This race holds a special place in my heart. Four years ago when I started my crazy running adventure, this served as my first 5k. I had only run a handful of times before this race and then one night decided I was ready for a 5k. I went into that race 4 years ago with 2 main goals: 1) not die and 2) try and run the whole thing. Lucky for me, I hit both! Whew. My finish time was 34:52.
Going into this race, I had much bigger goals. Four years later and I was striving for a new PR and my push goal was to go sub 28 minutes! I picked this 5k because it was close to home and easy to get to and because it was about a week and a half from my marathon so I knew I should be at top speed. I remember that I wanted to race the 5k before the Pittsburgh Marathon so badly, but I knew that wasn’t the smartest idea. This 5k PR of mine (which was 28:15 at the time) stood for nearly 18 months! I was itching to break it!
The morning of race of course was also Thanksgiving. For me I had no plans and in fact I actually had almost 10 hours of work at my 2nd job later that night. The plan was to kick butt in the 5k, make some good turkey lunch, nap and then go into work until 2:30am (rough). Mike had also signed up for the race but was planning on taking it pretty easy as he is still recovering from his injury. Since he lives just up the hill from me, he swung by my place on the way to the start line and picked me up. Otherwise I had actually planned to just run down since it was maybe 0.8 miles away. Parking was super easy as the race had opened up one garage close to the start line for runners and it was free!!!
Since mother nature was still on one of her binge drinking moments, the weather was super warm for Thanksgiving. I had been debating on what to wear and I ended up with shorts and a thin long sleeve. I could have gone with a short sleeve, but oh well. At least I wasn’t like many of the runners who I saw at the start line who were not only in long tights, but multiple layers, gloves and ear warmers. I need to teach some of these people the 20 degree rule!
Mike and I headed over to the start line area and still had plenty of time to go. We just hung out and both commented how we were shocked how we hadn’t seen more people we knew running the race. Between Mike and I, I think we know like 80% of Pittsburgh. Okay, not really, but it seems it sometimes. Finally as the start time drew near, I headed up to the 9/minute pace group and Mike fell a little behind. My goal was to keep them in my sights for at least 2.5 miles and then with a boost try and pass. This plan was surely to at least get me a new PR but maybe not sub 28 minutes.
Since the start line was under the bridge, my GPS watch never really picked up until well into the race. I gave it lots of time, but it was angry with the bridge. Oh well. I didn’t even realize this though until about mile 2. The start of the race was WAY to crowded! I definitely muttered some nasty words under my breath and not afraid to admit I also probably threw an elbow in there. That first quarter mile was filled with people who should not have been up that far to the start line. I am all for this being a family friendly race, but at least start with the pace group you think you’d go with. I passed SO MANY walkers in that first quarter mile and groups who were about 4 in line and not letting anyone pass. I know I pissed a few people off, but I didn’t care. I wanted through and needed to get to some space.
I didn’t see the sign for the first mile, but it went by in what I thought was a pretty slow time. Again, since my Garmin was off, I really didn’t even look at the time to see where I was. I had the 9 mile pacer in my sites and was even slowly getting closer and closer to her. The course had changed since I had last run this race last, but overall it was pretty flat and easy. The two only “hills” came on the two bridges and the first was at the end of mile 1 and the second was about mile 2.5.
After we turned off the first bridge, we had a decent little straight away before the next turn. It was just before this next turn thought that we started seeing the first place runners headed to the second bridge. This means they had just over a half mile to go and I still had just under 1.5 miles to go. Not fair. I did think to myself it was nice to see the first place runners further into a race for me. At least some improvement, right?
Just as we started to turn in front of the Wyndham Grand, I officially caught up to the 9 minute pacer. I said hello and asked how she was doing on pace. She mentioned that she felt a little fast but her GPS was also wonky because of the bridge. We chatter and ran for a little bit until just after the mile 2 marker. Since we both saw the marker, we had a time to go off and we were at the 2 mile marker around 17:50. A little fast, but still feeling good. This is when I didn’t’ feel like I picked it up but I just sorta blew right past her.
It was about mile 2.3 that I had no clue what the course did. We went left at the Wyndham again and normally in the past we have gone right. I thought by going left we’d have a bigger hill to deal with coming out of the turn around, but it wasn’t that bad. This actually made a lot of sense because turning left there were still a lot of runners coming down the other path. This allowed us to stay spread out and didn’t shove us to just one lane to run on.
When we hit the second bridge is when I finally felt the pace I had been running. This was definitely fast for me, but I knew if I could get across the bridge, it was just one more long block along PNC Park and then a left turn into the finish. I couldn’t give up then. I still didn’t know where I was with an overall time, but based on what I saw at mile 2 I still had a chance to PR at least.
I took the bridge and felt myself slow a little on the uphill part, but I kept pushing and tried my hardest to not let anyone pass me. As soon as we started hitting the downhill, I start to let it go. I know I could make it through at this point. Head around PNC Park and there would be the finish line. I didn’t want to start any type of final push too soon because I’m not great at judging that and I’ll still die way before the finish line.
When I turned the corner and saw the finish line and saw the time on the clock I couldn’t help but smile! I soon realized I not only had a PR in the bag but I was pretty confident I was finishing sub 28!! The clock was showing somewhere around 28:30 and I knew I started a good minute off the gun. Once I finished and had a chance to look at my watch… I was stunned! Shocked! Floored!! Yes, I PR’d. I also not only broke 28 minutes, but I did so by 23 seconds!! I felt I had a little gas left in the tank at the end, but I was by no means regretting that. The race I ran felt great and it felt smart. I definitely had some negative splits. My watch splits weren’t as accurate, but it at least told me that.
I pretty quickly found Mike and we hung out for a little bit at the finish line area. I ended up running into Allison, who was someone I used to coach for rowing and she ended up going to WAC for college and just graduated last May. I hadn’t seen her in quite some time, so it was great seeing her and most of her family!
This race really boosted my confidence as I headed into the last week of training. I actually had a lot of doubt when I started the race, but seeing that I could actually do that was just amazing. Sometimes you just need a race like that to help remind you of the hard work you have put in and that it all works out in the end.
Once we were done chatting with some people, Mike and I headed back home. I ended up cooking what I called a “single girl” Thanksgiving and it ended up being great! It was an easy meal and I enjoyed it for lunch and even had 2 meals for left overs. After a nice little nap, I got ready and headed into work. That my friends.. was interesting. To say the least, this was a very eventful Thanksgiving and gave me lots to be thankful for.
Official Finish Time:
52/343, Females, 30-34