Today's Mighty Oak

I headed south to see my uncle and aunt and run the Sarasota Music Half Marathon. race report and pictures after the break!


The Philly half was my A race for the fall. Read more after the break for a full race report and pictures!


Race information

  • What? Eagle Up Ultra (24 hour)
  • When? June 8-9, 2019
  • Where? Canal Fulton, Ohio
  • Peak MPW: 60
  • Longest training run: 34 miles
  • Strava link


Mandatory AHave fun with the team!Yes
Mandatory BThank the volunteersYes
Mandatory CGet some sweet high fives and hugsYes
A50 milesYes
Stretch100K (62 miles)Yes!
Don’t leave without50K (31 miles)Yes


The last two years, I’ve volunteered at Eagle Up with the Reddit meetup crew (as well as volunteering in Las Vegas for this year’s Meetup at the Jackpot Running Festival). I’ve really enjoyed crewing, but also wanted to try my hand at running an ultramarathon.

I’m generally a pretty private person, and tend not to talk about my goals too much (for fear of somehow letting people down, I’m working on that in therapy), and I had decided to run EU in the fall. Some of the meetup crew decided to go back to Eagle Up, so since I had already started my training, I was super excited to have a lot more friends there to pace and cheer me on!


I slightly modified a training plan from Relentless Forward Progress: basically I just swapped two weeks to coincide with the Pittsburgh Marathon.

As is normal for me, there was a lot of day swapping inside of each week, but aside from my planned miss of a long run due to my regional Burning Man event (during taper, but subbed in with tons of time on feet), I attempted to run everything else, and was generally successful. I had some issues with four weeks in the middle of my plan (see knee issues, below), but that still left me with a good base.

Knee issues

I had to take two weeks off/down due to some IT Band issues, followed by one healthy week, and then took two more weeks off due to some other underlying knee problems. I ended up rallying back and having my biggest weekly mileage ever the week before the Pittsburgh marathon, so no taper for that.

When I was younger, my right knee had some chondromalacia patella (the kneecap goes sideways instead of up and down) and during this cycle, my left knee decided to get in on that action, right after I got past the IT Band issues.

Being diligent about my stretches got me back in working order, and as much time as they take (although sometimes it’s a good excuse to watch some Netflix), they really are necessary for me it seems. But an additional silver lining, is I was able to help a fellow Frontrunner with his knee pains from all my experiences!

Travel to Canal Fulton, Team time

The drive to Canal Fulton is fairly easy, and was even easier with a friend in the car, so that was pretty awesome. Eagle Up has grown in popularity, and even getting to the park as early as we did, we were pretty lucky to find a parking spot.

I loaded up my little red wagon with team supplies and as we made our way across the field, a smiling face surprised me, Matty had flown in from Florida to join the team and see me run! There were a lot of hugs (including a wonderful double-take hug) and I think I’m still grinning from being able to share the time with him.

The rest of the day was filled with hanging out with the team, packet pickup and lunch, milkshakes, passing out pizza and meeting the neighbors.


Woke up early at the AirBnB, had a Clif bar with peanut butter, generally was nervous, and headed to the park.

Having crewed enough of these events, I had practiced in my training at being pretty self-sufficient by keeping a small chart for me to check off after each lap so I wouldn’t forget things. It wasn’t a perfect system (as I did forget a few things, more below), but it worked fairly well. I will apologize to the most amazing crew though, between my chart and my demeanor (always smiling), I was told I was tough to crew for since they never thought I needed anything, but the crew and the rest of the team were lifesavers!

Miles [0] to [20]

I did a halfway decent job at going out slow, which, has been something I’ve been working on! Spent the first part of the loop with Russ and we chatted before we got separated. In the second loop I met a new friend, Matt (who is currently cropped out of my facebook profile picture), and we had some great conversations about family and queer theory. We found each other Sunday morning to congratulate each other.

As I came into the team tent each lap, whoever was there was great at seeing what I needed and filling up my handheld for me. I would check off that I ate some food, drank some water, took a salt tab and then I had a few optional boxes to see if I needed to change/add sunscreen, lube, shoes or clothes. After the third lap I got to chat with Erica briefly, she and I crewed together the last two years so that was a nice boost.

For most of loop four I was inside my head doing some work, and I gave that loop the codename “Ghost Lotus.” While it wasn’t necessarily the conclusions I thought I wanted to come to, it’s probably what I needed, as is the nature of these things.

These first four loops my fueling was mostly denser and somewhat sweeter things, but as the temperature climbed, that was the end of that for me.

Miles [20] to [40]

The temperature rose and this is where things got tough. I took in some more salty foods (Pringles), and headed to the main aid station where I discovered my new favorite ultra fuels: PB&J sandwiches, and hummus inside a tortilla.

I did notice that for as much as I was drinking, I was not peeing nearly enough, so I started downing some iced tea each lap to try to get things moving. The temperature spiking also threw my stomach into knots which pretty much stayed with me the rest of the race, so I started adding some ginger ale as well as some sitting breaks between loops to try to settle it down.

During loop 6 (I think, or it might have been 5), I caught up with Colin and we chatted as he finished up his race, and Dan was kind enough to pace me for lap 8, which gave me a great second wind and I cannot thank him enough for that. I also ended lap 8 with the traditional Nuggies, a very perfect ultra food.

Miles [40] to [62]

More miles, just keep churning them out. I tend to approach a run as ‘my purpose’ for the day, so just knowing that this was what I was doing today, kept it from being too daunting.

Loop 10 I was paced by Nate, and we were silly out on the course, made some friends and were told we have great calves (I mean, we do). This was also the lap where I forgot my handheld at the tent. I filled it up, but forgot to take it with me. My chart might be great, but it’s not fool-proof! This was also the lap my Achielles started to give me some trouble. Not too painful, just ‘crunchy’ in a way that it reminded me it was there.

Loop 11 was another lap inside my head, this time codenamed “Gerry,” it was just starting to get dark, and so were my thoughts, but again, good things to ultimately contemplate. This is also the lap where I found my new, new favorite ultra fuel: peanut butter and honey in a tortilla (sorry hummus).

Finishing up loop 12, I had been leapfrogging with a woman the entire day. I finally introduced myself to her, and she told me she was on her last loop. At the last water stop, about a mile from the finish line, I just told her that I was running her in, and that gave both of us a new wind. We chit chatted, but only a bit as she was now determined to run it in. I peeled off at the team tent to let her sprint the final straightaway, and as I passed her on my way to my final out and back, I gave her a fist bump.

The out and back is of course, way longer than the two miles it actually is, compounded by the bugs dive bombing your face if you turn your headlamp on, but the congratulations and smiles you get on the way back are worth it.

Came around the last bend and saw the lights from the finish line and kicked it into what felt like high gear. Passed a couple teammates out on a loop or their last out and back, and the rest of the team had all gathered to cheer me on. Crossed the line and got some hugs and a buckle.


More hugs, tried to stretch, ended up on the ground as we cheered for Russ to finish his 100K as well! We headed back to the team tent and I sat for a bit before heading back to the AirBnB to shower and nap. During this two hour nap, I woke up three times to pee, so I was hydrated well, but I still need to work on that management I suppose.

We headed back to the park to watch the end of the relay (our teams did amazing), and then break camp before we went for breakfast at the local diner that’s become the tradition.

Back to Pittsburgh, just in time for Pride

Brooke and I drove back to Pittsburgh to head to Pride (and the ever-popular Golden Girls Live) and the Three Rivers Arts Festival. I saw a bunch of friends, but as usual, after an Ultra, the sheer number of people gets to me and we headed home after a bit.

What’s next, mental health and lessons learned

In the grand scheme, I have things pretty easy. But I will admit, training for an ultra is hard. And training for an ultra as a single person household is hard, too. There’s a lot of minutiae that needs done (grocery shopping, laundry, cleaning, yard work), on top of work and family obligations. I tried my best to make sure I took time for myself, but I failed pretty hard at that.

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.

I have a much easier time controlling my weight when I’m running at 40 mpw, any higher and the runger takes over and I gain weight. It’s good that I found that out this time around.

I spent a significant amount of time towards the end of my training cycle and during the race thinking about ultra running as self-harm. Combined with my complicated relationship with my body, I realized that if I’m not careful, this could easily turn into something very unhealthy. But I’m more cognizant of that now, and I recognized my tendency to go that route. So that’s progress, and something I’ll keep exploring and working on.

I can’t thank PRorER Ultra Team, PRANK and the Pittsburgh Frontrunners enough, having such amazing running families has taught me so much and brought me so much joy. They put up with my crazy shenanigans and I’m so happy to have them all in my life!

I ran a bit the week after EU, and that helped to stretch things out, although I’ve taken more rest days lately to let my Achilles fully get back to normal (as well as due to a weird schedule this week). My next goal race is the Philly Half Marathon in November, so for now, it’s just some easy running over the summer with a team event and the ARTC Moose League, as well as a few charity 5Ks, sprinkled in. I’ll be crewing again in October at Sleepy Hollow, and I’m torn between running EU again next year or running it, I think that will depend on who else is doing what, and if I can be useful to the team if they’re going for records, but for now, I’ll enjoy a bit of time off before jumping back in again!

Race information

  • What? Pittsburgh Marathon (and 5K: Steel Challenge)
  • When? May 5, 2019 (and May 4)
  • How far? 26.2 miles
  • Where? Pittsburgh, Pa.


Mandatory ADon’t get injuredYes
Mandatory BThank the volunteersYes
Mandatory CGet some sweet high fivesYes
DPR the marathonYes
EStretch goal: PR the 5KYes

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.

Pre-race: 5K

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!

Post-race: 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.

Pre-race: Marathon

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 [0] to [11]

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 [11] 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.

Post-race: Marathon

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.

Race information


A20 milesYes
BThank the volunteersYes
CHave funYes
DHigh fives3 out of 4



552:06 (10:25 pace)
101:43:46 (10:23 pace)
152:35:02 (10:20 pace)
203:26:07 (10:18 pace)


This race wasn’t on my radar at all, but it happened to fall perfectly into my training schedule, so I figured I’d use it as a supported long run. There is an asterisk next to the distance since when you sign up for the race, you indicate what you what to run, but you can change on the fly as you run. It’s a five mile loop around a lake, so you can drop or add loops to get 10, 15 or 20 miles.


The website predicted doom for parking, and I hadn’t been to North Park in a long time, so I ended up getting there about 45 minutes before registration opened. So I ended up helping them get set up. Setting up coolers of hot chocolate, roaster pans full of soups, that kind of thing. One of the guys was nice enough to give me one of last year’s hats as a thank you!

This race is also awesome in that you don’t get a shirt, instead you get a knit hat! If you complete 15 miles you get a pair of gloves (I opted for baby blue, the other option being black), and if you complete 20 you get a jacket! We were able to try on jackets, and they’ll be embroidered and ready to pick up in a few weeks, but they’re nice lightweight wind breakers.


I didn’t intend to race this, just a long supported run, but hey, that changed! There was no 10:30 pacer, so a bunch of us put ourselves between 10 and 11 and made the best of it. Parts of the course were more windy than others, so overall, I was a bit cold, but nothing I couldn’t deal with. Running in shorts was wonderful though. There was also one weird spot where it was always drizzling. Apparently mother nature did not want the people playing tennis to enjoy their games.

I’ve been listening to audio books lately on long runs, and I got a good chunk of “Simon vs. the Homo Sapiens Agenda” completed. There were some really good and really hard-hitting moments (also filled with high school drama). I have a bit to go, but there’s a lot of great stuff in there. Also, pro tip: check with your local library to see what they offer. I use an app called Hoopla and with my library card, I can borrow audio books for free!

As I am wont to do, I was just chatting with everyone around me (one earbud out, popping into the book when it was quiet), and ended up chatting with an older (than me, maybe late 50s), gentlemen about ultra running. We ran together for about two miles as we chit chatted, but as soon as I mentioned that I run with the Frontrunners (the gay running club), he immediately stopped talking and took off. I won’t say I didn’t smile when I passed him later (and never saw him again).

At the beginning of the second lap, three of us ended up falling in together, and we kept each other going the rest of the race! Our little pack was awesome! Amber was on her last run before the Shamrock Full in Virginia Beach and Rita kept seeing coaches and friends from her running club so we got lots of cheers! We chit chatted, and all commented at various times about how the group was keeping us going. Also, big shout out to them for holding my water bottle as I retied my shorts, I figured the people behind us didn’t want to be mooned!

As we were finishing the second loop, two guys joined us for a bit, both of them struggling, but enjoying the temporary company. I told them some bad jokes, and cheered them on, and I like to think that I brought some joy to their 15 miler.

The third loop was of course, the most arduous mentally, but we powered through. At one turn, I had gotten high fives, but the woman there said she was waiting on her husband, so I knew I probably wouldn’t see her again. On loop three I commandeered a random guy out on his morning run to give me a high five.

As we started the last loop, Amber put on music and told us she’d probably speed up, but to stop her if she did. We did the first time, then she was just in her zone, so we let her go. We could still see her, but she was looking great! No high five on the last lap, but I powered through the emotional defeat. I stopped at a water stop and Rita went on, so our little group became a line of three of us. I got to cheer on Rita as she finished, and Amber was waiting for us both!


Walked across the street to grab some hot soup and bananas. Super excited I ran as far and as fast as I did. This training cycle has really increased my speed and confidence a little bit too! It’s a fun race, and I’d certainly recommend it to anyone. I had originally been looking at the race they put on the next month, but that gets about three times as many runners (but also gives out shorts instead of a shirt), so I have to decide if I want to do that.

Alright, let’s talk about the GAP Relay!  Our team had a blast.  The organization of the race was a total shit show.  So let’s get to it!  More after the break (it’s a long one):


Race information


Goal Description Completed?
M1 Mandatory: Thank volunteers Oh yeah
M2 Mandatory: High five some people Epic high fives!
M3 Mandatory: Have a happy run Of course
A Finish uninjured Yes


This was my first marathon, and with the success I’ve had with his plans before, I did Hal Higdon’s Intermediate 1 marathon plan. It increased my mileage in a smart way, and for the first time ever, I’ve run over 100 miles a month (actually, for four months in a row!).

Generally I’ve felt pretty good, my legs have been sore, but in a good way, and I’ve been diligent with stretching and rolling, which has really helped, as I feel like I’m prone to ITBS. While I didn’t have any real ITBS problems this time around, my knees took a bit of a beating, but never more than normal wear and tear I think. After all, this was a big increase in mileage for me. I added in some body weight work each day, and that helped a ton too. January I did planks, February and March I did squats and April I did push-ups. I need to keep that up!

Due to the strange winter/not-spring we’ve had, I did a lot of winter running. I did a long run on a treadmill due to icy roads, and a long run doing ⅓ mile loops in my neighborhood with a windchill of negative eight, but all things considered, those were good mental exercises as well. For the vast majority of my runs, I could enjoy being basically alone (or dodging college students or cyclists. I ran a super windy half marathon halfway through as a tune-up race, and set a PR there. I only missed one run due to waiting on a plumber (but at least I had hot water after that!), although there is always some shuffling of days due to work travel.

I ran a 20-miler, and had hoped to turn my second 20 into 22, but the weather spiked and so did the pollen and I bonked hard after 18 miles. It was good training to know that that felt like (I was either going to throw up or pass out if I hadn’t stopped running and the chills I couldn’t seem to shake freaked me out), but I was still disappointed in myself. But, just passing the 20-mile mark the first time was a huge mental boost, and really increased my confidence since I felt pretty good afterwards.


Like always, a couple of us headed downtown to volunteer with expo set-up, getting the registration area ready with over 40,000 shirts A friend came in from out of town (sadly he couldn’t run, he injured his ankle), but we headed down the expo to grab bibs, shirts and all the commemorative stuff they were giving out since this is the 10th anniversary of the race being back. I enjoyed this motivational shirt and picked one up for myself.

I love how the city comes out for the marathon and love how I will just randomly run into people I know at the expo and all throughout the weekend, it’s such an amazing time!.

Race – Saturday: 5K

Saturday morning I headed downtown for the 5K, and met up with a couple Frontrunners at the start line. I do have to say, they got a much better DJ for this race than year’s past, and we were all dancing beforehand, so kudos to P3R for that! I lost them after the gun went off, and even though I tried to hold back, I just kind of enjoyed the race, not really pushing. There were a ton of high fives given out and I had a great time interacting with the crowd.

Two very sad things through. One, the woman I look for every year on a specific corner with a pot and a wooden spoon cheering was not there. I’m hoping she’ll be there on Sunday, but if not, wooden spoon lady will always be in my thoughts when I run past that corner. And two, I think I landed weird trying to dodge potholes and my shin was sore the rest of the day. Hopefully it’s nothing major and won’t affect my Sunday race.

I was less than 25 seconds off my PR, and with a new course (which, after having the same course for so many years, having to change for road construction made it weird to figure out my pace/relative distance), and without really pushing myself, I’m really happy with that.

These two are my biggest cheerleaders. Sean paced me in the first race I did a training plan (10-miler) and paced me to my first sub-30 5K. Both he and Cat never once stopped believing in me and both encouraged me to do this crazy thing, so it was awesome that the three of us were there together at the finish line of the 5K.

Spent most of the day catching up on some TV and then headed to dinner with some wonderful Redditors! I was super excited to host Craig for the night while he was in town for the Half and we met up with Jill and Mike for a delicious meal!

Race – Sunday: Marathon

Sunday morning woke up with no calf/shin pain thankfully and we took the bus in, which was pretty easy and we got dropped off across the street from the hotel we had access to through the Running Club Rally or as members of Steel City Road Runners. They put out a spread of breakfast foods, coffee, water, juice and give you access to indoor bathrooms as well as a private gear check, so it’s a good deal. At the end, you have catered food as well as private port-a-potties and massages.

We checked out gear and headed down to our corral, saying hi and bye to a number of friends and other Frontrunners. When we made our way into the corral, we stopped right next to a former co-worker of mine from camp who had decided somewhat last minute to come into Pittsburgh to run, so myself, Alandra and Justin took off together.

Start-Mile 5

It was super humid. The cloud cover and temperature were great, but it was kind of like running through soup, and I was drenched within a mile. Knew that wasn’t going to change so I just tucked in and went with it. Lots of crowds, but normal for the first part.

My friend Alandra and I have identical paces and we’re consistent, so we race together a lot. We also both give tours to whoever is around us and each other by researching historical facts about the course. As we went over the 16th Street Bridge at mile 3, we were discussing it, and two people behind us asked for some more details and we obliged. They were from Chicago and had never been to Pittsburgh before, so we happily chatted until Alandra and I stopped to pee at mile 5. Also of note, the woman with the pot and wooden spoon was not on the course on Sunday either, making me sad. We said goodbye to Justin (coworker) and Elaine and Jeff (Chicago) and said we’d try to catch up.

Miles 5-10

Chugging along, ticking off miles. A random woman who was in line to pee with us was really upset she was losing time and we’re pretty sure she wanted to guilt us into letting her cut. No one did, and she left in a huff. Crossing the West End Bridge, we heard polka music (and then saw runners polkaing in the street), and we arrived in one of the best neighborhoods on the course: The West End.

From there, things were pretty standard until we reached the South Side, which is always a party, and it didn’t disappoint. While some of the other neighborhoods seemed damped due to the intermittent rain (looking at you, Homewood), the South Side was rocking and at one point I was dancing down the street to one of the DJ’s. I made a woman’s life when I read her sign for a friend that read “run, whore, run (and then her friend’s name)” when I told her that “I’m not a whore, I’m just friendly with my mouth!”

Miles 10-17

As we came up to the half/full split at the end of Carson, Alandra and I wished each other a happy run, and off we went. The full goes around a block before heading onto the toughest mile of the course, the Birmingham Bridge and the Monster hill up into Oakland. I had run The Monster two years ago in the relay, in preparation for this race, and I’m really proud to say I ran the whole thing again.

When I got to the top, I caught back up to Elaine and Jeff! We tucked in together and ran together the rest of the way. I facetimed with other members of their running club who came to Pittsburgh and we talked about Marvel, Harry Potter, Star Wars, social justice, cute butts, Pittsburgh history and craft beer for 14 miles. Remember how I said Alandra and I are consistent? Even though we ran the last three miles of it separately, my half split and her finish were only five seconds apart, even with the varied elevation. We really should be pacers!

Jeff was a little faster than us, but wanted to run with Elaine, so he would run ahead, see if he could find beer (for a bet they had with their club) and would wait for us, where the two of them would split it and I’d take a sip. All in all, we had six beers like that on the course. At one point in Homewood, Jeff went into a front yard of a family who was outside grilling and cheering and asked for a beer. Yinzers are awesome and they gave him one for us to split!

Miles 17-26

Miles 17-23 were the only parts of the course I hadn’t run before. So that was neat to see parts of the city on foot I’d only seen in a car before. Jeff sat down and petted some of the greyhounds who were at a cheering station, and in the most adorable fashion, when he tried to stand up, he found himself held down by paws and sad puppy eyes. Around mile 21, Jeff took off (giving me a pat on the butt, which I appreciated), he was starting to cramp a bit, and wanted to finish to see if he could stave that off, and by mile 22, the humidity was getting to me as well, my left thigh and calf alternating between which one was trying to cramp up. I adjusted my gait on the fly and dared it to cramp; I was not going to stop at this point!

Saw a friend I volunteered with earlier in the week who had randomly come out to listen to the bands on the course, and ran past another acquaintance’s house as he was outside talking to a neighbor. I had a conversation with a Boy Scout Troop to tell them to go to camp, and one of the Scouts volunteering will be working at the camp I used to run! As we hit the last couple rolling hills, I have to say, the crowd support, which had been amazing, was taken up to a whole new level by Bloomfield at mile 23. There was a huge crowd, some holding out drinks or oranges, others beer, and a huge line of high fives were waiting for me, and it was the boost we needed! We also finally passed Church Brew Works, which Elaine was going to go eat at that night.

I was in for one more surprise, as Mike and Jill, after having finished the Half, circled back to cheer me on at mile 25! With signs that Steve designed that…are me! That was a huge boost and pretty soon we had less than a mile to go, running through downtown.

Elaine was amazing, this was her 10th marathon (in 10 states) and she said she was super proud not only of my steady pace, but also my enjoyment of the run and overall demeanor. If I’m not having a happy run, something is really wrong! With about .7 to go, she told me to start my kick. I wasn’t sure I had it in me, but she knew exactly when to send me on my way.


I actually did have a kick left in me, and even though we had sped up to my 5K pace for the last mile, I pulled away a bit (and waved to an old college friend in the crowd at the finish line I wasn’t expecting to see) and I crossed the timing mats of my first ever full marathon! I slowed down, waited for Elaine to finish and she proudly put the medal around my neck and we grabbed a photo. We found Jeff and got a photo of the three of us.


Honestly, bonking on the second 20-miler was rough for me. Looking at it rationally, it was a 40-degree swing and I just wasn’t acclimated to that temperature yet and the pollen made it impossible for me to take a full breath. I still had one 20-miler under my belt, and people run marathons on plans that only go up to 18, and I did two of those, but I’m just prone to not believing in myself.

Otherwise, this plan fell during just a shit-show mentally for me. Some of it was work, some of it was family and some of it was relationships. And most of it was just my brain just not being cooperative. I’m better at accepting that and moving on, but it’s still a struggle in each moment.

If I’m being honest, I’m been trying to decide if I want to explore some medication options again, and for how long it’s been on my mind, I’m pretty sure that should be pushing me to yes. But it’s such a process and I’m scared to go through the trial and error again, and honestly, I have no idea if there would be any side effects that would affect my running. I mention that because running augments my therapy and I need both to stay healthy, so adding medication is something I need to approach with a plan.


I grabbed my Steel Challenge medal for doing a Sunday race and the Saturday 5K, and then headed to the Running Club Rally hospitality tent to celebrate with friends!

My nutrition plan seemed to be pretty spot on, my stomach was a little queasy at time, and I’m still trying to get my appetite back, but that all matches up with my long training runs as well. I took gels at miles 7, 12 (with extra caffeine), 17 and 22, and salt tabs every 5 miles. I used my handheld bottle, keeping it topped off with gatorade, and I grabbed water at most of the stops. I also grabbed orange slices I think four or five times from random people in the crowd. Still ended up a little crusty at the end of the race, but all things considered, including the high humidity, I was super thankful for having locked in that nutrition plan ahead of time.

I’m a little sore, but honestly, nothing more than I really expected. I’m probably still a bit dehydrated, so I’m trying to force myself to drink more water. I was really diligent for two weeks leading up to the race, and I need to keep that going to make sure my recovery is effective.

What’s next?

I’ll be crewing again for the runnit meetup at an ultra marathon in June and I’ll be running the GAP (Great Allegheny Passage) Relay in the fall. My Burn is coming up and would be the first week of my next training plan (Memorial Day Weekend), so I’m going to start a week early and just repeat what I can that week. I’m not really looking forward to summer running, but maybe actually being on a plan and forcing myself to get out there will be good for me!

Since this was my first full, I just wanted to run without getting injured. I had two super-secret time goals in my head, and I finished between the two of them, so now I have a new time goal to work on, maybe I’ll be able to find a fall marathon to see if I can break that time barrier!

Here’s the full album of pictures from race weekend which I have to get a picture of all the medals and shirts, so I’ll be adding that later!

Race information

  • What? VeteRun Half Marathon

  • When? March 3, 2018

  • How far? 13.1 miles

  • Where? Summit Point, W. Va.

  • Website: [


Goal Description Completed?
A Mandatory: Thank volunteers Possibly too much, see below
B Mandatory: High five some people Yes
C Mandatory: Have a happy run Yes
D Don’t get lost Yes
E Stretch goal: New PR Yes


This was the tune-up/mid-way point race for my training cycle for the Pittsburgh Marathon. I’ve been doing Hal Higdon’s Intermediate 1 marathon plan which has been going pretty well. It doesn’t include speedwork, but it’s really increased my mileage in a smart way, and for the first time ever, I’ve run over 100 miles a month (actually, for two months in a row!).

Generally I’ve felt pretty good, my legs have been sore, but in a good way, and I’ve been diligent with stretching and rolling (as well as adding some sort of core work each day), which has really helped, as I feel like I’m prone to ITBS.

When looking for race that fit into this schedule, all the local races were off by a few weeks, more geared towards other training plans, but as it turns out, there was this cool little half marathon right next to where my dad’s family is and is run on a motor speedway, promising a really unique experience!

Jefferson County is the last county on the eastern panhandle of West Virginia, and where my dad’s family was from and then eventually settled (once my grandfather was done moving around with the Army). It’s steeped in history, and as an added bonus, my aunt is a runner and agreed to run this with me, even though it was a new race for her as well! You may have heard of the town of Harper’s Ferry, and Summit Point is two towns over. Charles Town (not Charleston), is where my family is, and is home to a racetrack and casino.


Headed to Charles Town and the nearby community of Ranson to do early packet-pick up on Friday evening. The running store was cool, although a bit strange. They are a ‘minimalist’ running store, so only had a few types and styles of shoes (as well as a really nice selection of dressier shoes not for running, actually), but a huge selection of accessories (heated foam rollers, etc.) and clothing. They are also one of the members of Bros and Bras a fitness collective in the area, dedicated to getting people more active, so that’s pretty cool. I did pick up a massage Stick for $10, which was an awesome deal, and packet pick-up was pretty easy. However, they didn’t have the shoe tags, so we would have to go to packet pick-up again the next morning at the racetrack. The volunteers though were awesome (a theme that would continue)!

Charles Town has gone through a transformation. When I was little, it had one streetlight. The racetrack was there, but in the last ten years, the casino, Wal Mart, and pretty much everything else has sprung up, and now there’s like, six stop lights within the town borders! But it was nice to drive past my grandmother’s old house and see some of the sights I hadn’t seen in a few years, as well as what hasn’t changed. I had been back since the casino opened, but even since then, the town has grown a lot. It’s still a really quaint small town with a Southern feel, where at night, you sit on your porch and chit chat with the neighbors who happen to walk past, inviting them up for some sun tea. The sidewalks are brick and wavy due to the tree roots underneath, and no matter which way you turn you can see the roofline of a building that probably has some history going back to the American Revolution.

My friend came down with me to make a little ‘runcation’ out of the day, and my parents took us out to dinner at this amazing restaurant that had cuisine from Lebanon (I’m Lebanese), Morocco, Spain, France and Italy. It all worked together, and the sheer variety was amazing. They had the best pita bread outside of my family I’ve ever had, and really good homemade hummus. I had the couscous with cranberries and walnuts while the live musician entertained the dining room.

The race has* an 11 a.m. start, which is really strange, but since it’s the first weekend of March, the weather really could be anything. Before we headed to the race track, we stopped by my uncle’s bakery and he had made me some sourdough bread to take home with me! We headed to the motor speedway, got through security, got our shoe chips and waited around a bit. Due to the high winds, the park had lost power, so while VeteRun promotes heavily the fact that there are real bathrooms, not port-a-potties, because they had no power, the bathrooms were closed. They restored power at some point during the race and opened them, as well as the showers that were available on site. *Due to the additional security added by the race track, the race was delayed 15 minutes.

This was also the first time my parents came to a race of mine. I gave them cowbells, because why not, and they actually had a really good time; plus me, myself and my aunt could throw them stuff between the first and second lap if we needed to (they both did, I did not).


So, one of my goals was to not get lost. I feel that with the course this half took that fear was justified. I did not get lost, thankfully. Another one of my goals was of course to thank the volunteers. I’m a happy runner, it’s just how I am, and one of the volunteers scolded me for being too happy to be running a half marathon as I ran past her, thanking her for the fourth time for being awesome and helping us not get lost, so I’m counting that as a win!

However, what we need to talk about is the wind. The wind was sustained 25 mph with gusts of 40 mph the entire time we were running. With how twisty the course was, along with the hills and banks, you’d be trucking along, and make a turn or come up over a hill and BAM! You’d suddenly have to hold onto your hat and lean forward to make any progress. The hills were rolling, although one was really steep, and that, combined with the wind, brought a lot of people to a walk.

The field was pretty small (103 for the half, 91 for the 5K, which started 15 minutes after the half), and I think a lot of that was due to the wind and many people not having power at home and having to deal with cleanup. At one point, I couldn’t feel my left hip because the cross wind was hitting it enough for me to lose all feeling.

My aunt is really a badass, and it was really cool to run with her! We stuck together and chit chatted for the first five miles or so, and that actually really helped to reel me in, letting me have the energy for a really good negative split. After she dropped back, I was alone for a long time, and I was honestly a bit worried about getting lost, but there were enough cones and signs that I was good!

As I came through for the end of my first lap, based off of my music, I was in position to grab a PR, so I decided to make that my goal and see if I could make it happen. I hadn’t come into the race with any real time expectation but I thought it was within reach, so I wanted to go for it.

I ran a smart race, slowly increasing my speed, even taking into account the hills I know I’d be encountering on the second lap. The wind was still a huge factor, you’d turn a corner and be smacked in the face, and it was unpredictable, but I just kept reeling in the people in front of me, passing them (usually on the uphills) and then keeping that lead. With less than a mile and a half left, the last huge hill in front of me, I passed someone as we made our way up and passed another across the bridge at the top of the hill. We chatted for a moment: it was his first race since 1987 (and major heart problems), and he was encouraging and inspiring! There was one guy left in front of me, who I really wanted to pass, and with about half a mile to go, I finally overtook him, and held him off on the kick, which was down one of the pit rows to the finish line.


February was a dumpster fire (work, family and personal issues), so I wasn’t exactly sure how this race would go. I went into it just figuring I’d use it as a chance to hone my race-day routine, but I think I have that down pretty well, although adding in the travel was a challenge for me, and I found myself packing and repacking many, many times, since I’d not be at my house for race day morning.

As we started the race, I enjoyed talking with my Aunt, and while normally my long runs are ‘me time’ where my mind works things out, I knew that any time with her would not be that, and once I framed it that way, I was okay with it. When she fell back and I continued on, my mind went to work like it sometimes does, working through things and fixing problems and digging around inside itself, and that was helpful, and good time for me. I really appreciated having both of those experiences on one run.


I crossed the finish line in 2:13:15, more than a six minute PR! I remember as I was approaching the finish line, seeing the clock and saying out loud, “No ******* way!” I guess I still didn’t believe I was going to PR! Grabbed my medal, water (had to pass on the pizza since I’m a lactard) and had my shoe chip cut off before finding my family and then waiting to cheer in my aunt as she crossed the finish line. We grabbed a couple pictures before we headed out.

The power had come back, but we decided to shower at my parent’s hotel (they were staying another night in Charles Town) before we headed home, of course hitting the cosmic center of the universe: Breezewood, Pa. My aunt got first place in her age division! And will now be training for the Freedom Run Half Marathon and the Harper’s Ferry full, which is both historic and crazy in terms of hills!

All three of us left with windburn. My face, as well as my hands are pretty beat up from it, actually, so I’ll be doing what I can to heal, probably lost of chapstick and lotion. Nothing we could really do about it, but I feel pretty badass for getting a PR in those conditions!

What’s next?

I’m halfway through my training for the Pittsburgh Marathon. I’m anxiously awaiting and dreading the return of spring weather (I’m sick of running in the cold, but I appreciate the extra emptiness of the sidewalks). With this PR and my long runs taking me up to 15 miles (I know there’s still a long way to go), I’m feeling much more confident than I was before. I’m a bit nervous about the mileage ramping up once again, but this helped a lot so I know I’ll be able to continue to work through my training plan.

The races in training plans are great for not only the practice of running on race day (and getting your running to fit on a set start time), but also as a way to see where you are in your own journey; and I had forgotten that. I don’t race over the winter, but maybe I need to change that moving forward, to keep me in that mindset and practiced.

My friend and I also had such a good time that we’re looking into what other close (or closeish) races we can do, hopefully making runcations a yearly event for us! She tossed out ideas for Virginia Beach and Cincinnati, and my parents would love for us to run the Outer Banks while they’re there (aka, Pittsburgh South Version 2, Florida is Version 1), so that will be the goal for next year!

I also have to help my mom figure out how to upload all of her pictures to a Facebook album, so I’ll be working on that this week (by working on, I just mean doing). I’ll be adding some more pictures that she and my dad took to the album I put together here.

Race information


Goal Description Completed?
A Mandatory: Thank volunteers Yes
B Mandatory: High five some people Yes
C Mandatory: Have a happy run Yes
D New PR Yes


This is the first time I used a training plan to specifically get faster, and not just tackle a new distance. I used Hal Higdon’s Intermediate 2 half marathon plan, which was my first introduction to speedwork. I’m one of those runners who really likes being on a plan: it makes me accountable (to myself) and gets me to run. This plan had me running five days a week, and while I did a lot of shuffling due to work commitments, I completed everything scheduled.

I also discovered that I love speedwork. I especially love track repeats; to me it’s like a puzzle, having to hit the right speed for the right time and making it all work together was a great mental boost. My last tempo run I hit really confidently, and my final track session, even though my last few laps were all alone in the dark, I hit every single pace I needed to and was really proud of myself for that.

This plan also had more miles than my previous one (for my first half), so a combination of more miles, speedwork and an easier course all led to a significant PR. I had a few other races this fall, but due to how they fell on the calendar and in one case, some significant heat, I didn’t PR any other distance. But this was my A race, so I’m not upset, just wondering if those times will fall in the spring racing season.


Woke up, had some coffee. It didn’t do anything. Got in the car to drive to the start (was about an hour away) and ten minutes before arriving at my destination, coffee kicked in. Bonus point: got to be the first person to use the port-a-potties.

I have to make special note of how awesome the volunteers are at this race. They have it down to a science, and having a group just dedicated to guiding people to parking spots was so efficient and amazing. Every volunteer at each water stop was smiling and cheering and the ones inside at packet pickup were just as excited to see me. Top notch volunteers!

The only note I’ll add (not that it affected me) is they touted having indoor bathrooms at the start on all their registration materials, but those were closed off. I don’t mind using the port-a-potties (and did again, just due to pre-race jitters), but some people grumbled.

The port-a-potty line was long, and a lot of people were in line when the gun went off, but it was chipped time. That did however, lead to more passing than normal in the first few miles. There’s no pacers or pace signs for this race, so the 700-800 of us lined up, kind of guessing where to be. While the above combined to a bit of a chaotic start, we all fell into place before mile two.


The race starts on the road, but then cuts over to the trail, which you follow from Cabot to Freeport. I’ve never been on this trail before, and it’s absolutely gorgeous! I did a lot of my training on the Great Allegheny Passage, and while that gives you a nice view of the river and industry, this was a great trail through the woods, next to a scenic creek, with the occasional cute farmhouse right next to you.

I don’t run with a GPS watch or even GPS tracking on my phone. The only time I did was using an old Garmin that my friend gave me for my speedwork. Otherwise, I run by feel. I knew where I was for my long runs, and I spent the first half of the race telling myself to “reign it in” when I felt I myself pick it up. I wanted to run the first half with my head as much as I could.

Because this race sells itself with the slightly downhill course, there were a lot of fast looking people at the start. While that was certainly intimidating, I kept repeating that I was only racing myself.

After you get onto the trail, it’s crushed limestone, and it’s pretty well crushed, got a tiny pebble in my shoe around mile five or so, but it would only bother me a few times when it got jostled around. The surface itself does change a few times, and I think it was around mile six that for a few miles it was this weird limestone/pavement hybrid that was rough to run on. To bookend the race, it also ends on the road, but that was pretty standard blacktop (freshly sealed this year!) and cement.

Aid stations are well marked, although they are in the mile that they are listed at, not at the mile itself (the station at mile two was actually close to 2.5), and they had GU listed as being available at multiple stops, but ran out at mile 7. I’m not a fan of GU, and had brought a honey stinger waffle instead, so I was set.

With four miles to go, I pick up the pace. My normal run with the Frontrunners is a four mile loop, so it’s just ingrained in me. Total autopilot, and more importantly, I don’t have to expend any mental energy to know I can easily run four miles. So I start to pick people off. I slowly increase my speed and keep consistently passing other runners, including some of those people I thought looked really fast at the start.

I had read comments about the last hill and how steep it is, and it was no joke. You exit the trail, then run up a switchback (for vehicle traffic) to get to the top of a bridge before running into downtown Freeport. Our Frontrunner courses start on hills, and have plenty in them, so once again I was prepared. Passing multiple people on that last ascent was a great feeling!

Came across the line in 2:19:26, lowering my PR by 9:49!


For me, the mental training and my mental health are just as important as the running side. I try to be open with my struggles with my mental health, in hopes that it helps to stimulate conversation and bring these issues into the light more. I fight the urge to be ashamed of it, it’s just the cards I’ve been dealt.

The last few weeks before this race were really tough. I’m not sure why, and honestly, there doesn’t have to be a reason, I was just really depressed. A couple big projects at work certainly added to it, but for whatever reason, I was going to be in a down cycle. I’ve lived through these before, and have worked out some coping strategies (running being one of them, and being on a training plan was great to keep my body and mind occupied and focused).

My running, especially my long runs, is time when my mind works through things. It’s nothing I can force; it’s like an extended therapy session. As try as I might, my mind could not work through whatever is currently there bothering me; it’s buried too deep. And that was disappointing to me. My last few long runs actually left me more depressed. I worked through some things, but was always disappointed I wasn’t making as much progress mentally as I wanted.

But that’s not how it works. And I know that. But that cycle continues and continued to bury me.

At the race, I got out of the port-a-potty line with about ten minutes to go before the start of the race. The last week before the race, I was doing a lot of mental math, trying to figure out exact paces and setting time goals for myself. I knew that I had to let that go and enjoy the moment. This was a new race for me, so I just needed to run it and have a happy run. I pulled up a four minute meditation I have on my phone for just this situation, and stood in the start corral, my eyes closed but facing the sun, and did my best to clear my mind.

I remember seeing a sign on the course that looked like it was a mile marker for the race. Turns out it was (shocker, I know)! I was surprised it said two miles, but I guess all the crowds at the beginning of the race made it go faster than I expected. The trail itself was also marked (with mile markers set on both sides of the posts), so each time I came to one, I played some mental math games, but still tried to center myself away from obsessing about the time I was going to hit.

As I started to pick people off with four miles to go, my mood lifted a bit as well. There was a pack of us who had run together (and done the classic passing and being passed around each other) and I left them behind as their paces fell off and I increased ever so slightly. I was pretty sure I was going to PR, but didn’t know by how much.

I want to downplay my PR. This is a fast course, they market themselves with that fact (even though that last hill stops a lot of runners), but to me, it’s almost as if I didn’t actually run my new time. I have to fight with myself to acknowledge that I put in the time and effort of a new training plan, with speed work, and ran a distance in less time than I have previously. I feel uncomfortable when people congratulate me, so even though I had promised to tell people how I did at the race, I partially dreaded that.

In the end, I was happy with my time and proud of what I accomplished. I keep working on these issues; it’s a process, not a quick fix overnight. But it’s good for me to have this experience, so I can be better prepared for it the next time. I keep working through therapy and maybe as this depression lifts a bit I’ll have a better view of things, but for now, I’ll just try to keep moving forward until I’m in a better state.


Grabbed some water and half a banana (pre-cut), which I discovered for me, is the perfect amount of banana. I have a real finicky stomach, and can’t eat for a while after a race, but then the hunger will hit me hard. I packed an extra honey stinger waffle in my gear bag in case I needed it on the bus ride back to the start (and our cars), but didn’t.

I stretched a bit, then started the drive home. Stopped three times to run some errands, because even though I had a successful race, still had to be an adult. One of those stops however, was at Sheetz for some food, where I traumatized a family twice. The first, when they had the audacity to walk between me and the counter when my number was called. Apparently, my face was just staring daggers at them, since they apologized and scampered off. The second time was when they walked past where I was sitting and witnessed me inhale my food. I never meant to traumatize them, but I also didn’t feel too bad about it either, this wasn’t their first time at Sheetz and they should know not to congregate in the way of the counter when that many people are waiting for their food.

What’s next?

A week off, and then jumping into volunteering for NaNoWriMo. Also the EQT 10-Miler the first weekend in November, which was the first race I used a plan for last year. Not looking to PR that, but just enjoy it and have a good time with the Frontrunners (some of us running, also manning a water stop, then probably getting together for brunch).

I will take this opportunity to say that I am a very dumb man. I’m not fast, by any stretch of the imagination, and probably will end up regretting my decision, but as of right now, I am signed up for my first full in the spring. I say I am dumb because I signed up for some very silly reasons: It’s a new distance to challenge myself with, and it’s the 10th anniversary of the Pittsburgh marathon. Arbitrary, I know, but things seemingly align, so why not, right?

I have the option to drop down to the half (or some in-between distance made of relay segments), so I’m planning to see how training goes and make that decision. I’m really good at sticking to training plans, and I’ve found what I’d like to try to tackle, so just like this race, I’ll run by feel and see where that takes me!

Preview: The story of this race report actually began more than a decade ago, when the Port Authority closed off a section of the T track…

Race information


Goal Description Completed?
A 5K: PR Yes
B 5K: Sub 30 Yes
C Half: Finish Yes
D Half: Don’t walk Yes
E Half: Enjoy it Yes



After running the EQT 10-Miler in the fall, I decided to use another HH training plan, this time going for his Novice 2 Half plan, since one of my goals was to bump up to running four days a week. I hit every single one of the runs, although had to do a lot of moving the days around due to travelling for work. While not ideal, it still got me through injury free, so I was thankful for that for my first half. Most of my long runs were half on pavement/cement and half on trail. In hindsight, I wish I had done more time on the pavement, but otherwise I was very pleased with my long runs, I really came to enjoy them, except for my final 12 mile run, but that was due to the temperature being in the high seventies and muggy as all hell.

A friend from the Frontrunners and I also became accountability buddies about three weeks out from race day, and we texted each other each day to make sure were foam rolling, which helped a lot to ease quite a bit of stiffness that I had accumulated.

Pre-Race: 5K

Friends and I always volunteer Thursday night, helping to set up the expo (we unpack every single shirt. Good lord, there are so many) and going back down Friday, packet pick-up was a breeze. I ended up playing the part of “packet mule” picking up seven total (including two for myself). I had quite a collection of drawstring bags on my back walking through the convention center! Normal assortment of vendors, although to be honest, I was sad that this is the first festival (of any kind) that I didn’t see Gutter Helmet. If there’s a place to buy booth space, they are usually there, I’ve seen them at Pride and at alternative-fuel vehicle conventions.

My best friend’s wife comes over the night before this race every year and we made waffles with peanut butter and honey and watched an animated movie. The “movies for ages 3-4 and 5-7” fit us just right on Netflix.

Race: 5K

It rained. It was gross, but we knew it was going to be going into it. I’ve run enough in the rain and snow that it didn’t bother me, although other friends I was running with complained. In my mind, this was actually the A event for me to race. I’ve run a sub-30 5K on a track many times, but never did in a race. This was the very first race I ever ran, so it’s a great benchmark for me each year, and I really wanted to break 30 this year. /u/ahf0913 even predicted that I would so in my mind, the pressure was on.

My friend who paced me at the 10-miler ran with me, as my ‘almost full out race pace but not quite since I’m running my first half tomorrow’ pace fits neatly into his shake-out race for the full the next day. We settled in, and because of the crowds, fell a bit behind the 10:00/mile pacer. Which I enjoyed: he was great eye candy. But eventually we passed him after the first mile. My friend looked at his watch and said that we were actually running a 9:30 pace, which was great for me! There was an unexpected bottleneck going across one bridge (one side was closed for construction), but otherwise, just normal foot traffic in a race that size. The rest of the race was typical, lots of great cheering fans, including the woman I look for every year as we leave Allegheny Commons and head for the bridge. She always has a pot and a metal spoon; last year I called out that I look for her ever year, and we had another moment this year, she really is just my favorite spectator on the course!

We cross the bridge and take in the last mile. As we turn onto the Boulevard of the Allies, I see the clock time, try to do some quick mental calculations, hurt my brain, and just give it a great kick. Chip time: 29:33, knocking a minute off my 5K race PR and a minute and a half from my time last year!

Post-Race: 5K

The weather was raining and cold, so we skipped the finish line festival, and like so many others, ducked into the T to go back to the North Shore, we did however meet at Lost Child, as is our tradition, since we have the mentalities of children. Crammed onto the subway, as we were headed under the river, I glanced up and saw a friend from the Frontruners and his we chatted through people’s arms until we could get off at the platform. I met his husband, they congratulated me on my PR and wished each other luck for the next day.

We did a quick change and stretch at a friend’s hotel, I lost my voice cheering for the Kid’s Marathon as we walked back to the Expo where I cheesed for a picture with a giant 13.1. Also of note, there is another giant cut out of Dick’s (they sponsor the race) where you stand in as the I. Of course I did that, because it was a giant dick, just calling to me….but my friend hasn’t sent me that picture yet.

Pre-Race: Half

I spent the night before anxiously refreshing the weather. It was on the cusp of me needing long sleeves, and while I had worn long sleeves during the 5K, I got a tad overheated at the end, so I finally decided to go with short sleeves. I do a really good job over-hydrating the weeks before a race, so I got up four times in the middle of the night, otherwise though, it was a restful night. I take the busway into town, I don’t want to deal with traffic, so head to the park ‘n ride and catch the 5:00 bus.

Pre-Race: Super Secret Subway

Okay guys, here’s the thing: I’m a closet public transportation nerd. Like, big time. When I used to work in the Hill District, I would take the busway into town then walk up, sometimes cutting through the Steel Plaza subway station if I had gone to the gym. I’m still looking into it, but from what I can tell, at least ten years ago (although probably longer), the subway connector between Penn Station (at the end of the busway) and Steel Plaza was shut down, cutting off direct access to the busway from the subway. They took out the track allowing cars to loop around, but left the rest. Well, for race weekend, THEY OPENED IT BACK UP! One-day, special edition, never before have I ridden, hidden subway track! Here’s a map in case you were interested. It’s okay, you can skip ahead to the next section, I’m going to continue to nerd out for a bit here.

So I get off the bus and head over. I’m the only one. It’s not even the way I’m going, I just want to say that I rode it. It was glorious, and really, really short, but totally worth it. Spoiler: I rode it again that afternoon after the race!

Because the Frontrunners had over 20 members running on Sunday, we were part of the Running Club Rally, so I got to head to the SCRR lounge, have some fruit and use the bathroom, all while looking around awkwardly for someone I knew.

Race: Half

I joined some friends in Corral D, which honestly, was a great decision, I wanted to try to stick with a 10:30 pacer. We got started late (compared to previous years, I was told) and didn’t cross the start line until about 7:45, but I did hear some Justin Timberlake and Lady Gaga as we waited, so that was good. During the first mile or two actually was able to see both /u/karmicbias and /u/miikermb which was so awesome! My friend was amazed I had actually met people from Reddit in real life, she thought that was just an urban legend that never actually happens!

My goal was to just enjoy my first half and have fun. A good friend stuck with me, and we kept each other motivated and entertained. I’m kind of a goof-ball and play off the crowd, so I spent 13 miles cheering on spectators and complimenting their signs and hats. A few times, other runners commented that they wanted to stick with us for the entertainment value, and we put in plugs for other races we run together.

We stopped so she could use the bathroom once, and between the wait, and my legs tightening up, we lost a bit of time, but I’m taking that as it will be easier for me to get a new PR the next time I run a half!

The crowd support was great, although there were certainly stretches where it was sparse, but that was to be expected. South Side was a lot of fun, as was the polka band in the West End. The crowd at Station Square was pretty awesome as well.

The big hill for the half course is the Birmingham Bridge, which I’ve run enough times that I was prepared for it. Although by then, the sun was out in full force and it had warmed up a bit into the 50’s, and it affected quite a few. After that, there was a small hill into Uptown, which was where I failed pretty hard during a training run, so even though I slowed down, I made it without stopping, which was huge for me.

Coming down the last mile, through downtown was amazing. I had one earbud in for the race, just for some music for the quiet periods, but as we passed The Paint Bucket, I tucked it away, taking in the screaming crowd. We took a left onto Grant and then the right onto the Boulevard towards the finish line. As we were coming down Grant, the crowds were packed, and I yelled out “Pittsburgh, show me some love!” getting them riled up even more and getting quite a few high fives out of the deal, so it was a win-win!

All in all, I cheesed for the camera quite a bit, ran a solid, consistent race and had an absolute blast doing it!

Best sign: Run like United needs your seat

Race Day Bingo boxes checked: Happy cop, angry cop, happy EMT, bored EMT, barefoot runner, Vibram 5-fingers runner, running in costume, over-prepared guy (about 17 GUs on his belt), under-prepared runner (walking in jeans and a heavy rain coat less than a mile in), and somehow: runner reading a book. That one hurts a lot, like I’m going to get an aneurysm if I keep thinking about the how and the why.

Post-Race: Half

Collected all the food and things. While we had bags to collect the water and chips and fruit and Smiley Cookies, they were the last things we got, which was dumb. Should have been medal, heat sheet, bag then the rest, hopefully that is changed for next year.

Met up with friends, helped them find their gear check bags, got my Steel Challenge medal from one of my favorite P3R employees (and promised to volunteer at the Triathalon again this year) and then headed to the hospitality tent as another reward for the Running Club Rally. The Frontrunners took a group photo with the PR bell and then we all headed home our separate ways. I traveled via the T back to the busway with a fellow club member, and we rode the special edition connector again! This time, we paid special attention to the sparks the track was throwing off. I think it needs some more maintenance if it’s going to be in regular rotation again.

What’s next?

It was a great weekend, one that I look forward to every year. I love the celebration of our personal achievements and the hard work we all put into ourselves paying off in such a fun way that brings the whole city together.

My feet are toughening up too, only had problems with one toe, but the nail doesn’t even look like it will fall off. My big goals are to further work on my nutrition and I desperately need to improve the hours of sleep I get each night. After a week off, I’d like to keep building my base, and maybe even add in a fifth day of running, but I’m not sure about that yet, but looking at my schedule, if I keep doing the four mile runs with the Frontrunners Saturday mornings, I could move my long run to Sundays, giving me five days a week. I also want to switch up my cross-training (and add in more stretching yoga) and strength training days, just to improve a little bit more in those areas as well, but I’m taking it all one thing at a time.

I’m eyeing the Greensburg Half in the fall, but they don’t have a date for that yet, and there’s a few small races coming up that I’ll be doing (Rainbow Dash, Great Race, Stride for Pride, Mario Lemieux, plus a couple virtuals for Zombies, Run and Beat the Blerch). My pacer friend gave me his old GPS watch (a Forerunner 10) so I can use that to help me with speed work going forward.

As I mentioned before, one of the reasons I run is that it helps me manage my depression. I work through things and it helps me make connections, as well as improve my mood. My long runs were perfect for that, I would figure things out and really see a considerable improvement in my mood, as well as solutions to problems I was facing. Races do not provide me the time to think like that. I worked at a camp for 11 years, and I used all that experience to make an ass out of myself for 13.1 miles to entertain those around me. I loved every second of that, but that was for others, not for me.

I need to remember that I do need to race, to mark my improvements, but also as a way to give back, just a little. But I need to go into it with the mindset that I’m not going to have any mental revelations, that way, I can just enjoy it for what it is. After the race, lots of people told me how proud they were of me and that was amazing (although a bit uncomfortable, since I hate having the spotlight on myself), but I tried to take it all in. Hopefully that’s a lesson I can better learn with each race.

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