Monday, July 18, 2011

Race Report: Back on My Feet Lone Ranger

This will be a somewhat short report, since unfortunately my race was fairly short as well.

Race check-in on Friday was at Lloyd Hall, just north of the Philadelphia Art Museum on the Schuylkill River (never did really figure out how to pronounce that, and don't really trust the answer from those who seemed to know). It's a nice facility, with a little cafe, open outdoor space on the river, showers and a gym for those needing a place to rest during the race. I had checked in and was waiting to meet Dennis Ball and his crew, who I'd be sharing a ride with to the motel we were staying at, when to my surprise I see Ryoichi Sekia, just a few days off his 2nd-place Badwater finish! I've run a couple of races with him and he's about the strongest runner I've ever met. I didn't figure he'd be at full strength for this race, but you can never count him out. But he's a nice guy, too and we chatted for a while, with the help of his friend who acted as an interpreter. I'll have to learn at least a few words of Japanese.

So Dennis and his crew and I returned Saturday morning and found a little place to set up just past the start/finish area and got ready for the race. The course followed Kelly Drive, passed in front of the art museum, across the river and north up to Falls Bridge, and back south along Kelly Drive. There were aid stations set up at about miles 2.3, 4 and 6, with additional water/towel stations at about miles 1, 5 and 7. Even with the aid, it was a different setup than a more common course with a loop of roughly a mile, and it took some getting used to for me.

Race morning was warm, with highs predicted in the upper 80's, much cooler than last year's weather I was told, but still mighty warm. There was some shade on the course, but in the middle of the day especially there were long sunny stretches too. Still, I set out on a pace that felt comfortable for me, but still a strong competitive pace, about 7:45/mile. I found myself in a group of seven (!) runners in the lead pack, including Dennis, Sabrina Moran, a couple of guys who looked like Kenyan marathoners, and a couple others. I hate running in packs in a race, so I alternately tried to speed up and slow down to give some separation, but everyone stuck together for two full loops before Dennis and I were able to hang back and let the rest of them go. It was a fairly aggressive pace still for four loops, considering the heat, but I felt I was able to handle it. However, after about 4 1/2 hours, about a mile after starting my fifth lap, in a long sunny stretch, the heat got to me, and I was forced to walk. And with seven miles to go to get back to my own stuff, it was a long, discouraging loop. Here's where the story gets short, because even when I felt like I'd cooled down enough, I couldn't get myself moving again. There were times when I'd be able to run for a few miles at a decent pace, but for the most part laps five, six and seven were torturous walk/jog experiences. And my mind was filled with all kinds of negative thoughts, which I won't get into here, that were truly debilitating, and I didn't have the mental energy to push them out. A friend of mine who'd seen me in my 48 hour race in New Jersey pulled some really dirty tricks (in a good way) to convince me to go one more lap, but it didn't have the hoped-for effect. After eight laps, about 67 miles, almost 14 hours, just before midnight, I dropped out of the race.

But as with all disappointing performances, I will learn what I can from the experience to run stronger the mext time. And the race did raise a lot of money for Back on My Feet (check it out:, a very worthy cause with great people involved. And as always, it was good to see friends there, and to make lots of new friends. My thanks to everyone who showed me support and had nice things to say! Some of you I'll see locally, others I'll see in Cleveland in September!!!


  1. It was not an easy day for anybody trying to run, almost anywhere in the country. I did a mere 23 miles in NYC that day, and I honestly couldn't imagine running three times that distance in that Swelterfest.
    But kudos to Serge, Sabrina, Dennis, you, and everyone who made a great go of it in Philadelphia. Keep the faith, Phil. :)

  2. Everyone has days like that. Don't let it get you down. You'll git 'em next time!