Sunday, May 5, 2013

Pittsburgh Half Marathon Race Recap 2013

Wow what a day!  I ran my 11th (and worst) half marathon to date, but in a lot of ways it was a huge victory!  

You know all the typical stuff happened this morning.  Alarm went off at 4:00 am, snoozed, wondered why I do this stuff, had a nervous stomach, etc.  This morning I was a little more nervous than usual, because obviously I was SERIOUSLY undertrained.  

I did not do a single workout from December 30th until the end of March.  As in, zero, zilch, nada! I started to do some light training at the end of March and managed to log just 33 miles as my marathon training.  Yes you read that right. 33 total miles run in ALL of 2013. So to say that I was underprepared was really an understatement.  The one thing I had to get me through was my determination and I was just that--determined.  I was determined to race and give it MY ALL.  

Despite feeling nervous all morning, I was also excited.  I love the feeling of race morning and I particularly love the Pittsburgh Marathon.  I guess it's because I have so much love for the city.  How couldn't I?  

Running in Pittsburgh across all the bridges is so awesome.  The views are amazing and the spectators are endless.  Seriously, I haven't personally seen crowd support like Pittsburgh at ANY other race.

Speaking of crowd support.... I have to give a HUGE shout out AGAIN to my sister who carried her big ass balloon and made her way through thousands of people across the city to cheer us on.  She's amazing.  Love you Meem!  

Don't misunderstand.  My sister loves me and all, but she was there to see my niece (and her friends) run the 13.1.  Abbey ran this year and was hoping for a PR and her friends were running this distance for the first time ever.  So exciting!  

Me and my niece Abbey 

In addition to having the best spectator ever, I was also running with a fabulous group of ladies.  I've trained with this ladies since I've moved back to Pittsburgh (obviously with Tracey before) and I have never felt anything but love and respect from all of them.  We encourage each other and lift each other up and it means so much to me!  Love you girls.  

Back:  Lisa, ME, Barb, Kristy, Michelle
Front:  Tracey, Charlene, Maura 
Ok enough of the sap.  On to the nitty gritty.  We made our way to the start and made TWO pitstops at porta potties.  We were in our coral ready to go by 6:30 for the 7:00 start.  

It was a tad chilly (barely 50 degrees) as we waited for the start, so I was eager to get started.  By this time I'd started to calm down a bit and wasn't extremely nervous.  I told myself to just do the best I could do.  What more could I ask for out of myself?  

And just like that the elite athletes were off and we were waiting for our coral to be released.  Sidebar: Pittsburgh did such a great job on the coral starts this year.  Each coral was released separately with with a staggered start.  It made for a LOT less congestion and weaving through.  

The first mile of the race was insane.  I just took off the best I could and had no idea how fast I was going.  My watch was saying I was running a 7:32 pace (impossible) and then would read an 11:44 (more likely) haha. So I had no idea where my pace was.  When the first lap buzzed, it said I completed the first mile in 8:19.  That clearly was not right.  

I just tried to settle into a pace that felt a little bit uncomfortable, but not like I was gonna die.  I'm not sure where it was (maybe around 1.5 miles) I saw a friend up ahead.  She had posted her outfit on Facebook, so when I saw her from behind I immediately knew it was her.  We chatted for about a mile or so before we hit the first water stop.  

Justine was going for a big goal at a pace I knew I'd never keep up.  It was nice being with her while it lasted, but I had to say goodbye.  The last thing Justine said to me before she left was, "don't get discouraged."  Justine knew I'd been suffering through with the injury and all and her words of support meant a lot to me.   (BTW Justine rocked it coming in just shy of her "A" goal.)

I knew my sister was going to be at the end of the 2nd bridge around the 4 mile mark.  I set my sights on making it to mile 4.  

Mile 1: 8:19 NOT!!!
Mile 2: 10:10 
Mile 3:  10:53 what??? 
Mile 4:  10:31 

Pretty soon I was making it down the bridge and I spotted my sister's balloon.  I was so happy to see her and still pretty happy with the race at this point.  

I think we were all happy at mile 4!  

Lisa's family was supposed to be at mile 5, but I wasn't exactly sure where.  I knew they'd be on the left so I just moved all the way left and kept my eyes peeled.  Sure enough right at the 5 mile mark I went by them screaming and frantically waving.  The girls were so cute, and I loved Emily's sign.  

It was nice seeing someone else I knew on the course.  

Just after seeing Lisa's family, there was the first uphill (besides the bridges) of the day.  I hated it, but I was able to muscle through.  My legs were feeling ok.  Not good or bad, just ok.  

Mile 5:  10:14 
Mile 6:  10:39

At about the 6.5 mile mark is where things started to go downhill.  Well actually, things started going UPHILL.  haha  At this point during the course you make your way up the West End Bridge, which is a bitch of a hill in and of itself.  This is where I started to walk.  I allowed myself 30 steps with my right foot and then would make myself start running again.  My legs were hating me so much and especially hated me on any uphill.  I'd be sure to take my walking breaks on the uphill.  

As I rounded the West End loop and made my way up to Carson (another hill), I wanted to die.  I was doing a steady walk/run through these miles and started feeling down because I felt so bad physically.  Then I remembered Justine's words to me.  "Don't get discouraged," she said.  I said to myself that she was right.  Why should I be discouraged?  I was doing the VERY BEST I could and that's all I could ask of myself.  Plus I knew if I made it through the last uphill heading into the South Side it would be flat for a good stretch.  Also my sister was up ahead at mile 9.  

Mile 7: 11:20 
Mile 8:  10:48 

Even though I'd tackled the worst of the hills, my body wasn't recovering like it had on earlier hills.  I was still hurting even on the flats, but I would NOT get discouraged.  I just took rest when I needed (30 right stomps) and trudged along.  

I passed mile 9 and the marathon relay exchange (where my sister was supposed to be) and I never saw my sister.  It was a MAJOR let down, but I guess with all the bridge and road closures my sister didn't make it to us in time.  

Keep pushing and don't get discouraged.  That's all I kept telling myself.  My overall pace was slowing more and more and it was hard to not let it bother me, but I knew even with a terrible last few miles, I'd still do OK.  

I just wanted to make it to the Birmingham Bridge because I knew that was the final turn leading to the VERY LAST big uphill and I'd be home free (and all downhill) from there.  The last hill leading up to and on the Boulevard of the Allies about killed me.  I think I was doing 30 second walk/run intervals.  Every time I started running I'd have to stop again.  

My friend Amanda said to look for her at Duquesne University (at the top of the Blvd hill).  I told myself to dig deep and put on a strong face to wave hello to Amanda.  I looked and looked, but I never saw her.  Apparently she made and hung up a sign for me on the Duquesne University walking bridge, but I missed it.  So bummed.  I would have been pumped to see this ON the course.  

Thank you for the effort Amanda.  It means so much to me.  

Mile 9:  11:20 
Mile 10:  11:36
Mile 11:  11:37
Mile 12:  11:55 wahhhhh!!

After finally making it to the top of the last hill, I knew there was nothing to do but cruise downhill.  I had some left in the tank and my legs don't hurt too much on a downhill.  I tried to kick it in as much as I could and was so, so happy to be so close to the finish line.  

Once again, I saw my sister's balloon and began waving frantically for her to see me.  She gave me a high five and I had about .5 miles left to go.  

I could literally see the 13 mile marker and it was at the crest of a small hill (didn't remember that).  I walked.  Yes at mile 13 I walked.  That's how you know it's bad.  I just couldn't get my legs to move up a hill.  I counted my 30 steps, was at the top of the hill and just booked as fast as I could to the finish line.

Mile 13:  11:04 
Mile 13 to 13.49 (yes I was over by .49!!!!):  9:07 

Total:  2:24:57

My garmin said I ran 13.49 miles in 2:24:47 or an average 10:44 pace, but alas the official results are the only ones that count and I ran an 11:04 average.  I just didn't want my average pace to be in the 11 minute range, but it is what it is.

I really suffered a LOT physically in this race.  From mile 6 to 8 it wasn't great, but from mile 8 on it was pretty much pure hell.  My hamstrings ached and tightened and .... well you know... just nothing good.  I'm just happy that I did what I set out to do and that was give it my all. I honestly gave this 100% effort.  I don't think I could have done any more today.  I truly did the best I could (and I didn't get discouraged).  How can I be unhappy with that?

I made it back to our meet up point and found all the girls.  Everyone had done so well.  Charlene kicked ass at her first half (with Tracey by her side for support).  Her time was amazing.  Lisa, broke 2:00 (in her FIRST half) and wound up in the medical tent (don't worry she is fine).  Barb, Michelle, Kristy and Maura all ran solid races that they are each proud of.  I'm proud of all these ladies.  You all rock!!!

My niece showed up shortly later and was happy that she had PRd today too!!! So proud of you Babs!

 Abbey's friends made it too, completing their very first half marathon.  How cute are they?

Congrats to everyone on a truly fabulous day.  I don't think it could have been more perfect even if it was my slowest half to date.


Letty Runzo Henry said...

Mile 8-13 were rough for me too! Congrats!

Letty ;)

Detroit Runner said...

I've run those bridges. Looks like a great race. Went there for work and ran the area along downtown and the ballpark.

Peter said...

Susan Thank you so much for posting all these beautiful pictures of Pittsburgh and well done to all your family yesterday! These photos bring back lovely memories for me...long time ago (1987) I and my university friends from Scotland stayed for a summer in CMU and worked on the Gateway Clipper Fleet...I fell in love with Pittsburgh the moment I arrived My Brother followed me in 1990 and worked in the US Steel building and mum & dad visited and loved it too I'm a keen runner (10Ks) but am currently injured (argh!) so it's lovely seeing the runners on a beautiful day in my favourite city! Well done for completing your half marathon (I know how it feels to go into a race without the right preparation/ fitness) and lovely to see the Boston tribute t-shirts Pittsburgh looks great and is indeed the City of Champions! Peter, Scotland

Bethany Rosenbauer Bowser said...

First time commenter, long time reader. :)

Honestly I'm impressed! I ran it in 2:24:07 and I wasn't hurt. I think that you running in under 2:30 with an injury and not enough training is pretty awesome. :)

My runkeeper said I ran 14 (!!!) miles. Most of my friends reported longer than 13.1 on their gps as well, so maybe the course was long?

Susan Tirch said...

Thanks Bethany!

Susan Tirch said...

Glad you enjoyed it!!!

Susan Tirch said...

gotta love pittsburgh

Susan Tirch said...

Thanks Letty, glad to know it wasn't just my undertraining. Pittsburgh is a tough course.

Jill said...

Despite so little training, I'm impressed! Great recap

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