I refuse to call this race anything other than Philly Distance Run. Ever. Let's just get that out of the way first. Last year the race was bought by Competitor, and made part of the Rock n Roll race series. To which I say, ".....meh." It is hereafter memorialized by Len and me as "The Race Formerly Known as PDR." When someone asked at the finish line what race had been run today, someone told him, "Rock n Roll Philly Half Marathon," and he was unimpressed. Until I added, "You know, that thing that used to be the Philly Distance Run," at which point he was all, "Oh, ok, cool, man."
I slept in Saturday and then moseyed around the house for a while (read: changed the cat litter), so I didn't hit the road until almost noon. Since I'm so clever, that put me on I-76 juuuuust in time for the Penn State/Temple football traffic. Yay! So I spent some quality time with the Conshohocken Curve and finally checked into my hotel at three. Yes, it took me two and a half hours to make the one-hour drive, and another twenty-five minutes to figure out how to get out of the Wanamaker Building once I'd parked.
Was altogether unimpressed by the expo--they could have utilised the space a lot better and, say, had more floor space allocated to the places where people have to stand in line twenty deep to get their bibs and less floor space for the Brooks store. I mean, I get it. They're the underwriting sponsor, them and Dodge. But Dodge made more effective use of their space, and they had to park a freaking car in it. Also, for the entry fee, their swag bags are majorly lame, although the bags themselves are at least now reusable.
Went back to the hotel, fetched my book of Lucille Clifton poems (what? I had homework) and went downstairs to the on-site restaurant. No Smart-Car cake for me this year. In truth, I was feeling a little forlorn. This was my first race in Philly without Carl and Len and a gaggle of other assorted folks who change from race to race (Jen, Gunz, Charlotte, whoever). But few things cheer me up like reading during dinner, and a pint of beer. So when I returned to my room to lay out my kit and watch some NCIS reruns--er, I mean, grade some papers--my mood was much improved.
Since I was a short walk from the start, I slept in until the luxurious hour of 6 AM. Geared up, stretched out, drank my truly awful hotel room coffee (those of you who remember last year's RFKAPDR race report may recall an unfortunate incident involving Starbucks medium dark roast, a start-line porta-john, and my bandana; I have learned my lesson) and headed out the door.
Oh my God, it's freezing.
I head over to the start and hang out for a while on the Art Museum steps--the famed Rocky steps--chilling with the official Back on My Paws Great Pyrenees and his people from Back on My Feet, one of my favourite Philly organizations. After I while I meet up with my friend Mags. Mags and I used to run together when I lived in Three Feathers, but we ended up with consecutive injuries that sidelined us each for several months, and then I up and moved. So I hadn't seen her in more than a year.
We catch up on some stuff, pet the Great Pyr some more, and then line up for the start. Where we listen to the starting gun go off. Twenty-two times. That's right, Corral To Infinity, and Beyond! has a thirty-minute lag between gun time and chip time this year. So we're both pretty stiff for the first three miles or so. Also, I am still freezing my ass off and loving it. We hit the 5k at about my predicted pace, which is a little ahead of Mags's but she's happy.
The first five miles of this race are always a blur to me (no, not an Andrewblur, just a blur) because it goes through parts of the city with which I am unfamiliar. Which is to say, any of it. This year, at least, I notice that we pass the Liberty Bell and Constitution Hall and all that stuff (ohai, I can haz history lesson?) before hopping back on Arch Street and under/through the Convention Center and up Kelly Drive, where the bulk of the race is. There's a pretty stiff headwind at some points, but there are also some fun downhills. Whee! Annoyingly, most of the aid stations from Mile 5 to Mile 10 don't have any Cytomax at all (the first cup of "Cytomax" we got at Mile 2 was more like a few crystals of Cytomax mixed in with water. Not pleased. Not pleased at all. Especially since I spilled about half of it into my sock. Whoo hoo!)
Rather than my usual walk/run strategy, Mags has me taking a one-minute walk break every mile, sort of the way it worked out at MCM. And you know what? It freakin' worked. We hit Mile 5 well under my usual pace (though not a PR, thanks to a particularly motivation-filled--read: mad as hell--five-mile run scheduled a few years ago on the first wedding anniversary after my husband filed for divorce). The sun is perfect, the river is perfect, the pace is perfect. "Oh my God." I turn to Mags. "I feel freaking awesome." She glares at me. She does not feel freaking awesome. She fishes some Advil out of her Spibelt and gulps it down. We meet someone with a banner on her back that says JULIA and I comment to Mags how annoying it is that this Julia person seems to have been walking the whole way and keeps managing to pass us. (Turns out she's been running some. More on this later.) We stop for a much-needed pee break. Of course there is no toilet paper, but dammit this is my favourite grey bandana. I'll just drip-dry, right? No problem. Guys do it all the time. In fact, I've done it before running on trails. Outside at the washing-up station (since when do races have those?) I see Mags pulling paper towels out of the dispenser. What the hell. I grab one and stick my hand down my compression shorts--which is quite a feat, thank you very much, since CW-X compression shorts are tighter than Cameron Frye's ass--for some ill-mannered but very satisfying roadside assistance. The cop at the intersection is kind enough to pretend he doesn't even see this crazy lady. It's probably not the most horrifying thing he's seen all day.
Doot-dee-doooo....anyway.....there we are, my hands down my shorts....no, wait, I've finally managed to extricate myself, and Mags is laughing her ass off at me. It is true. I have no shame. Not during a race, anyway. And it's not like you could even see anything. So we make the turn at the bridge a few miles later and hit the shady side. Also the downhill side. Whee! I lose Mags for a little bit, but she catches up. And then? "See? I told you! Julia passed us. Again." Julia laughs and waves and tells us, "Oh yeah, the jogging's done."
Mile 10. Kickass! I love Mile 10 (hi Holly). Actually, I don't love Mile 10, I'm just happy that it means three more miles. We run under the Annoying Inflatable Rock n Roll Crotch Guy and, inexplicably, Mags keeps trying to take pictures of her legs. "What? I need something to distract me." Just then, during a minute-walk-break, someone dashes in front of us and cuts in, all, TA-DA!!! like with her arms out. It's Julia! For some reason (like, we've been out here more than two hours and we're getting stupid, just maybe) this cracks us up. She jogs off. Mags and I look at each other and set off, giggling, at a dead run. She goes right, I go left. We sneak up on Julia, and I shout "Ha-HAAA!" at the top of my lungs. Which, let's face it, is pretty loud. Julia jumps about a foot and then laughs for about a half a mile. Sadly, that's the last we see of her. Hope you had a great finish, Julia!
At some point during these festivities, Mags takes a picture of my butt, saying it's the only part of me she's going to see for the rest of the race. By the time I got home tonight, she had posted it on Facebook. And tagged me. It's mortifying. I am clearly pointing at my behindular area while--I don't know, I may be sort of running, I may be walking--as if to say, "See this? This is my butt." And I believe that is actually what came out of my mouth. Man, I don't know. We were totally goofy by now. The Cytomax had returned, I had to pee (again) but wasn't about to stop, and great god almighty cheez whiz, there's that last ramp up to the Art Museum. It occurs to me that I feel about a thousand percent better than I did at this point last year (it is also about a thousand degrees cooler, but whatever, I'll take it). We've taken a couple of half-mile minute walk breaks, but not too many. The rest of the time, we've been keeping what is for us a pretty strong pace, and we keep it now. I'm starting to get a stitch (I got one at Mile 8 too, of all places), because oh my god this hill sucks almost as bad as the one ending MCM, only without hot Marines yelling at you, and Mags looks like she might start to flag and I feel like I might start to flag if one of us doesn't do something and before I know what I'm doing I let loose with a mighty berzerker "YYAAAAAAAAUUUURGGGGHHHH!" loud enough to scare the crap out of several spectators and myself, and we dig into the final bit of incline rather like we're Merry and Pippin at the end of Return of the King, two tiny stubby little people running headlong and swordfirst into certain death, for Frodo. This is not what they call finishing strong. This is what they call finishing crazy. I'm running. I mean, really honest to God running. Virginia Beach can kiss my ass. I'm back.