Tuesday, May 21, 2013

Pittsburgh Half Marathon

Inexplicably, I've been getting faster.

People say things like that, and then it turns out they've been doing speedwork and lifting weights and running more and blah blah blah.  I've been running less, drinking more wine, and gained 3 lbs.  But, apparently, it's been magical, because without more than benign neglect, I've gotten faster.  The minor break wasn't really well thought out.  I was working more, nursing the same old achilles injury that's plagued me on and off since Columbus, and just really lazy.  So apparently there is something to the whole "run less, run faster" idea.

Heartened by my newfound speed, I decided to actually set a goal other than "finish and not die" for the Pittsburgh Half Marathon.  I talked to The Husband and decided that I wanted to PR and beat my previous 2:08 best, which I'd set back in 2009.  Having not been training, he decided that he could keep a 9:30 pace and pace me for the race.  "I hope you know, I'm going to keep that pace," he told me before the race.  Meaning, he'd leave my slow ass behind if I couldn't keep up.  Ouch.

We showed up nice and early, this year remembering our debit cards so we could pay for parking (A short aside - last year, we got to the parking garage only to realize we hadn't bought any money.  Since The Husband was running the full marathon and mile 20 is a block from our house, I told my mom to bring the kids to mile 20 to watch and hand The Husband his debit card so we could get out of the parking garage.  He says our oldest son ran out to give him the debit card, then ran a block or two with him.), and all seemed to  be going well.  They had kept revising the weather report for warmer and warmer, so we were prepared for it to be hot, but it wasn't *humid*, and that's usually the key for me.  The Husband is the master of where to place himself at the start line, so we found good places in Corral D and waited for the start.

The first few miles were uneventful, as they usually are.  I still think they need water earlier in the course, but it's wasn't too bad.  The bands were great, as usual, and the sky was nicely overcast and the weather was cool.  I wore short sleeves and shorts and felt ok.  Between miles 2 and 3 we ran into a friend who was running his first half marathon.  He'd started well behind us, but had caught up and we ran together for a while (he actually crossed the finish line right after us, though his chip time was almost 2 minutes faster - yay he did great!), which was kind of cool.  I noticed right away that the hills didn't seem as bad this year as last, though it was exactly the same course.  I had been making hills a regular part of my easy runs and had as some point decided it was taking too much energy to hate hills, so I should just like them.  Embrace the hills. *LOVE* the hills.  This is Pittsburgh, after all, it's not like you have a choice but to run hills at some point (it's frequently up hill both ways around here).  We hit the halfway point around the West End Bridge and were feeling good.  The route through the West End Village seemed extremely short, and even the mind numbingly boring stretch up Carson Street before Station Square didn't seem too bad.

By the time we hit the South Side proper, I knew we were in good shape.  "Let's just do the full!" I joked to The Husband.  "NO," he said emphatically.  We ran across the Birmingham Bridge, a bridge that I might hate more than any other, and I tried to prepare myself for the uphill on the other side.  And it wasn't that bad.  I felt myself pulling away at certain points, but true to his word The Husband kept a steady pace.  We crested the Blvd of the Allies and I said, "Let's just run it in easy."  Apparently "easy" now involves 8 minute miles because we made up at least a minute or two in the last mile.  The Husband said, "You're going to PR easy, you're going to smoke your previous time."  We could see the finish line as we came down the Blvd, but we weren't there yet.  We went over the last little bump and sprinted to the finish.  And at the end of the day, I did indeed smoke my previous time.  My goal was under 2:08, ideally 2:05.  I came in at 2:03:36.  And at no point did it feel undoable.  A couple of times I felt like walking, but I knew it would pass.  The whole race felt comfortably hard.  A sub-2 hour half now seems doable.
Always quality bling at the Pittsburgh Marathon

Sunday, May 19, 2013

The past 18 months - a roundup

So, clearly I haven't been around in a while updating the blog.  I'm going to refer to the last 18 months as kind of a dark ages in terms of my running.  Last January I was seized by the crazy idea to get  my certification to teach Classical Pilates, so I spent about 9 months torturing myself and others and doing that.  And it was awesome, don't get me wrong, I learned a ton and I'm loving teaching now, but the running suffered, no question about it.
Yay Pilates!  Long stretch on the reformer - I could do this all day.
I had a really hard time balancing my time.  I'd get home late and wouldn't want to get up early to run, and everything just kind of fell to pieces in terms of running.  The pace got slower and slower, the miles less and less, and yeah, it kind of sucked.  In the middle of this, I had the bright idea to sign up with a group for the Nike Women's Marathon in San Francisco in October of last year.  I *never* thought we'd get in, or I probably wouldn't have bothered to sign up.  But sure, what the hell, I thought.  It's a lottery, it'll never happen.  And then it did.  So crap.  Then I had to actually train for it.  And I'd been ambitious enough to sign up for the full marathon, rather than just the half.

As part of the training, I ran the Pittsburgh Half Marathon, and clocked my slowest marathon time ever, 2:27 and change.  It was actually unexpectedly hot and the husband also didn't meet his time goal for the full marathon, but still.  Yuck.  Nothing fun about it.
Ok, I lied, it was kind of fun.  And the medal was great, as usual.
So, with that, I had a feeling Nike was going to be pretty slow.  I did ok in the Great Race 10k and set a second best, but the weather had been perfect and it had been kind of unexpected.  We went to San Francisco for a family trip and I resigned myself to running Nike.

Both feet off the ground and a smile on my face.
That's because it was almost over.
Here's the thing about the Nike Women's Marathon - it's not *really* designed to be a full marathon.  It's a half, with a full as an afterthought.  Most people do the half, and by most I mean 20 thousand of the 25 thousand who run it.  The first half of the course was a lot of fun.  I ran it with a charming woman named Mandy, who I knew from online, and she really helped pull my slow ass up the hills (and there were some HILLS in that race).  We ran through the Presidio, through Golden Gate Park, around Lake Merced.  It was pretty damn cool.  But she was really not feeling great, and I was pretty tired, too, so we came in well over 5 hours.  When we finished, there was basically no food left at the finish line.  I got half a bagel and half a banana after 26.2 miles.  No coconut water, no chocolate, no other fun stuff (which had all been promised and was supposed to be a major perk of doing the race).  The chute wasn't secure at  all and I saw a lot of non-runners grabbing freebies and such.  Not cool.  This won't be a race I'd be doing again.  I'd run the San Francisco Marathon for sure.  I LOVE San Francisco and would use any excuse to go out there (I'm trying to talk the husband into doing Big Sur in a couple of years), but not this race, it totally wasn't worth the price tag or the pain in the ass factor.  Still, the medal was nice.
Bloody Mary and my Little Blue Box.
Next up: Gen conquers the half marathon.