Tag Archives: pittsburgh half marathon

Race Report Part 2: The Race!

The Morning:
Anybody who doesn’t wake up naturally at o’dark-thirty knows the trick of setting as many alarms as you have access to. However, because of a slight Stephanie malfunction, the intended last of the three alarms we set went off at 3:33. That momentarily set me into “I can’t believe I slept through two alarms omg omg omg”.

I fell back asleep, but I don’t think Steph did. When the real alarms went off at 4:30, I pulled on all my meticulously stacked up gear, made the call not to bring the armwarmers (it was already 62degrees) and ate the Same Breakfast I Eat Every Morning. We drove down to the parking near the finish line, all chattering excitedly despite the early hour. We parked right near the finish, and walked a mile to the start line.

The Roberto Clemente Bridge

I assure you, this bridge is actually blurry.

We saw the 13 mile marker on the walk over there, and it was thrilling to think of it as my goal; that I would be there (and just a little bit farther) in just a few hours.

At the start line, we ran into two of Annette’s friends who were also running the half. We kept each other company, sitting beneath the overhang of PPG Place.

Before the start, I felt my first real bout of nervousness. My stomach got unsettled and I couldn’t eat the Gu I was planning to eat before the run got started. Instead I just kept laughing and talking, until some kind of energy washed down (all the way into corral E) and people hurried through the porta potty lines and into the corral for the start.

Swem eating Gu

Swem clearly had no trouble eating that pre-race Gu!

The Start:
That same invisible wave (we were too far back to hear the start line announcers) happened 3 or 4 more times, each moving us 10 feet, before the real start happened, and we were off. On the third, I had taken a much needed pit stop at my porta potties of last resort (the ones alongside Corral D!). I hadn’t had much to drink, and my body has never had much problem with nerves or GI distress while running, but I think just the enormity of the day complicated things. That said, as soon as they called for us to get running, and the crowd started to move fluidly, I felt really solid, and pretty much immediately after the start I was able to eat that gu so that I had energy for the run.

At about 0.5miles in, I saw the cheer-squad for the first time, holding up signs that read:

“You’re almost there!” and “<—- That's what she said!"

You could hear laughs, cheers and groans coming up from the crowd as they read the signs. Steph was grinning at me like a maniac, and it really revved me up for the race to come!

The start line shot!

Not just running this! Photobombing it!

The first part of the race was through downtown, which made my Garmin pretty much lose its mind, but that’s fine, because I was trying to hold back to keep myself from turning race day excitement into dead legs in the last mile.

Mile 1 passed like a dream. I couldn’t believe the line of 12 people at the first porta potty, but besides that the whole first mile was spent marvelling at the sea of humanity with a purpose, stretched out behind and before me.

The Strip and the North Shore:
Mile 2 came up through the strip district and to our first turn. The Strip District was home to a guy dressed in a full body lobster costume. If you don’t know why a guy dressed in a full body lobster costume is tremendously motivating, you’ve obviously never seen one cheering for you during a race. Thank you, Rock Lobster Guy.

Mile 3 passed quickly, as I ran through the first water station. My philosophy was that I don’t need water this early, and I certainly don’t need to join all 15,000 participants as they learn how the fluid stations are going to work. I could figure out how it worked by watching rather than walking.

At 3.5 came our second encounter with the cheer squad, this time sans signs. I wasn’t wearing glasses, and I was looking for their yellow umbrella, which resulted in the following excellent photo.

Mile 3.5, too much confusion here...

"There they are!", "Oh, I see them!", "No, here!", "Ya, there!"

From there, it was almost 6 miles before we’d see the girls again at the mile 9 point over in the South Side, so I strapped down to really push myself through this run.

As we left them, before mile 4, we crossed over the first of the four bridges we’d be running that day, the 16th street bridge. There, among the see of people, I saw a girl in a purple UnderArmour Shirt that said “Don’t Be Last” on the back of it. Even though I could see a huge field of people behind me, something about that shirt said “Beat me to the finish line, Donald.”, and it was distinctive enough that I remembered it, until I saw it again.

The first bridge over, and a sizable but not massive hill up into the North Shore. I felt strong, and the race had thinned out from the substantial crowds back on Liberty and Smallman, but was to remain a relatively thick field all the way to the end. The North Shore was amazing, along with another of my favorite course moments. As we came up the incline of East Commons street, we heard one voice, backed by a choir. Swem turned to me and said “I really hope that’s a full choir, and not just a backup track”. Lo and behold, as we came up to the corner, passing a huge section of cheering supporters, we saw the full church choir singing outside the Allegheny Center Alliance Church for encouragement. If anyone in Pittsburgh knows any of those great folks, please give them a hug from me. It put a huge grin on both our faces to hear voices cheering us on through song.

West End and the South Side:
At mile 6, we headed over the West End Bridge, which we’d driven over the prior day. There was a pretty steep rise to this bridge, and I heard people around me yelling encouragement to their partners. I ducked my head down and tried to keep my pace up strong. The good thing about a bridge is that unlike a natural hill, there’s no deceptive double rise, no confusing mid hill curve that gives you more hill. Once you hit the crest, you know it’s pretty much the same downhill as you just went up.

Beyond that, in the West End, we were rewarded with a zen moment of the race. Because the roads out there aren’t very populated, and we were on a closed highway connector, there was almost no sound, except for the sound of feet slapping on pavement, and the breathing of runners. Swem pointed this out to me and then we quietly enjoyed that cadence.

That feeling characterized the entire 6-9mile stretch. At around 8.5 or so, the stored and crowds of the south side started to rise to either side of the road. The familiar sights of East Carson Street were lined with some of the biggest crowds of the race. At mile 9, we saw Steph, Jen and Annette for the penultimate time, this time with their second batch of signs, the inspired “Something Inspirational”, the laser-correct, “Bold, Bald, Brian” and the inside joke, “Run Faster! The fish-bees are chasing you!”. Knowing that this was the last low key passing of the girls, we both stopped to sneak a kiss, and headed on to the half-marathon split.

From here to the end, the crowd support was excellent. Running the high side of the south side, soldiers in BDU’s were waving and cheering the runners. Then, down along Muriel St. a huge crowd featured 3 bands, a high-school cheerleader squad giving high-fives with their pompoms and a guy revving a harley loud as a rocks in a garbage disposal. Swem and I remarked that it was our favorite half mile of the course.

Around the end of the South Side, Brian pulled away to find a porta-potty, and I ran a lot of the remaining race alone, which suited me very well. The crowds and racers were plenty of company. We crossed the third bridge of the course, the Smithfield bridge, and made our way up Smithfield street and through downtown. I was tired, but was still moving at a solid 10:30 pace when mile 12 sprung up on my left. I glanced at my watch and saw 2:07 as I passed that marker. I didn’t have to do much math to know that unless I broke something I was going to blow away my ‘secret’ target of 2:30, and if I gave it a good effort, I could easily beat 2:20!

Knowing this was the last mile, I buckled down to run it hard, but as I did, I passed one of the weirdest bands yet. After 12 miles of up-tempo, uplifting, power guitars, blues on upright bass, and even the odd, but somehow inspiring ambient electronica, I passed a solo female vocalist playing down-tempo coffeehouse folk. Now, don’t get me wrong, I love a good female folk vocalist, but it was NOT what I needed as I dug in and prepared to spend my reserves to make my last 1.1 count!

Downtown went by in a blur though, and soon I was running alongside a female runner who was imploring the crowd for support. I joined her with the big hand gestures and we were rewarded with excellent crowd roars as we entered the Roberto Clemente Bridge, and the home stretch to the finish.

The Last Mile:
On the Roberto Clemente, I saw the girl with the Under Armour “Don’t Be Last” shirt, and I told myself I was going to beat her to the finish. That last bridge piled more abuse on to my quads, as was trying to maintain a 9:50 pace for this last stretch. But I did it. I left her behind as I passed the 1/4mile to go sign.

I saw the cheer-squad on the left and threw them a big smile and a fist pump. The huge yellow inflatable finish line was visible up ahead, and my watch read under 2:20 as I crossed over the finish line, my arms raised above my head in triumph.

Pushing into the chute, my eyes clouded with tears, and I actually started to cry. The emotion of finishing, and finishing strong, and finishing faster than I had even imagined I could just completely overwhelmed me. Even thinking back on that moment now, as I reached out to a volunteer to get my medal, I mist up a little. I must have yelled thank you at 50 volunteers as I piled food into my hands, and guzzled 4 or 5 cups of gatorade.

My official time was 2:18:17, a 10:33 pace. Almost a full 12 minutes faster than I thought I could run, and I had polished off the last 1.1 in just about 11 minutes.

The Celebration!:
The reward was our trip to Burgatory, which has been planned for almost as long as the race! I didn’t even realize it wasn’t noon before I finished my first Stone IPA. The second went to wash down my (MASSIVE) bacon, bbq, onion strings burger. The place, despite being distant from the race, was populated by people in the green shirt of the half marathon. We celebrated for an hour or more, chatting with some of the other racers and repeatedly toasting each other with glasses raised. I had a long awaited bourbon & caramel milkshake (which tastes exactly as good as it sounds, and looks, see below) and I got all the details of the girls’ day in the company of great friends.


Food hasn't arrived yet and I'm considering eating Steph

Don't you wish your burger was hot like me?

Dignity is overrated. BBQ sauce is not.

Bourbon Caramel Milkshake

Bourbon Caramel Milkshake; No caption will do it justice, trust me.

I had an amazing experience running this half, so much so that I really can’t wait to sign up for my next. This post took so long to write because I wanted to get it exactly right. I know I’m always going to remember the huge support of the excellent people of Pittsburgh on my journey to do the half.

Big thanks to Annette, Swem, Jen and Stephanie for being there to support me, and to Sherry, Lauren, Paul for showing keen interest via the internet. My time was rocketing its way ’round twitter and facebook a few moments after the race. The love and help you’ve all given me has been huge. I hope that I can repay you all, or pay it forward to someone else. I couldn’t have made it 200 feet without you, never mind 13.1 miles.

I did it! And they gave me this terrible cookie to prove it!

One more thing: This journey isn’t over. I’m already planning out my next race. And I ran 4 miles this morning, in the hills of Ellicott City.


Race Report Part 1: My Half Marathon Weekend

Here’s the full, recorded-for-posterity, race report of my first ever half Marathon, ran this past weekend on 5/15/2011. Please, forgive the length, but I had such a good time that I wanted every detail I could remember plugged up in here. I split it up into parts, starting with the tale of some of the build up!

The Trip:
Steph picked me up at 4:30 on Friday, after a tough day trying to work. With all my excitement about the race, I could barely focus on office work, but I forced myself to clean some things off my desk so that I didn’t come back to too much hanging over my head on Monday. We set out for the drive to Pittsburgh in our new car (we *just* bought a 2011 Ford Edge in late April) and let me tell you, having a car that fit me made all the difference on my comfort for this road trip.

Our only stop was at Panera bread for some dinner. Now I know what you’re thinking; CARBO LOAD! But I restrained myself! While I did have their French Onion Soup in a bread bowl, I didn’t load up with extra carbs above that. And honestly, my race still felt like a distant object at this point. We settled in for the last couple of hours, and drove into Pittsburgh at about 9:45pm.

My original plan was to run a quick 2 miles that night to be my last ‘leg stretch’ before the half, but it was way too late and it was hard to consider strapping on the headlight and the running gear rather than spending some time chatting with Chuck & Annette. So I postponed the warmup to the next morning, tucked in by about 11, and dreamed of swift feet.

The Warmup:
I woke up at 7am, and I think Steph almost clubbed me in the face for it. I get up at about the same 7-8am time every morning, but Steph prefers earlier on weekdays and later on weekends, so my rummaging around for run clothes was very unwelcome! Still, getting some good rest had meant I was up early, and I wanted to get my 2 miles in and get to my first ever race expo.

As the king of worrying, I’m also the king of overpreparing. This is not the same as preparing well, though on a good day they intersect. I had brought my brand of English Muffins (Thomas’ Whole Wheat FOR LIFE), the k-cup of my favorite morning coffee (Coffee People Organic; because it tastes good, not because it’s organic) and a nearly complete duplicate of my race outfit. So I wiggled into the ‘not for the race, but almost’ outfit, including accessories, like armwarmers tucked in the waistband of my pouch, and the quantity of GU I had decided to run with. had the same breakfast I have before every race (and honestly, pretty much every morning). It was overkill, but it was really reassuring to know I had everything I needed, and that nothing was going to fit wrong or be missing a piece for the next morning.

And after all that, I set out the door for 2 miles. Such a short run can make a big difference! Annette gave me the directions up to Schenley park, and I ran out there, and onto the Panther Hollow Lower Trail. It was a picturesque place to psyche myself up for my big run! The road to get there was a hard climb (for a flatlander) that I took slow, but it was good to remind my legs that tomorrow would not be the Midwestern terrain they were used to. Then the trail! Laid out in the city, you get so far from the roads, so quickly, that you feel lost in the woods. The crushed limestone thumped lightly under my feet, and I got to see a part of Pittsburgh I might have only seen once before, on a day walk during college. The trail goes over a footbridge, brick laid by hand so long ago that it all had smoothed together to look like abnormally helpful natural stone, and then along a retaining wall constructed of solid stone blocks, placed long before I was born. The whole thing had a feeling of one-ness, like the city had accepted Panther Hollow and Panther Hollow had accepted the city. Overall it was a very meditative run, and a good prep for the half for body and mind.

I got home, feeling wonderfully refreshed, and we set out to the Expo!

The Expo:
This is when Steph realized that she hadn’t put a CF card into her camera bag, which is why there are no pictures up to this point! She’d grab the CF card during the less hectic afternoon, but until then, you’re stuck letting me try to draw pictures with inadequate words.

The Expo was in the downtown David L. Lawrence Convention Center, and I was unbelievably excited to go. To me, getting the number, and the shirt, and to browse the expo was going to start the process, to make it irrevocable and real. We picked up my number, and there was a twinge of sadness when we picked up Brian’s number, as they offered us Nathan’s as well. Nathan had to cancel running the half so that he could maintain his (Crazy, exciting, cool!) travel plans before starting a PhD in Economics program in the fall, so he wouldn’t be keeping us company on the roads of Pittsburgh. Maybe another year Nathan! Good luck at UT!

Numbers in hand, I then set out to look at every bag, pouch, gizmo-holder in the place! It was a relatively small expo, so it didn’t take long, but I made the girls circle it with me twice while I just enjoyed the feeling, browsing around, surrounded by all the positive energy that anticipation brings. I was demo’d some awfully uncomfortable headphones, which mostly involved being momentarily tethered to a bored salesgirl by an iPod cord. They were guaranteed not to fall out, though after two seconds I wished they would so I could escape!

They had this great stack of temporary tattoos with splits on them that you could put on your forearm. I was all excited to apply one until Annette pointed out I’d have to shave my arm. Disadvantages of being a furball, I guess. Still, we took a few, in case I changed my mind. This is where Annette first confessed to me that she was pretty sure I would run a 2:10-2:15 half. It wasn’t even in my wildest dreams. I had set my goal as a finish, and stubbornly avoided numbers, but in my heart of hearts, I had a 2:30 debut effort in mind. More on that, later.

I was hoping to have my name emblazoned somewhere large enough that people could cheer for me by name along the course, an idea I got from Chase, @ TheChaseProject in her National Marathon Race Recap. At home, before the trip, we had tried to look for iron on numbers (which all seemed to require a hot enough iron to melt polyester) and we found a fabric marker that we really thought was going to work, except it smelled like fish, and I didn’t want to chance huffing seafood flavor for 13.1 miles. So one of my big hopes for the Expo was to find a place that would put my name on my chosen race shirt, but it was not to be! I had heard some places will do it for a fee, or others will sell transparencies intended to be a temporary name, or even have Triathalon style markers to write it on your arm, but nothing like that was in sight.

As far as shopping damage, I managed to only buy two new pouches. My first selection was a water resistant SPIbelt, on my wishlist since I shorted out my Blackberry and killed its battery earlier this year. I also grabbed a bright green Armpocket to try carrying my stuff on my arm rather than my waist. I’d use this more as a wallet for my arm. It seems more accessible and closer at hand if I ever do want to carry my phone for use rather than just emergencies.

Post Expo pictures! Cheesing with my number & my shirt!

Maybe he

Hermes is my race penguin. I got him after the Detroit Zoo 5k.

The shirt!

My shirt! I'm ridiculously excited!

I was very excited to see it was a Half-Marathon shirt, rather than a “Pittsburgh Marathon/Marathon Relay/Half Marathon/Day Before 5k/1 mile Kids Run!” combo shirt. I was *not* looking forward to the following conversation every time I wore it.

Well-Meaning Friend: OMG! You ran the Pittsburgh Marathon!
Me: Well, actually, I ran the half.
Well-Meaning Friend: Oh, just the half? I guess that’s pretty far too.

The Friends:
Expo fun all complete, we had lunch back at Chuck & Annette’s (sandwiches!), Steph obtained a CF card for the camera, and we headed to the airport to retrieve Brian and our third cheer-team member, his bride-to-be, Jen.

When we returned from the airport, a ton of my Pittsburgh friends had started to gather to hang out, tell stories and to split the pasta dinner Steph & Annette had prepared. Along with a Yuengling, that was my indulgence/’carb-load’ before the event. Maybe not strictly necessary from a physiological point of view, but nonetheless an amazing way to spend the evening with my friends. I’m so grateful to everybody who came to hang out that night and see me off, and extra thankful that they didn’t call me lame when I set off for bed at 10pm.

Next Up: The actual race!


I ran it today. My first half marathon. The highs were high, the lows were not too low at all, and the whole thing was an experience worth an entire blog.

That’s coming soon, but for now you just get me & Swem wrapped in our mylar superhero capes.

Happy & Crazy

I may still be wearing my medal. A little. Right now.

Ready for the race, but not ready for the taper!

The Plan has become a sort of religion for me, complete with Sunday Services.

For weeks, every Sunday, I carved out hours to pay worship to sun, rain, wind and road, to beat myself into a new form, a runner. I have had a plan, a routine. I have metrics and numbers, and goals. I’ve added to my weekly mileage, upped my endurance, crammed 5 miles into a weekday run where before I struggled to get 3 in.

And then I started to taper. No long run Sunday. 4 miles Tuesday, no run Wednesday, 3 tiny miles today. Only 2 tomorrow. And then it’s race weekend, the whole point of this exercise (or maybe, just the tip of the iceberg that is really The Point.). And I’m confident, I’m ready for the race. All the change to my schedule, my 5x a week worship, my daily catechism, I was not ready for. I wasn’t ready for the taper.

Tapering is hard. For some people, it seems to be physical. Cold symptoms, cramps, wild appetite. Not for me. For me, it’s just breaking my mold that’s hard. Hard to tell a random co-worker that I’m only running 3 miles today, only 9 miles this week. Hard to fill in all the yellow squares on my summary log. I’m listening to my body, and doing the right thing this last week, but I want to do more!

But not as bad as I want to run the Pittsburgh Half Marathon. I want to run it strong, and fast, and leave nothing on the table. So right now I have to load up that table with rest and kindness to my body. Not anything it wants, but just a few extra carbs with dinner. Going to sleep early. Running 11 minute miles when it screams to run 10s.

Look out Smithfield Ave. Look out, Roberto Clemente Bridge. Look out Heinz Field. I’m coming. I’m going to storm the Strip District, I’m going to power my way out into the Northside and burn my way down Carson St, and then I’m coming for you, Pittsburgh.

2 days, 17 hours to the Pittsburgh Half Marathon. 2 days, 19 hours, 30 minutes to the finish line.

Half Marathon, Week 9

I decided that after training by running after lunch for a few months, I needed to make sure I wasn’t going to get a nasty surprise on race day with my customary diet and wakeup times for races. So I set an alarm and woke up at 7am Sunday morning, ate my run breakfast (English muffin w/ PB, banana, cup of coffee), suited up and headed out the door.

I ran 11 miles that morning with 0.6 of warmup and cooldown, and the whole thing was great. Near the end, my left leg started to cramp, a cramp that stayed sore until I slept, and returned/worsened during my 5 mile run last night. So for the first time, tonight, I’m missing a run. I’m doing it because everytime I’ve seen someone ask “my leg hurts, should I run to stick to my plan” the answer has been “Don’t risk injuring yourself this close to your run. Sticking to your plan isn’t going to make you invulnerable.”

So I’m icing and resting today. And I’m skipping a cross train tomorrow. And reducing my mileage on Friday to an easy 3 instead of an easy 5. But I’m hoping to still go on my last long run Sunday.

Oddly, instead of feeling defeated or deflated by it, I’m content. There’s a little frustration at my leg, a desire for it to get better so I can keep going, but I don’t feel as dissatisfied as I could. I’m motivated to get better and get back on my feet and running, even if the way to do that is to not run right now.

17 days to the Pittsburgh Half Marathon.

A weekend of running

I have two runs to talk about, each of them really great, with high highs and not very bad lows. But they are completely different, two vastly different endpoints of the same long road.

Friday, I ran 5 miles. I’m still a bit unbelieving that my ‘twice a week’ run is now a distance I once called a long training run, and wanted to emphasize that by running one of my old routes. I would start out at the RAC after work, and run home, just about exactly 5 miles door-to-door. 

Or I would have, if I hadn’t gotten the following text message at 3:45pm

Weather for Fri, 04/15:Partly Cloudy  and  Windy, and 53 &deg; F. Start run @4:30. Text time to <e-mail redacted> CU@Falls.

Oh, son of crap I forgot my weekly 5k! It starts in 45 minutes! I frantically texted my (beautiful, wonderful, supportive) wife, and she offered to leave work early (knowing she’d have to make up the time working at home) and drop off my running gear.

She pulled up at 4:20 or so, and I *hurled* myself into my clothes in a restroom, and dumped my bag in her trunk, and took off running right from the front door of my building. She had an MMA class starting at 6pm, so I have 1 hour, meaning that I had to be economical with my time (5 miles in an hour is about my ‘slow run’ pace.) so I resolved to run the 5 miles as a warmup run to Fallsports, the FAC 5k, and then tack on whatever I needed to get to 5miles.

The warmup was definitely a brisk warmup, somewhere in the 10:30 pace for the less-than-a-mile out to Fallsports. It was a cold, somewhat blustery day (though nowhere near as windy as my 10 miles, Sunday!). The extra motivation of trying to keep Steph on schedule, along with the naturally motivating feel of this little weekly ‘race’, was enough that I pounded out each successive mile faster and faster. Each lap of Shemansky Park was burned though in what felt, previously, like an unachieveble time. My 5k time was 30:43, a pace of 9:53.

I was elated.  I stopped to breathe, thinking I would run out my remaining ~1.25 miles at a nice slow pace along the neighborhood streets, and just  bask in that great 5k time, maybe mentally plan out a 5k race to run to get that PR ‘officially’ on the books. But as I stopped to breathe, my coworker Mahmoud came up behind me, on his last lap, on pace to do a 25 min 5k! I ran alongside him, rather than taking my planned breather, and ran that lap faster than the ones before it. And then, instead of wandering off at the end of that lap, he hung in another lap to motivate me, and that resulted in my last mile being just as fast as the previous 4. When I ran up to the car in the CVS parking lot, drenched in sweat and breathing hard, I saw that the overall pace for the 5 miles had been 9:54.  I had just run 5 miles in < 50 minutes.

I knew immediately that I probably shouldn’t have done it. My legs didn’t hurt, and my body felt fine, but there’s some kind of fail-safe deep in the system somewhere that was throwing switches and declaring maintenance operations to begin. I sat in the gym during Stephanie’s MMA class, relaxing at one of the tables, and I thought about my 10 mile run, about what I’d heard about the importance of recovery time, and all the things I had learned second hand. I wondered if I was going to learn some of it first hand when I woke up on Sunday and tried to repeat my double digit run from last week.

Saturday flew by, and my legs seemed to recover.

I was excited for my 10 mile run, and got outside with fewer psychological games than in the 9 mile weeks. It was a very windy day here in the Midwest, with constant winds out of the west of 20mph and gusts up to 30mph, so I did the sensible thing and ran as much as I could in the shelter of the trees of the Lower Huron Metropark. Dressed more like I had for a winter run, I felt a little pang of ‘backsliding’ as I set out the door, but I never felt the urge to swap out my pullover for the pair of armwarmers I packed into the bag.

Last week when I ran 10, it was 5 out, and 5 back, with no real warm up and cooldown. The garmin measured a 10.77 course, some of which was building interference error, and some of it was correcting for lost time under multi-level streets. But I certainly didn’t tack on my customary 1-1.5 miles of warmup/cooldown. Sunday, I did more than that. Half mile to the front of my neighborhood, and that planned route through the metro park would end at least ~1.25 miles from home. The warmup felt right as rain, though I think I’m starting to feel the age of my shoes (they’re past the 250mile and up at the 300mile mark!).  The wind pushed me out and up along my course, on the busy streets to the Metropark. During the 4 mile stretch through the park that wind was basically was mitigated by the trees and the riverside setting of the Lower Huron course. As I exited the park down at the bottom, I felt a sense of exhiliration; I had never run this far through this park. I had run 7 miles once inside the park, but I had been dropped off right at the entrance. Running the whole length of the park after making it to the entrance, I was eager to run the road outside and head back home. That 10 mile route was something I once plotted on a map looking for something longer than 3 miles, and laughed breezily at, thinking I would never do.

The run up Haggerty was north and slightly west, and the wind was pushing hard against me. A few times I jumped off the road long enough to let a car pass rather than risk being blown into their path. I had my third and final gu at mile 8, and put my head into that wind for another double digit finish. I maintained an 11:00 pace for the whole run, struggling against the wind, but never stopping or taking a break during the 10 mile route.

When that 10 miles was over, on the other hand, my tired legs and fighting against the wind conspired to make it a very long trip back to the house. Where previously I have run most of the cooldown, Sunday I estimate I ran half of it. The headwind heading west was actually enough to stop me dead in my tracks once or twice. I flopped in the door and had some solid food and a glass of milk.

I’m amazed how different these two runs are, how my body reacted to them, and how it feels to have them behind me. I’m proud of both of these runs, and both of them were successful. The speed of the Friday run is not something I intend to repeat until after my half marathon, but it was elating to feel myself move that fast. And the 10 mile run, even with the hard finish, was a big confidence booster; I only have 2 more long runs, and if the worst result I have is that it gets hard after I stop my course, I’ll take it! 

In just a few weeks I expect myself to run 13.1 miles, and with the training of the next two weeks, and a nice responsible taper for the two weeks after that, I think I will have all the energy and motivation I need to do it.

26 days to the Pittsburgh Half Marathon.

Double Digits in the Second City

The frustrating thing about knowing most of the people that read my blog is knowing that I can’t say “I BET NONE OF YOU RAN 10 MILES THIS WEEKEND”. In fact, I know that a lot of you probably did.

But, this isn’t about you. This is about me. And I RAN 10 MILES THIS WEEKEND!

That’s right, 10 statute miles. If you were searching for the closest me on a website, you’d have to select the second radio button, because I was more than 10 miles away. If you wanted to track my mileage, your odometer needs a 10’s digit, or the ability to remember a 10’s digit, or you need to be counting in base 12 or base 16, in which case you have a screwed up odomoter. Plus my blog is hard enough to read without saying things like “I ran #0A miles”.

It was glorious! It was amazing! It was life changing! It was at least 11.11% better than running 9 miles! This is so momentous, it needs some kind of marker, like a stone, that marks how far, how many miles, I’ve come.



Actually, while there’s a little bit of mental celebration, 10 miles feels pretty much like 9 miles before it. My traditional warmup and cooldown were skipped, making this feel a little easier, and there was a little extra walking done while searching for water, crossing busy streets and otherwise navigating city running. On top of that, part of the purpose behind training so hard, so steady, and so sensibly, is so that my next steps feel like evolutions, rather than big breakthroughs.

The run itself was great; I ran with Swem (See Village of Trainers) through the streets of Chicago, through the Loop, past Lower Wacker (no car chases going on, sadly) and out along a beautiful running/biking path that the city has along Lakeshore drive. Being among so many people, seeing so many runners and cyclists was inspiring, compared to running in the suburbs, where I run past cars and children pretty much exclusively. I saw girls in the traditional serious runner outfit, guys bigger than me struggling along in gym shorts and t-shirts, obligatory-inline-skating-backwards guy and what looked like an out of place long distance cycle relay team (dressed to the 9’s in their serious business cyling gear.) We turned around out at the 2.5 mile mark along the lake shore, and took a different route back into the city, which let me see more of this amazing town, including running along crowded Michigan Ave beneath signs like “Tiffany” and “Giorgio Armani” and momentarily outpacing a Dodge Viper who was stuck in city traffic.

I ran 10 miles, something I can honestly say I didn’t think was possible last year at this time. This coming weekend I’ll do it again, and then it’s on to the next milestone.

32 days to the Pittsburgh Half-Marathon.

My WWWP5k!

Don all done with the WWWP5kMy half marathon plan called for a 40 min cross train last night, but I jumped on a train to Chicago at noon Friday, which meant I’d have missed my 4.5 mile run. And there was no way I was going to give up miles on the road for minutes on the stationary bike, while I have healthy, happy legs and a desire to run. My Friday run is with a bunch of coworkers who call themselves the Fallsports Athletic Club (Fallsports is a bar near my office) and run a 5k every Friday, and, like any bunch of engineers would, have a website that responds to text messages and tells us if there’s a cancellation, allows us to record our targets, and our times.
So, since I couldn’t run with my coworkers, I decided to run with the office crew from Automattic. That’s right, instead of the Fallsports Athletic Club 5k, I did the WorldWide WordPress 5k.
With my coworkers, I do the first part of my Friday training run as a 5k, and report the time. I figured the folks at Automattic wouldn’t mind me keeping up with my training regimen while I joined in on the fun, so I resolved to do the same thing, with the additional logistical restrictions of having to provide some photos, rather than just text messaging my time to WordPress and calling it a day!
Of course after planning the whole thing out, I left my camera in my car with my gear, so I only got photos at the end of 4.5 miles. But through the miracle of Google, I give you, the AUGMENTED REALITY WWW5PK/FAC 5k/4.5mile training run!

I set off from the start line (that empty Angelo’s Pizza is now a tasty hot dog/reuben place that I would eat at if I weren’t running 5k’s to pay penance for all the hot dogs and reubens I’d eaten in the first place.) and I was all alone, running along the road on a cool Thursday evening. Dearborn, like most of Michigan, isn’t particularly pedestrian friendly, that’s no surprise that I didn’t pass any other walkers or runners on my way to Shemansky Park.

Shemansky Park is just a small neighborhood park, a triangular patch of grass right near Ford’s Development Center. (I swear, the little brick sign that’s there is nicer than my rendition of it, but apparently hasn’t been there long enough for Google Street View to catch a shot.) It’s a ~0.46mi loop, and the run to get to it is just a bit more than that, so 5.5 laps of the park finishes off our weekly 5k, and for me that day, finished off the WWWP5k!
WWWP5k Finish Time ShotI didn’t have a camera with me on the run, so I kept a second watch with me to take the obligatory finish time photograph! 34:30 is a slow 5k compared to my recent runs, but ITotally Cliche Garmin Photo was nursing a hamstring that wasn’t perfect after Sunday’s 9 miles. Once I finished the 5k I tacked on an extra lap and then ran the route back to my car, which got me to my training goal. The whole thing was done in 49:30, making for a very respectable 10:55 pace on this Thursday.

And even though it didn’t have any of the company of my fellow runners, I’m looking forward to opening up the WWWP5k tag once I get this posted, and reading about the ‘race’ we all ran together. Congrats to all the finishers, fast, slow, and in between.