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Tag: Philadelphia Marathon

Philadelphia Trail Marathon – Running Your Own Race

Three weeks after my first 100-miler of the season, I had to switch focus to the Philadelphia Trail Marathon. Recovery was a struggle. Sickness had swept through the house, and I couldn’t seem to shake a cold for days following the Rabid Raccoon 100. It might also have been due to my body being run down from battling the “mud monster” that was that 100-miler. I focused on sleep and recovery because there wasn’t much running I needed to do. I just kept walking, as most do after a 100-mile race, to keep the blood flowing through my legs to speed up recovery. “Motion is lotion,” as the saying goes.

This wasn’t an “A” race for the season; the Rabid Raccoon was, so this marathon was more of a fun afterthought. However, I didn’t want to skip it—I had so much fun last year, and I love racing in the Wissahickon. For those who don’t know, I have been coming here since I was a little kid. I’ve explored every part of the park, documented it, and filmed it—you name it. There’s almost nothing in the entire 50 miles of the park that I haven’t seen. With that said, this is relevant to the topic of this post and race report. Life is not fair, and neither is racing. You will race against people who have trained in this park, running on these trails. That is so critical for performance that I’ve learned your training has almost identically to mirror the race you are preparing for.

I will not waste food! Getting some dirt off my orange slice.

If this was your first time racing the Philly Trail Marathon, you now have your benchmark. You must manage your expectations at all times in racing, and it’s only once you have completed a distance that you can gauge where you might perform come race day. There are other factors that can affect race day performance, such as sickness or injury. There’s only so much you can control! That part is crucial for truly successful racing. You are constantly managing the variables you CAN control. Don’t waste a single thought on the competitor next to you, the weather, or the aid station food they may or may not have. Great race execution comes from controlling what you can in the lead-up to and on race day.

My format for most of my race reports is the same: I write out three things—what went right, what went wrong, and what I would do differently. Why? It’s a brief recap for myself for the NEXT time, for the future version of me when he faces a similar race or course. History tends to repeat itself, so if you are not learning from your mistakes, you will make little to no progress in this sport. If it’s just about being out there, which is a lot of what my true intention is, then this might not matter to you. However, if you are getting frustrated with your performance, then start doing an audit of each race or benchmark performance, which you can do yourself, and see where there can be improvements.

What went right?

A lightweight kit, one water bottle, and minimal food. I had two packs of shot blocks, two RX bars, and tailwind packs to refill my bottle. The food was perfect. I saw the predicted weather and I knew this was going to be a fast race, only slightly sloppy in some sections, but a non-issue. The Wissahickon doesn’t hold water on the single tracks, just on Forbidden Drive. Had there been hot weather, I would have changed my strategy for hydration, but I ended up using one bottle and skipping some aid stations. This worked very well. I could tell I wasn’t sweating, and I was making sure to keep eating about 300 calories after the first hour.

I caught this dude sleeping at an aid station. Always grab and GO!

My mindset going into this was that I was racing MYSELF, nobody else. I didn’t care how I did in this race. I had originally thought about not bringing my hat camera since the video I got last year was decent. I was GLAD I did. Either I have gotten better at editing video, or just the clips came together well because I feel like I made a better video than the year before.

What went wrong?

I set a Pace Pro strategy on my Garmin watch for 9:20, which was a stretch as I knew I was still not fully recovered from the 100-mile race. This should have been more realistic and maybe a little bit slower. Part of me thought I should just take a shot at it since there wasn’t much to lose. I got a little lazy with putting Tailwind in my refills and just used water after the first bottle. There was one slip-up I made with pace. When I finished the first lap, I was so excited and started pushing too hard of a pace. That was a bad decision as it just intensified the effects on my already tired legs. I should have monitored the pace better and dialed it back some. I shouldn’t have had a 7:37 pace on mile 14. What happens is when you tax the system like that, it puts stress on your legs on the downhills. Huge mistake, that did nothing but wreck my legs and give them a really heavy feeling as the miles proceeded. You have to slow down for downhills; there’s no benefit in blasting down them with the amount of damage it does to your legs. Next time I will exercise more restraint.

Stephen cut down the tree the night before to add an obstacle

What I would do differently?

There wasn’t much that went wrong with this race. I was very dialed in for the first lap but got too excited on the second. I need to be patient, and I have had that same thing happen in 100 milers too. You start feeling good so you push, but that’s exactly the time you should be holding back. If you feel good in a marathon, it WILL pass.

So, I kept running my race. I didn’t care who passed me, or what else happened out there. I was just racing myself. Now, I didn’t beat my previous time, but I know that every day you line up at the starting line, the variables change. Conditions are never 100% the same; you get what the day gives you, you control what you can, and you have fun. My ability to stay happy increases my performance more than anything else. Laughing, smiling, and knowing there are just a handful of these experiences in life keep me pushing hard in most races because they are a rare opportunity at this stage in my life.

Getting a hug from my family at the finish line.

On a side note, it was pretty funny how many people saw last year’s video on YouTube and mentioned something. I was glad that it was helpful to some, and several people said they used my GPX file from the site to train on the course. That is why I am doing all of this—to help others achieve their running dreams and goals. 

The last piece of advice I’ll leave you with for training is this: My favorite new quote is, “Easy for those who work hard, hard for those who work easy.” If you found this race difficult, chances are it was either your first time, or you didn’t train on enough hills. It would be best if you replicated the vertical gain per mile in your training runs. For instance, this run has an average of 3,300 feet of elevation gain over 26 miles, which is about 127 feet per mile. So if your training runs don’t average that leading up to the Philadelphia Trail Marathon, you’ll likely have a tough day. It’s the best advice I can offer for those who want to perform well in this race.

Let me know in the comments below how your Philadelphia Trail Marathon went. What would you have done differently if you had the chance? Thanks for reading, and thanks to all those who help make this race possible.

I stayed up too late editing this on Sunday night, but I wanted to get it out into the world.

The Philadelphia Marathon – 2010

After months of training, various 20 mile runs to work, decents amount of speed/hill work, it was finally time to face the marathon. You really couldn’t ask for a more perfect day, the weather wasn’t too cold, not as cold as you would think it would be for November.  This is my second attempt at the marathon, last year I suffered great pain and torture as I hit the 17th mile.  It was going to be different, having put in the necessary miles I knew going out I wasn’t going to struggle like last year.  Last year, I wasn’t happy with my marathon time.  I knew that I had left a large amount of time on the table, having to walk because of cramping was discouraging.  I saw several people that were in my same position as last year, it starts to happen as you head in to Manayunk.  The large steep hill, on main street, is brutal on your already tired legs.  This is also where you can find “race supporters” handing out beer. It’s one of the moments in the race you will either love or hate for, difficult because of the hill but great for the large amount of supporters.

A concern I had this year was finding a comfortable pace, I always worry about crossing the finish line with not giving it my all.  At the beginning of the race, I said to myself, if I can hold a 7:00 minute mile pace I would be happy with that.  Using my Garmin 405, I kept a careful watch on my time.  I like having instant feedback, it helped me avoid the problems of last year.  By the end of the race I ended up averaging 8:00 minutes a mile, 48 seconds faster per mile then my time last year.  As I passed Loyld hall in the final home stretch, I passed my father who was out supporting me.  Seeing my Dad provided an extra little boost I needed to help finish the race.

Running a consistent pace helped aid in the recovery process. I also made sure to continue walking directly after the race.  Last year, I remember sitting down on the side of the curb as I tried to recover. Massaging my legs with “the stick” for 30 minutes after helped with the soreness. I also continued to massage them daily, it’s painful but critical to a quick recovery. The Turkey Trot was coming up on Thanksgiving day so I wanted to recover fast so I didn’t miss it. I know I’m not even close to being competitive with the marathon. It feels good to PR in a short race, but nothing compares to defeating the marathon and beating your previous time.