I know this is long overdue, but bear with me. It was a good race – very successful. It was my first race at this distance, a distance we hadn’t come close to running in… several weeks. It was my first race in my Ghost 3s, and they were champs. I can’t wait to race in them again.
You know that nightmare we all have about getting to the starting line and everyone’s already gone? Or waking up and our alarm didn’t go off, or we hit snooze and missed it, or some version of that?
Well, I lived that dream. NB and I planned to carpool with our friends Rob and Cas (both of whom are preparing for the Pittsburgh marathon; Rob was running the 30K that day, Cas the half marathon; there was also a 5K option) with me driving. I set my alarm for 6:30 with the plan to wake up nice and early, shake out the nerves, have a good hearty oatmeal and/or bagel breakfast, and double-check all my gear.
At 7:27 a.m., Rob texted. I looked at the light coming in from the window – way too bright. I looked at the message, which asked, “you know where I live right?”
That’s when I saw the time. Oh. Shit.
Thank goodness, though, that he texted us then and not when we were already late picking them up. We bolted out of bed and Shannon helped me prepare a bagel since I was completely unable to calm the fuck down. I quickly put on all my layers (it was in the lower 20s that day, of course. Because we can’t seem to run a race on a warm day despite the warm days earlier that week/month).
After a false start, we were able to use iPhone directions and head on out. We had already packed up our gear the night before so I just prayed that I didn’t forget anything really important. I had opted to run this race with music, which I hadn’t done previously. I was kind of glad I did it, even though I’m still hoping to run the half without music (but debating. It’s not specifically prohibited for PGH as it was for ATL, just “strongly discouraged”). Anyway. We had to park pretty far away and jog to the start. I went to the ladies room at the boat house for a quick potty break (and JUST beat the line) when we were trying to figure out where to go and a volunteer snapped at us that we “shouldn’t even be here! Go over there!” Okaaaay. Chill. Granted, yes, I was an idiot for mis-setting my alarm and being late, etc., but no use yelling at us for it!
We got to the start and saw Rob gunning back away from it since the 30K started farther back – apparently no one had an idea where they were supposed to do. Not the best organization, but oh well. By this point I’d mostly shaken off my nerves. I was hoping for a good time in this, maybe goal pace or faster, but at that point I just wanted to finish the distance without having a meltdown, given the morning we had had. Moments later, the race director called the start, and we walked towards the timing mats and I started my music, and pressed START on my Garmin. We were off!
With all of my obsessive packing the night before, I was very well prepared on fuel. I’ve turned into a big fan of Gu, and packed chocolate, vanilla (both with caffeine) and espresso (double caffeine). I took an espresso before the start to give me a boost, and felt pretty good at the start. Unsurprisingly, our first mile was a little slow, but I was still rattled, and the starts are always a bit of a warm up and trying to claw through congestion. Soon after the first mile mark, we hit a nice downhill and I slid into a rhythm, increasing my cadence and just telling myself to relax, relax, relax. This is supposed to be FUN. Just enjoy it. The course was mostly rolling, with perhaps the single exception of one decently gnarly hill in the first mile – at least we got that over with near the start. Mile two was much closer to where I wanted to be, if still a little slow, but I kept telling myself to relax.
I took my first mid-race Gu a bit earlier than usual, about 2.5 miles in, since my fuel schedule was off with the hecticness of the start and the distance would make it trickier to time my fueling. The course was an interesting one: first there was a 5k loop, and the 5Kers ended the race to once side of the finish line, and those doing extra loops (for 8.1, 13.1 and 30k) going through the middle of the timing mats, carefully roped off. Then there was a 5 mile lake loop that also looped back on that finish line (hence the odd distance of 8.1 miles). We of course only had one loop.
Miles three and four, going into the Lake loop, were really solid, time-wise: faster than goal HM race pace and feeling pretty strong. We kept our eyes peeled for Rob and Cas. Never saw Cas, but Rob had passed us at the beginning after the 30K start, looking strong. He ended up being just where he wanted to be, too; he’s hoping to BQ at the marathon, and was very close to being right where he should be.
The volunteers were really great, and our fellow runners were fabulous. There were a lot of Team in Training (TNT) runners out there, and a few of them had memorial shirts for loved ones (which never cease to make me tear up; seriously, I have to look away or I start wheezing – I know, I’m a sissy. That stuff tugs at my heartstrings) and their friends and families made fabulous signs along the course. Mostly saying “Go [name]!” or “Run [name] run!” or the like, with a few particularly clever ones. Our favorite said “Duh, winning!” There were also a couple speed bumps on the main loop, since we were all cramming onto a sidewalk next to the road in this park, and of course there were traffic signs saying “HUMP AHEAD” and one clever volunteer/participant hung a sign saying “That’s what she said!” I giggled over that one for the next couple miles.
Like I said, going along on the road, we were all crammed onto a somewhat narrow sidewalk area. There were some cones to keep us out of traffic and give us reign of about half to a third of the road, but sometimes we (and many others) would check behind and then quickly dart out to pass someone if we got stuck. A couple people got car horns blasted at them – which scared the bejesus out of everyone.
About two miles from the end, I took my last gel, somehow managing to get a lot of it on my face (I think) and of course getting caught on camera…
Don’t worry! I never littered. I kept the gels in my jacket pocket and stuck the wrappers in a plastic baggie in the zipper pocket of my handheld. Very handy, so to speak.
About a mile or so from the finish was a cruel, cruel view through the bare trees of the finish line, teasingly close, yet far enough away to be somewhat painful. NB wanted to push; I wanted to wait, just a little longer. But the last three quarters of a mile, we pushed. I felt my brain telling me to give up, but NB encouraged me, told me I was doing great. I told myself: you’re almost there, you’re doing awesome, just relax, just leave it all out on the course; no sense in holding back. YOU GET FOOD AFTER THIS.
I almost gave up a couple times, but forced myself to push. NB told me: beat me, I know you can, just go ahead and beat me. I crossed the finish line flying, and then quickly died, punching STOP on my Garmin and heaving with the effort. We walked quickly away from the chute towards the finish line goodies – bananas, mini bagels, pretzels, cookies, water, and even the 5K results (gotta love technology). We thought about waiting around, but NB had things to do, and we of course had a brilliant idea: we headed back to my car (about 3/4 mile walk) and drove home to shower and warm up and change into dry clothes, and then went to iHop for a giant fucking breakfast. It was… amazing. And so worth it. Bacon and pancakes and chocolate milk and OJ… oh my.
All-in-all, and given all the factors, it was a successful day: We finished in 1:14:49, which was a 9:14 average (a little slower than I’d like. Of course my Garmin’s distance was longer because of the side to side motion of weaving through runners and had my average pace as 9:07, but my Garmin won’t be measuring my official PGH half-marathon time. Gotta push harder and cut more corners!
tl;dr? Despite oversleeping because I’m an idiot who can’t set my alarm, Nerdy Boyfriend and I had a great 8.1 mile race in a park near Pittsburgh, running a 1:14:49, not too bad for a day in the low 20s when we hadn’t run that distance in… a while.