Pittsburgh Half Marathon – 1:49:40

Sunday morning my goals for this race were posted during the middle of my run. I was confident my training prepared me to come very close to my PR of 1:42:49, but didn’t toss sub 1:40 put the window either. As you can see above, I certainly did not come close to my PR and no where near that sub 1:40. I’m okay with that.

When I finished the race, I felt completely okay with my time. I still do. But I also had a lot of “I don’t want to train anymore” thoughts. I immediately said, “I got what I trained for,” and that was kind of what I felt for the back half of the race. After a few hours of thinking and looking back at my splits, I think I have a much better time in me and the course/weather got the best of me. That is partially training related (really thought I had those hills down) and also partially uncontrollable (weather), but paired together really did me in.

Overall the weekend in Pittsburgh was great. We enjoyed the expo briefly (I’m not a huge expo person), saw the botanical gardens, ate at a few restaurants and relaxed. Unfortunately, our motel was so uncomfortable. I couldn’t remember the location of the last Motel 6 we stayed at so I picked a different location and the beds were so different — hard, one pillow per person, and hardly any blankets. That sucked.

Race morning I was happy to see the forecast changed to less rain than it has leading up in the week. I drank some water with wild berry Nuun Energy and ate a Honey Stinger waffle on the drive to our parking lot. Once parked around 5:05am, we hung out for about twenty minutes before starting our walk to the start area.

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Because it might rain, I wore the Bills hat I brought just to wear around the city and I’m so glad I did. I typically don’t run in regular baseball caps but it wasn’t too bad. It was kind of preferable! We took a slow walk towards the start and I noticed it was already a little warm. I had shorts, tank top, calf sleeves, a throwaway long sleeve and poncho but I would have been okay in just shorts and tank even in the dark of 5:30am. Not good.

I started to drink my UCAN and made my way into the start corrals; J headed back to the car to drop off some stuff. His plan was to see me at mile 4 and on the next bridge, which was about mile 4.75. I took my time drinking my fuel and went into the line for bathrooms a second time. I still hadn’t had my pre-race poop but truth be told, I think I’ve only pre-race pooped like twice, ever. It really doesn’t bother me most times. In fact, I don’t think I pre-race pooped before the Chicago Marathon either. I guess in that regard, I’m a lucky one.

I did some active warm-ups and ankling prior to finding my place in the corral, right behind the 3:30 marathon pacer. He came after I had found where I wanted to start (corral A is 8:00/mile pace and faster) but I felt okay where I was, not because I thought I’d run that quick but because there was plenty of room around me. After the anthems, I tossed my poncho and still felt very warm, sticky almost, from the humidity. I had already used my rescue inhaler three times at this point, both because of the weather and because I ran out of my steroid inhaler earlier in the week, so I was preparing mentally (I thought) for the race to suck.

When the race began, I immediately felt emotional and had to hold it together. You cannot cry before you even start your Garmin, Brittany!  Who knows what that was about, but I kicked it right out.

Miles 1-3 (7:47, 7:49, 8:00)
I tried to settle into a good pace and run smart tangents right off the bat. The rain started literally as soon as the gun went off (or maybe it was a horn?) I was immediately thankful for my hat. As per usual, the first miles felt easy. I kept glancing at my watch and seeing 8s but when my miles ticked, I was pleasantly surprised. I grabbed Gatorade at the first water stop which isn’t something I normally would do but it was humid and I recalled last year’s bought of dehydration in the middle of the Buffalo Half Marathon and did not rant to trigger that!

Miles 4-6 (7:49, 7:52, 8:03)
I started to feel the humidity towards the end of mile 3 but told myself it was too early to bitch about the weather. I had some good training and I knew I could lock into 8s at least. I heard J at mile 4 but totally missed him among the crowd so I made a point to find him on the next bridge. He was a bright spot amidst the rain and hills that already felt taxing and that made me nervous. I knew I wouldn’t see him til the finish and I had a feeling I would need to see him before that.

I took three Honey Stinger Chews at mile 5 and ditched the wrapper with the rest. It was too much to fumble with while running and I only hoped I wouldn’t regret that decision. Given how my stomach felt chewing those that early in the race, I didn’t think I could stomach them later in the race anyways.

Miles 7-9 (8:11, 7:55, 8:26)
I started to fade. There were a couple hills that I really started to feel leading into this portion and I started to question everything. Surely my training was better than I was doing, right? A few girls passed me and they looked so relaxed. I was jealous. I was staring one in particular down wondering if it was somebody from Twitter and trying to figure out how I could tell. I actually considered running in front of her, turning around, and staring at her bib. Instead I just said her name and decided if she didn’t turn around maybe they’d think I was talking to somebody else… Good thing she turned around! We ran together briefly, she was talking it easy … But her easy pace was my race pace.

I knocked out that 7:55 after our chat but mentally I gave up on the PR. I even gave up on the 1:45. Looking back, I wish I didn’t. My legs were feeling sorry for themselves but I truly was not that far off PR pace after 8. If I could knock out a couple 7:4x, and then stay below 8, I’d be right there, but I wasn’t thinking like that.  I started to think more along the lines of “hang on, don’t walk”.

Miles 10-12 (8:45, 8:51, 9:30)
These were some dark, ugly miles. I felt sorry for myself. Then I thought I deserved whatever happened because my training was sub par. I did not train for a 1:40 and it was silly to think I had a chance. Many times I wanted to walk but instead I just let myself go as slow as I needed to keep moving at running pace.  Mile 10 was a slight uphill and I couldn’t even embrace the downhill into 11. My legs were toast and I was struggling with my breath, I thought I might need my inhaler which wound be a mid race first (typically I don’t even race with it!)

Just after mile 11 a group was handing out cups filled with beer. I glanced at my watch and confirmed what I already knew — I was nowhere near a PR. So I grabbed a beer. This has been a bucket list thing for me, as silly as it might sound. Anytime beer on the race course has been offered, I’ve been in the middle of a race I am running great, near a PR, or running to see what I’m at fitness-wise. At that moment I wasn’t doing any of that anymore and so I grabbed the cup and drank what tasted like college all over again. It was the best damn beer of my life.  Honestly, it gave me just the boost I needed and didn’t even affect my stomach. Might this be the new race fuel?  I slogged up that unforsaken hill in mile 12 and didn’t care how bad it hurt or how slow I went. I was just happy to finally check off that stupid little race bucket list item.

Mile 13 to the Finish (8:38, 7:06 pace)
That stretch to the finish was just another confirmation that I was absolutely done. I struggled to pick up my pace on a downhill that was visually so appealing. It should have felt easy to run, but everything was fatigued right down to my lungs. Then I felt like the finish was near but didn’t want to kick it in to soon in case I had to make a quick turn and see another 400m or something stupid. I had a few women near me I tried to out sprint, something I typically excel at, but nope, no gas in the tank. I saw 1:48 in the distance on the clock and made that my only goal — finish under 1:50!

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Strugglebus to the finish!

After the race, I found J and we snagged a picture in front of a fountain before making our long walk to the car. Everyone was texting me with congratulations for making it under my goal — 1:50. As it turns out, my friends were texting each other trying to remember what my goal was and thought it was 1:50. It was sweet and appreciated with their tracking of me, but I had to break it to them… I wasn’t near my goal.

Now that I’ve had time to settle, I am so happy I’m not injured and really not to sore, just fatigued. Those hills really did a number on me despite all the runs at Chestnut Ridge! I have four weeks until Buffalo which includes two weekends totally away from home, so we will see what I feel after a brief recovery. I’m glad I didn’t push more because I feel like I can come back and have a solid effort at Buffalo still, even though at 3pm Sunday, I didn’t want to run double digits ever again.

I still have some time to decide if that’s what I want, but I think it is. I can get in two to three more weeks of training before another taper. After talking to some other people, I wasn’t just being a baby about the humidity, it was noticeable. I’m sure that had something to do with the way I felt (so salty.) Plus Buffalo is flat and I don’t have to deal with awful mattresses and loud neighbors, so maybe I can try again… If my mind will allow it!

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Brittany

Just a 20-something homegrown Buffalo sports loving, distance running, gin drinking kind of girl.

19 thoughts on “Pittsburgh Half Marathon – 1:49:40”

  1. I think you made a smart decision. I know it wasn’t exactly what you wanted but I’m so proud of you for getting out there. I know you are going to crush your 1:40 at Buffalo.

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  2. We’ve all been there when that race doesn’t go quite right… I admire you for your great attitude. All the best if you decide to do Buffalo, I’m doing that one too so maybe I’ll see you out there!

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    1. Thanks, I think it’s taken some time to get to accepting when things don’t go the way I want but am glad I’m there!

      I’ll definitely be running buffalo half, just haven’t decided at what capacity (probably racing because I’m stubborn ha!) maybe we will see each other! Good luck!

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  3. Pittsburgh is a tough course. I did the full last year (in near perfect weather) and it was tough. I had never been there before and it’s a great city and beautiful course (especially the half marathon course…lots of filler miles once the half and full marathoners split) but the city is crazy hilly. Organizers actually did a decent job flattening the course (it could have been much worse), and crossing 5 bridges was rather scenic. Sorry that you were disappointed with your finish time, but the hills and weather were mitigating factors for sure…

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    1. Thanks! I truly underestimated the course I think. I ran some killer hills in training but it wasn’t enough small, frequent rollers. I did hear the full wasn’t as exciting, almost signed up for that but glad I didn’t now!

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  4. Nice work! I love that you stopped for a beer at mile 11 of the race!! You’ve put in a lot of work this training cycle and I think you can have an epic race in Buffalo.

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  5. First of all, congratulations on running a tough race on a less than ideal day. Sometimes our bodies betray us, and that just sucks. BUT you stuck it out, finished strong, and ran a great time. You will get that sub-1:40. Don’t give up!

    I was extremely proud that you drank a beer – don’t let the promise of a PR ever stop you from doing that! I didn’t drink any beer in my marathon this past weekend but only because I didn’t see any πŸ™‚ It is so much better than GU in the late miles of a race!

    GREAT job!! Now relax, recover, and snuggle up with Dunkin!

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    1. Thank you! Haha I once took a water stop during a 5k that cost me a PR (stupid 85 degree sunny day after work) so I’m paranoid about stops. But!! Now that I know beer is kind to me, I’ll think again about that beer stop πŸ˜‰

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  6. First, not silly at all about the beer. I took my first one in Chicago for the exact. same. reason. I trained SO hard for a PR at that race and I succumbed to cramps at mile 8. EIGHT!! It was so disheartening but I tried my hardest to make the best of it because it’s such a good marathon.

    Second, I had friends who struggled in your race for the same reasons. It happens and doesn’t mean you don’t have a sub 1:40 in you. You do!!!!

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    1. I’m so glad I’m not the only one who’s said “f this!” and had a mid race beer! I think I have to go back now that I’ve run it once and get revenge. Chicago was my first (only) marathon — I would have loved to have a beer during that, instead I used that as my “just finish” reward haha

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  7. Congrats! I was thinking about you and wondered how you did, it’s sad to hear it wasn’t your day. But I think you are being too hard on yourself with your “I got what I trained for” comment. Your training went really well and you were prepared for a great race. You have to remember that race day is one out of hundreds, and no matter how perfect your training was, there is no guarantee you’ll feel great on that particular day; in fact, mathematically, the odds of it are low. Keep going, you have a much better time in you. I think Buffalo will be great for you: more time to train and racing on your home turf, plus you’ll have a fire in your belly from this experience. Go get it!

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    1. Aw, it’s okay that it wasn’t my day. It happens. I just wish I could have enjoyed the run more, PR or not. I mean the whole “got what I trained for” thing is mainly because I truly didn’t train to PR. I did some hard workouts but my mileage was so low and most of my weeks were 18-22 miles, nothing to write home about! I’m okay with it! I’m hoping a flat buffalo puts my in PR range, but we will see. I’m a little burnt out from thinking about running and training for a race.

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      1. I hear that! Regardless of whether I run Chicago next year (my latest post-raceblues manifestation is a panic attack that they’re gonna change the standards for next year), I am not running another marathon until next fall and I can’t imagine running one a second sooner. I had been toying with a goal half for this fall and even that I’m now like: NNNNOPE. 10ks are gonna be where it’s at

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      2. That’s a great idea. I don’t know what it is but man, long runs are just exhausting right now to me. I think I want to try some trail stuff this summer though! We don’t have enough 10ks here… Definitely not my strong suit so maybe I’ll try to find some more… I need a true PR!

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