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Pittsburgh Half Marathon 2014 Race Recap

Well, my friends, another half marathon – #10! – is in the books for me, and Matt has officially become a half marathoner! On Sunday morning, we ran the Pittsburgh Half Marathon with my brother Steve and a bunch of friends.

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Until recently, I didn’t think Matt would ever be interested in doing a half marathon – he’s a speedy runner thanks to lots of soccer games every week, but he hadn’t exactly ever jumped at the chance to do long runs with me. Then last fall we were in NYC cheering on friends doing the NYC Marathon, and Matt’s younger brother Drew said that a half marathon was on his bucket list. Matt said he would do one if Drew did – and I suggested Pittsburgh, since it’s their hometown and I’d heard it was fun (if hilly). And so it was official – Matt would do his first half marathon this May!

Drew ended up needing to bail on the half marathon due to some knee trouble, but Matt and I and my brother, Steve, were still fully on board, as were a bunch of our friends. And, you know, 30,000 other people, too. Yep – HUGE race!

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Doing the Pittsburgh half was fun because it meant that we also got a little weekend vacation and some time with Matt’s parents, who came out to cheer us on during the race. Also, a big thank you to the Pittsburgh Half Marathon PR team for providing me and Matt with free bibs in exchange for this race review!

After our epic pre-race feast on Saturday night, Matt, Steve, and I were up ridiculously early on Sunday morning to head downtown to the starting line. We were up by 4:15, met friends at 5, and hitched a ride downtown with them. We met up with more friends at their hotel downtown, then hiked over one of the bridges into the city and the race start. It was so beautiful with the lights reflecting on the water!

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The race started at 7 and we were in the starting area by about 6 or so. We hit the porta potties once and then started making our way towards our corral (B). Since it was still early we decided to wait in line for the porta potties again, but by this point the lines were massive. By about 6:45 we were near the front of the line when we heard an announcement that they were closing the corrals. Ack! I don’t like when races do this. Not sure if they really closed them or not, but we figured we shouldn’t take a chance and aborted our porta potty attempt. Fail. To the corral it was!

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We lined up just ahead of the 2 hour pacer, with the goal to aim for about 8:30 minute/miles. In retrospect we probably should have lined up a bit farther ahead since we spent a lot of time weaving around to pass people during the race. Oh well!

Ready to go! I was really excited to explore Pittsburgh on foot.

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A short while later and we were off! Exciting. :)

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My brother is really fast but has mostly been focusing on lifting instead of running since we did the Richmond Marathon in the fall, so he decided to stick with us for the race. I told Matt that I’d stick with him no matter what unless he wanted to go faster than I could handle, in which case they could ditch me. :)

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We spent the first couple miles weaving in and out of people. We also ended up stopping for the porta potties around mile 2 – my brother and I both had to go since we weren’t able to use them before the race. Boo! I hate stopping during races but it was necessary. We lucked out with a row of porta potties with no line, too.

  • Mile 1: 9:26 (crowded!)
  • Mile 2: 9:50 (porta potty stop)

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After our pit stop, we set to speeding up to our goal pace of 8:30. I had some trouble keeping up with the guys here – it was so crowded and they were weaving in and out of people like crazy! I just focused on not losing them and on taking in the scenery. I loved the beautiful painting on the building in the photo below!

  • Mile 3: 8:31
  • Mile 4: 8:28

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One thing to know about this race is that you run over a lot of bridges! Pittsburgh is sometimes called the City of Bridges and this race certainly lived up to that. Did you know that according to this website Pittsburgh has nearly 2,000 bridges – more than Venice, Italy? Wow! We didn’t run over quite that many during the race, though, thankfully. ;) We ran over 5 bridges total, which gave us really nice views of the city. It was fun to see so much of the city! But bridges also meant that we had to conquer the hills up the bridges. ;)

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Matt and Steve usually kept the same pace up the bridges and then down them, while I slowed down a little on the uphills but picked it up on the downhills. This meant I still caught back up to them, but I definitely struggled a bit on the hills! We were nailing our average pace goal, though.

  • Mile 5: 8:33
  • Mile 6: 8:27

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We were really glad the weather held out – it was forecasting a chance of rain, but it ended up just being cloudy and in the 50’s. Great running weather, though not as pretty for the photos as sunshine would have been. :)

We spotted Matt’s parents cheering for us around mile 6 – so awesome to see them out there and a great burst of adrenaline, too! There was GREAT crowd support at this race, and lots of fun bands along the course, too. That always helps with morale!

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The adrenaline from the crowds and bands was welcome because even though I didn’t let on to the guys, I had a really tough time with this race – I’m so proud of myself for not giving up and losing them! Full marathon training really crushed my speed, and there were definitely a few times on the hilly bridges that my legs were screaming at me: “Just slow down… let them take off without you. It would be so much easier…” as I saw them gain a significant gap between us on the uphills. But I forced my mind to reply: “NO! You are not giving up. It is okay to feel uncomfortable sometimes. Challenge yourself. You’ll be sorry later if you take the easy way out.” So up I went, focusing on getting up the hills as quickly as I could and then catching the guys on the downhills.

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Around mile 7, I started eating a mocha Clif Shot Gel – bring on the caffeine! Still rocking out our goal pace for these miles:

  • Mile 7: 8:33
  • Mile 8: 8:33

Below you can see the entrance to the Incline, a cool railcar that takes you straight up the mountain from Station Square to Mt. Washington, with beautiful views of the city. It’s a must see if you visit Pittsburgh! :)

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Miles 9 and 10 were tough for me – I was feeling pretty drained and it was so hilly. I just focused on my mental game and sticking with it! It’s amazing what a difference your mental game will make while running. I need to train my mind to be okay with speed again – it’s such a different type of hard than super long distances at a slower pace, I find. I tried to focus on the scenery, crowds, and views and just let my legs do their thing, but we all slowed down a little here.

  • Mile 9: 8:42
  • Mile 10: 8:49

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Getting over mile 10 in a half marathon is always really exciting – makes the finish line seem so much closer! Matt was still feeling good, though he mentioned his calf getting tight – we made sure he kept up with water stops and fuel (he also had a gel to eat, and got some Gatorade at the water stops, too). We found the water/Gatorade stops, at least when we went through them, to be well organized and well stocked.

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Flattest mile on the course – woohoo! I liked the sound of that. :)

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Around mile 11 we saw signs for the half marathon/full marathon split. Hooray! I knew that would thin the crowds a bit.

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Just before another bridge we split off from the full marathoners, who were on the right side of the bridge and veered off towards the right after we crossed it. Props to the full marathoners – I’ve heard this is a really tough full given all the hills!

  • Mile 11: 8:46
  • Mile 12: 8:46

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I knew from looking at the course map that there was a big final hill around mile 11.5 or 12, but I ended up getting a huge second wind before we hit it and the three of us dominated the hill. I honestly didn’t think it was any worse than any of the other bridges, which was a nice surprise. It looked scary on the course elevation map!

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Look how high we were! Really showed how much height we climbed. So pretty up there, too – the photo doesn’t do it justice. I loved this part of the race!

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By the time we were back downtown around mile 12 or so I was feeling AWESOME and Matt and Steve were still feeling really good, too. Bring it on, finish line! We own you!

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We kicked things into overdrive big time the last mile. It felt like we were flying – it actually helped with leg soreness to go a different pace, too! I LOVE sprinting it out for the end of races. I was on the biggest endorphin high, cruising into the finish line with the crowds cheering for us and the guys by my side.

  • Mile 13: 7:31 (!)
  • Final 0.1 mile pace: 6:49 (!!)

The three of us blazed into the finish line and all grabbed hands just before crossing. I was so proud of all of us and especially of Matt – who was officially a half marathoner! He crushed it – our official finish time was 1:54:03 (well, theirs was – mine was 1:54:04, lol. As you can imagine Matt was pumped he “beat” me ;) ), and that was including about 1 minute for a bathroom stop for us!

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Success! We did it. :)

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Eat ‘n’ Park smile cookies for all. Matt said these are apparently a Pittsburgh staple!

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Isn’t the race medal beautiful?

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As always, a huge thank you to all the volunteers who were out there supporting us and to all those who came out to cheer! Overall, I’d definitely recommend this race – like I said, the crowd support was awesome, there were a ton of fun bands out playing, and I found the race overall to be well organized, too. The only thing I’d like to see in the future is more porta potties at the start and a more staggered corral start to thin out the crowds a bit.

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Great weekend and happy to add another medal to the collection! Matt had a great experience with his first half and even said he’d consider doing another half marathon with me sometime. :) I’d call that a success!

Anyone else race over the weekend? How’d it go?

Comments

  1. 1

    Congrats on another great half marathon! The Pittsburgh Marathon is such a great race. My favorite! I was there, too … completed my fourth half marathon!

  2. 3

    Seeing your pics is giving me deja vu! The corrals DO close; I missed my corral last year and was bumped back to D. I spent the first mile weaving and darting and went out way too fast :( I did like the bridges, but I felt like the scenery was really lacking. I don’t even remember that flattest mile! You had an awesome time on that course. Great job w/#10!

  3. 6

    Love reading your race recaps! :) Great job, that’s exciting that you did it with Matt and you kept together the whole way. Those cookies look amazing!! :)

  4. 8
    Gretchen says:

    So glad you enjoyed the race. I’ve run this race the past 5 years and it’s always a challenge because of the hills..this year was no different! Hope yinz had a great trip to Pittsburgh!

  5. 10
    Chris Anne says:

    Great to see my hometown in all the pics Anne, thank!!! So glad you enjoyed yourselves. I’m hoping soon I can get my back problems and tight gastroc worked out so that I can actually walk, let alone run, but hopefully I will be back. I love listening to all your race recaps! Great job!!!

  6. 12
    Kristen says:

    Congrats on a great race! I especially enjoyed hearing about the bridge running (although it scared me a bit, ha), because next week I’m doing a 10-mile race that crosses a huge bridge between two states. It’ll be exciting and scenic, but I’m nervous about the gigantic uphill climb!

  7. 14

    Well done to all three to you!!! Awesome race recap as always and well done to Matt, marathon on his agenda next? Has he caught the bug?

  8. 16

    Great job on the race! I would have never expected that race to be so huge!!

  9. 18

    I ran my first half this past weekend and it was great! It was a small local race and it was awesome to see people I knew just about every mile!

  10. 20
    Deanna says:

    I ran the half as well! So cool to see you run Pittsburgh. You’re right — the full is INSANE. I ran the full here two years ago and the hills here can crush you, but our city is awesome and the race is a great one (I’ve done it in some capacity the past 5 years). Congrats!

  11. 22

    Congrats on another great Half and what an awesome time for Matt’s first Half! I also ran the Pgh Half for the first time but it was my second Half ever. I came in shy of my goal but still had a great time. I enjoyed the route and was previously warned about the bridges and hills so I was mentally prepared. I just wished I had kept up with my pace group so I could make my goal time.

    Glad you enjoyed our city!

    • 23

      All those hills would have made it really tough to PR, but congrats on pushing through and on your second half – awesome achievement!

  12. 24
    Jennifer says:

    What a great recap…I ran the full and it was fun to see all the pictures you took to relive the day! It’s funny, I was so worried about the one big hill at mile 11 that the rest of it didn’t bother me so much! I am looking forward the half next year; Pittsburgh is just an awesome city and they really put on a great race.

  13. 26

    Congrats on running a great race! I don’t have hills to train on so even little ones seem daunting to me!

  14. 27

    Great race recap! Looks like you had a lot of fun out there. The medal is pretty sweet, too

  15. 28

    Congrats on a great half marathon! Looks like you had a fun time!

  16. 29

    Nice job! So exciting, and I love seeing these posts where you take photos and show us the sights as you go. Sometimes I am so focused on what I am doing and competing hard that barely even look around me to notice anything. I am hoping someday I can slow down to enjoy races a little more, but my pride forces me to be up front right now, and I want to make the most of my ability. Congrats to you, and here is to many more great ones :)

  17. 31

    awesome job! the hill of death must have trained you well for all those inclines! :)

  18. 32

    Wow, good for you! Hills kill me; I don’t know that I could have pushed through 13.1 miles of them the way you did! The scenery is beautiful!

  19. 33

    Yay to an amazing race!!!!

  20. 34

    congrats! My hometown!! I was an official blogger for them this year but this is my third time running it. Love this race and this city!

  21. 35
    Roadrunner says:

    Very, very well done, Anne (and Matt and Steve)! Sounds like a great race — and you SHOULD be proud of hanging as tough as you did!

  22. 36

    Congrats, Anne & Matt! So special to see the old neighborhood. And yes, Smiley cookies are a ‘Burgh thing. You guys clearly earned yours! :-)

  23. 37

    What a great first half marathon pace! I ran my first in February and my goal for my next half this fall is 2hours flat (I ran 2:15 in Feb). I felt so great at the end of the half that I know I have more in me to push for a faster time.

  24. 38

    Looks like you guys had a great time! Nice time too – holy hills!

  25. 39

    Congrats to you! And Matt for his 1st half. Sounds like you had a fun weekend and Matt’s parents sure know how to throw a dinner party. I’m a walker, did my 1st half last fall, the Portland Marathon, was so stoked when I crossed the finish line (and I did struggle) I immediately signed up for this year. Can’t wait.

  26. 40

    WOOHOO! Congrats to you on your 10th, and to Matt on his first! PS. Your brother is adorbs.

  27. 41

    Wow – great time! Congrats! I’m currently training for my 5th half, which is crazy – I never imagined I’d ever even run 1!

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