Tuesday, May 15, 2012

Hot Stuff at the Pittsburgh Half Marathon

We were left for Pittsburgh on Friday morning. It's 9.5 hours without breaks. With four kids in the car, it's eternity. My stepmom and my sister were in the front. I am so thankful that my stepmom drove. On Thursday night I had my last exam for calculus. I have found over the four exams that I'm stressed the week before the exam. I do well on the tests, but I'm stressed about it. It's a bummer. What's an even bigger bummer is having to finish packing after the exam. It's a night class. The kids were so excited that they didn't go to sleep until I came home, and they woke up early. Did I mention that the car ride is an eternity? Overall, the kids were good both there and back.

Ran with my new Ruu Muu - loved packing just two Gus and tissues into back pockets
Last year I did the Pittsburgh Marathon with my stepsister, Heidi. This year my stepsister, her husband and I ran the half. It was Andy's first race and Heidi's first half. She skipped right to the full and tapered to the half. There is no shame in the half. I love that I can finish a half and be almost my normal self. Stairs, picking up the kids and playing with them is all doable. This time I got a nap in. Tee hee. When asked in the afternoon my little one said she wanted me to lay down with her. Total win.

Picking up our race packets was uneventful. The race shirt is a very nice white V-neck, definitely wearable. The expo is small, and there's an ice cream sampling table. Yes, I stopped, and it was good. I don't care that it's before noon.

We left for the race at 5:30 am. There was a bright full moon, and the weather was cool. The previous Saturday morning in Illinois at soccer it was 44 degrees. Cold. There was a frost advisory. We had been checking the weather forecast periodically for Pittsburgh, and it was oscillated between 60 and 80. Not weather I was prepared to handle. Thankfully, I went on a short run earlier in the week when the weather was on the rise. It was 77 degrees and it was also my only run in two weeks. I had pushed run frequency from two times per week to five too early and my groin pain resurfaced. Rest is best. In the days before the race, I was finally able to pinpoint my pain. Thankfully, I also had looked up some stretches for that area because I used them during the race, and it saved me.

Last year, there was 20,000 people in the half and the full. When the two races split at mile 10 last year, the roads were clear for the full. This year the race magazine said that 25,000 people were in the half and the full. That's a pretty big increase, and I'm betting most of them were in the half. We got parked and were able to walk to the start easily. We waited in the lines for the potties. There were ample potties and ample people. Lines moved slowly. The girl behind us in line asked her friend why the lines were so slow. "What is taking them so long?" Um, I could draw you a diagram. Or you could just wait until your turn and see for yourself.

Gear check was more organized than last year. I decided to put my sunglasses in my gear bag and regretted it pretty early on in the race. I also wished I brought my visor. I put my jacket in the gear bag and was just cool.

Heidi and Andy all finished

It was then time to make our way to our start corrals. Andy was in corral B. I was in corral D and Heidi in E. I guess I was a little cocky when I signed up. I decided I would start with Heidi in E, the last corral. It was packed. We met some very nice people on our way to the corral. We didn't make it to our corral by the start of the race at 7:30. People were gate jumping into corrals. Volunteers were not to happy about this. It was packed. And then I got hot. The sun was up, and there were people everywhere. Sun heat and human heat. We entered the corral at the very back and walked slowly up to the start. We were behind the 2:30 half pacer and the 5:00 marathon pacer. The 5:00 pacer Marie is awesome by the way. She's the neatest lady. If it wasn't so stinking hot and long, I might have paced with her.

It was 15 to 20 minutes for us to walk to the start. My goal was simple. Finish with a smile. With my injury, I knew I wasn't PRing. I also didn't know if I'd have to walk part of it. Under 2:30 would be nice, but first goal was a smile. Enjoy it. Heidi took off pretty early passing the pacer. Since there were so many people and it being hot, walkers were all over the road. It didn't feel like there was room to run. It was like frogger. It was shady at the start, and then the streets opened up. The sun came up, and the heat began to radiate from the roads. At the first water station, I worried about the fluid situation. The had run out of Gatorade at the first stop, and there was only water. Were the race directors ready for the heat? It got better. Both Gatorade and water were available at each station after. They did have trouble keeping up with the volume. Sometimes, people were just taking their cups to refill them from Gatorade to water.

There were some great bands on the course. Some picked great racing songs. One band I remember played a dirge piece. Really? Not super helpful. The spectators in Pittsburgh are great. So many people came out to cheer us all on. The bridges, which are really man-made hills, had people cheering at the crests, some with music of their own. To go along with my goal, I decided to high-five as many people as I could. I high-fived an entire ROTC group. I crossed a road to high-five two guys during a stretch when I was tired. They commented happily about how I came across the road. I also wanted to be the runner on the course who thanks as many volunteers as she passes. I even got a chance to cheer on the first woman marathoner as she finished (as I finished the half).

The only time I felt as though I was going to lose it was along the road by the Duquesne Incline, which is in almost every trig/alg 2 math textbook as a story problem. There was very little shade and the sun was beating down on me. I wish I had my visor or sunglasses. That was right about mile 8.

The miles flew by to me. I had to stretch out my leg between mile 7 and 8. I was so surprised by how good I felt. I didn't realize I was slowing down. Between mile 9 and 10 the 2:30 pacer caught up with me. I had passed her at mile 2. I made the choice to not let her out of my sight. It was a struggle to keep up, and then boom, it was mile 11. If you have run a half marathon before, you know that if you get to 11 you can get to the end. It's a mental milestone. I couldn't believe it was almost done. Thankfully the last mile is almost all downhill. I could actually see the finish line at mile 12 and couldn't believe it. Wow! I was going to finish running the whole thing, except the water stops.

It was eerie to finish listening to the sounds of ambulances echoing through the streets. Heidi said that 100 people were looked after by the medics and 20 taken to local hospitals. It was crazy at the end. When finishing a 5 hour marathon, there are not very many people at the finish. There were tons of people at the end of a respectable half marathon time (2:27:32). It was a mad house. The finish was organized but very full.  I found Heidi and Andy after some shuffling. I tried to get a bag of ice, but that proved too difficult so we headed home. The kids had a great time playing while we were away, and we all got a chance to enjoy some family time before the long drive home.

Sweet Medal - Met My Goals

1 comment:

  1. Congrats Riyanti! I am happy you felt so well! How do you feel now?

    Too many races lately have been too hot! I guess we all need to run halves in January? Wait, you already did that :)