Yesterday I ran the Love Run Half Marathon. It was cold, rainy, and windy. It was flat out the worst race conditions I'd ever run in. However, I still managed to have a great day out on the course, despite the terrible weather.
I woke up bright and early at 5 AM, had some coffee and toast for breakfast, and put on my race outfit. I wore Oiselle from head to toe, minus my Pro Compression socks which would help compress aches or pains in my calf area. I always swear by compression socks for recovery, but lately I've been wearing them a lot while training to help with calf and achilles pain. They really do make a difference.
Josh and I left the house at 6:35 AM to catch the subway. Josh was not so enthused to be awake before 7 AM on a Sunday morning.
The rain started around 7 AM as we walked from City Hall to the race start near the Philadelphia Art Museum. It was about 40 degrees, though the temperature rose a bit during the race. Thankfully, I packed a hat at the last minute to keep the rain out of my eyes while running. I used a port-a-potty with NO LINE (!) then got into my corral around 7:35 and waited miserably in the cold rain until it was time to run.
At 8:00 AM, I kissed Josh goodbye and was on my way. Unfortunately, this was a traditional start, not a wave start, so everyone starts at the same time. For 10,000 people, I would have preferred a wave start to clear up some of the congestion, since I was dodging people for at least the first two miles down Arch Street. I guess this helped me not to go out too fast, though I felt like I had a lot of ground to make up if I still wanted to finish under 1:50.
The congestion started clearing up as we headed back up the Ben Franklin Parkway, and I fell into a nice groove. Right around the 3 mile marker, I saw my friend Ryan on the sidewalk, who jumped in and ran with me for a couple minutes. I remembered shouting "THIS SUCKS" as we ran in the rain against a strong headwind, and he agreed.
As I approached the Art Museum and mile 4, I saw Josh again, which was encouraging since I still had 9 miles to go. I looked down at my 1:47:30 Pace Band, which confirmed I was now on track for a big PR. While I would have loved to hit this actual pace, my #1 goal was sub- 1:50 so this helped keep me on track for that.
Side note: Pace Bands + a simple Timex sports watch in combination are a great alternative to wearing a Garmin. I never really had to do math in my head, but I wasn't constantly looking down at my wrist to check pace. I just looked down every mile to make sure I was on track. Click here to buy one for nearly any time/distance.
Around mile 4.5, I saw a familiar race outfit and yellow Flyer Jacket ahead of me. I weaved through the crowd and tapped the woman on the shoulder. Turns out it was Kristy from Run the Long Road! Not only is Kristy a fellow Philadelphian and Oiselle teammate, but she just had a baby 11 WEEKS AGO. We ran together for the next several miles, up the big hill in Fairmount park, and back down to MLK Drive. It was so nice to chat with someone during such terrible weather.
Around mile 9, I found myself alone again and began feeling sluggish, so I took a Honey Stinger Acai & Pomegranate organic gel. I broke the first rule of distance running by trying something new on race day, but I know that my stomach always agrees with Honey Stinger, so I did it anyway. Turns out this was delicious and went down smoothly.
At this point, the rain really started picking up and I just wanted it to be over. After what felt like forever, I got to the turnaround point on MLK drive and headed back towards the city.
I focused on keeping my pace strong in the last 5k of the race. It would have been very easy to slow my pace at this point, as the rain came down harder, my hips felt tighter, and my calf started to twinge a bit. But I looked at my Pace Band at each mile and was consistently behind the 1:47:30 pace by just about one minute. I tried my best to keep my stride short and my cadence fast, and managed to hold about 8 minute miles in the last 5k.
I approached the 13 mile marker and didn't even hear Josh cheering for me, but he did manage to get a picture that captured my determination and sogginess at that point.
I crossed the finish line in 1:48:14 and was elated that I had beat my previous PR of 1:50:38 by over two minutes! I definitely left everything out on the course, and gave it every ounce of energy I had.
After showering and warming up, Josh and I headed to Los Cantina Caballitos where I rewarded myself with a big bloody mary and a bigger burrito.
This morning I woke up VERY sore, and was quite humbled by the half marathon distance. Luckily I worked from home today, and enjoyed my morning coffee in my brand new Love Run finisher's mug.
Overall, despite the terrible weather, the race was definitely a success. I was really happy with my finishing time, and I was shocked that even with all the missed runs due to illness, injury, and bad weather, I still managed to PR and finish under 1:50. Just a few months ago, I never would have believed I could ever sustain an 8:15 pace for 13.1 miles. Now I think I can go even faster with some more consistent training.
Finally, I have to thank the folks over at CGI Racing who supplied me with a free race entry to The Love Run. They were extremely organized for an inaugural race, and I give them credit for keeping everything running smoothly in such bad weather. The only critique I have is that it was not a wave start. However, the plentiful port-a-pottys, awesome race swag, and enthusiastic volunteers all contributed to making this a great race. It will definitely be on my list in 2015!
*CGI Racing provided me a free entry to The Love Run. All thoughts and opinions are my own.