel arrangements in my budgeted amount.

But, that's ok. I have no regrets. I did what I did knowing there were no guarantees of entry. I would do it again. I found out, in some ways, training for a spring marathon was easier than a fall one. Now, I was VERY lucky as the Philadelphia area avoided the snow with only 6.3 inches of accumulation the entire winter. And, it was harder to get started for my long runs because of the cold. But, once out, I found I had more energy in the cold than I did training in the hotter weather for the fall marathons.

And, in reality, there is sort of a Plan B. If the weather is nice and personal reasons work out, I might go down to Ocean City, Maryland to participate in their half-marathon on April 12. But, I won't know until April 10 if I can go down. Since its a point-to-point race, would it count as a marathon if i ran back to my car? :-)

(Notes: Thank you for participating in my poll of 'what is your favorite thing to listen to while running?' Not surprisingly, Kelly whining about the hills was the overwhelming choice with 50% of the votes. Least you think there was a hometown advantage to this voting, it wouldn't surprise me that Eric, author of the Running For My Life blog (http://ruralrunnere.blogspot.com/) from Missouri, Jodi, Confessions of a Runner podcaster (http://www.confessionsofarunner.com/) from Mississippi, Mom on the Run blog author and member of the Blue Dawgs Midwest (not sure if she wants me to reveal her name so I won't) (http://momrun.blogspot.com/) from Indiana, or even Nigel, Running from the Reaper podcaster (http://runningfromthereaper.blogspot.com/) from Staffordshire, UK, on a quiet Wednesday night and the wind blowing the right way, heard a faint 'I hate these hills!' from the distance. Chances are SteveRunner (http://www.steverunner.com/) didn't hear anything because he's just old and hard of hearing to begin with. :-) Thanks Kelly for being a good sport about this. Music came in second with 25% of the vote, followed by Podcasts with 16% and Nature at 8%.

Last Sunday, on a chilly morning, I ran the Central Bucks YMCA 5k race with a time of 25:02 (by my calculations). (And, I forgot my mini-camera. Darn!) It started off the Bucks County 5k series (http://www.bucks5kseries.com/) that goes from March to June. I did 7:30/8:01/8:12 splits. Considering it was my first 5k in awhile and the start of the last mile is going up a hill, I was pleased with my efforts. In fact, I think this was my best time for this course.)

Again, I can't thank you enough for your kind comments and your support. But, as a Phillies fan there is one phrase I know all to well---Wait until next year!