Off the map

RATS #00170

“Hey there. Are you planning to run tonight? I am due for six easy…”

“I do need to run tonight, so yes, I could. Pro-Bike is running from Caps at 6:30. Meet there?”

“No, that’s too late. Meet at my place? 5:30?”


“Great, I’ll make a route.”

And THAT’s when it all began. I like Alisa, I like running with Alisa. But Alisa is a bad-ass fast runner and her “easy” six miles usually leave me gasping for air like a fish out of water. Tonight was no different. Additionally, that “I’ll make the route” would prove challenging.

I expected a rather flat quick circuit around Shadyside and East Liberty. But no, we went Penn to Fifth to Frankstown to Brushton. That’s where the sun went down and the run went from pleasurably fast to an intense hill workout. Finally on top, we came to a water tower in the fading light. Modest brick houses dotted the rather sparse landscape up here.

Water tower where Brushton becomes Cushing.

Finally on top, the route curved around into Penn Hills, a sprawling suburb east of the city. We passed a Penn Hills fire station and then plunged down the hill again towards Frankstown Road. Winding roads had smallish green street-signs indicating we were still not in Pittsburgh. Thoroughly disoriented we finally made it back into the city, flying down Frankstown Road. Whoops! We were going out of the city again! As Dean Karnazes remarks in his book “Run!”,

“It doesn’t matter how fast you’re going if you’re moving in the wrong direction.”

Dean Karnazes, “Run!”

We weren’t in a race, but the night was getting deep and cold. We turned around and sped back to our cars in North Point Breeze. Ending up with over seven miles, this run had been quite the adventure.

Festive Night Run in Spite of Closed Full Pint

In the midst of the holidays, Sami got a few of us together for a Thursday night run. Starting at Full Pint Wildside in Lawrenceville, we were dismayed to find it closed. Nonetheless, we bolted out along Butler Street toward downtown. Zipping along the appointed route, we covered a few new streets; the little stretch of 34th between Butler and Liberty; the upper end of Hatfield Street; 50th Street between Hatfield and Butler.

Coming back to Full Pint, I recalled some of the fun times I had there with friends watching the local band Vertigogo Surf. Just a week ago, I ducked in here during the Infamous Lawrenceville Icy Streets Event of 2019. Alas, it is no more. Stricken with grief, we went to a bar up the street.

The map below has the route, in case you, too, want to make a memorial run.
RATS#00159 Sami’s Run

Rich Christmas Run
RATS#00158 Foggy Christmas Run

Christmas Eve, 7:23 pm, I’m doing last minute Christmas shopping. This is so late that the stores are emptying out. Decorations are already 45% off. Buzz, buzz, my phone rings.

“Hey Ed, how about a run tomorrow? 7 am? Before I have to go to my parents”

“Uh, yeah, sure”, I answer. “Can we make it 7:30? ” A brisk run to kickoff the day, before my kids come over for brunch.

So, here I am on a chilly, foggy Christmas morning, meeting Rich for a run. He had talked about running up McCardle, a favorite “hill” route which rises from the Liberty Tubes to Mount Washington. I suggested we start at Armstrong Field for ease of parking and so we could include the entirety of McCardle.

Rising from the low end of McCardle, the route took us above Cupples Field, where we could hear the bells at St. John the Baptist Ukrainian Catholic Church echoing through the fog. Dodging the one car coming out of the Liberty Tubes, we stormed up the McCardle escarpment. Usually, that 3/4 mile hill deserves high-fives and skyline selfies at the top. However, it was so foggy today that none of that could be seen, not even the high-fives.

We made our way to Virginia Ave, whereupon I introduced Rich to the “real” Mount Washington. Big rolling hills, stairs, more hills and alleys. There’s a variety of housing in Mount Washington, mostly in decent shape.

At the end of Virginia Ave, stairs continued down to Pyle Way and Sweetbriar Street. With temps hovering around freezing, the long wooden stairs were very slippery. Luckily, the handrails were sturdy.

Virginia Ave Stairs

As Rich commented, there’s nothing sweet about Sweetbriar St. It is a long, steep, uphill slog which takes you directly to the “Point of View” Monument. Here, Seneca leader Guyasuta and George Washington are engaged in an eternal staring contest, while the City of Pittsburgh changes below them.

From the Point of View to our cars was a fast downhill run. Rich was nice enough to bring doughnuts. Thanks Rich!

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.
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!!