Friday, May 8, 2015

Race Report: Family Duel II/Broad Street Run 2015

As I’m sure you know by now, last weekend was one of the biggest weekends in sports, highlighted by the Fight of the Century: the Family Duel down Philadelphia’s Broad Street.
My strategy was to run 5:55 pace. Everyone kept talking about breaking 60, but I was telling myself I already had, so it was on to bigger goals. If I could manage 5:55 pace for most of it (59:10 for ten miles), maybe I could kick it up a notch at the end and squeeze under 59. In actuality, the goal I set at the beginning of the season was even faster, but seemed a little too crazy of late. My new plan still sounded crazy, but I’m nothing if not overly ambitious. At least I had reined it in a little.

I figured Brother would assume I’d go for 6:00 pace, so a couple miles at 5:55 might take the wind out of his sails. Then I’d be free to coast to a big PR and the family title.

The first mile was right on target: 5:55. Bam. Perfectly according to plan.

Then I noticed Brother wasn’t right next to me, in our bunch that included some teammates and Cousin. He was actually a stride or two ahead. Brother is leading at this pace? Hmmm. That wasn’t the plan.

So I tried to catch up to him, to plant myself right beside him. But every time I did that, he seemed to pick it up to stay one stride ahead. Suddenly we were running 5:52 pace, which was decidedly not my plan. This is fast, too fast for so early in the race. Surely Brother can’t keep this up. Can I keep this up? (I realize three seconds fast may seem like nothing, but when it's a few seconds faster than your intended pace, which was already faster than you've ever run for two miles back-to-back, let alone ten, it's quite intimidating. Which was exactly Brother's intention.)

Being smarter racers, with less family feuding and no championship on the line, the teammates and Cousin dropped back.

I was debating doing that myself. It seemed dumb to keep this up—was I sacrificing a big PR just to beat Brother in this silly duel? I should drop back and focus on running smart. But we were running closer to my crazy early season ambitions than anticipated. Maybe this will turn out better than expected. Letting Brother try to break me might be dumb, but letting him pace me might turn out to be brilliant.

I knew that was highly unlikely, that I only felt good because it was so early, but still—logic be damned—I did not want to be dropped. If I fell back a little, I feared it would turn into falling back a lot, and then who knows what would happen to my PR plans.

So along we went. Me perpetually one step behind, both of us running 5:52 pace, through 5 miles (easily a 5K and 5 mile PR). I can’t believe Brother is keeping this up. (How am I keeping this up?) Surely he has to break soon.

Around City Hall, I tried to run the tangents. (It’s the only spot running the tangents matters, since the course is otherwise a perfectly straight line.) There was a woman near us, so I focused on catching her. And suddenly I had a step or two on Brother.

I tried to solidify the move by sticking with the woman, but she quickly got ahead, and now I was in no man/woman’s land. I didn’t know how far behind Brother was (one stride, ten?) but I tried to keep to our blistering pace.

It didn’t work. You can tell on the splits when I took the lead, because the pace dropped markedly. Maybe I only got the lead because Brother was slowing, but I was slowing right with him.

We got to our family’s cheering section; everyone was so loud I couldn’t make out what they were saying. My sister-in-law tried to tell me what place I was among the women, but I misheard her. I mistakenly thought she said I was in the top ten (a shocking revelation, since I had seen the hoard of incredibly fit women in the elite tent). This race is turning out amazing! I’m beating Brother, I’m doing well in the field, I’m running super fast!

Just before mile 7.
Brother is in the white hat on the left.
Then I saw my dad, who said I was in the top twenty (not ten) and who was also screaming wildly, “BROTHER IS RIGHT ON YOUR TAIL!!!” From my family’s perspective, it looked like Brother might be catching up to me, en route to overtaking me. They had no way of knowing that I had actually just overtaken him.

But he was still right on my tail. And the 7th mile split made me realize how much I was slowing. Damn. This went from amazing to Struggle City pretty fast.  

The next two miles I continued to slow, just like I had at Cherry Blossom. But now I was alone with no one to pull me along. Brother was behind me—who knew how close—so that was pushing me slightly, but not enough. I kept looking at my watch, seeing my pace and thinking, “I need to pick it up.” But there seemed to be some disconnect between my brain and legs, and the pace stayed where it was.

A woman followed by a swarm of men passed and I tried to latch on, but it didn’t work. Where the eff was this finish? We went over a slight hill and then under the photo bridge (Why did that trick me before? It does not look like a finish line) and still I couldn’t see it. Lindsay caught me (told you she was a smarter racer) and encouraged me to go with her. I tried to muster a sprint (Brother could still be on my tail! I can’t lose it now!) and finally made it through the finish.

I finished in 59:24, slower than the pace I had hoped for, but ahead of Brother in the duel. But as I mentioned last week, if I won the duel and didn’t run the time I wanted, I’d be upset. And I was. Not hugely upset; I did run a PR and it was a great day all around. (As another cousin enthusiastically reminded me at the finish line party, “Oh my God, that was SO MUCH FUN!”) But this season’s results aren’t stacking up to my out-of-this-world ambitions, so despite PRs and family duels, I’m left to ponder that.

I think, in the end, Brother pulling me through six miles at the pace he did turned out to be a huge blessing. (Sorry, Bro, your plan backfired.) I'm not sure what pace I could have held by myself. I’ve gotten spoiled with amazing pacers and teammates, and I seem to lose focus whenever I’m alone. In the olden days of RunnerTeal (pre-GRC), I used to always run alone. I was slower then, of course, but I think I need to learn to channel some of that Grind It Out Mojo I used to have and bring it up to speed.

But still. I set a big PR, officially broke 60, and won the championship. Dare I say it? I think I’ve broken the curse.
The New Champion.
Dream big,

Despite the outlandish amount of smack talk surrounding the Family Duel, the race was actually a really great celebration of family and running. Another great celebration of family and running is the annual Father's Day 8K, an evening race along the Georgetown canal. Sign up today!


  1. This is such a great race recap. I wish I could get my brother to run Broad Street with me! Congratulations on winning the dual - and that phenomenal time. :)

    1. Thanks!! And congrats on your race, too! Hopefully your enthusiasm about Broad Street will rub off... :)

  2. Three things:

    1. I was told your goal was sub 60. I trained for and ran sub 60. Now I see your actual goal was 59.10. Well played sister.
    2. I did not intend to mess with your head. My running style is: go out way too fast and fall apart as the race goes on. For this race my only goal was stay on your hip. But the first mile (which was a good pace) felt so slow I couldn't do it. So I tried my usual plan, with the usual results.
    3. Well done you are the true Family Champ... For now.

    1. I have evidence (of the text message variety) of telling you in January I was aiming for 58, or at least 59. I didn't lie about that. It was the other prognosticators who kept throwing around sub-60. Don't you know I dream big? (I was going for "only" sub-60 at Cherry Blossom, but that was weeks ago...)

      Regardless, I'm throughly impressed by your showing. We both improved by 5 minutes since the last duel. If we can improve by another 5 minutes for the next one....

  3. First off, I cannot believe that TWO members of your family can run 5:55 pace for even one mile, much less more than one in a row! That's pretty awesome. You guys have some good genes and (I'm betting) even better work ethics to be able to pull that off. :) CONGRATS! Great job on the PR and congrats on the family championship win! I think it's beyond cool that your family has a running-related duel that has now spanned several years. :) Looking forward to seeing how you defend the title next year!