November 30, 2010

Philadelphia Marathon Recap (Part I)

Disclaimer: please excuse my atrocious grammar in this post. Thanks!
On Sunday, November 21st 2010, I ran and happily completed the Philadelphia Marathon and it was awesome. I am finally a proud member of the 26.2 club! It's been quite a journey and although I crossed the finish line, it's not over. My experience was an incredibly positive one and I can't wait to continue the journey, get stronger, maybe even faster, and continue having the time of my life running & racing. There's so much I'm dying to share with all of you about my experience. So in an effort to avoid the longest post ever, I've decide to break my race recap into 2 parts. Today is part 1, a basic recap and timeline of the weekend and what went down. Here goes…

IMG_2552 I arrived in Philadelphia early Friday morning and met up with my folks who had flown in from Florida to see me race. Ever since they saw me at last year's Philly Half, they've had their own sort of marathon fever and have been talking about this day ever since. The folks and I walked around a bit, took some pictures and then headed to the Expo so I could pick up my bib. I realized that I when I signed up for the race last year, I had no idea what kind of pace I should expect so I estimated a finish time of 5 hours. That put me in the blue corral, the last one, so I decided to move up to orange since I knew I could definitely run a sub-5 race. The folks & I had some fun taking pictures of me practicing my race face, and then headed back to my hotel room so I could relax and let my feet rest a bit. I spent the rest of the evening chillaxing with an epsom salt bath and a roll around with Dante (my foam roller).

I woke up early Saturday morning to go shopping. Yes, you read that right. You know how most runners worry about packing their sneakers or the right outfit before a race? I made sure I had more than plenty of running clothing, extra compression sleeves, three pairs of compression socks, and even my foam roller (which took up more than half of my suitcase!). But, I forgot to bring non running clothing for the weekend. Ooops! So I went for a quick shop, hurried back to my hotel and headed back out to meetup with 19 others for a fantastic brunch.
This picture includes only a handful of the incredible runners who attended the tweetup at Marathon Grill. It was so awesome to finally meet everyone in person after months of encouraging, supporting, and cheering each other on.

After brunch, I headed back to the expo with Kara, Sam, & Ken, walked around with Vee a bit, chatted with Joe about the race, and then headed back to the hotel for some more rest time.
IMG_2566 copy
Like a true tourist, I took plenty of pictures on the way.
No city would be complete without someone dancing to Michael Jackson for money
The famous LOVE sculpture with a view of the Art Museum (where we would Start & Finish the race) in the background
Back at the hotel, I took another epsom salt bath, rolled around with Dante again, ate some dinner and dessert (and more dessert), tried on my outfit for the morning one last time, and prepared my breakfast for my 4am wakeup. My breakfast was one that I highly recommend for folks staying in hotels before a race. I combined some almond milk and oats (gluten free of course) in a hotel glass and placed it in an ice buck to keep cold over night. By the time I woke up in the morning, the oats had absorbed with almond milk just like cooked oatmeal. In the morning, I added some dried cherries, raisins, almond butter & enjoyed it all with a hot cup of coffee (complimentary at the hotel buffet) and a banana. Definitely the breakfast of champions (sorry Wheaties, you're not gluten free).

And now for (drum roll please)... RACE DAY!!! Race morning went something like this: 4 am wake up, headed down to the lobby in my PJs to grab some coffee and saw other runners going out for morning warm up runs, ate breakfast and jumped in the shower, drank my coffee in the shower (yes, in the shower), got dressed, stretched, reviewed my checklist to make sure I had everything, and went downstairs to meet Sam & Ken in the lobby. We walked together to pick up Kara & Mary on the way and headed to the craziness of the start area. Heading to the race as other runners emerged from their hotels and the surrounding streets was an incredible feeling. Everyone was walking with excitement towards the same goal, you could feel the energy. It was incredibly overwhelming & awesome!

Once I checked my bag in, Sam, Kara & I headed to the porta potties for some pre-race prep (a nice way to say it, right?). They were very very stinky. Enough said. We then headed to the orange corral where we were all going to start together when I realized I missed the porta potty already and really wanted a return visit. So I said goodbye to the ladies and although hoped I'd be able to find them again before the race, had no such luck. Our corral began the race at around 7:23 am (I think) and then we were off!!!

"Mom!!!" Mile 6.5 feeling good.
The entire race was pretty much AWESOME! I felt strong almost the entire time and even though I headed out way too fast (I always do!), I never felt like I was struggling. The first 13 miles were incredible. I took water or gatorade at every station, started my shot blocks at mile 4, and tried to keep it steady and happy. I bumped into Vee somewhere along mile 4 or 5 and was happy to run with her for a bit before I continued on. The hills from mile 7-11 slowed me down here and there but they didn't feel as difficult as I'd remembered them to be last year. Maybe all that training in Central Park helped?

As mile 13 approached, those of us heading out are running aside the racers heading to the finish line which messed with my head just a bit. At first I smiled as I watched them running strong & steady. But once I began to see the strugglers grimacing in pain, I heard my brain say "and you still have a long way to go before you get there." So I turned the other way, looked straight ahead, and focused on my music. My head was back in a good place.

Approaching mile 16, my right butt cheek starting hurting bad and I was tempted to walk for a bit. But I remembered a trick I read about on Fit Chick's blog and began counting to 100; if the pain didn't stop when I hit 100, I would walk for a bit to give myself a moment to massage out the knot. By the time I got to 60 something, I forgot all about the butt cramp and continued on. Until somewhere between miles 17 and 18 which involves crossing over a small bridge, running slightly downhill and then turning around and running back up. The incline got that butt cheek hurting again and I took a minute to stretch it out so that I could continue strong. Somewhere along there, I heard Sam calling my name. She was passing in the opposite direction and we got to cheer each other on for a brief moment; it was so great seeing her and getting that encouragement at that moment.

Miles 19-23 were somewhat of a blur. I just kept going, and going, and going like the energizer bunny. I did take a few walk breaks thru the water/gatorade stops to give myself some recovery. And then I kept going. At mile 23, I tried to get a shot block out of my pouch, dropped my phone and had to bend down to pick it up. OUCH! Right leg, quad, hamstring, everything just cramped right up! Stretched it out and continued on. At 23.5, I suddenly noticed that there were no porta potties in site and all the hydration had taken it's toll on my bladder. By 24, I had a choice to make. Water my pretty pink compression socks or water some plants. I decided on option two and took a hike over a small hill into the woods (park?) to squat and relieve myself. Have you ever tried to climb up a hill and then squat after running 24 miles? I don't suggest it; it's hard to get back up and keep going. But that's just what I did of course as I headed into the last two miles of the race with a big dumb grin on my face.

The Philly crowds were pretty incredible almost the entire way. I can't thank them enough for their cheers, great signs, and for coming out equipped with beer and food (none of which I ate but all of which I appreciated) in the chilly weather. I got to see my folks at miles .5, 6, 13 & 24 which was so incredible! They arrived at the race at 6:30 am to get a prime spot and carried a bright pink and green sign the entire time I ran; I could always see them from a quarter of a mile away. I spotted Ken, Christina, and Sarah cheering at several points along the course, screaming my name & giving me high fives. And my friend Tamar and her husband Scott came out twice to cheer me on at miles 13 and 25. I mean seriously, could a girl be any luckier to have such incredible support?!? I could honestly feel their positive energy coming my way and each time I saw one of them, I got an extra boost of energy fueling me. And then there was The Laminator, my coach and running mentor. Lam ran the half, changed at his hotel, and returned to watch me at mile 13 and then at the finish. As I was approaching mile 26, I saw him head into the race and was ridiculously excited to see him running next to me carrying a video camera! I asked him "are we at mile 26 yet?" and he answered "Madame, you are past mile 26... look up, there's the finish line!" I looked up to see it, Lam ran off the course, and I charged forward with a renewed energy. Wooohooo!

Just as I was approaching the finish line, I heard the announcer call my name which was icing on the cake. I raised my arms, smiled big and crossed the line to finally being a marathoner. Wow! I did it in 4:51:41, under my goal of 5 hours. And more importantly, I finished with a smile which was always the biggest goal of all.


  1. great job, erica! i get chills reading everyones 26.2 recaps, especially your FIRST! (of many more haha, you've got the fever!) brings back all the memories of my first :) congrats, and welcome to the club! youre a marathoner!

  2. All teary eyed reading your race report. So proud of you!! You gave it ll you had and were well rewarded :)

  3. OMG Erica!!!! That finish line photo is the best finish line pic I have ever seen. AMAZING!!! You must frame that! All your pics are amazing, I love all your bright colors and you look so strong and so happy the entire time. I have that skirt in black, so comfortable! I am so proud of you, and you actually made 26.2 sound a lot less intimidating. So happy for you! Love you!

  4. Congratulations! Your photos and recap are great! Can't wait to read the rest of the story! (Oh, and I was totally right about us being the same pace - I finished about 10 minutes ahead of you -- we should go for a run sometime in NYC!).

  5. Loved this entire recap! You finished so strong. All that training paid off! I will have to remember that trick of counting to 100....I wimp out too easily. I'm so proud of you and happy for you!

  6. erica, I LOVE your finish pic!! is that the official race photo?? LOVE the entire blog post - congrats, congrats, congrats!

  7. Absolutely fantastic! Reading your Philly 26.2 recap made my day. I have become such a marathon junkie it's ridiculous (one a month!) Be proud of your accomplishment and truly savor it! You earned it. The photos are amazing as well.

  8. YOU DID IT! Thank you for the recap. I've enjoyed following along with your training journey and I'm delighted to read you had such a wonderful race.

    Congratulations Erica.

  9. congrats! i just found your blog, so I havent read your whole journey, but the pics are awesome!

  10. Amazing! Congratulations! This is a great recap and it's been wonderful and inspiring following your journey leading up to the marathon. You should be super proud. Cute race outfit, too! You look fabulous.

  11. WOW!!!!!!!!!
    That's AWESOME Erica!!!
    You did it and you finished it with a big smile!!!
    WAY TO GO!
    You Inspired me!!! :)

  12. Absolutely awesome. Following your training journey and accomplishment was truly inspiring. The quality of your writing and photography put me in a spectator seat. Your the BOMB. Congrats!! You did it!!

  13. Awesome recap on a spectacular race, Madame! You seriously ROCKED it! I don't think I've ever seen anyone with a bigger smile at mile 26.1 :)
    Congratulations on a VICTORIOUS 1st marathon!!! I'm glad I got to share a little bit of the journey with you.

  14. Congratulations on such a great race!!!!! So glad I got to meet you that weekend + cheer you on! :)

  15. Awwww I got teary-eyed reading this! You are such an inspiration and make me believe that I can run a day! Your training and dedication clearly paid off, you finished strong and happy. Sounds like the perfect race!

  16. congrats erica! great recap too!
    so... whats next?

  17. Congratulations on your first marathon!!! I loved reading this recap! You sound like you did amazing! I'm glad you felt strong the entire way AND beat your marathon goal. And I love the huge smile on your face at the finish -- that is especially awesome :)

    So...does this mean there's another marathon in your future?

    And also -- I'm super intrigued -- HOW do you drink your coffee in the shower?? haha

  18. Gosh I'm such an emotional sucker .. this made me tear a bit. Congratulations! Such an awesome goal and time!

  19. Great recap and amazing marathon! CONGRATS girl! (ps the pictures are fantastic!)

  20. 1. I got chills reading this!
    2. You looked adorable, love the bright cheerful colors!
    3. You named your foam roller Dante? That is awesome! LOL