Tag Archives: training

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


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


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 …


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.”


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:


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.


Gone soft

Savvy readers will note that I was scheduled to run a half-marathon this weekend in Charlotte, North Carolina. At the end of last year, with 52 runs of varying lengths (including two half-marathons) under my belt, this seemed like a fine, if not genius, plan.

Almost four months later, my plan has gone slightly awry. I know it’s customary for running bloggers to post their training schedules for big races such as this one, so here’s mine.

Week 1
Monday: rest day
Tuesday: rest day
Wednesday: rest day
Thursday: rest day
Friday: rest day
Saturday: rest day
Sunday: rest day

Week 2
Monday: rest day
Tuesday: rest day
Wednesday: rest day
Thursday: rest day
Friday: rest day
Saturday: rest day
Sunday: rest day

Week 3
Monday: rest day
Tuesday: rest day
Wednesday: rest day
Thursday: rest day
Friday: rest day
Saturday: rest day
Sunday: rest day

You get the idea ….

I am sitting on a plane as I type this, on the way from Boston to Charlotte. Needless to say, I will not be running the half-marathon (although Hubby is). I was planning to switch over to the twilight 5K for tonight, but I got slammed with a nasty cold, so that didn’t happen either.

I have every intention of making this the last time I flake out. If I have to start from scratch and ease myself back into 5Ks again like, gasp, a novice, then that’s what I’ll do. Er, next week.

In the meantime, I have something to remind me of past glories. We finally, finally got around to having a T-shirt blanket made. Huzzah! It represents only about a third of the T-shirts that we own, but it is a good chunk of the cotton ones. We got it made through Project Repat, which creates fair-wage jobs in the U.S. by upcycling T-shirts, and I love it.


Gives a new meaning to bed shirts.

I am determined to shake off this new-found slothiness before the Pittsburgh Half-Marathon in May. I can’t let Jogging Jeans and Running Haiku think I’ve gone completely soft, despite the fact that my new blanket is exactly that.

Drifting along with the tumbling tumbleweeds

I guess I wasn’t kidding when I wrote at the beginning of 2012 that I needed something to keep running interesting (hence last year’s 52 Weeks, 52 Runs). Two months into 2013 and in the absence of a bona fide wallet-busting, sleep-depriving challenge, I have not only slowed down on the blogging front (wrist slap), but also on the thing I am supposed to be blogging about.

I’m thinking I should rename this blog Stride and Tumbleweeds.

Tumbling tumbleweeds

It’s probably faster than me over 5K.

In keeping with the modern tendency to blame our failings on anyone/anything but ourselves, I have come up with the five causes of my recent lack of Stridery.

1. Winter

I ran in some truly biting New England conditions last year, but there was nary a snowflake let alone two feet of accumulation necessitating six hours of shoveling. We were supposed to run the Frozen Pilgrim 10K in Plymouth, MA, the weekend after Nemo turned my front yard into this:

Snowstorm Nemo

Nemo comes to town.

The Sunday of the Pilgrim we were hit with another storm, and conditions were perilous. We had optimistically picked up our packets the day before, but when we looked outside the morning of, we realized it wasn’t going to happen. Amazingly, the run went ahead, but everything about the conditions screamed “danger!” so we decided not to go. It takes a lot for Hubby to turn down a run.

A week later, the Half at the Hamptons was also canceled days in advance due to forecasts of another weekend storm (third in a row). Hubby dutifully went and picked up his T-shirt at the event the race directors held to make up for the disappointment. Sadly, the weather turned out to be OK (if still slightly miserable) on the day, but the organizers made the right call.

We’re beginning to amass quite the collection of shirts for which we didn’t do the run (there are also a few from last year). I’m not sure what to do with them. If I wear them, even in the house, I feel like a fraud.

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A woman walks into a barre… Adventures in adult ballet

Like many girls, I took dancing from a very early age. I experienced the gamut of beginners ballet, from dressing up in a bunny outfit and hopping around the stage to donning a tutu (handmade by my amazing mum) and taking graded exams. I didn’t suck.


Mum-made tutu!

When I was about nine, my teacher handed me a book and told me to learn it. Inside was a collection of terms like battement tendu and port de bras. I took one look at it and decided to hang up my ballet shoes. I wanted to dance, not learn bloody French. (Thinking back, it may have not been the wisest decision. But I was nine, what the heck did I know?)

Many, many, many years later, I started to wonder what it would be like to take lessons again. I figured it would be an amazing strength workout. And I’d kill to have the poise – and legs – of a dancer.

You call this beginners?

My first foray back into ballet was a disaster. Arriving at an alleged “beginners” class, I found a bevy of skinny young things limbering up in pink ballet skirts and cardigans, their hair expertly bunned, their feet perfectly turned out. Beginners in what universe? It was humiliating – and I couldn’t walk properly for a week.

Eighteen months later, having finally gotten over the trauma, and because I am a masochist, I decided to give ballet another shot. I recently started a 10-week adult course in Harvard Square. I thought it would nicely complement my run training.

There are few endeavors in life in which staring at yourself for two hours in a giant mirror is not only perfectly acceptable but encouraged. And there’s nothing like staring at yourself in a giant mirror for two hours to make you realize you now totally and utterly suck.

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Time to tackle a half

Those fabulous folks who have been following me on my running adventure will likely have noted two things: I am extremely slack when it comes to training; and I heart Lululemon (in my defense, I was a very early adopter: Toronto, 1999).

Though I’d probably be content to just run 5Ks and 10Ks for the rest of my life, I figured if I’m going to really challenge myself, I have to at least try a half-marathon. (Although, even as I type this, it sounds completely absurd.)

What better race for me to attempt, then, than the SeaWheeze Lululemon Half-Marathon in Vancouver (August 11). It’s hosted by my favorite ubiquitous sportswear company and it has wheeze in the title. Appropriate, no? I get the feeling that the half-marathon part of this half-marathon may come second to the general Lululemon-ness of the event. But that’s completely fine with me.

SeaWheeze Lululemon Half

Click if you fancy reading the words.

Yes, there will be training

I’m not foolish enough to attempt to “run” a half without putting in the miles beforehand, so I am going to try to follow the Tackle Box program Lulu designed. I am already a few weeks behind, but I hope when I cobble together the bits and pieces I do throughout the week, I can almost arrive at a full week of training.

To help runners with their motivation, Lululemon sent out shorts to everyone who registered early.

SeaWheeze Lululemon Half shorts


I guess there has been some Twitter-verse moaning about these spotty duds, but I think they’re cute as hell, even if they leave little to the imagination (hence the moaning, I suppose).

Anyway, I’m inspired to at least obtain a body that would rock a pair of shorts like this. And the polka dots make me happy.

Here’s a PDF of the Tackle Box Training Program. I’m going to try to report back every once in a while on my progress. This plan is heavy on the yoga, which I don’t do. I’ve substituted with a weekly ballet class, and weights/strength training. My days won’t match up to the schedule, but I’m hoping my activities will get me to an appropriate level of preparedness. (I’ll be happy if I can run three-quarters of the race.) Wish me luck!

June 4-10 (week 3)

Monday: Power yoga

Tuesday: Tempo Run: 1 mile warm up/ 2 miles tempo/ 1 mile cool down

Wednesday: Rest or flow yoga

Thursday: Easy run 2.5 miles

Friday: Rest

Saturday: Long run 5 miles

Sunday: Yin Yoga or optional run (40 minutes)