My Epic FIRST Race Recap!

Wow.

That pretty much sums up my trip home to Pittsburgh to run in my very first race, the Dick’s Sporting Goods Pittsburgh Marathon’s 5K. But since one-word posts don’t really make for interesting reading, I’ll elaborate. Oh, and I will totally blog about my trip home, as it was the most fabulous summer{ish} vacation ever, but this post is solely race-related! This is long, so I’ll warn you. Feel free to take a break mid-reading…just don’t forget to come back!

Last Friday, the 4th, I drove myself to the David L. Lawrence Convention Center in downtown Pittsburgh to attend the race expo and pick up my packet. This isn’t overly exciting to you, but I’m hella proud of myself!

I’ll explain. I am forever getting lost in downtown Pittsburgh. It’s been this way my whole life. Now, I’ll mention that grew up in the suburbs, about 28 miles from the city. I’ve ventured into downtown a zillion times, so one would think I should know how to do it without getting panic-stricken about getting lost. One would think. To make it worse, I obviously had the NC license plate on my car which makes me look even more confused–and Pittsburgh drivers aren’t too forgiving. “This Jagoff can’t drive in dahntahn!” I could mentally hear the drivers screaming behind me…

But I’m hella proud because for some reason, I was maneuvering around that town like I owned it. Or at least like a competent taxi driver. I found a parking garage, parked, walked, found the convention center–all with ease as if I knew what I was doing! I felt like standing in the middle of Penn Avenue, a la Mary Tyler Moore, tossing my hat in the air, and sing-shouting, “I’m gonna make it afterallllllllll!”

I arrived a little after 11am and the expo was already in full swing with so much energy–vendors, volunteers, Pittsburghers just checking out the festivities and of course race participants!  My first stop was to pick up my race packet and swag bag.

Once I saw the number of 1341, I knew it was a good sign!! Growing up, my house number was 134, and a favorite number for my parents to play in the Pennsylvania Lottery. In fact, that same day, I had a little cash in my wallet that Daddy had given me from one of his recent wins by playing that very number. Yes, good number indeed!!!

I loved my race shirt. I didn’t know {newbie mistake} that race shirts weren’t unisex. I ordered a medium thinking it was a regular, general medium, but golly, it’s snug!

I also loved the swag inside of my bag:

The only thing I did not like about the swag was the bag. It’s underneath all my swag. See it? It just says UPMC Health Plan. Nothing fun. Nothing cute. No logo. Yup, it’ll end up at the thrift store. Bummer. Yes, I know technically the 5K was sponsored by UPMC Health, but I still wanted a cute bag doggone it! I wanted the bag that all of the half and full participants were getting:

Look how fabulous it is! I won’t lie, as I walked around seeing so many people with those bags, it was such a division of classes and as excited as I was when I first got into the expo, the excitement started to die down a bit. –The cool people getting the attractive bag who were running the elite Dick’s races and then the other people carrying the blah bag who were running the little 5K not good enough to get a fun bag.– Yes, I made this all up in my mind. But seriously people, that was atmosphere and it wasn’t cool.

As I just wrote about days before the race in my post, It’s Not JUST a 5K, my race was JUST as important as the half and full marathons. It couldn’t have only felt that way to me. There had to be hundreds of first timers there–so excited to run their first race. They should be recognized, too.  But why wasn’t it treated as such at the expo? Why didn’t the expo vendors, organizers, Dick’s or somebody act like it?


I even went up to some pretty blonde lady that seemed to be in charge of something. I asked, “Do you have any 5K merch? It’s my first race and I’d like to commemorate it with 5K t-shirt or sticker or hat…something.” She said, “No {and gave me a sad puppy dog look}, we just have merchandise for the half and full participants. I guess you’ll have to run the half next year!”

Umm, yes, Race Organizer Barbie. I guess I will. My gosh she was peppy. I kept searching and found some race shirts that didn’t mention 13.1 or 26.2, but I wasn’t in the mood for buying from her at that point.


I kept walking around and then managed to get my groove back. I was just plain old happy to be there. And even though I wasn’t racing one of the big races, my little 5K was still important to me! So I put my smile back on and be-bopped around the tables.

I stumbled upon a great vendor table from theRunnerStickers.com by Doug Vogel. I couldn’t believe my eyes–he had 5K/3.1 oval car stickers and magnets!!! I was soooooo happy as there were none to be found anywhere else. I couldn’t wait to bust out my wallet and buy one. I thanked him for having these, mentioning again, how 5Ks were important, too. Then just because, he gave me a Runner Girl sticker for free! Score!!! Support this man!

*****

That same night I came back into downtown, this time with my older sister in tow. For some AMAZING reason, she decided to book us a room at the Renaissance Pittsburgh Hotel!! Holy swanky, Batman. She wanted to see her baby sister run her first race and not have to drive into the city in the morning. Who was I to stop her? :-)


The lobby was sooo pretty. I wish I had gotten a better picture. And the view from our room was fabulous!! There was a Pittsburgh Pirates game going on that night and we could see PNC Park right from the room!

Mind you, I took the pic from inside the room, so the darn window is in my way. But it was still gorgeous nonetheless! After we got set up in the room, we went to Six Penn Kitchen for a swanky dinner. It was just okay. To me, it seemed like one of those restaurants where you’re paying for the ambience and not so much the tasty food.

Wow, somebody was carbo-loading for no good reason! I just wanted an excuse to gobble down the side of bread and those pretzel bites. The wings needed to be hotter temperature-wise, but the presentation was nice.

*****
I woke up the next morning and was practically skipping about. Race day!!!


I wore black and yellow of course–Pittsburgh colors–and my Pittsburgh Sweaty Band. Sissy and I headed over the couple of blocks to the the race start area on Stanwix Street around 7am. There were already a lot of people there!


After a last bathroom pitstop in McDonald’s, I left my sister and headed over to the back of the line. Well, what I thought was the back of the line. I guess I ended up somewhere in the middle. Everyone was standing with their friends, families, or talking to strangers. I just stood there solemnly taking it all in. Trying not to cry. The tears welled up, of course. I just could not believe that I was standing in a line about to go racing the streets of Pittsburgh at 8 o’clock in the morning with hundreds of people. That made me think of 8 things.

1. I used to hate running.
2. I pretty much swore I’d never run in a race.
3. I was in a walking boot this time last year.
4. I am not an outdoor runner; it makes my treadmill sad.
5. I prefer to run alone. It’s my me time.
6. I don’t like running in the morning.
7. I have a fear of bridges. {How I ever went anywhere growing up surrounded by 3 rivers, I don’t know.}
8. How did I get here? What am I doing? Can I get out of this somehow? I don’t think I can do this.

Judging by that last one there, obviously Ms. Self-Doubt decided to make an appearance at the race to see me off. Joy.

After the National Anthem, and after I cussed out her out, justlikethat, it was time to GO!!!

I set my Polar FT7 as I crossed the line and there I went. One foot after the other. I was racing! I didn’t look down at it until after the first mile and was horrified at my time! I wasn’t trying to run fast necessarily; just make sure I came in at under 45 minutes. But after checking my time, and at that rate, I was going to miss that goal! We hit mile two and suddenly I felt some mojo. Otis, by Kanye and Jay-Z piped into my iPod and I felt like running like the wind! And dancing. But that would have to come later. I shall now deem this my new running song because I think it really helped me!!

I wasn’t even afraid of the bridges! A lot of people had to slow down or walk over them because of the slight incline–but not me. I just kept on going and strengthening those thighs and glutes. I never walked at any point during the race {that was another goal} but I did slow down for a second or two to take this picture mid-race. I was thinking of the blog!

The main thing I did keep worrying about was turning my ankle. So many divots in the road and loose pebbles! I don’t have to think about that on my trusty treadmill! And also, I decided racing is a lot like playing Frogger. Again, since I insist prefer to run alone, there isn’t anyone in my way. This may have helped my speed though because I just kept trying to get away from people, haha. And beat little 8 year olds that thought they were hot stuff. I wasn’t having it!

Just when I was like, “Okay, I think I’m a wee bit tired of running now and I may actually have to walk,” I saw the finish line. Although, I thought it was a fake finish line to let us know that we were close to the real finish line. Heck, I didn’t know; I’ve never raced before. They don’t do that? Haa. When I realized it was the REAL finish and could hear the announcer say, “If your goal is to run a sub 35 race, you better get dahn here now,” my adrenaline kicked in again!

I looked up at the clock and saw it read 35:xx!! I was amazed! I thought I’d finish at 45-something! I looked online to find my actual time.

I know so little about racing that I had to look up the difference between clock time and chip time. Haha, again, newbie! But since the chip time is the actual time I crossed both lines, I’m going with that. That means I ended up with a 33:59 for my first race! Woo-hoo!! My other stats were 639th place out of 1692, and 362nd woman out of 1116 women. I’ll take it!

I’m a Runner of Steel now!

The pic on the left is right after the race {holding my special race edition of a Terrible Towel!} and the one on the right is after I spruced up a bit, proudly donning my medal!

It was a fabulous, fabulous, FABULOUS event that I will remember and cherish for the rest of my life! This proves to me that I CAN do what I put my mind to!!! And as I told the blonde chick at the expo, I will definitely be signing up for their half marathon next year. From what I can tell on their website, the date is May 5, 2013. I’ll be ready!

In the meantime, I have already signed up for a  half marathon as of this morning!!!! The Rock ‘n’ Roll Pittsburgh Half Marathon!!! It is scheduled for August 4, 2013, so it should end up being my second one of the year!

*****
So that’s it! I swear I just spent three hours compiling this post. But it was so worth experiencing ALL of this to even have a story to tell. :-)

Do you remember your first race? What and where was it? Ever run in this race or the Rock ‘n’ Roll series?