5:56 am on the morning after your race might not be a good time to write a race report, but since I am awake and seem to have it fresh in memory, why not! (And there’s some hanky panky going on in the room next door at the hotel, so writing this race report is helping me block out the noises!! Awkward!!). So here goes the race report for Pittsburgh Half Marathon.
Pittsburgh Half Marathon and full was picked as a reunion race and there was so much awesomeness going around that it totally outweighed the not-so-awesome-stuff.
- I was getting back together with 7 other wonderful girls who I’d spent 2 days with at Ragnar Relay Napa Valley in September.
- I had done what I could do (minus 2 weeks) leading up to the race.
- I was ready to give it a go.
- The race was supposed to be a wonderful experience with great crowds.
But I’d be lying if I said that I wasn’t in the least nervous.
- I had a bout of acute bronchitis 12 days before the race and I still had a bit of lingering cough.
- I hadn’t run in 2 weeks because of that.
- The weather on race day was predicted to be in the 70s by time we were predicted to finish in what would be the first true hot day of the year.
- My minion broke her leg and I had to coordinate doctors and stuff from Pittsburgh, so much stress since at that moment neither Daddy nor I were in town.
We could see the start line from our hotel window and that made it is an easy walk to the start. And I had my share of fun shenanigans before starting off.
I started off very steady and the ease with which I was running gave me confidence that it was going to be my day. The roads weren’t too good and I had to watch for potholes. The hills that the elevation had suggested didn’t seem like hills at all. I easily took all of them and was on perfect pace. The roads were lined with spectators and the crowd support was phenomenal. And I reached half way point pretty quickly and easily even as the sun had come out in full force and the heat was bearing down on us.
The hills got a little steeper and longer but still nothing like the ones I’d already done in Atlanta. My right hip flexor started bothering me a bit but other than making a side note of it, I put it out of my head. I remember the point between mile 8 and 9 where I passed Brandi and there were a bunch of people in army fatigues were lined up (some of them looked too young to be in the military) and I ran past them strong.
Soon after we passed an area where there were apparently oranges given out (but they were cleaned up and gone by the time I came around), and I slipped on an orange peel on the ground. I felt my already tired hip flexors go “pop” as I steadied myself. I didn’t have much time to think about that “pop” as I was approaching mile 10.
The Beginning of the End
When I got to the start of the bridge at 10.5, I was hurting more than I’d have liked but I still ran up. I got to the top and breathed a sigh of relief to run down and realized – I could not turnover my legs. My hip flexors were screaming and after a series of slow down, stop to try to do god-know-what to the hip, curse, slow down, go, curse … I gave in.
It was a little past 11miles and I stopped. Not stopped and walked, but stopped completely. Like come to a halt in the middle (side actually) of the course. And walked off to the side of the course and outside the cones. (I had no idea what I was going to do next). I wasn’t upset (yet), I wasn’t frustrated (yet). I was just in a lot of pain and was feeling like another step would pull my hips rights off.
Within moments of me stopping, as I was looking around for help, I could feel the familiar rumbling and GI shifting. Oh oh …
So instead of stopping and … I don’t know what – stopping to walk? stopping to DNF? stopping to get help? … I had to keep hobbling to find a portapotty. When I asked the course marshalls, they did not know where one was. Murphy’s law, considering that I had seen about a million portapotty’s up to that point, and hardly with any lines too. So I walked up with that pain in my hips and the discomfort in my stomach. I tried plenty of times to restart back up, but was frustrated. Atleast my stomach settled back down after a bit of walking.
Finally at the mile marker 12, I gave myself an “enough is enough” talk.
I want you to try race walking instead of walking with arms down on hips, I said. Ok. Done. Somewhat.
Now I want you to try picking up your feet a little and find a running action that isn’t as hurtful, I told myself. Tried that and there really wasn’t any comfortable action. But … mile 12 was the tail end and I knew it was hilly only until 12.5 and then it was all downhill. So I gave it some deeper effort.
There was a woman on the far corner holding a sign that said “Allon-sy” and that made me giggle and take heart for a bit. (Doctor Who Tenth Doctor David Tennant reference)
Once that downhill started, I told myself that I had to run strong. Or atleast pretend to run strong. Forget the miles in between, pull it together and go. And so I did. The pain was … let me not talk about that. But I crossed the finish line, still standing and I didn’t die.
After I crossed the finish line at the Pittsburgh Half Marathon, I grabbed a bottle of water and after gulping it all down, threw the empty bottle down in anger with a lot of curse words. And stomped on it with my other not-so-beatup leg. I have NEVER displayed such aggression in a race and I have definitely never dropped so many curse words before!!
I located the med tent and hobbled in to get help. But surprisingly they only had med volunteers who were icing people. No one seemed to care for the muscular-skeletol(sp?) injuries. They finally said it was not a pop and I’d strained my hip (They suspected I was cramping and then pushing through had strained it – I can’t see how I’d have cramped because I was hydrating well and I’ve never had that in my hips before).
I cried a bit in the med tent.
But they weren’t tears over miles 10.75 – 12.25. They were tears mainly because I was hurting and then more tears because I wasn’t being strong enough to stop the stupid tears. I very badly wanted to talk to someone but I wasn’t able to get hold of Hubby’s voice ( Hubby did give me a brief call later when race alerts showed him that I had finished, but he was caught up in minion’s foot drama so he just wanted to make sure that I wasn’t dead or on a stretcher somewhere and didn’t have the time or the desire to hear anything more.)
Any other time, I’d be embarrassed with all that silliness (even though running hard does bring out the emotions in me), but I couldn’t “feel” anything at that point. I hadn’t quite given it my all over 13.1 miles with that walking mile. But in a way, I had.
Lessons from the Race
My biggest takeaway from Pittsburgh Half Marathon has been to learn to not be afraid of failure. I was nervous about the race since I got sick and had hardly run much over the past 2 weeks. But I faced it and I raced it and I did not let it mess with my head. I could’ve gone safer and gone slower from the beginning. But since I was actually feeling good the day before and the morning of, I didn’t ask to change my race.
Yes, I did not reach the intended goal, but being strong until almost mile 10-11 with paces that I’ve never hit before in a race – that is a new for me. I was off the goal by X minute (single digits! ha!), but the X was almost exactly the time I dropped walking those miles. And failing so close has fired me up more than ever to get to that elusive goal.
Once I stopped, I thought DNF was reasonable/acceptable and actually texted so to Mike. The GI distress forced me to continue on instead of completely stopping (piece of luck that – not finding a portapotty nearby). And then rallying back at mile 12 when I could’ve just as easily finished the rest of the race on walking feet. After all, the race goals were long gone. But there was still some part of my dignity to be salvaged from all that mess.
I walked out of the finishers chute with very little regrets (just a tiny one wondering if I had it somewhere inside to pull together at mile 11 instead of mile 12) knowing that I gave it my best that day, even though my best that day wasn’t what I had hoped I was capable of.
Does this make me more nervous for Augusta 70.3?
Heck yes! The Pittsburgh Half Marathon was my last 13.1 until I take the distance again on the run at Augusta 70.3 after warming up with a 1.2 mile swim and 56 mile bike ride.
Will I dwell on it?
I’ll try not to. (Although I’m not promising Mike that I won’t be texting/emailing him panicked in the next few days.)
One race does not define my efforts to my goal. One bad mile does not define me. Bouncing back from this and figuring out what went wrong with my hip is another step towards redefining my impossible.
Did you happen to run the Pittsburgh Half Marathon/Full?
How do you bounce back from unexpected setbacks during the race?
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