Is there a better way to spend your birthday weekend than racing, exploring a new city, seeing an old friend, meeting online folks and setting a shiny PR?? NOPE!
Well not in my book. ;)
I arrived in Philadelphia on Friday, September 13th and had a great time walking around a bit with my friend Joann, who I've known since 7th grade (I'm 31). We hit a few local establishments before calling it an early night.
One of the best ways to explore a city - in my opinion - is on foot so I headed out bright and early Saturday morning (September 14th) for a little shakeout run before the following day's half marathon.
It was beautiful. Joann lives right by an entrance to the bike path so I hopped on and just let the legs lead me. I was planning on just running 2 miles, but I had something I wanted to see over a certain bend so I just kept running. I honestly wanted to keep going, but had to bring myself back to reality knowing I had a race the next day.
Thankfully Joann doesn't mind walking and Philly is a wonderfully walkable city so instead of driving or taking a bus or taking a train, we walked from her apartment to the Rock 'n' Roll Philadelphia Expo. It was a great way to hit some of the "must sees" of Philadelphia and the weather was beautiful!
Rocky and I conquering our dreams!!
I couldn't ask for a prettier day to explore a new city!
LOVE - wish my wife had been with me so we could've taken a cheesy photo together
We had such a great time walking and talking that before I knew it we had finally made it to the Expo.
After picking up my bib...
Should I host my own radio show? ;)
Joann and I wandered around the Expo, trying out some free samples, running into familiar faces from Boston (yay Kelsey) and making sure I nabbed a sweet pic in front of the green screen.
I should wear these glasses all the time, right?
Following the Expo we hit up the famous Reading Market and continued our sightseeing/trek back to her apartment. We saw almost all historic landmarks Philadelphia had to offer as well as some of the most historic taverns. Balance, right? ;)
We had a lowkey/chill dinner before I called it an early night. I had an early wakeup call with the race.
Joann was gone, but thankfully she had a full length mirror so I could still do my pre-race selfie. Important or the race won't happen. :P
I got myself ready nice and early so I could hit up Dunkin Donuts first (hello coffee) and give myself plenty of time to get lost walking to the Start - just in case.
I did love the art on the walls of a certain bridge underpass as I walked to the Start.
It gave me something to think about as I ran later.
Thanks to Got Chocolate Milk & Team Refuel I was able to hang out in the VIP tent prior to the race and meet up with some of my teammates.
The wonderful Erika & Angela
The VIP tent was sah-weet. They had snacks, a special bag claim as well as Elite athletes all over the place. I felt extremely out of place, but had a great time sitting and chatting with my teammates. It was also nice to have a special area with bag claim and port-o-potties to use before heading to the Start Line.
I had to hightail it over to Corral 4 and made it pretty much just in time.
Before the race started, I tried to tell myself to just take it easy. I was trying to use the race as a simple long training run. BUT I was also told that Philly was one of the flatest courses around and a great place to PR.
My mind and body were torn. Once the Start gun went off I said I would listen to my body. And no matter what enjoy the run.
And from the get go I had to pee again. I had to talk with myself of when to stop and use the port-o-potty or skip it. I also was sad to know I had zero people watching me along the course. I get sad when I don't have even one spectator I know personally.
But as I turned the corner (around Mile 2 I believe), there was a smiling face I was happy to see. The one and only Mission Meltdown (aka Dre). We know each other through blogging. He has one amazing infectious smile. I was BEYOND happy to see him. Plus he snapped this pretty sweet action shot.
I used his energy and love to push through the rest of the race.
I decided to hit a port-o-potty before the 5k mark and I was happy I did. Short line so the whole experience took under 45 seconds.
Once I left that spot, I was golden the rest of the race.
I just kept trying to enjoy the scenery around me and take in the experience. I actually was around the same few people the whole race so I made it my mission to try and stay with them or ahead of them for the rest of the race. Sometimes during long races you need to play games with yourself to distract yourself from the time.
I also was using a pacing bracelet for the first time ever. I picked the 1:45 bracelet out of the bin at the Expo. My previous PR was 1:44:30 so I thought having the bracelet might be a nice experiment to see how well I did.
It actually helped me make up time after the bathroom stop. :)
Philly is legit flat/downhill folks. We kept going down and down and I thought to myself at some point we HAVE to hit a large hill, yet we didn't.
I was making glorious time and my body felt awesome.
It was around Mile 7 that I realized. I might hit a PR if I play my cards right, but if I miss it - it will all be because of my darn bladder. :O)
I was cruising along listening to the convos of the folks around me when I came across a Rock 'n' Roll and Team Refuel legend - George (probably during Mile 8). We were online friends, but had never met in person. All of a sudden he came up next to me. It was great to have someone to chat with for a couple minutes - especially someone you have been wanting to meet in person for awhile now.
Every time I hit a Mile Marker, I checked my Garmin and checked my 1:45 pace bracelet. I was on my mark of trying to stay at least 30 seconds ahead of the pace band.
As we hit Mile 10, I just told myself "You just have a 5k to go - kick it up a notch." I tried to give it everything I had. I wanted a PR so bad I could taste it.
I tried to just focus on passing people - it takes my mind off the PR - and keep myself strong.
We were still on a slight decline, which confused the heck out of me. If you go down, at some point you have to come back up ... except in Philly. :P
As we passed the 12 mile mark, I ended up near someone running in jorts (jean shorts). I COULDN'T have this person beat me so I had to et in front of him.
I saw the Mile 13 mark and the road finally started to have an incline.
Of course it would incline during the last tenth of a mile.
But I dug deep and gave it everything I had.
I crossed the line, grabbed my medal, took my post-race photo and finally looked at my Garmin. Unofficial time of 1:44:08 ... a freakin' PR!!! Ahhh!! Even with a 45 second port-o-potty stop.
I headed over to see my peeps at the Got Chocolate Milk tent ... I needed my sweet sweet After of chocolate milk.
I even got to snap a pic with George after he finished.
Love his hair! :)
After chatting with Lindsey from Got Chocolate Milk, it was time to head to the medal engraving tent and get my medal engraved. It is totally worth the $20 to me. I do it at each Rock 'n' Roll event. Why do it onsite? Well if they mess it up, they have a whole box of medals sitting next to them where they can redo it. You wouldn't get that if you waited til you got home.
The man told me I had an official finish time of 1:44:12. Still a PR by 18 seconds! :) Hell yeah! I jumped up and down!
Oh I'm sorry, does that say SUB 8 min/mile pace for a freakin' half. Yes it does. Whhaaa??? Me. Lil 'ol me. It is CRAZY what my body can do now. I am loving every moment of this adventure.
After my medal was all snazzy, it was time to head back to the VIP tent and wait for my Refuel teammates. The one thing I dislike about the RnR events is their post-race beer choice - Michelob Ultra. I just don't like wasting calories/Points on that beer. I have specific beer taste. ;)
BUT, when I went into the VIP tent, there were mimosas. Oh yes I will have one of those ... thanks!
I LOVED the medal and really needed to thank Team Refuel for the chance to run this race.
I added my own sparkle thanks to this Sparkle Athletic skirt.
As I was enjoying my mimosas and snacks (mmm bacon), other teammates starting trickling in. It is just such a treat to meet these online friends in real life.
What a great crew! Thanks Angela for the pics!!
This was a great great race. It really is one of the flatest courses I have ever run on. It was scenic. The bands along the way were rockin'! The volunteers were energetic. And the crowd - as always - was lively!!
Would I recommend this race? For sure!
After hanging with the crew for awhile, it was time to head back to Joann's house, grab a shower and hit up lunch with Joann. Sunday afternoon we finished up some touristy stuff, but called it a night early. Ordered in some sushi for a pre-birthday dinner and watched a movie at her place.
A lovely end to a lovely day as I had an early wakeup call the next day to head home. Yes I got to travel on my birthday. :P
Overall, it was one truly amazing weekend. I was surrounded by so much love, earned a shiny PR and just enjoyed the experience. I am one lucky lady for the opportunities I have received.
Until next time Philadelphia...