Race Recap: 2016 Pittsburgh Half Marathon (#GameOnPGH)

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)

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.

Training Update: Pittsburgh Half Marathon (#GameOnPGH)

It’s the final week! ACK!

Officially, it’s taper time for the Pittsburgh Half Marathon but really, with the travel in my life recently, I have been tapering for the past 3+ weeks. We’ll see how this translates for the race on May 1 but not much I can do about it now except roll with it.

After Mexico, I was home for 4 days and ran 10 miles before hopping a plane to Denver for a busy week at work. I’d brought my gear to run in my old neighborhood and meet friends for OrangeTheory but, for a number of factors, I didn’t do either. From Denver, I flew into Philadelphia late Friday night to play in a volleyball tournament all day Saturday before driving 5+ hours home. Whew!

Track Running // lynnepetre.com

So these last few weeks have been light on actual runs but I’ve been very active which doesn’t substitute for training but is better than being sedentary!

This week, I’ve run a few 3 mile loops, am playing volleyball and doing yoga. I debated doing an OrangeTheory class but decided to not risk sore or tired muscles in the days before next week’s race.

A few weeks ago, before the crazy 6 weeks of travel, I’d set some goals for the Pittsburgh Half and I’m hoping they’re still realistic.

  • A Goal: Under 2 hours
  • B Goal: 2:00-2:05
  • C Goal: Under 2:10

If I’d stuck with my training a bit better these past few weeks, I’d have 100% confidence in myself but now, I’m going to go out and just do my best next Sunday. I know I can cruise through the first half of the race and my 10 mile long runs have been strong…but I wished I’d given myself an 11 or 12 mile long run to feel really good about aiming for my A Goal.

Regardless of what happens during the race, I’m excited to be running (especially after worrying about my knee earlier this year), to see my friends (HeidiChelsea, Lauren – looking at you!) and to experience Pittsburgh on foot. Whatever happens, I’m going to run with a smile and feel grateful for this opportunity!

T-10 days!

Pittsburgh Running Route: North Park Lake

Soon after moving to Pittsburgh, I asked around for favorite running routes to help get myself acclimated with my surroundings. I kept hearing about North Park and its infamous 5 mile loop and how all Pittsburgh Marathoners would do a majority of their long runs at this park.

This past weekend, I woke up late and missed my opportunity to run with Raela which was likely for the best. I headed out to North Park to run 2 laps around the lake for a 10 mile training run. No pausing to say hi/bye to my friend, just 10 miles of me and the pavement…something I honestly haven’t done much of this training cycle but knowing I’m running the half solo, I wanted to get a solid long run in by myself and make sure I could keep a steady pace.

North Park Lake Loop // lynnepetre.com


North Park is ~25 minutes outside of Pittsburgh. I would offer tips on how to get there but Google has told me different ways to go each time. If you’re going during rush hour, give yourself ~35 minutes since there’s no highway route.

There is parking throughout the loop so you can start wherever is most convenient for you. I parked at JC Stone Field since this was at an ‘end’ of the oval and I planned my run so that I ended with a downhill cruise where I could see my car (I hate not knowing how much further is left).

The running/biking path follows the lake through the park. It’s very well marked and obvious where to go to continue on the path. The loop is shaped like an oval and surprisingly, it felt like time passed quickly.

North Park Lake Loop // lynnepetre.comThe weather was beautiful for March so there were lots of people out – runners, bikers, roller-bladers, strollers and dogs all out enjoying the same path as me. In the park, people were fishing, kayaking, picnicing and more. As a solo female runner, it was comforting to have so many people out and about – should anything happen, someone would be around to offer a bandaid. (I’ve heard weekends are usually busy-ish in the winter time, too.)

There are bathrooms at several points along the route and all looked to be open (not sure if this is a seasonal thing; I know the bathrooms at the the North Park Boathouse are open in the winter). Be sure to bring your own water, though; all of the water fountains I passed were taped up and not in service. I had stashed my water bottle and a coconut water in my car and made a pit stop at mile 5 before taking off for loop 2.

Lastly, there are a number of races at North Park throughout the year. If you’re a little bit shy about showing up and not knowing exactly how to get around the park (it’s big!), registering for a race would be a great way to get acclimated.

Compared to the 2.5 mile loop I’d spent many, many, many mornings running in Denver (HOLLA Heidi, Paula, Christine and others), I really enjoyed this 5-mile loop distance. I can’t say I’d be excited to run more than 2 laps (and especially not 6, like Chelsea) but 10 miles around the park felt like a good distance.

Side note: there is also an off-leash dog park, zip-line course, hockey + ice skating, horse trails, a swimming pool, restaurant/cafe and much more to do at North Park. So if running isn’t your thing, you can likely still find something fun to do at the park.

Gratitude for the Long Run

I’ve been doing my long runs on Sunday mornings. In prior training cycles, I preferred long runs on Saturday mornings but my current work/life balance has me craving Saturday as a sleep-in, slow start to the weekend.

This Saturday was different, though; I got up early to attend a Women in Business Leadership conference that completely ruled and totally inspired me – so glad I went! After walking the mile home in the gorgeous 70* weather, Alex and I took Philly for a long walk before heading out to a CMU party at the coolest ever co-working space (check out TechShop; it’s a maker/creator’s dream!). The event was sponsored by the business school’s wine club so, hello, I enjoyed a couple delicious glasses of sangiovese.

All this to say that when Sunday morning rolled around, I wanted to run because it was a wonderfully mild, spring-like morning but I was feeling sluggish and not super motivated to run 7 miles. I didn’t stay out late (in bed at 11p; party hardy’ing in my old age, for sure) and didn’t go too crazy with the sangiovese but I don’t think I sipped enough water before bed. Fortunately for me, at the party, I’d made plans to run the second half with my friend, Raela. I’d run 3.5 miles around our neighborhood and meet at her apartment and we’d run the last 3.5 miles together.

As I started my run, I felt completely un-motivated. I was so happy to be outside but my legs were not feeling it. I (stupidly? over-zealously?) mapped out a route that included a giant hill in my neighborhood so after a 1 mile warm up, I took on the hill…and walked more than half of it. Totally not against walking but did not help my mental game.

I was feeling grumpy about being tired, about not wanting to run 7 miles, about how I would be even more tired and hungry when I got home. And in the midst of this, shook my head at my thoughts. I remembered that I’m LUKCY to be running 7 miles. That I’m OUTSIDE for 7 miles on a beautiful day. That I GET to spend 35 minutes with music and then 35 minutes catching up with my friend.

After knee surgeries 4 years ago, I was grateful for EVERY run and all physical activity I did. Over time, that appreciation waned as it became the norm again to not worry about my knees and to feel confident the surgery had worked.

Now, with question marks on my horizon, I need to enjoy every single moment I can spend running or exercising. Yeah, maybe I was feeling tired but dammit, at least I was running!

I made it to Raela’s apartment with 3.6 miles run at a 9:56 min/mile average pace. After picking her up, we averaged a 9:00 min/mile pace. Changing my frame of mind to feeling appreciative of how I was spending my time – as well as catching up and laughing with my friend – helped propel me forward and end my long run on a strong, grateful note.

Pittsburgh Half - 7 Mile Long Run // lynnepetre.com

Everyone says it but it is true: shifting ‘ugh, I HAVE to do X‘ thoughts to ‘wow, I GET to do X‘ thoughts really does change your attitude and experience. Sometimes, we just need a little reminder.

#AttitudeofGratitude, FTW.


Pittsburgh Half Marathon Training – Month 1 #GameOnPGH

So it’s been exactly a month of half marathon training and so far, so good! Despite writing about my knee/MRI earlier this week, my knee is feeling pretty good right now and I’m hoping everything comes back clear from my doctor next week.

I haven’t hit every single weekday run but I’ve hit most. I’d counted on being able to attend OrangeTheory at least twice a week but the gym here has recently exploded in popularity so it’s really difficult to get into a class. And without a dedicated class time, I have found myself saying, ‘oh, I’ll just run later this afternoon when I have a break in my meetings.’ But of course, by the time that break has come around, I am in the weeds and have missed my opportunity to run. So I just need to be better about getting up earlier and running before Denver starts working.

Pittsburgh Half Marathon Training Month 1 // lynnepetre.com

Long runs this month included 2×4 milers, 1×5 miler, 1×6 miler.

The 5 miles SUCKED. I was on week 2 of Whole30 and I failed to fuel properly. The night before, I had a kale salad paired with pan-fried chicken and sauted veggies covered in tomato sauce. Delicious, and it filled me up for dinner, but terrible for long run prep. I spent much of the 5 miles lightheaded and took frequent walk breaks.

To contrast, my 6 miles the following week rocked. I made sure to eat carbs the night before, ate a banana before heading out and brought Honey Stinger chews with me. At mile 3, I popped a couple and have saved the rest for my run this weekend.

Pittsburgh Half Marathon Training Month 1 // lynnepetre.com

Right now (Saturday), it’s snowing and 11* outside; with windchill, it’s a ‘feels like of -14*’. The training group run was cancelled and, as much as I like to do my long runs on Saturday vs. Sunday, I am saving my 6 miles for tomorrow morning/afternoon when the temps should be around 20*.

1 month down, 2.5 to go! I’m feeling really good about training so far and am looking forward to ramping up my long run mileage.

Let the Half Marathon Training Begin! #GameOnPGH

It’s been a while since I’ve been serious about running. I’ve always incorporated running into my fitness but for the past couple of years, I haven’t stuck to a dedicated plan or trained for a race; I love running but in Colorado, mountain adventures on the weekends won out over long training runs. I took to city park paths and mountain trails to keep my endurance up but, more so, to spend time with my friends. I rarely wore my GPS watch and rarely pushed myself out of my comfort zone.

Trail Running Boulder // lynnepetre.com

Soon after unpacking in Pittsburgh, though, I started looking up local races; I knew if I could find the races, I would find runners I could convince to be my friends. And if I couldn’t find friends? At least I would have a big goal on my horizon that would keep me busy.

I quickly found the Pittsburgh Marathon and Half and started reading recaps on the internet – this would be my race! The May 1 race date meant I had plenty of time to train my body to run more than 5 miles at a time again and I was excited to use training as a way to explore my new city.

I applied to be a blogger ambassador for the race and am thrilled to have been accepted! I will be partnering with the Pittsburgh Marathon team to blog my way through training – as this will be my first half since 2012, I’m basically starting from scratch. I’ll be sharing not only my run training but also how I’m fueling, cross training that I’m incorporating, fun gear I’m using and more.

Track Running // lynnepetre.com

I’m excited to take on this challenge, run 13.1 miles again and bring you along with me. And if you’re a Pittsburgher – or want to visit Pittsburgh to run with me! – use the code PETRE2016 for $10 off your registration (register here) or 15% off official race gear in the P3R Store!