Last May the full marathon in Pittsburgh was my first of two full marathons in the month of May. This year, I am not being nearly as daring. I am running the half in both of those cities as opposed to the full.
First, I spent Saturday morning wedding dress shopping with my daughter and my daughter-in-law. Susan is getting married on September 7th and she had been going to bridal salons and trying on dresses. The only thing she was sure of is she did not want a traditional wedding dress. Lydia, my daughter-in-law, says this can all fall on her as she did not go with a traditional dress either. I’m of the opinion that it’s her day. She can wear whatever she wants (for either of them).
After dress shopping and stopping at Los Cabos on Penn Ave, we were heading down to the convention center for the Expo. Last year I went to the expo about midday on Friday. It was busy but not crowded. This year, hitting the expo about 3 on Saturday, the convention center was packed. It was easy to get my bib and shirt (long sleeve ASICS shirt in yellow). Getting my bag with the goodies in it was a bit more of a chore as that was on the other side of the convention center. I wanted to scoot over there quickly so that I had a bag to put my bib in so I didn’t loose it.
We managed to go by The Fresh Factory booth on the way and Suz wanted to get me a shirt. I had seen the shirt I wanted, providing they still had it in the right size, on Twitter earlier in the week. She stayed in line to pay for the shirt as I went to get my cinch sack.
After about 20 minutes walking around, we were heading out the door when I got a message from Mike that he was at the convention center. The kids went home and I went to meet up with him. We went over to the William Penn Hotel to the Tap Room to have a beer and watch the Kentucky Derby.
After watching some of the Detroit Red Wings game Saturday night – yes, at a bar – I headed back to my daughter’s house to lay out my race gear and get to bed. My goal was to be up by 4:45 am Sunday morning so I could eat and get all set for the 7 am start. I have no idea what I did as I was getting my outfit – and Garmin – off the bed so I could actually use the bed for its given purpose. Somehow, my Garmin ended back up in the blue sack I got at the expo. Not good!
I woke at 4:30 so turned off my alarm and got up anyway. Those 15 minutes were just going to be ugly if I stayed in bed. Quietly down two flights of stairs to the kitchen and I got the coffee going and had BelVita breakfast biscuits with Naturally More peanut butter on them. I managed to get everything done and out the door with sunglasses in tack – I broke mine last year so didn’t have them and it threw me off a bit. Suz lives in Pittsburgh so it was up to her to get me downtown and close to the start area. Due to the increased security, she had to find a new route home. One of the roads she took last year was closed this year. We never even thought to check.
Not to the corral area yet
I didn’t go straight to my corral. Even though I had nothing to check, I knew there were bathrooms near the gear check. Doesn’t it seem, even when I only had to get three miles approximately from my daughter’s to downtown, that the first stop at a race is always the porta-potty row?
Gear Check with ONLY clear bags provided from FedEx
After taking care of business, I started looking for Corral E. I was amazed when I got to the corral and it was totally empty. I chose to not go right in as I was still drinking from my quart bottle of Gatorade. I was fully intending to throw the container in a recycling bin when finished but I was too full of fluids. I continued to hold the bottle and asked a security person if it was okay to just leave it along the side of the road inside the corral. Rumor had it they were closing the corrals 15 minutes before race start so I wanted to find a spot.
Corral E as I found it but it was packed by the time the race started
After having gone to the porta-potty and as I was working my way over to Corral E, I realized I did not have my Garmin on my wrist. Crap! I knew, after having run Blue Ridge two weeks ago, this race was going to need some pacing and now I didn’t have a watch to do so. I decided, after getting into the corral, I would look for a pace team. I knew that there were not, at this time, half pace teams but there was a 5:30 full pace leader who I had run with last year so I found her. Marcela had a large group – many back from last year.
The group running the full together (I was only half runner with them) Taken from Marcela’s phone
Marcela’s strategy to pace this group through 26.2 miles was run for 5 minutes, walk for 1. She also planned to walk through all the water stops. This is perfect as it is what I train with as my run/walk strategy. I knew I would fit right in. It was also much cooler than last year so I was very happy to be with this group (I checked results on all of you!).
Start Line. Taken from Marcela’s phone.
I kept with the group until we were heading down into the Strip District. I had told my daughter I would be on the other side of the street so I broke off and ran a bit to be able to see the kids (loose term as the youngest there will be 25 this month). After high fives all around, I headed back to the other side of the street. As I took this photo of the crowd still around after the fluid station in the Strip District, I actually posted it to Twitter and waited just a bit for the group.
Running thru the Strip District
After going through the Strip District, we headed up and over the 16th Street Bridge. This bridge takes us across the Allegheny River for the first time. We were only on “dry land” for a little over a mile before we went over the Rachel Carson Bridge then a quick turn and over the Andy Warhol Bridge. That is three times crossing the Allegheny River. The crowds on the bridges were large but quiet. We had to work them up into a cheering frenzy.
Another mile and a half or so and we went over the West End Bridge and across the Ohio River. Yes, bridges are truly plentiful when you live or run in a city with three Rivers. After crossing the Ohio River and about a mile in the West End, we headed into Southside. This was where it was all going to happen. As we passed the 2nd Relay Exchange I was sure I saw Adrian waiting for either an exchange or a ride. Further down Carson Street we went and then I had to say goodbye to my pace team friends. Shortly after mile 10, the half heads up and over the Birmingham Bridge, crossing the Monongahela River, while the full goes a bit further and circles back through the neighborhoods to get to the Birmingham Bridge.
The Birmingham Bridge is a cutoff point. You have to be across it by a certain time to continue the race – either distance. This bridge also has the biggest up to it and the roads on the other side are uphill also. It was just about the mile 12 marker that a 23 year old collapsed. This was in front of a medical area and trained professionals could not revive him.
Finally, at the Dusquesne University sign, the road begins a slight descent and you are seeing the finish line. There were a few marathoners coming through at the same time. I was amazed at the number of half marathoners that were finishing about the same time I was. I always thought I was slow but I guess I may just be average.
I crossed the line, got my medal, took a finishing photo and went through the food area without even realizing what was going on. Then, I headed to where my kids were waiting for me as we had brunch plans. I knew what the clock said when I went by it – 3:03 – but I had no idea how long it had taken us to get to the start line from that last corral so no clue what my official time was until later.
I love the city of Pittsburgh and am considering, even though there is a local race I have yet to run on this same weekend, going back again next year.
Photo from last year’s Pittsburgh Marathon – Andy Warhol Bridge I think