I'll get in my lbrr before I get to work.
Yesterday was the Philadelphia Distance Run, which I knew I would run but took me to the last minute to admit to myself (and others) that I would. That indecisiveness cost me a $70 entry fee. For that kind of dough they should provide me with a personal porta potty.
But instead they actually cut back on prize money. I say this mainly so I can drop into this account the fact that I was third overall master in this race last year, for which I got modestly rewarded. This year masters money only went one deep. I guess that is what happens when a for-profit group takes over the race. What'll it be next year?
Last year's PDR is the best race I've ever run at any distance. Finishing time was a 1:13:33. No way I was gonna get near this time this year.
There, I got that out of my system. I think that was the stumbling block to registering. It took me awhile to face that fact square in the eye, but once I did I was okay with it. In fact, knowing that I wasn't going to run a 1:13, that there was no way in hell I'd even come close, took any pressure I might have put on myself off of this race.
Conditions were perfect for running, as well as for just being alive. I drove down with Reba and, after parking on 31st Street, we walked the last bit to the Art Museum. We're not out of the car for 50 meters and I reach into my pocket and realize my timing chip isn't there. Crap. Reba offers to drive back to my house, I say forget it, no one should care about my time today anyway. Two or three years ago it would have been unthinkable that I'd think that.
At the Art Museum I doffed my long pants (yes, it was that cool) and warmed up on MLK Drive. About a half mile out there is a porta potty and it had no line when I got there (I guess I did get my own private potty). I had about five minutes till the start to run back, and got into the corral just as the National Anthem was finishing up. I felt strong at the warmup. I felt loose, saying to myself just try to run a sub 6 pace for as long as I can. A 1:17 finish and I'll be happy. If I go slower than that, I'll still be happy.
Now if a race is run with no chip to register the finishing time, is it run at all? I could write that I ran a 1:13 and there'd be no way to prove me wrong. But I'll tell you now that I didn't run a 1:13. I pondered this existential conundrum and related permutations as I took it slow for the first mile. No weaving or shucking or jiving, just being patient and letting the crowd breakup in front of me. Like a polar bear on an ice flow. I run by Deirdre at about a half mile. Mile 1 in 6:21. It didn't bother me. I felt good and I was running through Center City on streets that, for this morning, belonged to our feet. Coming up on two miles I run by Stan Cooper, running his 30th PDR. I spend some of my precious breath congratulating him. Mile 2 is in 5:54 and I'm passing gobs of people at a time. Its worth running the first mile slow just for this. I take notice of a guy who passes me and latch on to him, letting him blaze a path through and around the still fairly dense competition. The downtown buildings create wind tunnels at times, creating constant decisions about when to draft and when to pass. I mostly chose the latter.
Mile 3 went by in 5:59 and at the 5k mark I crossed the chip mat to a deafening silence. I was invisible, off the radar screen, creeping up and bypassing my prey and moving on. Mile 4 in 5:55 and I got impatient with my pacer. Mile 5 in 5:54 and we were on the Drives. A second guy blows by me and again I lasso onto him. Mile 6 in 5:56. This is my current tempo pace, which makes sense, as running wisdom has one setting tempo pace at the speed of running a half marathon. Last week it was all I could do to get down to this pace in my tempo run, today it felt effortless.
Still regularly passing folks. We pass one chunk of about 10 or 12 folks (why do guys cluster around female runners?), and I could feel myself rising in the rankings, but it wouldn't matter, today I was nobody. Mile 7 in 5:55, a some point around here I pull ahead of 1902 (the number of my second pacer) but he takes affront to this and promptly passes me back. This unburdens my guilt at his pacing me. Mile 8 in 5:52, we're still passing folks, sometimes 1902 goes right and I go left, once we just plowed through a group of four. I see Andy Cherry up ahead in his trademark striped red and white shirt. Andy schooled me at Broad Street this year, and I got some satisfaction from running by him. Then its up the steepest hill on the course and over the Falls Bridge.
Keep waiting for the shoe to drop and keep running sub 6 minute splits. Mile 9 in 5:52 and now every mile is one less I can die on. Mile 10 in 5:54, giving me a time of 59:35.
25 seconds in the bank. I feel great and I'm eyeing a trio of bright orange-clad Central Park Track Club guys ahead in the distance. 1902 and me are now racing instead of working together, throwing in and matching surges. I'm loving it as I never have on the ass-end of this course. Unencumbered by the weight of the chip on my shoe, I close the gap on the CPTC guys, and as I'm in striking distance I drop it down a gear. Mile 11 goes by in 5:45 and I blow by the group in front of me as I lose 1902. I recognize one of the CPTC guys as Stuart Calderwood, he's having a strong race. Now I know every bump and turn, and smile as Kelly Drive throws her 2-way headwind at me. Mile 12 in 5:51 and we're closing in on the finish. I hear footsteps. I respond with another 5:45 for mile 13. Its down to the last 0.1 and I hear footsteps behind me. Not today, and drop it down one more gear. 33 seconds for the coda and I cross the finish in 1:17:33. I turn to see who my stalker is and embrace Stuart. If I had my chip, I'd be right above him in the results. But I didn't tell him my secret, and he'll be looking for me in the results and scratch his head. Was I a figment of his imagination?
I also shook hands with 1902. When I later looked at the results it was my turn to scratch my head. Apparently he was in the porta potty longer than I was, as he had an additional minute or so differential between gun and chip time, and thus although I beat him in the race he finished about 45 seconds ahead of me in the standings. So who won? Another conundrum.
I'm very pleased with my time, with how good I felt, with how much fun I had. Ironically, I ran Allentown last April in about the same time and was very disappointed at a time that was actually a few seconds faster. The race lets me know I'm in low to mid 2:40's marathon shape, and lets me take things accordingly. I'm thinking cheetah mode again.
And I've got a cheetah girlfriend. Reba smashed her old PR by over 6 minutes. You can read about it on her blog
. We'd celebrate that later with dinner. I got me a cheetah buddy, as Ian
ran 1:14 something. And I got an admirer of my fashion sense, to whom
I ask, how about them Phils?
And the final irony. We get back to the car and there is my chip, sitting on my seat. I can't believe I didn't think to go back and look in the car before the race. My subconscious must have blocked it out. It worked out nicely, but now I'll have to mail back the chip.
Life is good, I'm happy.