Wednesday, September 24, 2014

(Non)Race Report: Rock-n-Roll Philly Half

Sunday was the latest battle in Philadelphia vs. RunnerTeal. I was taking on the Rock-n-Roll half and—for once in Philly—I wanted a win. Even a loosely defined one.

The best part of the day was when Kara Goucher spoke to me. In the elite area before the race, I was standing behind her in the porta-potty line. The race coordinators were yelling about how we all needed to get to the start, but the line wasn’t budging. Kara turned to me and asked, “Can’t we just pee behind the porta-potties?” I tried to say something helpful, but instead made a useless nervous giggle/noise. She disregarded my pathetic-ness, hopped out of line, checked out the situation, and—deciding it was a least semi-private—announced to the line, “Yea, I’m going to make this a thing.” Apparently, Kara Goucher is quite humble about where she pees. (Although, in stressed moments before a race, aren’t all runners?) Post-race, I had the chance to redeem my lack of skills interacting with running celebrities when Deena Kastor came up beside me at the dessert table. I wanted to ask, “How did you do, Deena?” as I hadn’t yet heard if she had broken the Master’s World Record. (She had.) Instead, I stood there pathetically and watched her eagerly select a mini-cupcake (red velvet, for those wondering).

The fact that the best part of the day was a pee-related incident with my idol says something. The day did not go well.
Changing socks. Not generally a photogenic moment,
but you can play Find My New Best Friend in the background.
After Kara and I became fast friends, we headed to the starting line. As I stood in the corral, bopping around to the music to stay loose, watching all the spectators snap photos of the elites, I thought, “You know, this is pretty awesome.” And not just because someone decided (incorrectly, as it turned out) that I was worthy to stand at the front. The start of any race is awesome. The music is going, the city streets are cleared just for us runners, spectators are out to repeatedly tell us we are awesome. I was reminded of what Mary Wittenberg says at the start of the NYC Marathon: “The city awaits you.” Sounds pretty sweet, let’s go.

So go we did. And then it got decidedly not awesome. My very loose “plan” was to go out at 6:15 pace for the first five miles and then see how I felt. If I was in good shape, I’d pick it up from there. If not, that’s okay, it’s early in the season; I’d just try to maintain.

I hit a fast first mile and a slow second one, but by 4 miles I was pretty much right on my planned pace. Mile 5, though, was way too slow and I could tell picking it up was not an option. In fact, dropping out entirely seemed much more probable.

I debated this for much of the next mile. Again, it was a replay of the last time I raced here. (Why do I keep reliving races?) Dropping out around mile 5 is the ideal giving up spot; you’ve just looped back by the start/finish area and can easily duck out and pretend today never happened. But I realized that dropping out was not so ideal (obviously!) because not only would I have given up on the race, I also would have given up on a solid workout for the day. In my world, all things revolve around the marathon, and being in terrible shape for a half marathon does not give you license to do nothing. The marathon looms, and it’s Sunday Runday so you better do something. I gave up on the race, but tried to salvage the day. I’d keep on plugging along and take it as a workout.

Mile 7. Enjoying having a cheering squad/paparazzi to help me through the "workout".
The fact that I was no longer racing relaxed me only slightly, I was still upset as to what terrible shape I was in. My splits edging closer to--and becoming slower than--marathon pace didn’t help. (I’m hoping to run a marathon faster than my average pace from Sunday, so, even as a marathon pace workout, it wasn’t great.) My time was embarrassing (“Um, who invited this girl to the elite area?? She is not worthy to pee anywhere near Kara.”) and I wish I could erase the whole day. Sadly, I can’t. It was humid, but I’m pretty sick of making excuses. There will be other chances, I hope (although perhaps not to tell Deena that red velvet is always a good choice).

Whatever Sunday was—a non-race, a workout, a glorified stroll along the Schuylkill, a pathetic embarrassment on all fronts—it was not a win. That means the score is now:

Philadephia: 7
RunnerTeal: 0

A few other runners enjoying their race/workout/Schuylkill stroll. Next time, Philly.
Dream Big,


  1. I witnessed a runner who weasled his way into the elite corral fall out gasping at Mile 4, so I know "elite" has a specific definition that includes you. Your adoring fans in Philadelphia are just hoping we're not the actual source of the so-called "Philly Curse." Your training run inspired thousands of spectators! Thank you and please come back. We'll make velvet cupcakes.

  2. I know this wasn't the race you wanted, Teal, but you did a great job of making the best of the day. By pushing through and not dropping out you got to practice that mental toughness that is so handy on marathon day! As you said, this is just a stepping stone en route to your marathon and even though your pace may not have been what you wanted, I guarantee the effort you put in was on target and will ultimately result in gains in fitness. Plus, how cool is it that you got to start with the elite group and chat with Kara & Deena?! Gotta admit, that's on my bucket list - even if I have to find a super-small race in order to be considered "elite" - ha!! Keep at it, Teal - I anticipate you'll be reaping the rewards of this workout sooner than you think.