kyle cassidy (kylecassidy) wrote,
kyle cassidy

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This is not a fitness blog, but I just ran my fastest half marathon ever! (again!)

When a bib showed up magically the night before the Philly Love Run Half Marathon I figured I'd use it as an opportunity to test my Broad Street Run pace to see if I could sustain it. Last year I finished Broad Street at a pace of 8:05 minutes per mile -- which was a bit freaky, there wasn't anywhere to go from there but sub eight which had always seemed one of those boundaries between "fast" and "something I can possibly do". (My first time running Broad Street I ran something like 11:35's.) I ran a half marathon in January in 8:11's, almost dying but obliterating my previous best time, and I'd recently clobbered my 5k personal record, running 3 miles in 7:10's (while actually throwing up at mile 2.5) and I'd recently run a 5 mile race in 7:55's -- so my plan was to try and run 7:55's for 10 miles and then jog it in.

I'd had a recent epiphany about belief and performance and also the ability to endure -- all mental, for the most part and I've been feeling that I've turned a real corner in the sportsing. (It goes like this:I am fast, I am strong, I am so fast and so strong that I can ignore this pain for 30 more minutes because that's the difference between winning and not winning. Repeat until collapse or victory.)

For this race I was on the City Kitties team to raise money for stray cats in West Philly & the great thing about that, well, one of the great things, was that they had a tent and a table where I was able to leave my jacket (it was cooold) and not have to worry about it during the run. I wrapped myself in one of those space blankets they'd given me at another race and went off to the starting line. (Photo of me at the starting line.)

I'd run the Philadelphia Half Marathon shortly after the Boston Bombing and security was tight. They wouldn't let me say hello to my sometime training partner Patricia, who's a wheeled athlete doing all these races with just her arms. This time there was no security and I was able to walk up give her a hi-5 and promise to meet her at the end.

I found the 8:00 minute pace team (mike and lou) and settled in with them. Pacers are runners who are "paid" (usually only with free admission to the race) to run at a particular speed holding a flag or some balloons. They're typically much faster than the pace they're running so for them it's just a leisurely Saturday run. This is immensely helpful if you're trying to do something faster than you'd normally run, you have someone to keep up with, and someone who can shout encouragement, find the tangents, block the wind, & all sorts of other things. I figured I'd run with them for a while or a little ahead if I could. The gun went off and for the next two miles it was like a bunch of salmon swimming upstream. My only real complaint about the Love Run is that there were no corrals, just an announcer saying "fast runners to the front, slower runners to the back" -- which is fine if there are 300 people in your race, not 3,000, and there was no wave start, which means, after the wheeled athletes were given a 30 second head start, everybody else shot out at once. So the streets were very crowded and there was much colliding.

(Spoilers, I finished.)
Go me go! You may clickenzee to embiggen!

This all thinned out after about two miles though and I settled in with the pace group. We had to make up for a bit of lost time. Our first mile was 8:05, we did the next two at 7:31 to bank a little bit of time for the big hill at mile 6, then pretty much stayed on pace until we hit it. I was expecting that we'd run what's known as the Odyssey Hill, because it's at mile 13 of the Odyssey Half Marathon, but this was a completely different hill, it started as a somewhat innocuous looking off-ramp onto a bridge, but then turned and continued into another hill that went up, and up, and up, and up, and disappeared around a curve. I passed Patricia here, struggling. Usually nobody but the very elite ever see the wheeled athletes again after they start (at the Boston Marathon, for example, the wheeled athletes finish an hour before the first elite runners) -- so to pass one meant that the hill was pretty significant. I gave her what words of encouragement I could with my head tucked down. Finally we crested the hill, only to find a third beginning right after. I don't remember much of it, except that Lou and Mike kept shouting words of encouragement like "YOU GOT THIS HILL! THIS HILL IS NOTHING! YOU CAN DO THIS!" and my feet went up and my feet went down.

On the other side of the up hill was a giant down hill and we got a little relief for the next few miles. As we approached the 10 mile mark I ran a bit ahead, it was pretty obvious I was going to make my pace of 7:55 and break my previous Broad Street Run record, after that I intended to jog in lightly & go home. But when I told Mike & Lou this, they had different ideas, "You are not slowing down!" they said "We are going to run you in to a new half marathon PR. And by the way, your new Broad Street pace time is 7:47."

Some of the City Kitties team after the race.
You may clickenzee to embiggen!

And I thought, Well, I don't feel terrible so I'll see how long I can hang on to them.. I'd fall back a bit, then fight my way up to them again. Eventually around mile 11.5 I decided I was done & dropped back about 50 feet, where a woman in a black baseball cap gasped to her friend "we have to fight our way back to those pacers!" and I got suddenly inspired, although she wasn't talking to me, and I fought my way back. At mile 12 Mike & Lou decided that I should be running between them whenever we passed a photographer so we could make the Usain Bolt lighting bolt sign for a cool photo op. So they'd yell "photographer!" and I'd struggle back up even with them for 20 seconds, smile for the camera and then fall back a little. As we got back down onto Martin Luther King drive headed back to the art museum Mike said "We're on pace for a 1:45 finish." Being one of those sort of even-clock numbers, 1:45 has always been one of those dream goal barriers for me. Under two hours, under 1:50, under 1:45.... I'd come this far and heck, did I want to break 1:45 -- I hadn't thought it was possible that morning. So, with renewed mental energy, but still flagging legs, I powered on. And in the last half mile I became obsessed with whether or not the finish line was in the same place as the start line. I thought perhaps they'd moved the finish to directly in front of the art museum "Rocky Steps", it seemed sensible, but if the start and the finish were the same, it would mean that after we came out of the underpass to the art museum I'd still have about two tenths of a mile to go. If they'd moved it to the steps, I had about 100 yards to go. This was pretty much all I could think about. I figured if I had to go two tenths of a mile after the underpass I was done, I wouldn't be able to do it. But a hundred yards I could do.

We came out from under the overpass and there was the finish line. I finished about 5 seconds behind Mike and Lou with an official pace of 7:58. Ready to smack down Broad Street now in 12 days.

Note the mohawk on Patricia's helmet.
You may clickenzee to embiggen!

If you're curious my splits were: Splits: 805, 731, 731, 741, 752, 756, 754, 837, 738, 740, 807, 805, 810

After the race, Lady Brack encouraged me to drink this Iron Maiden beer
Yagathai got me. You may clickenzee to embiggen!

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