Race Recap: 2016 Pittsburgh Half Marathon (#GameOnPGH)

GameOnPGH Banner // lynnepetre.com

Disclosure: As a Pittsburgh Marathon Blogger, my race entry was comped but all opinions and thoughts are my own. 

After months of preparing and many hilly training miles run, I crossed the finish line at the Pittsburgh Half Marathon with a giant smile on my face!

Pittsburgh Half Marathon 2016 Recap // lynnepetre.com
(obviously, borrowed photo from race photographer)

Let’s back up.

Race weekend kicked off on Thursday evening with a blogger happy hour at Wigle Whiskey where it was great to mix and mingle with blog friends, new and old.

On Friday afternoon, I hit up the expo for packet pick up and to (quickly) browse the booths. I’m not a big fan of expos but Pittsburgh’s was sizable and had great brands participating and interesting demos/giveaways, including beer tasting. What?!

Then, on Saturday morning, I trekked downtown to run the 5k as a warm-up run and Saturday night, I met up with runner friends at Chelsea’s house for an delicious pasta dinner. Much later Saturday night, I picked up Heidi from the airport! We gabbed until very late and slept for a few hours before our alarms started buzzing at 5 a.m.

Heidi and I were both selected as bloggers for the race which meant we were given VIP access to pre- and post-race festivities. Pre-race, this meant access to breakfast (score!), indoor bathrooms and a special gear check table. We opted to try our luck with the pre-race breakfast and left Shadyside at 5:45 a.m. to find parking and still have enough time for breakfast ahead of the race. Traffic was (surprisingly) non-existent and we breezed right into a parking garage approximately a mile from the start/finish.

We jogged to the Westin where the VIP hospitality suite was located in search of breakfast; after scarfing bagels with cream cheese and a few slices of fruit, we hit the bathrooms and navigated our way to Corral B.

Pittsburgh Half Marathon 2016 Recap // lynnepetre.com

I don’t know about the other corrals but getting into Corral B was kind of a cluster; there was a single point of entry and a race official checked all bibs for anyone entering. As the minutes ticked down to the start and there was still a huge mass of people waiting to get through, it felt like there could have been a better way to get runners to the start.

But the race did start and Heidi and I crossed the timing pad at about 7:10 a.m. As we pushed through the first 3 miles into the Strip District, a light rain drizzled down but considering the initial weather forecast (thunderstorms and heavy rain), we couldn’t complain.

Pittsburgh Half Marathon 2016 Recap // lynnepetre.com

Heidi and I spent the first half of the race catching up – we both have big summers on our schedule and haven’t seen each other since my trip to CO in December. So much to chat about!

Pittsburgh Half Marathon 2016 Recap // lynnepetre.comAround mile 7, I started to feel mentally tired and Heidi encouraged me to eat my Honey Stinger chews which helped give me a boost. Fortunately for me, Heidi dropped from the full marathon to the half and, selfishly, I loved that decision. She paced me the last half of the race and kept me on track to finish in under 2:05. Really, she was trying to pace us to a sub 2hr finish but I didn’t have it in me this race… I stepped in a pothole, like a n00b, at mile 9 and walked a few paces in mile 11 up the final hill (woof). We crossed the finish line at 2:04:35. Pittsburgh Half Marathon 2016 Recap // lynnepetre.com

Overall, given my long-ass taper, I’m pretty pleased with my race (and very thankful to Rabbit Heidi!). If I’d carved out more time to stick to my plan in the last 4-6 weeks of training, I know I could have finished at or under 2 hours, but alas. I don’t regret anything I did instead of running in the weeks leading up to the race. I enjoyed vacation, spent moments with friends and family, tackled work projects and sometimes, just needed downtime with my husband.

In thinking back to the route, I really loved weaving through neighborhoods I’ve only visited a handful of times since moving to Pittsburgh.

Pittsburgh Half Marathon 2016 Recap // lynnepetre.com

We ran through or by all the Pittsburgh must-sees: Strip District, North Shore, Mt. Washington Incline, South Side, and Downtown. And in true Pittsburgh fashion, we crossed 5 bridges. I’m glad I had points of reference in most of the neighborhoods – it was helpful to give me context to where we were and anticipate what to look for next.

Crowd support throughout the half marathon route was amazing. The first half of the race had bands every mile or so while the second half of the race was full of snacks along the course. I couldn’t stomach any but I remember gummy worms, oranges, cookies, mimosas(!). Each neighborhood had people out holding funny signs and cheering; especially towards the end of the race, it was encouraging to have so many people out watching!

I will definitely sign up for the Pittsburgh Half again next year. The race was well executed, the course was interesting and support was awesome. Well done, Pittsburgh Marathon team!

Race Recap: Pittsburgh Marathon Weekend 5k (#GameOnPGH)

Race Recap: Pittsburgh Marathon 5k // lynnepetre.com

When I signed up for the Pittsburgh Half Marathon, I noticed an option to complete the Steel Challenge which meant running the 5k in addition to the Half/Full. Figuring it was a nice was to warm up for the half on the following day, I registered myself and pretty much forgot all about it until race weekend.

Fortunately, I saw my fellow Pittsburgh Marathon & Half blogger friends, Chelsea and Lauren, on Thursday at a pre-race party and we chatted about the 5k and made plans to meet on Saturday morning to shake out before our races on Sunday.

I was a little nervous about parking logistics since I’m still not super familiar with Pittsburgh’s downtown and the 5k is not a loop (starts on the North Shore by the stadiums but ends in Downtown). But I had nothing to worry about: traffic on Saturday morning was non-existent so I made it from Shadyside to a parking garage downtown in 15 minutes. I opted to park downtown and jog the mile to the start line at PNC Park.

Race Recap: Pittsburgh Marathon 5k // lynnepetre.com
PC: Chelsea!

Chelsea and Lauren know pretty much every runner in Pittsburgh so it was fun to run with them on Saturday morning. Every few minutes, Chelsea would cheer on someone she knew or someone who knew Lauren would bump into us and chat for a bit. Case in point, we were a group of 13 hanging out before heading to our corrals!

Chelsea and Lauren were running the full marathon (Lauren’s first!) and knowing if left to my own devices, I would run too hard, too fast for a true shake out run, so I hung with my friends and we ran Lauren’s marathon pace. Chelsea’s friend, Kathleen, was in town from Chicago for the half marathon, too, so we were a chatty group of 4 running through the Pittsburgh streets.

Race Recap: Pittsburgh Marathon 5k // lynnepetre.com
PC: Chelsea!

We finished the 5k in 39:09, running 3 minutes, walking 1, to mirror the pace/cadence Lauren and Chelsea would use the following day in the marathon. It felt good to get the blood flowing and loosen up my muscles while catching up with friends I hadn’t seen in a while!

Race Recap: Pittsburgh Marathon 5k // lynnepetre.com
PC: Chelsea!

We finished with smiles, feeling warm but not spent. After the race, I headed home to nap (#yolo), prepare for visitors and plan out half marathon race day logistics.

I’d never participated in a back-to-back race schedule but, given the option in the future, I would opt to run an organized 5k the day prior again. I liked getting a feel for the course and it was fun to feel race day energy ahead of ‘the big race’, it helped me get into race day spirit/excitement that much more.

Race Recap: Cincinnati Thanksgiving Day Race 10k

When I knew I would be in Cincinnati for Thanksgiving, I immediately started texting my siblings to find out who else would be in town so I could start peer pressuring at least one of them to run the Thanksgiving Day 10k with me. The last Thanksgiving I spent in Cincinnati, I was able to talk my entire family into doing the 10k with me so I was hopeful I would find a taker. Fortunately for me, my youngest brother, Mike, would be in town and was easily convinced into running with me.

Race Recap: Cincinnati Thanksgiving Day Race 10k // lynnepetre.com

Race Recap: Cincinnati Thanksgiving Day Race 10k // lynnepetre.com

We woke up early-ish on Thanksgiving morning (and looked really tired); fortunately, the race doesn’t start until 9 a.m. and with the holiday, we expected zero traffic getting into downtown for the race at Paul Brown Stadium. We stayed at my mom’s house which is about 15 miles north of the city and it took us 20ish minutes from leaving the house to parking.  Thanks to the holiday, there was ample street, surface lot and parking garage parking available.

I love this Thanksgiving Day Race for the same reasons most people love a Turkey Trot/Thanksgiving Day race – working out before a day of eating and sitting, it’s a fun way to get active with people you love, tradition. I also love the Thanksgiving Day Race for it’s sheer size. This year was record-breaking attendance with 16,000 runners coming out to run!

16,000! Good job, Greater Cincinnati!

Race Recap: Cincinnati Thanksgiving Day Race 10k // lynnepetre.com

Sure, it makes it hard to actually race with 16,000 people but knowing 15,998 other people also wanted to run 6 miles on Thanksgiving was awesome. And the sight of turning the corner to run up the hill at Vine street and Liberty street and seeing the street sidewalk-to-sidewalk with people is a spectacular image my brother and I soon won’t forget.

The race started right at 9 a.m. and we started in the 9min/mile pace group. Mike had previously told me, ‘Lynne, I’m not going to run as fast as you. I’d be surprised if I run under a 9 min/mile pace!’ So we opted to line up in the 9 minute pace group. We’d planned to start together and my goal was for us to stick together – if that meant we ran slower than I would if I was running solo, so be it. It was more important to me to spend time with my brother than it was to push myself and race.

Well….it turns out, my self-proclaimed non-running brother is much faster than he expected! After we weaved in and out of walkers and slower runners in the first 1.5 miles, the course opened up a bit and we could hit our stride.

Feeling pretty good, I looked down at my Garmin to check our pace. 8:21! WUT?! I mentioned it to Mike to was a few paces ahead of me – I struggled to keep up with his long-legged stride and chased him much of the race – and he grunted in acknowledgement. We continued on.

The course was really interesting this year; we started at Paul Brown Stadium and began by running through a booming new district in Cincinnati, OTR. The course then ran back towards the river, crossed a bridge into Kentucky, ventured through Newport and Covington (bar/business districts) before crossing a final bridge back into Ohio and ending with a downhill, straight shot finish back at Paul Brown.

 

Race Recap: Cincinnati Thanksgiving Day Race 10k // lynnepetre.com

Downtown Cincinnati has undergone a transformation in recent years and the race course navigated through the gentrified OTR district. I was most excited for this part of the race as I’ve heard about the interesting bars, restaurants and shops that have gone in but haven’t been in Cincinnati recently to check them out for myself.  Running down Vine Street, the main drag in OTR, was neat to be able to at least see the new development. And the Newport/Covington section is always a fun trip down memory lane as we University of Cincinnati kids spent a lot of time at bars in these neighborhoods.

Mike and I continued running under 9 minute miles for the next couple of miles and at mile 4, Mike’s IT Band started seizing up and he was in the pain cave. But did he slow down? Nope. Onward!

At Mile 5.5, the course took us up and over the final bridge to cross back into Cincinnati and shoot us into the finish…I always remember how much I hate this bridge every year as we climb up what feels like a never-ending hill. But in looking at our splits, I’m really impressed that we didn’t slow too-too much! It felt like we were crawling but we maintained our pace.

Race Recap: Cincinnati Thanksgiving Day Race 10k // lynnepetre.com

 

ThanksgivingDayRace

My brother, Mike, is in red, I’m in the pink tights behind him. Coincidentally, the face in between Mike and I, behind me, is a good friend from college! Just after this photo, we realized we were running next to each other and chatted before sprinting into the finish.

Race Recap: Cincinnati Thanksgiving Day Race 10k // lynnepetre.com

Finished!

Our official time was 57:13, a 9:14 pace. Not too shabby for a not super dedicated training cycle!

We didn’t stick around for finish line food/party because we both were too pooped to walk around the block and wait in a line. We parked ~6 blocks from the start (up a hill! Poor planning on our part) so opted to head back to the car and clean up/relax before Thanksgiving dinner festivities began.

Per usual, this race was extremely well organized, had good crowd support, fun finish line party and interesting course. As many times as I spend Thanksgiving in Cincinnati, I will continue to run this race.