Tag Archives: Pittsburgh Marathon

Pittsburgh Half Marathon Race Report

Well, this was quite a race. It was a run that I didn’t prepare for. Not in the sense that I didn’t train enough. It was a mental race. I’m not quite sure if I won or lost it actually. And it was more physically demanding than I ever imagined. I finished the half marathon at 1:54:11. More than 14 minutes FASTER than my previous time a year before. But I collapsed seconds after crossing the finish line and was taken to the medical tents…but don’t worry, I still got a Smiley cookie.

Despite a grim forecast and higher temps than we all would’ve wanted, I was pumped Sunday morning. I was singing in the car and totally high and excited about the race. So much so that I couldn’t sit still in the car when we were stuck in traffic so I got out and walked the rest of the way to the convention center, leaving Pete to find parking. I was torn about what to do about pace groups. I wanted to run under 1:55 but I knew that was a pretty lofty goal. The only half marathon pace groups I saw online were 1:50 and 2:00 so I couldn’t figure out which to join. I know you’re supposed to start out slow, but I couldn’t resist the faster group. Afterall, I like to be pushed. In the end the starting line was so crowded that I had a hard time finding the right group. I settled next to the 8:35 min/mi marathon pace team.

Pre-Race at Dawn

The sky was overcast, and the air heavy, but when the starting gun went off I didn’t seem to pay much attention to the dark clouds above. I ran with the 8:35 group for a few miles, but I kept hearing people telling their leader that they were going too slow. But it was so crowded that it was difficult to meander in and out of people while keeping the group together. By mile 2 it began to pour. Shortly after that I left the group behind me. I had my Garmin on but I try really hard not to look at it too much. I don’t want to become obsessive about my pace. But maybe this time I should have. I think I was running too fast.

A few things that went wrong, physically: 1. I think I started too strong. I don’t think it was the downfall of me, but I definitly think it made an impact on my overall performance. 2. I didn’t expect the hills. Last years course wasn’t very hilly. At all. But I guess they changed the course and it is my own fault for not having looked at it closely enough. When I train on hills with my group we push hard up and recover down. It’s pretty standard. So I’m used to that. But here’s the thing, we do two maybe three hills over the course of six miles. All the sudden I’m pushing up a hill, recovering for a minute and then pushing up another, then recovering as I go around a turn and then going up another. One hill after the other. It began to wear down my legs. By the end of the course I would tell myself “Last hill…this is the last one.” I would put all my thoughts and hopes on that “last” hill. And then another came along. 3. Pete pointed this last one out to me today and I think he’s right. It was pouring out there and I ran through a bunch of puddles. That’s just what happens. My shoes became really heavy and carrying around and extra 2lbs in your feet did not help my legs recover from the bridges.

I began to encounter some problems around mile 7, but everything would change at mile 9. At that point I was beginning to shuffle. People started to pass me. When I saw the number “9” I saw “omg i still have 4 more miles” instead of, “one more, and then three more”. My mind began it’s slow battle.

Post-race...I made it

I’ve heard people talk about mind games and exhaustion and cramping before. Hell, I’ve had some really tough runs over the years. But now I get what people are talking about. It was brutal. I couldn’t get control and I couldn’t focus. I’m well aware that these races are like 70% mental. And I tried to keep telling myself that but it didn’t work. I couldn’t grab hold of a mantra. I couldn’t really grab hold of any thoughts. All time goals went out the window. I just wanted to finish. And I didn’t want to walk. That was the only thing that seemed to stick. Don’t walk. I would pick up the pace a bit and then slow back down. I was already huffing and puffing. Now I began grunting. And talking aloud. “Don’t walk” I kept saying aloud. I knew that if I didn’t walk, and I finished, that I would be proud of myself. But if I walked I would have nothing to show for myself. So I kept shuffling. Barely. The 8:35 pace team that I had left in the dust an hour earlier came up and passed me. I was moving so slowly that they were out of my sight line real quickly. My eyes were now closed quite a bit. The rain stung and I couldn’t bare to look ahead at how many miles I had left. I was begining to feel defeated. How did I go from being on top of the world a few hours earlier to this.

If I could have produced tears I probably would have. At mile 11 a guy ran up beside me. “Are you ok?” he asked. “No, I’m really tired,” I mustered. “Do you need help?” he said, referring to medics. “No, I’m tired.” I didn’t want intervention. Or I did, but not yet. “Are you a runner?” he asked. “Yes,” I said, nodding my head. “Ok. Runners run through pain. You can do this. Good luck.” And with that he kept running. So did I. His words helped a bit, but I found myself slowing back down. I had started to recognize the course from last year but then it changed. And there was no one along the streets cheering. I know now that was because there was a bomb scare at the finish line, and the course was moved and the finished line moved as well. Which meant less people cheering at the spot I needed them the most.

Right before mile 12 a girl in a black tank top came up to me. I think she first asked how much longer. I had the watch so I told her we were almost at 12. I owe everything to this girl. She was the one who got me to the finish line. I wish I could repay her somehow. She talked to me. I told her I was going to stick next to her if she didn’t mind. And that I didn’t want to walk. She said that’s ok. I grunted…a lot. I started saying “just a few more minutes. Just a few more minutes,” aloud. At one point I almost stopped, and fell back a few feet behind her. When I looked up I saw her hand motioning for me to rejoin her. So I did. When the finish line came in sight I said “go” and she sped up a bit in front of me. I wanted to so badly to walk, but I didn’t.

I ran right over the finish line, stopped, and then got really dizzy. I reached out in front of me and grabbed the girl-in-the-black-tank-top’s shoulder and then fell to my knees. Thank you to all the volunteers that morning. Really, they were just wonderful. A woman caught me and grabbed me up and told me to keep moving; I wasn’t allowed to stop. She was taking me to the medical tent. An officer quickly came and grabbed my right arm as she grabbed my left, and they led me through the crowds. When I got to the tent they asked me if I knew where I was. I said, yes. I finished! They put a cold towel around my shoulders and took care of me. I was dizzy and crampy, but within a few minutes my heart rate came down to 85 and I started to feel much better. They stretched me out, and were so helpful and kind and really, I couldn’t have been placed into better hands.

I’m still reflecting and I think there’s a lot to learn from this race. I don’t want to be fearful of running. I don’t want to be afraid of doing another race and having an experience like this again. Just like in riding, I need to get back on the horse. So I will. I’m thrilled about my time. I still have no idea how that happend. But I’m more happy that I didn’t walk. Simply that I finished…And got my smiley cookie of course.

Smiley Cookies!

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Tapering and Cheescake

It’s taper week! which means less exercise and a huge appetite. ugh. This is supposed to be the week of recovery for you body. A chance for your body to catch it’s breath before the race. Tapering is always frustrating for runners, especially when you’ve just spent all this effort training and building up. Well it’s been a little extra frustrating for me because for some reason, this week of ease has somehow resulted in the pain returning to my shins. The worst was Wednesday night. It’s gone down a bit, but it’s still bothersome. I just have to suck it up.

I’ve also been eating like crazy. Which is fine when you’re burning a gazillion calories a day. But this week I haven’t been working out as much so it doesn’t quite feel like anything is cancelling each other out. Even a coworker commented on my eating habits as I was piling chicken onto my plate at a baby shower the other night. When I told her I had a race Sunday she looked relieved. Only one pregnant woman was in the room, and it wasn’t me.

Pete is so supportive, which is why he brought me home this lovely dessert last night from his restaurant. I’ve never been a big cheesecake fan until I tried theirs. Mmmmnn. And he brought fresh fruit. AND he added some sour patch kids on the side. My favorite 🙂

We’re heading to Pittsburgh for the marathon first thing in the morning. Stopping at his parents first to drop the Fox off and then heading to the expo where I plan to get my shins taped up (KTTape Booth). Pete’s family is so wonderful and supportive of me as well. I was thrilled to get an email from his mom this morning asking if I thought chicken tetrazzini, pasta, salad and my choice of dessert would be an ok dinner Saturday. Sounds perfect to me. As for marathon morning, well they’re calling for rain, possible T-storms, and higher temps. I’m trying not to worry or think about it too much. Wish me luck!

Wine, cheesecake, fresh fruit, and sour patch

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Smiley Cookie

So the Pittsburgh Marathon is a week from today, and there are a lot of reasons why I’m running: to compete with myself, body and mind; seek accomplishment for all of my mishaps – my sense of purging. It’ll also be a welcome for me to my new city (yes I finally said it. We’re moving to the ‘burgh!). But there’s another big reason: to get my Smiley cookie.

“Huh?” You must be thinking. Let me back up to last year when I ran the half in Pittsburgh. After a hard run I sometimes go into a runners daze. It’s almost as if I’m a little drunk. My mind gets cloudy and I don’t always think straight. Well last year, right after I came over the finish line I was handed the tinfoil-like wrap, water (I grabbed 2 cups – I was thirsty), then a banana, and then a Smiley cookie. If you’re familiar with Pittsburgh then I’m pretty sure you’re familiar with the Smiley cookie. If you aren’t, well it’s really just a simple sugar cookie with a smiley face on it. But Pittsburgh takes their cookies seriously (just go to a Pittsburgh wedding and take a look at the cookie table).

Well as I’m walking along, with my hands and arms piling up with all these goodies, I’m beginning to realize that Pete and I planned so much about how to get to the race that we totally neglected coming up with a plan of where to meet up afterwards. My mind was trying to think of what to do, how to find him, what he was wearing, but the runner’s fog was taking over. Next thing I know I’ve come to the end of the line. I was met by a “green” booth operated by a very nice woman who said “Paper,” “Banana peels,” and “Trash” as she pointed to each garbage can designated to those items. I looked at her blankly. I was trying to keep the wrap over my shoulders while holding all of my items. I just stood there, trying to figure out my next move. She repeated herself, “Paper, bananas and trash go right here sweetie.” I can’t explain why I did what I did next. I truly can’t. I walked in front of the can designated for banana waste, leaned over, dropped my Smiley cookie in the bin and mumbled, “This is for the food”. Before she could give me a weird look (which I’m sure she did) I quickly walked off.

I wandered around for a little while before a very nice police officer approached me and asked if I wanted to use her cell phone to call my family. Thankfully Pete answered, and we were finally able to rendezvous. Pete gave me a big hug and a big “Congratulations”. I mumbled that I threw away my Smiley cookie. “Huh?” he said. I had to repeat myself a few times before he recognized the funk I was in. And then he laughed. Of course. We went to Eat ‘N Park up in North Park after the race, and Pete offered to buy me a Smiley cookie. But I felt like I couldn’t accept. Like I really needed to earn another one.

Pete said to me a few weeks ago, “You know, if someone in Pittsburgh wants a Smiley cookie they can usually just go down the street and get one for $1.25. Only you would pay a $65 entry fee to a race, spend six months of your life training in the rain and snow, and then wake up at 5am to run a crazy distance just to get a cookie. You’re really special, Ror.” That I am!

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Learning the Ropes of Taping

So it’s no secret that I’m a big fan of KT Tape.  My PT taped me many times, and I was taped up before the Marine Corps Marathon at the KT Tape booth (the guy there taped me 100 times better than my PT ever did).  Well ever since then I’ve been wanting to learn how to do it myself, but the truth is that I really have no faith in myself to do this properly.  It’s my sandwich theory (or Pete’s salad theory): a sandwich tastes so much better when someone makes it for you.  And that’s not just a cop-out to get someone else to make me a sandwich.  But no matter how hard I try nothing I make will be better than what Pete makes.  The same goes for taping my shin splints, I feared.  I needed a professional.  Well I’ve got two races coming up, and I know that KT Tape will be at the Pittsburgh Marathon (I hope this is still true).  I’m not sure if they’ll be at the Cherry Blossom 10 miler, but it doesn’t really matter because we’re not even sure we’ll be able to get to the expo on time. So…

I went ahead and bought some tape last week.  I’m looking at it as training tape.  And so Friday night, after I got the package in the mail, I sat down and watched the video online about how to tape your shins.  And then I tried it myself.

My first attempt

Not bad.  But not great.  It didn’t seem to really do anything.  So I decided that Pete needed to learn, and that in addition to being my boyfriend/nurse/doctor/math tutor/running coach ect., we can now add “Personal Taper” to the list.  We had a really fun time last night.  I made him watch the video, then after he said he got it I kept correcting him and telling him he was doing it wrong but I couldn’t explain how to do it right. I’m lucky he’s so patient with me. There were definitely a few strips of tape that were wasted.  It’s frustrating because I’m the one who knows where my pain is and knows how the pressure of the tape feels, but I have to trust his hands because they’re a whole lot more steady than mine and he’s in a good position to apply it.  So in the end we made some progress.  It’s not completely right, but we’ve got two weeks to figure it out.  In the meantime we’ll practice some more (anybody know of any other videos online?) and I think I’ll go ahead and buy another roll of tape (this time I’ll get the real KT Tape.  I bought the knock-off kind by accident, which is fine since half of it is already in the trash). 

Pete's attempt - better than mine

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In a Rocker State of Mind

I’ve got some pretty big decisions to make in the next couple of weeks. I’d prefer to be vague here for now, but I think that it will suffice to say that no matter what I choose it will be a life changing decision, but in very different ways. These past six days have taken me to a very similar state of mind that I was in leading up to my days at Simon’s Rock. Have I mentioned the Rock here before? Simon’s Rock College of Bard (now Bard College at Simon’s Rock) is a liberal arts college in the country that takes students after 10th or 11th grade, and was probably the most influential place I’ve ever been. I chose to leave high school after my junior year and go to college when I was 16. It’s definitely not a choice for everyone, and please spare the whole “omg, didn’t you miss not going to your prom?” Nope. Didn’t miss it at all. Didn’t even think about it in fact. I truly believe that going to the Rock was the best decision for me, but I know that I did not make the best decisions while there and that it has taken me all these years to truly appreciate and value the education and experience I got. There really was no possible way for me to predict what I would go through at the Rock when I was sitting in a parking lot with people I shouldn’t have been in a parking lot with, dreaming of my escape. The prospect of a school, full of people like me, was too intoxicating. I brushed off all criticisms, concerns and doubts and refused to take any of it into consideration; I was intent only on going. Here I am again, in a similar state because of the excitement I feel. I know that there is really no way for me to fully anticipate what is about to come my way. But this time I’m really intent on not fully giving in to my excitement. Intent on bringing a little skepticism in the picture, and trying – with all my might – to listen to the concerns this time around. I always wish I could go back to the Rock and do it all over again. I know exactly what I’d do differently, and what I’d do all over again. But I’m not in one of those movies where I get to go back in time so instead I get to do it all over again in a different way. (like a sideways world – sorry, had to make the Lost reference).

And on a very different note, had an awesome group run last night. Ran 10k at a great pace and my legs are feeling quite good today. These runs are really instrumental to my sanity. It’s a time to clear my head, push out my anger, and to think – and not think – all at the same time. So onto Cherry Blossom and the Pittsburgh Marathon.

The Arch at Simon's Rock

Bash Bish - a true gem of W. Mass

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