- What? Pittsburgh Marathon (and 5K: Steel Challenge)
- When? May 5, 2019 (and May 4)
- How far? 26.2 miles
- Where? Pittsburgh, Pa.
|Mandatory A||Don’t get injured||Yes|
|Mandatory B||Thank the volunteers||Yes|
|Mandatory C||Get some sweet high fives||Yes|
|D||PR the marathon||Yes|
|E||Stretch goal: PR the 5K||Yes|
Marathon Pace Splits
I’m training for my first ultra in June, but still wanted to run the Pittsburgh full, so I swapped two weeks in my plan without too much trouble. I had a few weeks off due to some IT Band and then other knee issues, but ended up rallying back and having my biggest weekly mileage ever the week before this race week, so no taper for the marathon.
This was my first race ever, and always a good time and benchmark. Headed down to the North Shore, met up with some friends and headed over to the start line. Like last year, the DJ was decent, so that was a plus.
I didn’t have much of a goal for this, but a stretch was to PR, while still not pushing myself. Lots of jostling of crowds at the beginning, but it spread out after the first mile or so. Enjoyed the run through the North Shore, although it was super muggy. Tackled the hill on the bridge, through downtown and down to the finish line for the first time that weekend, shaving about a minute off my 5K!
As is custom, met friends at ‘Lost Child’ and regrouped to head to the Toddler Trot where my friend’s 2-year old was running. I’ve never watched the Toddler Trot, but it was a great time. At least one child per heat would just sit down on the ground and refuse to move, but there were lots of cute moments and the crowd support was a lot of fun for this.
That evening, the Frontrunners did a pasta party, where we all gathered at one of our member’s home for a big potluck. Caught up with some friends I haven’t seen in a while and enjoyed the company.
Woke up early, after a good night of sleep and went to the busway to catch a ride downtown. Local bus authority added “extra service” which meant a bus at 4 a.m. and a bus at 4:10 a.m., then regular service starting at 6 a.m. This is not what was publicized, but ended up making it downtown with plenty of time, despite the issues. Upon exiting the busway, everyone headed left. My friend and I turned right to go to an entire bank of unused portos!
Dropped off my bag at gear check (took a picture of which truck number for easy retrieval) and we headed towards the corrals. Ran into another friend, took a quick selfie, then she was off to the faster runners. Made friends in the start corral with a mother and daughter both running their first half to commemorate their recently dead mother/grandmother, which was sweet. We answered questions they had about the city and the race process, and wished them luck. We moved up as the corals were released, running through the drizzle.
Miles  to 
My race partner and I chatted for a while, entertaining ourselves and other random runners on the course. I got so excited that I missed the mile markers for 5 and 6, so I adjusted my nutrition a bit to get back on track. Was feeling good, although we stopped to use a porto around mile 4, but otherwise, just clicking off miles. The area around Allegheny Commons is always great, so enjoyed the crowd support through there.
After the first relay exchange, we picked up two more runners, one of which was his first race as part of a relay team, and he joined our conversation (we were talking about the importance of science) and stuck with us. As we came near the end of the West end Bridge, we could hear the polka band, and it did not disappoint. Turning onto Carson, we made our way towards Station Square where our relay friend left us.
Up on Carson Street proper in the South Side is always a big crowd, and I encouraged those walking to go grab a drink, most of he bars were open anyway. We approached the split, and I said goodbye to my friend who was running the half, leaving me alone to make new friends by myself as I ran the extra block then up and across the Birmingham Bridge.
Miles  to [26.2]
Running up the bridge, I fell quickly in with two other runners, both of which running their first fulls (despite one having finished a half Ironman already). I gave them some encouragement (which included cursing at the bridge beneath our feet), and we got across before making our way up The Monster into Oakland. I ran up with no problems, although the top of the hill is always a bit sad, as the schools of Oakland have already graduated and the neighborhood is a bit empty. However, as I was running near the museums, a spectator handed out icepops, and I ended up stopping with two guys who remembered me and my silly antics from the year before!
The part of the course down fifth (with a short diversion onto Walnut) can be brutal mentally, but I got some orange slices from spectators, so it was decent. On said detour, a friend of mine was out on his porch, so I looked out for him and got some cheers. Hit the next relay station at Mellon Park and we headed to the next mentally grueling part, Penn Avenue; this just seems to go forever. Grabbed a beer and more orange slices, made a few jokes; wasn’t too bad.
Around this time was when I found spotted some really good eye candy, so I just tucked in behind them and tried to keep up whenever I was falling behind. Left turn onto Braddock brings you to Homewood, which was rocking this year! The crowd support was amazing and a great boost.
At this point, I hadn’t seen a pacer in a while. I had in the back of my mind that I wanted to knock 20 minutes off my PR to break 5 hours. I looked up and saw the 4:45 pacer and couldn’t believe it. I caught up with her small group, and we chatted a bit. My mind told me to stay with them, to reign myself in a bit and and just finish strong, I remembered I had at least three decent rolling hills to get past still. My hearts said I had more in the tank, so I took off.
Ran through Larimer and Highland Park before hitting the last relay exchange. I passed the two guys and told them how much I appreciated running behind them and off I went. Clicking off miles, finally hitting my favorite crowd support section near Church Brew Works. The wall of crowd support is great, but as I grabbed a beer from the Hashers, noticed that an ex-coworker of mine was there on the sidewalk. The man is a giant, bigoted asshole and made my life a living hell for two years. Had I not been running I would have stopped to tell him off, but I let that anger power me as I ran down to the Strip and back to downtown.
The return trip down Liberty is also mentally grueling, but I was ready for it, I just keyed into my music, tried to find some zen and take a bit of time for some catharsis and reflecting on the fact that I don’t have to work with that waste of a human anymore.
Saw team members right as I was heading into downtown, and I got some quick updates on how everyone was doing/did, which was a great boost! Made the second to last turn and was trucking along, counting off the lights before I could turn onto the Boulevard of the Allies. Quick chat with someone else who was also in the Pain Cave, and I told her, once we hit that McDonalds, if you have it, that’s when you start to really kick. Sure enough, we get there, and we both kick it up another notch. I felt my chest burning, so held back just a bit for a quarter mile more, then rounded the corner and kicked for the finish line.
My goal was to cut 20 minutes off and break 5 hours. Chip time: 4:33:12.
It rained most of the second half of this race, and I just wanted to be dry; the temperature had been a bit lower than the 5K the day before, and the steady rain helped to at least make it feel like the humidity wasn’t as much an issue, but it was still less than ideal. Went through the chute, which is a feat unto itself (I have implored the marathon the last two years to give us the bag to collect water, chips, fruit, bananas, bagels and cookies after the medals and heat-sheets, not at the very end, but I have been ignored) and headed out towards the finish line festival. Ran into two team mates, congratulated them and then collected my Steel Challenge medal before doing a bit of stretching and meeting up with some of the Frontrunners.
I had to pee since about mile 19, but ignored it. Finally, about half an hour after finishing, remembered I needed to, but it was brown. Pretty sure it was just dehydration, but I stopped at the medical tent just to double check. Doubled up my water the rest of the day and was fine, but the combination of the humidity and Nuun Sport (instead of Gatorade) was just a weird mix for me, even though I had trained with the Nuun.
Grabbed the T (subway) back to my bus station, and was lucky enough to get on the bus just before it left, saving me about half an hour. I did some stretching on the bus, and wound up exiting the same stop as a volunteer. I thanked her for doing it, it was the first year she did, so I told her I oped she would do it again next year.
What’s next, mental health and lessons learned
My goal race is coming up in five weeks! Have a down week this week then one more big push before I head off to tackle my first ultra. I’m glad this race helped me to better remember to go in and accept the weather with everyone else, as well as teaching me a bit about how to stay better hydrated, although I’ll be happy to return to the world of real food for fueling instead of gels.
I had two weeks off, followed by one week on, and then another two weeks off, due to injury. During those times, I really had a tough time mentally, not only because exercise helps me keep better control of my emotions and mental health, but also because I put far too much stock on the number my scale says. Yes, I still have a bit to go and need to continue working on being healthy (with a holistic approach, not just a number), but after losing a significant chunk of weight, I’m realizing I have a more complicated and messed up relationship with my body than I care to admit, and I need to work on those things.
Recognizing these problems is a good first step, so hopefully, with some help, I can put together some sort of plan to explore these issues and find some resolution.