Philadelphia Marathon 2009

What a weekend.  Before I get to the marathon recap, I have to say that Bruce Springsteen is an amazing performer.  Kevin and I had a great time at his show in Baltimore Friday night.  My favorite part was when he ran into the crowd and chugged some person's beer.  If we hear about him coming down with swine flu, I know why.

Although we spent a good amount of the time standing, we were happy to have seats to rest our legs during the slower songs, since we did have a marathon on Sunday.  Saturday morning, we woke up and got ready for the quick drive up to Philly.

We arrived at our hotel and were excited to see some great views from our room.  City view.

And Bridge view.

We relaxed for a bit before meeting my friend Ashley (who was running her first marathon!) at the race expo.  Although it was only 1.5 miles from our hotel, we decided to drive.  The parking garages near the convention center made a killing that day.  Philly/Chinatown - how about some weekend special event prices next time?  Or have the expo in a place with free parking?

We picked up our BIBs/shirts and walked around the expo for awhile.  I love the bags they gave us with our shirts.  Perfect breathable gym/race bag with a zippered pocket.  I also ran into a friend of mine from college who was running her first marathon, so that was fun to see her.  

After the expo, we relaxed back at the hotel and then headed to dinner at Dante and Luigi's.  This place has been around since 1899, so we figured they knew what they were doing.  The best way for me to describe this restaurant is "smooth".  Everything they did was like a well oiled machine.  After receiving fresh italian bread, we decided to split the Dante and Luigi Special Salad.  (My excuse for the pictures below:  I messed up and forgot my camera, so only had my iPhone the entire weekend.)

I was in the middle of asking Kevin if he thought there was dressing on there, when suddenly Olive Oil and Balsamic Vinegar appeared.  Is this place bugged?  I decided on the lasagna for my meal which came topped with Italian Gravy. (!?!)

Italian Gravy was the tastiest red sauce I have ever had.  Super hearty and had this great flavor that I couldn't put my finger on.  Kevin ordered the Manicotti and I was jealous.  I kept asking if he wanted another bite of mine, so that he would offer me a bite of his.  The burnt ends were the best.  ;)

We decided to go for dessert because how often did we come to the oldest Italian restaurant in Philadelphia?  I ordered the Ricotta cheese pie, which looked a lot like cheesecake, but was not as heavy or sweet.  

I loved it.  It reminded me of my favorite Italian dessert - Sfogliatelle - just without those crispy layers on top.  

Race Day

We set the alarm for 5am, but both of us woke up by 4:45am.  Nerves.  I decided to take a quick shower to wake me up.  Picked my outfit based on two choices I had laid out.  

I ended up going with capri running pants, a long sleeve shirt, and throwaway gloves for the first few miles.

Fueled up with a banana, almond butter and a PURE bar.  Chocolate Chip Trail Mix PURE bar that I have never tried before.  It made me nervous that I didnt have my normal wheat toast, but I had forgot to bring it and our hotel was charging like $10 for a slice.  I loaded up my Geico wrist band with Ibuprofen and Sport Beans.  Carried GU Chomps to munch on at the starting line.

We found parking without a problem and walked over towards the start to get into our colored corral.  We enjoyed some of the best people watching ever for a good 40 mins before we actually started the race at 7:20.

Miles 1 - 6.  The entire way felt downhill and flat.  Kevin and I both felt great.  I ditched my gloves around mile 3.  Neither Kevin or I wore watches, so when we passed the clocks, we knew to take about 20 mins based on our starting time.  We were running in the high nine minute miles and talked about whether we should slow down our pace.  Nah.  It didnt feel hard, so we figured lets keep it up as long as possible.  Even though the course was wide and the starts were staggered, we had a lot of problems with 'traffic' along the way.  I sortof wish the half marathon and marathons started separately or had different courses before coming together like in the Baltimore Marathon.  Kevin and I went into this race leaving it up to how we each felt to decide whether we would stay together the entire race.

Miles 7-11.  During the beginning of mile 7, a woman decided to try and cross the course directly in front of me.  It happened so fast that I didnt have time to stop/move and she ended up getting an elbow to the chest area.  (Sorry?)  Not sure if she will try that move again.  We saw our first hill during this section,and were happy we had some hilly training runs.  What goes up must come down, so we enjoyed the steep downhill that came after as we headed down to the river.  I spent the majority of these miles anticipating the miles to come and trying to decide how I want to chunk up the race.  (Two 10 milers and a 10k? or a 20 mile run and a 10k?)  Not sure I ever came to a decision, but somewhere in here, Kevin and I decided that we were running this whole thing together and he was going to set a new PR.

Miles 12-14.  These were the worst miles of the entire race for me.  As soon as we hit mile 12, my hip flexors started to ache.  I immediately thought about the second 20 mile training run we had missed.  Had I run enough miles?  My hip flexors usually dont start hurting until mile 16 or so.  Sport Beans and Ibuprofen to the rescue.  Mental or not, taking that Motrin improved my mood immensely.  Next up, we had to pass the finish line to split off from the half marathoners.  This was not my favorite part of the course.  Especially since we left the crowds to find the second hill of the race up to mile 14.  At this point, I loved that Philly had put our first names on the BIBs.  We had thousands of fans that were yelling our name and it was a great pick-me-up.  Kevin and I started comparing who had more fans.  

Miles 15-19.  Out and back.  My favorite type of run.  NOT.  Not sure how many times I wondered if the turnaround was "just up ahead", but at least it kept my brain occupied.  We hit mile 16 and reminisced about the year before at Baltimore.  It had been a hot/humid day and the hills of baltimore's not-so finest neighborhoods were ahead of us.  Kevin basically hit the wall and the rest of the race was a struggle.  Today, it was the "ideal" weather day and we were running a flat and beautiful course along the river.  I was so happy for him because at this point I knew we were going to smash his prior PR.  And we may just hit my goal too - get under 4:40.  Each time we passed a clock, my mind would calculate away and I knew it was going to be close.  I watched a guy pass us wearing only socks.  No shoes.  At one point, he stopped to check his feet and I saw two big holes in the bottom of the socks.  He had a long way to go in holey socks.  I felt thankful for my shoes.

Miles 20-23.  Turnaround time!!!  Manayunk is a cool town.  It was fun to run through and check out all the bars/restaurants.  Plus, there was fun music and the crowd had a ton of energy.  We hit mile 20 and I told myself, only a 10k left!  Not going to lie, my legs and feet hurt.  We kept up a routine of running to each water stop, grabbing a gatorade and water, and walking until they were gone.  It actually helped that it hurt Kevin more to walk then to run, so we didnt walk as much as I may have liked.  

Miles 24-26.  The home stretch.  Painful, but awesome at the same time.  Everything hurts.  2 miles never went by slower, but I kept telling myself that it was 20 mins in my life and would be over before I knew it.  I forgot about finishing in a particular time and concentrated on finishing.  We had done it and I would be happy no matter what...

The Last .2.  The crowd was great and kept yelling that we were almost there.  Just around the corner.  Some guy also yelled, "Hey Kevin, leave her in your dust!".  I shot the dude a dirty look and looked over at Kevin, like, I dare you.  My legs hurt like hell, but I had a little kick left and a whole lot of competitiveness.  He didn't end up listening to the guy in the crowd.  Smart man.  :)  

We picked it up together towards the finish.  As we got closer and closer to the finish line, I could see just how close we were to being under 4:40.  Our final time....4:41!  Soooo close.  

After this picture was taken, we planned out our next move.  FOOD.  What could be more perfect after the Philadelphia Marathon?  Cheesesteaks.  

Yeah, I whole bunch of other people had the same idea.  We waited for 40 mins, but it was worth every minute.  

I tried to act like a local and said "Whiz Wit".  I didnt want to order anything weird and give myself away.  

Pure joy.  Although I don't remember much about the cheesesteak since I inhaled it in about 5 mins.  I think it was delicious.

Marathon # 6 is in the books for me, so now it is time to start thinking about what's next...



Taper Week

Marathon training has come to an end and it is now taper week. I always feel strange the week before a marathon - like I should be doing more. My nerves always affect my stomach and it currently feels like butterflies are fluttering around my insides.   So far, my week is looking like this:

  • Saturday – 1 hour (Very Hilly) run
  • Sunday – Off Day
  • Monday – 4 mile run
  • Tuesday – walk/run with Oscar. Maybe a ½ mile’s worth. 3 push-ups. Yes, I said 3. I intended to do more and just didn’t have it in me. Plus, it is taper week. :)
  • Plan/Wednesday – 2-3 mile EASY jog.
  • Plan/Thurday – Long Walk w/ Oscar
  • Plan/Friday – OFF (Bruce Springsteen concert in Baltimore!)
  • Plan/Saturday – OFF
  • Plan/Sunday – Philadelphia Marathon!!

During our run this past Saturday, my sister was asking about our goals for the marathon.

That got me to start thinking, what are my goals? Earlier this year, I had proclaimed that I was not running a marathon this year.  After running two last year and having a sore hamstring, I was ready for a year off from training.

The problem was that my boyfriend had gotten the marathon bug. Once he decided he was going to run one, I didn’t want to miss out on all the fun. Plus, running the Philadelphia Marathon would add a new city to my repertoire.

Back to goals. I am going to set two goals, 1 stretch and 1 realistic. 
  • Stretch Goal: Finish in the 4:30s. This could happen if all the stars aligned. Perfect weather, I felt incredible and strong, right amount of fuel, good course.
  • Realistic Goal: Finish in the 4:40s. This is where I realistically think we will be based on all of our training runs. Granted, we have run some hilly training runs and Philly is supposed to be a flatter course, so you never know.
For both of these we need to stay consistent throughout the entire run. I think we will start out running in the high 9 min miles. Then, we will slip to a more even 10 min mile pace. The goal is to hold that for as long as we can, leaving us some time padding towards the last miles of the race when things get harder.

*Updated* If anyone is interested in tracking me through the race – my BIB # is 6815 (Lauren Brown) and they are going to have Runner Tracking available. I realize I just gave out my last name, but since it is pretty common, I think I am safe.  (and hopefully scary people dont read this blog.)  I will also be updating twitter throughout the weekend, so follow me for those updates.

Friday night, we have tickets to see BRUCE SPRINGSTEEN in Baltimore and I am so freakin excited. Then, our plan is to drive up to Philadelphia Saturday afternoon to get settled into our hotel and then head over to the race expo/packet pick-up. We want to have a good pasta dinner somewhere.

Anyone from Philadelphia know a great Italian place we should make reservations?



Artie's in Fairfax, VA

This past Sunday, I woke up late because I had TOO MUCH WINE on Saturday night.  Kevin and I went to an engagement party for one of his friends and I didnt know many people there.  It was a great party with tons of great appetizers and every drink you could every imagine.  But, since I wasnt doing much talking, I did more drinking and eating than usual.  Oops.

After waking up, I immediately started pulling together Pioneer Woman's Chicken Spaghetti.  A good friend of mine has had a challenging few weeks after finding out her 27 year old sister has melanoma.  This casserole was delivered down to Northern VA Sunday afternoon and we are all hoping (and praying) for a quick recovery.

My parents decided to join me and bring along a sweet potato pie, so my friend and her family would have dessert to go along with the casserole.  We also were able to visit with my great Aunt who lives in Fairfax, VA - near a restaurant called ARTIE's.  I have been hearing great things about this place for awhile now, so we stopped in for lunch.

After we were seated with drinks (water for me), the waitress brought out a basket full of delectable treats.  HOT donut holes/sweet bread covered in sugar and cinnamon and dense carrot bread.  They were both incredible and I immediately liked this place.

Next up, we ordered the Blue Crab Fritters as an appetizer for us all to share.  The Blue Crab Fritters were served with grilled corn salsa and lobster ginger butter.  When we first saw the plate, we were skeptical what this was exactly.

Then, I split one in half and almost fell out of the booth.  The iPhone picture above is probably blurry since I was shaking with excitment about the massive amounts of lump crab!  I was a very happy MARYLANDER.

I decided to go with a soup/salad combo and started with the Lobster Bisque seen above.  It had the perfect amount of sherry to make the back of my throat burn, in a good way, as it went down.  It was pretty rich, so I wasnt able to finish the entire bowl.

I decided on the Warm Goat Cheese & Spiced Pecan Salad with field lettuce, sun dried cranberries, dates, tomatoes and balsamic vinaigrette.  Anyone else obsessed with the breaded/fried goat cheese rounds on top of salads?  I AM. 

So, I was particularly excited to see this come out.  I just wish I hadnt filled up on everything else because I couldnt enjoy this salad the way I should have.  Next time, I would skip the soup, so I had more room.  It was an awesome salad.

No room for dessert right away, but we did order some almond lace butter cookies to go and they were SO good when we ate them in the car on the way home.  Extra thin and crunchy with almonds. 

I highly recommend this restaurant!

Artie's on Urbanspoon



Beam Me Home

Tonight is my last night in Grand Rapids, MI.  The kind folks at GRGrub gave me a bunch of awesome-sounding places to eat while in town, but I didnt realize I wasnt staying downtown.  Normally, I would be excited to venture out, but I forgot my glasses and that makes driving at night difficult, especially in a new town. 

Uccello's was a quick drive from the hotel and had gotten awards for best pizza in Grand Rapids.

I started with a garden salad and the house balsamic dressing.  The dressing was good and the salad was fresh.  For the pizza, I ordered a grilled margherita.

I was disappointed as soon as I opened the box. I expected the grilled crust to be crispy.

It was soggy and seemed like they took a piece of store-bought flatbread and threw it on the grill.  Not at all like was described in the menu as " a 9" hand-formed crust brushed lightly with garlic butter and olive oil grilled over an open flame".  nope - it definitely wasnt that.  I barely ate any of it , which is saying something if I can stomach pizza! 

I ended up popping popcorn to go with my salad.  I also enjoyed a mini Diet Dr Pepper.  Love it.


When I arrived at the hotel earlier in the week, I was disappointed to see that the gym was the same size as Storage Room B.  Monday night, I did a 25 min upper body lifting working with the free weights they had available.

The next day, I was talking to the instructor of my class about it and she mentioned she had a free week-long pass to her gym that she would be happy to give to me.  YESSSS.

MVP Sports Club was a huge, awesome gym with the nicest treadmills I have ever run on.  Touchscreens on each one and there were at least 40 of them.
  • Tuesday, I ran 4.2 miles in 40 mins.
  • Tonight (Thursday), I ran 3.0 miles in 30 mins.
Tomorrow, I have my last full day of class and then am heading home to Baltimore.  I am so excited to see Kevin and my animals - it has been lonely in the hotel room all by myself!  I am ready to be home!



20 Mile Recap from Up North

I currently have my feet up on the coffee table in my hotel room in Grand Rapids, MI.  I am up north for a work training and it sort of feels like a mini-vacation.  Of course it would be 10 times better if Kevin, Oscar and Lucy were here with me. :)

Backing up to Saturday, I am VERY happy to report that I completed a 20 mile training run!  After being sick for a few days and missing a key long run, I was nervous.

We started out at 6am while it was still dark and about 35 degrees.  Kevin and I planned to run the first 20 miles of the Bagel to Beer course.  My dad started out with us and split off around mile 12 to get over and watch my nephew's football game.  I forgot what it felt like to run in the cold.  My teeth hurt from the cold air, but I would take the cold over heat and humidity any day.

Miles 1-8 were tough.  For some reason, I kept thinking that maybe I didnt want run the marathon and I could just be there to support Kevin.  Maybe I would twist my ankle and wouldnt be able to complete it.  Not sure why I had all the negative thoughts, but tried to snap out of it.  

It was then that I started to feel some pain in one of my left toes.  One of my toenails had not been cut properly and was slicing into my other toe.  Miles 9 - 12 were spent thinking about the pain and I knew I would have to take a break to fix my toenail.  At the mile 12 water stop, I was able to make it more comfortable, but now the bottom of my right food was burning.  What was going on here?

After my dad split off from us, my mental attitude towards this run got worse.  It was nice to have my dad up ahead to follow and pull us through.  It wasnt that I couldnt go on, but it was that I didnt want too.  At one point, I told Kevin to go ahead because I wanted to be alone with my negativity.  Then, I got mad at myself for being such a downer and decided to catch up while he was tying his shoe. 

Shortly thereafter, we met up with two of my father's friends, so we were able to follow them to the end.  Having people to follow gave me something to focus on and lifted my mood immensely.  I felt like the run got easier and we were even keeping up a steady pace! We finished our 20 miles in 3 hours and 40 mins.  Runner's high was in full effect. 

Getting back to my Monday in Michigan, I stopped into Panera Bread for some lunch.  U Pick 2 - Garden Vegetable soup, Greek Salad, and a piece of whole wheat baguette.  I was hungry and it hit the spot.

After a lifting session in the hotel gym, I decided to be brave and go out to eat by myself.  I have done this before, but it is not my favorite thing to do.  Once I arrived at Bonefish Grill, wine was ordered immediately.  I decided that if I was already sitting at the bar by myself, I could take pictures and not feel any weirder.

There was the nicest bartender working and she told me all about the menu and even recommended local spots to try while I was in town.  And supposedly I have an accent!?!  Umm - everyone here has an accent -  not me.  ha.  I ended up ordering the Sea Scallops & Shrimp with Chimichurri sauce, succotash, and Potatoes Au Gratin. 

On the way back to the hotel, I stopped by the local grocery store - Forest Hills.  When I am in a new town, I love going into different grocery stores.  I had fun roaming the aisles looking for "finds".

This caught my eye and since I have a full kitchen in my hotel room/suite, I knew I could store it in the freezer.

There were a ton of pistachios.  Whew.  What a long post.  I am off to get some sleep.

Oh yeah - its taper time!  Philadelphia Marathon is in less than 2 weeks!




Last Wednesday evening, I had a the hint of a sore throat and felt extremely tired.  Thursday, I woke up and felt like I had been run over by a mack truck.  The past four days, I have gotten extremely familiar with my couch, reality tv and the different remedies for a sore throat/viral infection.

The food I consumed involved choking down hot oatmeal, slurping soup broth and trying to enjoy milkshakes and popsicles.  It makes it hard to enjoy anything when it hurts to swallow my own saliva.  Ok - probably getting very near the T.M.I. border.

My poor Oscar didnt understand how I was home all day, but didnt have the energy to take him to the park or play with him in the house.  He has his "pathetic" look nailed.

He finally gave up on me and went after Lucy.  See how he snuck up behind her?

Then he pounced.  He scared the whiskers off poor Lucy.  Blurry photo because I had the shakes from all the medicine I was pumping into my body.

I did finally get to try one of the new POM Juice flavors that Molly from POM was kind enough to send my way.  Pomegranate Nectarine.  It was deliciously refreshing and gave me some much needed antioxidants.  I wasnt a big fan of the Pomegranate Kiwi flavor she sent, but to each its own. 

In the midst of my sickness, I missed out on a number of fun events that were planned for the weekend and couldn't complete my 20 mile training run.  I have been stressing about this all weekend.  I need to run a 20 miler!!!  The marathon is in 3 weeks!  So yes, I am freaking out.

My sore throat is finally gone, but today, my nose decided to start running.  I told my nose that only one of us could be running at a time, so it needed to stop immediately. 

I am thinking a 12-14 miler on Monday or Tuesday night, two other shorter runs and then, this saturday AM, we are doing a 20 miler training run come hell or high water.


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