The second half of the Pittsburgh Marathon saw me with the 5:30 pace group. This time would still be a PR for me so I was okay with being here. I spent some of the time chatting with a pregnant woman who was talking about roller derby. I overheard her talking about teams from Central NY being in town the night before and, since I am basically from Central NY, I had to ask. She was all excited when I told her where I was actually from as she was a founding member of the Ithaca Suffrajets (I am sure I am spelling that wrong). It was nice to hear something about home as I was running in Pittsburgh. The area here has more in common with PGH than Dick’s Sporting Goods.

Pacer Marcela was running a five minute run and one minute walk. I kept up with them for a bit, though not sure how many miles.

Some time during mile 16 mile (about 15.5 from the course map of where aid stations were) my toes started to bother me again. I passed one aid station. At the aid station near Point Breeze, I took a tongue depressor and sat on the curb. My feet were an issue and I wanted to make sure I was not blistering. The tongue depressor – this is ingenious and the first time ever I have seen it – had Vaseline on it. I took time to apply to both my feet and hoped this would help. Of course, this meant I lost touch with the 5:30 pace group but I was feeling better.

Unfortunately, I learned a big lesson. I should have gone under the aid tent. The curb was slightly shaded but the shade is not the reason for the tent. After being down so low, my legs started cramping in about another mile. At one point, I was telling someone that my legs were cramping bad – they would cramp off and on from mile 17 until the finish – and the woman gave me a salt packet to have. She also passed on that she would wait to take it with water – which I had with me so no need to wait. I took what I could of the salt but could not eat the entire packet. Downed each little bit with water. It dawned on me at this point that my stomach had been bothering me at mile 15 and I had failed to take my Clif Shot (would have been number 3). This failure may have loomed big in the reasons for my time goal failure. I only ended up taking two Clif Shots and should have had more – at least four.

Homewood was wonderful! The line dancers performed beautifully. The church that came out – fantastic! This particular area is the one my daughter questioned the most and I noticed it seemed a bit more rundown – like the Pittsburgh of my time at WVU – but it was not a bad area – at least not in the daylight of a Marathon Sunday. I actually am not sure if I could pick a favorite neighborhood. I loved them all. I felt most comfortable in the Strip District and the South Side area as I had been there before. I also liked downtown but that is because that was the finish.

The biggest surprise was seeing my kids in Bloomfield. I had, somewhere around mile 18, I think, called my daughter to tell her not to look for me. The cramping in my legs – both hamstrings and calves – got to me and I looked to stop at an aid station and not go on. I had heard at least one, if not more, person doing just this – or worse, not making it to an aid station and the police having to radio to get you help. I wanted to end this on my terms. Thankfully, she didn’t pick up and I knew they would be waiting for me somewhere so I kept going.

I walked with my kids – at least the girls – for a bit in mile 23. I knew that there was only a 5K left to do but I was getting bitchy. Both Elise and Suz offered to run it with me. Neither was dressed for the heat so I told them no. Would I have finished in under 6 hours if they had? Who knows! Certainly not me. I really left all I had out on the course so I do not know if cutting five minutes of my time would have been possible.

Somewhere just before I saw the kids, the fluid stations starting having ice. From that point on, if just a cup of ice was offered, I took it. I was way too hot and needed to cool down somehow. One aid station had disposable gloves filled with ice. I took one and tucked it in the racer back of my shirt. This kept me cooler for about a mile. I had not seen a glove on the ground in a while when I finally dropped mine. Ice in the Gatorade and water also made it much easier to consume fluids. I am not a huge sports drink fan so to drink it warm, or even hot, is hard to do.

In mile 25, there was a duo playing. This part of the course is a part we had already run in mile 1 or 2. This duo had been playing when we ran by this spot at the beginning. They were still playing. This motivated me as other spots bands were packing up as the runners were fewer and coming sporadically. As a back of the pack runner, I appreciated these two guys staying out there.

As we were in downtown again, I started looking for my kids. I didn’t know where they would be – a ways from the finish line or at the line. I saw the girls on Smithfield Street. Elise again offered to run the last half mile or so with me. I knew I could do it from here so convinced her not to worry. There was a guy – not anyone I have ever seen before with a finisher’s medal around his neck – along here also. He grabbed my hand, reminded me that only 1% of the population cross the finish line and I could do it. He gave me a little push and sent me off.

I rounded the last corner to see Michael. We were going to try to meet before the race. There was a small hope that we would run with each other for a mile or so. We never found each other at the start. I remember yelling to him that I thought Pittsburgh hated me. Next I saw Danny and Maggie, Suz’s girlfriend. He was manning the camera.

Holy heck! I crossed the finish line!! Finally!!!!

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