Pittsburgh Half Marathon Recap – A 13.1-Mile PR!!!

Have I ever mentioned how much I LOVE the Pittsburgh half marathon?  If not, well then I gotta tell you, I LOVE the Pittsburgh half marathon!!  Not just the running part itself, but everything about the entire race weekend.  Yesterday I ran in the half for the third consecutive year.  In 2011, this was my first ever half marathon.  I don’t know if that is why I am so fond of it (it’s my first- half-marathon love), or if it’s just the race itself, or if it’s a combination of both– but every year, I am like a little kid at Christmas time when that early weekend in May rolls around.

The first year I ran the half, I had no amigos to run it with me.  It was something I did on my own, which made it all the more emotional and special to me.  Last year, in 2012, two of my best-est running girlfriends and I ran it together.  It was their second half marathon and my third.

This year, I conned my younger brother and his best friend into running the half with me.  My younger brother and I ran the half in Myrtle Beach together in February of this year (that was his first half).  Yesterday was our friend’s first half marathon (and second timed event) ever.  My younger brother is one of my best friends, so I really enjoy doing things like this together with him.  And his best friend is like a third brother to me, so we all had a really great time.

We hit up the race expo on Saturday to pick up our race gear and bibs!!  The race expo is when the excitement really starts setting in for me.

{An expo and/or race gear picture would’ve been really appropriate here.  I promised I am working on getting better at this picture-snapping thing!}.

After the expo, we checked in to our hotel for a few minutes of relaxation before heading out to dinner.  I took a few minutes to go through my goody-bag and to set out my clothes to wear in the morning.  This year I, along with so many other members of the running community, was running for Boston.

My commemorative Boston shirt!

My commemorative Boston shirt!

Getting ready in the hotel room.

Getting ready in the hotel room.

I always make a "lucky" bracelet with 14 beads (that's 13.1 beads "rounded up") to wear for each half marathon.  This year I made my bracelet with Boston in mind.

I always make a “lucky” bracelet with 14 beads (that’s 13.1 beads “rounded up”) to wear for each half marathon. This year I made my bracelet with Boston in mind.

We stopped at Panera Bread to pick up our race-day fuel while we were en-route to dinner.  I have a tradition of eating a Cinnamon Crunch bagel from Panera (topped with peanut or almond butter) for breakfast before every half marathon.  I’m pretty sure my brother and our friend picked up this tradition after yesterday’s half, too!  Who doesn’t love Panera bagels?!

We enjoyed a delish pasta dinner at Bravo’s Cucina Italiana (one of my favorite Italian restaurants ever) on Saturday night.  The service was terrible, it took us two hours to get our meals, and my meal was removed from our check because it wasn’t made how I ordered it.  We were good-spirited about everything though, and just passed it off as one-of-those-things-we-will-always-remember-about-the-Pittsburgh-half kind of things.  At least the food was great!  And it filled our tummies with high-quality carbs for Sunday morning’s run.   One of the best parts of running a half-marathon = pre-race carb loading!!

I was the first one out of bed on Sunday morning– my alarm went off at 3:50 a.m.  I’m pretty sure a half marathon is the only instance where I will never complain about dragging myself out of bed at such an unsightly hour of the morning.

We left the hotel room at 5:15, made a pit stop at Sheetz for some hi-test coffee, and made our way downtown by 6:00 a.m.

At 30,000 runners, this year’s participant field was the largest ever for the Pittsburgh marathon/half marathon event.

And this was only a fraction of the people waiting to cross the start line!

Sunday’s weather was PERFECT weather for a distance event, in my opinion.  If you ran in last year’s event, you’ll remember the temperature climbing to nearly 80 degrees in the morning.  None of that nonsense this year, thank goodness.  The temperature ranged from the mid 50’s to probably the early/mid 60’s by the end of our race.  Perfection.

I always rely on my heart rate monitor to carry myself through any distance event (I try to keep my heart rate somewhere between 170-175 BPM– that seems to be the most efficient range for me).  By doing this– with the occasional bump-up to 180+ BPM on the hills– I was able to feel really strong for the entire race distance.  I love running through all the different neighborhoods in the city.  In my opinion, the course is perfectly designed to take you through some of the most beautiful areas around town.  And the crowd support at Pittsburgh is always amazing– it’s like running through a 13.1 mile long parade.

I stole this pic from my buddy’s Facebook page. Thanks, Clint!

I love the half marathon course.  For the most part, it’s mostly flat with some rolling hills, which is just enough to keep things interesting.  Between mile markers 11 & 12, though, there’s a fairly steep grade.  A lot of people complain about the challenging hill being placed so near the end of the race, but in my opinion it’s in a great location.  It gives you a chance to really find out what you’re made of– just when your mind is telling you that your legs and body are too tired to take on a hill, you dig deep and conquer that hill with not much left but a lot of heart and willpower.  It’s a humbling experience to crest that hill before your descent into the finish line.  I get goosebumps just thinking about it.

Although each mile was marked with a timing clock, I wasn’t paying much attention to my splits during the race.  I wanted to run the race at a comfortable pace (based on my heart rate).  I didn’t feel the need to push it too hard just to get a better time.  I wanted to enjoy my third year of the race.

As I passed the timing clocks at mile markers 12 and 13, however, I knew I was going to PR.  I wasn’t sure how far behind the clock time my chip time would be, but I knew that even if I finished at the clock time I’d have a PR.  This late in the race, I let that be motivation to high step it and push my limits to the max.

I crossed the finish line at 2:00:37.  That’s nearly 18 minutes faster than my time in Myrtle just 2.5 months ago, and that’s almost 10 minutes faster than my previous PR of 2:10:08.  Yikes.  I was stoked!!  My brother and our friend also kicked the race’s butt with times of 1:50:16 and 1:59:12, respectively.  I am so proud of them!!

We followed up with the race with a beer-accompanied lunch with several friends at the nearby Rivers Casino– replenishing is also one of my favorite parts about running the half marathon distance!!  I’m big on food, in case you haven’t noticed.

All-in-all, I must say that this weekend was one of the best race weekend’s I’ve ever had.  I can’t thank the race organizers and everyone involved enough for putting together such an awesome event year after year.

I’ve already decided that I’m not doing the half marathon next year in Pittsburgh… That’s right.  Next year will be my first full marathon.  26.2.  Right in the city that introduced me to my love of the 13.1 distance.  Is it too early to start counting down?? =)

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4 thoughts on “Pittsburgh Half Marathon Recap – A 13.1-Mile PR!!!

  1. Pingback: My Non-Paleo Week in Review | Cristi Rae

  2. Pingback: Weekend Recap! Half Marathon Training and Homemade Almond Butter | Cristi Rae

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