Wednesday, May 8, 2013

Pittsburgh Half Marathon 2013

Saturday night I was tired as hell.  I'd had a long day but knew I needed to keep hydrating and eating the right (typical for me, anyway) things the day before a race.

Dinner was penne with italian turkey sausage and garlic bread.  For my bedtime snack I had Devil's Food cake and green tea.  I was (thankfully) able to get into bed by 9:30, but not before I noticed that all of my favorite running clothes and especially socks were dirty.  Crap!  Nick said he'd take care of it for me and got them washed and hung to dry while I stayed in bed.  I just prayed that I'd have something dry in the morning.

The alarm sounded bright and early at 4:45.  I got out of bed, drank some water and made my CoCo Wheats.  I also drank some coffee with creamer.  Gotta stick with traditions here.

I was sad to discover that the running skirt I'd had my mind on wearing was still a little too damp for my liking.  Again, crap.  So instead I chose a pair of black shorts with pink trim to match the bright pink shirt I was going to wear (Tori and I wanted to wear similar race outfits this weekend).  It ended up being a good thing, because these particular shorts have a huge zipped pocked on the side that was big enough to carry my ID and a Hammer gel (For some reason, Hammers do NOT fit into the gel loops in my SpiBelt).

As planned, I did wear my Spibelt so I had my iPhone with me.  I put some Roctane and Espresso Love in the loops.  Having the iPhone was awesome because Nick could track me more closely through the race.  The Runner tracking service only texted at the start, the 10K and the finish, and that was hella cool in its own right, but with "Find My iPhone" Nick was able to pretty much watch me as I ran.

I wore my flowery Bondi Band too, which I got TONS of comments and compliments on.  Someone who works with Girls on the Run even stopped me after the race and asked me where to get them and how much they were because she thought they'd be perfect for the girls.  I gave her all the info and told her they could even do custom styles!  I love my Bondi Bands!  I've even bought them for Tori, which you can see in her pics in the last post!  They keep sweat off your forehead and out of your eyes, keep your hair back if you have a tendency toward wispy end flying around, for me they also keep my scalp from getting sunburned, and they are just cute.  Ok, enough of my Bondi Band love, but seriously, they are awesome.

My Oakleys were also a necessity once the sun came up.  Thank goodness for polarized lenses.  I also wore my hot pink Asics arm sleeves, which I know I have professed my love for on here before, because it was a little on the chilly side.  I knew it would warm up, though, so these would be easy to just rip down and/or off.

Anyway, we left for downtown around 5:30 (again, we only live right here in the Mexican War Streets, so it's not far).  By the time we hit the bridge, traffic was already bumper to bumper and just creeping in.  I had the ParkPGH app running and it showed that the garages were starting to fill up.  We were lucky to get a spot in the garage we had planned all week for - the one on Stanwix and Ft. Duquesne.  It was expensive, but we had planned on that and felt it was worth it.

In the garage, I got myself together.  I got my bib pinned on, my SpiBelt on just right and made sure I had everything.  From here, it was just a short walk over to Corral B - fitting for me, right in front of the Wines and Spirits store.  Tease!  haha

Security was super tight, which was greatly appreciated.  Family was not allowed in or near the corral.  At the guarded gate, I said goodbye to my family - hugs all around - and stepped in.  It was around 6:20 or so and it was still pretty empty.  I looked around the sparse crowd and didn't see any pacers yet, so I just kind of situated myself toward the back 1/3 of the corral.  It didn't take long for the corral to start filling up, though.

I took this pic while waiting.  That's how far I was from the start line.  Really cool view of the sun rising, too.  :)

I couldn't stand totally still so I bounced around a bit, enjoying all the sights and sounds.  Around 6:45, the pace teams showed up.  I spotted the 1:50 half pacer standing with the 3:40 marathon pacer not too far from where I was standing.  How's that for good judgement?  I headed over near them, as did many other people.  I chatted with a couple of girls who were obviously friends and talked about that awful tendency to start off too fast, etc so a pacer was a necessity.  Glad I'm not the only one with this "problem".  I noticed that the pacer (who had yet to say one word to any one of the people gathering around her) had "Mc Lovin" on his bib.  I thought to myself - ok, cool, this guy is going to be silly and fun.  I couldn't have been more wrong.  The entire time we were waiting on the gun to send us on our way, he was more interested in talking to the 3:40 marathon pacer than anything else.  I don't know, maybe even a "hi guys, let's have a great race today!" would have been nice.  Instead, just every few moments he held his 1:50 sign up a little higher so people could see it.  He had this look on his face like the last thing in the world he wanted to do today was pace a half marathon.

The pacer wasn't the only one that didn't seem elated to be alive on this fine morning.  At JASR, everyone stood around laughing and being friendly and excited.  The crowd around me seemed so super serious.  The lady standing next to me kept chanting "we can do this we can do this we can do this".  The announcer even told everyone to say hello and good morning to the people standing around them and I will tell you that only half assedly happened.

But, whatever, I wasn't letting other people into my head.  Just before the race started there was a moment of silence for Boston.  Then there was the singing of the National Anthem and God Bless America.  Both were lovely.  I forget who the singer was, but she was awesome.  Ryan Clark was a co-announcer too and of course that was really cool.

Right before we took off they played Renegade.  I should have expected that, but on this particular morning it was a pleasant surprise.  I sang every word.  Out loud.  Some people looked annoyed but I didn't care.

The gun went off and I was elated that this wasn't a typical shuffle and fart around to the starting line kind of race.  When we took off, we took off.

Then I did one of the stupidest things EVER.  I had my watch all synced up to the satellites for the past 10 minutes or so and in my excitement I hit CANCEL when I crossed the start line instead of START.  damn!!!  I scrambled to get it back up, but I probably lost around a tenth of a mile doing that.  I felt (and still do) like a total dumbass for doing that.

Now when I say we took off, I really mean that.  Once my watch was up and running, I really wanted to check out the pace we were going because it seemed that ol' Mc Lovin was just flying.  My watch showed 7:47 going through the strip district.  I got a little scared because I didn't think I'd be able to keep up for 13.1 miles if that's the pace he was going to hold onto.

The Strip District was just a mob scene.  There were so many runners smashed together closely and of course everyone was doing the weave and push through to jockey for position thing.  It was tough to stick with the pacer at this point, and I didn't want to blow myself out early on so I was satisfied with just being able to see him and be in the vicinity.  I had serious doubts about this race creeping up on me through this point.  Between my watch screw up, the antisocial pacer, and just the sheer crowd I couldn't seem to get through, I started thinking that maybe this wouldn't be my day.

I skipped the first fluid station.  I did this for a couple of reasons.  First of all, I never take in fluids that early in any run, so I don't see a reason to start.  Second, since many people did take advantage of the station, this allowed me to move up and get a better position on the road.  I was still behind the pacer, but only by a person or two.  I wasn't worried about it because he wasn't the talkative type, nor did he seem to be giving out all those awesome tips like Lou from JASR did.  So again, I was satisfied just being near him, but not necessarily with him.  Once I found a comfortable place within the pack of runners after that first station, I felt a little better about the race and my doubts started to subside.

We went over the first of five bridges (16th street).  No big deal at all.  Barely qualified as a "hill" to me.  We went through East Ohio - the ghettoist street on the North Side - and then turned down Cedar where I utilized my first fluid station.  I used every one from here out.  We went over the bridge back downtown and then came immediately back over to the North Side again.  The pace seemed to be all over the place to me, but I kept with it because there was still a ton of weaving in and out going on.

The spectators were fantastic.  I had absolutely no need for my iPod.  I'll remember this for next year.  Totally unnecessary and just extra crap strapped on me.

3/5 bridges done now.  You could tell at this point who trained in the area and/or on hills and who didn't.  A chunk of the pack started to fade off.  I finally felt warmed up, personally.  With that, my arm sleeves came down, and I took the right one totally off and hooked it into my SpiBelt.  I kept the other one around my wrist in case I needed to wipe sweat away.

Some time around here I kept noticing a god awful shit smell.  Seriously. It smelled like someone totally defiled their drawers.  I moved to the opposite side whenever I caught a whiff of this, but I am not kidding when I say this happened the entire race.  I never could tell who or what it was coming from but it sure was nauseating.

One of the best spectator crowds in the whole race were the folks (I believe they were representing Urban Impact) standing outside of ACAC (church here on the North Side).  Balloons, music, people yelling, high fiving.  It was great.  That's something else I allowed myself to do during this race - I had fun!  I high fived random strangers, head banged to good bands, sang the songs I knew, waved to people, talked to people, and just freaking enjoyed the entire time.  It kept my mind off my pace and the technical aspects of the race that can suck the fun straight out of any run, really.

I took my GU as planned around the 5 mile point.  Now, this was when MY watch said five miles, so it was deifnitely off due to the start.  But it seemed to work out ok.  The first gel I took was the Chocolate Raspberry Roctane.  I had great success with this during my 12+ mile long run the previous Sunday.  I don't know what it was, whether I slammed back a cup of Gatorade and water too quick with it or whatever, but it sat like a rock in my stomach for the next mile or so and I felt extremely nauseous (the intermittent shit smell did NOT help with this at all either).

My family was near the Humane Society, but I didn't see them.  They got a pic of me, though.  Well, kinda.
You can just barely see my head behind the lady in the pink tanktop.  LOL.  Still a cool pic of the race in general, though.  Thanks hun.

Just past here was the 10K line.  I realized that I may have just gotten a 10K PR (and I did - 51:44).  Sweet!  Now I was feeling strong and much more confident.

West End Bridge.  4/5.  Another huge crowd fade out.  I didn't have a problem.  Mc Lovin was settled in just to the northwest of me chatting up two marathoners.  Whatever.

The downhill on Alexander to Main St in the West End was pretty dramatic!  I wasn't expecting that.  There was a great party going on down there, including a pretty decent band that was playing the Steve Miller Band song, "Joker".  This was one of the ones I proudly sang along to "I'm a joker, I'm a smoker, I'm a midnight toker"!!

The West End seemed to go by in a flash and then we were up on Carson Street.  The running crowd was much more spread out now.  I finally felt like I could run easy and settled and was able to keep a consistent cadence.  Carson Street was my favorite part of the whole race.  Lots of people acting crazy, dressed up in costumes (even Waldo), tons of packed in crowd support, signs and music.  A group of people had gummy bears on large trays to hand out.  I didn't take any because I thought "hey, this is Carson, they're probably soaked in vodka and that's not race friendly".  lol

I remember feeling like I was heading toward a fade myself somewhere around 9 miles or so.  I made sure to take a Gatorade and a water from the next fluid station and I took my Espresso Love.  Life was better again.  They were giving out GU at some point around here but I didn't take any because I have my own flavor preference and brought my own.  Some guy cut me off and almost knocked me down to get one.  This guy continued to practically run me over at every station from here to the end of the race.  He'd literally come out of nowhere to push me out of the way and step on my feet.  Maybe he was the source of the shit smell?  Would serve him right.

By this time, I was running right with the pacer.  I was either beside him or right on his heels.

The Birmingham Bridge.  This was where us half crazy folks split off to head back downtown while the bad ass mofos kept on going.  My initial thought as I headed onto the bridge was "this can't be over already?!  That was way too fast.  Kinda sad.  I have to do a full.".  So, there, at mile 11+ I made the decision to do a full 26.2 at some point (next year - I still want to build some more mileage on my legs first).

There was a fluid station not too far up the bridge.  Again, I got trampled by Mr. Way Taller than Me tough guy.  This time I inhaled my Gatorade instead of drank it.  oops.  I went into a terrible coughing fit and just tossed the cup away.

By the time I came to after the delirious choking fit and pulled my head out of my ass over the race almost being over I realized that I couldn't see Mc Lovin.  Now, it wasn't out of the norm that after fluid stops he'd be way ahead and there was some catch up that had to happen.  So, I sped up a bit.  He was nowhere ahead that I could see.  I looked back over my shoulder and saw that he was a bit behind me.  I slowed down a tad to his pace again knowing that there was a hill to conquer and almost 1.5 miles to go.

Well, Birmingham bridge was no big deal, but after that was a pretty cruel hill.  Some may even consider it inhumane.  The whole next mile was just up up up and up.  Tons of people were dropping out, hobbling to the side or at the very least walking.  Not me.  My mind flashed back to the Frigid Five Miler and the fact that I'm still kicking my own ass for walking 10 steps up that Lodge hill.  Yes, it's the end of the race.  Yes, my legs aren't as fresh as they were an hour ago.  Yes, it's pretty freaking hot.  But quitting is not an option.  As my mind and legs remembered that hill it occurred to me that this particular hill really wasn't that bad.  I stayed strong.  There was only around a mile to go - that's nothing!  Crowd support was really helpful here.  Most of them were city cops and EMS!  With every "this is it, just get up this hill and you've got a long downhill" I felt stronger and stronger.

Somehow I pulled ahead of Mc Lovin and felt good doing it.  I didn't see him again.  But I did hear him finally speak to the group!  "Let's go 1:50 group!  You can do this!  Don't lean forward!  Leave space for your lungs so you can breathe and get up this hill!".  

The top of the hill - aka the biggest sigh of relief.  From here I just let my legs relax and carry me down.  I felt great.  Somewhere around here my family was standing and got a great video of me.  I looked really damn good.  I'll try to get it uploaded and linked up here.

Mc Lovin yelled out again!  "This is it, group!  This is the pace right here!  Follow me!".  I was well ahead of him and had no plans of backing off.

I felt like I was just gliding down the hill.  It felt amazing.  I could see the finish ahead.  The crowd was almost deafeningly loud.  I soaked it all in.  I saw the flags on either side of the road for the finish.

Then I saw the clock.  It had just clicked over 1:50, and it was my understanding that we were around 2 minutes behind clock time.  Could I possibly, truly, really be going sub 1:50 here??  I just kept running toward that line, enjoying those last precious seconds of adrenaline rush.

I raised my arms as I felt like I just floated across the finish line.  If I'm being honest, I don't think I even really did that last second sprint to the finish.  I just cruised in off the momentum I had.  I knew I had PRed, I didn't need to injure myself over a few greedy seconds.  According to my watch, my pace cruising across the finish line was 7:07.  Mile 13 was 7:44.  Just wow.

I kept moving past the line as we'd been told to do.  Some people don't like to listen but security was doing the best they could with those folks.  An awesome volunteer hung that heavy beautiful medal around my neck and congratulated me.  I waited in line for my photo.  I got a cup of water and gatorade and thanked every single volunteer I could.  They were all truly awesome.  Someone gave me a plastic bag, which I was initially confused by and then I realized that I was to use it to carry my food and water.  Ok then.  I got a banana, a bagel, a smiley cookie and 2 bottles of water.  

I walked over to the finish line festival and immediately went into the Dick's tent inside.  I picked up a recovery shake and a megaphone for the kids to play with and took a look at their shirts.  I didn't like them because they all said "Marathon Finisher".  I know some don't agree, but I feel fake wearing stuff that says that because I didn't run a marathon.  A marathon is twice what I did.  If they would have had a half shirt, I may have bought it, but they didn't.  meh.

The next place I went was the Best Buy tent to get my result printout.  The guy had already started printing out my slip as I was walking up and handed it to me with a "great job!".  I looked at it and said out loud "No freaking way!!" and just laughed maniacally for a minute.  I'm crazy, I know.  But 1:48:52?  Yeah, I think I have a right to be crazy for a while.

Yep, I'll take that!

I pulled my iPhone out of my SpiBelt and got in touch with Nick who had already messaged me that they were nearby and on their way.  I made my way over to the family reunion area where they could find me easily.  I did some stretching and chugged some water.  I saw Nick and the kids and was greeted with hugs and smiles.  Then Tori demanded a shaved ice and said her legs were tired.  Heh, kids.

After the kids were settled in the grass with shaved ice with enough syrup on them for 10 people, I went over to the medal engravers.  I had to have mine engraved.  It was worth every penny.

May as well post a pic of the front of it too.  :)
Love it!!!

We hung around the finish line festival for a bit, talked with some charity folks and then headed out of Point State Park.  For just running one hell of a race, I felt really good.  No twinges, pains, soreness, nada.  I was half interested in stopping by the "Winners Circle" area they had set up where supposedly you were able to get adult beverages, but I lost all interest after discovering that it was the typical PA demonizing alcohol and keeping you in a cage thing.  So, I was like "screw that, I have IC Light at home".  And we made our way back to the parking garage and went home.

This was a really fantastic time.  After my initial "oh no"s over my watch and the crowd surge at the beginning, I was able to settle in and enjoy the experience.  You can tell a lot went into the planning of this race.  The security was great, the layout was great, the organization was great, the spectators were fantastic and the parties all over with bands and things was just amazing.  This was a true experience - not just another run.

I felt like I was running more of a race then JASR, which I ran more conservatively, but I still didn't feel like I pushed myself too hard.  My goal was to PR, but going sub 1:50 was just icing on the cake.  The whole day was wonderful.
I'm a Runner of Steel!

No comments:

Post a Comment