Pittsburgh Marathon RACE RECAP – Pt 2

​And we were OFF!! It was finally happening!!
Miles 1-5
We crossed the start line and the whole stretch of road was packed with people. I took a minute to cheer with the crowds and wave and give some thumbs up to the spectators. One of my favorite things about this race are the crowds – I love high fiving the little kids (and big kids) and reading the signs that people made. Before I knew it, my watched chirped for the first mile. Except the mile marker was still waaaay up ahead. I may have done a little weaving but I was on Jen’s shoulder the whole time and her watch was right on. Then it occurred to me: if my mileage was off that also meant my pace was off. Shit. In the past I’ve usually gone with the idea to run on feel but that’s a risky move in a marathon. Starting out too fast would spell trouble in the later miles so I needed to make sure that I was sticking to as close to an 11:00 min pace as possible. If my watch said the first mile was 10:16, hers said 10:53! That’s a huge difference!! She assured me that we were right on track; I tried to settle down but it was driving me nuts not knowing. I would check in periodically to see how we were doing, but I tried to keep it to a minimum because I didn’t want to annoy the shit out of Jen, have her get pissed and push me off of a bridge. We passed her husband Dave and greyhound Django after the 16th St. bridge where Dave got this awesome picture of us.
Favorite picture of the day!!

Favorite picture of the day!!

This is my favorite race picture ever! We continued on through East Ohio Street, over the bridges and through the North Side. I started to calm down a bit and enjoy the ride – still high fiving and cheering along with people. BUT while I had settled in, I still couldn’t help but feel like I was working really hard for the pace. I took my first gel around mile 4.5 ish and my stomach cramped a bit but went away after a few minutes. the miles were ticking by, but while the two of us  normally  never shut up and at North Park you can probably hear us coming before you see us, we were not really talking. I felt bad, but was pretty sure it was a mutual feeling. Talking required a whole extra level of effort that I just couldn’t give.
When the pace if off from the very beginning, it's a problem.

When the pace if off from the very beginning, it’s a problem.

Miles 6-12
We crossed the West End Bridge and it wasn’t just a little warm…it was very warm. We trucked up a little hill and cruised into the West End and there was a huge dance party going on. I can’t remember what song was playing but they were rocking and I loved it!! I apologized to Jen that I wasn’t talking – I felt terrible but it just wasn’t happening. She said it was OK, but I couldn’t help but feel like I wasn’t keeping up my part of the race. What I mean by that was – she was doing all of the work pacing us and I couldn’t even come up with a decent conversation. As we made our way through Station Square and got close to the South Side, she told me to go on ahead. I didn’t want to, and felt like a total jerk for doing it but I knew that I had a long way to go and I just had to put my head down and hang on for as long as possible. We said our good byes and I teared up a little bit knowing that I was on my own. Of course, I knew it would happen eventually and even the day before we had both agreed that at any point if the other person was feeling it to go on ahead. But, I still felt shitty about it. I made it into the Southside and it was another huge party. Even though I knew I was struggling, I was still having a good time cheering with the crowds, high fiving everyone that I could because even if the day wasn’t going the way I planned, I still wanted to have a good time. I took another gel somewhere in here – I think right after Station Square, and right before the South Side (Couldn’t tell you exactly because…Garmin was waaay off). Before we crossed into West End I had been looking for one of my coworkers and I assumed that I either missed them or they weren’t able to make it; then as I was turning onto the Birmingham Bridge I heard someone screaming my name and it was them – I was SO EXCITED!!
Already feeling soooo hot!!

Already feeling soooo hot!!

Once again, I almost started to cry. This was just the boost I needed before I hit the climb into Oakland. As we were crossing the bridge though, someone was announcing that a runner was down and we needed to move over for the ambulance. I saw the person surrounded by EMTs…and they weren’t moving. It was really scary to see and all I could do was hope that they were alright. The sun was out in full force by this point, there was NO cloud cover and it.was.HOT. Just in time to start the beast of a climb into Oakland. I started The Hill and just tried to use the strategy that I had been practicing – pick a landmark, run to it. Pick another one, run to it. It worked, but it was sloooooooooooow going like I knew it would be. A few weeks ago, I heard about a team of people that spend all day running up and down the hill to encourage the runners and I did see them but…there weren’t really encouraging. They were just running up and down the hill not looking at us, not saying a word. It was strange. The amount of effort it took to get up the hill made the heat feel even worse. Then. somewhere on Forbes they were passing out ice cold towels which was amazing. I wrapped it around my neck and kept it there for as long as I could. What’s interesting is that my splits for miles 6-8 are faster than Jen’s, even though we were still next to each other. This still has me all kinds of  confused and irritated that the ONE TIME I need this watch to be accurate it was shitting it’s pants. 

No idea if these are close to accurate, but I felt like I was working harder than an 11:25 pace

Splits

Miles 13-18
To be honest, these miles are kind of a blur. They all faded together as a lump of hot, miserable scorching miles. I knew it would be warm, but the sun was relentless and there was very little shade. My new goal became to make it each fluid station. I’d given up on mile markers, since my watch was so far off. It was disheartening to hear my watch beep for mile 14, 15, etc and have to actual  sign not even in sight yet. Around 14.5 or so, I started to really feel it and even though it killed me to do it…I started walking. Earlier it had just been walking through aid stations, but now it was a necessity. I was starting to feel tired, lightheaded, fuzzy and a little nauseous; this would be the theme for the rest of the race. Run as best you can until you think bad things are going to happen and then walk until it goes away. Sometimes that feeling went away quickly….sometimes it didn’t. Somewhere in these miles, I grabbed another icy towel that had actual ice cubes in it and, even though this is beyond gross because who knows where that ice came from and how many grubby paws touched it…I ate it. The ice not the towel. It was SO good. I finally felt like I was cooling off a little!! THEN at an aid station (maybe around 17? Not sure) they were handing out FULL CUPS OF ICE!!! It was like manna from heaven! I munched on that for over a mile and it was glorious!!  Eventually though, the towels warmed up…the ice went away and I was back to square 1. Then the aid stations stopped passing out towels – they must have run out because the street was full of them but there were no new ones to be found. I also decided at some point, that I NEEDED an ice cold pop after the race. Diet Pepsi, Diet Coke…didn’t matter as long as it was fizzy and cold. I had my phone with me so I texted the tall one to demand ask that he grab one for me.
Ice cold diet pepsi sounded amazing

Ice cold diet pepsi sounded amazing

Despite all of this though…I was still enjoying myself. I knew that if I let all of it get to me, I would completely unravel.
I took another gel somewhere along here…mile 15?  The crowds were still cheering and encouraging us – passing out orange slices, water bottles, spraying us with garden hoses – the support along the course was amazing. Fire hydrants were opened so we could run through and get cooled off as well. I have to say, I know that these miles are through some of the “rougher” sections of Pittsburgh, but the way we were treated was like  members of their family. Residents set up their own water stations with Styrofoam cups and little kids handing them out, people passing out FULL SIZE water bottles out of coolers, candy, oranges and cheering their hearts out. I’d heard this section was had great crowd support and I was NOT disappointed. Anytime I started to get overwhelmed, I remembered that my stepdad was with me and that he would help me get through this.
Not sure what happened at mile 18, but it gave me a little extra pep in my step!

Not sure what happened at mile 18, but it gave me a little extra pep in my step!

Miles 19-23
Despite my run/walk strategy that I had to implement, I was still on track for a PR! I missed the 4:50 pacer pass me, but I knew really early on that today wasn’t a 4:50 day. That time would have been tough in ideal conditions, and it was getting hotter, and sunnier, and did I mention HOTTER?!  As we got close to mile 20, I looked behind me and saw a stick with some balloons and my heart sank a little. I knew it was the 5 hour pacer; I tried to pick up the pace and start running again but I couldn’t.  He was gaining on me and after mile 20 he finally caught me. I was disappointed, but kind of knew that it was inevitable. As he was passing me, he offered me a chocolate chip cookie!?  I looked and he had a huge bag of them – it was so bizarre! I politely declined because the thought of eating a cookie right then made me want to hurl, and he looked a little offended. Sorry I’m not sorry – who eats cookies at mile 20?   Around mile 21 or 22, we ran past an Aldi’s and they were passing out FREEZER POPS!!! Whoever had this idea should get a VIP wristband into heaven because it was brilliant. I knew that some more of my coworkers would be at the Church Brew Works which was coming up soon so I tried to get my shit together so I could look strong when I ran past. Then I started worrying that I was so far behind my goal, that they might have left thinking that they missed me. I made my way into Bloomfield and it was the biggest party I’d ever seen. It lifted my spirits a bit and I started looking for familiar faces. I FINALLY got to the Brew Works and saw my coworkers who went NUTS as I went past!!
Despite the look on my face, I was happy to see them!!

Despite the look on my face, I was happy to see them!!

I was so excited, even though my face doesn’t really show it. I thought this would be just the push I needed for the last 5K. HAHAHAHA. Right.
Some miles were painfully slow, but it was that or pass out.

Some miles were painfully slow, but it was that or pass out.

Miles 24-26
At this point, I was STILL on track for a PR. It wouldn’t be anywhere near my 4:50 goal, but a 5:22 would still be a PR and I’d still be happy with that. From my obsessive readings of Kim’s course description, I knew this would be tough despite the boost I got from my cheering squad. There is NO shade and very few spectators. I thought that I could keep pushing and run it in but that wasn’t happening. I saw a girl down just past the 25 mile marker and my heart absolutely broke for her. To be THAT close and have to stop is brutal; I’m not sure, but I doubt they let you back onto the course after they have to treat you, but I could be wrong. I didn’t want to end up like her, so I knew that I still had to be smart about this. Most people probably think It’s just a mile. Run it, you pansy. But that just wasn’t the case, and I wish it would have been that easy. I finally made it back to downtown and I started to look for Jen. I knew she would be by the Kaufman’s Clock but again, downtown stupid over here, so I wasn’t exactly sure where that was. No worries though, because I could hear her cheering people on WELL before I saw her. Girlfriend was working the crowd hard and people were going nuts! We saw each other and it was the biggest boost ever!! Even though it was Mile 26….I still didn’t know if I would make it. It was that hard. Once I saw her and her husband and got that last boost I needed, I knew I that I could keep going. Tall One had texted me a few minutes earlier and let me know that he got a spot near the finish line at Wood Street. Of course, I had no idea where that was so once I made the turn toward the finish I started looking for him.
pgh marathon 24-26

I tried so hard to run the last 3 and I just couldn’t

.2
I was scanning the crowds, and this is one of the many times that being tall really comes in handy because I spotted him almost right away, along with my Mother in Law who was really getting into the cheering and going crazy!! It was FINALLY time to start the big sprint to the finish and I gave it absolutely everything I had left, including NOT letting a girl finishing the relay pass me at the end. Doesn’t matter the situation – when it comes to the finish line I do NOT want to get passed. I’m just a tad competitive.
I had just enough in these legs to sprint

I had just enough in these legs to sprint

I crossed the finish line, stopped my watch, got my medal and nearly lost it. I couldn’t catch my breath, and walking was a challenge. Everyone knows the finish line rules – if you stop walking, you go to the Medical Tent. That’s the last place anyone wants to be, and an incredibly nice gentleman started walking with me to make sure that I didn’t collapse. He kept telling me “Keep walking. Breathe through your nose out your mouth. keep walking, if you stop I have to take you to the tent. I don’t want to have to do that. Keep breathing” he was wonderful and stayed with me until he was satisfied that I was OK. I hobbled my way out of the finishers area to meet Tall One and his mom and it was brutal. I was so hot, it felt like my body was on fire! All I wanted was something cold and I was so looking forward to my cold pop! BUT by the time I got it from Tall One it was warm 😦    Still delicious and fizzy though. We looked up my official finish time: 5:25:35….a new Personal Worst.
I look like death, but I FINISHED

I look like death, but I FINISHED

To be honest, I’m not even a little bit upset about it. It was a TOUGH day with really challenging conditions that we were not able to prepare for. Disappointed? Yes. We all know how frustrating it is to spend so.much. time training and preparing for a specific goal only to have something completely beyond our control dictate the outcome. This is why they say the marathon is the perfect metaphor for life – you are always going to face obstacles and adversity and this shows you that you can overcome whatever life throws your way. Regardless of the time on the clock: I finished a marathon.
I think this post is long enough, so I’ll do a Pt.3 to talk about my post race thoughts, next steps, etc.
 I KNOW I have a much better time in these legs, and I just need a way to find it.
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12 thoughts on “Pittsburgh Marathon RACE RECAP – Pt 2

  1. Oh my goodness, I teared up at so many parts of this! I have heard from many people that Homewood was their favorite section. So awesome that they give out ice towels & freezer pops. I’m happy to hear that you focused on enjoying the race even if you weren’t feeling great. Hilarious that you heard me before you saw me. We had a great cheering section going and got a few walkers running again. 🙂 So…you were only three minutes off from a PR on a brutal day, you never gave in, and you sprinted to the finish. That is beyond awesome. I’m so proud of you! Congratulations!!! You should be proud!!!

    The paces at the beginning are really puzzling, though. It makes me wonder what if it wasn’t your watch that was off and mine was? What if we were running 10:16 miles instead of 10:50? that would explain my own race and why I got so tired so early. Hmmm. I need to look at the official race splits to see whether I can figure it out.

    • THANK YOU SO MUCH!!!! There are definitely some mixed emotions – I am so proud that I ran another marathon in really harsh conditions, but still a little disappointed that I couldn’t have squeaked in a few minutes sooner.
      Your cheering section was AWESOME!! I LOVED it!! ❤ ❤ ❤

      I still don't know what was going on with the Garmins?! It's so bizarre….! The only reason I'm not sure if it was yours is because my miles were off from the very beginning which is strange too because I didn't do a lot of weaving. I know THAT got into my head a little more than it should have, too!!

  2. First off, congratulations on finishing! I know all those emotions and feelings and pains you described too well. I ran the pgh full twice and I know EXACTLY how hard it is and how challenging each mile is.

    Second, it’s really touching to me how great your friendship is with Jennifer! You’re both so supportive of each other and I know you both helped each other out so much, both in this race and the months leading up to it. The running community is the best and I’m so glad you both have the other as a support (I also think it’s funny how guilty you both felt for not being talkative. No big deal, you were both out in the hot sun running for hours! I think your friendship will survive :-P)

    GOOD JOB!!!!

    • THANK YOU <3!!!!

      The running community is seriously the best! It is so awesome to have met so many great people because of it, and I am one lucky duck to have found such a great friend from it!! I could not have gone through some of this training with Jen's help and support!

  3. That pace thing is really confusing. I was cracking up when I read your demand for the post race soda. I have so much respect for you for getting through that race on such a hot day. I don’t think I would of made it. No matter what the time was you did great

    • Thank you so much!! I’m still a tad disappointed that I couldn’t squeak out a PR, but I’m still so proud that I didn’t give up or make a left off of the Birmingham Bridge, finish the half and find a different full to run later. Not that the thought crossed my mind or anything 😉

      I am still scratching my head over the pace/miles. I didn’t start my watch too early or late, because my Garmin time matches my chip time perfectly. I just can’t figure it out!! Maybe it’s dying a slow painful death and needs replaced?

  4. Ok – I finally got to read all of this and I loved this recap. Thank you for making it 2 posts long because it needed to be. I love all the details! I want to tell you that I think you are a beast and friggin awesome for powering through that race. The soda text was great. Genius! Oh, and people who give out food and stuff along the course deserve a medal. Especially in later miles! I would never say “it’s just a mile, run it you pansy” either… I don’t think anyone who has ran a marathon would. I walked during the last bit of MCM. No shame. There comes a point where I really think you go into a headspace that is just not there on a normal day. If I had to guess it’s the place your mind needs to go so you don’t focus on the pangs and pains in every cell of your body. Marathoning is no joke. And you just finished another! Congratulations!!

    • THANK YOU ❤ !!!!

      I'm sure you're right – that no one would judge for walking in the last miles but I still can't help but feel like I should have dug a little deeper. Especially when I saw that up until mile twenty-freaking-four I still had a PR, even if it wasn't the massive one I'd hoped for… 😦
      I totally agree about your mind going to another place during a marathon – that's one of the reasons that people keep coming back for more! We forget about all of the pain and shit we went through and a few days after the finish you think "oh, that wasn't so bad. Let's sign up for another one!!!" 😉 .

  5. I am so proud of you! I waited at the last relay exchange for two hours, the heat was relentless! The year I did the full I ran through every fire hydrant I could to cool down!

    PS: I ALWAYS request soda when I’m done with a marathon. I usually drink beer on the course so that isn’t needed lol!

    • Thank you so much!!!

      The heat really was terrible – I swear it took me days before it felt like my core temperature was back to normal.
      I always crave something sweet and/or fizzy after a long hot run – I usually steal a few sips of the Tall One’s Mountain Dew but that day Diet Pepsi was a must 🙂

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