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Eight Miles of Ins and Outs

https://www.strava.com/activities/2691720668
So many little streets RATS #00120

The day before, I did an epic 16 miler with views, camaraderie and speed. Just for contrast, today was a plodding eight miler with none of those. On days like today, this project really was the motivating factor for the run. I had missed Mulhatton St. I had skipped Irma Way. There was a section of Northumberland St I had forsaken. Today was the day I would run those streets, no matter how slowly.

Mulhatton is only two blocks long, between Beacon and Darlington. I would love to live on Mulhatton St! Irma Way is a small alley which winds from South Negley Ave to Northumberland St. Unlike most alleys, it is not a straight-shot but makes a right-angle turn. The OpenStreetMap, which Strava uses, shows it as an intersection with another alley, Colma Way. Perhaps on paper that is true (see the Allegheny County Real Estate site), but the reality is, that it is someone’s side yard now, and perhaps someone else’s backyard.

Now, I have never traveled into that forsaken area of Northumberland. It abuts Schenley Golf Course, so I thought it was just a little service road. A mile and a half later, I realized I couldn’t be more mistaken. Northumberland itself is wide and shaded by forty foot oaks. It ends at the private Pittsburgh Golf Club. The curvy cul-de-sacs off of Northumberland are lined with well-appointed townhouses. It is amazingly quiet, given the central location. A few of the streets cut-down to Forbes Ave along stone-walled drives.

Crossing Forbes, I dashed up Normalee Pl, Techview Terrace and continued onto Beeler St. After Unger Lane and Bellermont Place, I had had enough and trundled on home.

Go West, Young PBRs!

Starting in the West Side of Pittsburgh for a change. RATS #00119

Today’s run was one of four possible group runs, all with their own attractions.

  • Steel City had a later run going at 8:30 from the garage.
  • Perry’s group had a 20 miler going from Market Square. The last time I ran with them, it was pretty fun.
  • HPRC, another fun group, was running from a Point Breeze coffee shop, nice and close.

What tipped the scales for the Pro Bike Run from Chartiers Avenue? Well, I’ve been running Pro Bike’s Saturday run somewhat consistently and enjoy that 8:30-9:00 min/mile pace group. Not too much chatter, but a couple of good leaders and some very quick feet! Next was the allure of running in an area which would contribute so much to covering new streets of Pittsburgh. My first “official” RATS run was from Esplen, but I hadn’t gotten back out here again. Even though it was a bit far, mileage-wise, it still only took me ten minutes to drive to the Chartiers Ave starting point, no longer than any other option. Finally, the run planner, Kelly, was collecting teacher’s supplies, a good cause.

There I was, at 7:29 and fifty-five seconds screeching into a on-street parking spot on Chartiers Ave, just up the street from The Education Partnership. I grabbed my phone, clicked on the Forerunner 220, hoping the satellite would lock in before the run started. Kelly was just finishing her pre-run pep talk when I got to the group. The faster folks bolted out and then my group.

The first mile was steep, with grades up to 12.7% grade before we got to the top.

I start slow. Not super duper slow, but usually I’m the last person in the pace group at first. It takes some time for me to warm up and get all the muscles, sinews and joints in gear. This time was no exception and steep start was no help. We immediately went up Chartiers Ave, on our way to the West End Overlook. Once we got to the West End Overlook, it was time for pictures and a little water break. The downtown skyline looked magical as the sun broke through the fog. We lingered for a little, got a group pic and plunged down the hill. The sun picked up strength as we crossed West Carson Street en route to the West End Bridge.

Downtown and long shadows waiting for the light to change

The route showed that we would have a water stop on the Three Rivers Heritage Trail after crossing the West End Bridge. So, we expected to see some tables with beverages after we trundled across the bridge and down the stairs on the far side. And we were not disappointed! There was table after table of beer and pop. There were people grilling hot dogs and hamburgers. We were temporarily stunned at this extravagance, until we realized these were Pitt fans gearing up for the 11 am football game! After a little exploring, we crossed a gravel lot, found the break in the chain link fence and found our own water stop – a five gallon jug of clear, crisp water. Ahh!

From here, the group broke up a little. The folks doing seven miles went one way, the folks doing ten or eleven went another. Eventually I ended up in a group of four. We cruised along, promising the joking football fans that we’d be back for a beer. Our route did take us into the heart of the football revelry, right past Heinz Field then over the Fort Duquense Bridge. As we circled the Point, we could see the band marching and hear the oompahs of the tubas, the blare of the trumpets and the boom of the bass drum.

Soon after, I split off from the group. I had an idea I might be able to meet up with a friend at a coffee shop across town and didn’t want to wait for a pit stop. Turns out, the coffee shop plan didn’t pan out, but by the time I got that message, I was already zooming up West Carson St.

I had twelve miles on my feet when I got back to the run headquarters. Busted coffee shop plans meant I had more time and I resolved to get in sixteen miles. Gobbling a Honey Stinger Waffle and sloshing down water, I took off for more hills. I went up the other direction on Chartiers; strangely enough, still uphill. This section of Chartiers Ave is a wide, busy, curving street. On the left was a steep green hillside going up. Across the street on my right were several large parking lots and various business warehouses. Further along is a Comcast antenna facility, with a dozen large satellite dishes pointed at the heavens. Chartiers Ave keeps turning to the right, but I stayed straight and went up Straka St, which becomes Berry St. This was my first time in the Crafton Heights neighborhood. Berry St was directly uphill, again, and none too picturesque. As I wandered in the streets off of Berry I discovered it was a cute neighborhood with lots of tree cover and medium sized houses. Finally calling it a day, I was lucky enough to find that the Litchfield Street Stairs went back to Chartiers Ave. I made my way back to the start. Sixteen miles done!

That was quite a run. It had hills. It had flats. It had photo ops and it had boring sections. There was camaraderie and there was solitude. It had lots of new streets. Thanks Kelly and Pro Bike for getting me out there!

Battle of Billy Buck Hill

RATS #00115 – Yard Way and Battle of Billy Buck Hill Part I

Like any good battle, this one started innocuously enough. Just run a few streets in the Flats, scurry up a street in the Slopes for the elevation then come back down. I didn’t realize then that I had picked a fight with one of the toughest hills in town, Billy Buck Hill. Perched above the Southside Flats, on the right as you go up S 18th St, Billy Buck is reclusive. I had actually come up a section of Josephine St and wasn’t even planning to visit Billy. But then short, straight, Pius St seemed so benign that I couldn’t resist. And the quaintness of “Yard Way”, with its street sign and cute stylized pedestrian climbing it sucked me in. How bad could it be? Well, Yard Way stairs start at Pius St and goes six rounds, crossing Gregory St, Magdalene St, Roscoe St, Baldauf St, Huron St and Shamokin St before the final bell. Luckily, each round I was able to take a break and run the little streets just mentioned. It was a modest neighborhood. The mostly well kept spectators, neat little houses, watched in silence. On Baldauf St, as I huffed along, a large brown deer with dark splotches on its coat, froze in silence just feet away.

The driver’s way up, on Oporto street, was nearly as steep as the stairs. Then Oporto St becomes a set of stairs! Ha! But I had had enough and found my way down to the flats again. I had missed a couple of streets, but I’d be back.

RATS #00116 – Brosville St and Battle of Billy Buck Hill Part Deux

Billy Buck Hill, the rematch.

This time, I knew what I was in for. I wanted to avoid Billy’s left hook and make it past him to Arlington Ave. My route was up South 12th St which becomes Brosville St. That’s right, I was going straight up the gut. The tight curve which took me from South 12th St onto Brosville wasn’t too bad. Broad sidewalk stairs quickly put me above the rooftops on the Flats. A short bridge over active railroad tracks put me at Billy Buck’s foot. I feinted right, going up Welsh Rd. That proved exhausting. A dead end-street with a 15% grade. (Or something like that). No sign of life, except the light brown cat washing himself in the middle of that street. Pausing at the bottom of Welsh, I took a couple of pics of the church steeple towering on the hill above.

Now for the main round, up Brosville St to the end! I paused a moment at St. Michael’s street (another long set of stairs), but didn’t fall for the “oh come up the stairs trick”! No, I kept punching up Brosville St. This area was pretty deserted. A few houses sprawled out on the wooded hillside. To the right was an entrance to the Knoxville Incline Overlook Park. Only giving it a quick glance, I kept on. Finally I got to the Penguins of Allentown. Yay! I had made it past Billy Buck once and for all! Now I glided down Arlington Ave, back to the South Side Flats. Nice knowing you, Billy. Lots of respect.

August 2019 Catch Up

August was a pretty good month for running. Weather was hot but mainly dry. I hit 137 miles for the month with significant elevation. I got out to Morningside and am starting to fill in the big central Pittsburgh neighborhoods of Garfield, Friendship, Highland Park and Shadyside. I didn’t get out to the southern neighborhoods of Pittsburgh even once, though. Brookline and Beechview are still uncharted territory.

Route from Ellsworth Ave to almost the zoo shown on a map.
RATS #00101

Early morning run with Sasha simply going up and down long streets in Highland Park. Euclid Ave was on the outbound.

https://www.strava.com/activities/2602969129
RATS #00104

A rare evening run with SCRRC. We covered a few new streets near Penn Brewery, otherwise a usual route mainly on River Avenue.

https://www.strava.com/activities/2609800854
RATS #00105

Covering more of Shadyside. This time went down Devonshire St, which is a surprisingly quick way to get from Fifth Avenue to Centre Avenue.

https://www.strava.com/activities/2626838114
RATS #00107

A very short run into the Southside Slopes. Once you hit Josephine St, the streets are very steep, or they are actually stairs until you get to Arlington Avenue, (not on this map). It didn’t help that this was immediately after a quick ten mile run.

https://www.strava.com/activities/2634095350
RATS #00109 – Neeb Street

This was another short but steep run. Each of those contour lines is ten meters (~32 feet), so Hoosac St climbs over 60 feet from Alger St to the top of the hill past Neeb St, a distance of no more than a tenth of a mile.

https://www.strava.com/activities/2639858948
RATS #00110 – A PBR run

This run went down College Avenue in Shadyside, earning its RATS number. With Pro Bike & Run , which is always enjoyable.

https://www.strava.com/activities/2655584176
RATS #00113

This was another morning run in Shadyside. It drizzled a bit, and we went round and round on the alleys.

https://www.strava.com/activities/2667219500
RATS #00114

This was a quick six miles with pHPRC – Perry’s route in lieu of an HPRC route. The section going straight through Uptown on Fifth Ave earned this run the RATS badge.

The Other Murray Ave

Murray Hill Ave – much quieter than that other Murray Ave

Today’s run took me across Squirrel Hill back into Friendship where I started yesterday. It was a relaxed Sunday run with no real target other than to see some new territory and get a few miles. With that relaxed theme in mind, I traveled up Murray Hill Avenue, which reminded me of a story.

When I first arrived in Pittsburgh, exactly 1 million years ago, I lived in a studio apartment in Shadyside. I lived in that one big room, galley kitchen and tiny bathroom for a couple of years. It was on the first floor of a large Victorian house. As I began to learn more about the city, I kept hearing about “Murray Ave” and “Squirrel Hill”. In school and without wheels, I explored on foot. One day, breaking out the Rand McNally map of Pittsburgh, I noticed that Murray Avenue was very close and decided to go see it. I crossed Fifth Ave and walked up a rather hilly street with big gray Belgium Block pavers and large, rambling houses on either side. After a half mile of this, I was not impressed. Sure, the houses were architecturally interesting, but where were the stores? The restaurants? The bars? This was not nearly as cool as everyone had made it out to be.

Turns out, of course, that I was on Murray HILL Avenue, not Murray Ave. Silly me, I didn’t think there would be such similar street names! But today, I knew where I was and rather enjoyed the quiet Murray Hill Ave instead of the bustling Murray Ave, with all its restaurants, coffee shops and bars. I continued into Friendship, covering some new territory, like Olga Way, pictured below. In many of my blogs, I’ve commented how some Pittsburgh streets are like being on country roads. Not so with Shadyside and Friendship, they are pulsing with urban life. This is the heart of a living city, with varied houses, businesses, people and traffic. I love it. Well, not the traffic.

Flowers along Olga Way
Route of run #00112 through Squirrel Hill North into Friendship

In Friendship We Meet

Friendship Perk & Brew – start of run, thanks to HPRC

This was a cool run, both in temps and character. A cold front had pushed out the scorching August heat. The day was sunny, too! The Highland Park Running Club had met at Perk and Brew earlier in the morning and their runners were finishing up. Many were relaxing outside or lined up inside getting coffee and ice cream. I chatted a bit and then set off. My plan today was to do a few streets in Friendship and then take off to Morningside.

Running in Friendship was great! The flat, tree-lined streets were lined with large brick houses. There were many runners and walkers out. Children rode bikes and parents pushed strollers. I liked the street names, too; Harriet, Evaline, Winebiddle, South Pacific and South Atlantic, to mention a few. Even the alleys had cool names. Who can resist Asterisk Alley?

My overall goal was to run at least 13.1 miles, a half-marathon distance. I wasn’t exactly sure how many miles I’d get in Morningside, so getting two or three in Friendship would be a good start. Peeling off of Harriet, I went up Roup Street, then zig-zagged over to North Aiken Ave. North Aiken is one of the few of theses streets to go straight through Garfield. It also rises precipitously once you’ve crossed Penn Ave. Another zig and another zag found me on Chislett Street, which would take me into the heart of Morningside.

Morningside is a long narrow neighborhood nestled between Highland Park, the Pittsburgh Zoo and Stanton Heights. It is comprised of four parallel streets, Chislett, Jancey, Morningside and Duffield, and an equal number of alleys. At their northern end, are bluffs overlooking the Allegheny River. There are a number of cross streets, too. Also, at the end of Chislett and to the right is a section of short roads and alleys. While Friendship is tree-lined, Morningside is mostly open. Small lots with small houses line the streets. It is packed with people; few vacant houses, no open lots. As I ran on Chislett, I passed a coffee house and a few other small businesses. This was rather plain running. Then, at the end of Chislett was a nice view of the Allegheny River. Making a right onto Witherspoon St, I came to a flight of public stairs. Of course, I had to go down them, whereupon I realized I was very near the road entrance to the Pittsburgh Zoo! That was a little surprise!

I re-traced my steps back to Witherspoon and did the necessary ins and outs to run the warren of streets there. The edge street, Antietam, directly overlooks the zoo entrance. At the end of Antietam, a baseball game was in progress at Natoli Field. Also a working water fountain! (Yay!)

From there I went back and forth on Jancy Street, Morningside Avenue, and intervening alleys; stopping for a moment at a Rite Aid to get some OJ. I spied the Adelphia stairs (there’s a street sign on them), but resisted the urge to run up them. I was getting tired and wasn’t going to cover every street at once. I made my way back to Perk & Brew, via North Negley and Mellon Street, getting in a solid fifteen miles.

From Friendship to the end of Morningside: RATS #00111

Heavy Sweating on Spring Garden Ave

https://www.strava.com/activities/2630134933
Spring Garden RATS #00108

So, this was the plan… Start at Threadbare Cider, run east and north on Spring Garden Ave until I got to a cross-street, wind up into Spring Hill, find Essen Street, cross I-279 and find my way back to Threadbare within an hour and fifteen minutes. I expected to cross into Reserve Township for a little, but I wasn’t sure how long. A mile or two?

My start was inauspicious, fitting the scenery. Spring Garden Avenue is depicted as a major road on maps. The mapmakers haven’t been on it, apparently. It is a two lane, flat, narrow road squeezed between the hillsides of Spring Hill and Troy Hill. At the start, there are dusty, narrow sidewalks on either side, with the smallest curbs in Pittsburgh. Narrow houses with narrow siding crowd the sidewalks. Sometimes I would see wood siding with peeling paint in older homes, or the amazingly ugly asphalt, faux brick style siding on 1930’s houses or perhaps vinyl siding in newer homes. Every now and then I exchanged friendly morning greetings with couples sitting out on their porches enjoying coffee and newspaper. Every now and then an eager dog would start barking as I tromped past. Cats just slinked away.

Sooner than I expected, I saw the “Reserve Township” sign. There wasn’t a big difference in the look of the street between Pittsburgh and Reserve Township, outside of losing the sidewalk. The yards did become bigger, but the houses looked very similar. Then the road became a winding country road. Several bicyclists passed me going up the hill. The houses started to give way to steep, green hills on one side and a rushing creek on the other. It was a bit nerve-wracking to run on that road, keeping an ear and eye out for any speeding car coming my way. Luckily it wasn’t a busy road.

Finally I made it up to Ramage Road and took a left. I wasn’t sure where it went, but figured I’d be at Ross Park Mall soon if I didn’t turn. I was disappointed that the street signs were green – signaling I was still outside of Pittsburgh. But at least the area was pretty nice with well kept houses and green yards. Then, finally, a blue “Chapin St” sign! I had made it back to Pittsburgh! This area was also very suburban. Nice two story split level houses with well tended lawns, gardens and driveways. I wandered a bit here, going down several small roads which dead-ended in cliffs above I-279. At this point, I was worried about time and took Colby Street south. I was thinking that I would soon be in the familiar territory of Spring Hill City View, but I had forgotten about Northview Heights neighborhood. From this direction, Mt Pleasant Road was blocked by a gate and security guard, so I veered off the to left, down Beech St. Alas, I was out of the city again. And I noticed that half of Beech St was blocked by fallen tree limbs. Hmm, strange!

Once again I ran onto Spring Garden Ave and back into Pittsburgh. It wasn’t far to Threadbare and now I had plenty of time. So, of course, I went up a road I hadn’t run on before. Wow! Williams Road kept going uphill! More and more tree limbs were scattered across the road, slowing down the few cars that went past. Eventually I made a left onto Sunset Avenue, saw Essen Road and made my way down to Threadbare. (Essen Road was on the original plan.) As I went, more and more tree limbs were in the streets, crews were repairing power lines and several streets were completely blocked off. The Spring Hill City View neighborhood is densely packed with small houses, small gardens and lots of steep, winding roads and dead-ends. Between the blocked off roads and the maze of streets, I wondered if I’d ever find my way back. Eventually, I found Homer St, which took me all the way down the hill to Spring Garden Ave, near Threadbare.

So, I made it back in time to join up with Mis-step‘s stair tour. I even had chance to change my clothes (though apparently I was still a sweaty mess). For the record, it was in about 85 degrees during this run, with high humidity. My sweat soaked hands and foggy reading glasses made using Google maps on my phone very difficult. As I later found out, the night before, a micro-burst had gone through the neighborhood, resulting in the downed tree limbs.

Hunt Armory and Westinghouse Park

https://www.strava.com/activities/2623784722
RATS #00106

This morning’s run was a rambling tour of the intersection of Shadyside, East Liberty, Point Breeze and North Homewood. Starting on the East side of Shadyside, we rambled through the flat and quiet morning streets. I had a vague notion of running Meade St completely. I thought it would be a nice 5-6 mile route without too much traffic or too many hills.

The first interesting turn was onto Carron Way. Originally reading it “Carrion”, I half expected to see a murder of crows in the alley or a wake of vultures congregating beside a carcass. But the alley was nothing like that. Instead, wavy paving bricks collected puddles bordered by grass. Carron Way wraps around the back of the Hunt Armory. Its heavy green exit doors were covered with graffiti. While the armory has been unused for some time, I do remember seeing the occasional Army Reserve tank in there from time to time. Now there are plans afoot to redevelop it into an ice rink.

Then we ran down Meade St, which has the curious feature that one part of it ends in an old style cul-de-sac, but there is a sidewalk which continues past the shrubbery to another section. That took us to North Lexington Ave near Construction Junction. From there we went back on Thomas Blvd. Thomas Blvd lives up to its “Boulevard” designation, as it has a tree-lined grassy median for several blocks.

It looked like the mileage would be short, so we circumnavigated Westinghouse Park. A historic landmark sign alerted me to the uniqueness of the park. The history of Westinghouse Park is surprising, including the fact the George Westinghouse drilled for natural gas there! I don’t think it is zoned for that anymore. Apparently Westinghouse used to live there and entertain guests, one of which was Nikolai Tesla, whose namesake street I traversed just a few weeks ago.

From there, we wandered through the little streets which make up that corner of Point Breeze, circled Mellon Park and eventually went down the flat section of South Negley Ave, to push the mileage to just past 6.

Tesla – More than a Car

Map of run on Tesla Street in Hazelwood
Tesla Street – RATS 00103

Nikola Tesla was a brilliant and eccentric electrical engineer and scientist. He didn’t hit the big time payday like Elon Musk and instead had a series of setbacks. But his ideas still resonate in today’s world and a steep street in Hazelwood has been endowed with his name. Tesla St makes it to the 13th street in the hallowed Dirty Dozen (baker’s dozen, I suppose).

So, on a hot Sunday in early August, I trotted out there. The route hugged the boundary of Calvary Cemetery. The streets out here are more like country roads than inner city streets, “Harlem St” notwithstanding. The houses are rather suburban; mainly split level 3 bedrooms. Yards are large and the residents take advantage of the “country life” by spreading out.

My first encounter with Tesla St was, thankfully, downhill. It didn’t seem too bad, actually. I followed it to the end, then wound up through parts of the Hazelwood Greenway to the top of the hill, where large transmission towers and cell towers loomed over the greenery. Coming back, I went to the end of Kingslake St, hoping to find stairs to lower streets. No dice, Edington St stairs were overgrown and officially closed. Again, I’m surprised at the thoroughness of the City of Pittsburgh’s sign department. Even at the closed stairs, there was a bright blue street sign.

So, this Tesla St isn’t as electrifying as its namesake, but a steep, secluded, green street.

Take the Long Way

Black and white image showing Spring Way, an alley in Pittsburgh.
Spring Way – A stereotypical alley in Pittsburgh

Alleys in Pittsburgh are named. They are designated “Way”s. In practice, some are as wide as some “Streets”, while others are barely wide enough for a small car. Like Spring Way, pictured above, many alleys in the Strip District and Downtown are lined with garbage receptacles, the backs of restaurants and formidable garage entrances. Many alleys in residential areas are lined with small gardens, above-ground pools and older garage-sheds. Finally, there are alleys which are lined with the front doors and window boxes. The outbound portion of today’s run was on two long alleys, Spring Way and Woolslayer Way.

RATS Run 00102

Spring Way runs through the heart of the Strip District, between Penn Ave and Liberty Ave. It starts at 16th Ave and ends at Ligonier almost at 36th St. The picture above really tells the story of Spring Way. It’s a long asphalt strip.

Woolslayer Way, on the other hand, is much more varied. It winds through Lawrenceville and into Friendship. How did they come up with that name? My running musings picture an 1850’s city office where they are naming streets.

Clerk 1: “There’s this little street with a few meat processing warehouses on it. What shall we call THIS?”

Clerk 2: (brandishing a pen) “We SHALL CALL IT WOOLSLAYER WAY!”

My imagination
Thanks http://www.pinterest.com/pin/34762228351402900

At any rate, Woolslayer has a muddled start off of Denny St. Unlike the map on Strava, it doesn’t actually go all the way to Denny St now, rather it juts off of 37th St between Mintwood and Penn. It continues to run parallel to Penn all the way up to Main St. It has garages and houses on it, but little in the way of greenery. Just past Fisk St, behind the MK Motor Mark and Tram’s kitchen, it seems to finally peter out. However, there’s a sidewalk on the right which continues past the end of the alley, only to emerge onto another section of Woolslayer on the other side. There is even an orphan house off of the sidewalk! Woolslayer. Beyond Friendship Ave, Woolslayer gives up its name and becomes Comrie Way.

After the Woolslayer adventure, I wound my way back to the Northside, where I had started. I made a quick stop at the Bloomfield Farmers Market, crossed the Millvale St Bridge and took Centre Ave and Wylie Ave back to downtown.