Another Done

7 05 2018

I’ve realized over the last few months that I need to record these races and their story. Of course my super helpful friend, TFMC suggested I resurrect this forum. I considered, then quickly got busy with yet another project.

But after another whirlwind weekend of racing, I guess it’s time. I’m thinking I’ll be circling backwards to where we left off more or less but here’s the current situation:

After a super frustrating first three quarters of 2017, I worked on my health and in turn my running. I contacted a running coach I knew of locally who was just starting out and we started working virtually together. She was so very helpful in re-igniting my training I am forever in her debt. She pushed me to do things I didn’t deem possible. And helped me see that my biggest hurdle was likely, silly old me.

After some work in the late fall of 2017 with her, I had a promising 5k. It wasn’t magnificent by any stretch, but for me, it was solid. I was quite indecisive on my next goal and Coach Sara gave me some more general workouts as a guideline to keep me moving. I ran solid through the holidays and honestly had a pretty decent winter. Over that time I got talked into this past weekend’s hi jinx. It should be pretty common knowledge that I am easily persuaded to do crazy things at this point. It’s a common theme, I’m willing to try if there’s fun, a medal and running involved.

The current mountain to climb was the Pittsburgh Steel Challenge. Travel to Pittsburgh, a place where my grandparents had from a young age instilled a healthy fear of getting lost in me, and run a 5k on Saturday and a Half marathon on Sunday. Because normal people do these things, right?

The arrival went off without a hitch. I picked up TFMC and her dad at the airport on my way in. Wrangled some parking, then headed to the expo. A random guy on the street suggested a great meatball place for lunch, we were on course and smooth sailing. Hotel check in was easy, then we explored the lay of the land a bit. TFMC’s Dad had grown up here and had joined the trip to revisit his hometown, since it had been some time since she had visited as a teen. He was a fabulous tour guide and we never got lost.

Saturday AM we traversed the Roberto Clemente bridge to the start of the 5k.

Such a well organized race. It was crowded in the corral, but the announcer gave a great overview as it was a point to point race, with a few loops kind of along the way. The crowd spread out immediately and I was able to run comfortably and really had a great time checking out the stadiums are surrounding areas. The slightly downhill finish was a wonderful surprise! I was pleased with my time, I didn’t put it all out there. I ran negative splits, but the first two maintained a conversational pace, and picked it up right before mile 3 began. My kid had raced a 5k the evening before at home, and if I beat his time we owed him $10. He got his money, but it was close.

Another friend joined in the festivities that evening as she had gone to college in the Burgh and lived there for a few more years afterwards. She toured me with a slightly different view than my earlier guide, and I was proud to pass on some of his historical facts to her. Seeing her old stomping grounds was a really nice afternoon. 30k plus steps might not have been the best idea the day before a half but I truly enjoyed every step of my Saturday. This Cleveland Girl had her heart charmed by Pittsburgh.

The forecast for Sunday went from iffy to crap while we were playing all day. Luckily by our 5:45am wake up call it had improved a bit. Armed with our trash bags as insurance against the rain, we headed to the corral. Our hotel was perfectly placed, an easy walk to the corral, and had we been speedy runners and not in the later corral, it would have been even closer.

The time in the corral was long, we didn’t start until nearly 30 minutes after the first set of runners. The half winners were nearly halfway done by then! But the back of the pack is where it’s at, and I enjoyed seeing my friend with our custom sign just near the start. In a sea of spectators, it was nothing short of a miracle that I spotted her. Her clutch wardrobe choice of red, not Penguins, Steelers or Pirates black and gold played a big part in that, I’m sure. It knocked my nervousness out of my mind and really made me smile.

I tried not to check my watch too much and run by feel. I was running slower than the day before and pretty close to what I had planned, the first 3 miles ticked away quickly.

Mile 4 was fun as I saw my friend again, and then J & Dad all within about a block. I was cruising and feeling good. I started to feel myself fade a bit, and took some nutrition. It hadn’t really started to rain, but it was that heavy it’s almost raining but not actually forming drops type weather still. I felt soaked by the 10k sign. More nutrition there, and tried to stay steady.

About mile 8.5 I really started to hurt and just slow down, I didn’t want to, it’s just what happened. I tried to keep a few steady pace seeming runners right ahead of me, but there was a ton of leap frogging going on. The 5:30 marathon pacer passed by around this time and I hung on to the outskirts of her crowd for a while. My music was still on point, and I kind of zoned out a bit.

Buy the end of mile 9, my feet were hurting badly. I was starting to struggle. I knew my friend had planned to trek out near mile 11 for another cheering spot and I tried to just push myself to get to her. As if by magic, she appeared along with the 10 mile marker. A quick hug and pep talk and I was on my way with tears in my eyes. She updated another friend in my progress who texted support that I could read on my watch. “5k to go” was included in her message. At that point I wondered why there wasn’t a “2 day half marathon” option that would count YESTERDAY’S 5k instead of continuing to run. This seemed like a viable, reasonable option to me at this time as I was really struggling. I got to the 11 mike marker, which boasted it was the “flattest mile on the course” and I realized getting myself together on the flat would help get me up the hill I had been warned about that was coming in mile 12. I did a scan of myself. What was my problem? Breathing? Hydration? Electrolytes? A crappy attitude? I couldn’t decide so instead of giving up and phoning it in I tried everything. My rescue inhaler, an endurolytes cap, a big swing of water and mixed up more of my hydration drink. I followed that up with a mini pep talk that included the fact that I could “walk with purpose” it in and probably hit my “good” goal, I could suck it up and probably make my “better” and realized my true “pie in the sky” goal was gone. I put that behind me and went for “good.” I was going to have to speed it up, but the end was near and I could do it.

The Birmingham Bridge was a challenge, no doubt. But I kept moving forward. Relentless Forward Progress. A quick decline followed by gradual long incline, followed by a big hill. Pittsburgh is famous for hills, and while this was not the worst I’d seen by far, it wasn’t an easy roller either. I recalled our discovery of a truly downhill finish on our journey through the town the day before and just tried to hold on to that. The finish line was packed with spectators, marathoners were rejoining the course to finish as well it was exuberant chaos. I cruised in right at my “better” goal. I didn’t feel fantastic, but I’ve felt worse, much worse, post race. I grabbed a curb seat and TFMC finished right behind me. She was armed with the goods to fix me up. After a minute or two, I was ready to resume movement and hunt down the challenge medal in the finishers area.

We asked at “late packet pick up” (if you are still picking up your packet, yeah you missed it) but the kind volunteers pointed our way and we retrieved the third, and in my opinion coolest, medal of the weekend. Another rest and some sustenance (and a brief moment of “I’m stuck in this chair” and I truly was because my water bottle had gotten trapped and was attached to me) and we wandered a bit more getting a cool picture with a steel sculpture.

The weather had not improved so we headed back to the hotel to get ready for lunch, but not really wanting our weekend to end.

All in all, I didn’t kill it, but I came, I saw, I fought back and finished with one of my 3rd fastest miles as number 13.

Plus I earned three sweet medals.

I’m thinking this was half number 9, but I’m going to have to count again when I’m rested.

Photo credits to TFMC, she’s a much better blogger than I.



One response

8 05 2018

Way to Go Kim!!! You rocked that hilly route!

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