2015 Jane Neely 5K – RACE RECAP!

I did not have high hopes going into this race. Originally, this was going to be a goal race and I wanted to put some serious effort into the training. Then, of course, life happened. It took me longer than I thought to get back to it after the marathon, I implemented a new type of training (heart rate), running in the humidity is tough, and I was sick for about a week right before the race. Have I listed enough excuses yet??  Let me throw in one more for good measure; I hardly did any speed work!
In an email to Jen, I told her that there was a good chance this race would be a “shit show”. She told me to have a little faith, and that the week and a half I lost might be a good thing and my legs would be well rested. *Spoiler Alert* Luckily, she was right and I managed to pull out a brand new PR by about 2 minutes!!

Wilbur helping me get ready for the race. He's got his Game Face On. Or maybe that's his Put-Me-Down-Before-I-Cut-You face. Not sure.

Wilbur helping me get ready for the race. He’s got his Game Face On. Or maybe that’s his Put-Me-Down-Before-I-Cut-You face. Not sure.

I ran this race last year and really enjoyed it. It’s super close to home (takes place at Kiwanis Park in Shaler Twp), small, low key and the course is flatish. It’s an out and back with the slightest grade for a little more than a mile that you can’t see but you can feel. THEN at the end there is a monster climb that goes straight up. It’s not as bad as the Frigid 5 hill but it’s still a beast and “that shit’s just mean“.
Courtesy of Google Maps - this is the start of THE hill. The picture doesn't do it justice.

Courtesy of Google Maps – this is the start of THE hill. The picture doesn’t do it justice.

Courtesy of Google Maps - this is the start of THE hill.  The picture doesn't do it justice.

This is part two of THE hill. It levels off for about half a second and then you have this last steep little climb.

The race course was a little different from last year. Last year, we walked DOWN the beastly hill and started on Little Pine Creek Road, ran out, turned around and came back then climbed the beast and finished in the outfield of the baseball field at Kiwanis Park. Thanks to all of the rain, though, the field was way too muddy so the finish was moved behind the park to the parking lot of the elementary school next door. They also moved the start line so that it was in the parking lot right in front of the finish line. So not only did we have to run UP the beast at the end, we had to run DOWN the beast at the start. Normally a downhill start is awesome but this is a STEEP downhill and I lack basic coordination skills so I was worried about tripping and face-planting on the new, slick asphalt.

My goal for this race was to stay in particular heart rate zone (180-188 bpm), and while my average HR was 188, I was sitting at my max (192) for at least a mile and on the last hill I hit 200 at one point. Oops.

The race itself was pretty uneventful. It wasn’t hot out (about 66*) but omg the humidity! It was about 96% at the start and it just felt…soupy.  Once I got down the massive hill (and didn’t fall. YAY!) I started to cruise while keeping an eye on my heart rate. I got into my zone pretty quickly and remember thinking that it was hard. Not impossible, but maintaining that would be difficult. I pushed those thoughts aside and tried to stay focused. The first mile went by really quickly and I made it a point to NOT look at my watch. A few weeks ago, I took away the pace field and replaced it with heart rate, but my watch will still show each mile time for about 10 or 15 seconds. I didn’t want to know what the time was – if it was too slow, I would have been pissed and if it was too fast I would have panicked. Not long after the first mile, I hit my max heart rate. This is where I went off my plan because according to the rules, I should have slowed down or walked to get the heart rate down but that just wasn’t happening. In the back of my mind, I also remembered that you could adjust your heart rate if it was super humid so I used that as my justification. 188+5 = 193 = I’m still OK.
Just after mile 2 though, I started to feel it. I knew that I was slowing a bit but my heart rate was still at max but I didn’t care. Even with the pace field gone, I could do enough basic math to tell that I was going to PR if I didn’t slow down. BUT I still had the hill at the end, and that could make or break me. Then I started the internal battle – slow down a little now, to save some for the end vs eff it, just go and worry about the hill when you get there. This battle went on for a bit, and before I knew it…I was at the hill. So I never did pick a side because I was too busy trying to pick the side. Say what?! I put my head down and just went for it. I passed two people on the climb up, and did a little internal cheer. I had been leapfrogging with one girl for almost half a mile, so to cruise past them was kind of satisfying. Actually. It was a lot satisfying. A half mile before, I came up on this girl who was walking, and right before I passed her she looked back, saw me, and started to run again. Then she would get a little bit ahead of me, and walk until I caught up with her. Then she would run again. This gets annoying, and I don’t know if I’m reading too much into it but it kind of feels like it’s  “oh, I can’t let HER pass me“, because I kind of look like a baby sasquatch lumbering along, and they can’t let the short, chubby girl pass them?! I don’t know maybe it’s nothing but when it happens every time, I start to get a little self conscious. *Side note. I looked up the results and she was only 15 or 16. So I feel a little bad getting mad, but it still irritates me.  Once I got up the hill into the parking lot, it leveled off, so I was able to take a deep breath and kick it to the finish to make sure that the girl from the hill didn’t catch me at the end. 26:05, 8:25 pace 5th place age group. Not.too.shabby.

015

At least 5 minutes after I finished and my heart rate was still high.

My watch registered the course as short – 2.99, but my friend’s said 3.1 on the nose so I’m thinking that my Garmin is just off. Seeing that shortened distance gives me mixed feelings though. Even though my friends that also ran this race assured me that the course distance was right on their watches, I can’t help but feel that I didn’t actually run 3.1, which means my time isn’t actually correct, even though it matches the gun time perfectly (there is no chip timing in this race). I still would have PRd, but it almost feels like I cheated. Then again, if my watch had come up as 3.2 miles I would have been pissed that it was long and that I missed a PR so….who knows.
If there aren't Eat N Park smiley cookies at the finish line, it's NOT a Pittsburgh race ;-)

If there aren’t Eat N Park smiley cookies at the finish line, it’s NOT a Pittsburgh race 😉

My friend also ran this race and finished 3rd in her age group with a 25:15 finish time! We were both a little jealous that the Brentwood 5K had beer at the finish line and this race didn’t so…we brought our own! We enjoyed a much deserved cold one as we popped the hatch of my car and cheered on the other finishers!

Beer from America's oldest brewery seemed appropriate for the 4th!

Beer from America’s oldest brewery seemed appropriate for the 4th!

I’m really happy with this finish time (even with the distance discrepancy), and I’m pretty sure that I would not have been able to do this had I been doing it on my own, rather than with the heart rate monitor. I would have seen an 8:07 mile, freaked, and slowed waaaaaaaaaaay down. This method is really giving me the confidence that I need to reach my full potential and I am really excited to see what I can do. There is lots to do before October but I am ready to WORK!
Did you race on the 4th? How’d ya do?

Catching Up!

Boy oh boy. I’m like a shitty boyfriend who stops in one day, promises to hang around more and then disappears for another couple of weeks. I’m hoping that cat pictures in future posts will make up for it.

 

Since Mom can't keep up with her blog, I'm taking over!

Since Mom can’t keep up with her blog, I’m taking over!

I took some much needed time off after the marathon to enjoy all of the things I put off/couldn’t do during training and it was wonderful! I even thought about running the Peace, Love, Run half out at North Park this Sunday but ultimately decided not to. It’s too soon, and I’m just not feeling any kind of racing in the heat/humidity right now. I do have a 5K planned for the 4th though and I would really like to do well so I should probably start incorporating some speed work into my weeks.

  I’ve slooooowly eased back into running and have started pacing my runs via heartrate.  I was so intrigued after reading and following Nichole’s experience with it, and then Jen started using it and seeing awesome results so I knew I had to try it. I’m a total follower and this was no exception.

It was a hard adjustment at first, and can still be challenging but I am really loving it. I followed the instructions, calculated my resting heartrate, max heart rate, and my heart rate zones and came up with the following:

Recovery  <155

Easy/Long Runs 155-167

Tempo Runs 162-176 (Beginners should be between 163-171& Advanced 170-177. I use the full range of this zone)

MAX 186-190 (I haven’t done any workouts yet in this zone, but I’m hoping to soon!)

I’m trying to stick to the zones as closely as possible, and for hills I give myself a 5-10 bpm cushion. I know it’s not exactly right, but it works for me. I call it a “controlled spike” – I know and expect that my heart rate is going to rise on the incline and as long as I can keep it to within those 10 beats AND bring it down quickly after I reach the top, I’m OK.  I’m usually able to bring the rate down within 35-40 seconds and rarely more than a minute, plus I can get my heart rate waaaay down on downhills (like 135ish) so I feel like it’s OK. I also really, really don’t want to walk the hills. I have worked so hard to like them, enjoy them, and excel at them and walking them now just doesn’t jive. This seems to be working well, and it’s teaching to be very controlled on those hills and ensures that I am focusing on my form and breathing – something I was NOT so great at before. I used to hunch over, put my head and flap my arms around like a T-Rex trying to pump up a hill

Training this way is definitely an eye opener! If you give it a shot, prepare to be served a big ass slice of humble pie because you will be running SLOWLY! I thought I knew my easy pace, and was even prepared to see it go down a little, but oh my god was I wrong!! I am easily seeing paces in the mid 13 min/mile ranges some days and to be honest…it’s tough. I’m already sensitive about being a slow poke and this makes me even more self-conscious.  It also takes some serious work to keep my heart rate that low; that sounds strange, but it takes a lot of focus and control to not let the heart rate start to creep up and out of the zone and also to trust the process.  Finishing a run and feeling like you haven’t even broken a sweat and haven’t really worked is just strange. THEN someone pointed out this is on purpose! You want to feel that way so when it’s time to throw down some speed or bust out a longer run, your body is ready for it. DUH. Once it was put into perspective, I was much happier to stick to that.  I’ve also changed the display screen of my Garmin and it no longer shows my pace at all; if I don’t see it, it can’t bother me. The only time I see my pace is when the mile ticks over and briefly pops up on my screen; the rest of the time it’s HR, Time, & Distance. This is also hugely beneficial to me during these summer months. The heat and humidity are brutal already, and not needing to worry about how it’s affecting my pace is great. I just go out, do my thing, stick to the zones and am blissfully unaware until I sync my Garmin.  I’m getting better at not letting the paces bother me and have been trying to just concentrate on the heart rate.

I’ve only been doing this for a couple of weeks so I don’t have much data or some amazing decrease in paces to share, but I’m confident that I will.  All I need to do is trust the process!

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.

Pittsburgh Marathon – RACE RECAP Pt. 1

I’m breaking this recap into several parts – I’m already pretty wordy and this doesn’t need to end up rivaling Ulysses.
Saturday
The day before was pretty uneventful – quick shake out run, and a trip to the expo to get my bib, race shirt and VIP package that I won from the Pittsburgh Marathon back in January, then back home to nap, watch Miracle (one of my FAVORITE movies ever) and get my things for the race together.
Race shirt. NO that is not a baby bump under the shirt...I'm just chubby.

Race shirt. NO that is not a baby bump under the shirt…I’m just chubby.

I decided a while ago that I wanted to wear purple to honor (for lack of better word) my step-dad – it was one of his favorite colors and it’s the color for (among other things) pancreatic cancer awareness – the disease we lost him to last August. He also would have turned 65 this month, and I still just miss him terribly.  The original plan was also to cut out one of his pictures and put it my shoe as another sort of silent tribute to him. After I got the picture I set it down on my bib without realizing it, went to get the tape and when I looked the picture fit so perfectly on the front that I had to leave it there.
002
Once my bib and tank were ready to go, I loaded up the kangaroo pouch, charged the iPod and Garmin and ate my pre-race dinner of ravioli and garlic bread. Desert was a slice of strawberry bar from Giant Eagle – delicious. I’d been hydrating like a champ all day, but had a small cup of decaffeinated green tea and one more glass of water before bed.
Pre-Race
I woke up early (3AM) to start getting ready. I wanted to make sure I had ample time to get the system…moving, eat breakfast and get myself to the parking garage. Breakfast was my standard cinnamon raisin bagel with peanut butter and coffee. I started checking the weather report and it was already 50 degrees. If you remember, I’d been freaking out over the damn weather report and even though I said I felt confident about the race, deep down, I knew that this was going to pose a problem. I don’t mean to say that I had a bad attitude going into the day – totally opposite, in fact. I was still excited to run! I was looking forward to seeing my co-workers that would be out on the course cheering, looking forward to running the first half with Jen, and while I knew that a 4:50 finish time would be rough I was still very hopeful that I would get a PR. Didn’t matter if it was a 5:22 finish time…a PR’s a PR.  I also wanted to get down to the race as early as possible; I was driving myself, and Tall One was going to come down later to see my finish. The last thing I needed was to get stuck in traffic or not be able to find a spot! I parked and started my walk over to the VIP area at the Westin. I will NEVER get tired of just how gorgeous this city is no matter what time of day.
This city... <3

This city… ❤

I got to the hotel, got in line for the bathrooms right away (I can’t tell you how clutch real, flushing toilets and running water were) and then headed to upstairs to the VIP area – there were sections for the SCRR group and for people that purchased (or won!) a package through the race. There was a great spread of food set out, but I just wanted a glass of water to sip while I stretched and snacked on a Clif Bar that I brought from home. I found a quiet little corner to sit in to stretch, eat, and wait for Jen. We grabbed a pre-race picture and decided to head to our corral around 6:30 before they were closed at 6:45 and  stopped for a quick picture from the race photographers.
Let's Do This!!

Let’s Do This!!

We got to our corral,  and decided to get in the port-o-potty line…just in case. Our line was the slooooooooooowest, and while we were waiting the National Anthem was sung, the wheelchair division was off and so were the elites! And we were still in line…6+ people back. I made friends with the guys in line behind us and forced one of them to get our picture taken to humor another race photographer. She asked another guy in line if she could take his picture and he was kind of rude and shitty to her. Then my new best friend in line behind me also declined (politely, though) and she looked like she might cry. I felt really bad so I guilt tripped him into taking a picture. 
Yes, I .....borrowed this from the race site.

Yes, I …..borrowed this from the race site.

Our corral started moving forward and we realized we wouldn’t make the start. No biggie – there was no point in letting that get us worked up. So we start a corral back…big woop. Jen and I were both worried about starting out too fast, so maybe it was good to start further back so we didn’t get caught up in the crowds. However, when I read her recap I realized that starting 10+ minutes later meant that it was warmer when we started. That kind of ended up being a big woop. Our turn for the pottys FINALLY came and we made it in and out in record time, wished our new buddies good luck and made our way to the start. we took a few selfies and sent them to my friends…photobombed a few people in front of me taking selfies, took a deep breath and was ready to tackle 26.2 miles of the city.
Still blissfully unaware of what lay before me.

Still blissfully unaware of what lay before me.

Pt 2 will be posted in another day or so. Depending on how wordy I get, this may get stretched out to 3 parts. Don’t say I didn’t warn you.

Pittsburgh Marathon Training – Week 14

First week of taper – DONE.  I remember when I trained and tapered for my first full marathon what a bundle of nerves I was for the 2 whole weeks before the race…I basically resembled an over-caffeinated squirrel. This time around, I’m a little more relaxed; not a lot but enough. I’m more of an over caffeinated chipmunk instead of squirrel.  I have a few fun posts to publish in the next couple of days of how I’m keeping myself busy during the taper and that’s helping to take my mind off of the race.

I mentioned last week that I’m all kinds of nervous that my stomach would not cooperate on race day, but you guys are awesome and had some great suggestions that I already started implementing aaaand *knock on wood*/*fingers crossed* I think they really helped!!

Monday – Rest Day.

Because it's been a while...#whereswilbur??

Because it’s been a while…#whereswilbur??

Tuesday7 miles. I was nervous that my stomach would be cranky and that the awful pain from Saturday would come back but…NOTHING! I felt great the whole time, and was happy to see a 10:54 average pace for this. I used my standard big loop around the neighborhood, and there is a long gradual climb right in the middle that I think is a good simulator for Oakland. It’s not exact, but I like that it helps me practice the mental aspect of running a hill that seems never ending.

This chart makes it look massive, but it's really not.

The climb starts around 3.5 and goes until mile 5.

I like to pick different point along the road, and run to that. So, as I start the climb I look for a road sign, mailbox, pole, etc that is ahead and focus on that. Once I get there, I pick a new landmark and focus on that…and just keep repeating until I get to the top. Some days, if I’m not on my A-game the landmarks are really close together and other days I only need to pick 2 or 3 to get me through. Either way, it works like a charm. Try it…you’ll love it!

WednesdayRest. I hate to admit it, but I definitely abandoned my strength training. At first it was due to physically not being able to, and now I feel like it would do more harm than good since I’m so sore after. I try to throw some body weight work in when I think of it – some air squats, lunges, planks, etc. but…I usually don’t think about it so it usually doesn’t happy. Sorry ‘bout that.

We do rest days right in this house

We do rest days right in this house

Thursday6 miles. Technically 5.89 because….I really had to go to the bathroom. Overshare? Maybe, but I’m sure we’ve all been there. All of a sudden you need to GO and thank god I was close to home or that could have been a disaster.  I was juuuuust shy of race pace at an 11:04, but since I was all kinds of speedy on Tuesday I was pretty happy with this.

Don't act like you've never done the "penguin waddle" home.

Don’t act like you’ve never done the “penguin waddle” home.

 

FridayRest.

Saturday6 miles 1:07 (11:19 pace). Holy shit where did the heat come from?!  I started my run a little later than I normally do and the sun was out in full force…there wasn’t much wind and very little cloud cover. It.was.HOT. To be honest, I didn’t think much of it at first but not long after I started running I could feel myself struggling – everything felt very difficult, and it was just hard. I could feel my stomach getting angry and I stopped at the house to avoid a repeat of Thursday’s near disaster and got some water.  Rather than doing my big loop, I stayed close to home (just in case) and did several smaller loops. This was basically a repeat of last Saturday’s run: warm, sunny, and a lot of interruptions. I kept getting text messages and phone calls and while I usually ignore them these ones needed to be answered…there were a lot of stops and starts and wasting time. As I started mile 6 I could feel my stomach tightening up and I decided to not even try for 7. It’s taper time and I should be cutting back anyway. As I chugged some ice water and tried to cool down I started to think. MAYBE my stomach pain when I’m running isn’t connected to the other issues I’ve been having (those have thankfully been going away). Both runs where I had trouble the conditions were similar – the weather was not at all what I’m used to. Lots of sun and HEAT. I’ve spent the last 4+ months running in the Arctic Tundra. Seriously. There were many days where it was colder here than Antarctica. I checked. My body doesn’t remember what sun, and heat, and humidity are. I also know that I was not well hydrated for cool conditions, let alone 70 degrees.  I spent the rest of the day chugging water in the hopes that maybe this was the answer, and judging by Sunday’s run I think it might be. I have one more long run to test this theory out but…THIS is my biggest race day fear – heat.  There haven’t been many opportunities to run in warm conditions and that could cause major issues if that’s what we get on May 3rd.

Sunday –  15 miles 2:58 (11:54 pace) I met Jen for a long run. I had 15 miles (you know training is almost over when you’re excited that you’re running a “short” 15) and I was really nervous to see how things would go. The last few long runs I’ve done have sucked so I wasn’t sure what to expect. I took the advice of Nichole and Gretchen and switched things up with my gels.   I would normally only takes gels at miles 5 & 10 during a training run, but to practice the fueling strategy I fueled at miles 3.5, 7.5 11.5 and I alternated Gu Roctanes with Honey Stingers and was thrilled that I tolerated each one without issue! Those worked so well, that I’m pretty sure that’s the combination I’m going to use on race day: Gu, Stinger, Gu, Stinger…and 1 more Gu just in case. The run itself was great as well – it started out chilly but sunny and as usual the miles ticked by and before I knew it I was on my own for the last 3 miles. I wanted to try to pick up the pace for the last few and practice a fast finish. It was really tough – I was tired (my dinner the night before was not my usual pasta thanks to a night out for the hockey game), it was warming up and I was at the hard part of the lake loop. I didn’t even check my splits because I thought I failed miserably but when I uploaded them I was shocked to see that I was pretty close to race pace. I’m not sure that’s a good thing though – according to my race plan, I should be starting to speed up a little around mile 13 or 14 (after the Oakland Hill), not struggling to barely hold pace. BUT this is the taper, and your body does funny shit during it so hopefully it will get itself together in the next few days!

15 splits 4-19

I cannot believe that we are 10 days out from race day. It seems like just yesterday it was Christmas, and we were all making our training plans (and checking them twice), and now….the countdown is ON.