Running On Average

Pittsburgh Half Recap

This weekend was the Pittsburgh Marathon and Half Marathon. It was my comeback race- my first race since having Riley less than 5 months ago and my first distance race since the Heartbreak Hill Half in June 2014. During training I didn’t have a goal pace for this race, but after last week’s 16-miler where I finished the first 13 miles in 2:17, I told Dave that I figured I would finish my race in the same amount of time. Then, of course, race day weekend comes and suddenly I’m hoping and dreaming of (unrealistically) a PR or (more realistically) a 10 minute pace.

So how did it go? I have mixed feelings.

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Pittsburgh Staycation and Sister Visit

The past 6 weeks have been so crazy, it will take me the rest of the month to catch up on here! But let’s start with my sister visiting. It’s a super long post, but stick with me. Let’s go!

On June 5th, Dave and I picked up my little sister (okay, she’s 17) and brought her to the Burgh to hang with us for a few weeks. It was epic. Ronnie is basically me, 11 years younger and we always have a blast together.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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!

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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!

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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!

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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!

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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.

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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

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Welcome to Summer Weather Running!

This weekend showcased some gorgeous weather out here in the Burgh! But along with that, came some…adjustments…in my running. I had a 10- to 12-miler scheduled for Saturday and was debating running around the neighborhood (hillier) or on the trail (flatter, though not flat). I ended up going with the trail because of its convenient porta john stops.

I woke up around 8:45 and was on the trail by 10:20, which for me to be ready that quickly is unheard of. I usually take 2+ hours of waking up, getting up, and eating before I make my way outside. It was a pretty nice run, not too many complaints. Plenty of porta john stops because my mind was messing with me, but whatever. I went a mile passed the furthest I’ve gone on the trail before, which meant exploring! I got to run down a steep hill and up some very, very shallow steps. I also got to run along a train track for a mile or so before stopping and turning around.

Sunny skies, country music, and the faint smell of the beach...running bliss

Sunny skies, country music, and the faint smell of the beach…running bliss

Stop and enjoy the turnaround point

Stop and enjoy the turnaround point

It wasn’t a bad run and I actually quite enjoyed it, but it was hot and I was tired and sluggish. To the point of walking a little and actually just all out stopping and sitting on a bench at one point. I’m not sure what my deal was. I didn’t start out too fast. I think the heat, quitting a medication on Friday (it was making my stomach totally haywire), and Friday’s eats (not exactly healthy) were making me sluggish. I was also battling the usual stomach-ness, where if I stretch my body too much or run at a certain pace, my intestines get all cranky and I need to walk, pause, or find a porta john asap. Which feels a little like cheating to me, but there’s nothing I can do about it except push through and just run the best that I can.

I dont care what that says, it was hotter than that!

I dont care what that says, it was hotter than that!

Anyway, like I said, I actually enjoyed the run. I was glad I did 12 miles because I went into it only anticipating 10. I’m running the Heartbreak Hill Half in Boston next week with my friend Danielle. I had big goals for this race, but honestly, I got cocky after running Knoxville and undertrained like woah. One (dreadful, stomach-sick, walk-filled) 8-miler, two 10-milers and Saturday’s 12-miler were my longest runs and most of the others hovered in the 3-4 range (with a fun fantastic 6-miler thrown in one mid-week). Still I’m hoping that the hills I run will help me out for Boston. My shorter runs haven’t even been that fast, I’m now realizing. I’m pretty much screwed for this race. Oops. Live and learn, I guess!

So, Danielle, if you’re reading this, be ready for my turtle pace on Sunday!

The weekend as a whole was just amazing. After running, Dave and I explored the Tanger Outlets and I found some great deals, though perhaps too many. (I’m looking at you, J.Crew!) For dinner, we bought the Blue Moon summer case and grilled up steak, potatoes and veggies and ate al fresco, hanging out on our patio until 10, then going inside and watching American Hustle. It turned out to be pretty great! Sunday, we went to mass and had brunch before Dave packed and had to leave for a business trip. Which is fun for a while, but then gets lonely. I countered the loneliness with Chinese takeout for dinner and a lot of cleaning while watching reruns of Castle.

How was your weekend? Did you log any good miles, fast or slow, hot or cool?

Feeding Frenzy

I know I’ve been MIA for a while, but there was some personal stuff I had to get sorted out. And still do. But I paid for this website, so I really should keep at it and who knows, maybe there is someone out there in the vast realm of the internet that actually reads and enjoys this blog. We may never know. But if you do, show me some love!

We’ve been having a lot of storms the past few days out here in Pittsburgh. Tuesday night, Dave and I just sat in the dark and watched it from our living room. We’ve got a spectacular view.

photo 1 copy 8.16.05 AM photo 2Because of the storms, I couldn’t run Wednesday night, which meant that it was Adventures in Baking night. We’re starting to have an overload of CSA basket goodies that are reaching the end of their shelf lives, so I wanted to use them. This included rhubarb, apples, watermelon radishes, dill, and kale.

Don't judge me by the apron I wear.

Don’t judge me by the apron I wear.

First, I had to drive around from Target to Trader Joe’s to Shop N Save to get a few ingredients that we didn’t have on hand. Canning jars. Whole garlic. Fresh ginger. (I finally gave up on finding a vanilla bean and used vanilla extract instead.) I am so excited that I have canning jars. They’re adorable and remind me of being little when my mom used to can fruit and we would use old jam jars as drinking glasses. Before it was cool!

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It started out with a kale chip fail. Or well, not a fail, but they definitely got a “needs improvement.” I’ve never really worked with or eaten kale before and the directions said to toss (or rather “massage”) them with olive oil and salt. (I added paprika, too.) The problem was that I added olive oil and salt in the amount you would to make steak fries, not thinking about how much lighter the kale is so there wasn’t as much in the bowl as I thought. The result? Very VERY salty chips. They weren’t all too salty, but after a while, we just gave up on them. Especially since Dave is not a big salt lover. I just have to keep that in mind for next time, because other than that they were pretty good! Very crispy!

Luckily my other recipes turned out better (I think). I started with making rhubarb mini muffins. We have 4 mini muffin pans, but no regular size ones so all the cupcakes, tarts, and muffins I make are mini. Which is fun and cute so I’m not in a hurry to get a big one. That’s what the wedding registry is for! 😉

This recipe was from allrecipes.com, called Aunt Norma’s Rhubarb Muffins. http://allrecipes.com/recipe/aunt-normas-rhubarb-muffins/
They use veggie oil instead of butter, but not to get too healthy, they have a butter, sugar and cinnamon streusel on top. When I went to measure out the vanilla extract, it came out fast and furious, so I’m not actually sure how much ended up in the recipe. But definitely more than was called for! I was unsure of how they would be (especially with the vanilla faux pas), but these muffins are delicious! Way to go, Aunt Norma!

photo 3 copy 8.16.05 AMWhile the muffins were baking, I made a brine of white distilled vinegar, water and salt for pickles! The recipe for Carrot and Watermelon Radish Pickles is on The Bojon Gourmet http://www.bojongourmet.com/2013/04/carrot-and-watermelon-radish-pickle.html, but it leaves room for experimenting and personalizing. For my pickles, I used a watermelon radish, baby carrots, fresh dill, green onion bulbs, and garlic cloves. It says to let it sit at room temperature for 10 days, then refrigerate so the verdict is still out on how they taste. But they look cute, right?

photo 3 copy photo 4Finally, my last experiment of the night was Caramel Apple Jam. Yeah, that’s right. CARAMEL. APPLE. I’ve never made jam before, either (night of firsts for me!), but it was surprisingly easy, which I always appreciate. The recipe can be found on Bon Appetit, or just click here: http://www.bonappetit.com/columns/preserved/article/apple-jam-better-than-apple-sauce This is where I had to substitute vanilla extract for a vanilla bean, but it still tastes delicious. Boiling sugar, by the way, is way fun. In 5th grade, my friend Catie and I made “candy glass” as a science experiment and it’s basically the same idea, so I got to relive my childhood a little bit again. Plus, you get to swirl around a big pot of sugar and watch it bubble. Yes, I have a 5-year-old mentality.

It says you can add fresh ginger to it, so I tried grating some and ended up grating my thumb. Fail.

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This also turned out delicious, or at least what I tasted from leftovers in the hot pot. I’m pretty excited to try it with crackers and goat cheese. I’m not sure why, but that combination sounds appealing to me.

photo 5 photo 4 8.16.05 AMSo that is my non-running, non-traveling post. Tonight we’re grilling steak with scallions and radishes from our basket and making a rhubarb compote for later. I’ll let you know how those turn out, too!

On another note, how is everyone doing with their 50 Day Challenge? Did anyone actually try it or am I on my own here? I’ll admit, I haven’t been flawless with it. I still am averaging 4 runs a week. Instead of working on those diet books, my little sister talked me into reading The Fault in Our Stars. It wasn’t bad, but it didn’t wow me like it seems to be wow-ing everyone else. So those 2 books are next up!

I’m doing pretty well with the snacking thing, so that’s good. I still eat all the freaking time, but I pick one thing that’s healthy and control the portion. With a side of chocolate, obviously. J