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!|
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.
|My reason on the wall: serenity.|
|Name wall..pretty cool to see three Duricks on the wall...JD's cousin ran the 1/2|
We had paid for the VIP Experience so we didn't have any line to pick up bibs and shirts.
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.
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.
|Mural at Blue Line|
|We had to sample the three pucks dessert.|
|Awesome water service!|
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.
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 corral...it started to rain a bit.|
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 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.
|Under the inlcine|
|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!|
|Finishing the hill into Oakland with the Cathedral of Learning in the distance|
|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|
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.|
|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)