Race Review: Rock ‘N Roll Philadelphia Half Marathon 2012

Overall: Awesome race.  Great energy.  One of my all-time favorite races and courses (yes, I liked it even better than the Kailua, HI half marathon).

Race Tips: The hotel that is connected to the Philadelphia Convention Center is nice and where most of the runners stayed.  It is also convenient since packet pick-up is in the Philadelphia Convention Center.  However, in the two years that I’ve run this race, I’d recommend staying at a hotel off of Benjamin Franklin Parkway.  It is much closer to the start and end of the race (at the “Rocky” steps).  I’m not endorsing any specific hotels, just like to point out that logistically it was much more convenient on race day.

If you’ve run in any of the Rock N Roll series races, you know that there are 10s of thousands of runners.  I usually like to put myself in a slower pace group to start, but I’d recommend not doing that here due to the sizes of the corrals.  I got stuck in the back for quite awhile and took me 2 miles of weaving in and out of people to get to a good pace group for the rest of the race.  Another note about corrals, if you’re in the later corral, you will not start the race until a good 30 mins AFTER the official start.  Just so you know to keep warm.

Course / Elevation: Flat as a pancake!  That’s probably why I love this race so much.  The bands and the cheerig crowds were also great.  The start is at the Philadelphia Museum of Art (and the steps in front of them are from the movie “Rocky” which also makes it kind of cool).  The two years I’ve run this race, the course has changed, but generally you do the first 1/3 of the race downtown Philly, then the race circled back to the start and goes up Kelly Dr. and comes back down W. River Drive.  Miles 5 through 11 are along the River – beautiful and nicely shaded.  I can’t remember any big hills.

Logistics: All great things.  I always love Rock N Roll races.  Very well organized.  Lots of gatorade, water and gu at the dedicated, well-placed and well-manned stations.  As with any race, just becareful not to slip on the cups at these stations.

Anything Else? Both times I ran the Rock N Roll Philadelphia Half Marathon, I beat my personal record (PR).  It’s just that flat and fast.

If there is one negative thing, it’s not even about the race.  The race ends and starts at the same place.  And for some reason, the park where the race ends has a lot of dirt.  Who cares?  Well, after running 13.1 miles and just sprinted the last 0.25 mile to the finish, the dirt area (with all the spectators and foot traffic) stirred up quite a bit of dust and dirt into the air.  The air was literally cloudy from it.  Breathing it in at the end of the race was NOT fun.  I used my shirt to cover my nose and mouth and quickly made myself to the bag check area, which was paved.  If you are planning to meet famiy or other runners, I’d recommend you meet somewhere paved and get out of this dirt area ASAP.  I know, I’m probably just being a wimp.

Rock N Roll Philadelphia Half Medal

Race Review: Woodrow Wilson Bridge Half Marathon 2012

Overall: Good race, I would run it again.

Race Tips: Highly recommend staying at the National Harbor the night before the race.  My running buddy and I opted to drive the morning of the race.  Bad idea.  Not only was it a super early day (I was up at 3:30am) but with the amount of cars leaving the garages after the race, we were stuck in our parking spot for 35 minutes.  After 13.1 miles, cold, wet, and tired, sitting in a car for 35 mins is not fun.

Another race tip, add trail running into your training.  the last stretch between mile posts 12 and 13 are on unpaved, gravel with occasional decent sized rocks.  The race organizers called it their ‘achille’s heel.’ A little trail running will help you adjust to hitting that patch at the end of the race.

Course / Elevation: Rolling hills – and that’s an understatement.  The course went from Mt. Vernon, VA to National Harbor, MD across the Woodrow Wilson Bridge (hence the name of the race). Miles 1 – 9 is along the GW parkway and very hilly, but gorgeous along the Potomac River. Miles 9 – 10.5 is across the bridge.  Going up the bridge was a challenge, but coming back down and running on the board walk to National Harbor was flat and pretty.  I found the most challenging part of the course to be the gravel between Miles 12 and 13.  I was not used to running on gravel and plus the course narrows and made it difficult to pass or allow others to pass me.  I walked most of this section.

Logistics:  Other than the parking situation that I mentioned earlier, they also ran out of Gatorade at some of the stations.  I was running at about a 10min/mile pace at the time and was surprised to find that they’re out of Gatorade.  There were still more than half of the folks in the race behind me.  Also, since the race started and ended in different locations, runners were shuttled to the start.  Given the road closures, the buses were running super early.  So we were dropped off at the start of the race 1.5 hours prior to the race start.  It’s not good or bad, but something to be aware of.  We made friends with other runners and kept warm by jogging and, of course, hitting the porta potties.

Anything Else? 2012 was only the 3rd year they did this race.  I suspect it will only get better as the years go on.  It is a smaller race (compared to the Rock N Roll marathons that I am used to).  As brutal as the course was, my friend PR’d the course by finishing it in 1 hour 34 mins.  I was on my way to PR the race before I hit the wall.

Race Medal

A Serious Health Wake-up Call

I love to run.  Lately, I live to run.  Bewteen working full time and being a wife & mom, running is one of the only times I have completely to myself.  I don’t run fast, but I like to run long.

In the last year I have completely 3 half marathons and my first sprint triathlon.  I have lost most of the baby weight from being pregnant with my son and down to a size 6.  All in all, I feel great.  So when it was time for my annual physical at the doctor’s office, I was almost smug about the progress I’ve made.  That is, until my doctor gave me an unexpected health wake-up call.

“You are at high risk for heart disease and possibly heart attack.”  What?!  But, but, but… I’m a runner!  According to my blood test results, I had the trifecta of bad news: High Triglycerides, Low HDL (the “good” cholestrol), and High Blood Pressure.

What are triglycerides?  I googled it.  According to WebMD, “triglycerides are the end product of digesting and breaking down fats in meals. Some triglycerides are made in the body from other energy sources such as carbohydrates.”

My directions from the Doc – Limit carbohydrate consumption, increase exercise, and start taking daily fish oil supplements.  The last two were easy, I’ll increase my mileage per week and add swimming into the mix and get some fish oil.  The first, however, proved to be challenging and a terrible learning experience.

As an overreaction to the test results, I cut out most carbohydrates from my diet except for vegetables.  I started this new diet 2 weeks before a half marathon.  The short runs were no problem.  I eliminated all gu and sports beans from my long runs.  The weekend before my half marathon, I ran 10 miles without taking any gu or gatorade.  I thought I had this all figured out.

The night before the race I had 1/2 cup of pasta and the morning I had my usual salted, soft pretzel.  I did bring a gu with me “just in case.”  I was determined to PR the half AND kick triglycerides in the butt.  Unfortunately, this half went down as the worst run ever…

I felt good the first 8 miles.  Strong.  I was running 20 secs per mile below my goal pace.  The course was hilly, but I was ready for it.  Once I got to mile 9, I took a Gu but it was too late.  I “hit the wall” between miles 10 and 11.  EVERYTHING cramped up – legs, abs, arms, everything.  I was scared and ended up walking the last 2 miles.  I was in such bad shape that I had to have my running partner basically carry me to the car after the race.

Since the half marathon, I have re-adjusted my diet.  Instead of getting rid of carbs, I spaced out my daily carb intake into small portions sprinkled throughout meals and snacks.  I have started training for another half marathon in December.

This health wake-up call has been very difficult for me to deal with.  I always thought since I’m a runner, I’m healthy and took it for granted.  I won’t know until my next blood test in a year to find out whether this new diet is helping to lower my triglycerides.  What I do know is that I need to fuel properly for my runs.  Because not only do I love to run and I live to run, but now I run to live.