Wednesday, November 19, 2014

Race Report: 2014 Rocky Run 10K, Philadelphia

During my running career, there are two races in which I pulled an unexpectedly great performance completely out of my ass.  One was the 2012 Hershey 10K, which I PR'd in 52:33, a 10K time I had never, have never since, and probably will never again, come within 5 minutes of.  

The other was on Saturday, at the inaugural Rocky Run 10K.

I had no business -- no business whatsoever -- trying to run the 10K.  5K is the farthest I'd run since my surgery, and while I've finished that distance a few times without needing walk breaks, I usually needed to take a few, and I'd barely run the previous two weeks prior to this race (due to both some schedule issues and some motivational issues).  I'd needed several walk breaks during the third mile of a 3-mile run on the Wednesday night before the race.  On Saturday, I ran -- other than a stop to drink a cup of water and a short pause to tie a shoe -- 5 miles of this 10K before needing some walk breaks in the last 1.2.

I felt great during the race, and while I am a little sore after the race, it is not nearly as bad as I expected.  But most encouraging to me was that there was not even a hint of compartment syndrome pain, just normal soreness that I'd have after any run that was this challenging.

I couldn't be any more thrilled.  In the span of 1:12:54, my confidence level for the two half marathons I'm signed up for in the spring increased tenfold.  I need to train.  I know I'm not really trained to his level yet (I ran 4 miles on the Wednesday evening after the race, and while my knees hurt, there are again no compartment syndrome symptoms), and that the Celtic Solstice 5-miler in Baltimore's Druild Hill park will be (as "Druid Hill Park" implies) much hillier than this.  But for the first time in well over a year, it feel like longer distances are really possible again. 

But let's back up.

Race Day
Chris and I stayed with friends in south Philly, who kindly picked up our packets in addition to giving us some couch and floor space.  We left for the race, which had a 7:30am start time for the 5K, and an 8:15am start time for the 10K, which we were running, at 6:45, and were over by the starting area around 7:45.

It was freezing!  I like running in the cold, but temperatures were in the 20s and I am not very acclimated or in nearly as good a shape as I was in some of my past running winters, and I -- in my shorts, throwaway knit gloves, long-sleeve t-shirt -- was wishing I had my jacket, more serious gloves, and my cold-weather headband.  

Hilariously, our friends dressed as a chicken (him) and Rocky Balboa (her), hoping to win the race's costume contest by recreating the scene from Rocky II in which Rocky chases a chicken as part of his training.  There were plenty of Rockys, and well, that mostly it.  I did get passed by a few chickens (including my friend), a guy dressed as a giant piece of meat, and even 2 guys in Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles (representing, though, Rocky's turtles, Cuff and Link).

The race started promptly at 8:15.  I had been debating whether to run with Chris, how follows a modified Galloway plan in which she walks for a minute after every half mile, or use my own plan, a more informal approach of "run as much of the race as I can and then cross my fingers".  My legs felt good, and so I thought I'd run as much as I could without walk breaks.   

The 10K course is an out of back along Martin Luther King Jr. Drive (formerly West River Drive).  It was a pleasant, mostly flat course along the scenic Schuylkill River, with a decline down to MLK Dr. from the art museum, meaning an incline at the end.  

I started out at what I felt was a very cautious, measured pace, because I knew if if I went for my old 9-10 min mile pace, I'd have no shot of running most of a distance this far outside my comfort zone.  My strategy worked.  I felt great for the first 3.1 and had plenty left in the tank.  I felt like the second half of the race was more difficult...which I guess is always true on a flat-ish out and back.  Aside from a pause for a water break and a brief re-lacing of my right sneaker, I ran 5 miles before I needed to take a few walk breaks to finish the race.  But running into the sun was challenging.  I'd be lying if I said it was "hot", but the sun was very bright and I was sweating my butt off.  I took my long-sleeve t-shirt off and was more comfortable in just a sleeveless tech shirt, and very glad I didn't have any of my real cold-weather gear to carry.  Even 4 days later, my forehead still feel sunburned.

This race has a lot of personal baggage.  Even though it's across the river from the second half of the Philly Marathon, which follows Kelly Drive out to Manyunk and back, I still had that "running along the Schuykill and wondering if I had enough left to finish" feeling.  Indeed, in that same race back 2011, I remembered at mile 11 and 12, along the same place on MLK Drive, knowing that I felt decent, but not good enough to have the type of second 13.1 I was hoping for.  On the other hand, this time, there was no sign along MLK telling me that I had another 14 miles to run; I just got to run back up the hill toward the Art Museum and finish -- just like in the two Philly Halfs that I count among my best races.

This one is up there with my favorite finishes, even though I know I didn't really earn it.  It will probably be a few weeks before I'm trained up to run a 10K or even 5 miles, but knowing I ran this far without compartment syndrome pain was joyous, and I lost control of my emotions a bit as I came up toward and crossed the finish line.  I finished the Rocky Run 10K, but now my training for the Shamrock Half must begin in earnest.

Race Review
This was a really nice event.  Fun theme, fast, scenic course, great medal, DJ's playing inspirational hits from the Rocky movies along the course, ample port-o-potties at the start, and free photographs.   I'm not sure if this will be an "every year" race because of the logistical challenges of a Philly race (although I said I'd dress as Adrian next year to enhance my friends' costume contest chances), but I would definitely run this again.

There's a few constructive criticisms, though.
  • I'd space out the water stops differently -- there were 2 on the way out, quite close together, and only one on the way back.  I can't complain too much, I certainly could have brought my hydration belt
  • I think I'd send the starters off in a few more waves, it was a very crowded field
  • There was no food at the finish line, only water, or if there was food there wasn't enough of it or it wasn't well-marked. 

Overall, though, a great first-year event with great friends, and a race that definitely has meaning for me as I attempt to make up for lost time in my now three-year quest for revenge.

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