Monday, September 16, 2013

Rock 'n' Roll Philadelphia Half Marathon 2013 race...

Donna has made it a tradition to run the Rock 'n' Roll Philadelphia half marathon.  She has been running it since 2010.  Last year she was not able to do the race because her dad was leaving to go back to Australia that day.  I did it for the first time last year with Matt and Sarah.  It is a nice flat course and a fun weekend out of town so Donna, Hema, Lindsay, and I signed up.  

Donna somehow got her dates mixed up and did not realize she had double booked the race with a wedding in New Hampshire that weekend.  Since the wedding was on Saturday and the race was on Sunday, she decided she could still do both.  A bit crazy if you ask me, but she was determined to make it work.  After debating a few modes of transportation, she decided to fly to Boston then rent a car and drive to New Hampshire for the wedding then fly from Boston to Philly to meet us for the race.  She found an early morning flight that would get her into Philly at 6:50.  Her friend Katy, who lives in Philly, would pick her up from the airport.  Then she would hopefully meet us at the start by 8 am.

Dressing the part:
One night we were having a few drinks at Donna's apartment.  Lindsay mentioned that she was inspired by my costume for the Superhero half marathon we did in May.  She suggested that we dress up for this race.  Since it is a rock 'n' roll theme and there were 4 of us someone suggested we be KISS.

Our inspiration

I did a quick google search to see if it was doable.  It seemed simple enough.  I figured we could wear black running clothes and jazzed them up with some silver spandex and spikes.  Throw on some face paint and we would be all set.  We all decided to pick a character.  I think I said I would be Gene Simmons because I tend to stick my tongue out when I run.  Lindsay said she wanted to get the star guy and Donna volunteered to be the spaceman.  That left the cat for Hema.  

I went to the garment district to see what I could find to make the magic happen.  After finding these babies, I was starting in to feel inspired.  

It was really easy to find everything we need to transform ourselves into KISS.  I even found faux leather black spandex to make my bat wings.  One of the stores I went to literally had an entire wall just filled with different types of spikes.  I realized it was not going to be too tough to achieve the look we were going for.  

Donna and Lindsay came over my apartment and we got to work on our costumes.  Donna is never a big fan of costumes.  But she is not about to be left out and is always a good sport.  Since we had to actually run in these outfits, they had to be comfortable and not overly costumy.  So the 6 inch platform boots were out.  But we did want to make sure to get the essence of each character.  Also running clothes are expensive, we did not want to ruin our stuff.  We had to figure out a way to put things together so they would last through the race but be easily removed when we were done.  So armed with double stick tape and a needle & thread, we set to work.  

For ''the demon," the signature characteristics seemed to be spikes on the shoulders and, of course, bat wings.  I used the spike shoulder pads I found for a scaled down version.  I cut bat wings out of the black faux leather spandex and hot glued on spikes.  I figured I could safety pin them to my shirt and made black cuffs out of the spandex to hold them to my wrists.  I sewed some spike trim to my pants to simulate the tops of the scaly boots.  Add a spikey belt and I was all set.

For "the starchild," obviously stars on the pants.  Plus he seems to always be wearing so kind of jacket or vest with silver lapels.  He never seemed to wear a shirt, so we joked that Lindsay should go shirtless and glue some hair on her chest.  She decided to make faux lapels out of silver spandex.  I made her a belt out of the black spandex to cover the neon yellow band on the top of her pants.  We threw a silver spike belt over that and she was all set. 

For "the spaceman," the signature items were some form of a silver space collar or shoulder pads and lightening bolts.  I cut out a big silver collar out of the spandex and used some stiffened felt to hold the shoulders up.  I put some lightening bolts on the bottom of her shirt.  Some spikes down the sides of her pants completed the look.  

Hema ended up having to work and was not able to come over for costume making.  But I knew we could throw hers together once we got to Philly.  

Donna had left her clothes at my house because I had to put the finishing touches on her outfit.  She had bought makeup for us to use so I had to get that from her.   I went over her place on Friday before the race so we could do the swap.  Also I needed to get a copy of her license and her race confirmation sheet so I could pick up her packet for her.

That night we realized that we did not even know any KISS songs.  We decided needed to do some research to fully get into character.  I went on itunes and downloaded "I want to rock and roll all night" and "back in the new york groove" to help pump us up.  Donna realized that she actually had an old KISS cd she had bought back when she lived in Australia.  We also decided looked up what the band members real names are and which instruments they play.    

We did a test run of our makeup.  We went downstairs to see if her doorman would get what we were going for.  He immediately knew that we were KISS.  Same thing happened when we went upstairs to see if her neighbor Anne would recognize us.  So we were excited.

On the road:
Donna was up early to catch her flight to Boston.  She had landed and was in the car driving to NH by the time we even left the city.  Hema and Lindsay took the train from Brooklyn and I picked them up downtown.  

Hema had asked me to print out her confirmation sheet the night before.  You have to look up the confirmation by the person's last name and their birthdate.  So I looked her up using what I thought was her birthdate 7/2/79.  When that did not work I figured maybe I was mistaken and she was a year or 2 older or younger than me.  It still did not work.  I was going to text her but I forgot and I knew we could just get the confirmation sheet at the expo.  

On the car ride down I mentioned that I was not able to find her confirmation.  She started to laugh and she explained the problem to me.  Apparently, she in fact born on July 2, 1979.  But she was born in India and in India their cutoff to start school is June.  Her parents wanted her to start school at the same time as her cousin who was born earlier that year.   So her parents had her birthday changed on her birth certificate, which is easily done in India if you pay someone off.  Her passport lists her birthday as May 9, 1979, so she has to use that date when she fills out forms.  I asked why her parents did not just go with that date and tell her her birthday was in May.  It is not like she would know any different if they stuck with the story.  But they are big on astrology and they did not want her believing she was born under a different sign.  The ironic thing is that the family moved to London when she was 2.  So she never even went to school in India, but she is still stuck with 2 birthdays.  If I were her I would just tell my parents fine, but you have to give me presents on both birthdays ;) 

We drove down to Philly and arrived at our hotel at 3pm.  When we went to check in their was a line pretty long line.  Since the expo closed at 5 pm, we decided to just leave our bags in the car and wait to check in after we got back from the expo.  

Benjamin Franklin Craftsman statue

The expo was held at the convention center which was about half a mile from the hotel.  So we decided to walk over.  On the way, I took advantage of the some of the photo ops around Philadelphia.  Philly has a lot of public art.  There are quite a few statues and art installations.  Also Philly is well know for it murals on the sides of buildings.  I kind of wish I had some more time to do more of a photo safari around town.   

Pennsylvania Academy of Fine Arts
The Expo:
As we walked into the convention center, I realized that I had forgot Donna's paperwork.  They allow you to pick up a bib for a friend but you have to bring a copy of their id and a signed copy of their confirmation page.  I made sure to pack her paperwork the night before, but I had put it in my duffel bag which I left in the car back at the hotel.  I ran in and picked up my bib and t-shirt.  

It was 3:45 by the time we got our bibs.  I gave Hema my purse and camera bag to hold.  I figured the best bet would be to run back to the hotel to get her stuff.  I was hoping to get a short run in that day so I guess this killed 2 birds with 1 stone.  I got to the car and sure enough the papers were in my duffle bag.  I headed back to the convention center.  I made it back by 4:30.  While I was gone the girls walked around the expo and Lindsay was able to find strap for her iphone and a few other items she was looking for.  

The expo was a good size.  They had a lot of vendors.  Brooks had set up a whole "run happy island."  They even had a mechanical shoe you could ride.  

Out and About in Philadelphia:
After the expo, I wanted to walk over to Independence Hall.  I had been there are a kid but I want to get some pictures.  I wanted to get a picture of the liberty bell, but it was too late to get in to take the tour.  

On the walk back to the hotel, we stopped to get some pictures of the LOVE sculpture.  I have a picture of the original LOVE sculpture in Indianapolis and I am working on collecting pictures of all the other versions of the sculpture in any city I happen to visit.  

We walked back to the hotel.  So we could finish up our costumes.  Lindsay had to finish tacking the stars she cut out to her pants.  I set to work on Hema's costume.

For "the cat man," he did not really have a signature look.  But I decided to copy one of his costumes that laced up on the front of the shirt.  Her pants had purple lines on it, so I covered them with silver spandex,  add spikey shoulder pads with chains hanging off them.  Add a belt and she was ready to rock.  

We found a restaurant near the hotel to have dinner.  Last year when I was in Philly, we had gone to a really good ice cream place.  I remember that it was a few blocks from city hall.  I managed to find it on google maps so we walked over.  It was about 10 pm but I have to say Philly is not a really a town for happening night life.  The streets were pretty empty.  

Country Breakfast at Scoop Deville

We found Scoop Deville.  Their ice cream is really good and their list of mix-ins choices is ridiculously long.  The endless list of their custom bends kind of makes the decision making process overwhelming.  Hema picked the "country breakfast" suggested bend.  Since it had bacon in it, we sent a picture to Donna to let her know we were thinking of her.  We stopped at a 7-eleven to get drinks and something to eat in the morning then went back to the hotel for a good night sleep.  

Morning of the race:
For some reason, I thought the race started at 8:30 am (I would later realized that I was mistaken).  I figured that we should get up by 7 am in order to get dressed and put our makeup on in time for the race.  The hotel was about a mile from the start.  I had planned to leave the hotel by 7:45, knowing that would mean we would definitely be out the door by 8.  

When I woke up I saw a text message from Donna.  She said that she had a great time at the wedding But unfortunately, she had missed her flight by 4 minutes.  She had it in her head the flight left at 5:45, but it actually left at 5:30.  Clearly, we were having issues reading itineraries that weekend.  I texted her back and asked went the next flight got in.  She said she would land at 8:20 am.  She was a bit hung over, but she was still planning to meet us and jump in along the course.  I still thought the race started at 8:30 and it is a wave start.  With 20,000+ runners, it takes about 30 minutes for everyone to start.  I was hopeful she might make it to the start.  I said that I would bring her bib with me.  

She texted me these pictures.  As punishment to herself, she put on her costume and makeup on the plane.  That way she could jump off the plane and get to the course as soon as possible.  She said that she felt like she had let the band down and that she was not destine to be a rock star.  

I played the KISS songs I had downloaded to get us in the spirit.  We all got dressed and put our makeup on to get into character.  

Of course I had temporary tattoos for us.  I had guitars for Lindsay and me.  I gave Hema the drum set tattoo, because as Donna and I had learn on Friday, the cat man was the drummer.  

After a few pictures, we headed out of the hotel.  As we turned the corner, we saw thousands of runners coming down the street.  Oh no, the race started at 8 am!  I don't know way I thought it was 8:30.  I suggested we just jump in where we were, about a mile into the race.  But Hema pointed out that if we did not cross the start and get an official time we would not get our Rock Encore medals. So we decided to hotfoot it to the start.  We jogged to the start line and actually ended up making it there before our corral even started.   

People definitely noticed us.  I was a little self conscience but at least I had the rest of the group with me.  I was thinking about Donna in her space suit on the plane by herself.  With the shoulder pads sticking out, we really did give her the worst costume to have to wear on a plane.  

As we crossed the start line the announcer yelled out "Are you guys KISS?  No way.  We love when people dress up.  How did we miss that?"  We looked at each other and laughed "because we just got here a minute ago."

The Race:
The race starts in front of the Art Museum with the famous "Rocky steps."  The beginning of the course loops around city center.  You run past City Hall, the Liberty Bell, and Independence Hall.  Then the course loops back through Logan square past the start/finish area.  The second half of the course is an out and back loop of the Ben Franklin parkway.   It ends in front of the art museum.  

It is a nice flat course.  Great for a PR.  The only hills are the ramp to the bridge to cross over the river on the Ben Franklin parkway and a small hill at mile 13 before the finish.  But since we did not get a picture of all 4 of us at the start, we decided it would be best to stick together at least until we meet up with Donna.  So I let Hema and Lindsay set the pace.  We were worried that our makeup would start running down our faces once we started sweating.  But it stayed in place as long as we did not touch it.  It was a bit rough to not itch my face or rub my nose, but I did not want to end up looking like a hot mess.  

We had set a comfortable pace and were feeling good for the first few miles.  When we were around mile 3, I got a message from Donna.  She had made it to the race.  I knew that we would run by the big fountain in Logan square at mile 4 and thought that would be a good landmark to find her.  But she said the roads were closed and she could not get down that far.   She ended up waiting for us at mile 5.  

The band is back together!

We ran the first 5 mile with no breaks.  We took a short break at mile 5 for Donna to put her bib on and to get a picture.  After running for another mile, the girls wanted to walk for a bit.  Lindsay's calves were hurting her.  Hema decided to mention that she had forgot to bring her inhaler and her chest was feeling a bit tight.  Donna was feeling the effects of the night before.  So doing the rest of the course as a run/walk sounded like a good idea.  I had originally hoped to run the whole course to use it as a marathon training run.  But then I thought about it that I would have to be dressed in bat wings with face paint by myself.  Since we did not get cross the start together.  I decided to stick with the group so we could finisher together. 

Hema's chest was feeling tight and she was starting to wheeze a little.  At the 15k mark, there was a first aid station.  We stopped and to see if they had an inhaler she could use.  Luckily they did.  After a few puffs, she said she was feeling much better.  The last few miles are in the direct sun with little shade.  It was starting to get hot because the sun was out in full force.  We keep a good pace and tried to keep the walking breaks short. 

My bat wings in action

Our costumes were definitely a hit.  At one point he guy ran pass us frantically pointed at his chest and I realized he was wearing a KISS t-shirt.  A lot of people running by complimented us on our costumes.  For the most part, everyone knew we were KISS.  I few people thought we were Batman and Catwoman.  It was funny to see kids reactions to us.  Some of them were a excited to see a costume then changed their minds and were a little scared when we got closer.  A few spectators yell out to us to get our attention for a photo.  Of course, I flashed the tongue and put up the devil horns for them.  You have to give your fans what they want;)  Somewhere between mile 6 and 7, a group of guys started singing "I Want to Rock and Roll All Night" as they ran by.  As we ran by a few of the bands, we asked them if they knew any KISS songs, but none of them took our request.   At one of the aid stations near the end of the course, there were a group of teenage cheerleaders.  I would have thought they were too young to know who we were.  But they made up a quick KISS cheer as we ran by.  

I encouraged everyone to run the last mile.  No walking.  I feel like it is a mental thing, everyone can push through and finish out the last mile without stopping.  

We crossed the finish line with a time of 2:37:54.  

Finish Line Festival:
After getting our medals, we stopped to get a final picture.  It was funny, one of the volunteers handing out medals started freaking out.  She said she was a hug KISS fan and was so excited about our costumes.  She asked us "where's Paul?"  We all looked at each other and wondered which one is Paul.  Then Lindsay remembered that she was "Paul."

Donna's friend Katy was waiting for us at the finish line.  She was hoping to get a picture of us.  But somehow she missed us.  Which is funny because everyone else around her noticed us.  They were like "weren't you looking for your friends dressed as KISS, well they just ran by."  

They had plenty of snacks after the finish line.  They had water, Gatorade, and chocolate milk.  There were bagels, bananas, fruit cups, granola bars, chips, and pretzels. 

Donna went back with Katy to get her stuff and shower at her house.  Having partied the night before she was not in the mood for a drink.  Hema, Lindsay and I went to the beer garden to have a celebratory beer.  While we were there some random guys asked to take pictures with us.

Course Support:
This was a big race.  I think they had over 22,000 registered runners.  They do a wave start.  There are about 30 corrals that they stagger with a minute break in between each corral.  Overall the course was pretty well spread out. 

They had 8 water stations, which worked out to be about every 1 or 2 miles.  4 of them had Gatorade and 1 had GUs.  The first few water stations were definitely understaffed.  We ran up to empty tables with 1 or 2 people trying desperately to fill up cups with pitchers of water.  People were zigzagging from side to side trying to find cups that were filled.  It was a hazard.  For a race where people are paying upwards of $100, they really should have fully staffed water stations.  They needed to have more cups filled before the start of the race and they needed to be replacing cups from the start not waiting until they ran out of the cups.  

I saw on their Facebook page that about 1000 runners did not get official medals at the finish line.  They had run out of the ROCK Philadelphia medals so they gave them generic medals at the finish and mailed them the Philly medals later.  

After our beers, we went back to the hotel to clean up.  A lot of make up remover and a shower later, we were back to ourselves.  We stripped down our costumes.  Hema and I gave Lindsay all the spikes off our costumes because we figured she would actually get some use out of them.  She was excited and said that she would definitely make good use at of them.  I took a quick nap while the girls showered then we packed up and went to go meet Donna for brunch.  After brunch, we drove back to the city.  

We realized that Donna would still get an official time because I had her bib in my pocket when I crossed over the mats at the start.  That meant she will still get her rock encore medal.  Donna joked that she should let me run the first 5 miles for her every race. 

It was a fun weekend.  Definitely not a PR, but it was more fun to run with my friends.  We were just glad that all 4 of us managed to finish the race.  I definitely felt like a rock star. 

The wrap-up:
Pre-race info- A
Expo- A
Overall organization- A
Course- A+
Course support-C+
Swag/post-race food- B+
Medal- B+
Theme- B+
Surrounding area- A