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!
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.
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!
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!
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.
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!