6pm (Saturday Night)
Here we go. Saturday night. We were exhausted from a bit of sightseeing in Philly, so decided to order in. I ordered my usual baked Ziti which I have whenever I need a carbo load with garlic bread for a long run. With my previous Rhabdomyolysis encounter earlier this year, which I was hospitalized 3 days for, I made it essential to Hydrate! Hydrate ! Hydrate! and get sufficient rest.
We hit the sack for the evening because we were planning to be up by 4am. However I didn’t think I feel asleep until about 9-10pm. Many factors may have been involved, nervousness for one, also thought the room was a bit too humid at one point, with all the tossing and turning eventually fell asleep. Though I may have not admitted at first, no matter what, one must be full of anxiety before such a race, especially this being my first marathon. Our longest long run in training was 20miles. We missed a 22 miler suggested by, Bart Yasso’s Runners World Marathon training plan due to schedule conflicts, but as many veteran marathoners affirmed, a 20 miler would suffice for the marathon.
4am (Sunday Morning – My Birthday – Marathon Day)
Wake up it’s your birthday. We’re up, It’s my birthday, but for what maybe the first time as far as I can recall, the bday is not the priority of the day, all I am able to focus on is the marathon, I am up 3 minutes before the alarm goes off. I get up and immediately go to my iPhone and logon to twiiter and see who else in the Philly Marathon world may be up, sure enough IronBrandon (BrandonsMarathon) is also awake, a recent twitter connection, who is also a podcaster, ironman, opera singer, I wish him a final good luck and started putting my gears together. Our fuel bottles were filled the night before, mine with Gatorade, Anh choose vitamin water “Power C”. Anh is also up making coffee and (peanut butter & banana) sandwiches, um.
Final trip to the hotel’s restroom. Also continued sipping on Gatorade diluted with water. We meet Joe, Mary and Ellen in the hotel lobby. Mary wasn’t running due to injury. Joe and Ellen both are 3:20ish marathoners. I question them as much as I can on any last possible advice for a newbie. What miles do you take your PowerGels and so on. Many of the questions I know can only be answered during race base on your conditions, but I inquire anyway.
7am (Official Race Start)
Joe and Ellen are in the “black” corral. The first gun goes off for the only wheelchair participant at the Philly Marathon. Cheers go off for him, I have the deepest admiration for parathletes. Meantime Anh and I are at the potty lines. I was in a faster pace corral “green”, but decided to run in Anh’s corral (note: going forward if we are not required to qualify for any given corral, rule of thumb will be to opt for a faster corral base on our best finish time possible, being in the latter corrals is a true disadvantage, something you may know beforehand, but you go into the race trying to be conservation, but really, one just needs to get out of the starting field and start running their own race, attempting to hurdle your way through the field just takes too much energy, as we did the first 3 miles). So now we find ourselves in the the “purple” corral.
7:15am (Our Corral starts)
Announcers, including, Bart Yasso, who were very animated during the marathon’s opening, gives the go ahead for our corral to begin the race. The Mayor of Philadelphia is at the starting line giving “high fives”, I am not about to get in the melee. I started the race not knowing what to expect, this maybe a cliche, but it’s quite appropriate here, consciously, I know I struggled in our longest training run at mile 19, so given 26.2 miles, I am very cautious. My one and only goal at the start was to finish the race.
Mile 1 -2: I am doing 10mins, it’s harder than I thought to make my way through the massive crowd. I am still shaky, nervous, an experience I also felt at the New York Road Runners Brooklyn Half Marathon.
Mile 3-4: We’re doing 28 mins, about 3 mins short of our ideal MP (Marathon Pace). We agreed at this point in the race to part ways and run individually, which in retrospect was the correct call.
Mile 5: My nervousness is finally over, I’m warmed up, legs are ready. Race is on!
Mile 6-13: At mile 6, I took my first PowerGel at the water station, ripped off gel and drank 2 cups of water. I am feeling good, but still running a conservative race (remembering to run a positive first split followed by a negative second half). Pee break in the woods at about mile 10.
Mile 13: It’s a treat to see elites finishing off their marathons, John Crews, 25, first American to win the Philadelphia Marathon, since 2000, finishes in 2:17:15.
Mile 14: “Man you’re tall”, a fellow runner shouts out, we chat and run for a while then depart ways. Saw Anh about 5 runners away from me. However wasn’t ready to push my pace to catch up with her. My race was all about defense, how far can I reach before my leg feels likecinder blocks.
Mile 15: Came across and passed the 4:30 pacer. Saw Anh at “u turn” point in the race, about mile 15, I just kept running my own race, was not ready to try to make any gains on her.
Mile 16: Took my second PowerGel.
Mile 17: Passed the 4:13 pacer. Yay!
Mile 18: Looking forward to mile 20, what should I expect, no matter the consequence I am not doing too much walking.
Mile 19: Throughout the race eyed about 3 runners and kept pace with them on all 3 occasions with determination passed them along the way.
Mile 20-21: I also saw Anh, at about mile 20, tried to get her attention, but to no avail. Your beer is served! Smells good, but I am not going for it, not here, not now. Sounds of the “Eye of the Tiger” and “Gonna Fly Now” blasting from boom boxes, kept the adrenaline flowing. Also continued fan shouts of “Go Alex”, “You rock”, “Go Alex & Anh” (which was printed on my shirt as can see in the pics below), kept my spirits high. With amazement I also came across joggling runners? Yep that’s right, guess it’s a new thing, saw this runner, who I thought also dropped a ball, joggling balls along his run, up to mile 20, Manayunk, which is also a slight incline. Took some extra GU gels from the wonderful volunteers, at three fluid stations if in case I would need more and they weren’t available.
Mile 22: Took my third PowerGel. Took the time to walk off a bit. Off again I go, not to lose any momentum, especially with my legs being a bit heavy now at that point of the race. Here goes the mental part of the race, “Alex that’s it we came in with the goal to finish, but it’s on now”, goes this thought in my head. Looked at the CliffPace bracelet on my right wrist, (we took a variety of CliffPace bracelets which we scored from the marathon expo on Saturday). It reads that I’m in reach of a 3:55 finish time (at mile 22, the 3:50 finish bracelet read 3:13, I was doing 3;17, didn’t mind at all, that only meant sub 4 was in sight). My starting goal just to finish my first marathon was now out the door, a renewed goal was now at hand “sub 4!”
Mile 23-finish: Pushed everything I had left of my quads into a strong finish. Every mile after mile 23, I pictured myself at home in Astoria, on the couch deciding to go for a run, still being fresh with energy.
Mile 24: Met Anh along the way, and gave her a slight push towards the finish.
Finish: 3:54:00 is my finish. Yay! Sub 4, thank Yasso 800s (1 of 2 Yasso 800s). Who else shouts my name at the finish, but Bart Yasso himself. “I met Alex yesterday”, he said over the speaker/pa system. Man I felt good hearing those words, maybe I could have gone for a next 5 miles at this point, lol.
Finishing before Anh, I decided to attempt taking a finish photo of her with my iPhone, but before reaching for the phone in my fuel belt, out she comes zooming by with a very strong finish 3:54:08, sub 4 as well, celebration are on, our training could not have paid off better dividends. Smiles and all. “We did it Baby”, I shouted, kisses and hugs……..
Now off to the hotel, freshen up and to “Tir Na Nog”, post Marathon meetup with some dailymile friends, Joe, Kristen and Adam, also joining us, was Mary and Ellen. Overall, great first marathon. All the training was tremendously important, hill repeats, Yasso 800s (2 of 2 Yasso 800s), LSDs, speedworks, etc. Looking forward to the next one.
Pictures from top left shirt printed by Anh, bottom left, CliffPace Bracelets, Philly Marathon start, finish pics.