Pittsburgh Marathon Weekend 2017
Location: Pittsburgh, PA
Host: Dick's Sporting Goods
Cost of Race: Approximately $150 for both 5K and Marathon
Sponsorship: 5K - Pittsburgh Three Rivers Marathon, Inc. (P3R); Marathon - HoneyStinger
Charity Partner - Mario Lemieux Foundation; raised $500 for the organization.
I left Atlanta, GA on the morning Friday, May 4th and returned the following Monday. I flew on Southwest, of course, and had a few drink coupons which proved useful on the way home. Since I was traveling alone, I planned how I would get from the airport to the hotel (and back) ahead of time and found that the cheapest route was going through a shuttle, as opposed to using Uber or Lyft. The service I used was Super Shuttle and they were fantastic. You booked everything online via an app and could track the drivers progress just like Uber or Lyft. It cost about $20 each way. It was roughly a 40 minute drive partly due to stops at other hotel along the way for drop offs but that was fine by me as it allowed me to see the city. Side note: My checklist for packing for this trip is in the upper right-hand corner if on a PC. All docs on bottom of page if viewing on a mobile device.
I stayed at the DoubleTree hotel right in the heart of downtown Pittsburgh. I originally planned to leave after the race on Sunday and stay in an airport hotel but enjoyed my time in the city so much that I kept my reservation at DoubleTree and cancelled my other reservation on the second day (no penalty). Thanks to the great people at the hotel, it cost me exactly the same amount so I was pretty happy that I had asked the front desk about it when I arrived. I would have missed out on another day in the city if I hadn't.
Once I was all settled in (and had that delightful cookie) I decided to go to The GNC Live Well Health and Fitness Expo to check in for my races. Before doing so, I made sure to grab coffee downstairs in the lobby. I was in desperate need after traveling all morning.
Despite the number of people that were there it was pretty easy to navigate. It was a relatively quick in and out to grab my bibs, and once in the expo the crowds were busy but not terrible. I didn't buy much at the expo at all. I only purchased a $5 magnet that had the city horizon and the name of the race. It wasn't that there was a lack of great products, it was just that a.) I was on a travel budget and b.) I was in Pittsburgh and knew I wanted to get some Penguins gear. Once that was done, I stopped by local restaurant, the Ten Penny, on the way back to the hotel to have lunch and a beer. After that I headed to the hotel to watch TV and relax before heading to the VIP dinner.
City of Pittsburgh
They say that you often fall in love with a place right away and that happened with Pittsburgh. It was unbelievable to be in the city of my home team the Penguins, even if they were in the playoffs and had an away game while i was in town (missed a home game by a day). I definitely need to go back again and attend a game on our home ice. Despite the gloomy and rainy weather it was really easy to get around the city between Lyft and the trains so I did get to explore the city some. Especially after I met some fellow INKnBURN fans on the way to to 5K. After the 5K we went over to the Strip District.
Places I Saw/Visited:
Andy Warhol Museum
PPG Paints Arena
As I was leaving the hotel, very unsure of where to go to find the start line, I saw two women wearing INKnBURN in front of me. I said hello and asked if they could direct me in the right direction. After we all noticed that we were wearing the same brand we started comparing our outfits. We hit it off as we walked to the train station and ended up spending the day together after the race to do some sightseeing. I credited INKnBURN for meeting these two awesome women. This was one of my favorite parts of the weekend. This was the first travel excursion I had made for a race by myself. Meeting people such as them is one reason I will never be nervous about trying that again.
The UPMC Health Plan/UPMC Sports Medicine Pittsburgh 5K Run begins on the North Shore and runs through the North Side before crossing the Roberto Clemente bridge and finishing at the official finish line downtown. The views as you cross the bridges were spectacular and there were so many people out cheering on the runners. I have attached the route in case you wanted to get the full view of what the course entailed. It was a nice prep race for the marathon the next day and didn't leave me feeling too tired. I did end up finishing before Adrienne and Sarah who were running with friends, so we ended up just meeting afterwards to see the city.
Here are some things that I used on race day:
Nutrition: Honeystinger Gels
Hydration: Nuun Hydration Tablets
Shoes: Brooks Women's Launch 5 (provided by the Pittsburgh Marathon)
Normally I would break it down mile by mile. I would review the miles I ran, and what those felt like. But even now, months later, it still feels like a blur to me. I have miles of what I can only describe as being "in the zone" where I only remember watching buildings going by, reading street names, waving to spectators, or trying to get my fellow Penguins fans to chant with me (side note: was successful only twice on that front).
You should know that I ran this whole race without the aid of any music since I left my Bluetooth gadget in my car at the airport and my Ipod decided to not charge (which now works perfectly fine). It was almost as if the universe was saying that this race was just going to be me and my surroundings and that it was important for me to just take in the moments as they came. Oddly enough I didn't miss having music and like I mentioned earlier, I just dipped into this space where everything else fell away. It was actually wonderful. Almost zen like, if that make sense.
One of the questions I was asked on Facebook by my sister-in-law Sonja was how I kept my pacing throughout the race. First, I went into the race with a plan and a simple one at that: finish. I had a very slow pace in mind that I hoped would get me there so for once I didn't care that I was the slow poke. In fact, it helped me a great deal to just go with the flow and enjoy everything else, even the occasional periods of light but steady rain.
Second, I ended up running with a pace group after about mile 6 and only lost them after mile 19 when I had a coughing fit when I swallowed my Honeystinger gel wrong. Though unfortunate that little snag did not take away from my ability to finish. Many thanks to the people I got to chat with in that pacing group, it was awesome to hear their stories and experiences they had during training.
I ran into the finish in the midst of a light but constant rain that followed me through the last 3 miles. There was only a few volunteers left at this point and most of he food was gone but that is always what happens when you are a back of the pack runner. That would be my only gripe about the day. If you have a finish time limit make sure that the support and cheering happens throughout that time. Those of us that did finish within the time required needed it as much, if not more so, than the people that finished hours before.
Another question I was asked by my friend Lance was the funniest - "How did you not die?". Seriously though how does one finish a marathon with no injuries, no pain, and none of the awfulness that so many have talked about? I credit all the great advice I received on nutrition and hydration from other marathoners. I even did the dreaded ice bath immediately afterwards and forced myself to walk around until my normal bed time before turning in that evening. I went in with a plan and I stuck to it. Hydrate often, fuel as needed, and stick to the pace you planned despite that competitive devil sitting on your shoulder yelling at you to run faster than they guy/gal next to you.
Would I run this race again --- ABSOLUTELY. If you want a race in a great city, with lots to do, then this is one to add to your race bucket list.
Gear Worn for Half Marathon:
INKnBURN shorts and tank
Weatherproofed Yellow Jacket (Unknown Brand - purchased at Sam's Club)
Women's Launch 5 (provided by the Pittsburgh Marathon)
HoneyStinger Gels (provided on course but took two of my won in case I needed extra oomph)
Gratitude to those that also donated to my charity: The Mario Lemieux Foundation. I didn't reach the fundraising goal for the autographed helmet but I was fortunate enough to be an official part of that group and to be able to raise funds for a great organization. They are dedicated to raising funds for cancer research and patient care, as well as Austin’s Playrooms, an initiative that creates playrooms for children and families in medical facilities. THANK YOU ALL FOR YOUR CONTRIBUTIONS!
Official Blogger 2018
The people of the Pittsburgh Marathon that selected me as an Official Blogger will always have a special place in my heart. As an official blogger I was invited to attend a VIP event on Friday evening, where I got to load up on tasty food and drinks, and met some of the other official bloggers.
They gave me an opportunity to be part of something I never imagined and helped me check off one of my bucket list items. Thanks especially to Erin Carlin for coordinating everything and for taking such great care of us. From the very beginning I knew this was going to be a great event because of her. Thanks also to P3R for sending my running buddy, Cody, a marathon medal. I had tried to get a picture of him with the medal for this blog but was unable to.