I started training after I got back from my summer backpacking trip. For the most part, I followed Pfitzinger's 12/55 plan. Despite the unusually warm weather in Toronto, I would often skip recovery runs, so my weekly mileage was never over 45 miles. From the beginning, my runs felt more sluggish than I had liked and I had to dial down the pace for workouts. I still kept BQ as my A goal, but realistically I knew chances were slim.
I ran the Toronto half marathon on Oct. 16th as a tune-up race and managed to finish just under 1:30 (1:29:48). According to McMillan's formula, that would put me at around 3:10 for the full marathon. Weather wasn't perfect that day. It was quite warm, and it was drizzling for the first half an hour or so. This got my hope up a little bit, that maybe if weather would be perfect at Philly, I might still have a shot at 3:05.
The week before the race, I traveled to Nashville for an academic conference (INFORMS), and stayed there until Wednesday. I was able to get out and ran my last 12 miler on Sunday, but then caught a cold the next day. It wasn't serious, but enough to keep me from running for the next 3 days. I tried 2 miles at marathon pace on Thursday, and it did not feel right at all. It was a bummer but there's not anything I could do about it, so I decided to just run the race and hope for the best.
I arrived at Philadelphia on Saturday afternoon. It was a beautiful day, with high in the 70s. I walked to the exhibition center and picked up my bib. Afterward I headed to Chinatown for dinner. I was delighted to find out my favorite noodle place was still open, although they had since jacked up the price for quite a bit. For some last minute card loading, I had some noodle soup with extra noodles, and bought some Gatorade and bread on my way back to hotel. I watched some college football and went to bed at around 10.
I woke up at 4:30am on race day, and had some coffee and bread. At 5:30, I boarded the free hotel shuttle to the start line. It was about 30 degrees outside, but I still decided to wear singlet and shorts. Because why not?
Race started promptly at 7. My fenix 2 was off by quite a bit the first couple miles, so I wasn't able to tell what my exact pace was. It was a problem throughout the race, as I wasn't able to tell my expected finish time. I had to take a quick leak at the second mile and wasted 30 seconds. I picked the pace up a little bit around 4 miles on Chestnut street. I was following the 3:15 pace group for 2 miles on the narrow street and decided to pass them just before crossing the Schuykill River. There was still a large spectator showup despite the cold. My 10k split was 46:12. My pace was 10 seconds slower than what I had in mind, and I was already feeling some fatigue at such early stage. So mentally I adjusted my goal to 3:10.
From there we entered University City and encountered a couple of rolling hills and a more significant one before the zoo. I struggled a little bit. The 3:15 group almost caught up. The downhill immediately following was a great relief and I managed to stay ahead of that group.
We then proceeded to the Fairmount Park. There were some changes to the course this year. They got rid of the Falls Bridge turnaround, and added a couple of miles in the Fairmount Park. It felt a bit lonely at that section. There were fewer spectators, and we were reduced to smaller groups of 3 or 4 runners. I passed the half way point at 1:36:13.
We then headed back to the art museum, and began the long run towards Manayunk on Kelly Drive. I picked up the pace and tried to keep it at around 7:10. I managed it the first couple of miles but then I first experienced the full force of the wind. The first half we were more or less shielded by the buildings. It was frustrating trying to power up running into that 30 mph wind. My pace dropped to 7:20 again, and by that time I knew that I would be lucky if I could pull up a 3:10 finish. My left hamstring also started to tighten. It had not affected with my running yet, but I knew it would be a problem later in the race.
Overall I was still moving fine and reached 30k at 2:16:52. Kelly Drive wasn't easy for spectators to get to, but the crowds at East Falls and Manayunk were great. I got some much needed adrenaline pump with their loud cheers. There were guys giving out beer shots at Manayunk. It was unfortunate that my stomach could barely handle the gels, so I had to pass that offer.
After the turnaround at Manayunk, we started the long way back to the finish line. By that time, my hamstring felt worse, and it was just a matter of time before it cramped. To make things worse, I was still running against the wind for some reason. My pace dropped to 7:30, and I was exhausted.
At the 24th mile, the expected cramp finally happened. My moan must have sounded terrible, as multiple runners from the other direction came to me and asked if I needed assistance. I waved them off and wasted a couple of minutes desperately trying to stretch it out. I managed to get that under control but 8:30 pace was now the fastest I could muster.
Last 2 miles was all about survival. I had nothing left in the tank, and every cell of my body was screaming stop. I used all my mental power to persuade myself to keep running. After what seemed like an eternity, I spotted what I thought was the finish line. It turned out that because the wind, they did not erect the arch, so there was just a digital board that showed time. It was a great relief that I was indeed right and I crossed the line at 3:16:58.
I felt completed wrecked immediately after the race, and had to sit for a while just to gather enough energy to walk to the truck and collect my checked bag. But after a couple hours I felt just fine. My muscles were sore but I could walk with no problem (stark contrast to my previous 3 marathon attempts). I also started doing recovery runs three days later. I was not too thrilled about the time, but under the weather condition it's not too bad. It does mean that I have to run a spring marathon in order to BQ for 2018. For now my plan is to run Ottawa marathon on May 29th. Here is hoping that it won't be too warm on race day.