Saturday 5AM: Awake
Drove to the Albany-Rensselaer station to catch the 7:10 AM train to Philadelphia. It was my first time riding an Amtrak train and it was a surreal experience. So glad I chose this mode of transportation over driving four hours alone. I put all my required tasks in my phone to keep me focused on the big objective. Yes it is a little odd but it truly put my mind at ease and made my day much less stressful. After a brief layover in New York City (Penn Station), I take another train to my destination.
Saturday 1:30 PM: Pre-Race
Arrive in Philadelphia and walk to my hotel which was about a mile and a half away. Wait is this real? 70 degrees outside and I'm walking around in shorts. Check into my room then walk to the Convention Center to pick up my race packet. After picking up the race packet, I walked around checking out the sponsors/vendors. The marathon had corrals/groups based on finishing times. I took the opportunity to change mine from Purple to Black based on my strong training for this race. I purchased CEP Compression Socks and Tailwind Nutrition through an amazing small business, Philadelphia Runner. Unfortunately, I did not get the opportunity to wear the socks during the race because of the cold weather but my next run or race. The Tailwind flavor I picked out was Green Tea Buzz which had caffeine in it and it is also Vegan.
Speaking of Vegan, congratulations to all the plant-based athletes who finished the marathon on Sunday. It put a big smile on my face seeing signs along the course who run for amazing causes.
After picking up my race materials, I headed back to the hotel only to get caught up in a big protest against President-Elect Donald Trump. Got back to the hotel and did a nice workout with some weights. It has been some time since I picked up weights and it was a great feeling. After relaxing a little bit, I walked around downtown looking for some eateries to get my carb-loading in full effect. First, was a pizzeria called Slice for a broccoli rabe and vegan mozzarella piece made to order. Walked around the corner to Hip City Veg for a Cheese Steak. You have to get one if you are in Philadelphia. Relax, it was 100% Vegan and plant-based. Also, I ordered a small side of Quinoa Chili and Sweet Potato Fries with Sriracha Aioli. Got back to the hotel to eat this big pre-race meal and it was absolutely delicious. I would recommend Hip City Veg to any Vegan out there looking for a great place to eat in Philadelphia. Went to bed early so I can be ready for the big race.
This is my carb-loading meal. Don't judge me.
Sunday 5AM: 2 hours until race time
Awake after a good nights sleep and getting really excited to run. It was a little disheartening in terms of weather though going from seventy degrees to thirty with 40 mph gusts of wind. I was not going to let that deter me from my objective. I found eating a small meal before a race really helps, in my case, a peanut butter sandwich with a banana. Get on the hotel shuttle to take runners to the starting line (Benjamin Franklin Boulevard) and get stretched out to acclimate myself in these tough conditions. I did not have too many expectations, ok there was one, to set a personal best for this race.
7:10 AM: Horn sounds and the race is begins
We were the fourth group to go off after the Elites and I got off very good. My pace was very consistent and smooth through downtown. My shoulders got tense during a couple parts of the race especially at mile 4. I did not get water until mile 6 to avoid runner congestion. Did not use a port-a-potty until around mile 12. One of my favorite cheering sections was South Street and Chestnut Street, getting spectators energized and hearing them yell out your name. I knew getting into University City section would be a challenge in terms of elevation changes. So, I used this opportunity to conserve my energy through Fairmount Park to have a strong finish back at the Art Museum. The first half was very good in terms of pace and stamina.
The true test was a beautiful run along the Schuylkill River on Kelly Drive. It was relatively flat for a simple down and back portion of the course. It has been almost six years since I have been in this section of Philadelphia, up to Boathouse Row. I did not see the leaders coming back until miles 15-16 so it was not as embarrassing. Most runners stated that reason for not liking this race. My objective was to have a strong finish once I hit the turn around point in Manayunk. Speaking of Manayunk, the cheering section was the best cheering section on the course and the energy was just off the charts. Thank you very much for making my race much more enjoyable. I didn't push very hard the last six like I wanted to but I decided to not be gassed before the finish line. You have to listen to your body and know your limits. The mindset changes over the course of a long run and that is a beautiful thing about running.
10:40 AM: Finish Line
As I approached the finish, my objective was to crossing the line with more energy and spring to my step, compared to six months ago. I was hopping around a couple times and arms raised in the air, getting the crowd into it and achieving a personal best time of 3:29:25. After getting a medal put around my neck, it really hit me that I'm not only a runner but I'm a marathon runner after completing my second one. I can't wait for my next race coming up sometime next year. After loading up on post-race fuel and getting my bag from the check station, it was back to the hotel to stretch,change clothes, and re-hydrate for the long trip home.
Caught the 1:30 train to New York to catch my breath and reflect on an amazing weekend. I had the chance to talk to a wonderful couple across the aisle who also completed the marathon and reflected on events leading up to race day. It is really amazing what you can learn from others when you are surrounded by other like-minded people.
Waiting for the 5:15 train home, I went to another amazing vegan eatery, The Cinnamon Snail, next to Madison Square Garden. It was an early dinner and dessert but it was very delicious.
Smoked Sage Seitan Burger and Pumpkin Ciffron donut
Got on the train and got back into Albany after 8 PM. It was nice seeing my house-mates congratulating me when I returned home. I wanted to write this yesterday, but I simply had no energy to get into detail. Philadelphia, you have been amazing as always. Thank you for being an awesome city. Ok, I am upset that you ripped up Love Park especially running by it before mile 1 marker. Despite that, I still love you.
I would like to thank everyone that was involved with race weekend. Carb Boom Energy Gels, GU Energy Gels, Lara Bar, and Tailwind Nutrition for powering me through the entire race. Once again, thank you to all the spectators, volunteers, Police, and EMT for making an amazing day safe and memorable. Let's see what 2017 brings for challenges and goals. Thank you readers.