Sunday, November 24, 2013

Philadelphia Marathon Race Report

Philadelphia Marathon Race Report
3:01:32 personal best

Did I qualify for Boston Marathon 2015? YES
Did I break my personal best of 3:08:35? YES
Did I beat my friend / rival Ross Snyder's PR of 3:04:37? YES
Did I have a negative split? NO
Did I break 3:00 hour? NO

Start: I felt confident as I got in my corral waiting for the start. I had done everything I thought possible to set myself up for my fastest marathon yet. I was excited to see my Breakaway teammates Keith Fitzgerald, Tony Salvi and Professor Craig Green as we inched up to the start line. Tony & Keith planned to run together at 6:40 pace (faster than my target pace of 6:50). I asked the professor if he wanted to run with me but he said he wasn't going all-out.

Mile 3: I felt great! I was about 10 seconds ahead of my pace. I tried my best to keep my speed in check.

Mile 6: Sucked down my first gel pack. I was about 15 seconds ahead of my pace. I was excited to see Coach Todd Lippin cheering for me in front of Breakaway shop. I had been a regular at Todd's weekly track workout. Todd was the singular person who helped me to get fast this year! He made me aware of my bad running form. He helped me to control my pace.

Mile 9: I had to pee! I was about 30 seconds ahead of my pace so I decided to go to a portable toilet.

Mile 10: this was the climb to the Please Touch Museum. I trained on this hill and I was ready. I kept my heart rate in check and still flew by many runners.

Mile 11: This was the first turnaround point on MLK Drive. I saw Keith & Tony still running together, looking fast & sexy in their Breakaway tops.  Then I saw the 3:00 pace group balloons. They were a lot further ahead of me than I expected. This realization gave me a pause. Checked my Garmin to reassure myself that I was on pace. I repeated out loud one of Todd's sayings:  "Never panic. Keep moving forward."

Halfway: I was happy to cross the midway mark right on pace 1:30:04. However, the push to stay on pace took a little air out of me. Mile by mile, it was becoming increasingly difficult for me to hold the 6:50 pace. I was closer to 6:55. I was well aware of my slowing pace and there was nothing I could do. I kept moving forward knowing that I was still on pace to be under 3:03 which was faster than my friend Ross Snyder's current personal best.

Philadelphia Marathon 2013

Mile 17: Falls Bridge messed up my Garmin signal & played with my head. My pace per mile for current mile went from under 7:00 to over 8:00. I kept moving forward, waving & hifiving triathlon friends from both Breakaway & T3.

Miles 19-21 in Manayunk: I kept picking my pace up when my feet started to slow down. It was a constant battle. Saw Keith coming back without Tony. 3:00 pace group went by. Tony was moving but not at the fast pace that I was used to seeing.

Finally, I reached the turnaround point in Manayunk. Mile 20. I was about 1/4 mile behind the 3:00 pace grimy at this point and decided to start a chase. I needed to run 6:40 pace for the next 6 miles to cross the finish line under 3:00 hours.

I saw Hayley Germack. Hayley was my training buddy for many long runs. Hayley had had a breakthrough year, running sub 3:30 at Ironman Lake Placid & winning a bunch of AG awards at various races.

Hayley was between the 3:05 & 3:10 pace groups and looked strong. As a motivation for myself, I told myself "That bitch better not pass me this time!"

Last 6 miles.
I didn't quite run 6:40 pace but I manage to stay under 7:00 on the way back to the Art Museum. I was steady as I passed a few runners including Tony. I struggled a little bit during mile 25, averaging 7:13. I rebounded in mile 26, averaging 6:54.

I definitely sprinted toward the finish line one I saw it. I did not puke this time. I got my finisher's medal, and a few minutes later, a hug from teammate Keith, who ran a personal best of 2:56:37.

Philadelphia Marathon 2013

Damn, my legs hurt. Despite my efforts to move around & stretch, my legs especially my quads started to tighten up. I got my warmup clothes & lined up to receive a complementary massage by Philly Massages. It aw a miracle! I started to be able to walk again.

I found my partner Dan, who took photos at Mile 26. He was waiting for my friend Ian Harding. Once I saw online that Ian already crossed the finish line, started to walk back. We met up with Ian & his girlfriend to go out for a post-race brunch.

Final words: it was a good race for me but not a perfect race. I already started discussing with Ross Snyder of what we could do to break 3 hours.

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Breakout 5k & Philly AIDS Run 5k

I was surprised that I didn't break my 5k personal best this fall. I set a personal best this spring, running the Clean Air 5k at 19:03 without doing any speed work. That was a 6:07 pace.

I started doing speed work in May under the direction of Breakaway coach Todd. By this fall, I was able to run my mile repeats at 5:55 comfortably.

I thought I would be able to hold a 6:00 pace for a 5k, thus finishing under 18:30.

I was wrong.

I ran the Breakout 5k at 19:08 (6:09 pace). My first mile was 5:50 and I probably averaged 6:20 for the last 2 miles. I was out of air crossing the finish line.



The following weekend, I tried again at the Philly AIDS Run 5k. This race was held on the same course as the Clean Air 5k. My mile split was more even: 6:03 / 6:12 / 6:03. My time was 19:11, averaging 6:09 per mile. The consolation prize was the fact that I finished 3rd overall.

It would have been wonderful to break 19 minutes this year. It didn't happen. I still believed that I became a faster runner this year at every distance.

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Friday, November 15, 2013

Bassman Half Fall 2013

Do normal people just roll out of bed to do a half-iron distance triathlon without any training? That was exactly what I did, and somehow I managed a personal best for this distance!

To be fair, I had been running a lot since Ironman Lake Placid. However, I barely swam and I only biked once in the between Lake Placid & Bassman.

Rock n Roll Philly Half 2013

Race strategy: even pace at 6:40-6:45 minutes per mile to finish at 1 hour 28 minutes.

Race preparation: 6 weeks of solid training; hitting target paces for most of my training runs.

Night before: Stayed out too late at the Frontrunners Philly 30th Anniversary party & Breakaway Racing party for an Ironman 70.3 world champion. No alcohol but lots of standing on my feet.

Race morning: uneventful walk to the start. Stretched & relaxed in my Coral #1.

Rock n Roll Philly Half Marathon

Mile 1: went out fast at 6:20
Miles 2 - 4: held back to 6:35-6:40 pace. Saw Todd & Rita!
Miles 5-9: ran with random runners Tom & Maggie at 6:30 pace. Feeling great!

Miles 10-13.1: increased my pace to 6:20-6:25 range. Fast & steady all the way to the finish line.

Post-race: got a powerbar from Adam Furlong & jogged / walked home. Cheers for runners / walkers who were still between miles 3 & 4.

Result: 1:25:37 chip time.
5k = 20:30
10k = 41:00 (personal best?)
10mi = 1:05:42 (personal best)
13.1mi = 1:25:37 (vs. previous personal best of 1:32 at this race last year)

The difference: training! This was my focus race so I structured 6 weeks of training leading up to this race. Speed work with Breakaway at Temple track certainly helped. My weekly runs at race pace gave me the confidence. The cool weather was ideal.

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Tuesday, November 12, 2013

Labor Pain 2013

I used this race as a training run, and it was also my only ultra this year.
The race featured a 5-mile trail loop, and racers had 12 hours to run as many loops as possible or desired.

I ran the first loop with my partner Dan. It took us about 1:15. I ran the next 6 loops on my own, averaging just under 1 per loop. I stopped after completing 7 loops or 35 miles.

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Ironman Wisconsin 2013

September 8, 2013

I had a great time volunteering & spectating at the 2013 Ironman Wisconsin. I volunteered at T1, took the free shuttle to the middle of the bike course, saw the bike finish and the run finish from dinner time to midnight.

Things I still remember from this trip:

Monona Terrace is an awesome place to have the expo. Its circular floors and walkways offer spectators amazing views of swim start & bike-in. I enjoyed easy access to clean bathrooms & indoors seating area on race day.

The lake swim is rough compared to IM Lake Placid. I swam both morning & afternoon and each time I noticed the current and waves.

Bike course is not too hilly but there are more turns than I would like to see. (I only drove through parts of the bike course).

Maddison is a cute small city. Lots of good dining options at all price ranges. Weather is great for an Ironman race.

The public bus system is ok. Can't complain when I paid $2 from airport to downtown.

Midnight party at the Ironman finish line was amazing!

Ironman Wisconsin 2013

Ironman Wisconsin 2013

Ironman Wisconsin 2013

Ironman Wisconsin 2013

Ironman Wisconsin 2013

Ironman Wisconsin 2013

Ironman Wisconsin 2013

Ironman Wisconsin 2013

Ironman Wisconsin 2013

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Thursday, August 01, 2013

IMLP 2013 Race Report

Anh Dang
M35-39 AG
1st Iron Distance triathlon

Ironman Lake Placid 2013

Ironman Lake Placid 2013

Ironman Lake Placid 2013

I set my Ironman Lake Placid goal time by using my best result for a half distance times two plus 30 minutes for expected slow down due to the longer duration of the race. That goal time would be 12 hours for me.

I wrote about my Ironman path & my Lake Placid memories in other posts.

Swim 2.4 miles (1:20:58 vs goal of under 1:30 hours); AG: 188th; OA: 1,390th

First Loop: 39:37
Second Loop: 41:21

The lake water was 72 degrees F, and the weather was cloudy at swim start. I wore a sleeveless wetsuit.

I definitely benefited from the new rolling, self-seeded swim start. Fast age-groupers entered water at 6:30 am, while I started at 6:40 am. I aimed right for the cable line under the lake, and never lost sight of it. I expected physical contacts but it wasn't as bad as I had feared. Nevertheless, I got kicked, punched, and worst of all, my wetsuit zipper cord got pulled.

I managed to keep moving forward along the cable line, and the first turn appeared quicker than I had expected. The 2nd turn was just about 25 meters from the first turn, so naturally there were big flocks of swimmers stopping to sight. On the way back, I found more open space along the cable line so I picked up some speed.

There were less physical contacts, as fast swimmers were already ahead of me. I found myself passing many swimmers who must have slowed down a lot. I still stuck to the cable line and passed on the left, just like during cycling. As I finished the swim portion, I knew I had the best open water swim of my life.

Swim/Bike Transition (9:12 vs goal of under 10 minutes); AG: 147th; OA: 936th

I got my first wetsuit stripper, and it was amazing! I actually practiced barefoot running so it was a breeze. I had no problem finding my bike gear bag and ran into the male tent. I sat on the grass to put on my shoes, unwrapped a PP&J, put on my helmet and ran out to my bike.

Bike 112 miles (6:17:45 vs goal of under 6:30 hours)

First Loop: 3:01:48
Second Loop: 3:17:57

Once I got on the bike, I realized that it was lightly raining. I still had memories of a bike crash in similar conditions 2 years ago so I adjusted my plan to slow down. I had ridden this bike course 5 times prior to the race, so I was very aware of what gear I needed to ride at every point. I was on the little ring  during the climb out of town, the climb on 86, and pretty much the entire last 12 miles from Wilmington back to town.

I was slightly below my target power range of 150-155 watts (vs. my FTP of 220) during the first loop, and I was amazed to see that my bike time at midpoint was 3:02. The roads tried up by now, so I could have easily completed the second loop in 3:00.  However, I started second guessing myself and decided that I needed to slow down even more to save my legs for the run.

I kept a high cadence of 90 RMP, found an easy gear to allow my average normalized power to drop down. I was having fun. The only scary moment was when a dropped bottle rolled right in front of me. I thought I was going to crash but luckily, the bottle rolled & my bike avoided contacts.

Bike/Run Transition (3:36 vs goal of under 5 minutes)

Volunteers greeted me as soon as I came in. My bike was picked up, and my run gear bag was ready for me.

Run 26.2 miles (4:06:51 vs goal of under 3:45 hours); AG = 104th, OA: 617th

Split 1  3 miles (26:04) 8:41/mile
Split 2  5.2 mi (46:16) 8:53/mile
Split 3  3.8 mi (35.48) 9:25/mile
Split 4  4.1 mi (37:55) 9:14/mi
Split 5  5.2 mi (51.28) 9:53/mi
Split 6  3.8 mi (40:03) 10:32/mi
Split 7  1.1 mi (9:17) 8:26/mi
Total 26.2 mi (4:06:51) 9.25/mi

Running is my strongest part of the triathlon. Since my best stand-alone marathon time was under 3:10 and I ran well coming into this race, I thought I would have no problem running a 3:40 or 3:45 marathon at IMLP. I was wrong. I din't move as well as I thought I could. Even during the first loop of the run, I wasn't able to hold a 9:00 minute pace. Although I passed many runners, the distance between me and my faster Breakaway Racing teammates kept getting bigger & bigger.

I momentarily fell apart. The potential finish time of 11:30 hours was longer possible. My next goal was to keep my marathon time under 4 hours. That was no longer possible 18 miles into the run. I didn't walk at all but I barely moved at running pace. Numbers kept running in my head, and I decided that my next goal was to finish the race under 12 hours. To achieve this goal with 8 miles left, I needed to keep running under 10 min / mile pace until the end. With this more achievable goal in mind, I started to relax a little.  When it was time to eat my pack of gel, I ate a bag of Peanut M&M's that I stashed away in my pocket. These treats helped me to run up the last hill, passing Lisa G & Subway.

The cheering crowd definitely helped me to keep moving along into the finish area. I heard Mike Reilly announcing "Anh Dang, from Philadelphia. You're an Ironman!" I was chasing after the sub-12 hour finish, so I kept my focus and game face until I crossed the finish line.

I was happy with my overall result, finishing under 12 hours. I had the best open water swim of my life. I didn't overcook my bike portion. My run wasn't as fast as I expected but it was not a bad run.

I came away from the race with pride of what I have accomplished. I had amazing support from my family, friends, colleagues, Breakaway Racing teammates & coaches. I could not have asked for a better experience for my first Ironman.

Before the swim start
IMLP race day

Swim start
Ironman Lake Placid 2013

Ironman Lake Placid 2013

End of 1st loop
Ironman Lake Placid 2013

Ironman Lake Placid 2013

Ironman Lake Placid 2013

Ironman Lake Placid 2013

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Wednesday, July 31, 2013

Ironman Week in Lake Placid


Before I recap my race result, I am looking back at all the amazing things about Ironman Lake Placid.

Let's talk about Mirror Lake. Is there any other lake that is this beautiful?
Lake Placid

Practice swim could be any time
IMLP race day

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The entire town seemed to embrace the race. Everyone was aware that this was Ironman week.
Lake Placid

The volunteers made the check-in process a breeze, and seeing my friend Mary at athlete check-in was a nice bonus.

117 lbs with shoes


Got our bibs!

Crowd Support
IMLP race day

IMLP race day

IMLP race day

IMLP race day

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Saturday, July 27, 2013

My Path to Become an Ironman

Solving calculus equations was a hobby of mine, while swimming, cycling, and running were not. As I get ready for my Ironman race tomorrow, I find myself looking back at my journey.


I was not an athletic type growing up. I played the mandolin. I took classes for drawing, painting, cooking, floral arrangement, knitting & sewing. I couldn't run a mile in high school. In college, my brother got my to start going to the gym. We did some weightlifting and a little running to warmup.

Post-college, I was looking for ways to meet new people besides and decided to join the Philadelphia Falcons, a co-ed gay and lesbian soccer club in Philadelphia. The Falcons provided both athletic and social outlets for members of all ages and skill levels. I was far from being a good player, but I felt accepted as part of the group as we traveled to compete at the local as well as regional LGBT tournaments. I enjoyed hanging out with teammates as well as players from other teams.

Stefan Walter Anh

DC Philly United @ Chicago Gay Games


I was looking to improve my soccer game after playing for a few years, and decided that I needed to work on my running for speed & endurance. I gave myself one or two running workouts each week between soccer practices.

At the age of 30, with encouragement of my work colleagues, I ran my first 5k and almost died! I thew up, my legs cramped, and needed help to get back home. I kept on running and ran my first marathon later in the same year with encouragement from one of the most wonderful people I met while running, Betsy, who started running marathons AFTER she turned 50 years old.

It took about 8 years for me to go from a 5:00 marathon to a Boston Marathon qualified finish time time of 3:08. I documented my marathon progress in this blog post.

Garden Spot Village Marathon 2013

When Pigs Fly

Philadelphia Marathon 2004

Two years into my running career, I met some runners who were also swimmers & bicyclists. They were training for the  Philadelphia Triathlon! I came out to watch the race (and the tan, lean, hard bodies). I decided at the race that I wanted to do the Philadelphia Triathlon the following year, and started to set a plan to get there.

I got on Craig's List and bought an old road bike for $100. I knew how to ride a bike, so I wasn't worried about this discipline. I worried about swimming. I took some swimming lessons but never really swam outside of those classes. I was ok with breaststroke but had trouble with the front crawl (freestyle). Luckily, I knew the head coach of the Philadelphia Fins Aquatics Club at the time, and he encouraged me to join the Fins.

Philly Masters

Learning to swim was not easy for me. I was ok with 25 yards from one end of the pool to the other. I had to take about 30 seconds before swimming back. I blogged about my early days with the Fins.

It was a big accomplishment for me to complete the Philadelphia Triathlon Olympic distance the following year as my parents and cousin Ro were there to cheer me on.

Between 2007 & 2011, I continued to participate in triathlon races. I never worried about my time as I was happy to finish. I brought a triathlon bike but was afraid to use it after a minor crash.

Swim Bike Run

During this time, I met many Fins swimmers who were training and completing Ironman triathlon races. I was fascinated with their training regimen but never thought that the Ironman distance would be something I could do myself. My perspective changed when I met a new Fins swimmer named Ryan Tarrant. Ryan joined the Fins to training for his second attempt at Ironman Lake Placid. His first attempt the previous year ended in an ambulance trip during the bike course. As I talked to Ryan, I got more excited about triathlon again. Ryan went on to complete his Ironman in his 2nd attempt at Lake Placid. I trained for the 2012 triathlon season and started to be more aware of when I finished vs. guys in my age group.

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On Saturday May 19, 2012, I had a new goal: to complete an Ironman race before turning 40. I told my partner Dan of my goal, and he was very supportive.

On Monday July 23, 2013, I signed up for Ironman Lake Placid 2013 online.

I started taking spinning classes and regularly joined the weekly Shop Ride sponsored by my local bike shop, Breakaway Bikes.

I completed my first half distance triathlon in September. I swam ok, I biked well, but I struggled in the last 6 miles of the run.

My goal in the offseason was to condition myself so that I would run strong off the bike. I kept on running, focusing on many running drills. I read a few books on triathlon training. I started taking RPM classes offered by Breakaway Bikes. I followed a strict training schedule from December 1, 2012 leading up to Ironman Lake Placid on July 28, 2013.

A little bruise can't keep me down

Lake Placid peak training weekend

Training for the Ironman was easy since I decided that it was my most important goal. Out were the happy hours and the weekend brunches. In were twice daily workouts during the week & day-long workouts on weekends. My boss at work was supportive of my Ironman training so I was able to have some flexible work to fit in all my workouts. Dan had dinner by himself 5 days a week while I was out swimming, cycling, or running.


Ryan also signed up for Ironman Lake Placid 2013, so did his brother Steven. The three of us had the same racing schedule leading up to #IMLP. Steven joined the Fins and soon Steven & I became training buddies. Ryan connected me to the Breakaway Racing Team, a Philadelphia based triathlon club. I joined Breakaway and met many similar-minded athletes, many of whom regularly won age-group awards. I also became friendly with many members of Philadelphia's other triathlon club, T3, since we shared some connections with either the Fins or Breakaway. I enjoyed being in this competitive & supportive environment which helped me to stay on course with my intense workouts.

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At work, one of my colleagues is also training for his first Ironman, and it's also #IMLP. Frank & I discussed our workouts during coffee breaks and helped each other to focus on the race.

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And then then was Adam Heiser @ADHinTheLab. I briefly met him during the Poconos Marathon in May 2012. I ran with him for about a mile then couldn't hold my pace. Adam went on to quality for Boston Marathon, while I felt apart in that race. I found his race report through a retweet, felt moved by his story, and congratulated him via Twitter. Adam was also training for his first Ironman. We kept in touch during my Philly Marathon training & race.

We compared our training workouts, our progress and our struggle. My friendship with Adam grew stronger when he came to Philly for a business trip, and we met up for some workouts & breakfast. On my road to become an Ironman, Adam is my biggest cheerleader outside of my family & my Breakaway teammates. I am grateful for his support, and I hope to keep a lifelong friendship with him.

Lake Placid peak training weekend

My training is done. I'm ready for my race. I have a goal time in mind and have trained well to reach that goal. No matter what happens tomorrow, I feel lucky to have had the opportunity to train for this race. It has been fun and challenging. I have pushed my limits. I struggled and I pushed through. I have learned many lessons for racing and for life. I have met many wonderful people whom I will think of during my race.

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