Two days in Pittsburgh (with a half-marathon in there somewhere)

At the end of last year, Jill from Jogging Jeans had the genius idea that Hubby and I should come to her hometown of Pittsburgh to run the Pittsburgh Half Marathon. The promise of a new city plus meeting Jill was too good to pass up (also, I wanted to be able to call myself a Runner of Steel). To add to the excitement, Charla from Running Haiku decided she would join us, stopping over on the way from Seattle to D.C. I had a feeling this was going to be momentous (all it was lacking was Tiffany, from Cute Dogs and Hugs, but she was there in spirit).

Here’s what transpired …

The city

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Apparently Pittsburgh has 446 bridges, and, according to the very reliable Wikipedia, “is the world record holder for brides with piers and stands contained entirely within city limits.” So there you go.

Apart from the mandatory run up the Rocky steps in Philly eons ago and, oddly enough, a recent half in Allentown, we hadn’t spent much time in the Keystone State. Who knew there would be so much awesomeness in Pittsburgh? (In addition to Jill.) We weren’t really sure what to expect from the city but we loved it. It’s small but has a big personality, a gazillion bridges, and a great ballpark (more on that later). There’s an inclinator thingy, with great views, that looks like a house riding up and down the side of a hill. And there’s a sandwich chain where the coleslaw and fries come ON the sandwich. OK, that last one sounded kind of nuts, but Jill said it was an institution. (We didn’t get to try it, um, unfortunately.)

There’s a long-running joke between Hubby and me that every time we visit a new (small) city, he will ultimately want to move there. It’s happened with Cleveland (no thanks), Little Rock (no way), and Salt Lake City (maybe). Pittsburgh, on the other hand, is a place I could actually see myself in.

the company

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The four of us mentally preparing to be Runners of Steel by standing under a banner.

I can’t say enough good things about Jill and Charla. They are as fabulous in the flesh as they are on their blogs. Meeting them was such fun, and we had one of those weekends that’s like a seven-course meal—rich and memorable. Everyone got on so well, and we were in hysterics much of the time, especially about …

The port-a-loos

One of the first things Hubby and I noticed when we went to pick up his race packet for the 5K (yes, he did both races; and yes, he did the 5K in jorts) was the presence of flushing port-a-loos by a company called Mr. John. Did I mention that they were port-a-loos that flush? This was nothing short of a revelation and I immediately snapped a photo. We don’t have such luxuries here in New England.

Apparently they don’t in Seattle either. Charla was equally as excited, which led to this shot …

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Flushing units!!

Jill clearly thought we were all nuts. Apparently, outdoor toilets that flush are a dime a dozen in her world. She needs to come and rough it with us in Boston for a while. In the summer.

Charla had us all write haikus and she posted a hilarious (if I do say so myself) mash-up on her blog that you must read. You wouldn’t think we could keep the port-a-loo theme going the entire weekend, but we somehow managed to—ably assisted by …

The ballpark

PNC Park

PNC Park.

What do running, port-a-loos, and the Pittsburgh Pirates have in common? Nothing, really, unless you are three bloggers and one hubby who happen to wind up at PNC Park sitting next to an old guy who happens to be wearing the shirt from the Pittsburgh 5K that morning, who also happens to be someone Jill met a year before, who also happens to be … wait for it … the owner of a (flushing!) port-a-loo business just outside of Allentown (he and Mr. John have somewhat different business models though). I couldn’t make this stuff up if I tried.

His name was Kenneth, and for any Aussies reading this who have seen the movie Kenny, you will know why this is extra funny. If you haven’t seen Kenny, download it now.

Kenneth was sweet on Jill, and he spent the whole game chatting with her and Charla while his clearly long-suffering wife rolled her eyes. We were in hysterics, pretty oblivious to the fact that there was a baseball game going on. Great ballpark though.

The run

Oh, right, there was a run …

It’s disturbing how little prepared I was to run a half-marathon (I think I should trademark that phrase). I was ill-prepared even for me, whose training strategy recently has basically consisted of “watching others run.” Last year, I ran many, many races, so when my two half-marathons came around, I at least had something to work with. This year, not so much. Also, I’d been sick. Also, as the arm warmers Charla got at the expo so perfectly put it: “I like running, just not while I’m doing it.”

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Right at the 5K mark. Are we done yet?

I had no illusions about this half. I just wanted to finish in less than three hours (my half PR is 2:30; how the not-so-mighty have fallen). I can walk a half in 3:00, so it would be shameful if I overshot that.

Here’s how it went:

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The half-marathon crossed five bridges. I like bridges.

Mile 1: Start alongside Charla and Jill and watch them immediately disappear into the crowd (this was Jill’s first half and she did amazingly well. So, that’s what training gets you …). Realize I hadn’t cued up my playlist and spend five minutes fiddling with my iPhone. (You’d think I’d never done this before.) Run slowly.

Mile 2: Realize that the new Apple EarPod headphones are useless for running. They keep popping out of my ears. Spend five minutes fiddling with them and cursing Apple for getting rid of the old style (mine broke). Spend another five minutes cursing myself for not trying these new ones out before the race. Run slowly.

Mile 3: Realize my watch isn’t showing the distance, only the pace. Spend five minutes stopped on the side of the road fiddling with it. Run slowly. Nice bridge!

Mile 4: Run really slowly. Start sticking fingers in my ears to try to keep the headphones in. Nice bridge!

Mile 5: Run really, really slowly. I think it’s called walking. Nice bridge!

Mile 6: Run really, really, really slowly. Reset watch again.

Mile 7: Give up on headphones completely and shove them into my pocket. Now all I can hear is the sound of my breathing. (I have an ear infection so I’m hearing every noise inside my head.) Nice bridge!

Mile 8-10: Out for a stroll. Lovely day for it. Give up on watch completely.

Mile 11: Major mile marker confusion with the marathon. Think I’ve gone farther than I have. Crap. Nice bridge!

Mile 11.5: Massive hill. Not unexpected, but still massive.

Mile 12: Holy crap, it’s still going.

Mile 13: Nice downhill. Think I’m going to breeze into the finish like I’ve been running the whole time. Crowd starts to roar. Realize there are early marathoners coming in. It’s not the first time this has happened to me. Stupid little bonus hill takes the wind out of my sails and I have to walk for a few seconds in front of the crowd. Sadly, no more bridges.

Mile 13.1: Can’t see the cameraman. It’s probably a good thing as I may have punched him out.

Told you, momentous …

The event: Pittsburgh Half-Marathon
The location: Pittsburgh
The date: May 5, 2013
My time: 2.43.18
Hubby’s time
: 1.38.22
The T-shirt:
Bright yellow long-sleeved Asics
The aftermath: Smile cookies from Eat’n Park, potato chips, bagels, fruit cups. There was also a huge finishers’ expo but we didn’t partake as it was so crowded, which meant, sniff, no beer.

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11 responses to “Two days in Pittsburgh (with a half-marathon in there somewhere)

  1. You made me laugh again. I’m still in awe of how perfect the weekend was aside from running. I’m looking forward to our next group adventure, preferably with porta-potties that flush.

  2. Beverly Marshall

    Funny, especially your line, “I like running, just not while I’m doing it.” So true. All best……

  3. Agree with Charla – laughing again and it WAS a perfect weekend! I beamed reading about how much you loved Pittsburgh!

  4. SO AWESOME all of you lucky Runners of Steel! Congrats. Love Mile 12 (that is so me! haha) and the Ballpark meet up (small world and just too perfect! haha). Nice bridge! I mean post, Missy! Thanks for the smile and laughs.

  5. Lin O'Neil-Clark

    No Bling?

  6. Damn. I’m mad we missed such an awesome time.. and such spectacular portaloos. We need to go to Tavern on the Water in Charlestown. It’s not a great place but their portaloos are amazing. Haha

  7. thanks for the entertainment!

  8. Hope you enjoyed Pittsburgh, and you got yourselves a Primanti Brothers sammich! We are based out of Pittsburgh and offer free music for runners – check us out! RunningMixes.com

  9. Henry Runs

    Great and humorous recap!

  10. At mile 2 http://www.Runningmixes.com/radio was broadcasting live! Thanks for checking us out in Pittsburgh!

  11. Pingback: For whom the cowbell tolls | Stride and Joy