Tuesday, May 7, 2013

Week 10 & Race Day Success! | 10 Weeks to the Half Marathon


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For 10 weeks between March and early May, I charted my progress as I trained for the Pittsburgh Half Marathon. I posted everything about my training from the actual distances to what I wear to how I stay hydrated, nourished and entertained while running. It's been a long 10 weeks and Race Day is finally here!

Week 10

My hard training is behind me and by week 10 I'm either prepared for the big race or I'm not. There is nothing I could do during week 10's training that will push me over the edge to being prepared. I did all of that work during that weeks 1 - 9.

My goals for week 10 were to get through my workouts, continue to nurse my left foot, get plenty of sleep, drink lots of water, and eat really well.

My Workouts for Week 10

  • Monday - 3 miles, easy pace
  • Wednesday - 6 miles, easy pace
  • Thursday - 3 miles, easy pace
  • Sunday - Race Day

Race Weekend

We live about 3.5 hours east of Pittsburgh, so race weekend was also a mini family vacation for my family.  We stayed at the Hampton Inn in downtown Pittsburgh's Strip district. We stayed at this hotel during last year's race, so my kids were super excited to go back again. It has a pool and they serve cookies and popcorn in the afternoons, so my girls are pretty sure that we should live at this hotel...hmmm...someone else makes my bed, provides fresh bath towels daily, and prepares breakfast...I want to live there too.

We chose the Hampton Inn because it is super convenient. It has free parking, breakfast, & wifi, it's next door to the race expo and registration, and within walking distance to the race start & finish.

We headed over to the Expo after we arrived on Friday to pick up my race bib & bag and we spent Saturday sightseeing. Thankfully, we were all exhausted by Saturday night, so we fell asleep quickly.

Race Morning

My alarm was set for 5 AM on Sunday and I immediately went downstairs for breakfast.

My breakfast consisted of oatmeal, an English muffin with peanut butter, a banana, and an electrolyte drink. I ate this same breakfast for my first three half marathons and it worked well for me, so I wasn't about to try something different. My stomach was a bit queasy though, but 5 am is a queasy hour to begin with. I'm sure nerves had everything to do with it. Even though this was my fourth half marathon, running 13.1 miles is still a daunting task. My mind was racing with many thoughts: Will my foot last the entire time? Will I stay hydrated? Will I have to go to the bathroom during the race? Also, there were over 25,000 runners participating on Sunday in either the full marathon, half marathon, or the relay teams, so the sheer volume of people was intimidating.

I left my sleeping family at the hotel at 6:15 and headed to the race. My husband got the girls up and going after I left for the start and we caught up after the race.

The race start was 7 AM.

Runners are assigned to a corral based on by their expected finishing time. The corrals opened up at 5:00 am for the super motivated runners who want to be at the front of their assigned corral.  I was assigned to corral D and I got there about 6:45. My queasy stomach caused me to make a final pit stop at a port-a-potty, which was surprisingly not stinky and disgusting. Because of my late arrival though I was towards the back of corral D where this next picture was taken from.

Someone sang a beautiful rendition of the Star Spangled Banner during the opening ceremony. In light of recent events at the Boston marathon, 25,000+ runners in Pittsburgh erupted in cheers at "o'er the land of the free and home of the brave!" It was quite moving.

At 7am, the gun went off...but the running didn't start yet for me. Corrals A, B, & C had to proceed ahead of me and it took about 20 minutes to walk to the starting line. Even though the gun went off, my official time didn't start until I crossed the starting line. This next picture is corral D walking towards the starting line and if you look closely, you can see it in the distance.

The Race

At this point, my iPhone is attached to my arm, so I don't have any pictures during the race, which is a shame because much of the scenery through out the race was stunning. The weather at 7 am was perfect. It was chilly, but sunny and the temperatures were going to be in the mid to high 60's by mid-morning. I decided to wear my long sleeved Nike shirt and running capris, although I could have gotten away with wearing a short sleeved shirt and many runners were even it tank tops.

The beginning was very crowded as you can tell from the above pictures. Once you crossover the starting line, there is a lot of weaving going on for position and to move past slower runners. But honestly, there was never a time during the race where there weren't a lot of runners around me. I enjoyed the crowd. I got into a steady pace from the start of the race and I focused on runners ahead of me to try to pass them.

I took a swig of Gatorade followed by a gulp of water at every hydration station. Around mile 9, gummy bears & worms were being handed out. That quick shot of sugar hit the spot and gave me some needed energy.

Pittsburgh is notorious for being hilly. But there are only a few mild hills during the half marathon course until you get to mile 11. If you are familiar with Pittsburgh there is a brutal hill on Forbes Avenue around Duquesne University. It is long and steep and we hit this hill around mile 11. I tried desperately to keep my head up and focused on the top, but after 11 miles I was beat, tired, and cranky. There was a fair amount of cursing going on IN my head at that point. And I swore that I would never run the Pittsburgh Half again. But as soon as I got to the top, there was a little over a mile to go and the hill was quickly forgotten about and the finish line was on my mind.
My goal for this race was to run in under 2 hours. My best time to date was 2 hours and 3 minutes and I was convinced I could run under 2 hours as long as my foot could handle it.

My foot handled it just fine. And I sailed to the finish with an official time of 1:57:23. SUCCESS!

I was thrilled. I was beyond thrilled. I was ecstatic.

Running long distance races is like child birth. During the long hard miles, you swear that you will never do it again. You will never, ever, ever run a race again. BUT, when you get to the finish line, you have completely forgotten about the hard pain, the long miles, and the grueling hills and you relish in the gain...and the bagels and bananas...and of course, the medal!

I hope you enjoyed my 10 Weeks to a Half Marathon series. But now I would love to hear how your training is going? What race are you training for? Please let us know in the comments.

A note about my training plan: I am not a medical professional or a certified trainer, just an avid runner. Please consult a professional if you feel you need one. Also, the half marathon training plan that I follow is designed for beginners. Although, it is advised that you do not start using the 10 week training plan until you are able to run 6 miles. If you are new to running, start by training for a 5k. There is plenty of information online to help you with 5k training.

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  1. Congratulations on your race! My first half was this past Sat May 4th. Unlike your travel I luckily only live about 15 minutes from the starting line in La Crosse WI. It was quite nostalgic ridinf to the top of Grandad's Bluff for the start of the race. I felt very queady because suddenly I felt as though I was back in high school on my way to a meet! There was thick fog up there and the temprrature was about 10 degrees colder then the rest of the route would be. Which confused everyone how to dress. There were hats and gloves with coats and pants and then tank tops and shorts or no shirt at all. I have not quite adjusted to the world of being an adult runner whete no one really stretches or warms up. I need to do both! My friend and I stayed at the very end as running down the bluff for the first 2.5 miles I was sure I would fall! My first two miles wete way off from my pace. much too fast. i settled in and got on pace. At about mile 10 I "hit the wall". With a mile to go my body felt so tight and rigid. I felt like I was barely moving. But I made it! I loved having my husband and four children cheering. I haven't really ever been in a race where people are all over the entire course cheering. I loved it! I finished the race 395/1150 so a much smaller race than yours! But I was at 1:56.44. I ran a 8:55 pace. I know my first half of the race was faster than the last. I have already signed up for my second half for late sept!

    1. AWESOME run! That race sounds like it was quite the challenge. And you caught the half bug too with a fall race already scheduled.

      Thanks for commenting and I'm so glad you had a great race!


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