Tuesday, May 17, 2016

2016: Year of Firsts

The first time doing something brings with it both trepidation and excitement; a mix of "what was I thinking?!" combined with "this is going to be awesome!!!"  Well, it would seem these emotions would play havoc with me twice this year!

Back in January, I made the resolution this year that I would run my first marathon.  While the farthest I had ever run was 13.1, something inside me craved for pushing the limits of what I thought I could accomplish.  I thus began the process of scouring the Internet for a 26.2 race that was not too far away and would be situated at the end of summer.  After both discovering and rejecting several options due to various conflicts, I finally committed on the Akron Marathon - woohoo!  While I am definitely nervous for how things will go, I've found a great training plan (courtesy of the Chicago Marathon/Nike+) that should get me to the finish line in one piece.  This adventure gets underway May 23rd!

January was a monumental month for another reason starting the process of my second "first."  Though the whole world knew about my marathon goal, only my wife and I were aware of another first for our lives.  On September 8th, I will be a first-time dad!  Parenting is going to bring with it a whole new dynamic to life, but I'm super excited for it.  I am sure that, like running, there will be some things I have no control over, but I'm going to do my best to enjoy the sights and sounds along the way.  To top it all off, since my child was already on the move during the ultrasounds, I'm thinking she's going to be a runner as well!

In the words of Barney Stinson, "This year is going to be LEGEN - wait for it - DARY!"  I have a feeling my life will never be the same, and I am totally cool with that.

Happy Running!

Friday, May 6, 2016

Pittsburgh Half Marathon

If there is one thing that every Pittsburger possesses, it's pride in being a member of the three-rivered city.  This devotion to the city is often most shown through participating in all of its native events.  As a result, one of the goals when I first got back into runner, and maybe even a spark for hitting the trails again, was to join in the fun that is the Pittsburgh Marathon.  While I had no intentions of going the full 26.2, the half marathon was appealing.  The next year seemed to fly by to the point I found myself on May 1st standing in my corral awaiting the gun to fire.

In having a number of friends who have participated in the past, I received lots of advice regarding the layout of the course.  The most oft spoken piece of wisdom was regarding the hill after the Birmingham Bridge that occurred right at the end of the race.  Of the entire half, this segment seemed to be the breaker of wills.  I kept this kernel of truth in the back of my mind as I prepared for the race.

Waking up Sunday morning, the weather was not ideal.  If anything, the torrential rain from the night before turned the air humid and hadn't entirely abated by the start of the race.  In addition, I felt more nervous that I had in so many of my previous races.  I had to remind myself to get out of my own head and just enjoy the experience.  At 7:00am, with music blaring and cheers in response to the announcer's enthusiasm, the race began.

During the Expo, I had picked up a pace tattoo that would set me up to meet my goal time of 1:40.  As my corral was released, I glanced down at my arm for the first mile split and then my watch to determine how things were starting out.  Due to the tendency of a race like this having so many people at the beginning clustered together, I was about 20 seconds behind where I needed to be.  I picked up the pace as things spread out finally reaching the right split by Mile 4.  From this point forward, I kept pushing, which was made a little easier by the amazing crowd support.

Going forward beginning with Mile 5, I noticed that I was getting further and further ahead of pace.  While I hadn't forgotten about the warning of the final hill and was feeling the burn in my glutes and hamstrings, I felt the desire to go sub-1:40 urge me on.  It was this new goal that drove me when I finally met my adversary at Mile 12.

The Birmingham Bridge and the hill following it were no joke.  This segment was one of those ones where just when you think it's over you make a turn and are proven wrong.  While I had built up a decent buffer with regard to my time, the hill in no way was helping me break 1:40.  It tested the tenacity of both the body and the mind.

I imagine the race directors must have felt remorse after choosing to include this hill, and so elected to have the race end on a downhill.  For the last mile, I poured in everything I had.  The fans lining the road (including my wife with her sign!) helped me feel proud of having survived the 13.1.  When I crossed the finish line and looked at my watch, I was ecstatic with the digits I saw staring back at me: 1:38:10!  I had met my sub-1:40 goal and PR'ed by 10 minutes!

While I wouldn't say I ran a perfect race or followed an ideal strategy (like trying gels for the first time - never eating one again!), I was very pleased with how things turned out.  And I, like any runner who is thinking clearly the day after a race, decided to sign up for the Akron Marathon!  As one adventure ends, another is about to begin!

Happy Running!

Monday, May 2, 2016

Pittsburgh Half Marathon Training: Week 12

Race week is here - woohoo!  The past 3+ months of training, both with its ups and downs, all build up to one race on one day.  Going into this week I could feel myself getting more anxious, especially with a weather forecast that wasn't very pleasant.  In addition, with a hectic schedule outside of just the final days of running, the week flew by.

Monday: Rest Day

Tuesday: 3 Miles - If you remember a few weeks ago, I had gone to a park to try on my new shoes, which turned into a disaster.  Well, the trail and I had a rematch and I conquered....and by conquered, I mean I took things slowly since this week was suppose to be about recovery.  It turned out to be a very pleasant day for a few easy miles.

Wednesday: 3 Miles - For this workout, I only had 30 minutes to complete the distance due to heading out to dinner with coworkers prior to an event.  Besides amusing several students as I flew around to campus, I made perfect time.  And for the record, the grilled chicken salad was delicious!

Thursday: 2 Miles - In the case you can take a workout too easily during a taper, I probably accomplished that during this run.  In figuring the warm-up would take just as long as the distance itself, I took things nice and slow as I ran around the neighborhood.  I was out and back before dinner was even done.

Friday: Rest Day - Since I had the time and figured I was going to later on benefit from the kindness of others, I volunteered at the Pittsburgh Marathon Expo for a couple of hours passing out the program and swag bag.  While the task was fairly simple (I specifically chose something that I couldn't mess up!), it really got me in the mood for the race.  I'm already planning to help next year!

Saturday: 3.1 Miles - As a part of race weekend, one of my friends recommended that I join him in the 5K race, sponsored by the marathon, as a shake-out run.  I am so glad I did!  I took the workout fairly easy and spent the remainder of the day at the post-race party, expo and an amazing lunch.  I also found a shirt that spoke to my Pittsburgh Polish side!

Sunday: 13.1 - The race finally arrived!  Though nervous as all get-out, I survived and PR'ed by 10 minutes securing a 1:38:10.  I'll be making another post with all the juicy details about the race.  Needless today, it was a very successful day!

I signed up for this race as my second marathon almost 8 months ago.  At the time, I hadn't even completed my first, but I was really excited to run my hometown.  While some parts of training could have gone better, these past 12 weeks were overall a character-building experience.  For those of you who have been following along in this journey, I really appreciate it.  In looking at my calendar for the second half of the year, some big plans are in mind and I hope you will continue to come along for the ride.

Happy Running!