Tag Archives: Pittsburgh

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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The Difference a Year Makes

I find that swimming is a good place to think, and so Thursday night, while doing my weekly laps in the pool, I thought to myself “wow, I’m such a better runner now than I was last year when I ran my first half”.  That thought surprised me though.  Big time.  Because for the last few weeks I’ve quietly doubted how I’m going to be able to run not one, but two big races within three weeks of each other, when I’ve hardly trained.  The cold hard truth is that I’ve never actually fully recovered from my injury last June.  Just when I was on the brink of getting back into the groove of things, I got hurt again.  For years I ran three miles a day, everyday.  Not fast.  Not particularly well.  But consistently and with no problems whatsoever.  I even ran in the same shoes for years.  When I decided to step up and take running a little more seriously, I was running 5-6 days a week, and a lot more miles.  You mull over what the cause of my demise was, but really it doesn’t matter.  I’ve changed my habits.  A lot.  So what is causing these conflicting thoughts on my abilities?
While training for my half last year I was all over my training plan; intervals, hills, long runs, tempos.  You name it.  I did it.  You had to force me to take a rest day.  And now?  For the past few weeks I’m running maybe twice a week.  Three times is a lot.  Four is in the distant future.  And anything above five seems impossible.  How I used to run every day is beyond me.  Days in between runs are literally Recovery Days.  My legs need time to heal.  So what makes me think that I can run a 10mile race and then quickly follow it up with a half?  And really, what made me think in the pool that I was actually a better runner than last year?
Experience.  I’ve spent these last few months in recovery learning about my body, and learning about the best ways of conditioning.  It’s not just about running.  My running partner the other night said to me, “I think being a runner makes you a better swimmer, but swimming doesn’t really make you a better runner.”  I nodded, and wanted to respond, but I was getting a little bit tired and couldn’t garner the energy to talk.  So I’ll respond now: I think I disagree.  I see where he was coming from, but I think the endurance aspect of swimming has an important impact on my running.  And of course it’s easy on my legs, which always helps my running 😉
Cycling, not to brag or anything, has done absolute wonders to my thighs. My legs haven’t been this defined and toned since my competitive riding days.  In fact, they might be even more toned now.  The best part about the stationary cycling that I do is that I get to concentrate on the muscle above my knee, which in turns protects my knees from the heavy impact and beatings they receive from my running.
And pilates.  Aside from strengthening my core, I’ve increased my flexibility (key for runners who are known for not being so flexible) and learned a lot of new stretches that will hopefully help prevent me from future injuries.  Yes I subscribe to that belief.  I know many who do not, but I do.
And the truth is that the numbers show I’m actually a much stronger runner.  I hate going by numbers, and I really don’t want to jinx myself here.  But Tuesday night I ran 6.2 miles at an average of 8:19 min/mile pace.  Yes, I know, I probably ran too fast for a nice evening jog, but the conversation was good and I wanted to keep up.  Point is, the run ended, I was tired, but I was fine.  Last year, probably around this time I ran my first 6 miles.  In a little over an hour.  And I thought it was the end of the world.   

I may not be running as much as I was, but I’m stronger; physically and mentally.  I play the head games.  I work through the pain.  I know my rhythm and my feet.  I have so much more under my belt, and I have so much more in my heart this time around, that I’m hoping it will count for something.  My race in Pittsburgh has taken on and entirely different meaning in the past few weeks.  It’s really no longer just a race.  So hopefully my legs will feel ok for Cherry Blossom and the Pittsburgh Marathon.  They don’t need to feel perfect.  Just as long as they can take me through the miles.  If there was no pain?  Well there’s no doubt I’d hit my PR and come very easily under 2:00:00.  But who knows.  It doesn’t mater too much anymore.  As long as I can run. 

Snowy...forever loved, our beloved Little Prince ❤

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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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Riding v. Running: Part 1

I’ve been thinking a lot lately about the parallels between riding and running, and they may seem like two completly different sports – and they are – but I’m begining to notice similarities: horse shows and race, the importance of inner stregnth and physical stregnth.  So I’m thinking this might make a good series.  Todays topic: Equitation on the flat classes v. race traffic.


Not in a show ring. Just hacking around with Charlie

For those of you not necessarily familiar with the equestrian world, I’ll try to make it simple: Growing up we generally competed in equitation and hunter.  So in equitation you are judged on you, as a rider, and how well put together your horse is – horse should be in a frame, your body should remain poised, ect.  Look pretty.  In hunter classes your horse is the one that must look beautiful – nice gait, relaxed neck, ect.  In jumping classes you take your horse over a set of…that’s right, jumps.  In a flat class, or under saddle, you join usually everyone else in your class (unless the classes are huge and then you get broken up).  Walk, trot, canter, turn on the haunches, sitting trot…you get the idea.  I used to love this.  Not to brag too much, but I always walked out of the ring with a top ribbon.  I have the perfect body/style in equitation, and all of my horses excelled too.  Hunter classes not so much.  I’ll leave that to the rest of Breakaway to win.


I’ve always had horses with good temperaments in the ring; even Wally, my ex-racehorse.  He needed to kick his back leg out before we walked into a ring and then he was on.  Some girls had to worry about their ponies or horses acting up.  I never did.  A flat class always became a puzzle for me.  The goal was to pass in front of the judge as many times as you could.  Staying on the rail was never a good strategy.  Instead lots of circles need to be made.  Passing on the inside.  Make sure you stay away from that mare with her ears pinned back.  Lengthen your stride here.  But always collect and look poised when passing the judge.  Love it!


starting line at Pittsburgh

I first noticed this in Pittsburgh, and then I realized the correlation at the MCM.  The first two miles of a road race are a lot like a flat class.  There are obviously no horses and judges, but there’s a lot of dodging around people, planning how to pass the two joggers up ahead, lengthening or shortening your stride so that you can jump up on to the sidewalk.  Be careful of that walk-runner, who will suddenly start walking after running briskly for 3 minutes.  That’s your stubborn pony who’s decided enough is enough.  Then there’s always that runner – just making a slightly better pace than you – who becomes your competition.  As the race goes on the crowds on the roads begin to thin out and you settle into more of a steady pace.  But the first two miles will always resemble a flat ring for me.  I’m sure I’m the only one who sees the resemblance between the two but that’s fine with me.  Anything that takes me back to my horse show days.


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home is where the….race is?

I’m “from” a bunch of different places, depending on who is asking or in what setting their asking.  Manhattan – where I was born and spent a good amount of time during my preteen years (one of the very few perks of having divorced new_england_map2bparents). Brooklyn Heights – where I spent the first few years of my life.  Connecticut – my real home. The longer I’m away (and it’s been way too long) the more I miss it. Western Massachusetts – where I began my college career, and probably one of places that defines me the most.  Newport, RI – where my family has a home.  This is my personal retreat.  I also lived there during the summers between college.  Vermont – 3 words: summer horse shows 🙂 Washington DC and now my current home of the past 4 years, Bethesda.  If I don’t feel like picking anyone of the above, I’ll just say New England.  That’ll usually suffice.  But lately there’s been an addition to this list, which is weird because I’ve never actually lived there: Pittsburgh.


A bridge we ran over

I’ve gotten to know the ‘burgh pretty well the past five years.  It’s where Pete grew up and we make the easy 4 hour drive a couple times each year.  I’ll admit that I wasn’t too enthralled with the city I deemed to be in the Midwest (I’m from New England. Yes, to me Western PA seems like the Midwest.).  With all those yinzers, forever stuck in the 80’s with their mullets and fashion, and those hills that will give any runner a panic attack, how could an East Coast girl who’s used to the ocean – not the Allegheny River  – gravitate towards this city?

Turns out Pittsburgh is filled with culture.  Not just sports culture, although there is plenty of that, but there’s quite a bit of an intellectual scene there.  And it’s absolutely beautiful.  Yes it’s nicknamed the Steel City, but besides being set


City of Bridges

right in the mountains, did you know that it’s also called the City of Bridges?  There are 446, slightly more or slightly less depending on who you ask, edging out Venice for having the most bridges.  It’s pretty cool, and let me tell me tell you, it’s a blast to run.

Which kind of leads me into my whole point here: This past May I ran my first half marathon.  In Pittsburgh. Honestly, I chose that race mainly for logistical reasons. And now I’m running the full there in a few months.  And this time it really has nothing to do with logistics.  I fell in love with the city that day.  It’s hard to explain, but for one the crowd was incredible.  I also went through a very personal transformation/realization during the race, and because that experience was in Pittsburgh it meant that much more.  I told Pete after the race that I felt a connection.  My sweat is on those streets.  So are my fears and triumphs.  It’s no longer just Pete’s hometown.  I find myself telling people I’m going home for the weekend, and mean Pittsburgh, without realizing it.  In a few months I’ll be running those streets again, through Oakland, over even more bridges, always near the water.  I used to say I’d never move there, I could never live so far away from the ocean, but with the possibility of that move becoming more of a reality I’m beginning to welcome it.  It’s funny what helps define “home”.  I guess for me it’s family, friends, horses, and now where I run.

Oh, and did I mention…Go Steelers!


My fav Pittsburgh shirt (and medal)


Fox in Pittsburgh


*Snowy not Smelly. haha. I'm very lucky to have such a supportive family and animals


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Pittsburgh Half Marathon

marathon2So shame on me for never finishing this…but this was supposed to be my Race Report from the Pittsburgh Half Marathon in May 2009.  I’m currently training for the full that will be on May 2, 2010.  Since I didn’t finish writing this I’ll go ahead and give away the ending: I ran in 2:08:00  It was awesome.  So here goes:

RR – Alarm went off at 5:28am.  We were out the door at 5:50, arrived a little after 6.  Ate half a bowel of Cheerios at the house, plus two breakfast bars in the car.  Also had a Tangerine 2x caffeine PowerGel.  Got dropped at the convention center and stood in line for what seemed like forever for the Portopotty.  I didn’t even have to go but I didn’t want to miss my chance.  I think it was the right decision after I saw the lines by the starting line.  It was chilly and overcast and I didn’t want my legs to freeze up on me so I took a walk around.  Lots of tents.  Even more people.  Eventually I made my way to bag check, but not before I drank some water, pinned by bib, and warmed my body up with my fleece.  Up until that point I had been taking everything in like a tourist.  But once my bag was gone it was time to focus.  I found a hollowed out doorway to an office


Post-race meal: Eat 'N Park

building, pulled up a flimsy police baracade and began my routine of stretches.  Of course I completely forgot that I would be stretching on concrete and was unable to work out my hip flexor, but I made do.  My next goal was to find my pace team.  With all my recent injuries I decided I would be happy to break 2:30:00.  But the night before at the expo I dared to dream and signed up with a 2:20 pace team.  Amazingly, without my glasses, I was able to spot my pace leader about 20 yards away.  And directly in my line of vision was P.  He stayed with me for a few minutes as I got situated with my team and then left to find his spot at the starting gate.  The next 20 minutes are so are a total blur.  I was in full on focus mode and trying to memorize what my team members looked like.  Then I heard the gun.  Got my armband Nike+ ready and waited for my turn.

The first mile started off really slow.  There were so many people it was hard to move around and everyone bumped into each other.  But I welcomed the slow pace.  That would all change by mile 3.


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