As I pinned my Pittsburgh Half Marathon bib on my Runner’s Roost singlet on Saturday night as I was tossing together my race day essentials I had a tingle of remorse. I was supposed to be proudly rocking a Pittsburgh Marathon bib that flaunted my name while stashing road race snacks in my SPIBelt. Instead, I had backed down to the half marathon at the race expo. I kept telling myself it was the right choice…I was grossly under-trained for a full marathon + I had big plans that a race day injury would really kick in the face. Plus, I knew running 13 miles with Lynne would be more fun than running 26 miles alone. I refused to feel guilty for playing it smart!
By the time we crossed the finish line of the half marathon every nibble of remorse was long gone. The half marathon was most definitely the correct choice, ego be damned! Aside from a funky struggle around mile 3-4 I was a pile of smiles for the entire race. Literally every step was a blast. Knowing how much I struggled at the Steamboat Marathon last year I knew, without a doubt, this was the right way to run a road race!
Lynne + I were both part of the #GameOnPGH bloggers so we had some sweet perks on race day, including a VIP/media breakfast buffet + indoor almost-no-line bathrooms. Knowing this we skipped breakfast at home + arrived in downtown Pittsburgh well before the roads starting closing for the race. After a breakfast of bagels, juice, fruit + snack bars we checked a bag of post-race layers then headed out to join the masses of runners. Finding our corral was more challenging than either of us expected. Big road races are a bit of a cluster!
As our corral waited for its turn to start the looming clouds overhead decided to remind of us their presence, tossing down a steady sprinkle of rain. This weather continued for the first 3-ish miles of the race making me very thankful I had opted to keep my trucker hat placed firmly on my noggin when we checked our layers. Although a bit uncomfortable at first I think the rain was a good thing — I’d rather dodge a few raindrops than create a puddle of my own sweat in the humid sunshine!
It’s been a while since I’ve run in true humidity [years?] so as the rain dissipated it was weird to feel my body immediately warm up, radiating a weird aura of stifling heat as my body tried to decide what to do with this unfamiliar combo of sweat + rain. I may have commented [okay, complained] about it a few times…followed by a sincere “thank you” to the clouds that were still hiding the sun.
Honestly, I could not tell you where the course took us during the race, I just followed the masses of people in front of me as we crossed one bridge, looped through a neighborhood, then crossed another bridge. The bridges were kind of cool — big, airy, steel tunnels — but the rest of the course was unremarkable. None of the landmarks jumped out at me or kept my attention for more than split second. Or, maybe, I was just missing the city itself because I had the incredible crowd support to distract me?! Yes, the crowds were that amazing!
[I’m not a fan of the Rock ‘n’ Roll monopoly but I have to appreciate the “live entertainment” craze they’ve started — having bands every mile or so along a race course keeps the energy high + keeps the spectators entertained + cheering for everyone while they wait for their runners].
Somewhere between mile 3-4 my legs got lazy. They seemed to be struggling to get over that “4 mile warm-up” phenomenon I swear exists. Of course, I had seriously dropped the ball in the fuel department bringing exactly nothing with me…oops. Thankfully Lynne was on her game with a stash of Honey Stingers in her SLS3 fuel belt + she was willing to share. Three chews later I was feeling a bit better…but I still decided to risk it + gulp down some Gatorade at the next aid station. Gatorade is pretty hit or miss with my stomach + I’ve never been a fan of its sticky taste [yes, sticky is a taste!]. Luckily it was a hit on Sunday!
Within a mile my entire body was back on board with this road racing thing. Food works wonders! When I was running exclusively on roads years ago I never really believed this. I never understood why people spent so much time thinking about race day food [still don’t quite get it + usually wing it myself]. Pushing my limits on the trails taught me a few things about refueling [when in doubt, eat] + it’s pretty stinking awesome to see that translate back to my time on pounding pavement.
We spent the first half of the race chatting our way through the miles, mostly ignoring our pace. We were comfortable, probably too comfortable, but we were having fun so no one was complaining. This changed a bit after we hit the halfway point. About the time I got my body back in the game Lynne started her own internal battle with the hills. I wasn’t exactly helping the situation at all — my new-found energy had me pushing the pace as our conversation slipped into focused silence. Our fastest goal pace was 9:09…we ran at least two miles after mile 6/7 in the mid-8’s. Hey, at least we can be proud of negative splits!
I knew she was gunning for a finish somewhere between 2:00-2:05 so I only felt a little guilty as we fell into “chase the rabbit” roles somewhere along mile 8. We hit the final timing mat at 2:04:35 which was spot on, especially considering Lynne’s ankle got in a fight with a pothole around mile 10. We walked it off…then got right back to running, adjusting our pace for survival.
Thinking back to the overall race experience I *think* the first half of the race had us running through business-y neighborhoods while the second half looped through more residential-y neighborhoods. This could be a completely inaccurate assumption but the front yard crowd support increased a lot as we ticked off the miles. In the last 5 miles of the race there were mimosas, gummy worms, oranges, beer + cookies offered up by friendly strangers. I skipped the mimosas + beer but I took full advantage of the food! My hands were a sticky mess when I finished the race thanks to a handful of sweaty gummy bears, fresh mushed orange juice + cookie crumbs. I have zero regrets!
At each aid station I was drinking 2-3 cups of water, amounting to about 8-10 ounces every two miles, plus another 8 ounces of Gatorade while I was fighting with heavy legs. That is *way* more water than I was usual drink in an overcast marathon, let alone half marathon but…it’s what my body wanted so I gave in. I should listen to my thirst-buds more often, this was one of the first races I’ve finished without a dehydrated, pissed-off stomach post-race. Noted…
Sunday afternoon the pain in my right hip was rather traumatizing — it was a deep bone-ish pain, nothing I could stretch out. By Monday afternoon my muscles were tired but well on their way to recovery. I haven’t gone out on another run, yet…but that has more to do with current life priorities than anything else! We’ll get back on the regular-ish running bus soonly. Emphasis on that -ish because that’s how I roll with training, but life + travel is doing it’s part to ensure I’m well rested first!
Overall, I had a freaking fantastic race. Once I dropped down to the half marathon I gave myself only one goal…have fun running with Lynne. Mission accomplished. I also rediscovered a little nugget of passion for big road races, reacted appropriately to my dying energy levels + reaffirmed that Lynne is literally the most supportive friend a person could ask for!