Running On Average

Pittsburgh Half Marathon Recap

(I apologize how late this review is coming, but better late than never, right?)

Back in November, I signed up to run the Dick’s Sporting Goods Pittsburgh Half Marathon as part of my company’s corporate team. Not only did it sound fun and I got corporate perks, but I was using it as part of my training for June’s Hatfield-McCoy Marathon.

Due to health and personal reasons, I had to drop out of the race. Instead, I transferred by bib over to Dave and he took the reins, training for his first ever half marathon in just under THREE weeks. He is not a regular runner, has never run more than 6 miles. He’s not even a weekly exerciser (and yet he’s thin and toned as the dickens which just isn’t fair). So this recap is of my first ever time spectating a race and of Dave’s journey to the finish line.

We woke up Sunday morning at the inglorious time of 4:30. Getting up this early and NOT having race nerves was actually kind of nice…but I was a bit nervous for Dave! He was a little nervous, but not too bad. Ate breakfast of peanut butter toast even though he never tried it before running. He basically did everything you aren’t supposed to do before a big race. No fueling plan. No eating plan. He carbo loaded with pasta at lunch Saturday, but that’s about it. We left the house a little bit after 5:30 and arrived by 6 at Pittsburgh’s North Shore and took the “subway” to the starting area downtown.


When we arrived downtown, we hopped in the porta john line, of which there were plenty. Dave dropped my Nathan water bottle on the floor of the bathroom, so he decided not to use it for the race. (Solid decision, in my opinion.)

Then we headed over to corral B and waited outside until the runners were herded inside.




The race organizers actually close the corral gate, which seems a little extreme to me, but I guess it keeps the runners in and, more importantly, the spectators and hopeful race bandits out.


Our friend Mike came along to cheer on Dave with me and he met us right outside the corral. We stood and chatted for a while until Dave’s corral was up and started the walk toward the starting line. It was unfortunate that we couldn’t watch him actually start because the fencing cut us off at the sidewalk about a block or so away.

Anyway, once he was out of sight, Mike and I began our walk to mile 5 where we would first find him. I made 2 posters for the race and was pretty excited to cheer. We got to the bridge where we would stand early enough to watch the elites go by!


It was crazy how the elite runners don’t look that fast. I know that sounds weird, but seriously, they just look like they’re running chill, whatever. So when the crowds of runners really started in they didn’t look faster either. Keeping in mind that they are all faster than me! They were just making it look so easy. 😉

And then we saw Dave! Decked out in the running clothes (and socks) I bought him and my purple Garmin watch I let him wear for the race. He looked like he was having fun and not struggling at all (which is good at mile 5!). We cheered and we cheered hard!



Once he passed, Mike and I made our way around downtown and the course, across (one of the many) bridges to Station Square and mile 9, where we hoped to see Dave next. We picked a spot right after the relay exchange and settled in, watching all sorts of runners go past, some in quirky get-up, trying to recognize people who were by Dave at mile 5.

My favorite outfit was this guy. He’s wearing a shirt that says, “Will run for Whiskey.” That’s my kind of runner!


We almost missed Dave at this point! He just came out of nowhere, looking cool and effortless. He gave me a big high five and continued on his way. We didn’t even get a picture.

While the morning started out pretty cool, I was wearing a tank top, tshirt, Under Armour zip-up, AND Dave’s sweatshirt he wore before running, by mid-morning it was sunny and warm (although still cold in the shade). It was a perfect day for the race! Most years it rains or is cold or hot, but this year the runners really lucked out!

Anyway, Mike and I made our way back over the bridge and headed toward the finish line, which was packed with people. We wiggled into a good spot and waited. We watched the elites finish and so many runners, keeping our eyes peeled for our runner. And then there he was!! Still smiling, still running strong!


I didn’t get a shot of him finishing because it was too far away, but I can’t even explain my excitement for Dave. I was- and still am- so proud. It was like I had finished the race with how much I was beaming.

Getting to the finisher area was a bit of an obstacle (please note, marathon organizers, there has to be a better way than scaling a wall!), but we got there and found him. He’d already eaten a whole bagel before he got through the finisher chute and was working on 2 bananas.


The best part? He really enjoyed the race!! He thought he’d hate it because he gets bored running after about 3-4 miles, but the crowds kept him exciting and it wasn’t as hard as he thought. Oh, and he gave Coach Jess some credit for teaching him how to pace (thank you, thank you very much). He said he’d ever run another, so he, Mike and I talked about signing up together next year. I’m holding you boys to it!

Overall, Dave finished in 2:07 and he beat my first half time…with less than 3 weeks of training under his belt! I’ll admit, I’m slightly jealous…but way more impressed.

We walked back to our car, got some victory shots in the parking lot, and headed over to Bruegger’s Bagels in Squirrel Hill for a celebration brunch. Then we dropped Mike off at his car and headed home to nap! It was an amazing day and I’m so proud of my husband!! Way to go, Dave! J




Shirts, Shots, and a Super Flat Trail (Hallelujah!)

The Pittsburgh Marathon was this weekend and through my work I got to volunteer at the expo on Saturday afternoon. I also signed Dave up to volunteer with me, since he wanted thought it sounded fun. We got there early to walk around the expo a bit and tried some tasty and not-so-tasty samples. We were on the schedule to work for the guest speaker series, but when we got to our station, the next shift hadn’t shown up for the t-shirt exchange, which was ridiculously busy, so Dave hopped over to do that. Since there was really nothing going on at my spot and another volunteer was there as well, I went over to help him.

The shirts must have run small this year because everyone was coming up trying to get a bigger size. So we had piles (literally) of women’s small shirts and only a handful of other sizes. Which made it a little hectic, but it turned out to be a lot of fun. Plus, since we were right next to the speaker series, I still got to hear the speakers talk and rubbed elbows (sort of) with Bud Coates, the author of Running On Air. He explained his breathing techniques to me and let me check out his book while we were sitting there.

By the end of the day, all we had to offer were women’s smalls and one men’s XXL.

Can we interest you in a womens Small?

Can we interest you in a womens Small?

Or a Mens XXL?

Or a Mens XXL?

Our shift lasted from 1:30 until the expo closed at 6, then we met up with some of Dave’s friends at a new bar called Emporio: A Meatball Joint. Dave and I got there first, so we put our name in for a table and sat down at the bar just in time to see the Kentucky Derby race and watch California Chrome win. It was crazy how excited all the people in the bar got! Since it was Derby Day, naturally I had to have some bourbon. And because I love bourbon.

Makers Mark double. Pure goodness.

Makers Mark double. Pure goodness.

The rest of the guys showed up and we got our table. The idea behind this place is meatballs, obviously. They have meatball grinders, mix n match meatball sliders, meatball paninis, meatballs just by themselves. So what you do is pick what kind of meatball you want, choose your sauce, then your sandwich. I got chicken meatballs with spinach pesto sauce on a Panini. So. Freaking. Good. While all the boys had beer, I had another double Maker’s Mark, getting much more…feel good…then I intended to, since I was scheduled for a 10-miler on Sunday. Oops. Luckily, I’ve been pretty much immune to hangovers up to this point in my life.

I’ve been meaning to try the Montour Trail for a while, since running around a neighborhood cut through by busy streets can get boring (except when playing chicken with rush hour traffic). So yesterday afternoon I drove down to the closest trail entrance with no idea what to expect from my run or the trail. But I was feeling pretty annoyed with myself and my speed lately and as compared to some friends, so I really needed to just run.

It took a few miles for me to calm down (I should mention that this was following an argument with Dave that may or may not have been was definitely PMS’s fault). But once I did, the run was awesome. First of all, I couldn’t believe the porta johns had flushable toilets. I shit you not. (See what I did there?)

The worlds most advanced porta johns

The worlds most advanced porta johns

Second, it was SO FLAT. I didn’t know flat was something western PA knew how to do. As I was running my 5 miles out, I was thinking how the run back was going to be harder since it would all be uphill, but I swear I ran downhill both ways. Of course there were exceptions, but mostly, it was flat.

There was also this really cool tunnel I ran through.

Seems legit.

Seems legit.

I hadn’t really given myself a set pace to run, other than faster than my recent turtley speed. But I also hadn’t gone on a run of any distance since my marathon (my longest was 6 miles last week), so I kept telling myself that it might get bad. Because, you know, why not set yourself up for disappointment? #fail

I started out just under a 9-minute mile and at mile 5 I decided that if I kept it under a 9-minute mile the whole way I’d get ice cream or a frappacino when I was done, because I was really craving some. At that point I was averaging an 8:41 pace, but was at the turn around point thinking the uphill was all ahead of me.

Mile 5 turnaround

Mile 5 turnaround

I finished the run in glorious fashion, 10.1 miles at an 8:39 pace and feeling awesome, though my ass and hammies started getting a bit sore about 8 miles in. My fastest mile was mile 10 at 8:19. I walked a ¼ mile cool down and went back to my car and drove home. I talked myself out of a treat because I truly am broke…but my unexpected decently fast pace was reward enough!

Okay, okay I didn't REALLY run 26 miles...

Okay, okay I didn’t REALLY run 26 miles…



I definitely will be revisiting the Montour Trail! It’s 46 miles of trail, with porta johns, a flat course and relative good looks. It’s not as pretty as Gring’s Mill, but it’s well-kept and the trail is wider, so I’ll take it as my western PA alternative.

photo 1 (10) photo 4 (8)

So apparently Maker’s Mark is my new night before long run fuel? But seriously, I don’t think I’ll ever do that again. That run just goes to prove MIND OVER MATTER. There’s no reason I should have run that well yesterday, except that I was damn determined to, especially once I’d started realizing what my pace was. I need to know, for myself, that I wasn’t toooo embarrassingly slow, so I put my mind to it and BA-BAM, the perfect storm.

photo 4 (7) photo 3 (9)

Side note: last week it was really windy out, so I didn’t want to wear my usual ball cap, but it was also really sunny. I’d bought a cheap (under $20) pair of Nine West sunglasses from Boscov’s the weekend before that fit pretty snug, so I thought what the hell, I’ll give them a try. I always thought I’d hate sunglasses while running, but these are amazing. They don’t move, they’re really dark, and I basically don’t even notice them. I love it!

Do you have a favorite trail to run?

How did you celebrate Derby Day? With some good ole bourbon or do you have another favorite?


I Met Ryan Hall and Placed in my Last Race

Running | April 29, 2014 | By

So if you read my last post, you know that on Sunday I ran a 5K with my mom and sister, but wasn’t really happy with my performance. If you didn’t read it, go do that now then come back. I’ll wait.

Read it? Wasn’t it intriguing? Anyway. Last night I was looking at the race results online to see how we did and to my complete surprise, I won FIRST PLACE in my age division! We didn’t stay for awards Sunday because we figured we didn’t need to, so I was totally shocked. I emailed the race people this morning and asked if I could still get my medal and they said absolutely. So yea!! My first 1st place finish!

But I know the real reason you clicked on this post. Because Ryan Hall is in the title and he’s way cool!

Since the Pittsburgh Marathon is this weekend, our company had a mini expo today and reps from asics, Nathan, nuun, P-Tex, and Yurbuds came in with information and giveaways, which is completely awesome. We were also supposed to be able to try the asics treadmill challenge where you can see if you can run as fast as Ryan Hall, but that got rained out. Boo.

An email was also sent around yesterday saying that Ryan would be here and that we could sign up to attend the Q&A session with him so OF COURSE I jumped on that opportunity. He was with asics beforehand and signed a poster for me, which is hanging up in my cube now. The friend I went with is running the half this weekend (her first!!) and she asked him to write, “good luck!” on her poster. But I was a little star struck, so mine is simpler.

How’s that for motivation during the afternoon slouch??

How’s that for motivation during the afternoon slouch??

I asked him if he had any advice for us on how to get faster and he recommended doing running workouts, especially fartleks. He confessed that he can get bored on long runs and that fartleks make it more fun. I feel like I learned a deep dark secret of the elite marathoner- even they get bored on long runs! It made me feel normal. 🙂

During the Q&A, he was laid back and friendly. An asics rep started by asking him some questions for our benefit, so we could learn more about his background and training. He was very candid with his answers, which made him much more relatable. There were only about a dozen people in the Q&A, so after he talked a bit we all had the chance to ask him some questions. I don’t have the word-for-word transcript, but I compiled some of the highlights and advice he offered to the group.

Taking a picture on the sly.

Taking a picture on the sly.

On How He Got Started

Ryan used to hate running, which shocked me. Then one day, on the way to basketball practice, he decided that he wanted to see if he could run around a lake. He went out on another day with his dad and, wearing basketball sneakers, made his way around the lake. It was 15 miles! He didn’t run it straight through and it’s something that he would not recommend to anyone to start like that, but that’s how he got started.

On Fueling Before the Race

While he usually eats a lot of salads and vegetables, two days before a race he removes them from his diet. He is very particular about what he eats the night before a race and actually brings his on hot pot, pasta and olive oil with him to cook. And Muscle Milk!

One thing he recommended to eat was sourdough bread because it is light, but still filling and easy to digest. Yummm sourdough!

During the Race

He actually didn’t talk much about fueling during the race, other than to fuel early. And to make sure to drink water!

After the Race

The 30 minutes after the race is when it’s most important to refuel and it’s best to have sugar! What are Ryan Hall’s favorite? Gummy bears and candy corn! He doesn’t eat sugar often, but after a race is when he enjoys some sweets.

Focusing During the Race

The first half of the race, he relaxes and enjoys the race. He takes this time to check his body, make sure it’s relaxed, shoulders aren’t tense, his body is feeling good.

The second half of the race is where he really dials in and focuses on his race. When I asked him what he focuses on in the second half, he focuses on the mile that he’s in. He doesn’t focus on the miles to come or whether he ran the last mile faster than he wanted. When things get tough, he reminds himself that he’s been there in training before, that he’s felt this tired before, and that he’s pushed through it before and can do it again.


Some tips he offered on training: he, like most runners, is hard on himself, so if he writes down a training planning he will stick to it. As a result, he doesn’t keep a strict running plan, and has been running by feel. By the same token, he takes the idea of rest days seriously. If he runs hard one day, the next he will only run an hour…of course, for his cheetah like speed, I figure this to be at least 10 miles, but I guess that’s light for him!

I also asked how you learn to pace yourself. For instance, if he is doing 1 mile repeats at 4:45 pace, how does he know the pace he’s running? His biggest thing was to run by feel and effort. He likened this to the race where he won the American record for the half marathon. He had paces written down for how he was feeling on a good day, an okay day, but when he went out his first mile faster than those paces, he didn’t slow down. He felt good so he went with it and that earned him a record time.

But he also said that is he goes out too fast during a training run, then he’s going to keep that pace the entire run even if it’s hurting. Then next time he’ll know not to go out that fast! Haha But it’s a valid point.

Some Racing Tips

His last long hard run is 10 day before a race. I feel like that’s a little close, but he runs more than me so he knows what’s up. He also said that everybody is different. For instance, the asics rep that was with him ran Boston last weekend in 3:17(!). Her longest training run? 12 miles. That’s crazy! But his point is that everyone trains differently and a lot of it is mind over matter.

He uses Vaseline on his feet on race day to prevent blisters

Make sure to stay warm at the starting line! For marathons, he usually jogs 15 minutes before the start to warm up.

Even if you get warm once you start, don’t toss you extra layers aside. He tucks his gloves into the back of his shorts because he pointed out that you can turn a corner and if gets windy you might wish you had those gloves that you less on the ground so many miles back!

For marathons, he wears sneakers half a size bigger than normal because your feet swell over the course of the race and this helps prevent blisters, too.

On His Other Sports

Being a runner, he said, he doesn’t really have time or energy to play other sports…other than some pick-up basketball. But what he does love doing is fishing, and more recently tried his hand at hunting. He didn’t see any elk the day he went, but said being in the woods like that was still cool. As for fishing, he loves to bass fish and was doing so on a stand up board the day after he ran Boston. He hooked a bass, too, but sadly it got a way. He said he banged his hands on his board and yelled because he was bummed it got away and other people must have thought he was crazy.

This is my kind of guy!

And Finally…On His Favorite Race

One of the attendees asked what his favorite race was and he responded by saying, “I always feel like a politician when I answer this because there’s no way to please everyone.” But he decided on Boston being his favorite race. Having just run it last week, it was still pretty fresh and he admitted to being bummed that he didn’t race as well as he would have liked and that he didn’t win. But he came through it healthy and was glad that Meb, an American, won. He said it was something that America really needed to happen and he was proud to be an American running this race. With one million spectators lining the course this year, crossing that finish line and seeing people standing where the bombs went off last year, unafraid, he really felt apart of something special. He said if you ever get the chance and qualify for Boston, that you should definitely run it.

Challenge accepted.