The in24 Philadelphia Midnight Madness 8.4 Mile Race Recap

A couple of firsts for me this past weekend: my first trip to Philadelphia and my first night run.  Both exceeded my expectations!

Back in June I entered a draw over at RunKarlaRunfor a free entry into this race.  The truth be told I really didn’t think I would win but thought what the heck, why not enter?  Obviously I did end up winning.  Apparently the only contests I have luck in are running ones; last year my name was drawn for the NYC Half Marathon lottery on my first year trying and then I won this entry.  My husband, while happy for me, has suggested I try winning something that actually earns us money rather than costing us :)

I’ll be perfectly honest, Philly has never even been on my radar as a place to visit.  Had I not won the race entry I probably would never have made it to this city.  I am so glad though that I did get there.  I love being in a city where I can just walk for hours and Philly met that requirement.  It is a very “walkable” place and my husband and I clocked many miles just enjoying the city.  Philly is of course full of history.  I admit to being a little weak in the whole American history thing, but this city made it easy for us to learn about all of the events that have taken place there.  There were historical plaques everywhere and bus shelters had posters saying “This block in the year __________”.  Just looking at the architecture alone was enough to keep me happy.  Then there was the food.  It is very safe to say that my 13.5 km run and all the walking didn’t come close to burning off everything I ate at several excellent restaurants over the weekend.  I am choosing to not step on a scale for a few days.

Race kit pick up was held at a downtown running store.  This was a small race so there was no expo but it was fun to look around the store.  While there we met Scott, Executive Director of Back on My Feet, Philadelphia.  Back on My Feet sounds like a phenomenal program that helps homeless people reach new goals and see themselves in a positive light.  It is a program that has expanded to many American cities and as of 2013 it has seen 1000 members obtain employment.  I probably can’t do justice to all that this organization does.  If you love to read how running can change lives I strongly suggest you check out the Philadelphia chapter’s website at http://philadelphia.backonmyfeet.org

Meeting Scott at race kt pick up.

Meeting Scott at race kt pick up.

Meeting Scott was one of the highlights of the weekend.  He was so enthusiastic about the race, within moments of meeting him you know why he has the job of Executive Director of Back on My Feet in Philadelphia.  He was excited to know that we had come from Ottawa so I could do what he called their little race.  I think he was somewhat shocked when he realized that the race was our soul purpose for the trip.  He kindly gave us some advice on how to speak with a Philly accent (apparently my pronunciation of “organization” completely gave away the fact I wasn’t a local) and recommended foods to try while in town.  If I hadn’t already been excited to try this race, Scott’s enthusiasm would have done the trick.

Free frozen custard with your bib!

Free frozen custard with your bib!

I would be lying if I said the thought of safety during a midnight run in a major American city hadn’t crossed my mind.  This was particularly true when the final information email came out with a note that all runners were strongly encouraged to carry their cell phones.  But hey, running in a park in the middle of Philly after midnight…what could go wrong, right?  The fact was I felt perfectly safe throughout the run.  With only 200 runners I certainly wasn’t always in a pack, but I had no concerns for my safety.  The path for the most part was well lit, though I did learn quickly to watch the pavement when near the many large trees alongside the route.  The roots often pushed up the pavement just enough that at night time it could be easy to miss.  But otherwise I felt very comfortable out there and it was such a unique way for me to see a popular Philly running route.

We arrived in plenty of time for the race, which was a good thing because it didn’t start exactly where I thought.  After climbing the “Rocky” stairs and circling around the museum with no sign of the start line, I spotted a couple of ultra marathoners walking on a path below us.  I ran after one and he very kindly gave me directions to the start.  For someone who had been running and walking for almost 14 hours at this point, he was very friendly and helpful.  Had that been me I would have probably struggled to be coherent, much less friendly.

At the hotel room we had stitched some glow sticks on my clothing, but once we got to the race it was time to do more.  In the end this is what I looked like (my shoes and compression socks, which you can’t see here were also adorned in neon):

 

IMG_1994Reduced

 

IMG_1995Reduced

For a while I chatted with a runner who had in previous years taken part in the ultra marathon event.  Check out her illuminated outfit (that is me on the left, her on the right)

IMG_2003Reduced

I was impressed with her “glowing” effort but even more impressed to find out in previous years she had completed from 50 to 80 miles (miles, not kms!) when competing in the ultras.  For the in24 ultra event runners start at 10 am on Saturday and see how many miles they can complete in 24 hours.  Our midnight race ran the same loop as the ultra runners, but in the opposite direction.  It was amazing to have the opportunity to cheer on these runners, probably my favourite part of the race.  It is pretty difficult to mentally moan about being tired when you see people who have been out there for over 14 hours.  Remarkably some of them still had the energy to cheer us on too!

Running in the dark along the Schuylkill River was wonderful.  I’m sure it is lovely in the daytime but at night it was so peaceful.  I was surprised by the number of fishermen out at that time of night.  Halfway through the race you cross over the river and I slowed my pace down and just enjoyed the views.  Heading towards the end of the race the view included lit up boat houses and the city skyline with the Museum of Art in the foreground.  I kept debating whether I should stop and take pictures but in the end I decided to just keep moving.  To make up for it, after the race my husband and I headed to a spot where I knew I could get some shots of the scenery.  Remember, by this time it was after 1:30 am, so my husband gets bonus points for being the most patient spectator ever :)

Some of the views:

IMG_2032Reduced

 

 

The Museum of Art and my glow starting to fade.

The Museum of Art and my glow starting to fade.

As for my run, I have to say my legs were a little tired from playing tourist.  That and my stomach might have been a little too full and I can’t say it was feeling happy at the 10k mark.  Ideally I would have liked to run just a little faster, but I was still in the time range I was expecting.  I can definitely tell I need to start doing a little more work if I want to pick up my speed.  But as I mentioned in the previous post, all but one of the female runners ahead of me were younger, so that always makes me feel good :)  While I didn’t have a lot left in me at the end, I had just enough to give a little sprint and a big smile ( I think) as I hit the finish line.  My medal was handed to me by Scott who asked if it was worth coming all the way from Canada.  The answer to that was a resounding “Yes!”

And what do you do the day after a midnight run?  Head to the waterfront and grab a hammock!

IMG_2087Reduced

 

And finally, my favourite Philly photo:

IMG_2099Reduced

 

Philly Midnight Madness Stats

We’re still enjoying all that Philadelphia has to offer, so for now a quick look at the numbers from last night’s Midnight Madness Run in Fairmont Park.

Distance: 13.5 km

Gun Time:  1:16:18 (no chip time)

Overall: 56/203

Women:  23/116

There were no age categories but I figured it out anyways – if it was a 40-49 category I would be third, a 45-49 category would have moved me to a second place. I definitely wasn’t as fast as I hoped but the 5:37 min/km pace wasn’t bad, particularly given all the walking – and eating – I have been doing while in town.

As for the race itself… loved it!  More details in the next post.

 

The 20 Minute Challenge

Last night my family, several members of my running clinic and approximately 20 000 other Canadians took part in Running Room’s 20 Minute Challenge.  Walkers and runners across the country were invited to participate in a 20 minute (or longer) route at their nearest Running Room store and share in the fun of keeping fit.  If you registered in advance (free registration) you also received a running hat.

My running family.

My running family.

It was great fun seeing so many people out on a summer’s evening embracing the outdoors and personal fitness.  Once again I was so happy to expose my kids to this kind of event.  In their eyes, getting out and running – or walking, biking, whatever – is just a part of normal life.  They were rather excited to be part of a running group and they made great pace bunnies for the large group of us heading out to do 2 sets of 10 and 1′s.

Once we were done with the official event, we headed back to the river for some more family running.  Both of the boys are wearing old Garmin watches of mine.  Needless to say they have figured out every possible mode of their watches and have them doing things I never even knew about when I wore them.  Both boys were really keen to do distance intervals, so off we went doing some sprints followed by walks.  Evan, who ended up ahead, even threw in some jumping jacks and sit ups!  I am so pleased that they considered all of this a night of fun.  They have even asked if they can come join me for the Wednesday night runs with my group!

One last reason to head to the Ottawa River for an evening run:

Sunset at Westboro Beach

Sunset at Westboro Beach

 

The Lazy Days of Summer

I’m not running enough.  Unlike the rest of the year though, I don’t feel guilty about it.  There are other times of the year when I can’t run because a busy life just gets in the way.  I can’t say that is the case now.  Right now all that stands in my way is the fact that I keep hanging out at the beach along the river, or at our cabin on a lake, or even on the couch with a book.  Right now if I can simply maintain a bit of running fitness I am happy.  Leading the 5k clinic is the perfect summer activity for me.  Two runs a week with a great group of people, followed by a short solo run.  I then make sure I fit in one more run, plus boot camp once a week.  Voila, training schedule done.  Simple, no pressure, just like summer :)

The dog days of summer :)

The dog days of summer :)

Real Runners Run in Rain

Last night was week three of the 5k running clinic I am leading at Running Room.  We have all started to recognize a pattern on Tuesday nights; it rains… a lot!  Last night was no exception but it didn’t dampen any spirits.  Check out the smiles at the end of the run:

The rain won't stop this group!

The rain won’t stop this group!

This picture doesn’t really do justice to the actual rain we were running through.  Last night was one of those small-creeks-running-down-roads, little-water-fountains-coming-out-of-the- mesh-on-your-shoes, waterfalls-running-off-your-hat-peak type of run.  And this group did it with smiles on their faces.  So to my 5k group – no matter what you pace is, or how long you can go before your walk break, you are now officially RUNNERS in my book.  Wear the moniker proudly!!!

As for me, yesterday was an eclectic day of running, perfect considering I want to change up my training a bit while still maintaining the fun factor.  Over the course of the day I ran about 17 km but it was done in four different runs.  Since my car had to be dropped off for a couple of hours of servicing in the middle of a car dealership no man’s land the logical thing to do seemed to be go for a run.  I planned a 4k route to the nearest Tim Horton’s so I could have lunch.  Of course, it being lunch time meant running in the midday heat and humidity (not a cloud in the sky at this point) on a route with little to no shade.  I surprised myself with the first leg of the trip as I ran faster than I anticipated in the heat.  Mostly that was just because I was desperate to get out of said heat.  The route back was less pleasant.  Apparently running with a stomach full of bagel, kettle chips and frozen lemonade just isn’t a good idea.  I’m not even going to pretend that I enjoyed that run.  By the time I made it back to the dealership I was a sweaty mess and I am sure they were happy to just hand me my keys and get me out of their office.

The evening of course was the 5k group run.  Once I was done that I figured I was wet anyways so I might as well take advantage of the cool evening and go for another run.  My goal was to make it a fartlek, which it was to a point.  I discovered though that trying to do speed work in squishy wet shoes is not as easy as you would think.  In the end it was just a fun 6k run and a nice way to complete a running day.

 

Finally…The Scotiabank Vancouver Half Marathon Race Recap

VancouverDayTwo-019

“This is your distance.”  These were the words my husband met me with at the end of the Vancouver Half Marathon.

VancouverDay3-008

At that point he didn’t know my official time, though he knew it was faster than I had expected.  What he was reacting to was the smile on my face.  After having to deal with my disappointment after the Ottawa Marathon, I am sure he felt a sense of relief seeing my happy approach.  And he was right; the half is my distance.  Not because I am ever going to set any amazing records, but because it is just the right mix of distance and fun.  I have to train to do it but the training is “doable” without taking over my life.  The challenge is still there, those last few kms are still work and the thrill of crossing the finish line is still as powerful as the marathon.  There is also still room for improvement.  I took almost six minutes of my best half marathon time even though I have yet to seriously try some speed training (this summer, really!).  I know I can do more. I love this distance.

Without a doubt this race will hold a special place in my running memories.  While I hope I have more sub 2 hour halfs in my future, I’m guessing nothing can beat the feeling of the very first one.  And to have achieved this while feeling great and having fun, well there really isn’t much more an average runner like me can hope for.

When reading various running blogs there will often be discussions about waiting for the stars to align, or in other words, waiting for that perfect race. In Vancouver I got lucky, and those stars aligned perfectly. This was despite the fact that technically speaking I really wasn’t preparing the way I should have been. It had only been 4 weeks since the marathon. Week one was a taper week with only a couple of short runs. Week two saw 30 km of running, week three inched up to 40. Certainly not record mileage for me.  Week four I was right back to a taper. I did manage a 17 k run the week before the race. It was good, but certainly nothing spectacular.

After spending a couple of months trying to eat very carefully in preparation for the marathon, I went on a junk food binge that to be honest is still continuing to this day. I ate whatever I wanted and didn’t bother having a simple rice or potato meal the night before the race. I figured if I was just doing the Vancouver run for fun, why rob myself of fun food?

Throw in the fact that I had crossed time zones, had just finished my busiest few weeks of work and got to Vancouver with just enough of an intestinal issue to make me feel a little nervous, this should not have been a perfect run.  It just goes to show that sometimes things don’t go as planned, but in a good way.

Race morning came early on our third day in Vancouver. While we had done a lot of exploring, the race would take me through an area I had not yet seen.  This was a point to point race, the finish being very near our hotel by Stanley Park. My husband, and the boys, still in their pyjamas, drove me to the shuttle bus ($10, purchased online at registration) and then they headed back to the hotel to get some more rest before meeting me at the finish line.

The start line was located at UBC and the bus got me there with an hour to spare.  This was a mid sized race, very different from the feeling of the huge crowds of Ottawa Race Weekend.  There were no barriers to try to squeeze through and I even managed two porta potty stops with no line up.  Perhaps that should have been the sign that this would be my lucky day!  There were flags posted for all of the corrals except mine… not entirely sure how one whole corral was forgotten in the pre-race set up; imagine the chaos that would cause in a big race!

The temperature was warmer than I like at the beginning of the race.  I always figure if you have to wear a throwaway jacket while waiting for the start it is a good sign.  By 7:00 am it was definitely too warm for a jacket.  That would normally send me into a heat panic, but since this race was for fun, what did I care if it was a little too warm?

I chatted with a couple of very nice B.C. runners, one of whom recommended an Ontario race (Mississauga) as a perfect race to get a P.B in either the half or full marathon distance.  (Hey Karla – that’s the one I sent an elevation map of… hmmm, I might have been on to something!)

Then I spotted Nikki from the B.C. blog “Slow is the New Fast”.  She had been kind enough to give me a bit of advice about the course so it was fun to meet her in person.

photo-16

Ends up this was the only photo I took at the race.  I had plans to stop and take pictures during the run, but as I mentioned in a previous post, I soon realized that there was no way I was slowing down, much less stopping for pictures!

The first part of the course was a short out and back which I enjoyed for two reasons; I got to see the speedy leaders and there was a fair bit of shade.  I also started to realize that while the sun was out and it was warm, there was no humidity, or at least nothing resembling the stagnant, heavy humidity in which I had been running during the previous week in Ottawa.  I have always said I am not a hot weather runner.  What I am realizing is I am not a humidity runner.  (Case in point – today I ran 3.5km in Ottawa humidity.  I can say without a doubt that during that brief run I lost more sweat and struggled more with my breathing than during the entire half marathon in Vancouver.)  Every time during the race that I thought I was getting a little hot, I was saved by a breeze, a stretch of shady trees or clouds drifting across the sun.  If I could run in that type of weather every day, I would be the world’s happiest runner.  Honestly, I felt as if I had elite runner lungs, or at least what I imagine that to feel like.  I’m not saying I wasn’t a bit out of breath sometimes, I was, but I never felt like I was breathing through a straw, or only using the top third of my lungs.  And yes, I admit I am starting to question if I have a bit of exercise/humidity induced asthma.

At this point, what else do I say about the race?  It simply felt amazing,,, joyful… purposeful…gratifying… I am sure there are many more adjectives out there that might do the feeling of completing this race justice.  It was that race we all hope for and I admit I worry that it might be a long time coming before I have another one quite the same. But here is what I have learned, and I will put it in bold to make sure I remember the lesson:

You can train to be your best, you should train to be your best, but it doesn’t mean race day will be your best.  But that training does not disappear after race day.  It is all still there within you so that maybe, the next race day will be your best.

I thought my marathon training had not paid off.  It did, just not when I expected it.  And that is o.k.  Actually, more than o.k!

As for the Scotiabank Vancouver Half – would I run it again?  Absolutely.  Of course there is that minor inconvenience of having to fly to the other side of this huge, beautiful country.  But I loved Vancouver, loved the city, the parks and of course the race route.  I don’t know if every year they get such perfect weather.  Maybe most years bring the grey skies and rain that we easterners often associate with the west coast.  But from my experience, this is a course just waiting for people to find their P.B’s.  I am so glad I found mine :)

VancouverDay3-021

Victory salt meal ;)  And no, not all of those wrappers are mine!

Victory salt meal ;) And no, not all of those wrappers are mine!

 

 

Hello in24 Philly Runners!

I discovered today that my blog link has been posted on the in24 Philadelphia Facebook page.  It did lead to a little bit of a laugh (perhaps even a little gasp) as I realized that the photo posted with it is from my post “Finally Brave Enough…”  The continuation of that title was …to run in a running bra without a shirt. Yep, there is 45 year old me on their Facebook page proudly posing in my running bra :)  Love it!

For any readers from that Facebook post – welcome and I am so looking forward to visiting Philadelphia!  If you have any advice for the run, or for my visit to the city please let me know.

For those still curious about the race, you can visit their website at http://philadelphia.in24race.com/  All proceeds of the race benefit Back on My Feet, an organization that uses running to help the homeless change their lives.  I think every runner knows the power of running; what a wonderful way to use its benefits for those in need!

bomf_logo

15 days ’til Philly!