20 Miles. The last "long" run of marathon training was here. Some days, it felt like it would never come and then all of a sudden it appears. The marathon countdown goes from months to weeks. The weather suddenly turns and the marathon is right around the corner.
Speaking of weather, in typical Pittsburgh fashion we went straight from winter to summer skipping over spring. Hello 80 degrees! Yep, that was the predicted high for today with the low being in the 60's. Last Sunday's run, I was scraping a frost off my car window. This week I was in shorts and a tank top. Not exactly a smooth transition.
We started our run from Peet's Coffee and Tea in Oakland. This was the same location for our first run of the training season. Today was a stark contrast to that day as it was just 19 degrees.
For this training run we covered the entire second half of the marathon course. I was really excited about this because the second half of the course was where I really struggled last year. I wouldn't call it a complete crash and burn, but let's just say the wheels were coming off. This run would be a good chance to battle some of those remaining demons from last year.
We started out at a nice easy pace. It's important to conserve energy on these long runs. Before I knew it we were five miles into our run and at our first water stop along South Braddock Avenue.
After our first water stop we continued into Homewood and then turned left onto Frankstown Avenue. Last year, this was where the wheels started to fall off for me. It was interesting to see the course on fresher legs. I think I had worked it up in my mind to be much harder than it was after last years race. Was it challenging? Absolutely. Was it doable? Totally.
Around Mile 7 rain starting coming down. Since it was warmer I thought it felt pretty good. Fortunately it was just a light sprinkle and didn't turn into a downpour.
We contined on our course to the Higland Park neighborhood and then back to East Liberty. We reached our next water stop at Mile 10. Halfway there.
After the water stop we continued through Bloomfield and down Liberty Avenue through the Strip District. In my mind, the Strip Distirct is without a doubt the toughest part of the course. It's long and flat and it feels like you're never going to make it back to downtown. I kept my head down and just kept putting one foot in front of the other.
By Mile 13 I knew I wasn't drinking enough water and I had already drank all the water in my hydration belt. I just focused on making it to Mile 15 which was our next water stop. Once at the stop, I started gulping as much water as I could and taking another energy gel. I needed a severe boost to get through the next five miles. I also made sure to fill up my water bottle before we left.
After crossing the Fort Duquense Bridge we ran through Point State Park and continued all the way to Fort Pitt Boulevard and then to Smithfield Street Bridge. After crossing, we made an immeaduate left onto East Carson Street. Now at Mile 17 we were back on part of the marathon course.
Ugh. It was hot. Not only was it hot, but it was busy. People were everywhere; coming out to enjoy this beautiful day. The bars and restaurants were packed. Windows were open and I could see patrons enjoying their day. They were having brunch. They were drinking bloody Mary's. They were having fun. I was suffering. I was in the pain. I wasn't having fun anymore.
I never thought I would be so happy to see the Birmingham Bridge, but I knew it was my ticket back to Peet's in Oakland.
Push through the pain.
At this point, I knew things were not going to get better. Things don't get better at Mile 19. Things get better when you get done with your run. I tried to maintain my pace over the long bridge. Finally, I reached the crest and the downhill makes things easier although it hurts a little more. I shorten my steps to ease the impact.
Next up is the Oakland Hill. I take a few walking steps to get on the sidewalk. I want to get back to Oakland. I'm going to run this hill. Slow and steady I go up the hill. The trouble is it steepens the further you go.
C'mon. Get up this stupid hill!
I vocalized my thoughts. I grunt. I'm pulling out all the stops to get up this hill. I pick out objects to run to: a sign, a street, a bus stop. Before I know it, I'm there and I can see our meeting point.
As I reach Peet's, I look at my watch. It says 19.90 miles. Oh heck, no. This watch is going to say 20 miles. I keep running down the block, dodging pedestrians to get my 20 miles. At this point I may be slow, but I'm on a mission. Finally, a beep on my Garmin goes off, the number 20 appears and I feel like I've conquered the world.
By the time I finished the run, the temperature was 75 degrees. After a brutal and cold winter this heat wave took a toll on me. I knew it was going to be warmer and was hydrating more, but I was still surprised by how much water I needed.
After this run, I felt really prepared for the marathon. I had overcome a lot of obstacles. I knew the sudden heat wave would be difficult for me, but I was glad it happened. I know what mistakes I made today and how to correct them if we have a warm day for the marathon. I also overcame my fear of the second part of the course. Running it again made me realize that it is manageable, but I just need to be really conservative in the beginning of the race. Also, I've totally debunked the myth of the Oakland Hill. If I can run that entire hill at Mile 19, then you better believe I can do it at Mile 11.
Author: Sarah Warman
I like to run, take pictures and write. I've combined all three in this blog.