Tag Archives: running uphill

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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52 Weeks, 52 Runs. No. 52: The end of the road! (Or, it was the best of times, it was the worst of timekeepers)

Hooray! It’s all over! I can’t believe how fast 2012 has gone. When I started this challenge back in January, I (and many others) wasn’t sure how it would play out. Would I enjoy it? Would I get sick of it halfway through? Would my face turn a permanent shade of crimson? Would I wind up trapped under a giant pile of race T-shirts? Would I need a Lululemon intervention?

I never really had any doubt that Hubby and I would pull it off (it was only one race a week, after all), although I did do some major sanity-questioning along the way, especially during the summer. But if I didn’t think my bank would cut me off completely, I’d do it again in a heartbeat. I’m getting ahead of myself though. Here’s No. 52. Wrap-ups of various kinds to come later…

The not-so-grand finale

There’s something fitting about my last run in the challenge being a race director’s first. We signed up for the All I Want for Christmas 5K in Exeter, NH, because it sounded like it would be one of those fun small-races-for-a-good-cause that I’m always going on about (proceeds to the Hope for Gus Foundation), and because it was in Exeter, which for some reason became our running home away from home in 2012 so it seemed appropriate to end it all there.

All I Want for Christmas 5K

Colorful gathering on a gray day in Exeter, NH.

You never really know what you’re going to get with an inaugural run, especially one that’s so small it doesn’t even have a web presence, but we were heartened to see cars slowly trickle into the Exeter High School the morning of. We, naturally, were among the first to arrive, giving us plenty of time to beat the, erm, traffic and really get to know the parking lot. Despite having 60 minutes to mentally prepare, we neglected to collect our bibs straight away and wound up having to— shock—line up.

All I Want for Chistmas 5K

Hubby busted out the festive attire, which also has neck-warming properties.

I mention this because the long bib-pickup line, and therefore slightly late start, was one of the first indicators that this run might have some first-time-event hiccups. The second was the race director telling us that her PA guy had failed to arrive so there would be no microphone. The third was her revelation, as we were lining up to begin, that the course was 3.4 miles long instead of 3.1. Ouch.

But no matter. The run felt great at the start despite the chilly weather, and I got it into my head that this was going to be a PR triumph. How awesome would that be, on race No. 52? (Forgetting, of course, that this was 3.4 miles, so it’d be hard to measure.) There was a gorgeous Golden retriever in front of me who was making good time, so I decided she/he was going to be my pace dog.

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52 Weeks, 52 Runs. No. 49: I’m number three!

I expected many things from this almost-over (!) 52 Weeks, 52 Runs challenge. I expected that I would run 52 races. I expected that I would be out of breath—a lot—and that my face would frequently be as red as a tomato. I expected to be hot. I expected to be freezing. I expected to always be at the back of the pack.

I never, ever, ever expected that my name would wind up on Cool Running under the title “5K Age Group Winners.” (I was third, by the way.)

OK, you can stop laughing now. (It took me about a week.)

Wolf Hollow Half Marathon

I am a logo.

The occasion of my dubious glory was the Wolf Hollow Half Marathon and 5K in Nashua, NH. This wasn’t a race I was particularly prepared for (although when has that ever been the case?). I had run the Feaster Five Thanksgiving Day 5-miler a few days before and that had pretty much done me in. (Note: It doesn’t take much to do me in.) Also, it was really freaking cold. Thankfully, we were allowed to take pre-run refuge inside the Nashua YMCA, which is the Taj Mahal of YMCAs. It put our poor, long-suffering (albeit in the middle of a major makeover) Quincy Y to shame. So much so that all I wanted to do was hang out in the well-appointed coziness until Hubby finished the half (they started before us 5Kers). I was wearing my bib; that counts as a run, right?

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52 Weeks, 52 Runs. No. 39: Don’t let that scenery fool you

I didn’t think anything could ever be as physically challenging for me as last month’s SeaWheeze half-marathon, especially considering that my calves spearheaded a full-blown mutiny during it. But I was naive. Little did I know that lurking around the corner was the New Hampshire 10 Miler, waiting, despite the slightly shorter distance, to assume its place as my Toughest. Run. Ever.

NH 10 Miler

Pretty perilous.

This race (my second-longest run yet and No. 39 in the 52 Weeks challenge) fell firmly into the pretty-but-perilous category. What is it with scenic runs? I’m not sure if we’re supposed to be so distracted by nature that we don’t notice the torture, but that rarely works for me. The 10-miler was around Lake Massabesic, which looked quite lovely on the map. I initially envisioned a nice easy loop around the lake, with cool breezes and water views. I really need to stop envisioning things. A fellow runner snapped me out of it when he described the course as a “roller coaster.” This was bad.

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52 Weeks, 52 Runs. No. 36: Too much fun to be a run

I barely had time to recover from the SeaWheeze Half before being plunged back into the realm of teeny shorts, at Harborthon 5K on Boston’s Long Island. We frequented this event last year, but I was a mere spectator (which, granted, meant a lot more beer). This year, I was legitimate, although a part of me longed for the good old days of lawn slacking.

This run really has no business being called a run at all. It’s a massive outdoor party that happens to have a 5K in the middle of it.

Harborthon 5K

The scene: Boston’s Long Island.

Harborthon supports Camp Harbor View, which was created in 2007 by Boston’s mayor and a local businessman to provide an affordable summer camp for at-risk inner-city kids. It’s a remarkable setting, with great facilities, a beach, a baseball diamond, and gorgeous views of the city. The camp also offers year-round programming and social service support. All in all, an excellent reason for a run.

Harborthon 5K

The view!

There’s customarily no public access to Long Island, so the race organizers put together an elaborate system of buses and ferries to get us to where we needed to be. We chilled while the rest of the runners arrived in installments, soaking up the pre-entertainment, the lovely view, and the warm night air. All we needed was beer and food. But no, someone thought it was a good idea to make us run three miles for it. Geez.

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52 Weeks, 52 Runs. No. 34: Blistering! (And I don’t mean my pace)

I think I’m still traumatized after this past weekend’s double shot of runs, the Shark Weekend 5K in Nahant, MA, and the YuKanRun 5K in Cape Ann, MA. Maybe I am suffering from residual heatstroke that manifests itself in the blocking out of salient yet humiliating details, but both runs have managed to blur into one.

If I hadn’t set myself this insane 52-week challenge, there’s no way I would have been outside exerting myself in such conditions two days in a row, especially when I could have broken a sweat just by standing still. It was my most grueling race weekend ever.

Good thing I am about to run a half-marathon on Saturday. What with the lingering trauma and all …

Shark Weekend 5K

This way for sharks!

These runs weren’t just hot. They were also hilly. Swear-inducingly hilly. I’m normally not allowed to complain about hills, but this is an exception. It was comedy. A hill lurked around every corner, meaning maximum grouchiness and slowpokery on my part, especially during the YuKanRun 5K. About a mile into that one, I expressed myself in a manner not fit for a family blog.

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High society: The Mt. Washington Road Race

I have a guest blogger this week while I am in Australia! My hubby and partner-in-running-adventures did the Mt. Washington Road Race last weekend. That’s UPHILL for 7.6 miles. Gives me asthma just thinking about it. Here’s his take … 

Heading into this past weekend, in the tradition of Stride and Joy, I had The Fear. Actually, a double dose of The Fear.

The first dose came from having to be the guest blogger. How could I live up to the exacting standards of Stride and Joy? I wanted to take flight. The second dose came from having to run “Only One Hill.” That’s the catchphrase of the Mt. Washington Road Race. I wanted to take flight again. Preferably aboard a small helicopter. That’s a saner way to the top.

Well, in the true character of this blog, there was to be no running away … but there would be cursing.

Mt. Washington Road Race

This sign should say you may also not appreciate this “running experience.”

This was the 52nd running of the Mt. Washington Road Race. I “won” the right to run via a lottery that opened in March. It seemed so easy: enter your details, input the credit card info (no charge unless you won) and click submit. No sweat. Then I received a “congratulations” email. Oh crap. What did I do?!!

Inclined to train

So, how to train? I live at sea level and my nearest hill takes a mere 30 seconds to get to the top. Move to Colorado! Tempting indeed, for that’s where the top finishers of this race hail from. They’ve got the altitude and attitude on their side. They don’t hold the course record though; that honor belongs to a Kiwi. There are lots of hills in New Zealand, but I like to think that some of his training involved running away from the Orcs from the Lord of the Rings movies. Or the walking trees. They are scary. An argument for clear felling forests if ever there was one.

Well, without a quick way to move to Colorado and in the absence of a build-your-own Orc kit, it was off to the treadmill to train.

The incline of the auto road is between 12 and 20 degrees. That fierce sounding 20 is only at the last part … you know, to the finish line, because the rest of the “hill” just wasn’t enough.

So on the treadmill, I cranked the incline up to 12 and pressed start … crikey … this was going to involve some change of pace. But at least now I knew: slow and steady would finish the race.

Rise and shine

Mt. Washington Road Race

On the up and up.

Race day arrived, and what a morning it was. One of the volunteers said he had never seen weather so good. All week, I had been watching the conditions. A few weeks before, it had snowed. A few days earlier, there were 60mph winds. Today, though, it was clear from top to bottom. I hoped it would last.

In order to “run” up the mountain, you had to have organized a ride down in advance. This was facilitated via a forum on the Mt. Washington Road Race website. After picking up my bib, I met Roy, the guy whose car I would ride my weary bones down in. Roy is a veteran of this peak. He’s also 73 years old and has done the run twice. There was also a bloke who was 92. Now if they could do it, I had no excuse but to head to the start line.

Mt. Washington Road Race

That’s not a hill … THAT’s a hill!

The canon fired and we were off. In taunting fashion, the race started downhill, across a flat bit and then began to climb and climb and f**kin’ climb. I told you there would be cursing.

A woman I had spoken to prior to the race, also a veteran of the mountain, told me to just keep running, and I tried my best to do that. I made it over half way, in fact I even ran in place at a water stop just to keep the rhythm, but then looking at my pace I realized on certain steep areas, I could do just as well power walking and so over the last half, it was a run/walk. More of the former, I am proud to say.

As for the running part, it was easier to run on my toes, and here’s where my new Newton Running shoes worked their miracle. They have series of “energy return” ribs that create a block just to the front of the arch of the foot. This block made it so much easier to run the peak as I never had to land flat on my feet and it helped me spring off every time. Newtons, of course, come from Colorado. I am seeing a pattern here.

Mt. Washington Road Race

The clouds roll in at the finish.

The best part of finishing the race, apart from not having to run up hill any more, was the blankets. Fleece blankets. Made in New Hampshire! None of that space blanket malarkey for us “mountain folk.” They came in handy too, as shortly after the finish, the clouds rolled in and it cooled.

As for the time to complete the 7.6-mile course, someone had posted on the forum that it would be around your half-marathon time and that’s exactly what it was.

Would I do it again? Hell yes! Next time though, I will be running all the way to the top … powered by anything that Colorado will offer. Coors beer maybe.

Mt. Washington Road RaceThe event: Mt. Washington Road Race
The location:
Mt. Washington, NH
The date: June 16, 2012
Hubby’s time: 1.41.16 (pace: 13.20)
The T-shirt: Blue tech shirt
The aftermath: Turkey dinner with all the fixins