Philadelphia

I’m not a running blogger but I tried finding information about this race online and only found old Reddit posts, so I thought I’d share my experience.

A couple of months ago races were starting to open up again in Philadelphia. Covid has made everything sound attractive,¬† I started thinking about signing up. I’ve done plenty of 5ks and a half marathon in the past, but never a 10k. If you think about it, it’s an ideal distance for a race. Half marathons are a commitment, and 5ks are so short it’s not even worth it to get up so early, pay money and do all the run morning logistics just to run for 30 minutes. 10ks are a manageable distance that you don’t have to do intense training for, and they’re long enough runs to be worth getting up early, but not so long that you get bored. Also you probably burned enough calories that you’ve justified a nice meal after ūüôā

The first race I found during my research was the Philly 10k, and I kept coming back to it. It’s a locally managed race in the heart of South Philly.

Training

I am a slow runner and it’s summer, so my goal was mostly “do my first 10k with the least amount of running possible.” I was already running 3-4x per week, with a max distance of 4miles. I had 8 weeks before the race, so a training plan wasn’t necessary.

I’d used Hal Higdon’s training programs in the past, and now he has an app, so I downloaded the app and made a “custom” program while I was still on the trial period. The app unfortunately is crap. It’s glitchy and unintuitive. For example there are days that call for cross training. But when you try to log your training for the day, you have to put it in as a run with a pace. Makes no sense. The value really isn’t there, especially since the basic plans are all free on his website.

I reviewed the plan from the app, and the novice plan from his site, and came up with this general outline for every week:

  • Monday – 3 miles base
  • Tuesday – 45min cross training (yoga, swimming, cycling, strength. Really whatever I was in the mood for that day)
  • Wednesday – 2 miles fast
  • Thursday – 30 min cross training
  • Friday – 60 min cross training
  • Saturday – Long run day, starting at 4miles and working up to 6.2 in .5mi increments. <– I repeated a couple of times
  • Sunday – Rest

I ran rain or shine, mostly in 90+ degree and mega humid temp. Summer is really unfortunate here. I ran 10k about a week before the race in 78 minutes, so I knew that I could do it.

Registration

I waited until the last minute to register. Summers are stormy and hot in the city, and I just kept waffling because I thought the race experience might be miserable and gross. The race was on Sunday. On Wednesday I looked at the weather forecast, and it looked cloudy so I signed up online. It came to about 75 bucks, which I felt was pricey for a local run, but whatever. One nice aspect of the registration is that you had 15 minutes after the transaction to cancel. All you had to do was click a big “CANCEL” button. A few hours later I checked the forecast again and it had changed to rain. LOL

Bib Pickup

There’s normally a kickoff party, but not this year. During my lunch break that Friday, I took the el downtown to pick up my race packet (bib, t-shirt, clear bag for bag check, commemorative poster) at the Philadelphia Runner shop in Center City.¬† Proof of vaccination or a negative Covid test were required and checked, which I appreciated. I didn’t spend too much time there, but it was HOPPING on a Friday afternoon. I’ll have to head back next time to try some shoes.

The Day Before

It poured rain all day. We didn’t even take the dog out. I was stressed out about work, so I was on the computer all day and night. Didn’t drink, didn’t do yoga like I wanted. Ordered a pizza for dinner and it was glorious. Went to bed at 11, didn’t get to sleep until 12:30am because my brain was still stuck on a work problem.

Race Day

Woke up at 5:30, showered, ate a yogurt and a nectarine, sipped a little coffee. Took the 6:08 el down to 5th st, then walked about 15 minutes down 5th to the race area. Arrived around 6:35am. There was no line for bag check or for id check (for the after race beer). It was quiet and peaceful. I stretched a bit and walked around the festival area. People hung out and warmed up here and there. Masks were required everywhere except during the actual run.

Around 7am it started getting busy. The starting line was at 8th and South, but with 6 corrals, the last corral (mine) was around 12th st. There were plenty of porta potties around.

The weather was about 70 and overcast, kind of misty. I lucked out! It was perfect weather.

Lots of waiting…

The race started at 7:30, but with 3,000 runners they staggered the start time for each corral, so I didn’t actually get running until about 7:50!

I went to the porta potty again right before and OMG there was some explosive diarrhea in there. Seriously, in the 4 porta potties I went to throughout the day, all except the first one (I went to before 7am) had crazy poop. What in the world is going on with these runners???? It’s not that long of a race!!? Like an hour only… Race nerves?? Too much coffee? Poop at home like the rest of us!

The start! Finally

This was the first big Philly race post Covid, and it’s a fun run, so the energy was super positive. It was crowded for the first half mile or so, then I found a bit of space. Like all races you definitely had to stay aware though and couldn’t zone out. Sometimes runners in front of you would just dead stop and walk, without moving to the side of the road. Some runners were livestreaming????!! Ugh. And oh, the Philly potholes. I almost bit it once, but managed to flail and catch myself.

The course itself was mostly flat and on skinny neighborhood streets. My experience of South Philly has been of insane stop and go traffic and asshole drivers, so honestly the fact that this was a neighborhood run was what appealed to me most. I hate the drivers here with all my heart, so blowing past all the red lights, and laughing at the lines of drivers who were stuck cursing us was incredibly therapeutic. There were also loads of people hanging out on their stoops and drinking their morning coffee with their kids, cheering us on with signs… but what really fueled me was the hate.

It was also fun running past Pat’s and Geno’s, and the Italian market and Little Saigon. There were water stations and porta potties about every 2 miles. About 4 miles in, I started getting stabbing stomach cramps. I wasn’t sure if going to the bathroom would help, but then I remembered the horrors that I’d experienced in the earlier porta potties, so I held on. I was still pretty uncomfortable, but I made it through.

My time: 1:12:38 / Pace: 11:38

I really wanted this dude to get out of my selfie LOL

After Party

Right after the finish line there were ice cold towels, water, and granola bar snacks. I snatched those up, but headed straight to the beer line. It was so long I almost didn’t bother, but I wanted my beer so I sucked it up. It took maybe 15 minutes?? The beer was from Brewery Ars, a South Philly brewery. I’m not sure which beer it was, but it definitely was delicious and I didn’t feel it at all. I might take my mom there when she visits.

For snacks I had a choice between French Toast bites and popsicles from Weckerly’s (fancy ice cream shop in my neighborhood). The line for the bites was too long, so I happily got a mango popsicle, and dunked it in my beer.

There was a band, and everyone was just hanging out having a good time. Among the thousands of people I saw folks from a local running club that I’ve been meaning to join.¬† Maybe it’s a sign?

Originally I’d planned to have Ryan meet me down there for breakfast, but we’d already planned lunch with a friend a few hours later, so I finished up my beer and headed out.

Swag

  • There’s no medals, but I always want to throw those away, so I’m happy about that. I did hear people grumbling about the medals at the race.
  • Bib – The bibs had your name printed on them. For people who collect bibs that’s kind of cute. I registered late so I have TRACY in Sharpie on mine.
  • T-shirt & Race print (photos from their FB)
    • The women’s shirt is really soft and flattering! I will actually wear it for day to day stuff. It’s not performance material.
    • I think previous years prints were better, but this is cheerful and original at least. I framed it and put it in my office.

Other thoughts

It was a well organized race that felt pretty laid back and fun. Knowing what I know now about the staggered start times, I would show up way later and just not check a bag.  I would also probably bike to the event as well. There was plenty of security and places to park.

What’s next? I wanted to do the 10 mile Broad Street Run in October, but apparently that’s a very big deal race. It’s like 40,000 people and there’s a lottery to get in and they’re all booked for this year since they deferred folks from last year.

I think I might train for the half during Philadelphia Marathon Weekend in November? It’s sponsored by a local deli meat company, which seems very Philadelphia.

There’s also 10 mile and half marathon¬† options of the Rocky Run, which is the weekend before. But that race seems like a branded cash grab, so meh.

I dunno, I guess I’ll just keep running and see how I feel.

Health

It’s Running Season

After an unusual heat wave in the Bay Are, we’ve returned to our regularly scheduled fog and gray, just in time for fall. ¬†Also, just in time for racing season, thank god.

Another year, another JP Morgan¬†Corporate Challenge.¬†While the race is a short distance (3.2 miles), and the whole thing goes by FAST, that doesn’t mean that it’s easy. If you’re competitive, you’re sprinting the entire way.

Last year around this time I was in tip top run shape, and was gearing up for a half-marathon. This time around¬†was much more casual. I have been running for fun, and barely training for a 12K (coming up in a week…).

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Run team run!

While the race is really just a corporate bonding event, there was also a greater international challenge being hosted at the same time. Basically JP Morgan flew in 2014 winners from around the world, and pit them against each other. They got to go first, and then it was the “fast” regular runners, then the rest of us regular office drones (walkers and runners). According to the race’s website, there were 10,000+ runners from 330 companies. !!!

Short fun runs are always the worst races to run. While they can have fun themes and cool schwag, you are also surrounded by people (and some children) who … hmm.. how to put this kindly… get in the way. You’ll be running behind someone, and suddenly they’ll just decide to start walking, right in the middle of the road!! ¬†Also people dart on and off the courses, and there were quite a few small collisions. My coworker said he saw one guy trip into a barrel roll! Thankfully they keep medical staff on hand in case of emergency. Last year I saw someone being loaded into an ambulance at the finish line, but¬†this year seemed pretty quiet.

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Jeans, brah, rly?

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Running.

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Finish line. Ready to go home and eat nachos.

With all the different waves of runners, ¬†we didn’t get to start running until 7:25 or so :/ . Even then we were walking a solid couple of minutes before things thinned out enough to “run.” ¬†I made an 11 minute mile, which is about a minute slower than last year. For not actively training, however, I’ll take it.

I love the post race happy hour with my teammates, but given all the build up and waiting around, I’m not sure that I’d do this race again.¬†I run the same distance on my morning runs down Valencia street, and it’s much less stressful.

Health

My First Half Marathon

5 months, 60 training runs, and 9! pounds later…

It was finally time to head up to Portland and run the damn thing. To tell you the truth, I wasn’t even nervous. I was just ready to get it over with.¬†Unfortunately Ryan had to drop out due to an emergency that took him to New York. I felt a bit guilty going ahead with my “fun” weekend without him, but sometimes life is like that.

Michelle and I had joked months earlier that we ought to use this trip as an opportunity to force each other to do the other’s favorite cult workout. For me, it was Bikram yoga. For her, Crossfit. Both patented exercise regimes, mind you. Both a bit misunderstood and militant. Both costing about $20 bucks a pop. Still cheaper than SoulCycle!

Anyways, considering how grueling the half would be, I’d given no thought to working out the DAY BEFORE AND THE DAY AFTER the run. In fact, I packed only one set of workout clothes. How wrong I was. I was going to be wearing those nasty Lululemons all weekend. The moment I hopped in Michelle’s car she asked me to look up a Bikram studio. Shit.

Anyways, we did end up doing Bikram. And a half. And Crossfit. And we survived. But this post is about the half, so let me get back to the point.

We woke up a little early because there was an hour drive to the run site. Oh, and I also wanted to get Burgerville for breakfast. Yum! Getting to Hood River was a little nerve wracking because Google Maps sucks. We ended up driving over a nondescript toll bridge, paying a dollar, and then paying another dollar to get back across once we realized our mistake had taken us to Washington!! We told the toll booth operator about our amateur mistake, but there was no sympathy for the two lost out-of-towners. She was a true toll bridge troll.

The instructions on the marathon website were utter trash, and we found ourselves in a long line of lost cars. The blind leading the blind, as there was no signage mentioning the race anywhere. A gas station attendant pointed us in the right direction, and we were on our way. Parking was a bit of a frustration, and we almost had an altercation with a self-important soccer mom and teenage volunteer who were being a bit unreasonable about our car. The difficulty of just getting to this stupid race was starting to become comical.

By the time we got to the disorganized start line, we were not excited. Michelle was a bit grumpy. Maybe she would have liked a bagel from the food tent, but it was too late for bagels.

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But hey! There was a rainbow! That’s a good sign, right?

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Rocking my commemorative pullover. Minor gripe: there were no free t-shirts at this $80 race >:(

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I’d had some hesitations about this run because the course was pretty much ALL hills. But hey, I live in SF, so I “trained” for it.

For the first mile or so it rained. Then it was just a long wet slog up the hill. At one beautiful overlook I tried to take a photo while running, fell and skinned my knee.

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Beautiful, right? Worth the bruises.

By mile 4 my mind drifted. I was slow. I was dying. Why was I doing this again? I focused on the cute dogs that raced by in the “dog half marathon.” Then I realized that the dogs were trotting the half marathon happily, and I was struggling. That was depressing.

Around Mile 6 things started to come together (aka my Gu chomps kicked in). I passed Michelle as she was returning and felt a good surge of energy. This was really happening! What to say? I kept running up and down the fucking hills. I spent time checking out my fellow runners and making up elaborate background stories for each of them.

Mile 9? I felt a little queasy. I tried to throw up.

Around Mile 10 I did throw up. It was awesome. Then I kept running. I made up for lost time by speeding down the 2 miles of hills.

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Woo! Downhill!

The last mile was miserable. We did zigzags through the muddy parking lot to the grassy area where the finish line beckoned. I started to cry. It was very overwhelming to have come to the end of such a long and in my mind unattainable goal. I was so proud of my  body for hanging in there.

My time: 2:26! Faster than I’d estimated in training. And with hills too!

When I finished, I didn’t even want to get my rightfully earned free BURRITO¬†AND BEER from the food tent. I was just empty. ¬†We got the hell out of there with our ceramic tile Georgia O’Keefe medals. It was back to Portland, where we could pass out in peace.

So, that was that. What should my next fitness goal be? Please don’t say a full marathon.

Health

Staving Off Death & Fat: AKA Gettin’ Fit or Why Did I Sign up for a Half Marathon?

Ever since I got another office job and seriously took up regular running (about a year ago), I‚Äôve gained 5-10 pounds that will not budge (and no, it’s not muscle. I wish). Running makes you hungry. So hungry. I‚Äôve tried a number of things over the past year to jump start the weight loss, and my current fitness routine sounds like something that the old me from a year ago would probably have mocked relentlessly.

  • Running several times per week (wait, why am I not skinny yet?)
  • Gymming (nothing new here)
  • Calorie counting (strangely addictive for an Excel addict)
  • Biking to work (a given)
  • Measuring calorie expenditure with a heart rate monitor and FitBit (Also addictive)
  • Cutting back on alcohol (0_0)
  • Strength training (LIFT HEAVY)
  • Yoga (it’s nice to do it again)
  • Zumba (Suburban mom joke- NO! FUN!)
  • Insanity (in small doses)
  • Organic Grass Fed Protein powder!

When I look back at this list, it makes me laugh. Together, it all looks a bit overwhelming and extreme, but it happened bit by bit, and it’s now just a part of my life. My weight has gone up and down throughout this process, but thankfully my fitness level continues to progress. In fact, about a month ago I hit a personal fitness milestone! I ran 7 miles on my weekend long run. And I didn’t even hurt the next day! INCONCEIVABLE! While I’ve run that distance before, that was years ago, and damn it hurt hard the day after. Something about hitting that milestone made me think, hey, maybe I could run a half marathon? And so I signed up for one¬†to run with my friend Michelle. I cobbled together a personal training plan in Google Calendar, and currently I’m on Week 6 of a 20 Week training plan. I’ve got a couple of goals:

  1. Finish
  2. Don’t get hurt
  3. Lose these stubborn adult pounds.
  4. Get a decent photo at the half marathon. My photo at the Chinese New Year’s 5k was like a bigfoot spotting.

Six weeks in, 3 lbs & 2% bodyfat down and so far no injuries! So far so good. I highly doubt that I’ll be updating much with training news. I¬†just wanted to share what I’ve been up to lately.

Fitness! Fat! Running away from death! Whoo!

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Also, I don’t know how those fitness Instagrammers look all hot when they take workout selfies, but this is what I look like. Red faced, angry, drenched in sweat and my eyes are burning from melting sunscreen in my eyes! Why do I like running again?