Pittsburgh Marathon Part 2

At around mile 4, on the 2nd bridge, I started looking for Peter and Erin since they planned to be there. Eventually, I spotted them standing on the side of the bridge. I yelled, but neither of them saw or heard me. So I jumped into the air, waved my hands, screamed Peter, and got their attention. I was so excited. Maybe leaping into the air and flailing my arms like a crazy octopus wasn’t the best energy-conservation strategy but the pay-off – getting a second to make eye contact and smile at both of them, was totally worth it. 

After that bridge, we went right over a 3rd bridge – they weren’t bad at all. The race was still flying along at this point- the bridges were short and had basically no incline. My memory of everything after that point is vague with a few moments that stick out for one reason or another. Here are those random moments that I can clearly remember:

Around mile 6 there was a turn and a big downhill. Waiting at the bottom of the hill was a band and a big cheer section. It was an exciting, “Woohoo running marathons is fun!” moment. It was probably the last time I thought that until I crossed the finish line.

At mile 9 I took my first gel because I knew mile 12 was where the big hill was. I wanted to give it 20 minutes to kick in. I passed a photographer while I was eating it and totally hammed it up for the camera.

Someone was holding a sign that said “Smile if you peed yourself!” I thought it was a little too soon for someone to have peed themselves, but laughed at the sign. Foreshadowing.

There was a sprinkler archway set up for us to run through and when I passed under it, the water was ICE cold – it literally took my breath away and it was scary to stop breathing for a second as you’re running and not be able to catch your breath.

Also around mile 9 I caught up to the 8:40 pace group (that’s how far behind the 3:35 guy had lined up in the corral. I stayed with the group for about a mile and the girl who had left the 3:35 group with me was there too.  We exchanged a, “holy shit that pacer was so far back,” confirmed that our watches had the same time, and eventually lost each other. 

Looking back, this was the moment I should have relaxed, stuck with the 3:40 pace group the rest of the race, and probably would have qualified for Boston. That’s not what I did, however. I got impatient and continued to run far too fast for the first half of the race.

Miles 5-10 were run at the following paces: 7:46, 7:37, 7:33, 7:55, 7:43, 7:42.

The bridge leading up to the mile 12 hill wasn’t bad at all.  The mile 12 hill was like a 2 part hill (similar to Harlem Hill). The first part gave me a false sense of security that I was going to be fine. Then I rounded the corner and saw the second half looming in front of me and thought grrrrrreat. But I made it up and over without too much trouble.

I felt good for a few more miles, but I could tell I was running out of steam. I just kept telling myself to get to Peter and Erin at mile 15ish, and then I would get an energy boost and feel better. Miles 11-15 were 7:42, 8:11, 7:55, 8:11, and 7:48.

I didn’t see Erin and Peter again, but I did take another gel, hoping it would give me a boost. I was really starting to feel awful. There was no specific pain anywhere and my breathing was fine but my body was just tired and my legs didn’t want to turn over as fast as I had been asking them to. At the end of the race if you had asked me to guess where I started to slow down, I probably would have said mile 15, but it turns out miles 16-18 were still pretty fast at 7:54, 7:56, and 8:01. But mentally, I knew the rest of the race was going to suck. I had burnt out. I also really had to pee.

I can’t say when exactly it happened, but I knew I was going to have to pee, and I knew that I was very close to a BQ finish time – so there was no way I was stopping at wasting precious time at a portapotty. I grabbed a stick of Vaseline from someone at a fluid station and rubbed it on my thighs in case I had the guts to actually follow-through with the peeing as you run thing. It happened, people. At first it was pretty contained and I didn’t think it would be a big deal, but then my bladder was like, “Oh you’re letting this happen? K, we actually have another gallon of urine, comin’ right up.” There’s no way people that I passed didn’t know what was happening, but I was oddly ok with it in the moment. And I guessed it meant I had been drinking enough water? 

Speaking of water, I was also really proud of my grabbing water cups on the run, folding it in half, holding the top half closed, drinking it sideways technique. It was pretty solid. Plus it was really hot out and whatever I spilled all over myself felt great. There were also people handing out some ice cold towels which felt amazing around my neck. I also used one and attempted to clean my legs off a little…

It was sunny and it was pretty damn hot. I had lost the arm warmers really early on in the race.

Mile 19 on was where it was REALLY bad. I never ever thought I would come as close as I did to walking. One minute I was telling myself, “RUN FASTER YOU IDIOT! You can BQ! Leave it all out on the course! You’ll never forgive yourself if you don’t give this everything you’ve got!” And the next minute I was telling myself, “There’s no way you’re BQing at this point, just walk and try not to be so hard on yourself- it’s not happening, you already ruined it, what’s the point just walk a little.” Back and forth, those two schools of thought battled it out in my head for 8 miles, while my legs battled the hilly back end of the course.

I waited for that moment I had in Wineglass where the pain didn’t matter and I just “ran with my heart.” There were brief spurts where I was able to pick up the pace but I couldn’t sustain it more than a few seconds. 19-24 paces were 8:18, 8:52, 8:47, 8:50, 9:05, 8:46.

I would pass spectators who would cheer me on, tell me how great my pace was, tell me I could do it and I wanted to badly to believe that I could still come in under that 3:35 mark.  Even if I ran a typically easy pace for me, I could have done it. But nope, 9 minute miles were all I had left. Every, “You look great!” cheer just made me want to cry because a) I knew I didn’t look great and b) I sure as hell didn’t feel great. As a shuffled my feet one in front of the other some people told me to pick it up, we’re at the end, you got this, let’s go – further proof that I looked like I was hurtin’ and as I passed some people I did the same for them.

Around mile 24 the 3:35 group came up behind me. Of course my heart wanted to finish strong with them, but it honestly just wasn’t possible. The 8:40 group came along shortly after that, and I put in a little more of an effort to stay with them, but that wasn’t sustainable either.

At Wineglass, I ran the last 2 miles like I was never going to run again – I blew past that finish line so strong. But no amount of cheering spectators or internal mantras could get my legs to move any faster in Pittsburgh.  

I saw Peter and Erin as I came to the finish line and I made a “I’m gunna die” face (I’m sure it was super adorable!) When I crossed the finish line, I’m happy to say I wasn’t sad and disappointed that I didn’t BQ – that was never the goal. 

I did PR by a TON, I completed my second marathon, I ran my own race, I learned a ton about race strategy, I had PEED MYSELF, and I knew that I had given it all that I had  - there was just nothing left to give by the end. My last two miles were 9:26 and 8:56.

When I crossed the finish line in 3:37:03, I was way out of it. I felt like everything was really far away, and my legs – oh my freaking legs. Volunteers helped me shuffle away but I really was on the verge of collapsing. I stubbornly told them I was fine, but I really probably could have used a medical tent. Everything was so tight and hurt more than I’ve ever experienced.

I got my medal (SO HEAVY!) and remember thinking “Seriously? A banana? I DON’T WANT YOUR BANANA.” Wineglass had soup and pizza and other delicious things. 
Pittsburgh – a banana. Not amused. Anyway, I chugged some Gatorade, chugged a water bottle, and was happy to see smiley face cookies and Panera bagels (mmm cinnamon crunch bagel!) At least a little better than a damn banana.

I just wanted to get to the finisher’s festival, but the walk there seemed to last for years. I stopped to have some pictures taken but the whole time I was on the verge of tears. We had planned to meet in the finisher’s festival near the family reunion area but luckily, Peter found be before that point and I basically collapsed into him and I don’t know how I wasn’t sobbing, I think it would have taken too much energy. I was so glad to see him, I was in so much pain, and he was saying such nice things about how well I’d done and how proud he was.  And he got me a TEDDY BEAR which I clutched the rest of the afternoon and he took all my pictures with me. His name is still being negotiated.

When we found an area to sit down I literally need Peter to pick me up and put me down, I couldn’t just squat to sit down. They just hurt. So, so badly. About 5 minutes into him trying to massage some life back into them, I let him know that I had peed all over myself. I was horrified and felt so bad but he just laughed at me and gave me a kiss and I think that’s pretty much proof of how amazingly wonderful he is.

Once Melissa finished, Erin met up with us and I get in line for the massage tent. Melissa found us and joined us in line as Pure Protein bars were pushed on us (not delicious). It was such a gorgeous sunny day, there was music, and I finally started to feel that “post-marathon high” that is the reason I will certainly be signing up for another one. Peter went and got my medal engraved, because again, he’s the best.

My massage was OK but not amazing and it didn’t make me feel any better afterwards, but the lady was nice. We met up with Taylor, took some pictures, and headed back to the car. 

Walking was less torturous than right after I finished. Peter and Erin walked up the parking garage to get our bags since I definitely wasn’t about to tackle stairs yet. We took some more pictures in front of the bridge and headed to brunch!

Brunch was wonderful, because we met up with the rest of the November Project people who had run – Natasha, Emily, Nina all ran the half and Taylor, Laura, myself and Melissa had run the full. Plus, Myles, Peter and Erin, Taylor’s boyfriend, and three of Peter’s friends who live in Pittsburgh. It was a partay!

We went to a place called Sonoma Grille that I had found online – for $23 you got an appetizer, entrée and brunch cocktail! Everything on the menu sounded so good, but I ended up ordering the Crab Tian – lump crab, avocado, onion, cilantro, chili oil and sesame crisp. This was killer.  SO much crab. So much avocado.

The entrée I chose was the Kurobuta Benedict – it came with big hunks of pork that were cooked really well, but it was a little much. I preferred the quail eggs and asparagus muffin it came with. The Hollandaise Curry Sauce was a bit of a letdown because it didn’t taste much like curry to me.

I was also bummed that the Bloody Mary tasted overwhelmingly of Worcestershire sauce. That didn’t stop me from eating it, of course.

After brunch we headed back to Erin’s and I promptly showered and organized all my things so that it would be done and I wouldn’t have to think about it again. We sat outside on the porch in the beautiful sunshine and Erin’s family had an delicious outdoor dinner for us – complete with beers and wine, obviously.

Also obviously, dessert. Brownie sundaes! The brownies were Ghirardelli and soooo yum.

(Such a beautiful night!)

It was, understandably, a pretty early night. I was looking forward to a great night’s sleep, but I tossed and turned all night because everything hurt so badly – every time I went to kick the sheet away, it literally felt like I was being stabbed. It was not the wonderful post marathon sleep I had expected, sadly.

(Bye Sophie! :(

In the morning we got on the road (after getting salted caramel iced coffee) and made a stop at Penn State to eat at Waffle Shop (Peter and I ordered ALL THE FOOD) and then Peter drove us through the campus. 

(Eggs, bacon, English Muffin, Home fries, French Toast AND blueberry pancakes)

(Ice Dancing)

It was a long day. After like 9 hours, we got the car back to Long Island and had dinner at Peter’s parent’s house. Lasagna was everything I needed. Next, it was the train to Penn Station, subway to my apartment, cab to Peter’s. Going up stairs wasn’t awful, though it was definitely slow going. Down stairs was a different story. It was SO ROUGH.

Tuesday night I jogged a mile and Wednesday I jogged less than a mile. My first real run since the marathon was Saturday when Melissa and I did 5 miles in the park. My quads are FINALLY feeling almost completely normal. Next weekend is the Brooklyn Half Marathon, so I hope I’m ready to go!

I also said I wasn’t racing in Brooklyn, but now that I know how fast I was able to run the first 18 miles of my marathon, I want to see what I can do in a half!

Overall, Pittsburgh was an amazing weekend. Being there with Peter, Erin and Melissa made me feel so relaxed. The weather was beautiful. Everything was well organized. The course was challenging and I am so so happy to have shaved 12+ minutes off my PR time. I’m not done with marathons yet, that’s for sure.

There’s so many people who encourage and inspire me to get up and run at 6:00 a.m., in the freezing cold, for 3 hours. There’s so many people who encourage and inspire me to go to bed early, to choose race registration fees over nights out, to keep myself healthy. Running and marathon training has completely changed my way of life in so many ways and I’m so happy to be a marathoner. 

(These are our Saturday nights and I LOVE IT)