Sunday, May 7, 2017

Pittsburgh Half Marathon 2017 Race Recap

If you tuned in to my May goals last week, then you know that my goal for this half was to have fun! Honestly, I'm not sure I can say I've ever had a good experience at this race. Partly due to the hot humid weather that usually plagues race weekend, and partly due to the high expectations I place on myself each year. This year was void of both.

Several folks asked me if I was going to race Pittsburgh after my underwhelming race at Boston Trail Half Marathon two weeks ago. And my answer? Nope. I know myself well enough to know that if I put a goal in my brain, and then failed, I would spend the first few days of this week having a pity party, something I didn't want leading up to the MacMod wedding this weekend.

So, my only goal (okay, two goals) for my tenth half? Have fun & finish the race. And, spoiler alert. I totally nailed it!

Gretchen and I made plans to stick together and enjoy ourselves. After deciding this, I proceeded to break pretty much the Golden Rule of Racing - nothing new on race day.

New Thing #1 : The weather made dressing for the race super confusing. Raining when I left the house, with temps hovering right around 40. Potential to be sunny by race start, and the temp ended up rising to the low 50's. I was way overdressed in my long sleeve and capris, an outfit I had never worn together before. I carefully laid out my Flat Jessie, only to change my mind 10 nanoseconds after I took this picture and wear a totally different shirt.

New Thing #2 : After my aid station snafu two weeks prior, and at the many suggestions of all of you, I decided to carry my hydration pack. Well, now I remember why I don't. While it's wonderful to have water whenever I want it, it definitely makes my lower back ache after a few miles. Maybe something to keep playing with.

New Thing #3 : Glukos. My fuel choice failed miserably my last half, so I chose Glukos, something I've had success with in the past on training runs. The thing I failed to consider, is that all the fuel on my training runs is taken while stopped. Sooooo, when I tried to take my fuel, which is totally liquid, on the move, I managed to send it down the wrong pipe and send myself into a coughing fit. Smooth move Jess.

New Thing #4 : I ran a race with my phone for the first time ever. I really enjoyed taking selfies, but don't think this will be a regular occurance for me.

Okay, back to the race.

Mile 1 // 9:01, Mile 2 // 8:50, Mile 3 // 8:56
Start time was 7AM, I was fully prepared to cross the start line around 710AM, but I did not expect it to be 720AM by the time we crossed the start.

It was still a little cloudy, but the rain had stopped and the temperature was comfortable. The start was crowded as I expected it to be, when we actually passed MM 1, my watch showed an 8:38. And it felt every bit that fast. We made it a point to slow down.

Mile 4 // 9:10, Mile 5 // 8:38, Mile 6 // 9:12
There was a course change this year, that I can't entirely remember the reason for. These miles were fairly unremarkable. A few hills. I believe Amanda found us at some point. Which still amazes me, because we've never actually met, unless you count the two times she has randomly spotted me from behind, all without knowing what I'm wearing. #Skillz

Mile 7 // 10:13, Mile 8 // 9:56, Mile 9 // 10:43
I had planned to take my fuel around mile 6. But, as we finished up mile 6, I saw an aid station was coming up. Gretchen was planning to grab some water, so I figured this was the perfect time to fuel. Or, end up sending it all down the wrong pipe, as the case may be. Oops. Walk break #1.

We headed over the West End Bride, and the Ohio River, before heading up another hill, making a quick loop and heading into the South Side. And also the point at which I acknowledged that my lower back was starting to ache. So we took a pretty damn long walk break as we headed up a small hill. It felt great to take a little break.

Mile 10 // 11:24, Mile 11 // 10:56, Mile 12 // 12:29

I was surprised at the lack of bands through this stretch, or music in general. The crowd support was nice, but I would have enjoyed some music. I had hoped to see a co-worker who was handing out I.C. Light. But I didn't know exactly where he would be, and ended up not spotting him. As we hit the Birmingham Bridge I told Gretchen I was planning to walk up the incline of the bridge. This was where another part of the course re-route for this year came into play. Typically after the incline portion of the bridge, there is a steep off ramp followed by an uphill portion. This year, the bridge was all uphill. You read that right, all uphill, to get us to our next turn and part of the final stretch.

Shortly after our turn off the bridge, we saw a beer stop, so you best believe we high tailed it over to grab a cup of beer! It was cold, and exactly what I needed.

Mile 13 // 10:03, .29 // 8:41 pace

The new course this year meant a new final few miles, though the finish line was the same as in years past. Gretchen and I picked it up for the final quarter mile or so, and in a totally cheesy finish line move, grabbed hands to cross the finish line together.

Garmin Time : 2:12.00
Official Time : 2:11.54

My finish time was officially a new personal worst, but a personal high, because through the back pain, and the walk breaks, and the coughing fit, I had a great time. I loved the no pressure zone. I loved that I was able to take a walk break because I was tired, or stop for beer, because I could. And I think that it's good to have a race like this every once and a while.

Who else raced this weekend?
When was the last time you raced just for fun?

Linking up with Holly & Tricia for Weekend Highlights
Linking up with Marcia x Patty x Erika for Tuesdays on the run to share.


  1. You guys are awesome, loved running into you! Can't wait to hear about wedding!!!

  2. I'm glad you had such a fun experience! Now enjoy that wedding!!

  3. It was fun reading about how much FUN you had running this! It's amazing how different a race experience can be when we take the pressure off ourselves. Congrats on #10, and enjoy the final countdown this week!!

  4. Congratulations on Half Marathon #10!! It looks like an amazing race!! Maybe i'll finally run this race next year!

    Now all attention on the wedding!

  5. Yep - sometimes when you just take the pressure off & enjoy it, the race is a whole other beast - one you can appreciate & look back on with fond memories.
    Sorry about the back pain. That had to be irritating. Its crazy how the smallest of things can throw your body off.

  6. I do a lot of races like you did for this. I am always shooting for a 2:00-ish finish time, but I don't obsess over the individual splits. For me, it's just not worth it! I know I can hit the 2:00 (or under) mark, so it's just not necessary to do it for EVERY half marathon. Besides, I'm thankful I have the ability to run non-stop for two hours (or longer) without having to OCD over everything. I'd rather enjoy the course once in awhile ;-)

  7. Fantastic job, especially with the fueling and low back issues! Honestly, your finish time is what I'm shooting for in my half marathons for the rest of the year. I'm glad you had fun! I wonder if I should add Pittsburgh to my bucket list...

  8. I loved this! Sounds like this race was just what you needed. Glad you had such a great experience. I've only done the Pgh Half once and it was a miserable experience. I should do it again some year for fun like you did. I bought a hydration pack last year & mine hurt my shoulders. I much prefer carrying a handheld.

  9. I love the fact it was such a fun experience for you! Running in that no-pressure zone gives quite a different dynamic altogether. I need to get into that mindset - for me it's "go for that PB" all the time which gets stressful! I must say though that I had a really fun race experience this weekend - no PB but a great time nonetheless.

  10. I always have a goal of having fun at a race, whether I'm racing it or not. At least if I fall apart on the course, I'm still going to have a good time! At my half this past weekend, I was struggling with all the hills and at mile 8, a really rocking song came on. That put a pep in my step!

  11. It sounds like you and Gretchen had a great time. That is the most important thing! I could never wear my Camelbak in a race! Kudos to you. I can't believe the wedding is here! I hope it is everything you want it to be! Thanks for linking, Jessie!

  12. I'm so glad you finally had a good race that you enjoyed! You deserved it. =)

  13. you go girl! having a good race personally and mentally is nothing to sneeze at. congrats!

  14. This is just awesome I am so very glad to see you had an amazing race! I enjoy going into a race just for fun too!

  15. Beautiful pictures - love the bridges. Congrats on a fun race :)

  16. We all appreciate with your post. Keep posting these kind of information.

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  17. Yay, congrats on half #10... sometimes it's the best to take it easy and enjoy the scenery ;)


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