Monday, May 6, 2013

The Pittsburgh Marathon: 5K & Half Marathon 2013

I did it again.

People said I was crazy. Doing the 5K and half marathon events as part of The Pittsburgh Marathon again this year, like I did last year. What was I thinking?

My 5K and half marathon bibs for 2013
I think I was thinking I was the same as last year.

Truth is, I'm not.  I've been very, VERY undisciplined over the past year - with both working out and eating, but mostly the eating.  This food blogging thing makes you want to eat EVERYTHING, no matter what the calorie-count.  Not to mention also eating irresponsibly at home, due to the number of ingredients on hand that may not be the healthiest, in addition to a lack of planning time for meals.

What happened to me?

I remember starting Weight Watchers 2 1/2 years ago, and being PSYCHO about it.  I could not go over my daily points target, or I'd feel like a failure.  I lost so much weight (92 pounds!), slowly and steadily. 

Now the thought of tracking everything that goes in my mouth seems like a daunting task.  There have been days when I've tried, and by dinner time, it all went out the window.  Breakfast and lunch are easy when I'm working, but once I get home - forget it.

And weekends? Ha. 

So needless to say, my training for this year's marathon events was lackluster.  I made sure to get my long runs in when I needed to, but as for shorter runs in between - they were few and far between.  I did a 5K in North Park three weeks earlier, and my time was god-awful (it was quite hilly, though), and I was SUPER sore afterwards.  I almost thought that doing the half-marathon wasn't going to happen.

But, I said I was going to do it, so I persevered.

The 5K didn't seem like such a big deal, since I had been doing long runs for my training.  It was CHILLY that morning, so I went with long sleeves, which I hate doing when I know I'm going to run. All of my training runs, with the exception of my 10-mile run the week before, were cold, but it was going to warm up quickly this day.  

5K Start Line
My Aunt Marie and her friends Theresa and Tina were running/walking the 5K as well, so we carpooled (with Theresa driving us to the North Shore, while Marie drove Tina and I to a garage near the finish line downtown).  

The course was different from last year's, and I have to say, this year's was better.  A bit flatter, with enough sights and motivation to keep me moving at a decent pace.  

My 5K Results, 2013
My time was 34:39 - about 3 minutes faster than the 5K three weeks earlier, and only 1 minute, 2 seconds slower than the year before - definitely better than I thought I would do.

A look back at the finish line - which I would see again the next day.
My idea of carb-loading for the next day - free cotton candy from Pittsburgh Candy Buffet Co. What is wrong with me?!
I got more exercise later that day by attending the expo at the David L. Lawrence Convention Center (which I had also attended the day before, to pick up the packets and do some shopping).  The expo is one of the best events of the year, with hundreds of organizations showing off their products and services.  I got myself a new phone case for running (which I LOVE) and a few other items, like more running socks, at great prices.

Water Walls at the David L. Lawrence Convention Center
My name on The Wall of Runners
The next morning, when I got up at 4 AM, I was nervous.  Nervous that I wouldn't finish.  Nervous that I would hurt myself.  Nervous that I would fail.

But I had to try.

My cousin, Tommy, was running the full marathon, so we met up with the rest of my family at my aunt's house in Munhall to take one vehicle downtown.  We said our goodbyes in PPG Plaza, used the Port-O-John's before the lines got crazy, and headed to our corrals - I was in Corral E, while he was in Corral A.

Port-O-John's all over Pittsburgh for the marathon.  These ones were in Shadyside.
There was no way I was finishing the half before he was finishing the full.  He's that good.

I waited in Corral E for over an hour before we started moving toward the start line.  We heard the National Anthem, God Bless America, and some other music, but the announcements were impossible to understand until we got closer to the start.  Ryan Clark from the Steelers was doing some announcing, as he had for the last 3 years that I have done marathon events (he's awesome at it, too!)  We got closer, and closer - and then we crossed the start.

And we were off.  

Luckily, I spotted my family not long after the starting line on Liberty Avenue, and called out to them.  They spotted me trotting by, yelled and waved, and then I was off toward the Strip District, one of my favorite places in Pittsburgh.

I ran down Liberty, and thought, "I can make it to the 1-mile marker without walking."  And I did!  I felt good, being on the flat road, so I kept going as long as I could without walking.  We made it to the turn-around to get on Penn Ave., and I figured we were approaching the 2-mile marker soon.  My goal was to make it there without walking. 

And I did.  I have never, EVER ran 2 miles straight without walking.  Yay for firsts!

I walked for awhile, then ran until the 16th Street Bridge.  There are 5 bridges on the half-marathon course, and they are KILLER when you first get on them.  I learned last year, though, that walking uphill and running downhill is the way for me to go.

We ran into the North Side, then back over the 9th Street Bridge (Rachel Carson Bridge), then back to the North Side over the 7th Street Bridge (Andy Warhol Bridge).  Only 2 more bridges to go.

Last year, when I ran with my cousin Nicole, she had to stop to pee - and I had a feeling that I might need to do the same this year.  I didn't want to, but I had the urge - I just kept telling myself to sweat it off.  I refused to stop.

I knew that my Twitter buddies, Mike and Kelly Pound, were working the water station at the 6-mile marker on the North Side.  As I approached, I looked for the red bucket hat Mike said he'd be wearing, and spotted it easily.  I ran over to him, and after a fist bump, words of encouragement, and a cup of water, I continued the course (sorry I missed Kelly, though!)

I was amazed by mile 7 at how quickly the miles were coming up - training and a race are totally different, especially when there are THOUSANDS upon thousands of people along the race course as motivation.

I like motivation.

The West End Bridge always seems like the longest, but with the best view.  As much as I wanted to take a picture, I didn't want my time to suffer.  We continued into the West End Village Shoppes, where it was like a huge block party.  Running without walking was easy to do there.

And then - West Carson Street.  Ugh.  Uphill most of the way, so lots of walking was done there.  I was losing steam, and feeling blah.

Luckily, as we got into the South Side, there was Gu.  I have never tried Gu before, but I needed something to help out my stamina.  I had some, then passed through another fluid station where I took both Gatorade and water, then finished the Gu.

Gu got me through.  That stuff works!

I got a second wind as I ran (and walked) through the South Side.  I spotted Julia Thrower near Nakama, and we exchanged "hi's" and she shouted a "Looking good!"  I was surprised at how fast the South Side seemed, and the Birmingham Bridge was just ahead.  

Another fluid station and a relatively flat bridge, along with the 11-mile marker, made me realize that I was indeed going to be able to finish this race.  The course rule is that you must be over the bridge by 11:00 AM, or you have to board the sweep - I checked my time on my phone: 9:39 AM.

Thank goodness.

And then the worst part of the course - Forbes Avenue.  A highly-graded road, this is the most dreaded part of the half-marathon course.  A man was on the side, shouting, "You're halfway up the LAST hill!"  I thought, that's not true, but it helps.

We turned onto Jumonville with the realization that there was ANOTHER hill going toward Duquesne University, with the 12-mile marker and another fluid station, with many encouraging people letting us know that this was indeed the LAST hill, and it was all downhill from there.

And it was, with the exception of a slight hill near the finish line.

I spotted my mom, who took my picture and ran to get to the finish line (I walked up the last hill and told her I'd let her catch up).  Then I ran to the finish as hard as I could.

My time was 2:44:24 - almost 11 minutes off of last year's time of 2:55:17.  I got my finisher's medal, got my picture taken, took every provided food imaginable (water, banana, Eat 'N Park Smiley Cookie...), then ran into Jennie Roth, who had also just finished.  We congratulated each other, then it was off to find my family.  

My 2013 half marathon finisher medal
I spotted my mom heading into Point State Park, but getting to her was not easy.  Dodging a barrage of people, I finally caught up to her, and then it was a matter of finding my aunt, uncle, and cousin Tommy.  Text messaging was failing (as I'm sure everyone was trying to find each other), but luckily my aunt called my mom, and we were able to reunite.

Tommy did in fact finish the full marathon before I finished the half - with a time of 2:37:30!  He was 14th out of the men, and 3rd in his age division.  That speed is also what made him finish the Boston Marathon 3 weeks earlier - long before the tragedy occurred.  Thank goodness for that speed.

Many, MANY of my friends and co-workers did either the half, full, or relay - everyone that I tracked finished, and with awesome times!  I'm so proud of all of them!

I could feel the soreness start to set in as we walked back to the parking garage - then once we drove home, and I tried to get out of the back of the van, it REALLY set in.  I went home to shower and get ready for lunch at Red Robin (my aunt's choice), and then - something was wrong.

My stomach was absolutely killing me.  I was getting stomach cramps, like I did when I first developed Irritable Bowel Syndrome, which hasn't been much of a problem lately.  I know not to eat pork, which is a trigger, and I hadn't.  We went to Red Robin, and I felt so horrible that I ended up taking my entire salad (minus maybe 3 bites) home.

I spent the rest of the afternoon doubled-over in pain at my parents' house, with cramps coming and going.  I was ok by dinnertime, and was sure to eat (as I knew I had burned at lot of calories and HAD to eat).

Do I regret doing these races?  Absolutely not.  Even as I am in pain today and walking...funny...I don't regret doing them.  What I do regret, and what I have learned, is that I need to start taking better care of myself again.  I weighed myself this morning - and the scale says that I have lost 6 pounds in the last 2 days.  Good that I've lost weight, but that'st not very healthy - and I'm sure that will be different tomorrow.  

This year's races would have been easier if I hadn't weighed over 20 pounds more than I did last year.  So, Weight Watchers, you need to become my friend again.  Food is controlling me, and I need to control it.  Even if it means that my blog stats suffer, I need to do this.  I am tracking my food today, and I will be doing so from now on.  If I say I will, then I will.

I'm saying it.  Motivate me, people - it got me through the races, and it will help me get through this.

Remember this?

Dick's Sporting Goods Pittsburgh Marathon
UPMC Health Plan Pittsburgh Half Marathon
Fed Ex Ground Pittsburgh Marathon Relay
UPMC Health Plan/UPMC Sports Medicine Pittsburgh 5K Run


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