It’s been over a month, and I just ran another 10K this morning, so this race report is WAY overdue. On September 25, 2011, I ran my second Pittsburgh Great Race, a week out from a big half-marathon PR. I didn’t go into it with a lot of expectation, but figured I could probably PR, given that it’s a net downhill course, and my PR from last year – my very first road race ever, sans Garmin, sans pacing experience, sans everything – was a fairly soft 56:39 (9:07 pace).
As had become our habit from racing (too) many weekends in a row, NB and I rose bright and early and had our usual pre-race grub: oatmeal with brown sugar (if I remember correctly I also had some black coffee). I decided to go without any water, bringing only a throwaway bottle to take a pre-race Gu with, and my brand spanking new running belt from the Pittsburgh Marathon folks at the Great Race expo with my car key and an extra Gu, in case I felt like I needed it. We picked up our friend Rachel and headed downtown to catch the busses near the finish line. Unlike last year, we knew to ask which line was which, since there was also a 5K option, and managed to just walk around the block and get right on a bus.
And then wait for an hour for the race to start (after blessing the port-a-potties, of course). We chatted with Rachel and a couple of Shannon’s friends from the program that we bumped into near the start. Finally, we took our hats off for the National Anthem and a few minutes later, off we were! To the notes of “Shout!” same as last year, which was just the boost we all needed, roaring down the downhill start, and slingshoting immediately uphill.I knew this was the worst part – ignoring the section on Boulevard of the Allies, which is basically a long, slow uphill, with a spectacular view – and just pushed up, trying to keep my arms low and relaxed. As we passed through the main drag of Squirrel Hill, I said hi to a girl in my pilates class and wished her a great race (laughing at my own accidental pun a few strides later). There were some more rolling hills as we approached the big curve on Forbes Ave., before it spits us out on a massive downhill. I had hit the first mile, which was all rolling, in 8:34. With the help of that downhill, I got the second mile done in 8:02 (as a sidenote, despite starting my garmin before the mat and stopping it after, my time was a few seconds FASTER than my chip time, so if the math doesn’t make sense at the end, that’s why).
The rolling hills returned as we passed by Carnegie Mellon’s campus and tucked onto Morewood to get on Fifth Ave., which was when the slog really began. I was pushing, but not too hard, I knew I still had a ways to go. It felt like a fairly comfortably hard pace; I wanted to slow down, and sometimes felt like I was, but every time I glanced at my watch, I was keeping the same, solid pace, somewhere in the 8:20s to 8:30s. I took a couple sips of water at each stop, but mostly just dumped the water down my back as the sun was beating down on us. The temperature was generally good, but it was still a tad toasty after a while.
I hit mile 3 in 8:25, and a little while later we ran down the entrance ramp to 376 to get on the Blvd of the Allies. I tried to just ignore how much farther we had to go and just focus on reeling people in. A guy in a blue shirt just a few strides a head, reel him in, pass him; girl in the red singlet, reel her in, pass her. Mile 4 only had a little bit of that slog so I managed it in 8:20, but mile 5 showed that sections true colors, my pace dropping to 8:56. I knew I had a comfortable cushion, though, and kept on.
The overpass section mercifully ended, and I knew we were in the final stretch. I kept on pushing, wondering if I could even manage this in sub-52 (but knowing this was unlikely). I managed to bump into a fellow racer when I got distracted by the scenery (aka was starting to weave a little out of being tired). I took the last water stop to once again dump water down my back, since I can’t seem to race a shorter distance and drink water from a cup without getting a bunch up my nose.
I could hear the crowds at the finish as we hit mile 6 in 7:59, checking my watch as I started to push for the last 2/10s of a mile.
The course seemed to bottleneck a bit at the end, and I knew I wanted to really empty the tank to the finish, so I started seeking holes to slip into, skimming past people and churning on. I felt like my pace was dropping and my legs started to feel like jello.
My lungs felt about to explode and I knew I would be fighting some serious stomach lurching, but I flew across the finish, throwing my hands up in the air victoriously (and no one else around me did so I look like a Huge Dork) as I nailed a 4+ minute PR.
As with my recent 5Ks, it took a bit for my stomach to settle after the race. I focused on seeking out water and food and finding my companions as I felt like I was about to throw up from the exertion of sprinting that last quarter mile. It took a bit, but I finally found Rachel, and NB eventually found me. NB missed a PR, but still did great (49:22) and Rachel absolutely spanked it (51:01). Did I mention she has to run with a huge knee brace? Girl is pretty much a badass.
As for me? Well…
Last year’s time (aka my PR): 56:39
Garmin time: 52:26
Chip time: 52:29 (see what I mean? strange)
Average pace (from chip time): 8:27
I was pretty happy with it, considering my low expectations. And as always it was a fantastically fun race. A wave start wouldn’t kill them, considering it’s a big race on a decently small road, but I still had a blast. I’ll be doing this race every year I live here, barring extenuating circumstances.
So what’s next, well, I ran a 10K – a costume fun run – today as well. Maybe I’ll blog about that later this week, or maybe just later today… stay tuned!