As usual, the 2016 Pittsburgh marathon was a great race, with a great atmosphere, great crowd support, tough hills, and lots of awesome runners. I am happy with the outcome, though it is not exactly everything I wanted.
- Thanks to a bit of rain, the temperature could not have been any better. The race started in the high 40s and never got past the low 60s.
- My hotel was only a couple of blocks from my corral entry, which means I got to use a fancy bathroom instead of standing in the porta-potty line.
- Most of the race I was close to some runners sporting Penn State gear, which means we got some “We are”s from the crowd.
- I love the super-heavy Runner of Steel finisher medal.
- More importantly, I felt strong most of the race. I made it to mile 22 at my target BQ pace, and I got a 20 min (!) PR.
- I left my lucky charm back home. Since my wife just had foot surgery last week, she couldn’t accompany me to Pittsburgh.
- The rain wasn’t heavy, but it did complicate things a bit. The worse part was the 90% humidity after it stopped raining.
- Also, because of the chance of rain, the support crowd was not as big and enthusiastic as other times. I am very grateful to those that braved the rain and came out to show support. Volunteers and support crowds rock!
- I should have done a dress rehearsal run. I usually run with Nike singlets. This time, I bought one of the fancier ones, and it turns out I am allergic to it. I didn’t feel anything at first. But, around mile 17, a fellow runner informed me I was bleeding from my back. As a matter of fact I was bleeding everywhere, from my back, chest, stomach and sides. I didn’t hurt much (except on my nipples) so I decided to endure it and deal with it after the race.
- The biggest down for me is that I didn’t meet my BQ standard, and I didn’t finish strong. More about it below.
- The walk from the finish line to my hotel was the most painful experience I remember. I had to stop by the medical tent to get some ice for my legs. And I had to stop a few times to lay on the ground and let my legs rest. The pain, not having my wife with me, and the disappointment of a so-so finish made for a somewhat unpleasant experience. But everything was fine once I made it to my hotel room, changed into clean clothes and got in touch with my wife 🙂
- The wall is very real. Of course it has to do with glycogen reserves and fatigued muscles, but the most real part for me is the mental defeat.
- I hit mile 20 in under 2:22, which meant a BQ was within reach. I just had to do a 42 min 10k and my lungs and heart were feeling as strong as ever.
- But my legs were not. I was feeling no pain at this point, only a bit of stiffness. But, as hard as I tried and as much as I pushed, I was no longer able to hit the 7:00 pace I needed. I kept checking my Garmin and reading 7:20, 7:40, 8:15, and not understanding why.
- This time, the name of my wall was Disappointment. By the time I reached mile 23, I realized that I would need to finish with a 20 min 5k if I wanted to BQ. The 3:05 pacer passed me around this point. When I hit mile 24, I realized there were no more ‘ifs’ and ‘coulds’, the BQ was no longer within reach.
- I realized it was not happening. I was so close, but not close enough, and I felt completely defeated. That was the moment my willpower ran out and I hit a hard wall.
- I just wanted to finish and go home, and I couldn’t push it any more. Everything started to hurt, I had to stop a few times, I walked the last two water stations and then I walked some more. I did a 9 min 25th mile. The 3:10 pacer also passed me.
- It was a hard finish. But a finish nonetheless. In the end, I got my medal, my PR, and a smile and a victory shot 😉
- I didn’t finish strong, and that always leaves a bit of a disappointing after taste. But I ran a strong race overall and got a 20min PR.
- My official time was 3:11:37.
- I didn’t meet my time goal, but I did meet my target pace. Back in January I set as realistic goals a 3:10 finish @ 7:15 min/mile. According to my Garmin, my average pace was 7:11, I didn’t make the time goal because I ended up running 26.63 miles.
- I didn’t make it to Boston, but I was fast enough to qualify to Chicago, which I’ll be happy to run next fall.
- More importantly, I was close enough to my BQ time, that now I know it is within reach. Before this race, improving my time by at least 27 minutes seemed completely unrealistic. Now I know that I can do it. It is only 7 more minutes to go, and there are plenty of marathons that are much faster than Pittsburgh.
- My legs are still sore, but I already did a couple of recovery runs, chose my next race, and started to devise a strategy and a training plan to qualify to Boston.
- My wife and I were planning to do our first triathlon in June, but we decided it was the right moment for her to have corrective surgery on her left foot. Since I want to share my first triathlon with her, that leaves the fall open for another marathon.
- The next race on the horizon is the Erie marathon: flat, shaded and fast.
- This time I don’t want to do as well as possible or improve my PR by as much as I can. Now, the name of the game is Boston.