Monday, May 5, 2014

Pittsburgh Half Marathon 2014

Race day.  Alarm went off at 4:45 just like last year.  I got up and got moving after having slept fairly well.  One thing that I was unsure of this year was how to fuel before the race.  I am aware "they" say to do what you do for your long runs, but my long runs typically go like this now: wake up, eat banana, throw myself together, and head out.  Total time from banana to actual run is anywhere from 15-30 mins.  Then along the run I have my gatorade and water mix along with a gel every 5 miles for runs 8 miles or more.  It's been a perfect system for me.  But this time I would have a heap of time between waking up and running and I tend to get bleh if I don't eat something shortly after waking.  So, I had a quarter cup of oatmeal with a little bit of PB and chia seeds.  I figured I could pick up a banana at the Benedum pre-race lounge.

View of the Benedum from the parking garage.

I got to the Benedum shortly after it opened at 5:30.  For the record, this perk alone is worth every penny of SCRR membership.  Just wow.  Indoor bathrooms, private gear check, huge indoor space to stretch and keep warm, etc.  My first order of business:  Gear check.  After freezing my ass off after previous races I finally got smart and brought a hoodie for afterward.  Hey, it takes me a while, ok?  Next up:  bathroom.  I was starting to have a nervous belly so I stayed close to the bathroom for a while.  I heard the group pic was coming soon, so I headed upstairs figuring I'll have my banana and get something to drink and it'll be perfect timing.  I couldn't find a banana or a single bottle of water anywhere.  I contemplated eating a donut, but I know better.  Let the panic ensue.  I went outside for the group pic (which you can barely see me in) and I was off to my corral which was due to close in less than 10 mins.
Obligatory start line pic.

Like I've said before I had didn't really have a time plan or an idea what I was going to do in this race.  I put myself around the big red 8:30 min/mile sign.  Shortly after, the 1:50 pacer (Michael - hilarious and awesome dude, btw) showed up around there and since I'd been toying with this idea I figured what the hell... I wanted to test myself and see what I was capable of and figured if I could keep him in my sights that'd be pretty cool... but I certainly wasn't going to kill myself for it so I made myself the promise that I wouldn't.

The start... always a mess.  This race (both years) really is the worst one of my experience, just with the crowd and people not being lined up correctly.  It's pretty much a guarantee that you can't settle into a pace until well after the Strip District and bridge zig zag.  It's all weaving in and out, getting stepped on, dodging walkers, getting run over from behind, etc.  It is what it is.  I've heard MCM is a million times worse because they don't have assigned corral placements, so at least I'm prepared to deal with it.

The weather was great, in my opinion.  Maybe a few degrees too warm, but not bad.  I quite enjoyed the on and off sprinkle of rain unlike some others.  It felt good!  I had on a singlet and armsleeves that I removed a few miles in.  Perfect!  Oh, and I had on a running skirt I will NEVER wear for a race again.  I've worn it for regular slower runs and it was fine, but this time...oh my, how do I put this... By the Birmingham bridge the undershorts were riding so far up my ass crack it was bleeding.  Just ouch.  Never again!!

Ok, well you remember me saying above that I did not have my banana OR anything to drink since I left my house that morning?  I was feeling it.  I usually don't use the first fluid stop in a race because it is always a crowded mess.  This time, I had to.  My mouth was like sandpaper and I was already starting to feel bleh.  So I grabbed a cup of Gatorade and again, totally unlike me - I drank the whole thing.

A few bridges and over to the North Side... I was feeling pretty good.  Admittedly, I was still feeling the effects of starting off underfueled/dehydrated and was using every single fluid stop.  I also felt like the current pace we were running was probably going to be near the max I could do.  But I wasn't feeling terrible.  Around Allegheny Center I took my Roctane.  I saw my family at their standard spot near the Humane Society and that gave me a little boost.  I looked good in the video Nick took.  ;-)

West End.  Always a party happening here.  First - the group blaring and twerking to "Baby Got Back" on the corner of Alexander... hilarious!!  That downhill is always great too.  More party animals on the main street.  Then... I don't know what happened (well, maybe I do), but I just hit a wall out of the blue..  Coming up out of the West End on that little hill felt a lot tougher than it should have.  I got really freaking nauseous and felt like my body temp increased a million degrees.  I watched the 1:50 sign get a little further ahead of me than it had been and I started to struggle to keep up.  I remember the next fluid station I had 2 cups of fluid (1 of each) and that just gave me the sloshy belly effect.

Somewhere around upper Carson Street I felt a "pull" on the injury side (not at the site - it was more in my rear end/sciatic area than where my stress fracture was and thankfully it was a short one time event), and my mind shifted from "must keep up with the group at all costs" to "don't be stupid and re-injure yourself, think of MCM and run your own damn race".  And with that, by mid-Carson I watched the 1:50 sign drift out of my sight as I let my pace slip back into the 8:40s.  I knew I needed another gel but I had to talk myself into taking it.  I was SO nauseous.  I finally got into it, but it took me nearly the entire length of Carson to get it down bit by bit to prevent it bouncing right back out.

Full confession:  I hit another psychological low during this point.  It may have only lasted a few minutes, but I had to wrestle down the "You failed!" monster and beat it down with the good thoughts of "are you freaking kidding - this is awesome!  I'm doing this!  I'm not in pain!  This is hard as hell but this rocks!".  Someone had a huge sign with a picture of Sweet Brown on it that said "WALKING??  Ain't nobody got time for that!" and that gave me a chuckle because I did have a fleeting walk thought flash through just moments before.  So glad I didn't give in to that!

I was feeling better at the slower pace, and after I had some of the Espresso love down.  I still had bloated sloshy belly happening and unfortunately I still felt that I needed hydration, so I kept drinking every chance I got.

By the end of Carson, I had given myself enough mental pep talking as well as the break in pace that I felt good enough to push a little harder.  Right before the Birmingham bridge a guy carrying the American flag charged past me, obviously with a lot left in the tank and forged ahead.  My goal was to keep him in my sights.

Going over the bridge a guy next to me asked "so this is the big hill?".  I felt bad, but I informed him that no, it wasn't... the big hill is actually AFTER this bridge.  He got the most deflated look on his face (he was breathing really hard), and I felt awful, but I didn't want to lie to him.  He fell behind me and I didn't see him again.

The hill.  I literally just read my race report from last year and giggled.  I thought it was tough then but I charged up it and felt great.  This year?  ehhhh not so much.  It was a million times harder and I could feel the difference in my training from last year to this one.  I was pretty much redlined and really struggling.  My form was crap and as much as I kept correcting it, I kept slumping back.  I refused to walk though.  That was not happening.  I did do another race first for me and dumped a cup of water down my chest.  Believe it or not, that did make me feel a bit better.

One thing that I was highly aware of both going over Birmingham and through the rest of the race was that my feet hurt like hell.  Literally the bottoms of both feet.  It felt like my shoes (Brooks Adrenaline 14 with a bit over 100 miles on them now) had NO cushion and the bottoms of my feet were just slapping the hard ground.  Hard.  I don't know if it was my crappy form at the time or the shoes.  But I've never had this before and it was/is concerning.  The thing that went through my mind was "wow, if these are this uncomfortable at 11 miles at race pace I'd better get some more cushioned shoes for MCM"!

As soon as we crested that hill and I knew that, essentially, I was "done" with the hard stuff, two things happened.  First - I started crying.  I was worn out and I had an "omg I can't believe I did it" moment.  Then I had to stop that because I still had some ground to cover.  haha! Second - I just let my pace increase on the downhill and really gave all I could to get across that line.  On my watch my fastest was 7:25.  My last mile avg was 7:55.  Another victory - I didn't slog and shuffle at the end!

My finish time was 1:51:49.  Not my best race by the time standards, but definitely not the worst!  I said it before - this was the greatest for a lot of reasons, even though it was nearly 3 minutes slower than last year.  The journey I took from the EQT 10 miler to this finish line taught me a lot about not only running, but myself.  I've been on cloud 9 since yesterday... Sure, there are the ton of "shoulda coulda"s- better fueling, going out too fast, etc.  But I refuse to focus on those.  I'm just laughing about it all.  This run rocked.

Hard earned. Love it.

Another SCRR perk - the post race tent.  After getting my medal I wandered over, got some water and a banana, got a hug from Astrid, and signed up for a massage.  I've never had a post race massage before and wow - I've been missing out!  That girl stretched muscles I didn't know I had or used and I felt freaking amazing when she was done!  I don't know what the hell I had going on in my shins and in my feet but that hurt like a bitch until she worked it out.  Usually I'm afraid to sit down after a race because when I get back up, it's all ouchie and I'm doing some weird cowboy hobble the rest of the day.  Not today!  I was able to walk back to the parking garage and then was fine all day long.  Even today I just have some hip flexor soreness and a blister on my toe.  Awesome!  I need to think about adding regular massage to my schedule!
By the time I was done with my massage I was finally feeling good enough to get some food in me so I had a burger and a potato and then some ice cream.  They also had a candy bar where you could fill up a little box with candy (from Grandpa Joe's in the Strip which I am a big fan of in the first place.  It's always fun to take the kids in there).  I got a box and nibbled on it while laying in bed later in the afternoon.

All in all - another great race, the running club perks made my day, nice weather, and another sweet medal for the wall.  I'll be back again next year for sure.


  1. Sounds like you had an amazing time! In my first full marathon ever on Sunday, I totally loved every minute of it, including the nearly two hours of hell pushing through to the finish after I hit the wall.

    Massage is no joke. I got one last Tuesday to loosen up, and then one this Tuesday to repair all the mess from the race. The massage therapist joked with me saying I was a puzzle she put together last week, then I put the pieces back in the box and shook it up and she needed to do the puzzle all over again. I feel like a million bucks afterwards, well, maybe just that I can kinda walk down stairs now which is a big improvement over when I went in there and even a city curb looked like a mountain to me.

    1. Seriously - I think that massage changed my life! I've only ever had 2 and the last one was probably 7 years ago. I will not go that long again! Glad to hear that you can at least walk down the stairs now. I heard someone say on Monday that getting onto the bus felt like climbing Mt. Everest... ouch!

  2. Congratulations! So awesome that you ran that fast, so soon after your injury.

    I think the fact that we have ran up that hill before, makes it harder now. I ran up it no problem last time, and this time, I really struggled. Boo. I may need to do some training runs on it, before next year. :)

    Congrats again!

    1. Thank you, Kristy! I agree - I won't wait until race day to tackle that hill again. That was a "haha you slacked off on the hill training" reality check. Oh well! We live to fight another day!