Friday, May 23, 2014

Bodies in Motion 5K-A Great Local Race!

Last Sunday the boys and I decided to do the Bodies in Motion 5K.  It was a fundraiser for the Blue Ridge Orthopedic Foundation to raise money for local charities.  They also collected used athletic shoes.

Pre race selfie
  It started at the WARF.  Zach needed another training run for his upcoming 10K, and Nic and I were going to enjoy a nice little run in an area where we hadn't run before.

Obligatory shoe shot
  I was able to pick up the packet on Friday with no problems at all.  The race t-shirt was nice, and we also got  a cute plastic mug.
Cool swag!

 Race morning was very organized.  We were able to use the bathrooms at the WARF. The 5K and 10K started right on time directly after the fun run.  Sarah Bowman Brown was there to start us off. Elliptigo was also there demonstrating so there were Elliptigo riders from The Running Store along the course as well.  Zach started closer to the front.  I ran with Nic and one of my running friends.  The course was a little hilly for the kids, but they did fine.  It was like a double loop around a neighborhood.  There were two water stops on the 5K course, and Sarah Brown ran by at least once encouraging the runners.  Zach said that he was afraid of not making the correct turns for the 5K and getting on the 10K course so he stopped at a few turns to ask the course marshalls if he was on the right course. 

Overall the signage was good, and the course marshalls did a good job of directing everyone to the appropriate spots.  A lot of the neighbors had also come out to cheer on the runners so that was fun to see families out on the lawn.  Zach finished in 29:23  11/22 for the 13 and under age group.
Zach finishing up!
Race director had a high five for everyone!

  Nic finished at 32:00  16/22.  My friend and I finished right after Nic because he gave a little finishing kick at the end and raced some other little guy in. 
Nic and another little guy racing to the finish!

The race director was at the finish line announcing and high fiving all of the runners. It was a nice way to spend a Sunday morning.  It was a great little local race.  I would definitely do it again.

My friend and I just chit chatting like there is no race in progress.
Post race photo for Moms Run This Town
My little guy even made the slide show in the local newspaper.

Wednesday, May 14, 2014

Runner of Steel

When I first started running marathons, I made a list of three marathons that I absolutely had to run:  Marine Corps, Richmond, and Pittsburgh.  I knew that when I did Pittsburgh that I wanted it to be fun and a celebration so this was perfectly placed in my spring schedule.  After my DNF at Bull Run, I really needed a finish and to get some serious joy back in my running.  I knew my hometown was just the place to do that.

We headed up to Pittsburgh on Friday morning and basically had the worst trip ever getting up there.  The bathrooms in the Taco Bell were broken.  There was a huge truck fire on the turnpike that closed the turnpike for 3 hours, and there was a massive back up on I79N.

Trying to make the best of the trip!
So this happened!
Then this happened!

So then this had to happen!
After almost 9 hours, we finally got to New Castle, ate Pizza Joes, and crashed for the night.  The next morning we got up and had breakfast with family and then JD and I headed down to Pittsburgh.

We hit the expo at the David Lawrence Convention Center.  It was an amazing expo, but it was really crowded.  I don't think I've ever been at an expo this big except for maybe Marine Corps, but we went really early for Marine Corps.  The energy in the expo was awesome.
Reason wall
My reason on the wall: serenity.

Name wall..pretty cool to see three Duricks on the wall...JD's cousin ran the 1/2

Expo entrance
Merchandise store
Expo selfie

 We had paid for the VIP Experience so we didn't have any line to pick up bibs and shirts.
No lines!

  Then we ran into some friends from Oil Creek 100 and spent a ton of time reminiscing about the race and talking about this year's race.  I bought a cool race t-shirt and then went to the CompresSport booth to get the quad sleeves that Coach Sage had recommended for recovery purposes.  The rep there was awesome and did measurements and made sure we got the right sleeves.   I wore them right after the race, and they really helped in recovery plus they were much easier to get on than regular compression shorts.
At the CompressSport booth

After the expo we tried to check into the hotel and ended up having to hang out in the lobby for a bit before our room was ready.  We were in the Cambria Suites right next to the Consol Energy Center, home of my beloved Pens, so that was kind of fun.

 Our room was really nice, and the hotel staff were great.  We rested for a bit and then walked to Blue Line Grille to get some dinner.  We went early so it wasn't crowded with Pirates fans or runners.  The meal was really good, and it was a fun atmosphere.

Dinner selfie
Mural at Blue Line
We had to sample the three pucks dessert.
Awesome water service!
After dinner we headed back to the hotel so I could lay out my flat mama.  (JD was still debating whether to race due to some Achilles issues that he was having.  He ultimately decided not to run which was a really hard, but a really smart decision.  I appreciate him so much for being support crew all day and going to the start and waiting at the finish for me even though it must have been awful knowing that he should have been running.)

We also met up with JD's cousin who was running the half and happened to be staying at the same hotel.  We decided to walk down to try to find the start corrals.  It turned out to be about a 1/2 mile walk from the hotel to the start corrals so it wasn't too bad.  It was also nice to know where we needed to go for the next day.
Corral map

I didn't get much sleep and was restless much of the night.  At 4:30 am, we got up.  I ate my peanut butter and raisin bread and got dressed.  We walked down to the start area really early because we had access to the VIP area.  The VIP area was in this arts center type area with a great view of the start line.  They had bananas, bagels, water, coffee, and a bunch of other breakfast foods.  I got coffee and a banana, used the bathroom 300 times (nice clean indoor bathrooms are what I paid for), and watched the elites mingle and warm up.  I also was able to drop my bag right at a nice little area with no waiting.  This alone was worth the VIP cost.  Being able to wait inside and not be crowded and have access to bathrooms with no line was awesome.  Bonus was that we got to watch the elite athletes warm up right outside the window.
Hanging in the VIP area

Just me and the elites!

Around 6:30 I decided to head to my corral.  Corrals were supposed to close at 6:45 am.  Getting into the corral was a bit of a nightmare.  This was my only complaint with the whole race.  They had far too few corral entrances so it was like herding cattle to get runners into the corrals.  Once I got into the corral, it really got fun.  I got as close to the 4:30 pace group as I could.  (I didn't really think a PR was realistic, but I figured I would hang on for as long as I could just in case I was having an amazing day.)  The music was pumping and the atmosphere was amazing.  We had America the Beautiful and the National Anthem, and then they launched the elites.
Packed into the started to rain a bit.

Corral selfie
We got to watch on an enormous video screen so that was fun.  After that corral B went, and then corral C.  So at 7:21 I finally crossed the start line.  I was running sans Garmin because I didn't want the pressure, and my goal was to enjoy Pittsburgh.  At this point I got ahead of the 4:30 pace group, but I figured I would find them once the crowd thinned out.  I was amazed by how quickly the crowd did thin out, and I was able to run a reasonable pace without too much weaving.  I credit the runners to correctly placing themselves in corrals and to the race for strictly enforcing the corral placement. Everyone in Corral C really was running a 9-11 minute pace range so the group was moving and spreading out nicely.

We ran down Liberty Ave and made a hard left into the Strip District.  Even for the early hour, there were people out on the street cheering and bands playing along the way. Act of Pardon was one of the really rockin' bands in this area playing 90's alt rock to get us going early on.
Having fun in the Strip District

 We were quickly out of the Strip District and hitting our first bridge (16th Street Bridge) at mile 3.

The incline onto this bridge was not bad, and we were quickly across the Allegheny River.  I found the 2:15 half marathon pace group around this point and decided to loosely stay with them.  Off the bridge and a short U shaped segment puts us back over the river on bridge #2 (Rachel Carson Bridge).

The crowds and energy on the bridges were amazing.  I'm used to bridges being dead zones in DC races so it was amazing to have people screaming, cheering, and ringing cow bells the whole way.  Another quick little U and then back over the Allegheny one more time on the Andy Warhol Bridge (bridge #3).  I remember the incline on this one a little so I think it was a little steeper than the first two bridges.

We shortly hit the 10K marker and my time was 1:03:15 (10:11 pace) so right on target.  I still didn't see that darn 4:30 group, but I was nestled in behind the big 2:15 half marathon group so I felt OK with that. We crossed bridge #4 across the Ohio River into the West End.

 The West End was awesome.  There was a hill leading down into the West End, and the crowd noise and music were so loud that it felt like you were just getting sucked right into the neighborhood.

There was also an amazing JROTC group in that neighborhood that was super motivating At this point I also started to notice the little ups and downs that were happening along the way.  The West End ended quickly, and we were moving into the the South Shore with beautiful views of the city skyline.  The relay exchange was in this area so it was  pretty busy.  (As a side note, the relay exchanges were really annoying because runners would start racing past you to finish their leg and others would be tearing out past you from the exchange.  By the end of the race I pretty much hated all of the relay runners.)

We ran by Mount Washington and the incline as well as Station Square.

Under the inlcine
We hit the EZ Pass mile at mile 10 which is advertised as the only completely flat mile on the course.  There were lots of fans in this section.

Thought of my husband as I ran past this in the Southside

At mile 11 the half marathoners split off and went across the last bridge without us.  There were tons of signs warning us about the split, and then the marathoners did this weird little circle to get a bit of extra mileage before hitting the last bridge to cross the Monongahela River (Birmingham Bridge).

1/2 on left; full on right and cross the bridge!
Phew!  Bridges were done, but mile 12 hill was next.  The half runners were running parallel to us the entire bridge, but then they got to make a left and head back downtown.  We had to hit the mile 12 hill into Oakland.  One of the running stores had these awesome volunteers out with shirts that said "Follow me to mile 14."  They spent the whole day running people up the hill.  I had two really nice women who helped me keep the pace up the hill.  My pace was starting to flag, and the 4:30 group finally passed me somewhere on this hill.  I hit the half marathon point at 2:20:54 (10:44 pace).  My legs were starting to feel heavy, but I was so excited to get up that hill.  Of course, I forgot about the 20 other little hills that were coming next.  We came into Oakland, and I honestly have to say that Oakland was about the lamest neighborhood in the whole race.
Finishing the hill into Oakland with the Cathedral of Learning in the distance

  I don't know where the college students were, but they need to take a lesson from students in Boston.  It was fun to run by the museum , and the Filipino American Society had these amazing dancers.  There was also a great church that had oranges and prayers on the go.  So that saved Oakland from being a completely lame neighborhood.
Filipino dancers
Prayer on the go!

Next we were in Shadyside.  I don't remember much except that there were a lot of stores,  and the crowds seemed pretty encouraging.  Then we came into Point Breeze which had some amazing homes and a little old lady hanging out of the third floor of her beautiful mansion in her bathrobe cheering for all of the runners and telling us how amazing and beautiful we were.  I was falling apart a little here because my legs were dead, but I knew we were coming into Homewood.  I had been told that this neighborhood was full of energy, and they did not disappoint.  Homewood is one of the most economically depressed areas in the city, and I had honestly never been in Homewood before in my life.  This neighborhood was amazing.  Music every block, make shift aid stations, dancers (click link to watch the video), kids high fiving and running with you, and an elder care center that had all of the residents outside cheering.  That neighborhood just lifted me up and carried me through 2 beautiful miles.  They were even thanking us for running!  Seriously humbled by all of their support and teared up a few times in this area.

Mural in Homewood
Sculpture in East Liberty being made live from recycled marathon debris (cups, water bottles, gel packs, etc)

Chicken man in Friendship
 Now it was time for East Liberty.  A ton of animal rescue leagues were out in this neighborhood so there were a lot of very cute dogs to pass the time.  Pretty soon we were at mile 20 in Highland Park (3:49:02; 11:27 pace).

I had in my head that mile 20 was the last climb, but damn I was wrong on that one..still 2 more hills to go.  Somewhere in here there was a great kids group singing Bruno Mars songs or maybe it was earlier, but I just really liked their energy.  So we come through Friendship which had a bunch of strange puppet like things and then into Bloomfield which featured an awesome No Walk Block with these guys who would run you down their block (although I think they were completely hammered by the time I got to them because they were spilling beer everywhere as they were running).

We were almost done.  There was a big descent at around mile 23.5 which was almost painful since my quads were trashed.  It was nice that you could see the city, and we knew ere were going to run two miles that we had already run in the beginning along Liberty Ave.

  This neighborhood was pretty quiet.  I do remember looking up at one point and seeing a cat pawing and meowing at a window in one of the row houses.  That was kind of cute and amusing.  I just wanted to get to the finish now because I was ready to be done.  We came into downtown, and the last mile seemed like an eternity.  There was a sign that said 1/2 mile to go so I picked up the pace.  I swear the sign was wrong because it felt like forever.  Finally we turned a corner, and I could see the finish line.  I had just expected to meet JD at the Wyndham Grand VIP area so I was really surprised when I heard him yelling to me from the VIP spectator area with about 0.1 miles to go.

Where is the finish line?

There it is!

 I crossed the finish line, and the race director was right there announcing my name. Runner of Steel Medal was mine! The wind had been pretty strong for the last 3 miles and really picked up right as I crossed the finish line so I was really grateful for the volunteers with blankets.

They actually got this photo right as a gust of wind blew up and blew dust into my eyes so I'm trying to block my eyes from the wind here.
 JD found me quickly, and we went in for the VIP food area.  Some sadistic person decided that we needed to walk up stairs to get there so that sucked.  There wasn't a ton of food left, but I was feeling kind of sick.  It was nice to have a clean bathroom and to be able to get my bag quickly.  I ate a little, but mostly just wanted to drink some soda.  We had to walk back to the hotel which was completely uphill and very painful, but it was easy to get out of Pittsburgh.
Runner of Steel

Aid stations were plentiful and well organized along the course with water and gatorade.  I didn't take any fuel from the aid stations, but there were plenty of make shift stations with oranges, bananas, pretzels, etc, to keep me going.  The weather was amazing as well!
Fireman finished in full gear!

These guys ran a relay in an eyeball suit!

Finish time 5:15:40 (12:02 pace)...about a minute slower than Marine Corps, but I didn't care about the finish time.  I had such an amazing race.  I enjoyed every step of it.  My city was amazing.  #RunHomePgh was just what I needed.  I loved this marathon so much.  I would suffer those hills over and over again to feel the amazing support from the entire city.  I really thought that nothing could top the energy of Marine Corps, but somehow Pittsburgh did that for me.  It was exactly the right run at exactly the right time.  #ThankYouPgh (click link for awesome video footage of the race)