Tuesday, May 07, 2013
On Sunday I had the opportunity to run a marathon in my hometown of Pittsburgh, PA. I was extremely happy going into the race knowing that I had a near perfect training cycle. First time in my life I trained for a marathon and did not get injured. I trained for 17 weeks and ran 850 miles getting ready for this day.
I arrived in town on Friday and drove right to the expo at the convention center. I figured it was going to be crowded on Saturday with 30,000 entrants. It was busy when I got there but nowhere near the crowd they had on Saturday. I got to meet two of my Dailymile.com friends by chance while I was looking around. They were talking to each other when I walked past and recognized them from their profile pictures. We had a 30 minute chat and then we got a group photo taken.
Of course I stayed with my mother who lives only 7 miles from where I was at. She is amazing, still works out 5 days a week and does 5Ks. She’s 82! She is such a positive influence on me. We got to spend most of Friday evening and all day Saturday talking and watching various games on TV. She’s a big sports fan having been a basketball player in her high school days in the 1940’s. She was voted “most likely to be an Olympic athlete” by her fellow senior classmates in high school. I can understand why. My father was a very good football player who played professionally. He never made it to the NFL because he never finished college but hooked up with a team who travelled and got paid to play a game he loved so much. He always told me his only regret was not being able to play long enough for me to watch him.
Friday evening another Dailymile.com friend who happens to be from where I live now but lives in Pittsburgh (we need to swap homes I think) wanted to meet me to give me samples of a product he wants me to push for my fundraising business. So we met for an hour nearby so that I could get the samples from him. I told him I wanted to be in early to get a decent night’s sleep so I left before it got dark.
Sunday morning my alarm went off at 3:30 AM but I slept 6 ½ hours straight through, no tossing and turning. I took a shower, had a couple of cups of coffee, ate a banana and an English muffin, and made up my energy drink and homemade gel for the race. I left my mother’s house at 4:45 AM and arrived at the parking lot at 5AM on the nose. I was the first car in that lot. It was a great location near the start and finish line so I wanted to make sure I got a spot there. I listened to some music and then I took a walk to scope out everything. Security had everything locked down so I had to walk long way around just to get two blocks from where I parked. Good thing I chose to scope it all out ahead of time. I went back to the car. I got everything that I needed and headed out the starting line.
The temperature was 58 degrees at the start according to my car temperature gauge and the warmest training run I had ever done this cycle was 53 degrees so I was a bit concerned. For me anything over 50 I have to slow down to adjust for the heart working harder. I made up my mind I would just run the speed I felt good at no matter what that was, when it was. So at the start I surprisingly got into a great pace (usually a big race I do a very slow first mile because of crowds). I was averaging the pace I wanted to have for the entire race and still maintained that by the 10K mark. I actually was 30 seconds ahead of my goal at 10K. There is a big hill at mile 11 through mile 13 with 3% climbing so I had to prepare myself mentally for that. The crowd was electric, some places there was at least 10 people deep watching us go by. They were all screaming like we were celebrities or something. I kept thinking “How are they going to keep that up all race?”
My nephew yelled at me at mile 6 and I turned around and saw him and his girlfriend and my niece’s fiancé. My niece was doing the half marathon with her dad, my brother. It’s great to see family and friends watching you at a race. My cousin had told me she would have a big family and friend cheering section at mile 8 for me and a half dozen cousins of mine who were also running. I never saw them but my brother said he saw them when he went past.
Time for the big hill. It was a long and lonely climb. One lady who apparently lived in the only house on the side of the hill that we were climbing was screaming at us all and we were thanking her and she was thanking us back, haha. What an awesome lady to do that. I made it up the hill and my quads were screaming by the top. We leveled off and I started to recover quickly. We ran past the University of Pittsburgh and their drum line was out playing for us as we went past. It was now feeling a lot warmer, we were also running into 15 mph winds and I felt that for the first time. I hit the halfway point still on target for a Boston Marathon qualifying time. The hill knocked me off of my original pace by 10 seconds per mile but I still had a nice cushion. We ran into a part of town called Shadyside, a cute area with some good restaurants and pubs. There I saw a lot of the signs that you normally see at a race, girls making comments about male runners, you get the idea. I had to laugh at them though they are at every big race I’ve ever run.
We had a short but steep climb out that that area and back onto a major road. I really started to feel the heat. I went past mile 16 and that is the point where the course turns into more downhills than uphills. Finally, I thought. However, when I made the turn towards Homewood, I started feeling really dizzy. I had already taken my homemade gel so I grabbed Gatorade which I never drink. That made my eyes blurry as I digested that so as soon as I got to the mile 17 sign I decided I need to slow my pace to adjust for the warmer weather. My original goal was to use this race as a practice for the Wineglass Marathon which I am entered for October and which I would take a stab at a Boston qualifying time. So I reminded myself of that and talked myself into the fact that is was OK to not make Boston this time and chill out and stay safe.
I pretty much jogged the last 9 miles in. Every once in a while I would pick up the pace, but each time the dizziness came back. When it is warm your heart has to work harder to cool you down, thus making it necessary to slow down or really run the risk of heat exhaustion. The funny thing is the last 9 miles I got to hear comments being yelled which I normally don’t pay much attention to when I’m running faster. At mile 21 one guy yelled “you all done now, only 5 miles left”. I laughed to myself and thought “he obviously never ran a marathon”, haha. Then another one when I was at the last turn going to the finish, I heard “it’s just right around the corner”. My thought there was “we’ll see, I doubt it”, haha.
I saw so many runners collapsing from cramping. One guys was screaming for a policeman to come help him. When he got there the guy said “I just need you to pull my toes back up so I can get up”. Amazing, haha. One lady kept staggering, bending over grabbing both of her ankles and then she would straighten up before I got to her and sprinted away. That happened at least 5 times. The last miles of a marathon are survival. Anyone who has done one knows the feeling.
When I got back into the downtown section, less than a mile from the finish, the streets were lined with screaming fans again. There were so many people that they were pushing each other out onto the course so much that we had to run through a maze of people. It was so much fun doing that. I felt like I just won the Super Bowl or something. I did make that final turn onto the finishing road. You can’t see the finish line because it is downhill after a small climb just before it but you know it’s there. I ran through the finish line and stopped 1 foot past the line. I wasn’t running another inch, haha. I stopped my watch and it said 4:03 (and some change that was too small for my eyes to read, ended up 13 seconds past the 3 minute mark).
I got my medal (wow was that heavy, haha). I decided to go get my picture taken so I could later see how bad I looked, haha. I collected my bag and loaded food into it. I belong to a running group in Pittsburgh and they had a private finish line tent with catered food so I went in there and waited for my brother to meet up with me. I ate everything from pancakes to fried chicken. I was so hungry. It was great and now the sun was welcome. They had a Latin band playing in honor of Cinco di Mayo. My brother, his niece and fiancé, my nephew and my sister-in-law found me, then they all hugged me and left my brother with me to go celebrate.
We walked into Market Square right in the center of downtown Pittsburgh where there are at least a dozen restaurants and pubs. We found a nice Italian restaurant with a quiet bar and were able to eat some more food, drink a few beers and watch a great hockey game. In the square there was a good band playing at 5PM so we hung out the entire day there, met a bunch of runners, and had a blast. I may have made more runner customers too. A woman who works for the United Way said she wants to organize a running training program in Pittsburgh and wants me to coach them. My brother had told her that I was a certified coach. She already has contacted me since then after I gave her my website for my coaching business and we’re trying to set it up. I also had a high school friend who lives in Alaska now notice my automatic Facebook posts of my finishing time and she contacted me and said she never knew I was still running. After I told her I was a coach she hooked me up with a young lady friend of hers who was looking for a running coach in the Pittsburgh area. She did her first marathon that same day. I never know when I might meet yet another running student or friend. I’m also organizing running trips to Europe and South America and have been telling everyone I talk to about that. I love my job!
Needless to say, I had a terrific day and celebrated my accomplishment well!