Saturday morning DH and I headed to Pittsburgh for the marathon. We drove straight to the Expo site to pick up the registration packet and meet Ruth (Brian36) and her DH. Ruth was sporting a fancy tape job (Kinesio tape) on her knee, and since I'd been having trouble with an ankle, I decided to give it a go, too. I had the right inner arch and right calf taped up to provide support. Then we located our named on the huge wall at Dick's that listed everyone registered for the races. After that we split up and headed back to our hotels.
At 6, we met up and headed to the Pasta Party at The Spaghetti Warehouse. It was the most disorganized mess I've ever seen. They sold way too many tickets for dining anytime between 4 and 10 p.m. Seating capacity was under 500 and the restaurant was still open to the public. We got there just before the line really got long, snaking around the corner. We still had about an hour's wait. People were getting grumpy and very irritated. The wait staff must have been absolutely exhausted; I really felt bad for them.
After returning to the hotel, I laid out all of my clothes, pinned my number to my top, and then prepped my feet hoping to ward off any blisters. I painted most of my feet with Second Skin and then in the morning, I wrapped the soles in duct tape. At a few minutes to 6, we headed down to meet Ruth and Brian at her hotel to catch the shuttle to the start line. We got there in time to see the walkers begin their race at 6:30.
The sky was overcast and the light wind was promising rain. Sure enough, just minutes into the race we could feel the first spits of rain. Then it rained in earnest and continued through almost all of the race ranging from a light mist to a hard rain. The temps were in the low 60s, so it wasn’t too cold, and the rain really was a blessing. It would have been worse to have the humidity just hanging in the air.
I felt really, really good starting out. We were doing 8:2 run/walk intervals. Somewhere around mile 5 or so, a runner came up behind me and alerted me that I had dropped my cell phone. I looked in my pocket, and sure enough my iPhone was gone!!! I turned around and began running against the crowd (not an easy task) searching for the phone. It was wrapped in plastic to keep it dry, and I could picture runners tramping on it. I found it and ran back to catch up with Ruth and she zipped it in my hydration pack—that was the end of taking pictures.
Fairly early in the race my left hip, outside thigh and knee began burning. Classic signs of ITBS. I tried not to dwell on it and focus on my form to try to alleviate it. By mile 12 I was beginning to get toe and leg cramps. I slowed down and wished Ruth well—I was going to have to do more walking if I wanted to finish the race. I took my time, took some stretch breaks, but the cramping continued. One minute it would be in my calf, then in my ankles/shins. Occasionally I would run slowly for a few yards only to feel the cramps begin. I think it was somewhere between mile 18 and 19 that both quads began to cramp. At one point, the medical volunteers came to my rescue as I tried to work out the cramps. They supported me while I hopped around on one foot, unable to put the other foot on the ground due to the severity of the cramp. At that point, I figured it was the end. But the cramp released and I hobbled off with a volunteer at my side for about a block to make sure that I was okay.
From that point on, I never ran more than a few feet at any given time. Around mile 20 or 21 I was only walking. I thought about walking off the course and taking the DNF. But as I evaluated my condition, I came to the conclusion that the pain was just the run of the mill, over-use kind of pain. Nothing indicated that I was headed for a serious injury. And the funny thing was, I wanted to run. I had the energy to run, but my legs just couldn’t take it. It was quite frustrating. And, while it might not have been fun, I was enjoying the challenge of seeing the race to the end and my spirits were good. I could still cheer on others that were feeling the same pain, I could appreciate the volunteers who were cheering me on by name (it’s great having your name printed on your bib!!). I walked and talked with several racers, and that took the focus away from the discomfort. I tried to come up with a top 10 list for why walking at the back of the pack was good, but could only come up with 3:
No. 3 –my clothes might be dried out by the time I finished
No. 2 – I wasn’t in a crowd; spectators were calling me by name, AND (drum roll, please)
No. 1 – there were no lines for the Port-o-Johns!!
At mile 23/24, I phoned Ruth to see if she had crossed the finish line. She had, and said they would be waiting for me no matter how long the wait. By this point, they were shutting down the race course. Volunteers were taking down the timers; thank goodness the water stations were still open.
It was anti-climatic coming into the finish. In fact, I couldn’t find the finish line. The barriers had been removed from the streets, traffic was flowing, and there were no signs. I thought it was at 11th Street, but when I got there, I didn’t see it. So I walked down to 10th—still no finish line. I called Ruth & Brian again and they directed me back to 11th Street and walked with me down to the official finish line. The volunteers and crowds were all gone, and I had to pull my finisher medal out of a box. Then the 3 of us began searching for my DH—I hadn’t been able to reach him on his cell phone and he wasn’t at the finish line. We finally connected, all said our good-byes, and headed back home.
My personal drama paled compared to the drama faced by the race organizers and the city-- someone had planted a bomb-like device in a microwave shortly after 11 a.m. on or near the race course. The last I read was that it was not a bomb, but it did interrupt the race.
Today I feel pretty good. I want to run the Pittsburgh Marathon again—the course is mostly flat or small rolling hills for the first half with some longer, slightly steeper hills in the second half. But none of the hills were real killers. And the end is downhill to flat. Chip time: 6:29:43; Clock time: 6:34:27.