Jun 24

Man Up Father’s Day 10k Recap

IMG_1589.JPGVacation is over and I made it back home. I’m still running despite some of the issues I’ve had lately but my body has done a great job of telling me when to push and when to hold back. Unfortunately, I’m still performing at a level below where I was a year ago but I’ve been racing when I have the opportunity. It’s a little hard to swallow the slower times, but I’m still not willing to give up the sport that has become such an important part of my everyday life. I have appointments to meet with some specialists to get the issues sorted out, so hopefully this will be a short chapter in my running story.

Needless to say I’ve been less anxious to elaborate on any race recaps. But they are part of my story so I thought I’d share anyway. This past weekend I ran the Man Up Father’s Day 10K. I ran it last year and thought it was a well-organized race on a course that I know very well since I run the Riverfront Trail between Heinz Field and Washington’s Landing almost every weekend during training. I didn’t sign up ahead of time and couldn’t really decide if I wanted to run the 10K or just stick with the 5K since I’ve been having a hard time getting through 4 miles lately without stopping. My friend Christie was running the 10, so I decided I would as well. I figured the very worst thing that could happen is I walk a little and my time was slow. Which is exactly what happened.

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Me and Christie after the race

It was really warm when we started, 72 degrees with 78% humidity. Jennifer, another friend I saw there (Running on Lentils), kept commenting on how it was 53 degrees last year when we ran. Big difference. Anyway, I knew I was going to take it slower but I didn’t really have a benchmark to see how slow is slow and at what point I trigger an attack. I started conservatively, I thought, at an 8:55 pace. I felt relaxed and comfortable and thought I would be able to hover around the 9:00 pace mark. It was about 2.5 miles in when the breathing started to get loud and got more difficult. It’s so aggravating. Then, as I was starting up the hill in Washington’s Landing, I had to stop and catch my breath. My throat gets tight and my legs start to ache. And so it goes from there. Mile after mile, trying to push through when I can and walk if I have to. Towards the end of mile 4, my throat loosened up and the legs felt better but I still wasn’t making up much time.

Last year I ran this same race at an 8:30 pace (52:41) and I remember how disappointed I was with that.  This year, I ran across the mat and the clock said 1:00:22, which translates to a 9:44 pace. An enormous swing in time. The funny and shocking part about the time, is that it landed me 3rd place in my age group! Unfortunately, they only give out medals for 1st and 2nd place. WTF?

My time sucked! I mean I could do one of two things, throw myself on the ground and cry about it,  or accept this as a small bump in the road until I get my problem fixed. I’m doing my best to keep up my fitness level up and continuing to maintain a regular schedule. Something is physically wrong with me and if it’s what I suspect, part mentally wrong too. I hate to make an assumption before I see the specialist but if it’s what I think, there is no medication for the ailment. Some of it is avoiding triggers and some of it is mental relaxation.

I’ve run three times since this race and with a different approach. I decided I was going to leave some of the mental baggage behind and shoot for some realistic times. They don’t have to be times I used to run, just times and paces that suit today’s situation. I ran inside on Tuesday, which never seems to be a problem for me then took a new route Wednesday morning with the goal of not stopping and running the best pace I could without having an issue.

I ended up doing okay with this approach and was able to run a 9:02 as opposed to the 9:30 pace I had planned. The temperature was considerably cooler, 58 degrees, which I loved and could have played a part in my success.

 I was so excited that I was motivated to go out again last night and push a little harder. I felt okay but it was a little warmer. I refuse to let whatever is bugging me win.

  More updates and information to come when I have them. Until then, have a great weekend!

Jun 22

Monday Motivation

Its been a while since I’ve been consistent with these – but I could really use some myself! Happy Monday!

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Jun 16

Diagnosis #2 – A Running Update

Sitting on the beach this afternoon, toes in the sand, I pondered this morning’s run. I’m on vacation so naturally slept in, Cooper and I were way too cozy to depart the bed at 5:30 am. It was close to 8:00 when I hit the road and the sun/temperature was already a blistering 81 degrees with 86% humidity. Of course I had a hard time breathing, I also had a hard time not melting.

Last time we talked I was scheduled to see an asthma/allergy specialist to do some more breathing tests, additional allergy testing, as well as discuss exactly what I’m experiencing when I run.

After 28 needles in my back, all signs of allergies came back negative. I love being a pin cushion when you find out it wasn’t really necessary, but at least I can rule out most common environmental concerns.

The most important and enlightening part of the exam was the breathing test. My exhalation was off the charts at 114%, which is NOT normal for asthmatics. My inhalation, however, showed something different. The nurse kept asking me if I was inhaling as hard as I could. I was but the result was a weak flat line, not an arc like it should have shown in the reading.

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Possible problem – upper airway obstruction. Which is consistent with me feeling like I’m breathing through a straw when I run. He told me, and this is the crazy part, that it sounds to him like Vocal Cord Dysfunction. When a person inhales, the vocal cords separate to allow air to get to the lungs. When you have the dysfunction, the vocal cords close slightly which would account for the gasping for air feeling.

I’ve done some research on this and found a few things about Vocal Cord Dysfunction:

  • It’s typically misdiagnosed and treated as asthma
  • Most diagnosed patients are female between the ages of 18 and 35
  • The most common causes are acid reflux, post nasal drip and stress/anxiety

The stress and anxiety is particularly interesting. Specifically because of what I read below:

“A patient reports episodes of dyspnea or shortness of breath during exercise, and medications prescribed to relieve symptoms are ineffective. The continued symptoms, coupled with the failure of the medication and the patient’s inability to complete assigned “fitness” drills, increases the emotional stress the athlete feels during practice. If the cause of respiratory distress is unrecognized and uncontrolled (as with undiagnosed PVCD), the resultant emotional stress can exacerbate PVCD symptoms. It has been our experience that, over time, the misdiagnosed athlete becomes less able to perform necessary cardiovascular fitness exercises (including practice drills) and less able to meet the demands of athletic participation.”

The next course of action for me is to see an ear nose and throat specialist to lock this in as exactly what’s wrong with me. After that I may also be required to see a pulmonologist and a cardiologist to rule anything more serious. There’s definitely something wrong and it doesn’t seem to be getting better. 

Despite these issues, I keep lacing up the shoes and going out there. One out of every 5 runs is okay for me so I live for those. I ran two 5Ks so far this summer. One was a disaster and I actually took home a medal in the other for my age group (with and 8:40 pace), LOL.

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I was a little on the fence about running a fall marathon, but have decided 100% not to train for one. I really don’t think I can even do it physically. I need to figure out what’s going on and go from there. I have my sights set on a spring marathon and hope I have some answers before I need to train for that.

Jun 05

Running without Air – Asthma Problems

 Every time I’ve started to write this post I’ve either sat here staring at a blank screen, started writing, deleted, started over, left the site, come back and repeated. A) I hate using my blog as a constant bitch session B) I hate the topic. But then I started thinking that someone else out there may be dealing with the same issue and as frustrated as I am.

On my post dated April 14th, I mentioned that I had seen a doctor because I was having trouble breathing while I was running. It wasn’t all the time, but it was enough to make me go to see a doctor. I hate doctors. I don’t trust them or their motives. I know it sounds crazy, but I really just don’t like them. I was “diagnosed” with exercise induced asthma. I had never heard of such a thing until I was told I had it and googled it on the internet. It seemed like everyone and their uncle had this affliction. To me, it just seems like an easy way out for the doctor. What really gets me is that there isn’t an effort to figure out what’s causing it. I walked out of there with an inhaler left wondering how the hell I developed this “problem”.

I started using the inhaler before every run. Some days it seemed to work and for weeks before the marathon I had no problems. I thought the issue had passed. Then, as you can read in my marathon recap, it surfaced at mile 8 and never gave me shot at at qualifying for Boston. Since the marathon, I’ve continued to run but the “asthma” seems to be getting worse.

Last weekend I ran a 5k, A 5k, and my splits were as follows: 8:15, 10:37, 8:44. During the second mile, an uphill climb, the lungs were working over time and of course triggered an attack. I still use my inhaler prior to runs but haven’t gotten in the habit of carrying it so I didn’t have it with me. Quite frankly, I don’t think it helps all that much.

Here’s the bright side of things, when I run inside, I’m fine. I can push my pace, run extra miles and I have no reaction. Obviously, something outside is choking me. So the other night I actually went outside in my neighborhood to run the hills. The goal – induce and asthma attack and see how far I could push through it. I only planned on doing two loops (2.5 miles anyway). Since it was hot muggy and whatever crap in the air is still floating around, not to mention the hills, I was able to get a reaction before the first mile was over. I ran through the second mile compromised and ran the last 800 meters at an 8:00 pace. Was that smart? Well, not really. I coughed for two hours afterward and the inhaler, in my opinion – SUCKS! But I was so pissed about this thing defeating me. I just won’t let it.

In light of all this trial and error, gasping for air, and having my running ability compromised, I’ve decided to go see an allergy and asthma specialist. Did I mention I hate doctors? I want to know what’s causing this. This just doesn’t surface and get worse for no reason. My appointment is next week. Wish me luck.

In the meantime, I’ll keep it inside except for tomorrow when I torture myself with another 5K. Ha! Never surrender.

Question: Does anyone else out there have problems with allergies or asthma? 

 

May 28

Dear stomach, the party’s over. Avoiding post marathon weight gain.

There are a lot of struggles that go along with marathon training. But there are also some great rewards, including being able to eat lots and lots of food. I mean, I still eat a healthy diet when ‘m training since performance has a lot to do with how you fuel your body, but I just eat a lot more of it.

When I’m deep in training and running more than 40 miles a week, I’m easily burning over 5,000 extra calories weekly. Not only am I burning a lot of extra calories, I need more healthy carbs to keep my energy level up. But when the marathon is over and the mega miles come to a screeching halt, I need to make some changes. Last year after the marathon, I didn’t make any significant change at all and ended up gaining about 7 pounds in 3 weeks! That doesn’t sound like a ton of weight, but try cramming it onto a 5’2″ frame. I just felt heavy. It’s not feasible for me to continue to run 40+ miles a week all year round to keep my weight balanced, so I make changes to my diet. Nothing too severe, but none-the-less, changes. The strategy I’ve used since the marathon on May 3 is detailed below and seems to be working. I’m actually lighter now than I was before the marathon.

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LOL, no, I don’t do that. That would be seriously unhealthy, plus I don’t really do dairy anymore. Ha! What I have been doing is this:

1. Back off the calories. This seems like a no brainer, but it really is the simplest way to avoid weight gain. I’m not burning as many calories, so I obviously can’t eat as many. While training I probably eat somewhere between 1800 – 2200 a day. That seems like a lot, but I burn it off fast. Now that I’m only running 15-25 miles a week, I’ve cut that down to about 1400- 1600 a day. It does take a few days for the body to get used to not eating as much, but the demand for calories isn’t there either. If you can just hang in there for 3-4 days, the new caloric intake will become the new normal.

2. Follow this rule: Eat breakfast like a king, lunch like a prince and dinner like a pauper.

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This method seems to give me great success. I eat my starchy complex carbohydrates in the morning and can include anything from multi-grain bread, pastas, brown rice, potatoes, and oats. For lunch, most days I eat lean protein fibrous complex carbohydrates (vegetables) and fruit. Dinner is simple, I eat lean protein and vegetables. In between meals I stick with fruits and vegetables (and of course my almonds) but heavier on the veggies. I don’t snack on crackers, pretzels, chips, or anything like that, although I never really have. I feed my family a starch every night and I never feel deprived, because I pack myself a small portion of it and eat it the next morning after I run.

3. Mix up your workouts. I know I should be cross training during the marathon cycle, but spending all those hours running, stretching and preparing to run takes so much time. I have to admit that I let the cross training and weight lifting slide a little. The body gets so efficient at doing one thing that any time you mix in some different form of activity, it responds. I’ve been lifting more and getting on some of the other machines at the gym besides the treadmill. ie. see below. :) I’m also planning on dusting my bike off and taking it for a ride this weekend.

Like I said, following these rules has really worked for me. I’m about 4 pounds lighter than I was the first week of May and I’m feeling light and lean. Since I’m gearing up for some summer 5Ks, that’s exactly where I want to be.

Question: Do your eating/workout habits change after your big race is over? 

May 18

Monday Motivation

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May 17

Running Rut or Something Else?

p4Over the past 24 hours, I’ve convinced myself that I’m in a running rut, I’ve peaked and this is as fast as I’ll ever go again, to I’m still an awesome runner with a lot of potential. The mind, swinging back and forth has me a bit confused and unsure of how I should proceed. Should I take time off, should I keep working? I just don’t know what’s best. Here’s a basic recap of the past 24 or so hours:

 

 

Saturday

8:50am at the start line of the Team Alex 5 mile run. I swear it felt like there were about 15 of us there. I was worried for a minute that I might actually finish last. I was talking to a few other women who were running and they were commenting on the fact that at least it was a little cooler. Cooler, were they smokin crack? It was 9:00am and already like 72 degrees and humid. I was sweating just standing there. But that’s me – very heat sensitive.

9:00am so we start the race and I run the first mile at an 8:30 pace. Wow, that felt pretty easy, sweet – off to a good start, I want to hold right here. We go into the second mile, Ingomar hill and I finish that mile at a 9:02. Not bad for the “big hill” and my average is right where I want it to be. I was holding around an 8:35 before we headed into the second set of hills. Which, killed me. My breathing got very heavy and my mouth was very dry. That mile ended at an 8:56. I stopped for water, which I never do during a typical 5 mile race, and long story short, the last two miles sucked and it was over. Did I mention I ran this race last year at an 8:23 pace and won my age group?

9:50am I checked my results on the computer – said to myself “wow, that sucked”, 5th place in my age group, grabbed a smiley cookie and was out of there. I really didn’t even care. I certainly wasn’t happy, but I wasn’t upset either. I felt like I got the place that I deserved.

After that I drove to the grocery store, I sat in the parking lot pondering this running situation I’m in. I’ve always liked it because I was a fighter and competitive. The confidence and competitive edge seem to have disappeared, along with my speed. I got on Google and searched “Running Rut”. I found a great article on Compeitior.com that sounded exactly like me.

1. Focus on rest and recovery. I don’t like to rest and recover. Up until the last 1/4 of my marathon training, I wasn’t recovering from my weekend runs properly. That lead to poor or inconsistent performance during the week, until I did it all over again. I also don’t sleep a lot – I try, I really do.

2. Vary your racing. I am so guilty of NOT doing this. I train for marathons. That’s been my thing over the past couple years. but this is so interesting:

“The longer a runner stays in this cycle of running marathon after marathon, the further diminished their VO2 max, speed and anaerobic threshold become. Eventually the inability to improve the entire range of physiological systems prevents a runner from making long-term progress and taking their training to the next level.”

I need to run some shorter distance races, 5Ks and 10Ks. Right away when the marathon was over, I look for all the half marathons on the calendar. I think they mean SHORTER than that. LOL.

3. Press the mental reset button: “sometimes being in a slump is as much mental as it is physical”. Um, yes, I know this is me. Worried I would come in last at the race before I even started. That’s a problem. It’s also hard to get back into gear after a series of disappointments or bad runs. The not being able to breathe is a bit troubling as well and really shakes my confidence. I never know what will bring it on and quite honestly, I’m wondering if my stupid brain is bringing it on. UGH.

1:00pm I’m going to take a break from running. I just need to take a week off and reset. I’ll do other things. No problem, it’ll be relaxing. My mind is made up.

2:00pm Go home and organize my whole linen closet to keep my mind off it.

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So, this morning I woke up all ready to start my REST and RESET. No run scheduled. I did some laundry, took everything out of my closet, rearranged it, cleaned out under the master bath vanity, vacuumed, dusted.

Shit, it’s only 11:00.

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Check Instagram, Facebook and Daily Mile like 50 times.

I’m going to the gym, I won’t run, just lift.

Okay, I’ll just run 2 easy miles.

I RAN 3.1 miles at 8:30. Yeah, much better inside and a lot better than yesterday. See, I knew I wasn’t really in a rut. I just don’t like the heat. Or can only breathe inside. WTF?

I’m still confused. Not sure about the time off thing. I want to run a 1/2 marathon next Monday but not sure I should. Maybe I should run a 5K somewhere instead. I could probably pick from like 10 billion in the area.

Maybe I should stick strictly to the treadmill. I mean, people do it.

I’m off to organize something, cook something or clean something. There’s a lot of time in the day when you aren’t devoting hours to running, let me tell you.

 

May 11

Pittsburgh Marathon 2015 Race Recap

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“The true test of a champion is not whether they triumph,

but whether they can overcome obstacles”

~ Garth Stein

ResultsInstead of starting at the beginning of the race like I normally would, today I’ll start my story towards the end. Mile 23 to be exact. Typically when I get to this point in a marathon, it seems like a million miles to the finish. On May 4, I was elated at this point, at the prospect of being so close to the finish. I said to runners around me “We’re almost there, 3 more miles, we’re going to make it, you’re going to make it, just another 5K, we got this”. I was truly overjoyed.

Now you’re probably thinking, what is up with this girl? her goal was a 3:55 – she’s over 4 hours at this point with 3.2 miles to go? Why, why is she so happy? I was happy because starting at mile 8, I was convinced I wasn’t going to finish. I was going to take a DFN (did not finish) for the first time ever.

Back to the beginning. I was prepared for this race physically and mentally. I was confident and even had in my head that I could possibly run better than a 3:55. I was right where I wanted to be. I had no hiccups on race morning, parked, got where I needed to be and felt calm. I gathered my GU, water, checked my gear and walked to corral B. When we started I was feeling good. I planned on a conservative, slower start. I went out a touch faster than planned, but not by much. I had a pace band and used it as a loose guide for my mile by mile pace. By mile 7, I was right on pace practically to the second. I came out of the West End and headed into the Southside. I always hated that hill into the Southside but knew that after the hill, the next few miles were flat to slightly downhill so I wasn’t worried.

As I started to work to get up and over that small hill, I started to have a hard time breathing. It was the same asthma like symptoms I was having randomly during training. I hadn’t had problems for weeks and this was something I never considered would be a factor when I went to the start line. I slowed down thinking that would help. I figured one bad mile at this point wasn’t going to hurt my race as a whole. The breathing never got better. Mile 9 was bad and mile 10 was no better. At this point I pretty much knew my Boston 2016 potential was already gone.

Mile 11 came with little relief and it was getting warmer, which doesn’t seem to help. At this point, I was considering taking the left and just finishing the half. I knew Madison and Rich were waiting for me at mile 14, so I decided I would at least get to them then stop at the 15 mile relay point. I could probably get a shuttle back to the finish from there. I saw my family and told them I was really struggling. Rich said, “don’t worry about the clock, just have fun, that’s why you do this”. I kept going and as mile 15 was approaching and my opportunity to stop struggling was close, I started thinking, if you don’t finish, you don’t get a medal. I ran 500+ miles to prepare for this race, I am at the very least going to have something to show for it.

So, with a sense of resolve, I passed up the relay stop and ran mile-by-mile from that point forward. It was only 11.2 more miles right? I’ve done that a million times, no problem. I ran most of the miles slow but when I had to exert myself a little harder, like up a hill, I struggled. Miles 19 and 20 were the worst. It literally felt like something was blocking my airway so I slowed to a walk and thankfully, it passed after a few miles. I DID NOT want to pass out or end up in the ICU! It continued that way until I crested the hill coming out of Bloomfield. Like I said, I was elated at this point, because I didn’t give up and I was going to make it.

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MILE 25

I crossed the line and was so happy. Relieved it was over and proud I didn’t give up! I saw my family at the end of the finisher’s area and they were expecting me to be depressed, down, crying even. I was just the opposite, and they were proud of my positive attitude.

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It really wasn’t until hours, days later that it really sunk in. I would walk around shaking my head thinking it must have been a bad dream, that couldn’t have happened. The soreness in my legs confirmed it had. In an earlier post, I talked about the uniqueness of marathon running. You don’t get many chances a year to do this. Bad days happen, hot weather happens, trouble…. breathing……happens. You have to take what race day gives you and make the best of it. In a sense this marathon was harder than when I broke 4 hours last year. I didn’t feel well, I didn’t finish strong, every step was hard but I stuck with it. The easier thing to do would have been to give up. That is my positive I take away from this race, my ability to overcome obstacles the best way I could.

Everyone keeps asking me when the next marathon is and for the first time, I really don’t know. I honestly think I need a break. I’ve been training like this straight since December 2012. Cycle after cycle of tough physical work. And to be honest, my body can probably be up for another round come July, but it’s the mental grind I’m not sure I want to endure again, at least not right now. Marathon training is grueling, hard work. And this time around, I wasn’t completely able to enjoy the fruits of my labor and it’s a hard thing to deal with.

I plan on racing a few half marathons coming up and look forward to a different kind of challenge. I’ve been in the mental mindset of marathon training for so long that I think in the process I’ve lost some of my speed. I want to get back to “racing” again and work towards PRing some shorter distances. At least that’s how I feel now.

I truly love the marathon distance. Wineglass, Columbus, Erie, and Philadelphia dangle in front of me for fall. I’m just not sure I’m gonna take the bait this time.

May 01

Pittsburgh Marathon Course – mile by mile description with elevations @pghmarathon

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I love writing this post. It’s such a great opportunity for me to work through the course in my head. I’m getting so excited and this also gives me something to focus my energy on. The descriptions below takes into account the changes made to the course for 2015. I hope this post finds all you marathon runners feeling fantastic and ready to go on Sunday. Stay off your feet as much as possible tomorrow and drink plenty of water. See you at the start line, and best of luck to you!

Elevation gains are marked in red and losses in green. I hope you find this useful on race day and it helps you earn your Runner of Steel title. 

Mile 0-1 Liberty Avenue between 10th and Garrison (elevation gain 14 feet elevation loss -5 feet) Total net elevation gain +9 feet

Mile 1-2 Liberty Ave, 30th Street, Penn Ave (elevation gain 2 feet and elevation loss -7 feet) Total net elevation loss -5 feet

Details: The energy at the start line is fantastic in Pittsburgh. The wave start is helpful in keeping groups separated and the longer corrals this year should make it even better. However, with this many runners the first couple of miles are considerably congested. Use this to your advantage by not sprinting off the start mat. I’ve made the mistake of weaving in and out of runners to reach a specified pace quickly, but advise against it. It adds distance to your run and uses way too much energy. Make sure to watch other runners here! People will not be paying attention to you and will jump in front of you. I’ve seen people get knocked over and some cases – it’s game over for them. There will be plenty of time to pick a spot when the first hill emerges in mile 2-3

 

Mile 2-3 Penn Avenue, 16th Street Bridge (elevation gain 34 feet and elevation loss 0 feet) Total net elevation gain +34 feet

Details: You will hit your first water stop here (mile 2) which is always CRAZY busy. At every water stop, It’s always best to go to the end of the water line and avoid the crowd at the front. Look for volunteers with only ½ a cup of water to avoid spilling it all over yourself. It’s going to be relatively warm Sunday so drink early, and often! When you get to the bridge, the turn gets tight and congested, watch your footing and other runners around you. Without cutting people off, try to take this turn as snuggly to the bridge as possible. This is good tangent management and will also keep your overall distance as close to 26.2 as possible. So, the best thing to do is plan ahead, start getting over ahead of time.

 

Mile 3-4 16th Street Bridge, Chestnut Street, Ohio Street, Cedar Avenue, Anderson (elevation gain 6 feet and elevation loss -46 feet)  Total net elevation loss -40 feet

Mile 4-5 Anderson, Carson Bridge, Warhol Bridge, Sandusky, Robinson, Federal (elevation gain 40 feet and elevation loss -8 feet ) Total net elevation gain +32 feet

Mile 5-6 E/N/W Commons, Ridge Avenue, Ohio, Brighton, Lincoln (elevation gain 27 feet and elevation loss -9 feet ) Net elevation gain +18 feet

Details: Yes, within the first 6 miles of the race you will cross 3 bridges. The crowds are great here and this back and forth across the bridge is the first point where you can start hitting your race pace or close to. Around the Commons through miles 5 and 6 have a lot of turns. Again, watch your footing and other runners. Take the turns as snugly as possible, planning ahead and running in a direct point to point style. This is also typically the first “re-fueling” point for me (5 miles). I always try to time the finish of my GU with the water station so I can wash it down. Water station is at mile 6.1. Keep in mind there is a relay exchange at mile 5.5. They are well marked but there’s always a little of congestion through this area.

 

Mile 6-7 Lincoln, Galveston, Western Avenue, West End Bridge (elevation gain 14 feet and elevation loss -18 feet ) Total net elevation loss -4 feet

Mile 7-8 Steubenville St, Alexander Street, S. Main Street, W. Carson Street (elevation gain 4 feet and elevation loss -24 feet) Total net elevation loss -20 feet

Details: Mile 6 ends with a climb up the West End Bridge. This really isn’t bad at all and after you crest you begin your decent into the West End. Slower runners may get in your way heading up the bridge so try to pick your line and avoid weaving in and out of people again. Take it easy heading down this hill. Stay in control and get ready for a great crowd in this area! Right before you make the turn onto Carson Street, I believe there is a photographer – smile!

 

Mile 8-9 West Carson Street (elevation gain 18 feet and elevation loss -21 feet) Total net elevation loss -3 feet

Mile 9-10 East Carson Street (elevation gain 25 feet and elevation loss -24 feet) Total net elevation gain +1

Mile 10-11 East Carson Street, Birmingham Bridge (elevation gain 12 feet and elevation loss -9 feet) Total net elevation gain +3 feet

Mile 11-12 Birmingham Bridge, Forbes Avenue (elevation gain 89 feet and elevation loss -5 feet) Total net elevation gain +84 feet

Details: The long stretch of Carson Street seems to go on forever. But there are lots of people cheering you on along the way as you head into the Southside. Towards the end of Carson street, you’ll wave goodbye to your half marathon friends as 13.1 runners bear left and 26.2 runners keep right. This is clearly marked so no need to worry about getting confused. The crowd thins dramatically after this point and it becomes much easier to navigate the rest of the course without congestion. Mile 11 brings with it the first major hill in the marathon as you make your ascent into Oakland. Get your bearings on the far side of the Birmingham Bridge and prepare to climb. The best advice I ever got is to take this hill slow and steady – don’t kill it. You may lose a few seconds off your average pace, but there is plenty of time to make it up. The relief at the top is visible in every runner. But don’t be fooled – the hard part and elevation gains aren’t over yet. Mile 10 is also my second refueling area.

 

Mile 12-13 Forbes Ave, Schenley Dr, Forbes Avenue (elevation gain 75 feet and elevation loss -6 feet) Total net elevation gain +69 feet

Mile 13-14 Forbes Ave, S. Craig St, Fifth Avenue (elevation gain 49 feet and elevation loss -19 feet ) Total net elevation gain +30 feet 

Details:  You’ll continue your climb through Oakland (mile 12-13), home of the University of Pittsburgh and Carnegie Mellon campuses. Once you pass the Cathedral of Learning (you can’t miss it), they take your picture. Take this hill at a slower pace, just slow enough to not exhaust yourself but fast enough not to kill your time. There’s another climb up Fifth Avenue (mile 13-14) so shake your shoulders and arms out to prepare for the next couple miles. For some reason, this climb is hard for me, but I know that on the other side, I will have some relief.

 

Mile 14-15 Fifth Avenue, S. Aiken Ave, Walnut St, S. Highland Ave (elevation gain 43 feet and elevation loss -39 feet) Total net elevation gain +4 feet

Details: There are some “hidden” climbs through this area in Shadyside, but they aren’t long. If you took it easy going up Fifth Avenue, you should be fine through these rollers.  If it’s a hot day, you will have some shade and relief through here. A little over half way through – salt tablet.

 

Mile 15-16 S. Highland Avenue, Fifth Avenue, Penn Avenue  (elevation gain 30 feet and elevation loss -1 foot) Total net elevation gain +29 feet

Mile 16-17 Penn Ave, Brushton Ave, Meade St, N. Braddock Ave (elevation gain 4 feet and elevation loss -61 feet) Total Net elevation loss -57 feet

Mile 17-18 N. Braddock Ave, Frankstown Ave (elevation gain 9 feet and elevation loss -39 feet) Total Net elevation loss -30 feet

Details:  After you leave Shadyside, return to Fifth Ave and turn onto Penn, it gets pretty quiet through here. I happen to really like miles 16 – 17. They are a gentle down hill (barely perceivable) but enough to give you some momentum. However, these are tough miles. Concentrate on the mile you’re in. People who haven’t run a smart race up to this point, or skimped on training, will start to unravel here. If you’ve run a smart race, this is where you can start making your move by increasing your pace slightly. If you do that, you’ll most likely start passing people who are struggling. At this point your only focus should be making it to mile 18. Mile 15 – more GU.

 

Mile 18-19 Frankstown Ave, E. Liberty Blvd (elevation gain 29 feet and elevation loss -36 feet) Total net elevation loss -7 feet

Mile 19-20 E. Liberty Ave, N. Highland Ave (elevation gain 85 feet and elevation loss -7 feet) Total net elevation gain +78 feet

Details: Everyone always focuses on the hill into Oakland and never talks about this. It’s not as long as the hill into Oakland, but it comes at a difficult time in the race. So, that makes this a  HUGE climb. Repeat your mantras, occupy your mind, talk to the person running next to. This is the LAST hard part, just focus on that, and run on guts and determination! You just need to make it through this mile one step at a time. 

 

Mile 20-21 N. Highland Ave, Bryant St, N. Negley Ave (elevation gain 8 feet and elevation loss -48 feet) Total net elevation loss – 40 feet

Details: I remember when I ran this marathon for the first time in 2011. A good friend told me that if I can make it to mile 20 feeling strong, you have the marathon in the bag. This is where you make your turn BACK to downtown. Try to push here and see how your body feels. Increase pace by 5-10 seconds and try to hold on. Refuel at mile 20.

 

Mile 21-22 N. Negley Ave, Baum Blvd (elevation gain 27 feet and elevation loss -35 feet) Total net elevation -8 loss

Miles 22-23 Baum Blvd, Liberty Ave (elevation gain 23 feet and elevation loss -60 feet) Total net elevation loss -37 feet

Details: This part of the course can get boring BEFORE you hit Bloomfield. The climb into Bloomfield will also feel like a mountain. I concentrated on not letting my avg pace drop too low here. I just kept telling myself to hand on, because the downhill is coming. Set your sights on a spot on the hill, get there then pick another spot. Small segments at a time.

 

Mile 23-24 Liberty Avenue (elevation gain 0 feet and elevation loss -146 feet) Total net elevation loss -146 feet

Details: This is GO TIME! Get the legs moving and make up time lost from the climbs behind you. Take advantage of this downhill to pick up your cadence. There is absolutely no reason to hold back now.  

 

Mile 24-25 Liberty Avenue (elevation gain 5 feet and elevation loss 0 feet) Total net elevation gain +5 feet

Details: This is the part where you may feel like you’re in hell, literally. If it’s a hot day, it will feel hottest right here. It’s “no-man’s land” and runners lose it here. I remember seeing runners on the ground left and right through this mile. Runners will be walking all around you. But this mile can make or break you if you’re going for a specific time goal. You have to remain mentally tough and dig deep for anything you have left. Trust your training, and remember pain is temporary. 

 

Mile 25 – 26 Liberty Avenue, Smithfield Street (elevation gain 12 feet and elevation loss -3 feet) Total net elevation gain +9 feet

Mile 26 – 26.2 Smithfield St, Blvd of the Allies, Finish Near Wood St (elevation gain 0 feet and elevation loss -8 feet) Total net elevation loss -8 feet

Details: Hopefully you feel another surge of adrenaline here – the finish line is so close. The last .2 feels so damn long, but he crowds are loud and the thought of having the pain end is enough to get it done as fast as possible.

 

Apr 29

Marathon Week – Thoughts, Rituals, Preparations

bridge3_300Distance running is such a unique sport. It’s not like being a golfer or a baseball player, where you have the opportunity once a week or more to go out and “play” your sport. Running a marathon comes once, maybe twice a year for most. You have one day to get it right. I think that adds to the excitement of the sport, but also adds stress. There’s a lot riding on that one day and all you really have to depend on is the 16 weeks you’ve worked to prepare. You truly have to take a leap of faith and “trust the process”.

I spent a good deal of this 16 weeks overcoming “issues”. The season started with knee tendinitis, I had a minor setback in miles due to a ski trip, I was fatigued from, well, life and training, and I also was diagnosed with “Exercise Induced Asthma”. Although I’m not completely committed to that diagnosis. I’ve worked through all this continuing on my path, completing the miles, and readjusting as necessary. In some ways I feel like I worked harder this cycle than others that went smoother. I also broke a very bad habit of frequently stopping during my runs. I’ve really turned that around. Peak week was critical for me, a week to really give my confidence a boost. I passed with flying colors, finally feeling stronger and more like where I should feel 3 weeks before a marathon. My taper has gone well and I feel strong and confident as a result.

With one week to go, you’d think it would just be a matter of sitting around and waiting for the gun to go off. There’s still a lot I can do to make it to the start line in top shape. I have NO more miles to run. I’m done. Maybe a mile or two to stay loose. But proper rest, nutrition and mental preparation will still keep me busy. Remember, I get one shot at this.

Proper Rest: This is always a hard one for me. I’m tired when I should be awake and awake when It’s time for bed. And to make matters worse, my mind races when I hit the pillow. Literally. I will run the Pittsburgh Marathon in my head at least 10 times before Sunday. I imagine myself running through each section of the course, feeling strong. Of course, I eventually end up falling asleep right around Baum boulevard, so I don’t really know how it ends. LOL. Proper rest is critical to good race performance and I always, always make a real effort to sleep well on Thursday and Friday nights, about 8-9 hours. Then pretty much lay around all day Saturday, like my dog. I know I won’t sleep much Saturday but it’s okay if I have a couple nights in the bank.

Dietary Changes: I don’t really do too much here but I do follow a couple of simple rules days before the marathon. I eat one extra helping of carbs,  a cup of rice, a bagel, etc. starting tomorrow. Carbs allow the cells to hold water and I want as much water in my body as possible, not to mention boost glycogen stores. And, I limit my fiber intake. This will ensure I don’t have any digestive disasters come race day. Other than that the only other thing I do is NOT eat any strange food. You can read more specifics HERE.

Outfit Planning: I kind of already know what I’m wearing on Sunday. It looks like it’s going to actually be warm, FOR THE FIRST TIME THIS SPRING. Cruel joke mother nature, and of course we’ll all be like “WTF!” since we’ve been running in winter like temperatures up until, like, last weekend. Yeah, but I can’t do anything about the temperatures except dress accordingly. It will still be relatively cool in the morning for the start so a throw away shirt may be required and maybe, maybe gloves. I want to have that all nailed down right now and not have to scramble this weekend to pull all this together. I also have the shorts, tank, socks, and of course shoes all lined up. I think I’m going to me matchy, matchy. It’s a little early for “flat Kim”, but here it is.

Gear Check: Fuel belt, water bottle, buff (for wiping off my hot face), GU enough for every 5 miles and 2 back ups, and of course my watch. If you use a Garmin and you’ve been training with it all winter, it’s a good time to clear the data. My absolute nightmare would be to get to the start line, turn on my watch and have it tell me the memory was full.

Course Planning: As if I didn’t review the course enough the day it took me 3 hours to pick my pace plan. Now, I’m splitting hairs and thinking about what miles I may lose some time and where I can get it back. I’m mentally preparing for the bad miles and thinking about how I’ll talk myself through them; one step at a time. I’m preparing for the inevitable pain that will come in the later miles and how I can manage it.

My Mental State: I feel great. I don’t remember ever feeling this confident and comfortable before a race. That’s all I can really say. Anything can happen on race day, but I have a good mindset. I have my goals and I’m ready to roll.

goal

I’m hoping to re-post my Pittsburgh Marathon mile by mile with some additional notes Friday, so it you’d like some more insight about the course, stay tuned.

 

QUESTION: HOW IS EVERYONE FEELING??????? IT’S ALMOST TIME!

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