Thursday, May 9, 2013

2013 Pittsburgh Half Marathon Race Report

The Countdown!
This past Sunday, I raced in the UPMC Pittsburgh Half Marathon. This was something of a last minute decision to race, but when the opportunity presented itself and a bib became available late the Wednesday night before the race, I jumped at it. I had been thinking all spring about how I would like to run an open half marathon, and that I wished I was signed up for Pittsburgh but it had closed out. I also felt like I should get one more race under my belt between New Orleans and Eagleman, and was hungry to race some more after NOLA. When my friend Mark sent out a message on a mailing list that he wasn't going to race, the stars aligned. I got all of the necessary information, and then got down to the convention center and Expo on Friday afternoon to get the entry transferred over. I now was ready to go, and scaled back the originally planned training for the day before the race.

Sunday morning started pretty early and Jocelyn and I drove down and parked at the Northshore Heritage trailhead in Millvale, and I jogged down to the start for warmup as Jocelyn, who would be a spectathlete for the day, biked along side of me on the beautiful spring morning. I got in about 3 miles warmup, some striders, dumped my extra clothing and headed down to the start. Fortunately with my bib came entry into Corral A, and I lined up in front with some Pharaoh Hound friends, Oscar, and Lucas. Shortly after 7am, we were off.
Flying in the opening mile, I am just barely hanging on in the back!
My Garmin had been giving me some squirrely pace readings in warmup that I had attributed to being downtown and between skyscrapers, so when I saw some 4:40-4:50-type numbers in the opening half mile, I thought that couldn't be right, I wasn't running that fast, and so I just continued on running by feel. I passed the first mile marker at about 5:10, and sure enough, those "squirrely" readings were correct. :-) I had planned to go out no faster than 5:30 pace, so this was a surprise, but I felt good so I kind of went with it and kept the pressure on. Next came a 5:30, a 5:29, and a 5:32, and I felt good about banking some time ahead of my goal ~5:43 pace for a chance to break 1:15. By this point I had been dropped by the leading pack of half marathoners and elite marathon entrants, and I suppose was between groups. Just like at New Orleans, this would be a solo effort and day alone out on the roads, just me, my head, my effort. I kept the effort up, and drove the cadence very high, punching it over some of the early "hills" of the Rachel Carson and Andy Warhol Bridges, and onto the North Side.
Courtesy of Sportphoto! Coming off the Andy Warhol Bridge @ mile 4.5
I was still feeling very strong, and excited about how I was running. I had come through the 5K, 8K, and 10K marks all at PR times for the individual distances, and this helped me keep my foot on the gas and driving forward. I crossed over the West End Bridge and then looped into the West End itself, before turning back towards the rivers and started running up towards West Carson St. On this slight incline on Main Street back up to Carson at about mile 7.5, I started feeling it a little. Maybe it was the effect of the too-fast opening mile, or perhaps just not being used to running at these paces for extended periods of time. Heading into the Station Square/Southside section of the course, there was an uphill trend for about 2.5 miles, and here I started to give some time back, going 5:50, 5:50, and 5:55. I was really starting to struggle a little bit through the South Side business district and was having difficulty keeping my cadence up, when the three leading women for the half marathon caught up to me at about the 10.5 mile mark. They immediately went by me, but then I thought, "Hey, I was ahead of these girls for more than 10 miles! I'm faster than them, maybe just not as smart or as fit!" Ha! So that gave me some motivation, and I picked up the pace a little bit to try to stay with them. The top two women made a move going over the Birmingham Bridge and then onto the first incline into the Hill District, dropping the eventual third place female and myself. From here on out, I would have someone to run with, and I feel like we pushed each other the rest of the way.
Caught by the leading three women, right before turning onto the Birmingham Bridge.
Elevation profile
I started getting a little irritated by my newfound competitor's tactics and the lines she was running, so I busted a move up the final hill (mile+) at 6:07 pace up the Boulevard of the Allies and past Mercy and Duquesne. Finally topping out, I had a gap and opened it up on the downhill back dahntahn. I was cruising along, happy with my race and taking in the sights and the cheers on this beautiful morning, when from about ~100yds out or so I caught sight of the finishing clock and saw 1:13:3X on it. "Holy crap, I might be able to crack 1:14!" I thought. So I really let it rip and started flying down the homestretch. Per my Garmin, I finished the roughly final quarter mile at about 4:50 pace, with a peak speed at about 4:20 pace, squeaking in under the wire with a gun time of 1:13:55, official chip time 1:13:51! After throwing up a little bit in my mouth, I limped my way over to get some gatorade, bananas, pineapple, and Eat n Park Smiley Cookies!
mile splits
This was a very satisfying result for me and a new PR by about 4 minutes. I imagine I was due for one, as this was probably only my 4th open half marathon ever, and first one since October of 2007, when I set my previous best. I have run a lot since then and my fitness has increased dramatically, so I knew I had a new PR in me, but I even surprised myself a little by going under 1:14. Talking to my coach, he seems to think that I could have gone even faster if I had paced a little bit more reasonably in the opening miles, so who knows what I would have done and what is in store for me later this year. One thing I do know, is that it is just a matter of time before cracking 1:20 or better in a half marathon run, and the idea of running 6:50 miles in an IM marathon doesn't seem so daunting. We will see though, and there is a lot more work to be done. Thanks for reading - keep working hard everyone, and big steps and PRs can and will be yours as well!

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Brought my trusty race "slippers" out of retirement for this one!

1 comment:

Beth said...

AWESOME race Jeremy!! Love the fact that you PRed 5/8/10K along the way. A very good sign of VERY good things to come! Congrats!