Broad Street is the race I’ve run the most times, and it’s always one of my favorite race weekends of the year because of the people. I run with a few dozen other people, mostly Subbers, on an American Cancer Society DetermiNation fundraising team, and we make a weekend out of it.
I could (and will) write an entire post about the people, the weekend and running for charity, but I’m going to keep this one to just the actual race report.
Broad Street is a great course — mostly flat, net downhill and straight except for the jog around City Hall right after the halfway point. This was my third time running it, and I knew the course and what to expect from the entire race experience.
It’s a 10-miler, which is an odd distance and yet still one that I run twice a year: Broad Street and Bronx. Broad Street is easily the faster course, and will probably always be where I PR at that distance.
It’s also a BIG race — 40,000 runners. It’s the largest race field I’ve been part of, at least until I run NYC later this year, and even in the back of the pack, it’s pretty crowded. At the same time, because we run with DNation, we get the VIP experience, complete with a separate tent right by the start, so it tends to be less of a pre-race cattle call than the NYRR races, which are the other big races I run. The best part? There are places to sit down while I have to wait for the last corral to start, so my feet are typically fresher than at NYRR races.
Last week was hot. Really hot, after a winter that never seemed to end, so no chance to acclimate. Sunday promised to be cooler, if not cool, but rainy. The first year I ran Broad Street, it poured all morning long. It took a solid six weeks after that before I could run in the rain again. But I was also greener and not nearly as well-prepared or equipped, so I just packed a disposable poncho, wool socks and a complete change of clothes for my checked bag.
It turned out to be high 50s to 60, cloudy and dry, and not too humid. That’s pretty much what we got last year, and it led to me calling an audible and racing it instead of a training run, then just running Brooklyn Half two weeks later. That wasn’t the plan this year.
The Plan, Part 1
Coach B made it clear: No audibles this year. Broad Street was my last long run for Brooklyn, and Brooklyn needed to be my goal race this spring, even if that meant a not-great time because the weather refused to cooperate.
So I prepared for running and fueling the way I will in two weeks. Well, almost. I have a large suitcase I got before Broad Street last year that I use for race weekends when I’m driving or taking the train/subway because I can fit everything, including my foam roller, into the one suitcase. When I pulled it out, it still had some things from RWF, including the add-ons for my hydration belt.
The belt has two holders for 8-ounce water bottles built into it, and I have two more holders that slide on the belt, giving it a maximum capacity of 32 ounces. When I grabbed my belt to pack, it had one bottle in it. I thought about hunting around to find the other, but figured “The other two are in the suitcase and I won’t need more than two.”
So, of course, when I got to Philly on Friday and started organizing my stuff in piles in the hotel room, I discovered the two holders in the suitcase were just holders. Both bottles were also back in my apartment, with the one I hadn’t bothered to bring.
Nutrition and hydration
In addition to pre-race fueling, my approach during races is pretty simple: 3 Clif Shot Bloks at even-numbered miles (roughly every 30 minutes), water at every stop, Gatorade Endurance at the water stops that have it, and Nuun Endurance in my belt bottles to use in the last couple of miles so I don’t need to stop if I’m feeling good (or in case the water stops are closed).
That sounds like a lot, but after I ran out of gas after mile 9 at Brooklyn last year, I experimented with some advice from Coach B and found this seems to work.
So, with only one belt bottle, I would have to go into the race without half of my late-race nutrition/hydration.
When I went to the expo Saturday, I looked around for a bottle at the vendors that would fit, but nothing really fit the bill. I did find a bib toggles belt I got so I could use that for my bib and wear the hydration belt with the bottles, phone pocket and bib toggles on the back, so that was a plus.
Yes, I violated “nothing new on race day,” and it was fine. Since it basically sat on top of the belt elastic (and my shirt), I didn’t notice it while running.
I finally decided that with the weather forecast, it wasn’t going to be a big deal to only have one bottle. I did fill the complimentary (large) bottle of water I got at hotel check-in with more water mixed with Nuun Endurance and drank that the morning of the race as my pre-race hydration, and that worked out well.
Everything else was pretty standard, although I was able to have a latte because the Starbucks next door was open before we had to leave for the race. I like drinking it before my race, but logistics don’t always allow, in part because my dislike for coffee without a lot of milk means black coffee is never an option.
The Plan, Part 2
Coach B wanted me to treat this as my last long run for Brooklyn, with some variable pacing. The original idea she’d mentioned to me was 30 minutes easy, 45 minutes at marathon pace, 30 minutes easy and 45 minutes (or however long until I finished) marathon.
What I didn’t realize until I checked my email that morning was she had tweaked it a bit to be 2 miles easy, 3 miles marathon, 1 mile easy, 4 miles marathon, with a note to feel free to pick it up during the last half-mile. This is what I get for not logging into my training calendar after Coach B updates it.
At any rate, I liked the changes, even if I grumbled about having to slow down for the mile around City Hall, which is always the one with the biggest crowds. While that can also be really crowded at some points of the race, the runners have spaced out enough by the time I get there to allow for faster running if you ride the cheers from the crowd.
I actually ended up slowing down for the mile after City Hall, but mostly because I realized I hadn’t actually for mile 5. Oops.
Beyond the pace plan, my mantra was “race the course, not the clock.” I’ve had issues with psyching myself out mid-race when I start doing pace math, and that’s part of my miserable back half performance in some races. At Bronx, I focused on the course because I was trying to catch Train Runner and BOTP Delight, so I just focused on Train Runner’s neon pink shirt.
Based on Coach B’s plan, I was expecting about a 2:35 finish, almost exactly halfway between my PR of 2:27 and my first Broad Street finish at 2:42.
Broad Street has a downhill start, so it’s wicked easy to go out too fast, and I was determined to not. I didn’t quite succeed, but I caught it early and pulled back some. I was looking at heart rate, not pace, and I had set my watch to require manual laps so I would have exact splits despite GPS hinkiness around City Hall.
The first few miles felt good, but that’s the first point where the day’s puzzle popped up. The talk test for me doesn’t work — too many years teaching group fitness — but I’ve gotten good at judging effort by my breathing patterns. 4 in, 4 out is easy; 3 in, 3 out is marathon; 2 in, 3 out is threshold; faster is reserved for speed repeats or the final stretch in a race.
My watch said I was up in Zone 3, but my breath was 4-4. I kept pulling back to get into Zone 2, but between the few hills on the race and not feeling the difference when I crossed into Zone 3, I had to pull myself back six or eight times.
For a lot of reasons, I typically only drink coffee one morning a week, and it’s not on a running day. When I got through the City Hall mile with the same weird discrepancy between breath and HR, it finally clicked — my coffee had probably ticked up my heart rate just enough to be mucking things up.
I noodled on that for a bit as I passed Mile 6, and finally decided to back things off for a mile, to get my HR back down since I hadn’t around City Hall. When I saw the mile 7 banner, I kicked it back up, only to realize the slower mile hadn’t fixed anything.
That’s when I decided to just focus on breath and ignore my watch. I still marked my laps manually, and I did look a few times, but as long as I was breathing at the right level, I didn’t pay attention to the HR readout.
DNation has its cheer squad at mile 7, so that’s one that always stands out. Usually, that’s the point where I realize most of the cheer squad is already gone, and that I’m ready for the race to be over.
Not this year.
Shortly after mile 7, I caught sight of my friend Teacher On the Run, who I had been leapfrogging with earlier until I had to back off for that easy mile. Her plan would put her at a 2:30 finish, so I was expecting her to be ahead of me for the rest of the way. I could see all the ribbons on her shirt, and she was a couple of minutes ahead of me.
Race the course, not the clock. Time to put that into action. Whether I could catch her or not, I could focus on chasing her down. My legs felt strong and this still felt like a long run, not a race.
That worked for about a mile, maybe a bit more, before I lost her in the crowd ahead. This is the first Broad Street where it still felt crowded around me as I hit the last three miles. But at that point I was set. Breath was good, legs felt locked in at that pace, and I was starting to pass people.
During my variably paced long runs, by the time I got the the last half mile or so of the marathon-effort sections, I tended to think “I get to slow down soon, right?”
Not this time.
I could tell I had a decent pace going, but everything felt great, really strong. There are a bunch of water stops in the mile before we approach the Navy Yard, or maybe just one big one that’s spread out over a half-mile or so. I kept going. I hadn’t touched my Nuun yet, and I was feeling good. I did walk in a couple of places because the race funnels down there and I didn’t see the point in dodging and weaving.
I passed a sign that said “1/2 mile to go” and thought “really?” My watch showed 4:39 had elapsed since I passed Mile 9, so either I was on pace for a 1:48 mile PR on my final mile or the sign was wrong. I was guessing the former, but decided I could figure that out after I finished and checked my splits.
The actual Navy Yard sign is a quarter-mile from the finish, so once I could see it, I picked up the pace. I knew any Subbers cheering would be on the left, so I stayed on that side and started picking my way through the crowd as I passed people.
I saw a few Subbers in their blue jerseys, only to be surprised to hear Mamma Bear cheering about 10 feet before them, wearing a different color. That gave me a nice lift, and I added a little more speed as I ran by teammates and our cheer squad spread out along the fence.
I typically can find a strong kick at the end, but this wasn’t a race and so I opted to run hard, but not sprint. It was really too crowded, and my time wasn’t the goal.
My final time: 2:30:19, just three minutes off my PR despite running it reasonably easy.
Brooklyn’s a hillier course than Broad Street, but I’m still feeling wicked confident after yesterday’s race. All my dry run elements checked out, and I didn’t run out of gas late in the race.
If yesterday had been a half, I feel like I could have kept that pace, and once I picked up the pace for good after mile 6, each successive mile was faster, with my final mile being the fastest one. North Shore Runner said after that he was amazed at how consistent my splits were — he said the only one who was more consistent was Teacher On the Run.
I typically don’t have consistent splits if I’m not running repeats, so that actually felt really good. The easy miles were more variable and the final mile was fast, but all the marathon-effort miles were pretty darn consistent.
The biggest takeaway was to trust the feel of the race, and once I get past the “don’t go out too fast” portion of the course, just focus on the race around me, not the one with the clock.
Oh, and no coffee before Brooklyn.