So, contrary to what you may have thought I did not actually die following the Pittsburgh Half Marathon. I know, I promised an update right after; but, well I had a tough time finding a few minutes to get my head on straight and to really process the race.
The day started at 5:00AM with leaving my poor dog to hang out and wait for me to come home. I got to the office around 5:30, parked like a real jerk, and then waited. Come 6:30 I realized I needed to leave a few things in my car and went down to find I was taking up two spaces. Oops. I really must have been on auto-pilot that morning.
So, after apologizing profusely to the parking lot attendee (who got there after I did), I sprinted up to get my keys before then having to sprint to catch up to my coworker who was on his way to our starting corral. You see, we both thought we had until 7 or so to get there. Not true, we had to be there for 6:45 - d'oh!
So, we pack in like cattle into the corral. I won't lie, given recent events I not only felt claustrophobic in the fenced off cages; but, the unmarked white vans and U-hauls parked beside them made me even more twitchy. It's sad, I don't like thinking that Boston effected me (outside of profound sadness for those affected); but, it has. I think it actually affected me more than 9-11 did. I can see myself being in a race, I never saw myself working in an NYC skyscraper.
By 7:30 the Anthem had been sung, silence had been observed (somewhere farther up the course, you can't hear much in the back of the pack which for all intents and purposes is literally on the other side of the city), and the starting gun had shot. We started to move, slowly, toward the starting mat. All told it took 20 minutes or so to get there. The excitement was palpable. I've done a lot of races (I'd say); but, none as big as this one. None with such nervous, excited energy out of everyone. It was astounding.
Once the race started? My gosh, I don't think I stopped smiling for three miles. The first mile took us into the Strip district. We'd already passed two or three bands before we hit the first amazing cheering group and the first bridge of the course. Before I knew it we were up to mile 5 and the first relay exchange. Sure, those relayers came in with fresh legs; but, I didn't let them get me down!
Really, the most amazing group (in terms of energy and support) came from the Western PA Humane Society. They were all out there with dogs and water and music. They made me feel like a million bucks. I was so amazed by them. Of course, after this came my first enemy of the course - the West End Bridge. That puppy is steep when you're running up it; but, can I tell you how amazing the view is? When you're not stuck in a steel cage and can really look at where three rivers meet up and feel nothing but the sky over your head - I swear, it was like heaven.
I powered past the West End Bridge and into the West End poper. This was where my knee decided I shouldn't run downhill and I concurred. I'd already stopped twice on the course to stretch out my knee so I did the same here. What's fifteen seconds of stretching and finishing without pain in comparison to having to walk the rest of the course?
At this point, once I got my legs back under me, I was cooking with gas again. Out of the West End and up West Carson Street on my way to the South Side was my second favorite group. A bunch of Junior ROTC cadets cheering on runners up the second most ridiculous hill. I loved these kids because, well, I used to be one of them. They were full of energy even if they were probably 'ordered' to be there ;)
There was a nice, subtle downhill after the cadets and on the left was a cheering group for the club I'm in. They were cheering for 'team awesome' - which a bunch of my friends are apart of. They were with a coach who was targeting 2:30 half marathon times - and I think they all made it. I signed up for the 'I just want to finish!' group so I had a different coach than they did. The group also had SCRRC sign and a cowbell. They were fun and made me grin for another mile or two.
Truthfully, I don't remember much from the Southside aside from sticky pavement. Lots of Gatorade and Gu was wasted that day, I assure you. Ahead, though, all I could think of was making it to the Birmingham bridge before it closed. Ah, yes, my final and greatest nemesis. In my last blog I wrote about the total mindfrak I had going on when it came to that bridge. I mean, I knew I had something like three hours to get there and I knew I'd run 13 miles in that amount of time; but, I kept thinking of 'what if...'
Well, I made it to the bridge. I made it in about two hours.
This is where I have a moment of regret. I'd pushed really hard to that point - I wanted to be -sure- that I'd get there in time. Ten miles in a little over two hours, for me, is awesome. Of course, it was at this point that I felt like I could relax. I started giving myself permission. Around me, everyone else was walking up the bridge because it was steep. Well, I stopped and stretched my knee. I stopped and walked.
I was nowhere near running on E. I was nowhere near tired. In fact, when I hit the bridge I had this CRAZY thought that I could run the whole course again. CRAZY. That's how good I felt, though.
And yet I walked.
I probably lost ten minutes between how I crawled up the bridge and following hill to get up onto the parkway. (That's right, they closed down a mile of the parkway for us to run on...) I hate thinking about that. I had more in the tank and more in my heart but I let my mind soften up.
I got to the top of the hill and onto the parkway and I started running again. At this point I was -PASSING- people. People who had put it all out there and people who were saving up for the final mile push to the finish. After all, you have a nice, gradual downhill from the parkway into town and then a coast along past an amazing crowd to the finish line. Well, I wanted to be sure I'd do better than my last run time. I wanted to be sure I'd look strong as I ran past my family.
I had a pretty good idea where my family would be and when I found them I can't describe the joy. They came out. It was awesome. I stopped to give my mom a hug (because, what's ten seconds when you can have an awesome hug from your mom?) and then I was off again. Problem was, well, I was gasping for breath. Not because I was tired or weak - but because I could feel choked up sobs. I was just so proud. I may not have run as hard as I though I could; but, in that moment it didn't matter. I finished. I did something that a year ago sounded impossible. Hell, it sounded CRAZY.
And I did it.
I crossed the finish line at 2:52. That's Seven minutes faster than my previous half time. Seven minutes faster on a more difficult course. Some people run the entire full marathon in that time; but, it doesn't matter. I finished. I did the crazy, impossible thing.
I got my medal.
And now I have so much more confidence.
Tonight I have a follow up meeting at the study. I think I've lost 2-3 pounds since I last saw them. If not? Well, that's okay. I'm getting back on plan this week after having to eat the world last week. I'm excited to see my friends there. I'm bringing my medal. I'm going to thank these people because they have no idea what they've enabled me to achieve.
Last Saturday I went clothes shopping again. I'm almost down to a size 12. I'm officially a size Large in women's athletic gear. I'm seeing changes in my body even if the scale isn't quite showing them.
I'm feeling good, Sparklers. I'm feeling proud.