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!!

PBR Scavenger Hunt

The pictures above are courtesy of Amy Scharpf, the team’s official selfie-taker.

Teams, random locations, whatever route you choose, two hours to do it. This sounded fun! Then I had a look at the list of locations! Ninety spots where you needed to take a selfie with your team, capturing the location behind you. Some were general such as the “Fort Pitt Bridge”, some were very specific such as the “Singing Pigs in Wholey’s. This was Pro-Bike and Run’s Annual Scavenger Hunt Run. My team included friends I often run with on Wednesday nights, six of us. Collecting six people for a picture is not easy. “Where’s Kristen?” was the common call, as the first snapshot often missed her.

Denise had scouted out the Northside targets, so we started there. Probably the most interesting were the City of Asylum houses. City of Asylum is unique organization devoted to helping ‘endangered’ authors live and write. These writers usually face repression in their home countries but are energetic and expressive. The houses they’ve decorated with writings are unique. Cathy knows Chinese and was able to read some of the characters on the Poem House. No-one knew Burmese, but it is a beautiful flowing script.

We eventually made it to around forty locations, covering over seven miles. One of my favorite was the Singing Pigs photo. Wholey’s is hectic on a Saturday morning and the store manager didn’t appreciate groups of sweaty runners dashing in and out.

As the clock ticked down, the heat and the distance started getting to us. The selfies became more hurried. Nonetheless, we made it back in time and basked in the cool air of Nova Place as we uploaded our photos and rethought our route; making plans to be way more efficient next year!

Route we took trying to catch as many locations as possible in scavenger hunt.
PBR Scavenger Hunt: Run All The Streets 00077

PBR Marathon Preview

Run All The Streets: 0047

Three weeks and a day until the Pittsburgh Marathon. Over three months since the Steel City Kickoff run and now I was finishing this training cycle with a nice group of friends. This year, I got in a 17 miler, a 19 miler and a 21 miler. This day was destined for 20 miles. There were some down times, too, like falling in February, which set me back for a few weeks.

But today’s run was a big deal. Hundreds of runners had signed up to run with Pro Bike. More were running with Steel City, just down the block. I parked on the Northshore and trotted over to our start location. I had to circle the block a couple of times to actually find the entrance, but managed to just squeak into the group picture. Off I went with the 10:30 group.

Much of a big-city marathon is navigating your way and pace through the thousands of starters. Today was similar, restricted to sidewalks. We wove through the downtown sidewalks, potholes, and people waiting for buses. We flowed among the Steel City runners, who had gotten a late start. Their faster runners sometimes flowed around us. We made our way across the 16th Street Bridge and across Allegheny Center, Central Northside and across the West End Bridge. Since the roads were not closed off, we used the various sidewalk ramps on the approach to the West End Bridge. Those ramps bounce. With dozens of people crossing at the same time, the ramps seem to buckle and wave like a bucking bronco. No one got thrown off this time, thank God.

The actual marathon goes into the West End, but the preview run stuck to Carson Street. Just over three miles later, we paused at our water stop near the Birmingham Bridge, where swirling masses of runners vied for water and a snack. But, onward and upward. After crossing the bridge, half-marathoners went left and we went right. That’s always a sobering time on the course, when all those folks you were running with just…leave! Appropriately enough, a car zipped by with a “Kitty is Mad Because You Suck” sticker on it! Down to a half-dozen, we marched up the hill. The way through Oakland and Shadyside was uneventful, just miles zipping along as we chatted.

Penn Avenue, Baum Boulevard, Liberty Avenue and finally another water stop. I was grateful to Kim for stationing herself at the stops and staying until everyone came through. This one was suspiciously close to Smokin Brews, with its $2 Jello-shots! Getting started again after stopping was tough. Perhaps I should have had a shot.

Now, just the two mile stretch to the end. But wait, we had to do two laps around the building!! Finally all done. A doughnut to celebrate. Some chatting and back to reality. This one was tough for me. But it was a good preview run. Taper time!