Pittsburgh Half Marathon, 2014

I ran the Pittsburgh Half Marathon on Sunday, May 4th. I was 5th female, 3rd American female, and 42nd overall. I ran 1:19:24, just 1 second slower than the weekend before at the Glass City Half Marathon. I also had my best running payday yet – $2,000 ($1,000 for 5th female and another $1,000 of American Development funds for breaking 1:20:00. I had to be top 5 American and break 1:20 to get the extra $1,000 and it ended up being very encouraging when I wanted to coast during the race!)

Here’s the RUNdown:

Fuel: The night before the race, I had the pasta buffet dinner in the Wyndham Grand hotel. Dinner was a large helping of pasta, 2 rolls (only one pictured), a baked potato, rice, a few veggies and lots of water.

Pre-race dinner!

Pre-race dinner!

The morning of the race, I woke up 3:10 before race time and downed a Smooth Caffeinator Picky Bar, a packet of Cran-Raz Generation UCAN mixed with 16 oz water (again, I DON’T like this flavor, but DO like the product and am not a wasteful person so I’m going to finish what I have then try another flavor) and another 8 oz of water. For the next 2 hours I sipped on a little water and 20-24oz of hotel coffee (the hotel “proudly brews Starbucks coffee” so I guess it was Starbucks brand).

During the race, I got water 5 times. I tried the “grip and crush” method, thinking the water would glide through my lips and down my throat. Instead, 3 of those times the water went directly into my eyes and I got a little sip down my throat. The other 2 times I choked and gagged a bit but was able to get a little sip those times as well. I got Gatorade 2 times on the course. The first time I apparently misjudged where my mouth was because I splashed it straight onto my bra top and it trickled down to my crotch area. So I pretty much felt like I peed myself around mile 3! The second cup of Gatorade went straight up my nose and a little down my throat. So apparently I still have a lot to work on when it comes to race day hydration. :)

Around mile 8.5, I took a little swallow of Espresso Love flavored GU. I continued taking in the same pouch of GU until mile 11 or so then tossed it. I probably finished 3/4 of the pouch. I wouldn’t usually take in fuel/water as often during a half marathon but with nursing and running 50+ miles a week, I need the calories.


I went into the race wanting to run as fast or faster than the weekend before when I had the PRP problems. But, after talking with a few people I trust, I told myself if anything didn’t feel right I was fine just dropping to tempo pace for any portion of the race.

I started off faster than my half the weekend before, but conservatively compared to other people in the race. I was told people tend to “positive split HARD” on this course since there’s a big hill from mile 11-12.5. I started out far back, maybe 15th woman or so. My plan was to go out comfortably and gradually pass people who went out too hard (that’s exactly what ended up happening).

Here I am at mile 4.5. Photo credit to Hodnick Photography.

Steady stream of people together at mile 4.5. Photo credit to Hodnick Photography.

Around the half mile mark, my calves were (already!) reminding me of my previous half marathon and I knew the race wouldn’t be easy. But the rest of me felt good and I had a feeling I could run sub 1:20 again. As each mile passed, I noticed there were no flat parts on the course. There’s always a slight uphill or downhill. It makes the course interesting, and it’s not a big deal if you are prepared for it, but it’s definitely a tough course.

Photo taken by my friend's husband! Thanks for sending, Kristy!

Photo taken by my friend’s husband! Thanks for sending, Kristy!

As the miles went on, I noticed they weren’t just clicking along like my last half. Each mile felt ok, but long! I never got that feeling of dread or “where is that darn finish line?!” which I felt during every race for the first 8 months after having my first child. I just kept telling myself “sub 1:20!” and “you can do it, but you have to keep pushing”.

Another Hodnick Photo

Another Hodnick Photo. Not so flattering, but hey, that’s what the camera caught! And look at that crowd support! Thanks Pittsburgh!

My first 9 mile splits were: 6:01, 6:00, 6:02, 6:02, 6:01, 5:59, 6:04, 5:55, 6:04. The tightness in my calves kept escalating, similar to the feeling I get in the middle stages of the marathon. I figured it was good mental callousing. 😉

I’m not sure what happened at mile 10, but I fell off a bit at that point. I know I was still passing a few people so maybe this was a tough mile for everyone. I ran 6:13.

Mile 11 was where the big uphill started and I ran 6:16.

Mile 12 continued that big hill and my brother-coach’s pre-race advice was to keep pushing because I would be rewarded with a downhill finish. I ran 6:22 and passed a few guys on the uphill!

My final mile was 5:31 (downhill!) with 5:42 for the last .1. I was SO READY to coast that last 3/4 miles or so since it was mostly downhill. Then, a guy who I had been leapfrogging with for the last few miles ran up beside me and encouraged me to keep pushing. I couldn’t even hear exactly what he was saying, but I know it was along the lines of “stay with me” and I knew he would be the one to carry me through to a strong performance. I’m confident my race would have been slower without his encouragement so THANK YOU SO MUCH, TIM! It’s awesome how a kind, encouraging stranger can change your race for the better. We embraced at the finish line and I probably said random delirious nonsense to him, but I hope he knows I appreciated it!

So there you have it! Two weekends, 2 half marathons in essentially the same exact time. I was happy with this race, which is unusual. Normally, I am up much of the night thinking about what I could have done better, where I could have pushed harder, where my weakest points were, but I didn’t feel any of that after this race! I ran about what I expected. I was secretly hoping to break into the 1:18:xx, but given the circumstances, I know I had a great race and solid effort!

My next post will most likely talk about my recovery (or lack thereof!) from those races.

Thanks for all the kind words and encouragement!

18 thoughts on “Pittsburgh Half Marathon, 2014

  1. Jen you are awesome, watching you is making me feel even more determined to keep on the path I’ve started!!
    Love you cuz!

  2. I feel like every race recap I say “Can I be you when I grow up”. What a really fantastic race Jen and seriously great job. You are going to crush your marathon and then crush Olympic Trials in a few years.

    I always love your recaps and how open and honest you are.

  3. So awesome Jen! I have hear the PGH Half was tough so (extra) fantastic job! I love that runner encourager you to the end. What great support!

    • Thanks Ruthie! Yes, I love support from others. It usually wakes me up from the daze I’m in and gets me to focus again!

  4. Nice job Jen! I’m impressed that you were able to hold such a consistent pace with a course like that. I always seem to struggle with those types of races (the constant up and down, with no flat). Hope your training continues to go well!

    • Thanks Mollie! Yes, my times definitely got slower so I was originally thinking it wasn’t very consistent, but I think with the hills factored in it really was! :)

  5. A huge congratulations on another smart race, great placement, and good prize money!
    Sounds like it was a tough course. I love that the guy told you to stay with him. Strangers can have a huge impact during the race!

    • Thanks Abby! Yes, I’m so thankful for Tim! It’s always nice to hear encouragement during the race! A lot of times I’ll get into a daze and this always wakes me up and keeps me pushing!

  6. Amazing run, Jen! I have a friend who ran the race and PR’d, but I know it was a tough course. Way to tough it out. I am so looking forward to meeting you. At #birdcamp, right?

  7. Congrats!! I saw you around the finish area when I finished (about a half hour after you) but didn’t get to say hi! My calves still hate me for the last hill of the race!

  8. Pingback: Hey Pittsburgh Half Marathon – I’m Back! #GameOnPGH! | The Local Elite

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