2011 Philadelphia Rock ‘n Roll Half Marathon Recap

If you follow me on twitter or you’re my friend on Facebook, you probably already know that yesterday’s half-marathon went well. Thank you so much for all of the virtual encouragement – it definitely helped A LOT! I’ve been feeling a little iffy about my fitness level lately. Sure, I’ve put in the miles, but my Spring and Summer races were mostly “meh”. In fact, I haven’t run a PR (or a good race, really…) since last Fall.

I knew I might not be in sub-1:30 shape, but I was still really excited (and nervous!) about the Philly half. In my book, feeling that way is always a good sign. It means you care about the outcome.

Saturday was a day of errands and travelling. I ran a chill 2-miler before meeting up with some teammates for the 2 hour van ride to Philadelphia. After picking up bibs at the expo and checking into the hotel, the man-friend and I headed to an Italian restaurant not too far away. We arrived at Mercato around 6pm and I’m glad we got there early – dinner was a slow affair and we didn’t finish until 8pm. For pre-race dinners, I like to eat on the earlier side. It gives me more time to digest so I don’t go to bed feeling overly full. When I was scouting out restaurants on Yelp, I was excited to find out that Mercato was BYOB. But sadly…the night before a race is probably not the best time to drink 1/2 bottle of wine.

But the fact that it was restaurant week in Philly made up for the lack of vino! 3 course for $35, yum.

I’m not super picky about pre-race food. As long as it’s not too spicy or greasy, I’m good to go. For my appetizer, I ordered the whole grilled artichoke with olive oil, sea salt, and a citrus aioli dip. I love whole artichokes (so fun to eat!), but they’re a lot of work, so I never make them at home.

My pre-race entree was the short rib gnocchi with broccoli rabe and shaved locatelli (a type of cheese). Whoa. I’m not the biggest fan of Italian cuisine (despite the fact that I spent a semester Florence…), but this was amazing. Savory short ribs, slightly bitter broccoli rabe, salty cheese, tender gnocchi. The best pasta dish I’ve had in a long time, promise. I’m going to credit it for helping me run well the next day!

And of course, there was dessert – mascarpone cheesecake with walnuts and maple syrup sauce. I shared some bites with the man-friend, so that I left dinner feeling content, not stuffed.

I was able to fall asleep at 9:25pm (yessss) and slept straight through until about 6am. Within minutes, I was headed downstairs to scope out the continental breakfast. I snagged coffee and a small toasted bagel topped with smashed banana and strawberry jelly. Coffee is a MUST before races for me and then I try to eat about 300-400 calories of mostly carbohydrates.

I wasn’t checking a bag and I wanted to avoid the long porta-potty lines, so I stayed at the hotel until the last possible moment. I left around 7:30am and jogged for about a mile to the start.

Katie and I were in the first corral (hooray for finally meeting in person!) and so our race started promptly at 8am. I ran with a teammate of mine for the first 4-5 miles and it felt surprisingly easy. Our goal was to keep the pace around 7:05 and go through the first half of the race feeling good. Half-marathons are so unlike a 3k or 5k or 10k, where it pretty much hurts from the start. I think one of the reasons I love the half marathon (and the marathon to a lesser extent) is that it’s a huge mental challenge. You have to go out controlled if you want to finish strong. I know that sooner or later the tired legs and labored breathing will kick in, but the goal is to delay that for as long as possible. To feel “in control” and “smooth” for as many miles as I can. Yesterday, I felt good for a long time. Almost scary good. Sure, I was running hard, but until the last few miles, I didn’t feel like I was in that red/danger zone. I think a big part of that was starting out slow (ish) and then picking it up. That’s always a HUGE confidence boost and I know that running is at least half mental. I didn’t wear my Garmin during the race and while it would be nice to have mile by mile splits, I think racing sans-Garmin is what works for me. A lot of people in the race were stressed out by lost satellites, wonky reception in Center City Philly, and running more than 13.1 (aka not running the tangents). That’s not stuff I want to think about when I’m racing – it’s too much of a distraction. I race best when I’m completely focused on the task at hand.

The final results-

 First 5k – 7:06 pace

3.1 – 10.2 miles – 7:05 pace

6.2 – 10 miles – 6:53 pace

10 miles – 13.1 miles – 6:47 pace

Sure, I would have liked to go sub-1:30, but I feel like I ran a strong and smart race. And it’s a 53 second PR. I can’t be disappointed in that! You can check out last year’s Philly Rock ‘n Roll half here if you’re interested. It’s where I set my previous PR of 1:32:22 !

I cooled down for 2 miles and felt decent for the rest of the day. I did get a headache later in the afternoon and I have a feeling it was from dehydration (I didn’t drink a ton post-race because I had a 2+ hour van ride ahead of me!). My quads were a little sore this morning, but over all I feel pretty good. This week will be chill in terms of running – maybe a few easy miles here and there. Next week I’ll ease back into training and then start going back to workouts. I’m already getting excited about what’s going to come next – the Philadelphia Half-Marathon on November 19th and the Boston Marathon on April 16th. Wheee! I’m figuring out my plan of attack for the next half and will report back soon. I have some exciting training announcements to make!

Thanks for putting up with this long-winded recap. When you have a good race, it’s nice to be able to reflect and analyze, you know?

Do you have a go-to pre-race meal? One time I ate an can of chickpeas and a whole wheat wrap (whoa fiber) the night before a race, but things still turned out pretty well!

  • Ali

    YES! You are amazing. I am pumped for you. CONGRATULATIONS on a great race! Also love that YOU’RE feeling good about it. Sounds like sweet success.

    I appreciate that you wrote you hadn’t PR’d since last fall. I haven’t PR’d since I started marathon training and for a while it was really getting me down. I wanted to PR every single race and when that stopped happening, I started getting frustrated. It makes me feel a bit better to know that a badass runner such as yourself has gone through similar periods.

    In other news, I miss you.

  • Congratulations!  Sounds like you had a fantastic race.  I’m not sure how comfortable I would be running a race without my Garmin because I never seem to have any sense of pace.  I feel like I’m running so slow, and it’s really a 7:00 min pace, or I feel like I’m sprinting and I’m barely holding a 9:30.  I think it’s really cool that you were able to race so consistently without a Garmin for the whole 13.1 miles.  That’s some serious pacing skills.  My go-to pre-race meal is usually pasta of some kind with marinara, though for a while I went with a Chipotle veggie burrito bowl as the go-to meal because it was easy to replicate in most cities regardless of where the race was.

  • Anonymous

    dude, it’s so easy to PR in every race when you first start running! but then, as you become a stronger and smarter runner…the PRs start to slow down. instead of 5 minute PRs, it becomes 20 second PRs, 30 second PRs (if you’re lucky). i think it’s very normal to go through a period without a super awesome race – especially when you’re running mega miles for marathon training. you’ve been completely focused on marathon training and that’s all going to pay off on Saturday 🙂 plus, you’ll automatically have a PR!

  • Congrats on a big PR – yes, I think, 53 seconds is big, even for a longer race!  Blame it on the gnocci if you want.  I’m gonna blame it on you just being awesome. <3

  • Anonymous

    i’ve gotten pretty good at recognizing pace, although i must admit it’s a little scary not to know *for sure* what pace i’m running until i’m already at the mile marker. i’ve found that if i can stick with the pack of runners around me, the pace usually ends up being fairly consistent.

    good advice re: Chipotle! very consistent ingredients and prep throughout the country. we got coupons for free burritos in our race goodie bags, but unfortunately they are only good in Philly locations 🙁

  • Eileen

    Fabulous race! I have one coming up in two weeks, and I’ve been debating my strategy. Thanks for the reminder that starting slow and aiming for negative splits is the best way to go.

  • Yay, congrats on the PR! Awesome job. Coffee is a must before any RUN for me, which means it’s imperative for a race.

    I’m sad you’ve decided not to run NYCM this year! We will still meet up in November, yes??

  • Anonymous

    of course! and i will be out cheering in full force 🙂 maybe i’ll even run a TX race sometime….

  • Oh, and I don’t have a go-to pre-race dinner, but lately my go-to breakfast has been Nutella sandwiches toasted in the George Foreman grill. 🙂

  • sarahsaysrun

    um, either i missed something along the way, or you sneakily broke the news you are running Boston in 2012. awesome!
    Great job on the race and kudos for running san-garmin. I know people run without them for “easy, fun runs”, but never on race day.

  • Yes, do it! You know, they do the Olympic trials here the day before the Chevron Houston full and half in January. Could be a fun future trip! 🙂

  • Anonymous

    haha, yes, i was sort of sneaky about the Boston announcement. i made the final decision to register last week…more details soon!

  •  Hi Megan!  Your blog is one of my VERY favorites and I wanted to give
    you a big congrats on your speedy PR!  You are an inspiration!  Also,
    I’m impressed you raced without your Garmin.  Unfortunately, I am a
    slave to mine and I wish I weren’t.  Everything Beth said is actually
    true for me, as well!  I’m terrible with “feeling” pace.  I hope to get
    better at it!

  • congrats on your PR! sweeter when you have to wait for them…

  • WOW! Congrats on an awesome race. I’m literally in awe of your splits!  

  • Congrats on the PR!! Yay! Nicely run race! 

  • Although I have a Garmin on when I run, I never look at it until the very end.  I try to run intuitively and save the splits for a (hopefully) nice surprise at the finish.  I agree that a lot of runners get distracted and/or distressed by Garmin splits.  In a half or full marathon which is, as you say, so psychologically focused, a bad mile split can really throw your game.

    I just try to avoid excess fibre before a race: no matter what I eat my nerves generally make my stomach quite unhappy!  I’m very impressed by your chickpea/fibre wrap achievement 😉

    Congratulations on a great race!


  • Megan! This was such a fun post to read. So great to finally meet you in person – and what better place than at the starting line of a half-marathon (ha!)
    Congrats on the PR – so excellent. Glad to hear you felt strong. Boston in April – good for you, girl.
    So, I ran with the Garmin and agree with you – it was screwing with my head big time the first couple miles in center city. Once I figured out how far off it was and did some math I was okay, but I may think twice about racing with it in center city again.
    Also, backing up, I love Mercato! It’s one of my favorite restaurants here. You definitely need to go back another time when you can enjoy the BYO-factor. 
    Looking forward to doing it again in 2 months!

  • RunTheLongRoad

    Congrats!  I did look for you yesterday but everyone blended together.  I was in the 4th corral.  
    The weather was pretty great, huh?  
    So glad you got to take advantage of restaurant week!

  • RunTheLongRoad

    Congrats!  I did look for you yesterday but everyone blended together.  I was in the 4th corral.  
    The weather was pretty great, huh?  
    So glad you got to take advantage of restaurant week!

  • an entire can of chickpeas?  my stomach hurts for you.  i mean, come on.  things to finish in one sitting: a pint of blue marble.  things not to finish: a can of beans.

    ok, maybe you shouldn’t take advice from me.  but big congrats again on the pr.  countdown to celebrating: t minus 1.5 hours!

  • an entire can of chickpeas?  my stomach hurts for you.  i mean, come on.  things to finish in one sitting: a pint of blue marble.  things not to finish: a can of beans.

    ok, maybe you shouldn’t take advice from me.  but big congrats again on the pr.  countdown to celebrating: t minus 1.5 hours!

  • Carissa Oltmann

    That is beyond awesome.  And considering you got a PR, you can be long-winded all you want.  Now I want cheesecake!

  • Anonymous

    hooray!! congrats, friend! That is a great PR and definitely an indicator of even better things to come in November AND April. So glad you had a good race 🙂 

    go-to pre race meal is usually toast with PB and a banana – never fails! I think my intestines would revolt from chickpeas..

  • Maren

    That’s SO great Meg! Congratulations lady! Who cares if you didn’t beat 1:30…now you are just that much closer to getting it next time! Keep up the crazy fast running! 🙂

  • Congrats on the race! What a great PR! I love hearing that you race without your garmin. I’m thinking about ditching my watch for my upcoming half. 

    I used to always have the same night-before meal, but it doesn’t work now that I’m not eating gluten so I’m trying to figure out what works best now! Same goes for in the morning before the race. I’m traveling for the half in October so it’ll be interesting being in a hotel room! Glad you were able to find good stuff where you were staying!

  • Corey @ runner’s cookie

    Megan you did amazing!!! I am so impressed. This race shows that your patience and diligence with your training really paid off, and even after some disappointing races you didn’t give up, knowing you could improve. You obviously ran so smart, and can’t beat the negative splits. Sub-1:30 is just around the corner for you! Congrats!!

  • Nope, not go to pre-race meal at all! I had penne a la vodka, wine, and a cupcake Fri night before Sat’s race — worked pretty well 😉

    And, holy crap! You are so fast!!! Sounds like you had an AWESOME race, especially considering you sped up as it went along. CONGRATS!!!

  • Nope, not go to pre-race meal at all! I had penne a la vodka, wine, and a cupcake Fri night before Sat’s race — worked pretty well 😉

    And, holy crap! You are so fast!!! Sounds like you had an AWESOME race, especially considering you sped up as it went along. CONGRATS!!!

  • Congratulations speedy!! A 1:31 is awesome, as are your negative splits! I love when everything seems to fall into place like that on race day. I’m glad you had such a great race – and I think this is a great “warm up” before the Philly half marathon in November. A sub-1:30 is definitely within your reach!!

    I think it’s interesting that you find you race better without a Garmin. I feel like mine has the opposite effect. On race day, I usually get so excited when the gun goes off that I go out too fast, yet in my head, it feels like I’m running relaxed (and slower than I really am). The watch helps me keep my pace in check at the beginning. I normally have a decent sense for pace and can guess what I’m running without it, but for whatever reason, I lose all sense of pace on race day. At the same time, it can definitely stress me out sometimes – more feedback isn’t always better.

    Congrats again on your PR!! Especially after a summer of “meh” races. I haven’t PR’d at all this summer either…I’m hoping it’s more from the temperatures than my fitness level, but I guess we’ll see.

  • what an amazing race, lady!! i think the fact that you felt so strong with that time is very telling of your future sub-1:30 and that it’s definitely possible. you rock!

    mercato looks great! will have to hit it up next time i’m in philly.

    i feel like i remember reading that post about the chick peas, haha. you’re nuts. 

  • Way to go on that time! Oh my goodness…

    I heard a lot of people had a good time for that race- even a few of my friends on facebook came out of the woodwork and said they ran it! I had no idea!

    And I LOVE artichokes. But yeah- in the home, I only use artichoke hearts. I’m lazy like that.

  • Christine at These Happy Miles

    wow – amazing – congrats! looks like you got a negative split too! 

    you definitelyyyy have a sub 1:30 half in you!

  • Page

    AMAZING job! I think you and are in the same goal/seed boat, so you def. need to come out west and we can demolish that sub-1:30 together 🙂 Nice work!

  • Page

    Wow! My spelling was WAY awful in that post. I don’t know what happened…but here is what it was SUPPOSED to say  😉

    AMAZING job! I think you and I are in the same goal/speed boat, so you def. need to come out west and we can demolish that sub-1:30 together 🙂 Nice work!

  • Anonymous

    ahh, i would love to race in Cali or in the Pacific Northwest somewhere. i’m already scouting out wine country marathons….what better way to rehydrate? 😉

  • I read this on Mon but didn’t have a chance to comment yet, CONGRATULATIONS to you on a great race! Sounds like you were really able to bring down the pace and feel good towards the end, which is always the hardest part! Looks like a perfect day for racing. Hope this serves as a great confidence booster leading into November– you will crush 1:30!

  • great race! i like to focus on the task at hand too and you definitely did. great pr. i forsee november being good to you

  • Congrats on the great race and the PR!  Those negative splits are pretty awesome and definitely show that you have a sub-1:30 in you!

  • Aron

    Wow you paced that race PERFECTLY!!!!  Sub 130 will be yours in no time, but this was pretty freaking awesome too – congrats!!

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