I got to bed at a decent time - around 11, and to my surprise I actually got a really great night's sleep. Usually I toss and turn and barely get a wink of sleep before a race. I slept straight through until my alarm went off at 7! I didn't know whether to take that as a good thing or a bad thing, but I got up and started to get moving. Even though it was a tad on the chilly side, I opted for a tank top and shorts because I knew that it would warm up a bit and given my previous experiences I'd be hot as hell half a mile in. Before we left the house I ate a piece of toast with peanut butter. Since it was a while before the race started (and I heard that this race is always late to start), I took along a banana to eat in the van before the family dropped me off near the starting line (I only ended up eating half - nerves were starting to kick in).
As we expected, the roads around the start line were restricted so I got out of the van a few blocks up and walked. The crowd was sparse at first, but then I hit a wall of people. We were all lead like cattle to slaughter nearly single file up the sidewalk past the start line. A nice sized crowd was already gathered, and I groaned a little to myself that there were not corrals based on expected time. This always poses a problem for me, so once I got inside the starting area I gradually snaked my way closer and closer to the start line. I got about as far as I could, but was still a little further back than I would have hoped. And there was still an hour to gun time!
Remember how I said I chose to wear a tank top? Yeah, well, just like last year, I froze my ass off until the start. I had goosebumps all over and some dude that was standing beside me said "you look really cold". Gee, dude, you think? I just replied "yeah, but once I'm a quarter mile down the road I'll be just fine". I did contemplate wearing my armsleeves but really, it was 53 degrees and that's not really cold at all once you get going. I could be patient and have less clothes to worry about messing with. Many people were walking around dressed like we were in the midst of an arctic freeze. I don't know how people run like that!
The gun finally went off after much hoopla and announcements and chitter chatter. I was getting impatient and one thing I became very aware of was that my mouth was really really dry. All I could think was that I really needed a drink and if I'm already dehydrated now, how am I getting through this race?
The start was like every other start - crowded - but I do have to say that because of my diligence in slinking through the starting area it wasn't nearly as bad as it could have been. There is a bit of a hill that everyone was chirping about during the first mile. Honestly, it wasn't that bad... I mean, in my experience hills at the beginning of a race (like McKinney hill during JASR) are much easier to deal with than hills toward the end of the race (Frigid Five Miler and Pittsburgh Half Marathon, I'm talking about you). That said, my mile 1 ticked off a few seconds slower than what I'd like: 7:36. I knew I had to pick it back up to where I wanted. Unfortunately, I made a headcase of myself about it and took mile 2 WAY too fast. Granted, there was a big downhill carrying me part of the way, but I should have been smarter about it.
Mile 2: 6:46. Crap. I knew I had to back off a bit or I was never going to make it. Oh, and for the record? I was right that shortly into the race I'd not only be comfortable in my clothes but getting hot, even. I'd dressed perfectly for the occasion.
Somewhere around this time was a fluid station and while I never drink this early into a race or any run for that matter, I gratefully took a cup and took a big gulp of water. I was really thirsty. Maybe something I need to do in the future when I get to races really early is take some water with me...
I allowed myself to bring down my pace a bit and I started to feel better. The field had thinned out a bit, although the gnarly Pittsburgh roads do make for interesting running as usual - always have to dodge those potholes, manholes, sewer grates, etc so you don't wipe out.
When we ran past the Cathedral, all the big doors were opened and I felt myself purposefully running slower by it. I haven't been to Mass at the Cathedral in a very long time (too long) and I miss it. I used to find total peace and solace within moments of walking through those doors and I think I need to find it again.
Mile 3 clicked off at 7:04. Still a little faster than my planned pace (7:20), but it felt good. The funny (or not so funny) thing about this race is I bounced back and forth between feeling really great and like I was running a comfortable pace to really terrible. I couldn't put my finger on exactly why, other than maybe dehydration and eating badly the day before. I'd just feel like crap for a while and just when I felt like I was going to crash, I'd feel good again. Wth?
Oh, and the Pitt Band was out playing (well, part of it, I guess... there were just a handful out and I know the band is bigger than that). They were great. I love Pitt! Go Pitt! Most of my high school pals went off to be PSU groupies, but I'm proud to have gone the other way! Woot!
I got a little emotional when we went past the 5K start point at the intersection of Atwood. That was where my first big girl race started and here I am, running through it and going twice as far just a year later! Pride! :)
Coming down out of Oakland felt just fine, and the little downhill to hook up with Blvd of the Allies is always fun. Mile 4: 6:52.
And of course, just when you think you're almost in the home stretch there's that long, gradual but noticeable hill going up to mile 5. I remembered this from last year and tried to mentally prepare myself for it. I knew I was going to slow down a little bit... First, for sanity and safety and second, to save my legs for the final mile and change. Lots and LOTS of people were fading out here. Lots of grunting and groaning and heavy breathing and moaning. People were taking walk breaks. My mind went back to the Pittsburgh Half and how I owned that last minute hill.... I was going to do it again here. Hills don't own me! Mile 5 clicked off at: 7:13. Still under pace! yeah!
So, it's pretty much all downhill from here, but there's still almost a mile and a quarter left, so kicking now is too early. I told myself since last night: Wait until Wood St. I was going to stick with my plan. I honestly didn't know how much gas I had left in the tank because I was still doing the "feel good then feel like crap" back and forth thing. Once I turned onto Wood I started picking it up a little. When we made the next turn I got caught up behind a couple of buddies running together and got a little irritated I had to go wide to get around them. Then the park entrance came into sight and I put everything I had left out there.
I heard Victoria scream "GO MOM!!" and that was just what I needed to put a smile on my face and push it to the end. When the time on the clock came into view my smile turned into an elated grin and I chuckled out loud. It said 44:xx and all I knew was that I'd not only PR'ed and met my goal, but I did it big.
Mile 6: 6:44
Last .2 (.25 on my watch, to be exact): 6:32
At least my last mile and a quarter were faster than my oopsie at mile 2. I made a freaking beeline for the water tent. I really think I was dehydrated as all hell. I met up with the family and I scanned my bib with my phone to get my results: 43:53. I ran a 10K in less than 44 minutes. I know that's still like turtle pace to some, but I'm just swelling up with pride and happiness over how far I've come in a year. From last year's 5K that I was scared shitless to do. From being in some kind of nagging ache after every hard run to being like "ok, what can I do tomorrow". From being like "man I could never run that fast" to hearing that my husband brags about me to other dudes. I've come a long way, I think. I've tried my best.
We walked over to the fountain after loading up on Smiley cookies and I caught this great rainbow: