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!

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!

July Catch-Up

RATS 00079

This was a relaxed morning run including the short length of English Lane.

RATS 00080

Ah, Greenfield again. This time with more purpose and time constraints. The main goals here were completing Flemington and Deely, which I did. Yay! I won’t EVEN start talking about hills!

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This was a run with 3ROC in Regent Square. Mainly trails, but a little in Regent Square as well. That is a nice, tree-lined area.

RATS 00083

This was a pretty adventurous run, exploring Garfield and Friendship. It was the first time I had ever gone into Garfield from that direction. It was also, as I recall, hot as hell that day, AND the hills were significant, culminating at one of those blue water towers you see around Pittsburgh.

RATS 00084

Not to weaponize everything, but doesn’t this look like an ancient ritual dagger from a lost civilization? But its just Greenfield again. The view from the dagger point, Exeter St is surprisingly good.

Strava map showing route
RATS 00085, pre-track warmup

A pre-track warm-up along the tree-lined, yet heavily trafficked Greenfield Rd.

https://www.strava.com/activities/2519347513
RATS 00086 Frick and Regent Square

This was another 3ROC run, with more of Regent Square thrown in.

Strava map showing route
RATS 00087, just one new street

A Wednesday night PBR run. Can you tell the extra street?

Map showing route through Greenfield
RATS 00088

This run was all about covering Winterburn Ave and close-by cul-de-sacs.

https://www.strava.com/activities/2528543377
Pre HPRC RATS 00089

For some reason, I felt the need to run BEFORE an HPRC run. Since it was Upper Lawrenceville, it made for some nice grids. The “Ways” in Lawrenceville are small narrow streets. Unlike areas such as Greenfield, where garages and back yards line alleys, there are often front doors to narrow houses along the alleys.

https://www.strava.com/activities/2536445188
RATS 00092

This run was simply to cover more streets in Squirrel Hill. It is quite the mental challenge to remember a map, then go run it. It doesn’t help that often maps are slightly wrong, such as showing a street as going through when it doesn’t actually. Here’s to you, Colma St!

OpenStreetMap has Colma Way connecting to Irma Way, when in fact it doesn’t.
https://www.strava.com/activities/2538624915
RATS 00093

Some interesting streets solidly in Squirrel Hill North, an area characterized by immense houses with well manicured lawns and driveways to garages in the back. I think about five Lawrenceville row houses could fit in the space of one of these houses.

https://www.strava.com/activities/2544149093
RATS 00094

Just in Point Breeze, catching some streets which keep trying to poke into Homewood Cemetery.

https://www.strava.com/activities/2560757305
RATS 00095

Ah, the little Edgerton Square makes this PBR run qualify to be a RATS run. (BTW, a “qualifying run” is one in which I run on a street I’ve not done before. )

https://www.strava.com/activities/2567292437
RATS 00096

This was a long, quick run with Pro Bike and Run. I tossed in Broad St to add a few miles. Nice running group with auto voice directions (as other runners would shout out the turns as we approached.)

https://www.strava.com/activities/2574213560
RATS 00098

Wendover St was a bit disappointing. It is nestled between Beacon and Hobart, but was lined with large, old apartment buildings in poor repair, instead of cute houses. There could be over 1,000 people living on that street, given the number and size of the buildings. However, I did find a nice little cut-through connecting both sides of Murdoch St as I ran to track.

Long flat streets and alleys in Regent Square: RATS 00099

I almost made it to 3ROC, but instead ran up and down small flat streets in Regent Square, straddling the Pittsburgh, Wilkinsburg border. This little 5 mile run took me into three municipalities; Pittsburgh, Wilkinsburg, and Swissvale.

That’s a wrap

That’s all for July. I was much more focused on covering new streets. I also ran a lot, slightly more than in June (134 miles), with less elevation (only 11,117 ft). Soon, I’ll be publishing maps showing cumulative progress as of the 100th run. Looking ahead, in August, I’d like to cover more of the southern neighborhoods, but run about the same amount of miles.

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.

June Catch-Up

run all the streets 00066

RATS Squirrel Hill 00066

This run was specifically to cover some streets such as parts of Aylesboro and Northumberland near Homewood Cemetery which I had previously missed. This area is tree-lined with nice, but not palacial homes. There were lots of people out and about, playing with kids or walking dogs.

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Strava map of a running route through Shadyside and Oakland.
Run with HPRC: RATS 00068

HPRC had an early morning run from the Cathedral of Learning. It was a fun run with a lot of familiar faces, but, oh, so early!!

Run All the streets 00070

Run All The Streets 00070

Another run just to cover some streets and get some miles. The area near the end of Hobart had a surprising number of small alleyways that led to cool houses.

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3ROC Run: RATS 00072

Three Rivers Outdoor Company (3ROC) is an outfitter store on South Braddock Avenue, at the end of the Regent Square business district. While they have cool stuff in their store, they also are big into community fitness events, such as their weekly trail run. This run covered a few new trails and maybe a bit of some streets. It was fun!

run all the streets 00073

Run All The Streets 00073

A run up to Pro Bike before their Wednesday night run. I got some little streets in which had otherwise escaped by attention!

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RATS 00074

Another run to cover some streets. Gotta catch them all!

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Running down a dream in Greenfield: RATS 00075

A double-rarity – a Friday run and an early morning run! As with many of these catch-up runs, this was specifically to cover some streets. I’ve done between 50% and 75% of the streets in Greenfield now.

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Run to the Run on Webster Ave: RATS 00076

Down the wide open streets of the Hill District. It was relatively early and quiet, with the UPMC Building looming over me the entire run.

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How far from Phipps to Hazelwood? RATS 00078

A final run for June. I wasn’t sure where I wanted to go, but wanted to end in Oakland and go to the library afterwards, so I started near Phipps, ran down into Schenley Park. One route would have taken me over to the South Side, but I choose to go through Hazelwood and cut through Greenfield, so the mileage and time wasn’t too crazy. Thanks to some stairs which connect the two neighborhoods I was successful.

There were parts of the route which were a little stressful, such as running down Irvine Street in Hazelwood. It had the feel of a street which really wanted to be an interstate but never quite made it. Irvine Street was busy and dirty, with narrow, overgrown sidewalks. Going up into the hills of Hazelwood is always a bit surreal. The hills and steps are steep and the greenery is suffocating (oh, maybe that was the heat). There are parts of Hazelwood where the houses are kept up nicely, but on the streets I ran, mostly the houses were falling apart and often empty. Lastly running along Frasier Street and Swinburne Street was pretty scary. There is not a lot of room to drive, much less run, and the streets are curvy and hilly. Nonetheless, I persisted and found my way back to the car.

Whew! This was the last run of June. I covered lots of miles (132) and climbed lots of elevation (13,400) in June.

Pittsburgh Marathon 2019

2019 Pittsburgh Marathon: Run All the Streets 0052

Hurdles. Yes, hurdles is what I ran today. The headline may say “Pittsburgh Marathon 2019”, but it really was hurdles. Oh, maybe not the high-hurdles that Chari Hawkins flies over, but hurdles nonetheless. Luckily, even with a race as long as the 26.2 of a marathon, there are only a few hurdles you have to overcome.

Hurdle 1

Training. Hurdle 1 is an “optional” hurdle for some and an insurmountable hurdle for others. If you do this Hurdle correctly, life is easier on race day. On the spectrum of training from none to extreme, I find more of the low-trained runners finishing than those following soul-crushing rigorous training. They are slower, but usually as happy at the end. The main problems facing the ultra-trained are burnout and injury.

That being said, moderately hard training works best for me. Twelve weeks of gradual increases in mileage and intensity. This means going out for a ten mile run after doing a fifteen miler the day before. This means going to track, doing the prescribed track warm-ups and workouts. This means getting to group runs, where the camaraderie and peer-pressure encourage me to continue.

This training cycle got off to a great start. I had a good base from doing the Detroit Marathon in the Fall. I was becoming more regular at the Steel City Saturday runs. In late January, over three months from race day, I did a 17 miler. I was on the verge of getting a half dozen 20+ milers in. I was easily going out with the 8:30 and 9:00 minute pace groups. Then, I had a fall in February. A fall on a dry, flat sidewalk. It sucked. My knee hurt. My hands hurt. My wrist hurt. Looking back at that time, it was pretty depressing. Ten days later, I managed a little over three miles at a blazing 12:13 min/mile pace. So roughly, my old pace could run three miles in the time it took my new pace to run two.

But then, I started to ease back into it. I focused more on running with friends rather than trying to bolt out of the gate all the time. Kristen was monumental in getting me to the runs, she always knew when and where the runs were. Everything started to heal. I could also go a little faster. By the end of the training cycle, I had completed three 20ish miles. Track was working out and occasionally I would keep up with faster folks. This year, I cleared the training hurdle by a mile.

Hurdle 2 Taper madness and race hoopla

Taper Madness – that period when you need to ease up on the mileage but keep up intensity is quite a mental game. You’re not getting the endorphins and release from the long runs anymore and might have a LOT of extra energy. The message threads buzzed this week. What will be race day weather? How hard should I do track? Are you doing five miles or three miles? I think I weathered the Madness pretty well, in part by taking the “oh, this is nothing special” tact and intentionally tampering my excitement. Being busy with blogs, work and a non-runner S.O. helped as well. Apparently a significant percentage of the general population didn’t even know a race was happening! Unbelievable!

Race hoopla, all the Marathon events and personal events leading up to the actual race day, are a big part of the race. The Marathon Race Expo, bib pickup, carb loading, race day travel logistics are also part of this hurdle. It can be fun, but it can also be a distraction. My Pro Bike group had an early carb-loading dinner, on Thursday at DiAnoia‘s in the Strip District. My epic thread group had a dinner on Saturday at Szechuan Spice, in Shadyside. Both were delicious and, more importantly, gave me a chance to hang out and catch-up with friends. Last minute stories came in. Maria might be coming back to the area! Luke and Rich decided to run the marathon in the last few days of training and were likely going drinking the night before!! (Jaw drop) Mason was going to be a hill runner! Finally, the dinner bills were paid, plans laid and we all headed home. I got everything ready and set out the before going to sleep Saturday, thankfully.

Hurdle 3 Get the hell there

Ugh, 5:15. I was supposed to pick up Mira at 5:15. My alarm was set for 4:45. I woke up to the alarm and slept another 15 minutes! However, with the previous night’s preparations, I wasn’t too late, getting her by 5:25. Then there was the trip downtown to my super-special parking garage and the dazed ride on the T. We almost rode the T all the way to Gateway Center – oops. Two sleepy-heads on a train isn’t a good thing. Then a walk in the eerie early morning light to the Westin, where Steel City had a breakfast.

Now, it was exciting! Like bees going into a hive, runners buzzed all around the Westin. Upstairs, the gilded conference room overflowed with runners and shoes, bibs, hoodies, light jackets of all colors, black garbage bag coveralls, pacer signs. People eating last minute meals of bananas and bagels. I grabbed a little OJ and coffee. Found Bob and Nancy and Chris. Chris and I we set off to catch up with the Pro Bike group, at the Starbucks a few blocks away. At this point in the Pittsburgh Marathon, there is a slight panic for many runners as they need to enter the corrals (A, B, C, D) before they close. Getting into a corral is a bottleneck, since race security checks each person’s bib, all 20,000 of them, to insure they are allowed to be in the corral. It’s a bit of a hectic pre-race sprint. The group eventually coalesced and headed into the corral for an anxious wait and opportunities for selfies.

All ready to run

Hurdle 4 start and early miles

We had a good start, getting moving about 7:26:33 AM, not sure about the milliseconds. The first few miles were pretty crowded. Even at our unassuming pace, we kept passing walkers and many others. About two miles in, I started to run faster, actually trying to keep abreast of Sasha, who was motoring along. We would periodically intersect, chat a bit and move apart again. This was also the part of the race to do a self-check, keeping an eye out for short port-a-john lines, fixing shoes becoming untied, belts coming loose and other annoyances. The race was a blur for most of these miles. Lots of people, trying to set a good pace, nothing too difficult. Finally, on Carson Street, after a needed pit stop, I was ready to run harder.

Hurdle 5 Middle miles

I broadly think of miles 7-19 or so, as middle miles. I was warmed up and ready to go. As it happens, the race course is pretty flat here with hundreds of people lining the walks, cheering. Wearing an old orange, Miami Marathon shirt, I got plenty of “go Orange!” The split with the half-marathoners at the Birmingham Bridge is always a bit disheartening since 75% of the runners go back toward the finish, yet my race course wasn’t even halfway done. I pushed on crossing the Birmingham Bridge at a good clip, passing Tom who was pacing the 4:30 group. Also saw Lisa, Jenny and Amy on the bridge. Going up the hill into Oakland, I felt strong. Mason gave me a big hug and ran with me the last 1/4 mile of the hill into Oakland.

I cruised here, mostly sub 9 minutes per mile. Saw Monica and Mike at the turn off of Penn Avenue around mile 16. The misty rain was starting to get more serious now. Past 18 miles, just getting a slightly tight hamstring and wondering how long I could keep it up. Most aid stations I had the Nuun drink and I consumed a few gels along the way.

Hurdle 6 High miles with no end in sight

Miles 19-25. So close yet so far. These are my most hated miles of a marathon. If you’ve messed up your nutrition or training or shoes or attitude, it will show here. Your nutritional balances are getting out of whack. Emotions run high. Everything hurts. You want to smack the next person who says “You’re almost done!”

I had planned to message my girlfriend at mile 20 so she could make it to the race course when I passed a few miles on, say mile 22. I figured I would just message her now, at mile 19, since I was slowing down. With the rain, I couldn’t unlock the phone and keep running, so I walked for a bit and sent her a message. It was very hard to get moving again. For the next few miles, I alternated running and walking. The rain started coming down harder. I kept looking for her, but realized that the agreed upon place was closer to mile 23! Between me slowing down and the miles being further apart, it seemed like forever. But eventually, Laura popped out from the bus shelter, gave me a hug and kiss and cheered me on. The little shelter community of onlookers also shouted out a few cheers too!

Just past mile 23, there was a little downhill. I grabbed a tiny beer from the Hash Harriers tent and tried to pick up some speed. At the end of it, a few runners were jogging backwards, looking for a friend. That looked fun, so I trotted backwards too. And who should I see but Gates, Mason’s sister! I ran with her for a hundred yards or so, then moved on.

Hurdle 7 The last push

If you have a kick, now is the time. You try to lay it all on the line. Sometimes, you’re just limping and cursing because it hurts so bad, but you’re determined to finish. Sometimes, there are friends and family on the course, scared of how you look and worried, but cheering you on nonetheless. But this year, I had some energy left. I was able to speed up again. Mile 24, so, so close. Mile 25, the Steel City Cheer Zone! Perhaps 25 people, but sounded like 100. Saw Sanchez, Betsy, the guy with all the tattoos, Suzanne, all cheering, clapping and playing RATM. One mile to go, pumped up. It always feels like forever. Past the Grayhound Station, down Liberty Avenue, left onto Stanwix, run, run, don’t stop. Some people are crossing the street. Argh! Final turn onto Boulevard of the Allies, a little uphill to the finish. Letting out a primal grunt and raising my arms, I finished.

Hurdle 8 the immediate aftermath

Thank the volunteer who puts the medal over your head. Walk a few steps, grab some food, drink something. That last salt tablet I had taken left me a little nauseous, so I almost threw up. Sit down, get off those feet. Pretty spacey here. Got a magical garment, the space blanket. These keep your body warmth in, which I needed since my fingers were turning blue. I sat down on some overturned tables. I thought I would wait for my friends. Eventually, Tom, the pacer, finished and sat next to me. We chatted a bit. Not having any idea where everyone else was I got up and left the finish area. I stumbled across a muddy, grassy area to the Steel City Tent. This year, it was nice, lots of good food. I put warmer clothes on, and every now and then, I would venture out to see who was done. Rich and Luke finished. Nancy was around. Mainly I sat, ate and talked to the other runners as they came in. Eventually Hayley came in, then Bob and Mira.

Now the reverse trip to the car. Got to the Gateway T, but had to wait awhile before the next train. We were falling asleep standing up, leaning on each other. No worries, just a few more steps to the car. A few miles to drive. Finally got home, took a hot shower and crashed for awhile.

Hurdle 9 The rush

Hell Yeah! We did it! Nothing is IMPOSSIBLE! I have all the Infinity Stones!!

A Long Run After All

Long Saturday run with Pro Bike: RATS 0036

Long runs are back! With the Pittsburgh Marathon quickly approaching, I had to get some miles in. Going into the run, I wasn’t sure how long to run. The course was laid out to be flexible. I could easily drop after 7 miles. At 10, I could take a short-cut back to the start and finish with 11. I think the longest official distance was 16 miles. So many opportunities to rationalize that I was done, so many opportunities to listen to aching knees or tight IT-bands and stop. I’m very happy to say that not only did I ignore all those “opportunities”, but I had the temerity to add more miles, topping out at 19.5 miles! How did that happen?

Luckily, I had Pro Bike to lean on. I actually arrived early enough at Coffee Tree Roasters to get a map and get the Garmin synced with a satellite. I went with Kristen, Sasha, and Cathy as part of the 10-10:30 pace group. I deftly ignored Dennis’ suggestion that I was in the wrong pace group, when the pace groups coalesced briefly at an early light.

Then the run was pleasant, not too fast. Once I woke enough to engage socially, small talk kept my thoughts away from distance. Do you have a race coming up? Are you running Pittsburgh? How’s your training going? What distance are you doing? Runner ice-breakers.

Weaving through streets as part of a large groups always makes me think of flowing water. In particular, I imagine the runners as bubbles flowing along a river. A fire hydrant, pedestrians, narrow sidewalks, all cause disturbances in the flow, but without slowing down, the group envelope morphs around the obstacle.

After the first seven miles, the large group had become spread out. Sasha, Cathy, Kristen and I were in the forefront and the others, just a bit slower, were starting to get left behind. The next part of the run extended into areas less trodden. We went up Penn, took North Braddock to Frankstown Road and made the left to head back toward Highland Park. That’s a long stretch. The neighborhoods are relatively poor, the streets are relatively dirty. In the actual Pittsburgh Marathon, it is in the 16-18 mile area, I believe. On race day, that’s a tough part of the race. You’ve already come far, but still have far to go.

It was here that good company made the run. It is hard to describe and I’m sure there has been research done on the topic. But my experience is that you’ve silently joined a tentative pact, wherein there is caring (“Watch out for the pothole!”), sharing (“My left groin is REALLY tight, how’s yours?”) along with the positive feelings from exercise endorphins and joint sense of accomplishments. (We did 15 MILES!!) It’s not many places where this happens.

As the route took us up Highland Avenue, Sasha and I crossed over to the silent water station while Kristen and Cathy continued on and made their way back to CTR. This was getting into the high mileage. Sasha planned to go up Highland to Bryant and then run home. She ran a bit farther, perhaps all the way to Liberty Avenue. Then, with a turn and wave, she was gone and I was on my own.

Or WAS I? Jon, Josh, Alisa and about ten other Steel City runners had passed us a few blocks before. But, as I trundled up Liberty Avenue, there they were! Lolly-gagging around a water stop! Race cars do have pit stops, after all. Since they were standing still, I was able to pass them all! Yay! Two minutes later, though, they caught up with invitations to join them. That would have taken me to the Northside, a bit out of the way, so I declined. Maybe next time.

Then it was time to do a little exploring and go off the written map. The official route had me going to Main Street, then Penn then Friendship and on back to CTR. I started on Main, but continued on Cabinet Way, one of the small alleyways angling off of Main. It is a prototypical alley. Big enough for one and a half cars, garages in varying states of decay opening onto it. Over a half mile later, I ended up on Denny Street, another small street. I drifted to Butler Street and eventually got back on course, finishing at CTR. I was happy to see that Kelly was still hanging out, making sure the runners all made it back. Too often, going long and slow means that all “official” run leaders are long gone. A nice chat and hot chocolate later, I crept back to the car, exhausted but exhilarated.

Neighborhoods

Parts of East Liberty, Shadyside, Point Breeze, Homewood, Brushton, East Liberty, Larimar, Highland Park, Friendship, Bloomfield, Lower Lawrenceville, Lawrenceville, Oakland, parts North and West

Confusion Run

Map of run
Run All The Streets 0032

Squirrel Hill North, Squirrel Hill South, South Point Breeze

3 miles or 5 miles, but it is actually 4.56 miles

We’ve run this a million times, but I’ve never gone THIS way.

Turn left onto Homewood. We’re parallel to Homewood, we’ll never intersect!

Go straight on Linden to Beechwood. No! To get to Beechwood, we need to take a right here!

At least we’re the slowest group, so we can follow all those fast runners. Hey, why are they running toward us now?!?

Is there another running group doing this route? Wow, lots of fast folks passing us now! What? They are ALL PBR?!

March 6, 2019 will live in infamy as that strange twilight on which 98% of runners reported running the wrong way, pace and/or distance. Apparently the Bermuda Triangle has moved northwest. Why wasn’t it warmer?