Wow. What a weekend this past weekend had been. Words cannot even begin to describe the things I was thinking and feeling over Pittsburgh Marathon Weekend, 2018. However, I'm going to do my best to put all of that right here on paper (figuratively.) This may be long, so I hope you all ready to the end. There may be a slight intermission halfway through the post.
|Your 2018 Pittsburgh Marathon Bloggers|
|Gotta have one fun pose!|
As my fellow pacers crossed the finish line I hesitated because I saw Jax. I understood how hard he worked to finish this race so as they got close to me I yelled to him "I'm not crossing this finish line until you do!" And with that Jax finished his race. I stopped to watch the joy on his face as well as his parents and siblings. Jax's mom embraced him as he couldn't fight back tears of joy. What an incredible story and an incredible finish. It's moments like this that make me happy I decided to approach this year as not only a runner, but a pacer.
|Jax is the second boy on the left.|
Being interviewed live was one of the coolest things I had ever done. I mean, I've done some cool things before but having an ear piece and hearing one of our local news anchors ask me questions was just so neat! (That's right, neat!) I was able to talk a little about my blog and why I was running in the suit, as well as the vibe of the marathon in general. I'm not sure what happened in my brain, but I think because I was on live TV that it automatically knew to turn off the "sailor mouth" switch in my head. Whew! #didnotneedasensor
|Myself and the winner of the USATF Half|
Marathon Championships for the Women
As we hit the turn and came down Penn Avenue in the Strip Distict, there was Bryan again, shirt open in a Superman stance and laughing some more. He turned around and on the back of the shirt there was more: Beer Man, Athletic Supporter, etc. I shook my head and laughed some more and kept on trucking. I knew my legs felt good so I stopped to use a port-o-potty real quick. I waited about a minute and decided forget it. The adrenaline was kicking and I couldn't just stop and stand there. I wanted to get back to my race. While stopped I noticed how warm I was getting in the suit. Even though the blazer had short sleeves, it was still pretty heavy and warm. The temps were in the lower 50's but a jacket is a jacket. That would soon change. There was a breeze kicking in and the air was just a touch cooler. I was really liking this!
One of the things I began to notice in those first 5 to 6 miles was that I kept hearing my name. When you think about it, with over 27 thousand runners, there will more than likely be more than one guy named Chuck running. However, this was different. I heard, "It's Chuck!" "There's the flamingo guy!" "I saw you on the news! You're awesome Chuck!" This was so freaking cool! A quick four minute interview on the news and I suddenly not only had my friends and family cheering me one, but also the entire city of Pittsburgh (well it looked that way anyway!) I know people come out in droves to cheer all runners on, but this still felt pretty awesome. These people didn't know me and only caught a glimpse of me, but they still kept yelling my name. It was like my Honey Stinger gels: fuel for my run!
|Hey look everyone, it's Ian!|
It was almost time for the Birmingham Bridge and the dreaded Forbes Ave. hill. My strategy was to walk a good portion of the hill to save energy. Even with the suit on I was feeling really good. My body temps were cool, and I was taking in plenty of fluids and ingesting my Honey Stinger gels. I was feeling pretty great overall. I did as I set out to do, and started to walk up the hill, but not before I stopped to take a selfie with a Storm Trooper on the bridge. I mean come on folks, it was the right thing to do! While I was began to walk, for some odd reason or another I decided to pull out my phone and go live on Facebook (which I did a few more times as well.) I saw a comment from my a few saying they couldn't hear anything. I found out later in the day that it was because my music was still playing and Facebook muted it due to copyright permissions. I thought my phone would automatically stop the music when I went to video, but it didn't. No one got to hear me say how much I loved them and thanked them for donating this year! So there. Now you know. (Insert GI Joe quote here kids.)
"OK, just get to mile 14 and you can take a break just like last year." Mile 14 comes, and I keep going. "OK, just get to Mile 15 and you can take a break, just like last year." Mile 15 comes, and again I keep on going. "OK, you walked a bit after the relay station and walked to mile marker 16. If you run there, you can take a break, just like year one and two." Mile 16 came, and guess what? I still just kept on going. More smiles and cheers for the suit had something to do with it. I'm almost positive. This was nothing short of amazing! Even after mile 17 which is where I normally hit may wall, I was still running. I didn't take a legitimate break until I got to about mile 18.5. When I did, my music stopped and I thought maybe my phone died. I took it out and it stopped because my dad was calling me. My parents have the best timing when it comes to my running a race. But you know what? It's my parents. They are allowed a pass. I answered anyway!
"What are you up to," my dad asked. "Uh, I'm in the middle of running the marathon. I have about seven and a half miles to go. But I needed a break." "Oh, you're still racing, well call me back later." Sure thing dad, as long as I don't fall over first. Know this dad: talking to you at that point in my race was pretty awesome. It helped distract me and get me out of my own head. Needless to say, I picked it right back up and started to run again.
I truly was enjoying myself. I kept getting alerts from the Race Joy App about my pace and suit or not, I was doing better than last year. I was not sure I'd be able to keep it up, but knowing I had a shot at a PR was a pretty good feeling. But, did I want a PR? I kept telling myself all weekend that I didn't set our for a PR. My only goal was to start and finish in this suit as part of my fundraising efforts for the Mario Lemieux foundation.
Around this time in the race, a gentleman had run past me and said, "I told you that you helped me get through that 17 mile training run." I apologize for not remembering your name sir, but when you passed me and said that, I loved it. I hoped you kicked major butt after that. Just a mile earlier, another runner said to me, "you got this for Richard. Mile 17, keep going for Richard." I was puzzled at first because I was so out of it and focused and running that I remembered I had my dedications on my back as always. She was right though, keep going for Rich. Keep going for Stush. Keep going for Phillip. Just..keep...going.
When I run, I lose myself in my mind a lot. I start picturing things that probably won't happen, but that's just what someone with a wild imagination. When I do that, I start getting choked up and can't breathe. This happened a lot in those last 6 to 8 miles. I can't help it! I'm a sentimental and emotional kind of guy! It's what I do! Anyhow, I was feeling tired and fatigued so I took another sip of this water I had on my person. That's when things started getting a little shakey.
I felt something that I hadn't felt at all during my training. I felt sick to my stomach. Our coaches are very clear when they tell us "do not do anything different on race day that you didn't do during training." I should know better. But, I brought along this brand of hydration water with me that I got at the expo. It was supposed to be "instant" hydration, and I thought it would help me more than Gatorade or water would. Unfortunately, it was also very, very sweet. It was not sitting right in my stomach and my thoughts immediately turned to stopping and puking. But I was too close to finishing and only had 6 miles left. I wasn't going to stop now, even if I had to hurl. I powered through as just up ahead I could see my friend Shelby cheering me on with a donut!
Sadly, I had to break Shelby's heart and not eat the donut. I was till queezy from the water and it was fighting with the goo I just ate. But, I made sure to stop for a moment and chat. I knew she was tracking Edyta so I asked her how she was doing and where she was at in the race. She was doing great and was somewhere around mile 14 or 15. My Polich Princess was more than halfway there! That was enough to get me going again!
Between mile marker 22 and 23 my calves felt like they were on fire. My hamstrings were starting to bother me as well. It felt like I was going to cramp. That feeling is just plain awful. Oh look, the band in Bloomfield is getting read to play Johnny B. Goode! That sounds like the perfect time to take a break! Heck, I almost forgot that I was running. It was time to get back at it, because I just wanted to be done.
|Edyta ate her donut.|
Coming down Liberty Avenue I saw Theresa Vescovi and her husband cheering people on. Loudly. So very loudly. And, it was awesome! I laughed after she told me I kicked arse and all I could muster up to say to her was "I can't wait to get this thing off!" That was completely true. I couldn't wait to get that suit off and put on some normal clothes. However, I still had about 2 miles to go and the Steel City Road Runners cheering section was within my sight!
Man are these people great! I've gotten to know quite a few member of the group in the past few years and their little cheer station just goes to show how much the running community means in Pittsburgh. They were screaming so enthusiastically when I was running near. Everyone was lined up for high fives and I'd be lying if I said I didn't get choked up a little bit. I felt bad if I missed anyone's hand, but knowing how close the finish line was and feeding off of their energy helped get me the rest of the way down liberty. I also got a little bit of an assist from Coach Suzanne, Mike Canonaco, and another guy whose name I should remember but I don't. I'm sorry!!!
I reached the turning point on Liberty and Smithfield and as I trotted down the street, I saw Bryan ready with my traditional beer. He was kind of hard to miss wearing a t-shirt with my face on it. Then I saw the rest of the gang: Amy, Sara, and Steph. They were ALL wearing shirts with my face on it. I stopped and just started laughing. How could I not? I found out that not only did they have shirts too, but they all ran the half marathon wearing those shirts. Edyta was running the marathon in one as well. You've got to be kidding me! That right there folks is pretty funny. Heck in this case it's also pretty runny. (crickets) As I turned the corner to come down the chute, it was time to crack that beer and have a drink. When I did so, I heard some chants of "Chug! Chug! Chug!" Yeah, I don't think so. I opted for a beer bath instead. Instead of drinking it I used it to cool off. I smiled as I crossed the finish line, but I wasn't done yet.
|Less than a mile to go!|
I had to to get back to where there gang was waiting because I still had to cheer on my little Polish Princess. Edyta was at mile 21 when I finished so I knew she was getting close. I was sore, could hardly move, and sitting on the side walk when I saw her coming down Smithfield. As soon as I saw her, none of that mattered as I popped up off the sidewalk and ran out into the street stoked for her. She had less than a mile to go! I gave her a power up kiss and although I really wanted to run to the finish with her, I wanted her to enjoy her moment. She did it, and I was going to cry (good thing it was raining to mask the tears!) She is now a marathoner. What...a...day.
This may have been the longest blog post I have ever written. I wanted to keep it short, but there was just something special about marathon number 4. From sharing all of this with my friends and family, my girlfriend running her first, to my list of dedications this year, something just seemed special. I didn't care about pace. I didn't care about time. I only cared about starting and finishing. That's just what I did. That's what Edyta did. That's what so many other people had done. We finished. We smiled. We had a good time. And then, we ate all the foods.
The Running Jedi.
PS - Just a few notes:
- The volunteers on this course were amazing, as always, but more so the kids. It didn't matter their age, but when all these kids saw me in that suit everyone of them flipped out so happily and emphatically. They were more excited to see it than I was running in it. The smiles they had on their faces and the high fives I got were again awesome, and fuel for running.
- The people of Homestead were awesome as always. The same cheers and same smiles from the suit. Lots of "I saw you on the news" there, too.
- I enjoyed high fiving one of the grey hounds. Next year I'm running with one.
PPS - Thank you again to everyone that donated. Thank you to everyone that had read my blog posts. Thank you to everyone that cheered, and sent good vibes. Thank you, Pittsburgh!
PPPS - (Is that even a thing) Congratulations to everyone that finished. I doesn't matter if this was your first, or your 10th. You finished. Cheers to that!
|SCRR Pace Team for the 5K|
|Looks like Adrienne made me laugh.....|
|SCRR Prior to the race!|
|Coming down Smithfield....|
|Ok, there's Aaron...|
|Tuesday Track Group Celebration at Max Mex|
|Don't tell Edyta I wore her medal....|