Surprises on Orr Street

RATS #00154

Good morning! I’m still in muddle-mode, not really focused on training for anything at the moment, so I wasn’t too concerned about pace or distance today. However, the desire to run more streets is starting to rev up again. I am approaching the one-year anniversary of starting this project, and I feel like I’ve made good progress this year.

Today’s run started in the South Side, under the Birmingham Bridge, with Pro-Bike and Run. I stayed with the 9:30 pace group for a few miles and then headed off on my own to catch a few small streets on the other side of the Monongahela.

After crossing the Mon on the Birmingham Bridge, I checked out a few of the small streets immediately across the bridge. Generally speaking, this an area hounded by heavy traffic and poor housing. The urban rejuvenation spurred by Pitt’s growth hasn’t made it all the way down the hill. I went up Beelen St, which has a few houses on the bottom and an isolated house at the dead-end. I believe there are old stairs at the end of Beelen, but I could be mistaken. The residents of the dead-end had parked their cars so that it looked like a private area once you got to that house, so I turned around. I took the opportunity at Mohawk St to run down and up the stairs. Most of it was solid, but in places the handrails weren’t really attached to anything. It’s unnerving to think the handrail is solid only to feel it bouncing in your hand. Those stairs went down to Fifth Ave. The upper side of Mohawk curved up into the hill, only to dead-end in front of a darkened house.

Going down to Kirkpatrick again, I came across a section of Allequippa St. There’s a busier section at the top of Pitt’s campus. This section, however, was still paved with blocks and went straight up the hill to a dead-end. A couple of houses on the left were in bad shape. One had the blue “Condemned” kiss of death on it. The other had stairs going up to it. I thought they just went to the front porch, but from maps, it seems that these stairs go all the way up to the Oak Hill neighborhood on the top of the hill. Nonetheless, this wasn’t too inviting, so I turned around again.

At this point, I had run a couple of miles, so I decided to just do a few close-by streets and head back across the bridge. I found myself in an area of better maintained row-houses. Circling the block, I came across a little free library and a couple of well-decorated areas nestled into the hillside. This was a pleasant surprise.

I made my way back across the bridge in time to have some cookies and coffee at the end of the run.

Taco Dog

… Montooth got smaller and smaller, eventually becoming an alley between row houses on one side and a veritable cliff on the other. Then, as the asphalt turned right and became Nina Way, I noticed stairs. Sure enough, those Montooth Stairs DID intersect West Warrington Ave after all. A short flight later…

Glorious morning – Birmingham Bridge over the glittery Mon

Lions, beer kegs, a mermaid, skulls and bones! The runners this cool October morning put on their best running costumes as we gathered for PBR’s Costume Run. After a quick judgement by some Mickey Mouse character, the landed mermaid, with her sparkling green scale tights and bright red hair won the day. A couple of pets were in attendance, getting a run this morning instead of their regular walk.

The “9ish” group sped out at the usual sub-nine pace. The first eight miles were fairly non-descript, running down the South Side River Trail, crossing the Smithfield Street Bridge and circling downtown. We exited downtown via the Armstrong Tunnel. The sidewalk is narrow and the tiled walls have that public restroom effect, so I sped up going through there. I also kept hearing the pitter-patter of feet behind me and didn’t want to slow the whole group down.

From there, it was a quick sprint back to the start. At this point, we had covered 8 miles. Grabbing a swig of Nuun and a cookie, I headed back out with a smaller group, dedicated to doing four more miles. This was a smaller group and we did a quick 2 miles out and back to the Smithfield Street Bridge (again). I had a good conversation with a woman training for her first marathon. She’s going to do well, I believe, given her pace and amount of distance she’s put in.

Speaking of distance, I had eight more miles to do to complete the last twenty miler in this training cycle. So far, this run had been on roads I’ve covered dozens of times. I decided to hit the hills and cover some new ground via 18th Street. 18th Street is one of only a handful of streets which cross the great railroad barrier and allow you to progress from the South Side Flats to the South Side Slopes. From the railroad tracks to its name-shifting at Arlington Avenue, 18th Street ascends a mile, rising 500 feet. At Arlington Avenue, I took a new street, Orchard Place, which I thought ran parallel to Arlington. Hmm, a review of the map shows it actually cuts off at a cute 45 degree angle. I was too obtuse to notice, though, and proceeded to run down Orchard Place, confident that Arlington Ave, which I’m familiar with, was only a block away.

https://www.strava.com/activities/2818496265
RATS #00145 – 20 miles

It was pleasant running here. The street was wide and relatively flat. While it was clear the neighborhood could use a few tank loads of paint, the streets were relatively clean and largely empty. The houses were mainly brick, four square styles with a few bungalows thrown in. As I kept running, my disquiet over exactly where I was grew. But then, as I crested a hill, I saw the Cathedral of Learning in the distance and knew the direction I should go. I should go to college! Whoops, been there, done that.

Cute house with great view

Eventually, I pulled out the phone, checked the map and saw that Montooth St would go straight to Warrington Ave. Yay! Montooth got smaller and smaller, eventually becoming an alley between row houses on one side and a veritable cliff on the other. Then, as the asphalt turned right and became Nina Way, I noticed stairs. Sure enough, those Montooth Stairs DID intersect West Warrington Ave after all. A short flight later and a steep downhill found me almost at the entrance to the Liberty Tubes. I don’t think there are sidewalks through THAT tunnel, so I made my way up the backside of Mount Washington. I wasn’t done exploring. As I made my way up Southern Avenue I took a few side trips. On the right, the streets just went to Boggs Ave. The left was much more adventurous. I found myself on Penelope Ave, passing a puzzled kid sitting on a brick wall, kicking his legs out into space. Penelope wound its way to Ottawa St and finally to more stairs, this longer flight rising to Southern Ave again. Whew! From here, it was just the hair-raising jaunt down the hairpin turns of East Sycamore until I made it to the South Side Flats again.

Twenty miles in the books! Time to reward myself with pancakes, raspberry syrup, eggs and bacon!

September 2019 Catch Up

September was quite the month. I ran more miles (189) and second highest elevation (12,425) this month than any other. I covered many streets, but still did not get into the Big Southern neighborhoods. Nineteen September runs got the “RATS” Badge, covering new streets. Here’s the wrap up.

RATS #00117

https://www.strava.com/activities/2675783421
RATS #00117 – covering the last bit of Nicholson St finally

RATS #00117 got the badge for finally crossing off Nicholson St off my list. Whoo!

RATS #00118

https://www.strava.com/activities/2683598843
RATS #00118

This run originated in Shadyside and traversed into East Liberty. The Strava route is a bit misleading in that the first few miles actually went on South Graham St, crossing the East Busway on a pedestrian walkway. Little Brownwell St has some neat old houses on it. Unfortunately they now only look wistfully over at Bloomfield across the wide bus way.

RATS #00121 Pre-run, run, a pre-run run

https://www.strava.com/activities/2703475578
RATS #00121

A couple of miles before my initiation into Sami’s runs, singing tunes!

RATS #00122 Sami’s Run!

https://www.strava.com/activities/2703475916
RATS #00122 Sami’s Run

This is a run worth the explanation. Let’s go into the Wayback Machine. …whooowhooowhooo <flashing lights> …

…landing a few years ago on a random Tuesday. In those days, Steel City Road Runners had a track workout. Elijah would run it from the Schenley Park track. (A few more “whooos” of the Wayback Machine would have taken us to the CMU track…) A man of more medals than words, Elijah religiously taught us the “A-skip”, the “B-skip”, and brought “high-knees” and “strides” into my vocabulary.

Then there was “reorganization” within Steel City. (Oh, no!!) At some point, the remaining leadership decided to cut track. Like energetic saplings rising from the trunk of a felled trip, several small running groups have emerged. One of them, HPRC, I have mentioned often in this blog. Another one, which I like to call pTNT!, is Perry’s Tuesday Night Track group. Perry was one of the coaches in Steel City and carries on the track tradition. In addition to posting about track, pTNT! also posts about other runs going on. That’s how I found out about Sami’s Thursday runs. Sami is part of HPRC, but, like me, has some issues getting to those 5:30am runs.

So, we started, promisingly enough, at Silky’s on Liberty Ave. Nothing but wide open, nearly flat streets! But Sami had other ideas. We galloped into Oakland via Centre Ave. That was worrisome, as Centre keeps rising. But then we cut over to Bayard St. Ah, nice trees, slight uphill. But then, up DeSoto! Up Terrace! Up Allequippa!! Now on level with the top of the Cathedral, we caught a little break on “Champions Dr”, only to climb up the backside of Centre Ave again! Five miles, 460 feet of elevation, it wasn’t easy. Luckily, it also ended at Silky’s, and they were stocked with Runners Honey, aka beer.

RATS #00125 – Ascend Runner Party

https://www.strava.com/activities/2715058616
Ascend Run Club RATS #00125

In addition to climbing, yoga and some fitness equipment, Ascend also has a small run club. Tonight’s run was inspired by the promise of beer and Chipotle after the run. That was quite the right promise, as they had nearly 50 runners show up. The routes were three, five and seven miles. Needing lots of miles, I went out with the seven mile group. What they didn’t mention was that they were moving at a 7:30 pace!! Like the last hippo in Jumanji, I struggled to keep up. After four miles of lightning speed (for me), I slowed down to a more comfy pace and caught a few new streets. It was a good run, with good food and friendly faces.

RATS #00126

https://www.strava.com/activities/2720940935
PBR Run, RATS #00126

This run was with Pro-Bike’s Wednesday night group. A few new streets around Schenley Park earned this run a RATS badge.

RATS #00127 A Northside Pre-Run Run

https://www.strava.com/activities/2723473110
Exploring the North Side before a group run. RATS #00127

Nothing too spectacular about this run. Eloise St was longer than I expected. Manchester streets are pretty desolate. Many houses must have been taken down, so there’s lots of open space.

RATS #00128

https://www.strava.com/activities/2723660177
RATS #00128

This was a group run from Allegheny City Brewing. I believe the two blocks of Middle St, earned this run the RATS badge.

https://www.strava.com/activities/2731058728
Steuben St Doughnut Run RATS #00130

Doughnut Surprise on Steuben St: RATS #00130

This was a recovery Sunday run after a long run on Saturday. I had gone to the the West End Overlook to take some pics and just wandered a little from there down Steuban St. This area is super hilly. Going down from the overlook, I took a long flight of stairs at the end of Fairview, which took me to Furley St. A couple of blocks of stairs…pretty impressive. A couple of turns later, I took the Amherst St stairs up from Chartiers Ave, which eventually took me to Steuben St. The neighborhood coming off the overlook was reminiscent of Morningside – small houses, close to each other. There were lots of people out, fixing cars, mowing lawns, walking dogs. Steuban St. was a bit different. It is an alternate route for drivers going to the Western suburbs, so it can be pretty busy. In this area, the houses are a bit farther apart, bigger yards, but not very cozy. Then, going up a large hill in the sun, I saw this sign:

Ahhh! A sign runners love to see!

Not the best sign, but a woman coming out of the store said “They’re open! I drove from Ohio to get these! You’d better get one!” I smiled and nodded and planned to come back. Another mile along this road and I returned. This time, people were parking randomly along the road and coming in and out the store. I went inside and searched for my cash while a young couple came in. The woman was impressed that I had run there and offered to buy my doughnut. I thanked her but declined, having come up with the dollar required. It was still warm!

The reward

RATS #00131

https://www.strava.com/activities/2739886985
RATS #00131 Polish Hill

A short run in and around Polish Hill. Lots of narrow streets and stairs in this cliffhanging neighborhood.

RATS #00132

https://www.strava.com/activities/2746325842
RATS #00132

A moderate distance through Shadyside and Friendship. Caught some new alleys in Shadyside.

RATS #00133

https://www.strava.com/activities/2750339505
RATS #00133

Starting in Grandview Park, I ran some of small streets perched over the Liberty Tunnels.

PBR & 100th RATS Run!

100th RATS run. Nice route, Kim!

As July drew to a close, two running threads converged. One is that July 31st fell on the last Wednesday of the month, meaning that the Brooks shoe rep would be at Pro Bike, AND there would be beer after the run. That’s always a good time. Another one was that this would be the 100th RATS run, if only I could get the mapmaker to include some new streets. So I messaged the running mapmaker, Kim, and asked if she could include Gettysburg St on the route. We’ve run many parallel streets in Squirrel Hill often, so it wouldn’t be too crazy of a change from normal routes. She agreed and put together the route.

At the beginning of each jaunt, Kim makes announcements and welcomes new runners. She also explains the route, going over the differences between the three and five mile routes, for example, and any gotchas with the map. Tonight, she took the occasion to point out that I had requested the route and asked me to tell the group the significance of it. I gave my short canned messaged: “It’s a personal project to run all the streets of Pittsburgh”., then tossed in the part about it being the 100th, too.

The run itself was a nice mix of a social run and pure run. It took us down the venerable Beechwood Blvd, then up Gettysburg. That was a short, steep hill which most people had never done. This was still Squirrel Hill, so the houses are huge, the yards beautifully maintained and the streets wide. Things became more interesting as we traversed Penn Ave all the way to Trenton Ave, in Wilkinsburg. By the time we got there, the various 9ish groups were strung out for a couple of blocks. Most people in the group had never run in this area and there was some trepidation about running in Wilkinsburg. It was no problem, actually. Much like Homewood, it has large brick houses, flat, dusty streets and small yards. Pittsburgh’s signature bright blue street signs helped us figure out when we had crossed out of the city, as Wilkinsburg’s street signs were faded green. We had a bit of confusion at the end of Forbes Ave, where it forks for a half block. But when we went up Forbes everyone knew where they were.

Forbes Ave is a long gradual uphill, which gets steeper as you approach Squirrel Hill. We spread out a little there. I ended up talking to John, who is almost done training for the Erie Marathon. He has been putting in boatloads of miles, over 200/month. Back at Pro Bike’s Squirrel Hill store we feasted on ice cream and brown ale. It was an unlikely combo, but I didn’t hear any complaints, except about that hill on Gettysburg.

Adventures with Alyssa

Adventures with Alyssa: Run All The Streets 00053

Alyssa is a planner, a runner, and, ugh, a morning person. She delights in running different routes throughout the city, finding cool public art and seeing the sunrise. She also organizes runs, often two or three a week. This is pretty impressive because it requires her to figure out a place, time, a rough route and invite people who are likely to come, and who are likely to get along and have fun. At any rate, Alyssa often invites me to come along. Most of the time, it’s too early for me, or too far away. But this time, it was a special run, several regular runners were going to be traveling for awhile, Rich was going to have surgery in a few days, and it was Rich’s birthday.
So, I dragged myself out of bed and drove in the murky pre-dawn light to Duquesne University. Street parking was free till 8 am, yay! We gathered in a parking lot, nine of us. Everyone was a pretty good runner, often doing trail ultras. Many had run the Pittsburgh Marathon the previous Sunday. Kim and Rich got birthday hats and a personal photo op with Alyssa.
Then, whoosh, we started! There’s no slow start with these guys. We cruised along Forbes up into Oakland, then down steep Bates Hill and across Hot Metal Bridge. As the run group morphed and changed around me, I had a chance to talk to most everybody. Rich was tired, having been celebrating his birthday until late the previous night. John had had a great Pittsburgh Marathon and was looking forward to upcoming marathons. Tim was talking about running while away. Sarah, Tony, Alyssa, and Kim were talking about Glacier Ridge and Thunderbunny, two upcoming ultras. Just as I started wondering where we were going, we paused at a “Just Good Donuts”, which is co-located with “The Pub Chip Shop”. Alyssa got us all doughnuts with a 1,000 calorie minimum. We did a photo shoot and then ran down Carson Street, all carrying little white bags full of deliciousness. It was quite comical, something you might see on Monty Python. Crossing the Smithfield Street Bridge, we came back to our starting point, salty but sweet.

Trolls Tapering

Run All The Streets: 0050 !!!

“This is 911. What is your emergency?”

“There are trolls, trolls under the bridge”

“Excuse me? Did you say ‘trolls’? Uh, what bridge and exactly what were they doing?”

“Under the Birmingham Bridge, you know, Southside Riverfront Park! Maybe not trolls, but, well, they were all sweaty and salty, breathing heavy and wearing ridiculous outfits. I daresay they were drinking as well.”

“Oh, THAT. Let me check my calendar…Yep, two weeks before the Pittsburgh Marathon. This happens every year, sir. Tapering runners, not trolls. “

But before the taper, there was one more run. The last long run of the Pittsburgh Marathon training cycle! Eight quick miles through through the Southside with PBR. We literally started underneath the Birmingham Bridge, which is so wide at that point, it’s like being in an open air warehouse. All the sign-in forms were blowing away. True to form, I got there on the later side and played catch up. The route took us up the Southside River Trail which winds along the Monongahela River. The trees were covered in that bright early-spring greenery. As we wound through the trail, I passed several groups, trying to give a friendly “Good Morning” to everyone. Not sure how much that was appreciated. At any rate, I caught up with my normal Wednesday night crew and kept pushing on. Eventually, caught up with Sasha and stayed with her for the rest of the run, as we dodged the construction sandbags and maneuvered along Carson Street, back to the start, up to Hot Metal Street and back once more.

At the end of the run, it was time to celebrate! Within a couple of minutes, everyone else finished. Huddling between the cars, we broke out chips, salty potatoes, luscious cupcakes, sausage rolls and muffins. Someone broke out the champagne and the classiest among us pulled out crystal champagne glasses! When those were finished, Dragon YumYums popped out. We periodically shuffled our chairs into a new, sunnier spots. Under the bridge, eating and drinking, several people approached us to find out what the fun was. Taper time had officially begun!