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Upper Lawrenceville on a Chilly Saturday

This is my first RATS run since the Indianapolis Marathon. It was through the streets of Upper Lawrenceville on a sunny, but chilly, Saturday morning. Here, there is a mismash of small, older, row houses and fabulously renovated houses. Even the alleys have houses opening up on them. Towards Butler Street, the area is flat, but rises quickly when you go up the numbered streets; 52nd, 53rd, 54th. At the top of 54th Street is a moderately long and winding stairway which leads to Stanton Heights. In the shadows, the light dusting of snow we had earlier in the week persisted.

Flats of Upper Lawrenceville from the 54th St Stairs
https://www.strava.com/activities/2869588077
RATS #00147 – Just a few miles in Upper Lawrenceville

October 2019 Catch Up

aka Blog of the Off Course Runs

RATS #00137 with PBR

https://www.strava.com/activities/2786942096
#00137

Usually running and beer is my thing. However, for this PBR Beer Exchange run, I just made the run. I suppose I had something pressing to do, like vacuuming the house? At any rate, we started off from Millvale Riverfront Park, dashed across the 40th St Bridge and gasped up 45th St into Friendship. I did have a few moments to chat with Gina and Keirstyn, who also were training for Indy. Then, in Friendship, I chatted with another runner about the various marathons he had run, including one that had been cancelled due to the heat. What a nightmare!

RATS #00138

https://www.strava.com/activities/2794724969
Off the beaten path #00138

PBR run gone wrong…. The official course was the same one Kim made up for my 100th run. I went off course and explored cul-de-sacs off of Beechwood.

RATS #00139

https://www.strava.com/activities/2799349125
#00139

This was a run and event to benefit Pumped To Run. It is a great organization with a mission to help residents of homeless shelters through running. Instead of dreary loops through Allegheny Center, I did High St in Spring Hill and explored Troy Hill. It was an early evening run, as dusk was settling in. People were walking dogs, and sitting on their porches in Spring Hill. One of them, a teenager perched high on a porch full of chairs shouted down “You’re Late!”. Of course, I was. But, how did SHE know?

RATS #00140

https://www.strava.com/activities/2800917540
Exploring Perry Hilltop in RATS #00140

Ah yes, this started as a Steel City run. See that little rectangle on the bottom right? Those were three quick miles with Steel City. The remainder of the run was an urban exploration up Perrysville Avenue. This was all new territory for me. Large, four-square houses are plunked into small yards. Many houses have seen better days, but some are renovated. There are side streets which look like Squirrel Hill. There are side streets which look like Homewood. I found my way across the Milroy St Bridge which crosses high above I-279 N and came back across the East St Bridge.

Looking down on I-279 from the East St Bridge

RATS #00141

https://www.strava.com/activities/2810586045
RATS #00141

A little run covering a few Bloomfield streets.

RATS #00142

https://www.strava.com/activities/2811998764
RATS #00142

A short and steep run through Hazelwood and Greenfield. Managed to slog up Tesla St. However, running on Susanna Court and Parade St earned this run the RATS badge.

RATS #00143

https://www.strava.com/activities/2814677960

Keeping with the theme of running off course, I met up with George after Sami’s run had taken off. Instead of Sami’s nice flat run, I led George up 45th Street and up Stanton Ave. I believe he is still talking to me. Of the five miles we covered, Blackberry Way at the start earned this run the RATS badge.

RATS #00144

https://www.strava.com/activities/2815529496
Cypress St in the morning RATS #00144

Nice morning run with Sasha. My only RATS goal was to cover Cypress St, which we did. It winds through lower Bloomfield.

RATS #00146

https://www.strava.com/activities/2827279428
RATS #00146

I covered a few streets in Squirrel Hill which I had missed. Pleasant, unremarkable run.

New Map

Latest streets only map

Just letting you know I’ve caught up with the map tracing and have put up my latest maps. (Tapering is a great time to catch up on things!)

So, comparing to the previous maps, I’ve filled in much of the “Continental” Pittsburgh between the Allegheny and the Mon, and have started to make some progress in the North and South. Running North up to Venture Street was quite an adventure, but there are many more streets untouched. The furthest South I’ve been is in Hazelwood, almost at the Glenwood Bridge. A spur of Pittsburgh juts out another two miles south of that bridge. On the Western side, I’ve made it to Crafton Heights and Corliss. In the East, I’ve made it to the East Hills. On one hand, I feel accomplished for doing so much. On the other, I feel pretty small in the face of the whole city.

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!

Recovery to yoga

Recover Runs

After the previous day’s long run, this was a recovery run. For those not aware, a “recovery run” is an easy run after a very long, strenuous run, usually the day after. The rough idea is that after a long run the body needs to recover. Simple rest and good nutrition provide all the necessary ingredients for recovery. However, training is about improving. To improve you need to stress your body and then allow it to recover. Training is also about schedule, so the faster you can recover, the faster you can apply additional stress, improving even more. Some athletes use anabolic steroids to achieve quick recovery. For running, my preferred method is the recovery run. Practically, it is a slower and shorter run.

Neighborhoods

I haven’t run much in Larimer. It has a more interesting history than I had thought. Honestly, I had not thought much at all until I was writing this. I think that’s the same for many in this region. Only when it makes the news do you even think about Larimer. It is geographically isolated, bounded by deep ravines and off the beaten path. Highland Park, an adjacent neighborhood, is a bustling, busy area, with a large park and the zoo.

Finally, the run

https://www.strava.com/activities/2767819522
RATS #00136

I started in Highland Park, near the reservoir. My goal was to run five to ten miles at a leisurely pace and, afterwards, meet some friends at yoga in the park. Street-wise, I wanted to complete Jackson St and then see how Larimer Ave looked. Jackson Street emerges from the park, makes a ninety-degree angle and dashes down the hill to North Negley. One curiosity is the bright blue City of Pittsburgh street signs on Jackson for BRYANT St and HAMPTON St, even though there’s nothing, not even a stairway, which suggests that those roads actually intersect Jackson.

Curious case of street signs on Jackson St for Bryant St and Hampton St

Completing Jackson, I wandered a bit and then made my way up Larimer Ave. This was all new to me. I crossed the Larimer Avenue Bridge. There was no elevation change for me, but the bridge crosses Washington Ave, about 250 feet below. The houses were fairly typical Pittsburgh brick construction, four-square houses, narrower than what you see in Highland Park and usually approached by a healthy staircase up to a porch. There was an “African Peace Garden” in a vacant lot with an impressive wrought metal entrance. As it started to sprinkle I traced a square and made my way across another, nearly identical bridge. The sprinkle was brief and I got back to Highland Park just in time to do some yoga. Then nap.

Deep in Marathon Training

Adventurous long marathon training run around Pittsburgh with friends on an early Saturday morning.
Once again the mantra was “Don’t stop and get cold!” Within a few minutes, the four of us were back on the road, heading home. Only having time for half the claw, I stashed the rest in my pocket for future reference.

https://www.strava.com/activities/2764841252
RATS #00135 – Early morning long long run (Did I mention it was long?)

Friends! Peer pressure! Social inclusion! Ugh! “Let’s do 23 miles” they said. “Let’s get up at the crack ass of dawn!” they said. “Sure, I’ll be there!” I said, like a wide-eyed puppy, eager to be petted.

There I was, shaking the sleep out of my eyes and parking on a Squirrel Hill side street. Just before dawn, we started from Starbucks. Amy and Erin leading the pack. Dayana and I bringing up the rear. The simple plan was to run down Forbes, cross over to Fifth and meet the Pro-Bike and Run group for their 7:30 am run from La Prima Coffee. Run with that group for the ten mile “Art Run” and then come back to Squirrel Hill.

As we thundered down Forbes Ave and then onto Fifth, it became clear that at our current pace, we would be at La Prima way too early. We would end up sitting around and cooling down before the Art Run began. So, we took a little detour and, as the sun was rising, crossed the Birmingham Bridge into the South Side Flats.

The South Side Flats was still grungy from Friday’s carousing. We skirted the early winos and late partiers. We slammed the sidewalk cellar hatch doors, daring them to open. We wove between short sets of stairs and parking kiosks. Finally we crossed the curiously spongy sidewalk on the Smithfield Street Bridge and made our way to La Prima.

We were there in time to greet the other runners and go with our respective pace groups. Kelly had laid out the running route to include as much urban wall art as she could. I got a few pictures, but the 9:00 pace group was very quick. When I stopped for a pic, it took me forever to catch up with them again.

No lie, this was a rough run for me. I had lower back spasms going up Butler Street, and, for a few minutes, considered stopping. They became tolerable and by the time we were back at La Prima, they had dissipated. I made the most of my time at the coffee shop, grabbing a bear claw and small coffee.

Once again the mantra was “Don’t stop and get cold!” Within a few minutes, the four of us were back on the road, heading home. Only having time for half the claw, I stashed the rest in my pocket for future reference. We decided, after a brief discussion, to return via Liberty Ave. It is a long flat road in the Strip, but then rises into Bloomfield with an equally long incline. At South Atlantic or Baum, Erin decided to peel off and head home. Dayana, Amy and I continued through Shadyside. Now hovering around twenty miles, I decided the future was now, and ate the rest of the bear claw. It was delicious. It also slowed me down and I had to pick up the pace to catch up with robo pacer Amy and sparky Dayana.

Dayana decided to go a slightly longer, less hilly route home. This left Amy and I trudging up Shady Ave. By the time we hit the Dunkin Donuts, I had twenty three in the bag. Unfortunately, Amy did not, so we ran another block or two to make hers even. After some more discussion, we decided to meet Dayana at Pamelas, a local diner chain. Another delicious stop.

Afterwards, something like five hours since the eye-opening start, again we were at Starbucks. I had to wander around a little to find my car, so cleverly hidden. Whew! Running friends are awesome! Maybe next time we can go for the whole 26.2!!

Evening Railroad Street

Railroad Street on the right parallels this set of rarely used, but active tracks

Wandering sunset

Took me down Railroad Street rails

Dusky warehouses

Old buildings new cars

Fashion boots walking house dogs

Along riverfront

Rowers practicing in Allegheny

Skyline last sunlight

Highlighting tall night structures

Bright half-moon hangs there

https://www.strava.com/activities/2761049281
RATS #00134 – Railroad Street

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.

Add on to 20

Rats #00129 – 20 miles after adding to group run

This was long run day. I ran with Pro-Bike and then added on, at first with a friend, and then the last two miles on my own. For most of this run, I was keeping pace with Pro Bike’s “9:00” minute pace group (which usually runs a faster 8:30 pace). If you look at the Strava stats, you might think “he’s deluding himself, he’s no where near 9!” However, on long runs like this, I never stop my watch when we’re at a crosswalk or at a water stop, etc. It solves the “I forgot to turn my watch back on dilemma”.

Much of this run was uneventful. However, it WAS a beautiful day!

We ran across bridges, onto sidewalks in front of uptight hotel staff and round and round the point. Eventually, we made it back to our group starting point, in front of Allegheny City Brewing. Amy and I went out for more miles. We took long North Side streets all the way to Chateau St. On the way back, we saw these enormous tree stumps.

Where did THAT huge log come from?

I’m hoping they have a good use for it. Making it back to Allegheny City Brewing was good for another six miles, but I had two more to go. Leaving the morning beer drinks behind, I did a little jog up Madison Ave and back. Finally, I, too, could have a beer!

Highland Park & Stanton Heights

https://www.strava.com/activities/2712266792
Run into Stanton Heights: RATS #00124

This Sunday afternoon run took me from Highland Park into Stanton Heights. The previous day’s run (that 18 miler Duck Hollow to Downtown one) had been all about mileage. Today’s run was about running on tired legs. My goal was to do a few streets in Stanton Heights. By parking at the Highland Park Reservoir, I was able to extend the route a bit and hit more streets.

The park was active in that sleepy park way. Hammocks were strung up between trees, some with snuggling couples and others with solo readers. Perhaps the couples were reading, too, but I didn’t investigate. There were men grilling burgers and kids playing tag. Highland Park has large swaths of trees dotted with glades and picnic shelters. I made my way out of Highland Park on Farmhouse Road, making sure to keep right to pick up Heberton St.

This is the high-side of Highland Park. On the right the hill drops off quickly about 200 feet. But here, on Heberton, the street was comfortably downhill and straight, making an easy start. This area has large houses. The smallest are three or four bedrooms Cape Cods. The largest are foursquare houses with high gabled roofs and spreading front porches. Most have decent sized front yards and a driveway into back yard garages. Most everything was neatly trimmed and planted with flowers, orange, yellow and red. Then things went downhill, but only literally. I hit Stanton at the bottom of Heberton and then came back up Sheridan. At the end of Sheridan, there’s a small, cozy stairway up to Bunkerhill St.

I came up onto the dead-end side of Bunkerhill St. On the right, within yards of the stairway, the street ended unceremoniously in gardens and driveways. On the left, Bunkerhill Street runs straight off the hill passing a grand entrance to Highland Park and down toward One Wild Place, where the Pittsburgh Zoo sprawls.

I came back to the top of the hill and this time, took Hampton St down towards Morningside. From Hampton St, I maneuvered over to Stanton Heights. Azure St off of the sweeping Mossfield St is one of the few entry roads into Stanton Heights. I don’t believe I had ever been in this section of town, either on foot or in a car. How was it different than Highland Park? Well, for one, the streets were mainly wide concrete roads instead of asphalt-paved. The houses were smaller, more ranches and split level houses, yet the yards were bigger. I ran on Schenley Manor Drive till it met with Coleridge St. It looked very suburban. Eventually I emerged onto Stanton Ave and made my way back up the hill to Highland Park.