Last year, I signed up for the Las Vegas Half Marathon with MC200 teammate Lauren and her husband Kyle. At the time, my sister, who is also friends with Kyle and Lauren, decided that it was uncool that as runners, we get to travel to fun places for races and she doesn't. So with that, she decided she would try to run. Having never run a day in her life, around X-Mas, she started trying to run. Her original goal was the Cherry Blossom 10 Miler in April, but after having the flu for most of February, she missed it, and when I pointed out that Philly was Sept 21st, she immediately signed up, because Sept 22, 2008 was her 30th birthday, and she so wanted to be able to say, "I ran a half marathon before I was 30." (Note that this was an arbitrary goal that was set after discovering the race would be a day before her b-day)
Anyway, this weekend, Kyle, Lauren, Danielle, my sister, my parents, and I all converged on Philadelphia for the Philly Distance Run. Friday night, we all got into town and crashed. Saturday, we did the tourist thing, walking around the city, even having dinner at the Hard Rock to be extra touristy.
Sunday morning was the race. It was about 60 at start time. The entire race was really a beautiful course, I very much enjoyed it. However, the first mile, starting at the museum-where-Rocky-ran-up-the-stairs (the Art Museum) and running down Ben Franklin Pkwy straight at the giant fountain in Logan Square with City Hall directly behind the fountain, was amazing. It was really just a stunning start to a race, perhaps the best of any race I've ever run.
I started running with Lauren and Danielle, while Sherri and Kyle were paced a little slower than us so were a few corrals back. Lauren, Danielle, and I ran the first mile and a half together before I ended up picking my pace up a bit and heading out on my own. However, we did manage to be together for a few excellent sightings, including Elvis (in our starting corral), a guy wearing a tutu, a princess hat, and no shirt, which appeared to be a lost bet with the two girls who were dressed like him but without embarrassing writing on their backs ("Flight from Florida, $200, race registration, $75, John in a tutu, priceless"), and, perhaps my favorite because I am a giant dork, as we passed the first mile marker, we found a really huge guy (probably over 300 lbs) running incredibly slowly in front of us. As we passed him, I saw his bib said he should have been in corral 16, but he was at least in corral 8, since we started in 11 and it took us a mile to catch him. Anyway, this was my favorite sighting because we saw as we passed he was wearing a Microsoft Vista shirt, and I turned to Lauren and said, "There's a joke in there somewhere about Vista running really slowly, but I won't make it because Kyle isn't here with us." (Note, Kyle is also a computer geek) She groaned at me, as I've so often come to find people do.
The first half the race, I was having a great run. My pace was steady, I was running PR time without really trying, and my (other) knee, which has been bothering me for about a week and a half (pretty much since the first one stopped hurting), was feeling good. I walked through the water stop at 6.8 mi to get a drink to put my Gel down, and my knee just totally freaked out. I tried to stretch and/or walk it off, but it hurt a lot. I decided if I DNF'd in Philly, though, I was most definitely going to be psychologically unable to do Chicago in 3 weeks, so I kept walking, and about 15 minutes later, the pain more or less subsided. I managed to run the next almost 3 miles, when I walked through a water stop, and, lo and behold, my knee just went to hell again. This time it hurt even worse. At this point, Lauren caught up with me, and tried to walk with me for a bit, but I was unable to take more than 3 steps without stopping. After a few minutes of that, I assured Lauren that with just 3 miles left, I would cross the finish line one way or another, and told her to go run her race. I tried to keep moving, and after another 15 or 20 minutes, the pain again subsided enough to the point where I was able to do a run-5-walk-1 minute thing to get to the end.
I finished the race, and sulked for a few minutes because I was frustrated I didn't run as well as I had hoped. I made my way back to the finish line and got to see my sister cross the finish line for her first big race (> 10k). At that point, I realized that the time didn't much matter. I managed to finish 13 miles, hurt a bit, but I had a great weekend with my sister, parents, and friends, so who cares about the time.
After the race,we went back to the hotel and everyone slept except for me, as I was feeling fine, just bored. I read for a bit, watched some tv, then got a craving for something-or-another, so I went for a Slurpee and Beef Jerky at 7-11. I texted Lauren about my trip, and she immediately decided she required Beef Jerky, so she and D went to 7-11. I'm a trend-setter. :) Sunday late afternoon, we all went to Maggiano's, which if you have never been (there are a bunch around the country), is amazing Italian food, where we gorged ourselves until we could eat no more. We went back to the hotel, watched some tv, played some games, and then a few hours later, gorged ourselves again on leftovers. It was disgustingly awesome.
Monday morning, the highlight was definitely going back to the Art Museum to run the steps and take pictures with the Rocky Statue (all while wearing our medals of course). After that, we all headed our separate ways, with Sherri, Kyle, Lauren, and I coming back to DC. Kyle and Lauren had a late flight, so we all went to see Burn After Reading before dropping them at the airport, and then Sherri and I headed out to her birthday dinner with her DC friends.
The one thing I noticed about Philly, compared to DC, is that the humidity was so low that there was an extreme temperature difference between being in the direct sun and being in the shade. It felt like there was at least a 10 degree difference. I'm not used to that, living in DC for the last few years.
Overall, it was an excellent weekend. I am still a bit concerned about my knee with Chicago being so close, but I think at this point, I am going to bag any run longer than 5 miles to try to give it a chance to heal up, just doing short runs and bike rides to try to maintain fitness. I may not be in perfect shape for it, but I just hope to be able to run in Chicago. I'll definitely start the race, and with any luck, maybe I'll cross the finish line. It's out of my hands at this point.