Friday, May 25, 2012

2012 Pittsburgh Marathon: Part Two

The first mile flew by in what felt like seconds while I took everything in.  I knew that I didn't want to get caught up in the excitement and take off too fast, and I kept the first few miles all within my "happy range".  For every runner taking off and weaving ahead of me, there were two more walking along at snail pace.  This almost made it impossible to go out too fast.

Somewhere near the 2 mile marker I finally settled into a rhythm and took in what I was about to do, and something totally unexpected happened.  I started to tear up a little bit.  I never took this endeavor as an emotional journey, but this was this first of many teary eyes that morning.

I hit the first water station and threw down a cold glass of water in big gulps.  I regretted this before it even hit my stomach and gagged.  I took a disposable bottle with a flip lid with me to the start.  I figured I would sip before the race and carry it with me the first few miles to skip congested water stations.  I ended up holding onto it until the final mile, tossing it somewhere past mile 25.

After the first, I took a Gatorade to drink at every station.  I also grabbed 1-2 waters to drink or had my disposable bottle refilled each time.  I used the bottle to sip and pour over my head and down my neck and sports bra between stations.  Yeah, it really got that hot.  I think I was actually pretty close to perfectly hydrated throughout; really happy with how I did in that respect.

During mile 2 (or was it 3?) I came up behind one of the hub's friends and his fiancee running the half.  We chatted for a few before I took off ahead to keep pace, only to be passed by them minutes later.

After crossing the second bridge around mile 4.5, I passed the hubs for the first time.  Things were still pretty congested, but I stayed to the left to look for him.  He gave me a thumbs up and a face that expected answer; I gave him a thumbs up back.  He caught my favorite pic of the day, and seeing him gave me such a pick me up, even though it was early in the race.
Feeling food at mile 4.5
The first 7 miles went much of the same, with a comfortable and consistent pace before hitting the West End.  I slowed it down to a walk then to take my first gel.  There were no gels provided until mile 12, so I had pinned one inside the front of my shorts and tucked one in the back pocket.  I also pinned a pack of sport beans inside my front waistband as well.  This worked out surprisingly well.  No problems with scratching or chafing; I didn't even notice they were there while running.  Way better than the the Banjee I had tried, and the idea of a belt is just so unappealing.

I walked the entirety of mile 7 in about 14:00 and then picked it back up to my "happy pace" until I reached the Birmingham Bridge and the Forbes Ave climb.  I switched to short walks between bouts of running but maintained "happy pace" through mile 11.  I hit 13.1 pretty much right on 2:30, and I was happy to have kept my reach goal pace for at least the first half.

I was really starting to feel the heat climb at this point, and was starting to seek out shade wherever I could once I hit 5th Ave.  I was happy to be running in familiar territory too; I had run this stretch on every long run while training.  When I reached the turn onto South Aiken around mile 14 I spotted a few port-a-potties with no lines, and deciding now was as good of a time as ever to make a quick stop.  This is when I laughed that while it's good to monitor your urine color while distance running, you can't do this in a port-a-potty.

I followed up the port-a-potty stop with my second gel, one that I had picked up earlier.  Miles 14 to 23ish are pretty much just a blur.  I alternated between running when I could and walking when I had to.  Somewhere along the way, my hips started to really tighten up.  It was like someone put tourniquets around the top of each leg and kept tightening them each mile.  It wasn't painful, but it felt physically restricting.  I took my third gel, the one from my back pocket around mile 20 or 21.

I ran through every sprinkler, hose, and fire hydrant I saw and dumped as much water over my head as I drank after mile 14.  I've never handled the heat well, even when not doing strenuous activity.  I've landed in the ER with dehydration and fainting more than once, and I really just wanted to finish the marathon on my two feet!  If I started to feel overheated or the slightest lightheaded feeling, I slowed it to a walk and cooled with water before picking up the pace again.  Some may consider my approach overcautious, but my main goal was to finish and this was the way to do it for me.  I also picked up some pretzels and oranges from friendly strangers- best-tasting-orange slices-ever!

I'm not a chatty runner, which is why I'm always happy to run solo.  There is a point somewhere in a marathon though, where you need a little extra distraction.  A older gentleman struck up conversation as we passed the Bloomfield Bridge.  This was his 12th marathon, having started running not that many years before.  We discussed how I could run home and he could run back to his son's house faster than we could get to the finish line at this point.  Then I took off ahead a bit.

The long stretch through the Strip District was hot, really hot, and empty.  The running crowd was pretty sparse and aside from the officers guarding closed streets, not much support either.  It was a rough stretch.  I came up on a 20-something girl that looked to really be struggling.  She asked me if I knew our time; she was certain we were going to get swept before making it to the finish, and her knees were hating her.  I tried to encourage her, ensured her she wasn't going to be swept, and shouted once last good luck before picking it up to a jog again.  I saw her pass by a few minutes later with another young girl pushing her with encouragement.  Somewhere in the Strip, I  ate half of my sport beans and threw the rest on ground.
Um, I think that's my pain face...
I finally made my way into downtown, and I was really excited to see hubs at mile 25.  I also swore to myself that I would start running as soon as I saw him in sight.  It hurt, a lot, but I did it.  He shouted some encouraging words as I went by, but I was back to a walk after a few more yards.  Less than 2 miles has never seemed so far.  I walked most of the way down Smithfield Street before my saving grace came up beside me.
Running into 25, and there's even a little shade!
I don't know who she was, or even really what she looked like, but she came up beside me and said something along the lines of, "You have to run no matter how small the steps are.  You're too close to be walking!"  Without even turning around, off I went running with her words replaying over and over in my head.

When I turned onto the Boulevard, I was overcome with emotion.  I wanted to cry.  Cry tears of pride for what I was about to accomplish.  Tears of relief that the end was in sight.  Tears of pain because my body just hurt so very bad.  And tears of anger for those darn race people that put an uphill (I don't care how small it was!) in the stretch to the finish.  If anyone caught a picture of me in the last half mile, I'm sure it was ugly.  My legs felt like they might fall off at the hip, breathing was increasingly difficult, and I thought it not out of the question that I might just trip and fall on my face trying to finish strong.

I crossed the finish line running though, which was another goal of mine, but I was hyperventilating, bad.  Not just short of breath, but legitimate hyperventilation from pushing so hard that last half mile.  I was able to calm myself though and pulled myself together.  I was handed my medal and then a girl with a gallon of water asked "In a cup or over your head?"  I stretched my arms out and tilted my head forward.  She laughed, and the water was so wonderfully cold.  It was amazing.  I downed a glass of Gatorade and headed for the food.

I grabbed 2 bagels, a banana, and 2 smiley cookies before heading out of the chute and down to the corner to meet the hubs.  The banana, a bagel, and a cookie disappeared almost immediately.  I took a seat on a wall while I waited, and shared lots of congratulations as other runners walked by.  When the hubs made it to me, I instantly regretted having sat down.  Getting back on my feet was so hard!  We made the short walk to the car in record-slow time.  There is no other way to describe my post-marathon waddle as anything but walking with a stick up my butt.  That's just a fact.

And on that note- marathon #1 was complete.  Time to recover... and eat!

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