Week 1: January 19th
Training for the Pittsburgh Marathon kicked off on January 19, 2014. This year will be my second full marathon and I decided to join the Fleet Feet training group again. I trained with the group last year, and was excited to see so many people that I trained with last year, return again for this year. The night before training was to begin, I had two thoughts in my head, "I can't believe I'm doing this again," and " I'm excited to be doing this again." Being excited to train with this group was given a hard dose of reality when I awoke Sunday morning.
So, 19 degrees and snow on the ground, wasn't exactly the start to marathon training that I was hoping for, but I've ran in worse. It's hard to believe that only two years ago I was a fair weather runner. It used to be when the temperature dropped below freezing, I would move all my activities, including running, to the indoors. However, when I wanted to run the Pittsburgh Marathon last year, I realized that I needed to toughen up and move the running back outside. Even though running in the snow is difficult, runs consisting of 10-20 miles on the treadmill aren't exactly a picnic either. Fortunately joining a running group ensures others will be pushing me along in these tough conditions.
Having the right gear also makes running in the winter much easier. Here's what I typically wear when the temperatures fall below freezing.
On my legs, I usually wear two pairs of pants. The first layer is Under Armor compression tights (blue waistband). I like these tights because the bottoms extend to the arch of the foot and tuck into the shoe. The second pair of paints are Nike Fleece. These pants provide another layer of warmth and break the wind. On top I'll wear my Under Amor water resistant sweatshirt. This is probably the best article of clothing I have for running. It's lightweight and warm and wicks away the snow. There is also a large front pocket which is great for stashing my running maps and gels. I'll also wear a long sleeved cold gear shirt and another short sleeved shirt layered under my sweatshirt for warmth. Gloves are essential. I also use a Nathan water belt. It has a zip up pocket that I use to carry my cell phone and car key. And last but not least I wear a ski mask to protect my face from the bitter cold air.
From Oakland we ran past the Cathedral of Learning, Heinz Chapel, and then onto Fifth Avenue to downtown. We made a quick trip into the Strip District, the Cultural District and Point State Park. From Point State Park we ran across our first bridge of the route, Fort Pitt Bridge. (Yes, there is a pedestrian bridge on the lower deck of the Fort Pitt Bridge!) After crossing the bridge, we passed Station Square into the South Side. From South Side, we took the Birmingham Bridge to Forbes Avenue. The Birmingham Bridge is my least favorite bridge to run in the city. It's long, and a constant slight uphill from South Side to Uptown.
Next up was the "Oakland Hill" on Forbes Avenue. This is the notorious hill on the marathon course. Last year on the marathon course I ended up having to walk parts of it. I became determined to run the entire hill.
I powered up the hill. I felt strong as I ran up it. I wanted to prove to myself that I could run the entire way up the hill and I did. Running up this hill made my day. I don't know if I will run the entire hill during the marathon, as it is a big energy sucker, but at least I know I can do it now. Ten miles done. It feels good to be back.
Week 2: January 26th
Like most of the country, Pittsburgh has been suffering from the oppressive freezing temperatures courtesy of the polar vortex. With a projected wind chill temperatures below zero degrees and 2-4 inches of snowfall coming on Saturday, our Sunday morning run was cancelled. I was relieved to hear the run was cancelled since I'm also suffering from my first cold of 2014. (I blame you, polar vortex!) The cancellation came on Saturday morning, so I had plenty of time to rethink my weekend and my plan of attack for still getting in a 12 mile run. Treadmill, oh treadmill.
I love my treadmill. I really do. I love it on week nights when it's dark outside. I love it when it's 80% humidity outside and I need to get short run in. I love it when it's football season, and I can run and yell at the Steelers game at the same time. (Talk about a good therapy session). I love it when I incorporate plyometrics with my running. All that said; I hate it for the long run. In fact just the thought of a 12 mile run on the treadmill makes me cringe.
Week 3: February 2nd
For week 3 of training we met at Coffee Tree Roasters in Shadyside. I was eager to run outside again after the last episode of the polar vortex. I was also excited to test my newly purchased gortex shoes. Gortex is a breathable/waterproof fabric. Since it seems that the snow is not leaving us anytime soon and I was tired of having wet feet covered with road salt, I decided to invest in my first pair of Gortex shoes. I'll only wear them when the weather deems it necessary and they will probably last a few years. The weather for this run would put my shoes to the test. Although a warm up to 40 degrees was welcome, rain unfortunately came along with it. This is probably the only time I will ever wish for snow. I really can't stand running in the rain. Especially a cold rain.
We embarked on our 13 mile run from Shadyside to North Craig Street in Oakland. North Craig Street intersects with Bigelow Boulevard. While I've driven this road many times, running on it gives me a new perspective.
In order to cross Bigelow Boulevard and the Bloomfield Bridge we had to use a pedestrian overpass. Pedestrian overpasses seem to be rare in Pittsburgh so I'm always intrigued when I find one. Once we crossed the Bloomfield Bridge we made a quick left onto Liberty Avenue. This is part of the marathon course and I started to remember how I felt last year when running it. I knew I was so close but still felt so far away.
We continued down Liberty to the Strip District, turned around and headed back towards Lawrenceville on Smallman Street. I really can't explain it, but the Strip is my least favorite place to run in Pittsburgh. It's probably the flattest place you can run in Pittsburgh so it should be easy. But since it is flat you can also see far ahead. The Strip is like the equivalent of running in the desert to me. I feel like I'm not getting anywhere.
We continued our run on Penn Avenue up a very long hill to Children's Hospital. After passing the hospital we saw the entrance to the Allegheny Cemetery which displays some awesome architecture.
Our journey on Penn Avenue continued to the Point Breeze neighborhood, which is the location of Frick Mansion also known as "Clayton". The mansion, built in the 1860's, is truly stunning and just a reminder of how much wealth used to reside in Pittsburgh. This is definitely a place I want to visit in the future.
After Point Breeze we ran through Squirrel Hill and finally back to Shadyside. I was thrilled to be back at Coffee Tree Roasters. Unfortunately the rain never let up and I was soaked, except for my feet. (Hooray for Gortex shoes!) I got my large latte and was ready to go home for a nice hot shower. Running with the group today was invaluable. I knew that with the weather conditions I would have never completed, or maybe not even attempted running 13 miles on my own. Even though running is an individual sport, days like this remind me that teamwork can make all the difference in the sport of running.
Author: Sarah Warman
I like to run, take pictures and write. I've combined all three in this blog.