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Race Recap: Great Race

29 Sep

I don’t even know where to start with this recap other than to say this was such an awesome race!!  I had built this one up so much in my head that I had been nauseous for DAYS, I mean I’d been running but I definitely did not stick to my training plan.  Oopsie?  The night before I tried really hard to just relax, but of course I want to fuss over everything when I’m stressed out.  I ran down to the expo on Saturday and grabbed my bib, I did a few laps around and talked myself down from buying anything because I wanted EVERYTHING.  I did stick around and play with the kitties at the ARL booth and say hi to the Greyhounds.

Great-Race-2014-Expo-Bib

I made sure I ate something carbaliciously familiar the night before and somehow managed to get an awesome night’s sleep.  I woke up at 6:30 and at a pumpkin english muffin (who knew those existed?!) with peanut butter, a bottle of water, and a banana.  Then I paced around my house for several hours.  I finally decided to head to the starting line super early because I thought it would be better to just stretch and people watch.  As soon as I parked my car I realized that my phone armband thing was broken which was soooooooo annoying.  The stupid velcro just came completely off so it wouldn’t stick together anymore.  I guess if something had to go wrong on race day morning, I’m glad it was just that!

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The starting line was insanity.  This was by far the biggest race I’ve ever been to.  The relay didn’t seem crowded to me because I started at an exchange point and the crowd was pretty small.  It looked like this in front and behind me.  I seriously could not stop people watching, I’m such a creeper!  The crowd started slowly walking towards the starting line and I was so so so nervous because this race starts with a hill.  As the people crossed under the start, the tempo picked up a little bit and they were blasting the song “Shout.”  It was seriously the perfect time in the song as I started, the way the crowd was picking up speed at that exact moment – I seriously can’t even explain how awesome that feeling was!  I was totally not nervous anymore and I killed it up the hill.

I felt like I was pacing myself pretty well, which was easy since it was so crowded.  I tried to just find someone who looked experienced and was running around the same pace I wanted to be at, then just tried to stick with them!  That worked like a charm for the first 2.5 miles.  As we got into the Oakland, I was shocked that the first 1/3 of the race went so fast.  I started to struggle around UPMC because I felt like my bladder was about to pop – luckily that’s right where the 5K starting line was so there were bathrooms available.  I seriously wished there had been at least one other bathroom available  before the middle of the race.

The second half of the race was a LOT harder than the first for me.  It was getting really hot and there is not much shade from Oakland until you get downtown.  I made sure to walk through every water station.  The first actual walking break I had to take was right at the mile 5 marker because I started getting a side stitch.  My legs felt like jelly as soon as I started walking so I kept telling myself to push through it because ain’t nobody got time for that.  I think I SPRINTED down the hill on the Boulevard of the Allies and I knew I would be okay when I was still passing people as we pushed into downtown.  I just remember thinking – “OMG, this is the coolest thing EVER!” as I ran into downtown.  That was another big first for me!

As soon as I saw the finish line banner I gave it all I had and finished strong.  I was actually kind of nervous at the mile 6 marker that I would be crawling across the timing mat because I was just so done at that point.  Of course the crowds and the adrenaline wouldn’t let that happen though. 🙂

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It was really disorientating after the finish line because it was just a massive crowd of confused, tired, sweaty, disoriented zombies wandering around a grassy knoll.  I made a bee-line for the water station, which was really understaffed if you ask me.  All I wanted was a banana and people would. not. move.

Starving

I grabbed 2 bananas and an apple and headed directly for a shady spot closer to the point and away from the crowds.  I just laid there and couldn’t move.  You know I’m just exhausted when there is a squirrel within 15 feet of me and I literally don’t react.  (I do NOT like squirrels.)  I laid in the grass, ate my apple, and listened to my favorite cool down music.  I want to always remember those few minutes and that feeling:

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It was seriously so awesome!  My Garmin said I finished in 1:07:22, but my official time was 1:09:55.  Since this is my first official 10K, I’m considering this my PDR race AND since I ran basically this same distance in the relay in May – it was a PR too!  Just a great day all around and an absolutely awesome race.   Definitely didn’t have the energy for a full smile though!

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I took the shuttle back to the starting line where my car was and I will NEVER do that again.  I underestimated how badly a city bus full of sweaty runners could actually smell.  I will run this race again and again and again though!

 

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2014 Pittsburgh Marathon Relay Recap

5 May

YOU. GUYS.

rhianna-omg

I friggin’ did it!  I ran 6.1 miles in the 2014 Pittsburgh Marathon Relay!

This isn’t going to be as in depth as my previous race recaps because I just ran a portion of the relay, but let me start at the beginning.  I spent the majority of Friday and Saturday trying to do as little as possible except stretch and hydrate.  I was convinced that I would roll my ankle or Kevin Ware my leg at any given moment.  RISK NOTHING ITS MARATHON WEEKEND!  I went to bed super early and was basically up at 5:30AM when Christina left with her dad and sister for the start of the race.  My future sister-in-law started us off strong as our first relay runner!  I then managed to pace around my house, talking to my pets (and myself) and trying not to binge eat all of my anxiety.  I tried eating half an English muffin and literally could not get it down, I was so worked up!  Note to self:  running a leg of the relay that starts later in the day is THE WORST.  I managed to get myself redonk stressed by the time I headed to my exchange point at 9AM.  It was a tad chilly by the time I started running around 10:30, but for running purposes the temps were perfect.

Since the Race Joy app completely crashed the morning of the race, I relied on text messages from my team as people started/finished running.  No big, we are all pretty close so we were texting each other anyway.  When I got the call that the first 2 legs were done, I headed to my exchange point.  I didn’t run into any road closures on my way to Relay Exchange 3, so it took me all of 10 minutes to drive there and find a parking space basically at the corner of 5th Ave.  BONUS!

The exchange point was well coordinated but hectic with so many people hanging out waiting for runners, plus spectators just hanging out to cheer.

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I had to go to the bathroom, but I was way to nervous that my runner would come as soon as I got in line.  Instead, I ended up standing under a tree for 20 minutes in a nervous cold sweat.  There was a guy announcing the last 3 numbers on the incoming bibs and that’s how you knew when your person was coming.  It felt like he was auctioning my sanity off to the highest bidder.  Eventually I heard my number and saw my runner appear!  I put the medal around her neck, gave her a big hug and I was off!

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Clearly I didn’t remember to hit start on my Garmin until I turned the corner onto Penn Ave!  I also forgot to let Christina know that I was starting my leg, so that sent her into a scramble to get ahead of me.  (Not an easy feat with all the road closures!)  That would not be my last rookie mistake of the race…

My first mile was too fast.  I knew that was going to happen because I was all pumped up and I had Tom Petty singing American Girl to me, so I hit the bathrooms at mile 1 and forced myself to restart at a more sustainable pace.  People had told me the crowds on this leg were awesome, but I could never have imagined that they would be as amazing as they were!  There wasn’t a single block that I ran in Homewood or East Liberty where people weren’t lining the streets – standing, in chairs, under tents, outside restaurants, cooking out, hanging out with greyhounds, giving high fives, just an incredible turn out.

I have never given so many high fives to little kids in my life, it was awesome!!!!!  I tried to keep my energy high and positive the whole time and the crowds were totally feeding it.  I told myself that somewhere in the middle of my leg, I would try to take in Gatorade and whatever fuel was offered.  Frankstown Avenue was a very long, long stretch of road and I was trying to stay in my zone as much as I could.  That’s the only explanation I have for the fact that at some point I was handed Body Glide/Vaseline on a paper towel and absent-mindedly ATE IT.  Ok, I didn’t eat it necessarily, but I definitely put a big glob of it in my mouth.  When I realized that it had the texture of Crisco but no taste, I immediately spit it out.  I was laughing hysterically at myself (inner monologue style) when I noticed the woman running next to me looking horrified. At which point I powered up and ran the HELL OUT OF THERE and away from anyone who saw my hysterical faux pas.

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Thank God I didn’t swallow or chew or bite down really.  As soon as it hit my tongue I realized my mistake and saved myself!  I called my mom and told her about this afterwards – we both could not stop laughing at how typical that is of me!!  Anyway, thankfully there was a water station immediately afterwards so I could sort of rinse out my mouth and keep going.

Nothing else significant really happened after that until mile 5, where I got a sudden jolt of HOLY SHIT I’M RUNNING IN THE PITTSBURGH FRIGGIN’ MARATHON and managed to negative split on this mile.

Just before I crossed Relay Exchange Point 4, my phone was ringing and it was Christina!  She was living a nightmare trying furiously to get ahead of me and the road closures and wasn’t able to get where she needed to be.  Having her voice in my earphones instead of stupid music as I crossed that timing mat was seriously so cool!  I felt like she was really with me in that moment, almost more than if she had been off in the crowd cheering.  I immediately found my runner and wandered off to the side of the parking lot to try and hold my tears in.  I had done it – a PDR at 6.1 miles and my most significant running experience to date.  Not long after, Christina found me and gave me the biggest biggest hug in the world while I basked in all of the moment’s glory.

Pittsburgh-Marathon-Relay-Finisher

I was emotionally and physically exhausted, so we decided to head home by way of Subway and just come back for my car later in the day.  I was seriously on cloud 9 all day yesterday and I basically still am!

Pittsburgh-Marathon-Relay-Finish-Stats

The rest of the day, I fielded phone calls of people asking what the heck happened with the Race Joy app and why our team’s numbers were so messed up on marathon’s website.  Turns out that our first runner didn’t wear her timing chip (aka because her dad and sister lost it somewhere downtown).  The real problem started when the runner who handed off to me decided to keep running to the finish line with her timing chip on.  Sooooo basically it looks like we were a 1 man relay team that started at leg 3?  Thanks for not reading handbook jagoff!  God I’m such a hall monitor, but seriously.  READ THE FRIGGIN’ BOOK.

khloe-kourtney-side-eye

Thankfully I had my Garmin so I know my stats and that’s all that matters!  We signed up for the relay as a fun race, so I’m not really upset about the timing chip issues.  My only real goals were to finish injury-free with a medal and a PDR – and I accomplished all of it!  I am so ready to take on the next challenge!  Also, for anyone wondering about the Race Joy issues/refunds, see below.  They have been awesome via Twitter and other social media as far as communicating with users. For such a new company, I’m pretty impressed at how great their customer service has been with handling such a large issue.  Hopefully they work out the kinks, the app seems really great!

Race-Joy-App-Issues

Race Recap: Brave American 5K

11 Mar

I am happy to announce that my first 5K of the 2014 season is completed!

In a strange twist of fate, my mom went to high school with the race director so when I first heard about the Brave American 5K via Facebook, I knew it was a sign.  I was drawn in immediately by their cause:  raising money for wounded veterans returning from duty.  After a bit more research, I was hooked!!  I got to run and my race fee went to the Boulder Crest Retreat for Wounded Warriors – a wonderful place which offers traditional and non-traditional wellness to vets in a rural setting.

Brave-American-5K-Logo

Anyway, let’s talk about my favorite subject: me!  If you’re a regular around here, then you know I’ve been struggling lately with running in general.  The last week or so, I’ve also been bogged down with a sinus infection so I had serious reservations and anxiety about whether or not I should even run the race.  Christina wouldn’t be able to make it for support either, which made my anxiety spike even more!  My mom even offered to drive 40 minutes to cheer me on, but I told her I would be fine.  I waffled back and forth all day Thursday and all day Friday in the most dramatic fashion (aka my norm), but at the last minute I thought:  Geez girl, just go and walk if you have to.  It’s not the end of the world.

Saturday morning, I set my alarm SUPER early so that I could get a  serious dose of Sudafed in me well before the start time of 9:00AM.  It worked like a charm and I was only mildly plugged up by the time I pulled my car into the parking lot at 8:45.  I was still scared to death.  I’m not an overly independent person, so being all by myself while sick and under-trained…well, let’s just say it felt like a wave of doom coming for me.

After the national anthem and a prayer, we all shuffled over to the starting line.  These were the only 2 pictures I managed to snap, the view in front and behind me at the starting line:

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Brave-American-5K-1

From the start, I knew I was pushing myself a little bit too hard.  Too hard to maintain, anyway, and I knew that the possibility of me hitting a wall and having to walk to the finish was very real.  Once the crowd thinned out a bit, I found a comfortable pace and tried to stick around the same 4-5 runners.  I took a few walking breaks every mile and tried to clear out my sinuses as best I could.

I was surprised at how flat the course was!  I mean, the Ole 5K was also advertised as a mostly flat course and it was not at all.  This course was pretty flat, except for one medium size hill right after mile 2.  At least I think it was mile 2, I was pretty much in the zone the whole time!

Brave-American-5K-Course

Damn right I pushed myself up that hill!! I don’t want to say that this race was easy, because that would be a lie.  But, I was pleasantly surprised at how much easier it was for me than the races I did last year.  Emphasis on the –er.  By the time we starting coming down the home stretch and I could see the steeple of the church at the finish line, I was shocked!  3 miles had just flown by!!

By the time I rounded the corner, a little crowd of people cheering had formed and it took everything I had just to keep my little momentum going.  No one wants to lose gas when the finish lie is in sight and all eyes are on you!  As I entered the church parking lot, where the finish line/clock were, I was taken aback.  It was counting down the last few seconds and about to turn to 34 minutes!!  How is this possible?  Is this real?  I was in shock!  My current PR was 36:47.  I FLOORED IT.  People were probably wondering why I was trying to full on sprint to that finishing mat!!  Somehow, by the grace of God and my own stubborn will, I managed to snag a new PR!

I swear to you it felt like I was floating back to my car with my 2 banana halves and a smile as big as my face!!  I am so happy that I signed up for this race to begin with, but I’m also so thankful that my support system pushed me when I tried to flake out.  This was exactly what I needed to get pumped up for marathon relay training!

And then I ate a muffin as big as my face.  The End.

photo 3(7)

COST: $25, which went to great charity.

PARKING:  The epicenter of the race was St. Stephen’s church right in the middle of Sewickley.  There was plenty of free parking in the lots and in the nearby neighborhoods.  I arrived only 15 minutes prior to the start time and found a spot directly across the street!

BATHROOMS: The epicenter of the race was St. Stephen’s church.  It’s where the check-ins, food, prayers, and announcements were made.  It’s also where we started and finished.  They had 2 public restrooms which were available, but there were no other bathrooms on the course.

PRE-RACE GRUB:  I saw coffee, water, and some donuts but honestly I was too uncomfortable being alone in a room full of strangers to even notice!  There were options, though, because I saw people eating.

TIMING:  Chip-timed!

WEATHER:  Training for this race was TOUGH.  I have never been a cold weather runner, but boy did this race change that!  Thankfully, the weather on race day was a gorgeous 32*F with very little wind.

POST-RACE GRUB:  I grabbed bananas, but there were cookies and other fruit.  The race organizers really made this a great event with lots of friendly people and accessibility.

Race Recap: John Thompson Memorial 5K

20 May

On Saturday, May 18th 2013 I finished my second 5K.

And y’all, it was h-a-r-d hard.

Let me start at the beginning, though, as it is a very good place to start.

Around 4 a.m. on Saturday morning, Christina woke up to bottle feed the little fading puppy.  He was not doing well at all and he unfortunately passed away in her hands around 4:30 a.m.  We were both feeling devastated, but I forced myself back to sleep because I knew I needed to rest up.  I had intended to get up around 6 a.m. but instead we snoozed the alarms until around 7 a.m.  We were out the door by 7:15 a.m. and on the road.  The race took place an hour and 15 minutes away at my high school, Neshannock Jr/Sr High School.

It was weird pulling into that parking lot for the first time in 11 years.  We arrived about 20 minuteStartingLine2.JT5Ks prior to start time, so I hurriedly put my race bib and chip on and hit the bathroom.  Then, I found my people near the concession stand:  Christina, my mom, my sister, my brother, and my sister’s boyfriend were all huddled around talking.  I scanned the crowd, relieved that I didn’t recognize a single person.  I stretched out as we examined the race map.  The cross country trail is not something that I even knew existed when I attended school at NHS.  With the passing of one of our beloved biology teachers and cross-country coaches, Mr. Thompson (who we all lovingly called Mr. T), the school district breathed new life into the old trail.  They now host this annual 5K race in his honor.

As we lined up at the starting line, I hung near the back of the crowd with my sister and her group of friends.  My brother was lost in the crowd, hanging close to the cross country kids.

I was glad to be out of ear shot of the current cross country coach, who gave a speech to all the runners.  My mom and Christina told me afterwards that he was explaining how difficult the course was, with plenty of hills and winding, newly mulched trails.  He even said something like: “This is a difficult race, don’t expect to beat your 5K PR today.”   I’m glad I missed that reality check because I probably would’ve used it as an excuse not to push myself.

The horn blew and people st1stLoop.JT5Karted moving!  We started near the entrance to the football stadium and ran towards the high school.  Then, we made a loop around this big grassy field where the sports teams sometimes practice.  It was really surreal for me, running on the outside of windows which I used to stare out of. We looped back around to the starting line (below) and then ran past it, behind the field and entered the trail.

As soon as my feet hit the grass, I got a little worried.  Pretty different than the concrete which I’m used to.  I was relieved that the trail was entirely in the shade as it wound through the woods.  There was more winding than I thought was even possible.  I had no idea the woods were that deep!

As we entered the trail head,  I could’ve sworn that I was in the middle of a pack.  But then, as I started running I realized that I was completely alone in the woods.  I had a few minutes where I freaked out, worried that I had fallen behind significantly and hadn’t noticed.  Was I in last place?!  Calm down, you’re fine.  

During mile 1, I just decided to relax and enjoy my solo run through the woods.  There were a decent amount of hills during the first mile.  I ran up the hills in short quick steps and cheered myself on down every hill, catching short glimpses of runners brightly colored shirts in the distance.  I was thankful that no one caught up to me!

When I got to the aid station, I was worried.  It felt like I had been running a heck of a lot longer than I actually was.  I actually tried to run through the aid station, which was a first for me.  I think a few tablespoons made it into my mouth, but the rest was down the front of my shirt.  It cooled me down, so no complaints!

After the first aid station, the course sort of flattened out.  While I was thankful for the flatness, this was about the time I started feeling really strained from the newly mulched trail I was running on.  At one point right before the mile 2 marker, I started walking.  It felt like I was sinking into the ground, not quite as much as walking on sand.  I decided I would exert less energy if I just kept jogging because my feet wouldn’t touch the ground as much.  So that’s what I did.

Right after I passed the mile 2 trail marker, I passed up a slow moving cross country boy.  That made me feel awesome!  Then, around mile 2.5 I passed up 2 more!  Booyahhhhh.  The course looped back around and then you hit the same water station, but from the opposite side.  This time, I slowed down and drank all the water.  Exactly what I needed!

When I emerged from the trail, I could see Christina and my mom waiting for a glimpse of me.  I knew I was almost to the finish line.  Now, I had to run parallel to the football field, around the end zone and into the fence.  To get to the finish line, you had to run 3/4 lap around the track.

Of course, my little race buddy was waiting for me!

FinishLine1.JT5K

FinishLine2.JT5K

At one point he said to me: “Let’s sprint it out!” and I thought “Um, little dude, I am going as fast as my legs can carry me!”  I finished in 39:13, about 3 minutes shy of my current PR.  I remember glancing up at the race clock as I neared it and feeling disappointed.  I ran more than I had in the Ole 5K and damn it if I hadn’t pushed myself harder.  I mean, I felt exhausted.

Then, Christina and my mom came up and gave me a hug and told me how good I did.  I didn’t beat my previous time, I told them.  Then, Christina told me what the coach said at the starting line.  The difficulty level of this course was much higher than the one I had run in May!  When I heard that, I felt really great about my time.  I may not have set a new PR, but I was pretty darn close to at least matching it!

Not too shabby for my first trail RUN, let alone trail RACE.

After the race, I grabbed a banana and a blueberry Nutrigrain bar and collapsed in the grass.  Once I felt like I had recovered a little, I forced my family to take pictures with me because guess what:  it is also the day I graduated with my masters!  I skipped the commencement ceremony to run the race, so we had to get a few choice pics.

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I promise, they actually do love me.

Then, we packed up and headed back to Pittsburgh.  About 15 minutes later, my mom called me.

“Guess what I just did?” she laughed.  “Um, just picked up your third place medal!”

I could tell by the tone in her voice that she wasn’t joking, but I didn’t understand.  She told me that I placed third in my age group!!

Medal.JT5K

Not in a million years did I even expect that. To the point that I was all ready on the interstate by the time they announced my name!  That made not setting a new PR feel like no big.  I’ll take it!!  My very first medal ever. In my life.  In 29 years of living without a trophy or medal or athletic accomplishment.  Ironically in the place where I would’ve won a trophy had I been involved with anything.  Its funny how life works, huh?

Here are some of my final thoughts on the details of the John Thompson Memorial 5K:

PRICE:  $20 which benefitted the NHS cross country team.  In addition to a really nice shirt (as far as race shirts go), we got swag bags with random goodies.  I don’t know how I would’ve lived without the Giant Eagle jar opener or the Avon bubble bath or the sweet Noga Ambulance water bottle.  But, stuff is stuff and it was free!

PARKING:  Parking was in the stadium parking lot, obviously free and plentiful.

PRE-RACE/POST-RACE GRUB:  The concession stand at the football field was jam-packed with goodies:  Dunkin Donuts bagels and donut holes, bananas, apples, oranges, NutriGrain bars, and candy galore.  I grabbed another NutriGrain bar for the road. 🙂

TIMING:  The race was chip timed by SmileyMiles.com and the results were posted within a day or two.

WEATHER:  Gorgeous.  It was mild, in the late 70s.  Since the race was primarily in the shade, I wasn’t effected at all by the heat.  The blue skies sure didn’t hurt, though!

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