Pittsburgh Half Marathon 2013 Race Report
The plan was to just run this thing as a training run and keep the heart rate in the aerobic zone. For the most part I managed to achieve this goal. I went out slow, had a lot of fun, saw a nice chunk of the City of Pittsburgh, and in general had a great time.
But let's back up...
The weather could not have been better, which was nice, and I got dropped off near PNC Park by my lovely family who awoke a bit before 6am just to drive me close to the Start. I didn't need to wear any clothes to discard to stay warm, though I was a bit worried that I'd be late as they were closing all Corrals at 6:45am (for the 7am start) on account of the heightened security. In the end, I got into the long line just to get into my Corral with a minute to spare and lined up at the very back of the pack. The pre-race speeches were emotional and I saw lots of runners with signs pinned onto their shirts with references to Boston. I wondered how many of the 30 thousand Marathon, Half Marathon, and Relay participants had been at that race?
Anyway, like I said, I didn't have long to wait and the countdown came pretty quick after the singing of the National Anthem and God Bless America. (Kind of wish the singer had been in key, but whatchagonnado...)
Then we were off, and as mentioned above I ran slow. And easy. And kept running slow and easy. I took a 30 second walk break after every 9 1/2 minutes of running, and felt weird to be doing so, especially early in the race. A few comments from the crowd trying to encourage me to "not give up" and "keep running" were a bit embarrassing, but I tried not to let it get to me and just focused on doing what I was supposed to be doing (in case that wasn't clear, that was to run easy!).
As the race progressed I was pleasantly surprised by how easy I found climbing the various smallish hills and bridges. However, I also found the other side of each to be much steeper than I had ever imagined. By the halfway point in the race my calves, especially my left one, were sore and tight. I knew this was going to be more of a struggle than I'd wanted.
Sure enough, by the end of the race, as I ran up the last hill (which is a very long steady climb, but with a spectacular view over the Monongahela River, so high up that I was really surprised to look way down onto the Downtown core from where I had started the race), I knew that I would have to traverse one last descent to get to the Finish Line. The great part was that as I reached the top of the hill and looked down I could see the Finish Line in the distance as the street was dead straight. The bad part was that it was a very, very long descent. I did my best to just flow down the hill, but my calf was screaming for relief. Even the walk breaks were no longer helping, so by the time I reached the flat section just before the end of the race, and my heart rate was not recovering to aerobic levels, I just picked up the pace to finish up as quick as possible. I kept an eye on my watch and was hoping to break two hours, but in the end I came about as close as one can without doing it. Chip Time: 2:00:01.8.
Here are the splits, which show clearly where my heart rate went off track as a result of my lack of experience running hills, especially on the down part. Also, I find the elevation gain and loss less than indicative of how steep some of the descents were. I'm sure they were only steep for me as anyone with experience training on hills would have found this course rather flat (with the possible exception of that last, long climb that was steady for about a mile straight I think).