Wednesday, November 21, 2012

Philadelphia Marathon Race Report

I told my friend, Leanne Rosser, that Philadelphia "isn't a PR course". 

Having done it twice before, I felt like the course had some of what I call "texture" - or "terrain" - to it and that it wasn't the easiest in the world.

Nonetheless, Leanne PR'd on Sunday by 17 minutes with a dazzling 4:34 in her fifth career marathon.

And I put enough together to post my sixth-best marathon finish out of the 46 that I've completed with a 5:02:21 effort.

Before I decided to do this marathon for the third time in three years, I had accepted the opportunity to announce for the Nike Cross South Regional at Bear Branch Sports Park in The Woodlands, which was the day before.

There was a 1:30 p.m. flight, but that would have been cutting it way close or - as it turned out with the awards ceremony, which included an interview with 2012 U.S. Olympic silver medalist Leo Manzano - next to impossible. 

So a 7:30 p.m. flight, which would land at close to midnight Eastern time, is what it would be.

Fortunately, Waverly and I both got upgraded to first class.  And after being on my feet for six and a half hours Saturday morning, I ended up sleeping soundly on the United flight to the City of Brotherly Love.

We were in our room at about 12:45 a.m. and I think I ended up getting about three hours of additional sleep.  We were out of the hotel room by 5:15 a.m. and on our way toward the Philadelphia Mueseum of Art, where the corrals would back up to.

After a little nervous time of securing parking, getting my packet from my good friend, Rob Jones, and waiting in the car (in the heat) and with Waverly, Leanne and her husband, Jim, we were in the corrals a little after 7 a.m.

Philadelphia is just atrocious on their corral management. 

Last year, in the last or next-to-last, I think it took 22 minutes to cross the start line.  This year, it turned out to be 36 minutes.  Crazy! 

However, in all reality, there are places during the first six and a half miles that would be major bottlenecks if everyone was sent at once -- or in just two waves like the Chevron Houston Marathon does.

And, then, we also realized that those who didn't get to run the ING New York City Marathon earlier in the month had their own specially-created corral.  Guess that it was worth it for the $200 they paid - on top of the $255 or greater that was lost on NYC.

Leanne and I sliced and diced our way through the first mile while she was trying to "hold back".  Yeah right.  She was ahead of me and I passed the marker in just under 10 minutes.

Mile 1 -- 9:59:28

I had a little bit of an inkling that it wasn't going to be another 4:48 Maine Marathon day; however, I also knew that at mile 6 or so, when I saw Waverly, that I was going to have to shed my outer layer.

Mile 2 -- 11:15.85 (21:15)
Mile 3 -- 9:07.63 (30:22)
Mile 4 -- 10:24.81 (40:47)
Mile 5 -- 10:21.79 (51:09)
Mile 6 -- 10:50.96 (1:02:00)

I saw Jim (Leanne's husband), Lysa (Rob's wife) and Waverly at probably the 10K point.  Lysa proceeded to tell me that I was on a 4:29 pace.  I told her, "Not today."  I wasn't being negative.  I appreciated the feedback, for sure, but I've run enough of these to know when it isn't going to be my day.

Mile 7/8 -- 21:47.21 (1:23:47)
Mile 9 -- 10:52.17 (1:34:39)
Mile 10 -- 11:39.43 (1:46:19)

The three previous miles included some hills, but I didn't feel as if it was as difficult as it had been in year's past.  I suppose, though, that mile 10 told a little bit of a different story.

Mile 11 -- 10:36.44 (1:56:55)
Mile 12 -- 10:40.75 (2:07:36)

Even though the mile splits were the same as earlier in the race, the miles, as I came up upon the Philadelphia Museum of Art, started to get harder.

Mile 13 -- 10:54.13 (2:18:30)

I saw Waverly at the mile 13 marker, gave her a kiss, as usual, and told her that it was going to be close to five (5) hours.

Mile 14 -- 11:00.75 (2:29:31)
Mile 15 -- 11:30.53 (2:41:01)
Mile 16 -- 11:10.38 (2:52:12)

Miles 14-16 run along the Schuykill River and are flat, but there was a gradual slowdown.  This was similar to the race two years before, where I finished in 4:51.  I also needed to go to the restroom, but I couldn’t find a port-a-pottie that was open and not allow me to lose major time.

Mile 17 -- 12:27.62 (3:04:39)

There was an aid station just before we made a left-hand turn to go over a bridge that went over the River, where the 17-mile marker was at.  At the end of the mile before, I started to do what I call, "the marathon math".  So it was 2:52:12 plus 10 miles times 16 minutes equals approximately 5:34 - with two (2) minutes for the final .2 miles.

Mile 18 -- 11:46.35 (3:16.26)
Mile 19 -- 12:12.82 (3:28:38)
Mile 20 -- 12:13.99 (3:40:52)

Mile 19 ended on the way into Manayunk and mile 20 was early as we moved through its "downtown area".  In between, I saw fellow The Woodlands Running Club member Geri Henry.  Geri and (former TWRC president) Tony Allison both were finishing their 50 states marathon journey.  As soon as I could tell it was her, I hollered as loud as I could, "Ladies and gentleman, Geri Henry from The Woodlands, Texas is finishing her 50 states in marathons today".

I think most people got a kick out of it.  One woman asked me how many that I had.  I said, "30", but the only thing about 30 that I wanted at that time was to be finished in 30 minutes!

Mile 21 -- 12:52.50 (3:53:45)
Mile 22 -- 13:03.06 (4:06:48)
Mile 23 -- 12:43.12 (4:19:31)
Mile 24 -- 12:20.41 (4:31:51)

These four miles took a lot to keep from walking all of the distance.  I wanted to get it done as quick as I could.  One gentleman, who passed me at around mile 9 and had been following me (and my pace) there, saw me again after I passed him late in mile 21 and we chit-chatted off and on until he got far enough ahead of me going in to the last two miles.

Mile 25 -- 13:58.97 (4:45:24)
Mile 26 -- 14:17.07 (5:00:08)
Last .2 -- 2:13.05 (5:02:21)

Just like 2010, I realized that I wasn't going to break five (5) hours like I didn't get my PR that day; however, I still was pleased with a 5:02 given the seven-week layoff from my prior marathon. 

My plan has been to run a marathon every three to four weeks as part of my Rocky Raccoon preparation for February.  However, when it wasn’t wise to try to fly out of Boston as Hurricane Sandy – or “Superstorm” Sandy, rather – was going to beginning thrashing the northeast Coast and wreaking havoc on the airlines, I thought that missing the Cape Cod Marathon might set me back worse than it did.

I could have pushed through and gotten under five hours, but none of this means that much to me.  It is all something that I do to 1.) keep my weight in check as much as I can and 2.) have fun.

I may add Bryan-College Station to the dance card and one of Steve Boone’s marathon on the December 21-22 weekend, but we’ll see how things go, including my weekly trips to the chiropractor and upcoming Pilates sessions to help strengthen my core before the first weekend of February.

After the race, I went back to the hotel to sleep a little and get cleaned up before Waverly and I had dinner with Leanne, her husband, Jim, one of her sons and her best friend from Virginia.  We had a really good time before we made our way Monday morning over to visit my grandparents.

Sunday, November 11, 2012

Race Announcing: A Little Insight

The first weekend of this month, I announced two brand new races - Texas 10 Conroe, part of the new Texas 10 Series, on Saturday, November 3 and the Pleasure Island Bridge Half Marathon in Port Arthur the following day.

I had a lot of fun doing both.  It is something that I enjoy doing, but it is also something that I don't think people realize that takes as much work as it does.

And it is also something that I'm very, very thankful and fortunate that I get the opportunity to do.  I actually believe that my ability to exhort (speech or discourse that encourages, incites or earnestly advises) is a spiritual gift, as referenced in Romans 12.

For me, there's more that goes into it than just announcing the names of finishers as they come to (ideally) or cross the finish line.  Don't get me wrong, it is a lot of that, but there's more to it.

Because of my race directing experience, I, in essence, become a de facto start and finish line manager, but I believe that the events and race directors that I work with realize it is an added value that I provide over others.

While I very much respect the trained professionals who have great and skilled voices - as well as name recognition at a major market radio or television station, I work very hard to bring a myriad of skills necessary - along with a knowledgable voice - to properly project a race's image and its ability to "do things right" - or first-class.

I read in the recent November/December issue of Running Times an atricle by Pete Magill where he said that "back in the day" runners asked for three things:  start a race on time, an accurately measured course and correct finisher's results.  (And, today, they still do!)

In what I do, I can't take care of the latter two (although I do help timers with discrepancies or missing registration data when a runner cross), but I'm the front line on communicating with all of the appropriate parties to ensure that the event has an on-time start.

I typically aim to start announcing an hour before the event with updates every 10 minutes.  Anything more is overkill.  And when I'm a participant, I hate overkill.  To me, it is unnecessary drivel (and I'm sure that I have a few people that think what I do is drivel!)

I try to - in a very friendly and informative tone - communicate the most salient details that every participant needs to know (how far away - time-wise - we are from the start of the race, where to pick up your packet and/or chip, where to register and when to begin making their way to the start line).

There's always opportunities to thank volunteers and sponsors -- the two parties that make most, if not all, events a success.

The biggest challenge is to not have runners waiting for too long in the chute or at the starting line before the race is to begin.

I always try to aim to have - unless the race director wants something specifically different - runners to be or to begin being queued up 10 minutes before the start of the race.  I know that they're not going to be still until about 7-8 minutes away and that pre-race ceremonies - unless there's a color guard involved presenting the colors - typically don't last more than 4-5, which gives me a 2- to 3-minute buffer.

But you always have to be ready for the unexpected.

At the Toughest 10K Galveston, the second race of the Texas Bridge Series, we knew that parking was going to be tight with the incredible turnout (1,500+ pre-registered).  We communicated over and over before the race to be parked by 6:30 a.m. (a 7:30 a.m. start), but even with the team's best efforts there were still cars backed up on the Causeway at 7:05 a.m.

We - working with race director Robby Sabban - had brought in Other Brother's Peter Manry to do a lot of the pre-race announcement work that morning because of the need to throw all key resources at the parking solution.

We had the start line inflatable blown up on the side of the road because the road was still open to traffic.  But magically, just a minute or two before 7:20 a.m., all the cars were clear from the Causeway Bridge and the road just south of the runners -- and we were set to go, got the prayer and the National Anthem off and ... started on-time.

At the Texas 10 Conroe, everything lined up perfect for an on-time start, but during the National Anthem, I was notified that some things weren't secure on the course.

But because of a sound timeline, clear communications and all of the right people at the start in the right place, the delay - on the course - ended up being minimal and we got started maybe no more than three (3) minutes late.  Not too bad, and not enough to generate any complaints (I hope!).

The curve that we had in Port Arthur was that there was a line of showers that came through in the middle of the race, which meant that the advance mats and the reader had to be taken down.  I had to move my sound equipment under cover and then we had to improvise on the awards ceremony, but having an experienced team like IAAP out of San Antonio and flexible race directors like Rich and Amie James, who also put on The Gusher Marathon in Beaumont each March, made the shift in the pre-race plan rather painless.

Beyond that, for me, it is all about trying to make sure that I call people's names correctly and clearly and then communicate post-race necessities - once again, without overkill.

If I can add something, based on what I know about the individual - or even something that pops into my head, I will, but I try not to force things too much.

My philoposphy is that if nothing is said about what I do, then that's a win for the event (and I've done my job).  It fits into the description of a race being "well-organized".

I very strongly believe that an announcer can take away from an event's image by coming across as unprofessional or as I put it, "hokey"; however, I try to make sure that every event that I'm asked to do that I present a touch of quality and class that is a very, very small part of a participant coming back to do that event the next year.

The most fun thing of it all is when I know something about someone (a recent result, their birthday or something about where they're from) and it surprises them.  That, to me, is an intanigble that very few other announcers can bring to an event.

My biggest pet peeve?  Oh boy.  Yes, even I have them.  If you come up and ask me to call somebody "Pookie Bear" when they come across the finish line, that is just not going to happen. 

The other is interrupting my rhythm or train of thought in processing all of the information that I have coming at me by self-announcing your name before I get to it.  I'll then just ignore it.

I really make a very concerted effort to do my best for each and every runner that comes to a finish line and recognize their accomplishment in an encouraging and professional manner, but a few things challenge me every now and then.

And finally, if I'm doing an event that isn't using a reader mat, there's one thing that you have working in your favor by knowing me:  It is probably pretty safe that you're going to get your name called!

See you at the races!

Friday, November 9, 2012

Charity Towards ING NYC Marathoners - A Sliding Scale Of Its Own

I went to on Thursday to see if there might be an event that I could get to on Sunday, November 11 and pick up another state.

The first story on the site's home page was about the Philadelphia Marathon, which I'll run next Sunday, opening up 3,000 additional slots for runners affected by Mayor Bloomberg's decision to shuttle this year's ING New York City Marathon.

Great publicity, of course, at first blush.  Everybody seems to be getting in on the act, including those events that issued a $25 discount within 60 seconds after the announcement.

Philadelphia, after seeing its 350 remaining charity slots gobbled up rather quickly, decided to make a tenfold addition - and oddly enough at the mayor's direction.

The City of Brotherly Love's charity requirement isn't as high as other events, but the $200 entry fee - of which $100 will be donated to New York City and New Jersey-area charities - seemed rather high for individuals who had just spent $250 or more to run New York City.

So I did a quick pass of those events slated for this weekend, Saturday, November 10 and Sunday, November 11 to see how they compared to Philadelphia.

The Soldier Marathon in Columbus/Fort Benning, Georgia (11/10) welcomed New York City Marathoners for free.

Sunday's Marshall University Marathon in Huntington, West Virginia gave runners a $40 online entry fee through Thursday, November 8.

Santa Barbara International Marathon, run on Saturday, offered a $50 registration for the first 300.

Pensacola Marathon's fee was already only at $75, but advised runners that they would mail a different race shirt and their medal to them at a later time.

Similarly, the Anthem Richmond Marathon indicated that they would mail medals for the additional registrations expected to come from New York City runners.

The Fort Worth Marathon on Sunday offered a special discount code for an $80 entry fee.

The Malibu International Marathon were letting runners in at their early bird rate.  $109.  So what's the current rate?  $145, including the $10 tax per runner for the city of Malibu.

And finally, the Competitor Group's Rock 'N' Roll San Antonio Marathon was giving NYC runners a 20 percent discount -- from its current $150 rate, but they were matching the $30 discount with a donation of their own to charity.