Broad Street 10 Miler 2015 Recap Part II

First off, thank you to my wonderful friend/roommate Courtney for making me a new banner! This one looks a thousand times better than the one I tried to put together.

When I originally started writing my recap of Broad Street, it turned into a 700-word examination of race logistics. So I added this part 2. Just some thoughts I had when reflecting on the race. (You can read about how I actually ran the race this year in Part I)

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I can’t help comparing this race to the Peachtree Road Race:

  • Both are the largest race of their kind in the United States (Peachtree is largest 10k, Broad Street is largest 10 miler) — and actually the Peachtree is the largest race in the country based on 55,850 finishers in 2013, while Broad Street is the 8th largest with 32,075. (Running USA)
  • Both are community events that attract large numbers from the local Atlanta and Philadelphia areas, respectively
  • Both have a mix of super serious athletes (Peachtree was the site of the U.S. 10k Road Championships last year, and the fastest 10 mile time in the country was set at Broad Street) as well as people who have never done a race before
  • Both use lottery entry systems and sell out every year
  • Both run along a single road for most of the race which is also the namesake of the race (Peachtree goes along Peachtree Road for all but the last part of the race when there are a few turns to get to Piedmont Park, and Broad Street is literally just a straight shot down Broad Street to the Navy Yard)
  • Both have been around awhile, although Peachtree (1970) beats Broad Street (1980) by 10 years
  • Both encourage runners to use the local subway system (Marta in Atlanta, Septa in Philly) to get to the race start, since parking at the start is limited and the race isn’t out-and-back

That said, from my perspective the Peacthree is organized far better than Broad Street, primarily due to the way the start is set up. I also think the Peachtree as a more fun, festive atmosphere since it’s on July 4, but that’s not something that could be changed as easily as the start line logistics. Peachtree also boasts a larger elite field, but that doesn’t affect the experience of the “regular” runners as much, although could be part of why it’s more organized.

Peachtree has 60,000 entrants and uses a staggered wave start system. The waves go seeded, subseeded, then letters A through Y for a total of 27 waves, with earlier waves being populated by faster runners based on previous race results. Whether they do or not, they claim that they will verify your performance in the race you use as your seed time. If you don’t have a seed time, you are placed in wave Y.

Broad Street has 40,000 entrants and also has a wave system, but they do it by color, which makes it more difficult to figure out who is supposed to be in the faster waves. There are also only 9 waves (including wheelchair start). They ask for a predicted finish time to decide where you place you but do not require previous race results to verify what would be a realistic start wave for you.

Peachtree vs. Broad start corral organization

Notice Peachtree on the left with all the different start waves staggered to begin at different times and Broad Street on the right with fewer corrals and the note that “all runners must be in their corrals by 7:40 a.m.”

The biggest logistical difference, however, comes in the way the waves are staggered. At Peachtree, the first waves go off at 7:30, and the last wave starts at 9:05. Last year I started in wave “A,” and after I finished the race, ate some food, and walked around Piedmont Park a bit, I was in the car on the highway back to my sister’s house before the wave “Y” even started! At Broad Street, the waves basically go off one after another, so you have all ~40,000 people at the start line of the race at the same time. This makes getting to your corral and using the bathroom a nightmare. Peachtree vs. Broad start line spacing

These are the best pictures I could find to compare the start areas. Notice the hoard at Broad Street (bottom) versus how it seems like people at the Peachtree could still move around if they wanted (top)

Interesting, Broad Street has a gear check while the Peachtree does not. I typically don’t use gear check except if it’s cold at the start, in which case I use it to store extra layers. An early May morning in Philadelphia could still be a bit chilly, while no one would ever accuse the 4th of July in Atlanta of not being warm enough. That said, when you have tens of thousands of participants and a point-to-point course, some sacrifices undoubtedly have to be made. Broad Street currently uses a fleet of school buses for gear check, but I’d be in favor of eliminating it to make room for more start corrals. Maybe not a popular opinion because I know a lot of people like gear check, but most necessities (phone, keys, money, ID, gels) could easily be carried in a belt and/or armband, and getting rid of the 50+ school buses that line up at the start would alleviate participants being crammed together and not making it to their corrals.

Broad corral lineup compared with size of start area On the left is the start corral map and on the right is the start area map. The yellow buses are representative of gear check — each must represent more than one bus though, because there are over 50. With all the streets they have closed off, there’s no reason all the participants need to be crammed together.

I know there are probably some unforeseen reasons they don’t do the start like I think they should. For one, it would likely prolong the times roads would be closed, and I imagine that might be a bigger issue in Philly than in Atlanta. Atlanta is huge, and while inconvenient, the road closures don’t stop all transportation around the city. Center City Philadelphia is tiny, and Broad Street basically bisects it. I think there’s a way to use the highway to get from one side to the other, but still.

Whatever the reason… Broad Street is a fun race, but I know some people don’t enjoy it anymore because of how crowded and hectic it is. Last year, after crossing the finish line, I had to come to a dead stop because no one in front of me was moving. There was a huge bottleneck and it took 45 minutes to get from the finish line to the medals/food area. Broad Street definitely has some logistical issues, and I hope that they can get some of them worked out, because there are so many ways they could improve things. If they do, they could even increase the entrant field and allow more people to experience the race.

Broad Street 10 Miler Recap Part I

First of all, I am so sorry if this got published too early, or if I published it multiple times, or something. I was trying to “schedule” it and messed up. Here it is, in its final form!

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This was my third time running Broad Street, just like I’ve run the 5k for Clean Air three times. Both are great races, and I want to take advantage of the Philly race scene as much as I can before leaving, whenever that may be. Although I’m finishing undergrad next year (!), I applied and got into a master’s degree program in engineering here at Penn, so that’s now also an option.

I should mention that I almost didn’t get to run this race because I actually didn’t get in through the lottery system this year! That was a huge disappointment. But then one of my running club friends decided he didn’t want to run it because he didn’t feel like he was in good enough shape (he had an ELITE bib! seriously incredible) so we went through the official bib transfer process to get the bib in my name and everything. Unfortunately, my bib was not elite ;) Definitely for the better.

The day before the race, I went to the expo with two of my friends from running club and met up with someone I follow on Instagram. She wasn’t from Philly, but I had started following her because she was a runner — and then one day saw that she would be doing Broad Street! It’s always exciting to mix the online world and the real world. I think I surprised my running club friends, who weren’t used to online meet-ups, haha. But she was great and I’m glad we got to meet for real!

The race started at 8:00 on Sunday morning as opposed to 8:30 in recent years. The earlier start didn’t change my preparation besides having to wake up a bit earlier. I met up with a group of friends from running club and we took the subway over to the start area, which was hectic, as always. Two of my friends and I were all planning to run a pretty chill race, so we stuck together in the corral. It was quite warm for early May, but not too bad.

Bri, Erin, Liz 2

We all stayed together for the first 3 miles or so, including for a bathroom stop at mile 0.9, haha. The start line is always horribly crowded, and we didn’t have time to go before the race. Since none of us were racing for time, it wasn’t a big deal. After about mile 3, one friend and I went ahead. The cheering really started picking up as we approached the midpoint of the race, City Hall. That’s also where one of our friends was waiting to cheer for us, so we got to see her, which was exciting.

My friend had to go to the bathroom around mile 7 and told me to kept going, which I did. I had been taking the race pretty easy but decided to speed up for the last part, as I still felt good. Well, mostly — I had run through some water spraying from a fire hydrant around mile 4 to cool down, and my spandex shorts got wet and caused some serious chafing (I have never, ever had that happen before, and it was not fun). A little bit before the last mile, a girl blew past me and I decided to try to keep up with her. I did, but it turned the last mile into a 7:39, which given my current fitness level, the fact I’d already run 9 miles, and the heat, was extremely difficult. It was fun to push myself though. I miss racing for PRs. As I mentioned before though, my only goal for 2015 with regard to running is to be injury-free. So far so good. I don’t care to push my luck.

I ended up finishing in 1:30:55. Time for another comparison chart (the time for this year didn’t include our bathroom stop) — click to make bigger:

Screen Shot 2015-05-17 at 10.35.28 AM

Again, I’d like to be getting faster, not slower, but I respect where I am fitness-wise right now. Notably, I’m significantly healthier now than I was in 2013, so that’s a definite upside I wouldn’t trade any number of minutes for.

After the race, I was incredibly tired and sweaty. Friends and I met up and made our way back to campus together. And then, since I had four finals approaching, I buckled down and studied from then until May 12th. Now I’m free and currently writing from the Philadelphia airport on my way back to Georgia for a week! I’m excited to go home, sleep 10 hours a night, and watch TV with my mom. It’s a much needed break.

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Stay turned for Part II, which features some thoughts about how Broad Street is organized.

5k Run for Clean Air Recap

Hello hello!

April 18th was my third time doing the 5k Run for Clean Air. My friends and I have done it together each year as a team since we were freshmen (we grew up so fast!).

Even though I’ve run it before, I didn’t realize that this race has been around since 1978! Given that running wasn’t really mainstream in the ’70s and that this is an Earth day 5k, I like to imagine a bunch of hippies in colorful workout gear and waffle iron shoes jogging for environmental awareness. Not everything changes.

This race is an out-and-back, mostly flat and fast. It starts in front of the Art Museum and goes out along Kelly Drive. That’s a pretty typical route for 5ks in Philly, but I think it’s definitely one of the better ones for getting a fast time.

Not that we need super fast times to win the mixed gender team division every year. Okay, we got 2nd behind Bryn Mawr last year — but their guys and gals also ran in the Olympic Development races at the Penn Relays a few weekends ago, so we don’t feel too bad about that.

Also, since I’ve done this race three times with a Garmin, it’s time for a neat comparison chart:

5k for clean air comparison chart

Obviously I’d like to be getting faster every year, not slower. In 2013, I set a 5 second PR here. Last year I was about a month and a half back into running after getting my first stress fracture. I remember trying to have a low pressure race, but still pushing myself pretty hard and feeling really crappy the last mile. This year, much like in the Hoosier Half the weekend before this race, I just wanted to have a fun day of running with my friends. Besides, my friends all super fast and only the top four times on a team count, so I knew we’d still probably win (Bryn Mawr was racing the newly added 10k instead of the 5k). I wish you could win all races by way of having fast friends ;)

My race itself was pretty unremarkable. I ran harder than I usually would but nowhere close to a race effort. After about a half mile, I settled in behind a middle-aged man, where I stayed until the very last part when I upped the speed to the finish line. The course is an out-and-back, so I was able to cheer on my fast friends, who were, as usual, very fast.

Funny side note: after the race, we ran into one of the guys from Bryn Mawr who had run the 10k. The Clean Air Foundation who puts on this race makes a big effort to make the race super environmentally friendly, which includes using compostable bibs with seeds inside so that you can plant your bib after the race! While super cool, this also means that the bibs are more fragile than most. It’s never mattered for the 5k, but this was the first year of the 10k, and according to the Bryn Mawr guy, his bib started disintegrating around mile 4! I guess more exposure to sweat did it in? Anyway, he said he and some of the other guys were carrying their bibs to the finish.

After the race, we took some pictures in front of the Art Museum and stayed around for awards. As usual, we (and by we I mean my friends) were obscenely faster than the other teams. Our (their) average time was 18:48! For perspective, the second place team’s average was 23:10.

Now that I am a newly minted 21-year-old (well, at this point I’m nearly 21 and a half, but considering I can still count the number of times I’ve had alcohol I still consider myself pretty new at this), one of my fellow 21-year-old friends and I took advantage of the free beer after the race. Which was also my first beer ever. And it was good! I totally understand the appeal of beer after races now.

We finished the day out with a picnic. It was also the weekend of Spring Fling at Penn, which is infamous as a weekend most of a week in April where undergraduates basically party around the clock. My friends and I don’t exactly fit that mold, but we were up pretty late the night before for the Tyga/Kesha concert! So kudos to us for waking up for a 9am 5k during fling weekend.

Hoosier Half Marathon 2015 Recap

Long time no see!

The past few months, running has been on the back burner for me. I was trying to run 3 times per week, but any inkling of foot pain and I would take a few days off, so my training has been only semi-consistent.

The only thing I was really looking forward to was the Hoosier Half Marathon in Bloomington, Indiana, which functions as the half marathon championships for NIRCA (National Intercollegiate Running Club Association). Obviously I’m not in any shape (even when I am in shape!) to win or anything, but you don’t have to qualify for NIRCA nationals, so I just did it for fun (as I do all my races).

The challenging part would be that I hadn’t run double digit miles since summer 2014. I decided that if I could do 9 miles, I would try the half marathon. Three weeks before the race, I did 8 miles, and two weeks before, I did 9 miles. Those long runs went well, so I thought I was good to go.

Then, a few days after running 9 miles, I started having pain in both my feet at night as I tried to fall asleep. It was a throbbing pain right where my stress fractures had been (left and right second metatarsals). Naturally, I freaked out and scoured the internet for signs of what the pain meant. At least two sites mentioned that throbbing pain at night could be symptomatic of a stress fracture, and my plans to run the half marathon seemed to crumble down around me.

I took eight days off from running, going for a few jaunts on an indoor bike instead – including a 1 hour 40 minute session to simulate a long run. I did a one 2.5 mile “test run” two days before the half marathon to see how my foot felt and had no pain. I happened to have a doctor’s appointment, so I also asked my doctor for her opinion, and she gave me the okay to try it. With that, I decided to at least start the half marathon and drop out if anything felt off.

I think I could write a novel about all that happened over the weekend at NIRCA Nationals. I love traveling and racing with my friends. We left campus at 5:45am on Friday, April 10th for the Philadelphia airport. We had a layover in Minneapolis and arrived in Indianapolis around 2pm. We grabbed our rental cars and made our way to Bloomington to stay in a member of the luxurious Motel 6 chain.

Once we settled in, most of the club went out for an easy run, but I don’t like running the day before a race. Not to mention I didn’t want to push my luck with my foot. A few friends who stayed behind and I went on a short walk instead.

It’s funny how much I love escaping the city now. When I lived in Georgia for the first 18 years of my life, I couldn’t wait to move somewhere more exciting. Somewhere with more interesting places to go than clothing stores and chain restaurants. Somewhere you didn’t have to have a car to get around. And Philadelphia is certainly exciting — to the point of being overwhelming. Now I get excited when I see wide open green spaces, big box stores, and free parking lots. Go figure.

We had dinner at an Italian restaurant and then went to Kroger to buy breakfast and snacks for the next day. That’s another thing about getting out of the city — grocery stores are so big, have so much variety, and are so CHEAP!

The other girls and I sharing a hotel room were in bed by 9:45pm for a 6am wake up call. I dressed in the clothes I had laid out the night before, ate a banana ($0.59/lb at Kroger!) and peanut butter scooped out of the jar ($1.39/jar!) and Motel 6 coffee in a styrofoam cup (free!).

We headed to the Indiana University alumni center just in front of the Hoosier Half Marathon start line to pick up our bibs. Made the obligatory pre-race porta-potty trip. Sat in the warm car and and did not warm up by running. Moseyed on over to the start like about 7:55 for the 8am start. And began!

My goal was to run as slow as possible — hopefully a personal worst. Not the typical goal to have, but restraining myself from trying my best isn’t my strong suit (ordinarily quite a good trait) and I was really trying to take it easy. I was hyper-aware of my foot, waiting for the stabbing pain that would surely end my race.

But it never came. I met my goal of trying to go as leisurely as possible. I walked up every single hill. I walked through water stops. I drank gatorade and water. I ate oranges handed to me by small children. I said thank you to volunteers and smiled at the photographers.

I admit, even running as easy as I could, the final miles were hard. My legs were tired, I was getting too warm, and I really just wanted some carbs and a hot shower.

My splits, according to the official results

  • First 5k: 29:05 (9:23 min/mile)
  • Mile 10: 1:42:30 (10:15 min/mile)
  • Last 5k: 28:55 (9:19 min/mile)
  • Final .1, according to my watch: 7:18 min/mile (gotta go for it when you see the finish)

Overall: 2:11:25 (10:02 min/mile)

Erin Hoosier Half 2015

Somewhere in the middle — I love this photo!

post half

At the end, taken by one of my friends

My slowest half marathon time by almost 20 minutes (my first ever half time, the Helvetia Half Marathon, was 1:53:15) but I finished. And I have never been so proud of finishing a half marathon.

Also got my carbs, hot shower, and quality time to lay back and enjoy my runner’s high.

 I’ve got at least one more race recap coming to you soon, so stay tuned :)

Checking in

I haven’t posted anything for awhile because I don’t have anything exciting to report. But I figured I should at least check in.

I am running pretty normally again! As in, I don’t have to take walk breaks, I don’t have any pain, and I don’t feel like I got run over by a truck the day after a run.

Weekly mileage graphI made this nifty weekly mileage graph in Excel. Keep in mind that each horizontal line represents 2 miles. Almost doubling mileage doesn’t mean as much when it’s 8 miles vs. 13 ;)

Things I am doing differently:

  • Fewer runs per week. Instead of reaching 15 miles/week by doing 5 runs of 3 miles each, I’ll do 3 runs of 5 miles each to give myself more days available for rest or cross training.
  • Cross training. That is a thing! I am typically using the stationary bike or stair climber for about 45 minutes 1-2x/week
  • Strength training. Also a thing. After runs, I’ll do about 10 minutes of strength work – either exercises that I learned in PT to strengthen my hips and glutes or core work via the Nike Training App/other random core exercises I know.
  • Guiltless rest days.

So overall my weeks look like run 3x/week, cross train 1-2x/week, total rest 2-3x/week

My best run to date was last Monday when I ran 5.57 miles at a 9:19 min/mile pace and felt great. That’s the type of run I’d like to be having regularly. I’m not looking to set ANY PRs this year. Zero plans for that. I just want to have a solid year of training under my belt where I’m not plagued by injuries and other maladies. Just some good, clean, healthy running, por favor.

Back to the grind, or not?

Everyone who knows me and hears I’m back to running asks me, “Does it feel good to be back?”

And of course, I say yes. I smile and gush about how much I’ve missed it, how I can’t wait to be back in shape.

Those things are true (especially the second one), but they aren’t the whole story.

I am truly glad to be back overall. I’m only running every other day at this point, but I get so excited when I know that tomorrow is a “run” day.

But it’s not completely fun yet. When I run, I feel slow. I get worried as I feel little aches and pains everywhere: my hips, my knees, my calves, my feet. I fear injury. I wonder if there’s something wrong with my running gait that causes me to get injuries repeatedly. I worry that since I gained (much-needed-to-be-gained) weight, running is now too much stress on my body, and I’ll never be able to run as hard or fast as I did before.

I’m afraid to get too excited because I know it can all be snatched away. I was looking at my Garmin records from early 2014 – apparently I did a long run of 12 miles at an 8:22 pace, on an ordinary Wednesday?! And I was running nearly 8 miles a day on other days. Which, it’s pretty easy to see why I got a stress fracture, but still, I can’t believe that at one time I was capable of doing that.

But I also saw a quote the other day that I really liked (via the Instagram of Christmas Abbott):

She was unstoppable, not because she did not have failures or doubts, but because she continued on despite them.

I like that. I feel like it applies not only to running, but also to school. Guys, engineering is HARD. Like really freaking hard. Every single semester, I wonder if I’m going to pass. I honestly am not sure I’ll graduate. I’m literally 7 classes away from graduation (out of 40.5 that I need to graduate!) and I’m not sure that I’ll make it. Isn’t that silly? I know on some level, that I WILL make it. Because if there’s something I truly want, I don’t give up. I even wrote a college essay on that, haha. But it’s true. If there’s something I want, and I know it’s within my power to get to it, I’ll get to it. Even if my transcript looks like the alphabet repeated every semester. I will make it.

After that rant (sorry, finals week just ended, I can’t help it) the moral of the story is: I’ve struggled with injury, doubts, failures, and fears, and right now, the doubts and fears are loud. But I know as long as I keep going, I’ll get to where I want to be, even if I can’t see it yet.

The most inspiring runner ever

If you want to feel inspired, moved, emotional, and awed, watch this video of a high school runner named Kayla Montgomery:

Catching Kayla

After 2 1/2 months off running and about three weeks of physical therapy, I’m finally able to start running again. I ran 3 minutes this past Monday and 10 minutes on Thursday at the PT place. Those first 3 minutes were glorious. I felt like I was meeting up with an old friend.

Watching this video made me incredibly thankful that even though I’ve not been able to run due to injury, I’ll likely have many healthy years of running ahead of me. It’s so easy to take health for granted. As Thanksgiving approaches, one thing I’m especially mindful of is the blessing that is my own health and the health of my family.

Watch the video friends, and prepare to be a puddle of tears.