Wednesday, May 7, 2014

Pittsburgh Marathon Weekend: Day 3 - Race Day!

Fair warning, this is a LONG recap. There was a lot that happened in those 13.1 miles, and I need to get it all out! Get comfy, grab a beverage, this is gonna take a while.

The day finally arrived. It’s race day! I’ve been looking forward to this day for months. 4:30 alarm went off and I was ready to go. Quickly, my nerves caught up to me. Case in point, I lived in the bathroom for a half hour. TMI, maybe, but it’s the truth!

Gloria spent the night with us so hubby could drop us off first thing in the morning. We had a 6am meeting at the Fairmont, right by the starting corrals. I was talking to Gloria, getting her ready and whatnot, but I was still really nervous.

We headed into town and the roads were closing. Hubby got us as close as he could and we started walking down Fifth Avenue. We found porta potties and made our first stop. We made our way inside the hotel and saw a ton of runners. The hotel was super nice with having some munchies and water outside.

We saw Coach Jeff not too long after we got there, then Lauren and MB joined us. Lauren was nice enough to let us use her real bathroom in the room before we left. After we left the hotel room, Sarah was waiting for us downstairs. It was already 6:30 and corrals closed at 6:45. We took some pictures, said good lucks and we were off. I hugged Gloria and told her to have fun, inside I was puking.

Trying to get in to my corral was a race in itself. I couldn’t find corral B. Thankfully, some other runner grabbed me and led me to my corral. We may have snuck in, but hey we were there. I made my way up to the 8:45 average pace area and saw the 3:45 marathon pacer. Again, I’m awful at math and thought this would be a great idea to stay with.

The National Anthem was sung, the hand cycles were off, then the elites, then it was our turn. As we made our way to the start line, the rain started to fall. Great, I’m already so nervous I could puke, let’s add my nemesis to the mix. It only took six minutes to get to the start line. I started my watch, here goes nothing.

The crowd was amazing. I didn’t weave very much in the beginning, there was no need to. I remember Carrie said she was in corral B as well. I didn’t see her in the corral, but I thought I saw her right in front of me just before the one mile flag. I caught up to her, tapped her on the shoulder and we screamed. She told me to go get the 1:50 and I said I would try. We wished each other luck and then my watch went off. 8:29 perfect.

Mile two turned down the strip district where the smell of food was amazing. I stayed in the middle of the road, again not really weaving in and out. I felt really good, and the rain was coming down a little harder. Watch went off, 8:23. Still feeling great.

The first bridge encounter was at mile three. Slight uphill on the bridge, but once off the bridge, there is a larger uphill. I was starting to remember a little bit from last year. I took it easy on the bridge so I could get a good attack on the other hill. Plan worked. There was a nice area of flat until heading through the North Side towards the double bridges. I was not prepared for what was coming up next. Watch split 8:20.

So getting on the Warhol Bridge was just like Saturday, take the incline slower then allow the body to go on the downhill. I could see the sea of people in front of me, and the spectators on the bridge were absolutely incredible. I don’t remember it being like that last year. I really started to feel emotional. There is a turnout of the first bridge in to the second, with even more people. AMAZING! Out of the bridge was another hill. It’s a pretty decent sized hill. And this is the first time I witnessed people walking. There was also a really neat cheering section at the top of the hill. I have found the 3:45 pace team leader by this point and decided to stay with them for awhile. I feel amazing a thought that staying with them would help me relax a little. Ultimate goal is sub-2. End of mile four, 8:17.

First relay exchange was in mile five. Taking my own advice, I stayed to the right. It got a little congested, but nothing too awful. I saw one of my old co-workers and felt excited. I knew my first water stop was coming up right before the 10K mark. I needed to get to that 10K mark to see where I was. This mile was quite uneventful, 8:26.

Mile six is where I made a slight mistake. I saw the Gatorade and I decided I should take it instead of water. My stomach was feeling a little awful and I thought something with flavor would help. Nope. Great. I hit the 10k mat and looked at my watch. 52:50 PERFECT! I’m on 1:50 pace!! Despite my stomach not feeling well, my legs felt great. Heading over the West End Bridge, the pack could spread out a little bit. I again took the incline slower and the decline quicker. I knew there was a hill coming afterwards and wanted to feel a little better. I knew I needed to be sub 1-hour at that seven mile mark, I was! Mile six, 8:32.

The West end got a little crowded. The roads weren’t the best to begin with, so on the downhill, I took it very easy. There were still tons of people around cheering and having a great time. At this point, the rain has finally stopped and I was starting to see more people walk. I’m still feeling comfortable. I rounded the turn heading to Carson Street. I grabbed my gel and started taking it. The water stop was just before the eight mile marker. I made sure I grabbed water this time. Being a pro at water stations by now (ha) I didn’t have to stop to walk to drink! Go me! End of mile seven, 8:36.

Mile eight was mostly hills. I had saved some energy for this. I remembered from last year that this stretch was a little something. Plus, I knew another relay exchange was coming up. Made it up the hill and started the decline. I felt a slight tightening in my right calf. I tried to run on my heel a little on the downhill and it helped. Pasted the relay exchange and moved to the left side for the split. Mile eight time, 8:46.

Miles nine and ten were pretty easy going. Mile nine more so than ten. My mile nine split of 8:41 was one of my better splits of the day, I’ll be honest. Mile ten was really flat, but my stomach was really starting to bother me. I coughed at one point and thought I was going to puke. Hold it together, you are almost done just slow down a bit. I knew I had to make it to mile ten in under 1:30. 

When I saw the mile 11 banner, I knew I just had to make it to the Birmingham Bridge. Mile ten split, 9:15, 10 mile time, 1:26. Thank god, I was at least going to be sub-2! I’m putting together a pretty good race.

What happened on the Birmingham Bridge is something I never want to relive. Actually, miles 11 and 12 were completely my fault. I knew what to expect on the bridge because the full marathon course is over the same bridge, but on the other side of the road. Then you go up the big hill to Oakland. NO WHERE in my brain did I think there was a big hill back to the finish line after the bridge, but there was. Headed up Forbes Avenue, I felt my energy start to go and my legs start to shake. Just two more freaking miles! I never saw a flag for mile 12, but I heard my watch, 9:22. My hopes are starting to fade away.

After a slight flat area, there was yet again a hill. My legs couldn’t do it. They stopped moving. Thankfully, there was a water stop right before the end of mile 12. I took one Gatorade and two waters, and I walked. I couldn’t believe it. How did I do all of this training and not know these hills were here?! I wanted to cry. I felt some life come back in my legs. Heard my watch, saw the 10:31 and moved along. I could make up some time on this downhill. I might not make my 1:53 second goal, but I will make a sub-2.

Thank goodness for the final downhill. I gave that everything I had. We merged on the Boulevard of the Allies and made the final stretch to the finish line. I could feel my right foot cramping. My toes are pushed to the top of the shoes. I don’t even care. I worked too hard for this to all fall apart now. I see the mile 26 flag, and my watch went off at the same time, 9:24 and 1:55 on the watch, I’m going sub-2!

I crossed the finish line and stopped my watch. I almost fell over I couldn’t feel my legs and my toes were still cramping. I did see that my watch said new Half Marathon PR, which meant it was under 1:59 (the half split of last years marathon). When it finally loaded, it read 1:57. Sub-2! I celebrated for a little, grabbed some water and went to the park to wait for hubby.

I took off my shoes, chugged some water and pin pointed exactly where it all went wrong. I should have stayed with the 3:45 pace group. I should not have taken the Gatorade at mile six. I should have driven the course. Hubby found me, congratulated me on the sub-2 and I cried. I had it! It was there! I had no one to blame but myself.

I am not saying that I am not proud of my time, I am! It’s my second fastest half marathon time on a really tough course. I really just wanted to see my friends. We stayed down by the finish until the three hour mark to try and see Gloria finish, but we missed her. We headed to mile 25 to meet with Sarah and Matthew. 

Hubby parked a little farther down and left me to enjoy the race with my friends, he is the best. As we were walking, I saw Carrie finishing the marathon. I screamed for her and was so proud.

When I found Sarah and Matt, they raved about the race, and I was super excited for them. We were cheering on the runners coming down the street and I saw Missy. She looked great! I screamed and she ran over, gave me a hug and kept moving.

Chelsea, who kicked relay butt, rode her bike up the course to meet Lauren and Jeff on their journey. She would give us updates. When we finally saw them coming down the street we screamed and hugged and instantly, my mood lifted. That rockstar is finishing back to back marathons! How could you not be excited! Jeff was keeping the mood light.

We headed to the finish area and found MB. We welcomed Lauren and Jeff back. There were tons more hugs and congratulations happened plus pictures. We ended up leaving Lauren and MB and heading for food and beer.

Having to say goodbye to everyone was seriously the hardest thing. I had so much fun through the whole weekend, it was hard to see it end! Akron is going to be amazing! I am really pumped to start marathon training at the end of June. It’s one step closer to my redemption of the Pittsburgh Marathon next year.


  1. Congrats on the sub-2, after the stomach issues.
    I've written a few posts about how I quit drinking Gatorade during a race, and instead, use Salt Stick for the sodium, maybe you try that. Sloshy stomach is NOT fun. And girl, (!), I posted about the course and the hill previously, complete with the elevation prolfile from my Garmin, LOL! I actually thought it was easier to run it, not knowing about the hill. This year, I knew about it and how long it was, since I ran it already, and it made it worse. It really is a mile, from when you're a 1/3 of the way across Birmingham, to cresting the top of it. So not fun. Yuck.

    Congrats again though, Pgh isn't the easiest of courses.

    1. I'm swearing off gels at this point. Which I'm alright with. I kinda overlooked elevation charts and whatnot. I can't really tell you why. I should know better by now!

  2. Congrats on your sub two. that is awesome.

  3. Replies
    1. Thank you! Congrats on a great race!

  4. Replies
    1. So glad I found you! Great job lady!!

  5. Stomach issues are the worst, add hills and rain, that's tough. Congrats to you on pushing through and hitting your sub-2 goal!

    1. It was a mental test for sure! Thank you so much!

  6. Congrats on your sub-2!! That's awesome!

  7. Congrats on battling through and finishing in under 2 hours!

    You and others mentioned people walking early on. Do you think they were doing Galloway's run/walk program? Curious how many people do that program...

    1. Thanks! I was up far enough that I wouldn't expect people to do the run/walk. Never know but I think they went out way too fast