Race Review & Recap: Rock ‘n’ Roll Philadelphia 5K & Half Marathon Weekend

Well I meant write this up 3 weeks ago but things got crazy with work and vacation. So here we go, best I can remember it!

I drove up to Philly on Friday after sleeping in and arrived in town in the early afternoon. When I checked in, I found out I’d somehow booked a club room. I had no idea what that was.

Apparently it gives you access to a higher level floor, a club room with free drinks and fruit, and a free breakfast each morning — sweet!

I settled into the room and waited for Steff, my buddy and roomie, to arrive. She finally got there a little after 3 after dealing with insane traffic. We chatted a bit, then it was off to the expo for bib pickup!

After going too far down to enter the convention center — that thing is huge — we backtracked and found what we needed. It was a quick in and out with a couple stops at the Pro Compression and Sparkly Soul booths.

Next up: Reading Terminal!

I did this race last year, when it was moved to Halloween weekend because of the pope’s visit in September, but I never got into Reading Terminal — it was closed by the time I got there one evening.

So it was super cool to walk around and experience. I was hungry and hankering for some soft pretzels after Steff raved about them in Virginia Beach, so we found an Amish booth selling them.

We walked back to the hotel to indulge — and Steff rightly talked me into also getting a couple cheese whiz tubs to dip the pretzels into — then relaxed a bit before heading out to dinner. We met up with 4 other people — two of whom are also Rock ‘n’ Bloggers, and had a great time chatting and eating.

We made it back to the hotel around 9 or maybe a little before — I lost track. Steff and I quickly laid out our flat runners, and we were in bed by 9:30, with a 6:30 alarm set for the 5K.


img_9890We met up with the group in the lobby at 7 and walked over to the race start. The weather was nice, almost “chilly” with temperatures around 60 and dew points in the 50s. Maybe fall is finally coming?

When we got to the start line, I hit up the porta potty, then the group walked over to the corrals. I split off about three minutes before the start. I wanted to start in my corral because I was planning to target a sub-30 time and I needed to work after the race.

Straight out of the gate, I could tell my legs were tired from the week’s workouts. So I decided to take it easy the first mile to warm up, then focus on speeding up the last two.

The first mile ticked off at 9:44, better than expected, and I pushed to pick up the pace slightly for a 9:29 second mile. I wanted to push to finish under a 9-minute mile for the final mile and got that in with a 8:53. I was able to pull out a little bit of a finishing kick — not much, but I was impressed I had any left.

Official time: 29:04.

14355096_10100633696080495_7798349414655124515_nAfter the race, I met up with Steff and some others, then basically hightailed it back to the hotel to shower and sign on for work. Steff got back to the room in the late afternoon after I finished and we spent time just lounging and chatting before going out for dinner.

When we got back to the room, I noticed a work email suggesting that something may be happening in New York’s Chelsea area. I turned on CNN, but it was too early for anyone to know anything — they weren’t even showing anything.

By that time it was 9:30 and time for bed. There was nothing I could do at that point to help with work — it would be another 2-3 hours before the dust settled and we knew what actually happened.


14317587_10111643982752114_7005900668718917234_nWe set our alarms for 6, and both Steff and I woke up a bit earlier than that. I called the front desk to see if the little Starbucks kiosk — which I could pick up anything I wanted for free because of the Club status — was open yet, and it was. I dashed downstairs to get milk for my usual race day cereal and grabbed a muffin and slice of coffee cake for after the race.

Pretty soon, we were walking to the race start. Albeit a little late for the scheduled 7 a.m. We Run Social meetup — and we had the flag. No worries, though. We got there about 7:10 and folks were still waiting for us. Walking to the start it was clear the humidity and temperature had taken a not-so-nice-turn overnight, but I didn’t think too much of it. At least it was cloudy.

The We Run Social meetup was at the top of the Rocky Steps. I got there with Briana ahead of the rest of the group and said, “We have to run up it.” And so we did.

I split off quickly from the group after a quick photo op because I needed to get to a porta potty. The lines were still a little long, but starting to wane with the race start only 10 minutes away. The race officially kicked off while I was still in line, but I cared 0%. I got my business done and tried to make it to my corral before it went off, but I ended up a corral or two back. Totally fine.

14358902_10100634827912295_8126908113514417012_nI actually ended up at the back of that corral too, and I was trying to run slower to simulate Chicago Marathon race day, so I found myself quickly not dealing with a pack. In fact, as we got to the fountain at the circle not too far from the start, a motorcycle came up beside me. It was the Rock ‘n’ Roll vehicle looking to grab some video of runners during the race. I did a quick cheer and was on my way.

I struggled to hit my pace. I set out to run no faster than 10:30 and kept coming in faster. Not a bad problem to have, but I knew with the heat and humidity of this race day that it meant running the first few miles of the Chicago Marathon slower would be incredibly difficult. I finally hit target pace at mile 4 — thanks to an uphill.

I loved the drums around that point and felt I was getting in a groove. Mile 5 dinged on my watch faster again, but it was a downhill, so I didn’t worry.

As we went into the more unpopulated Fairmount Park, I felt like I was running at the same effort, but my watch told me I was slowing down. I figured it meant there was either a slight uphill or the humidity was starting to get to me. By mile 6.5, I realized I was thoroughly soaked through, probably worse than during any of my summer long runs, even those in the sun! Usually I didn’t feel drenched until mile 8 of those long runs.

It was obvious lots of runners were taking more water than usual — some of the stations between miles 5 and 9 were having trouble keeping the first water tables filled with cups, but there was always a cup to grab, so it wasn’t an issue.

At this point, I knew I just needed to run by effort — which was equating to 11:00-11:10 minute miles at that point, including walk breaks through the water stops. I had figured I’d finish at 2:20 or a little faster, but that didn’t happen. Between mile 8 and the end of the race, I ended up dumping 3 water cups over my head  — which I’ve never done before — as well as stuffing some ice down the back of my bra. It was just. so. humid. I can’t even describe it.

After the bridge at mile 9, I felt we were going a little bit more downhill, and my pace picked up a bit. I wanted to finish strong, so I pushed for a faster final full mile and made it. Less than a mile from the finish line, though, I saw a collapsed runner. By the time I got to her position, there were already a dozen other runners surrounding her and help was on the way, so there was nothing more I could do. Only after the race, did I hear other runners talking about other folks they saw collapse on course. It was a hard day in the humidity.

At the finish line, I did the stupidest thing anyone could ever do 3 weeks out from a marathon — let alone their very first. I jumped at the finish line. And this wasn’t my normal little leap over the line. I had dreams of an epic race day photo of my heels all the way up in the air. I was thinking of those great shots you get when you jump in the air — while standing still.

While moving, it’s a totally different story.

And so I fell. And immediately thought, that was the absolute dumbest thing I’ve ever done. And then immediately thought, I need to get up immediately so no one thinks I’m really hurt and so I don’t impede other runners.

In the split second all this happened, I prayed I hadn’t really hurt anything. A sprained ankle was the last thing I needed. I got up and brushed myself off — it was simply some bruised knees. Well, one was lightly bleeding.

14292332_10111643983046524_1881103417338083372_nOfficial time: 2:23:19.

I met up with Steff and another runner friend, got all my extra medals, and then we chatted for a bit waiting for the other runner friends to finish. At this point, I was done. I was ready to get back to the hotel and get a shower. Everything was so thoroughly soaked in sweat that it was gross. And on top of it, I wanted to make sure to clean my knees. After a little bit of waiting, Steff and I called it — we both had to drive back to our respective homes, and had a checkout time of noon.

Showering felt amazing.

At the end of the day, this half reminded me it was still technically summer. And you have to plan for that. And it also reminded me just how hard it would be to slow my pace for Chicago — which promised to be in better, fall weather. (Oh, and I also found out, via Steff, that two of my running shoes were dead!)

And three weeks later, my left knee is still slightly scraped up — not yet fully healed. It doesn’t hurt, but it goes to show just how stupid a move that leap was at the finish line.