Tuesday, November 22, 2011

Philly LoopPhest Half Marathon

LoopPhest was kind of indescribably OSOM, but I am just going to talk about the race now, so I don't keep getting choked up. More later on the crazy shenanigans.

My goal coming in was to improve on my shockingly fast time from 3 weeks ago (1:35:37). I felt sub 1:35 was a good goal so I hoped to start out at 7:30 and drop it down to 7:15 by mile 3, hold on through the hills of mile 10, and then try to get close to 7:00 for the last 3.

About 20 of us left the hotel together and walked the 1.5 miles to the start. It was near 50 degrees. Perfect racing weather. I just had a throwaway long sleeve tee over my new blue LoopPhest shirt. I planned to run with Sass but he got caught up in long potty lines, so I lost him. But I hooked up with Corc and ShaunP and Bergeaux and KevHash in the corral, and hey that's Mark Remy over there! The start was smooth and uncrowded and we took off. I immediately lost everyone to other paces but felt good and was loving the race atmosphere with good cheering crowds down a beautiful wide street.

Ran with ShaunP for a little while and then moved on ahead. Pace was a little fast but not bad. Caught up with Corc near the end of mile 1 and we ran together for about 2 miles. At some point I noticed Bergeaux was shadowing me too. It was osom to cruise along with loop legends - enjoying the race, but a little concerned because I was too fast. First 3 were 7:13, 7:12, 7:07. I kept getting close to 7:00 pace and then forcing myself to slow down. It felt like 10K pace - because it was! Yet I kind of felt like I could just keep it going anyway so I just went with it. Just like the last race, I told myself I would either crash and burn or bust out a great time. Apparently this is a pretty good strategy to keep you at the edge.

The course was really great running through town. The streets had character, the roads were flat, there were lots of people cheering. I was having a blast. Bergeaux and I were moving through the field. Mile 4 was 7:19, and then I really got into a groove going through downtown. Frequently I would exhort the crowd to cheer by raising my arms ala Ryan Hall, and they would respond, and I would get a boost and speed up. Miles 5, 6 and 7 were 7:05, 7:01, 6:55!!!  I went through the 10K only 4 seconds off my 10K PR! I was getting tired and was still worried about the pace, but last race's experience helped me feel confident that I could hold on.

In mile 5 I went by JB who was doing the marathon. Since he is obviously way faster than me - I was concerned, for both of us! Later I went by another looper in the Loop shirt, Royal Dryness. It was so cool to see loopsters on the course. I ran with or passed 6 during the race.

Mile 8 we hit the first hill and my legs started complaining. But it was short and followed by a nice downhill. Mile 8 was 7:26, but mile 9 was back down to 7:05. Bergeaux slipped ahead over that hill, but within a few minutes I had more company as sassafras pulled up alongside. I was still racing, and hurting, so we weren't exactly side by side chatting. But we pushed each other for a few miles.

Mile 10 was the BIG HILL. Hadn't seen it ahead of time so no idea what to expect. Well, it was longer than I thought! I just tried to hang on and keep moving and get over it, knowing that it would be downhill the rest of the way. Once I cleared it and got my breath back, I felt like it would be a good race. Mile 10 was 7:30, and mile 11 had a nice steep downhill that I owned like a bat out of hell. 6:52

At this point my legs were pretty shot and I was just trying to hang on. Then my calves started to cramp. At first they were just twinges so I eased off a little. Then at about mile 12.4 I had a full spasm and had to pull over and stretch it out for 5-10 seconds. Mile 12 was 7:08. Mile 13 I really wanted to push it in but I had to baby my calves so I slipped to 7:32. The finish was very cool, the calves were good little cows and didn't spasm again, and I managed a 6:42 pace for the last chunk. Final time, 1:34:43! BP, PR, etc...

I hooked up with Sass and Bergeaux and others after the finish. Congratulated Medievalist on her osom race. Then hung out and waited for more loop shirts to arrive. Got to share race stories with, oh, 40-50 people over the rest of the day. Racer's dream day.

Celebrated til almost dawn...
Still riding the high...

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