This is Part 2 of my Pittsburgh Marathon Race Report from the halfway point on Craig Street in Oakland to the finish line. See my previous post about the first 13 miles.

I made the right on Fifth Avenue from Craig Street and I ran up the long grade up to Shandyside. Download of the Course Map – PDF file so you can follow along.

Mile 14: Fifth Avenue and Aiken to Mile 20: Bryant Street at Highland Park
JUST AFTER THE MILE 14 marker was the turn from Fifth onto Aiken and toward the heart of Shadyside. Bill Harshman coined the term “carklet” from the running term “farklet.” Fartlek, which means “speed play” in Swedish, is a training method that blends continuous training with interval training. The variable intensity and continuous nature of the exercise places stress on both the aerobic and anaerobic systems. “Carklets” is a burst of speed anytime a car passes you to show off how great of a runner you may or pretend to be. A new term I will start to coin is “crowdlets” since every time a larger crowd of spectators gathered at one of the neighborhoods, I tend to gain some speed and concentrated on my form. Get those arms up, Mazur!
Now on Walnut, I passed the main shopping district in Shandyside, I crossed Negly Avenue. There was no sign of Ethan. The plan was that Ethan would wait for Adam here at Negly and then pace him for the rest of the race. I didn’t expect Adam to be slower than me, he is a faster runner but I was wondering how well he was running after a brutal trail race at Hyner two weeks prior. If Adam had a meltdown and I passed him, Ethan was to run with whoever arrived first and run with them the rest of the way. Several weeks ago, I was a little miffed that Adam beat me in asking Ethan to pace him since this was my first marathon and having someone to pace me would have been great. This was Adam’s second marathon and it didn’t go so well on his first and he ended up finishing 40 minutes slower than his goal. Knowing this, I had some trepidation about my first marathon. Adam was a strong runner who also had a 4 hour goal for his first marathon and it did not turn out well for him. What will happen to me after I crossed the 20 mile mark? Will what happened to Adam happen to me. Will I would fall apart like a $2 undershirt. But granted, Adam did ask Ethan first and it turned out that Ethan was more concerned with Adam’s performance than he was with me. Ethan was actually very confident that I would do well. My training for the marathon went without a hitch and I had logged in enough of the required weekly mileage to get it done.

Ethan, in grey, pacing Adam, in green, at Fifth and Beechwood.

I turned right on Highland and back onto Fifth Avenue toward Mellon Park. At the corner of Beechwood Avenue and Fifth, opposite of the third relay exchange, my friends the McKnight’s were on the sidelines cheering me on. I waved and yelled out a joke. I think it was about this being the worst parade ever and if the Shriners are ever going to get here in their little cars. After the race, they told me I looked really strong yet relaxed as if I was having a good time. Their observations of the other runners as they went by, they said that it was obvious to them who was “going to make it” versus those who were going to have a hard time. I was in the first camp, just buzzing along like it was a normal weekend run. They also told me that Adam, who was running with Ethan, wasn’t looking so great and they were baffled at how soon Ethan and Adam crossed Beechwood. Even Jeria McKnight, who looked at her watch, knew that Adam was going too fast. Meanwhile, 90 miles away back in Hollidaysburg, my friend Nikki, tracking runners via text messaged split times, also worried that Adam was going too fast.
After Beechwood, we made gentle right turn onto Penn Avenue. Somewhere here, as I learned at the YMCA seminar a few days prior, General Braddock was shot by French and Indian warriors somewhere near this road and a young George Washington took over command. In what a lot of people called divine intervention, Washington, with bullets piercing his military jacket, was able to maintain his composure and take control of the situation and his troops. “Will you be like Braddock and fall, or be like Washington and be a hero”, I remember him saying.
After mile 16, I made a critical decision. I decided that instead of getting Gatorade at every other station (2 miles), I would not only get Gatorade at every mile, but I would double up, getting a cup of Gatorade AND water at each station. This would turn out to be probably the most important decision I made during the entire race.

Residents of Homewood come out with jugs of water for runners. http://wickphotography.com/

I MADE THE TURN ON N. BRADDOCK, under an underpass and into Homewood. Homewood means a lot of things to me. One, if you are unfamiliar with the neighborhoods, it is one those neighborhoods most affected by blight in Pittsburgh. A year ago, I ran through here during the marathon relay. A friend, Nikki, the same friend who was in Hollidaysburg reviewing our split times, said when she ran it said it was great to see all the people out cheering on the runners. But when I went through last year, there was hardly a person around. Was it the damp weather? This year, the crowds were out, handing out their own water by the jugs, grilling in open lots, and cheering on the runners from front stoops. Also last year, this was my worst mile. I slowed to a sluggish 10:30 and at one point I was so close to walking. This year it was quite the opposite. I was still feeling sprite, strong and in good spirits. I think psychologically this stretch, being the furthest point from the finish if you look on the map of the city, might freak you out. The finish is so far away. But today I took my energy as a good sign. After the mile 17 mark, I turn the left on Frankstown. Not only did I literally turn a corner, but I turned a physical and psychological corner in this race. Now on Frankstown, I turn toward the west and headed toward the finish.

Mile Splits. Mile 14: 8:59. Mile 15: 8:31. Mile 16: 8:53. Mile 17:8:45

Crossing the 17 mile mark, three miles until the magic “20” mile, I decided to test my legs and see what they can do. I decided to pick up the pace slightly. My intention was to increase my pace for just a mile and see how I do. I would then take stock on how I felt and the decide at mile 20 what I was going to do for the rest of the race. So beginning at mile 17, as the other runners seemed to slow down, it was just me and Chesty LaRue.

Me, following Chesty LaRue, in black, somewhere on the course.

I FIRST SAW CHESTY LaRUE near Oakland. Chesty LaRue, my nickname for her since I can not remember her real name, was also running for a charity (which one, I can not remember as well) who, ran in a short running shirt and a black top stretching it its limits to hold in an ample chest. It was so large, if she had her timing chip across them, they would finish five seconds before the rest of her. From Oakland, through Shandyside, into Bloomfield, and now Homewood and approaching East Liberty, she was always a few seconds ahead of me. Watching from behind, when she passed a guy, the guy would pick up the pace to ‘get a better look’ but then eventually drop back. Or there would be someone on the sidelines who would start to clap like a crazed seal hooked on meth – just a bit too enthusiastically – only to be elbowed by their wife or girlfriend. The thought actually crossed my mind not to pass her for the rest of the race since I was rather entertained. But I remembered that I was here to run this frickin’ marathon and to do my best effort and not gawk at someone for 13 miles. I went by her and said, “It’s been fun, see ya’ later” and took off. From mile 17 to mile 18, I cranked in a 7:48 minute mile.
Realizing what I was able to do without much effort, at mile 18, congratulating myself and a bit surprised that I was able to do a sub-8 mile, I slowed down to a 8:36 for the next mile, still a little leery and unsure how I would feel in the miles ahead. I have heard so many stories of runners feeling great one mile and then suddenly hitting the wall the next, I decided not to do anything dramatic until after a few more miles. After mile 18, I took the turn on N. Highland toward Highland Park. Not only did I decided to increase my fluid intake, I increased my gel intake. Back at mile 17.6, I grabbed a Gu, holding onto it until just prior to the next water stop. I find Gu’s is a bit too syrupy and harder to get down than Powerbar gels. So anytime there was Gu available, I would grab it and save it for the next station. At mile 19.7, as I went into the fluid station, I heard, “Hey, there” as I was passed by none other than Chesty LaRue. We talked for about a half mile until we reached mile 20.

SINCE DECIDING TO DO this marathon, everyone talked about the mile 20 like it was Bermuda Triangle or watch for Bigfoot who was lurking behind the trees. Here, they said, many hit the wall. But if you can do well here, you will do good for the rest of the race. Also, for me, it is another milestone. I have never ran more than 20 miles continuously so this marked new and uncharted territory for me. I am boldly going where my legs have never gone before, so to speak. Between Mile 19 and Mile 20, my pace slowed to a 9:15, a surprisingly slow mile. But up ahead was the magic 20 mile point and where I would make my last major decision. I looked up ahead and here there was another digital clock. As I ran toward it, it turned over to the three hour mark. One thought went through my head, “Three hours.. I have an hour to make it to the finish. I have one hour for me to go a little more than six miles. I GOT THIS! I fucking got this!” At that moment I become elated. I knew right then I had what it took to get this thing done before the fourth hour. The next mile I slam down another 7:48 mile. I knew had a lot in the tank and I said to myself, “I am going for it!”

From Mile 20 to the Finish
While I was excited and looking forward to the next 10k, it is worth noting that that according to the chip time, I was at 2:58:11 with a pace of 8:55 for the previous 20 miles. At this point, Adam and Tina were also having a good race. Adam was 15 minutes ahead of me and crossed the 20 mile marker at 2:43:06 and was still right on target toward finishing at 3:33:30. Tina was 12 minutes ahead at 2:46:22 with an ETA at 3:38:03.
It was the last 10k. On Negly, I headed onto Baum Blvd. and then made the last turn onto Liberty Avenue. Making the commitment to go for it, I felt the adrenaline kick in and frankly, those last few miles were a blur. On Baum, I past Silky’s, a pub that the McKnight’s took me of couple times in the past. Passing Silky’s several times in the last couple of days to and from downtown to Squirrel Hill, I knew that if I felt good crossing here, all I needed to do is run through Bloomfield, down the hill, past the Strip and into downtown for the finish. It would be easy as that.

Runners heading toward the downhill in Bloomfield.

As I ran toward Bloomfield, for the first time since the Southside, I notice the heat BIG TIME. And I never realized until then that there was a short rise up a grade into the heart of Bloomfield. Even though I was still positive, my pace from mile 22 to 23 slowed to a 8:57 minute mile. But I knew I had a long downhill ahead of me to work in my favor. Prepare for a shocker but I passed the Churchworks Brewery and decided not to stop for beer across from from the brewery so I could exploit as much as the hill as possible. Ahead of me was the Strip.
At the bottom of the hill is a two-mile section of no man’s land along Liberty. Last year, I had trouble at this point and I started to feel some pain. It was a miserable stretch. This year, they decided to move the course one block over from Penn Street to Liberty. How dumb is that? At least last year you could run down Penn through the heart of the Strip with its markets, vendors, patio restaurants and such. Liberty, on the other hand, is a dismal thoroughfare with a wall on one side and warehouses and ugly, nondescript buildings on the other side. In the first section, I saw just one couple clapping half-heartedly at runners as they went by. I was also getting hot. HOT is in a wondered it I looked like a pressure cooker with steam coming out my ear like a Tex Avery cartoon. Not only was I hot and it was also here that some pain began to set in. It wasn’t a sharp pain or anything that had me concerned but it was unusual since the muscles that were hurting were muscles that I didn’t think I had. Never in my running had I ever had pain on the insides on my thighs. It was more perplexing that uncomfortable. But I kind of expected to experience some strange pains, especially at this point. My shoulders were killing me, too. Mile 23 to Mile 24: 7:53 pace. Then at mile 24,”The Fake-Out Man” stood in wait.

AFTER GOING DOWN THE HILL from Bloomfield and onto The Strip, you can see the buildings downtown. A lot of people see the buildings and think, “all I have to do is run to those buildings and I am done. Yippee!”. However, those buildings are more than 2 miles away. Close to the 24.5 mile, The Fake-Out Man stood. He chattered at the runners going by, “Hey – keep it going! The finish is straight ahead!” He yelled to me and I thought “Well, sort of. I still have to run down Smithfield and then to the Boulevard of the Allies so… umm… no!” Minutes before, Adam went by and The Fake-Out Man yelled the same thing to him. According to Ethan who was pacing him, when Adam reached the corner at Smithfield, his reaction was confusion and bewilderment. “Where is the finish? He said it was here! Why would he lie? WHY?” Behind me by several minutes was my friend Donnie – who heard the same thing from the same guy – started his final sprint to the finish only to have the heartache to turn the corner and realize he still had to cross the entire downtown before he would reach the finish. I don’t think he would admit it, but I think he would have achieved his long sought goal of a 4:00 marathon if it wasn’t for the mystery man. He would finish at 4:01. Whoever you maybe, Fake-Out Man, you are ‘The Dick of the Race!’ What are you going to do next year – serve onion juice to the runners!?
At mile 25, I did the previous mile at 8:34. I ran toward the underpass near the train station near the end of Liberty. At the underpass, to my surprise, I saw Tina. I ask, “How are you doing?” She shook her head and gave a thumbs down. I was really taken by surprise, thinking she would have already finished. Then I wondered “where is Dusty?” I assume he ran ahead but that didn’t make any sense she Dusty was pacing Tina and not the other way around. I was confused. What I did not know until later was that Dusty was DOA and Tina cramped up badly during the last few miles of the race. Here I had an unexpected choice to make. Do I help Tina along, or do I say “to hell with it” and abide by the code “every man and woman for themselves”? Since it was my first marathon and I was having one of the best races of my life, I decided to press on and continue ahead. If you ever read this Tina, I am sorry.

Mile 25 and still looking strong.

I TOOK THE TURN OFF of Liberty and onto Smithfield and I punched it! I kicked it in and took off. Then, about halfway into Smithfield, I never anticipated how far it is between Liberty to the Boulevard of the Allies on Smithfield! In my mind, I thought it was going to be just a few blocks. It is more like eight blocks. Also the cheering crowds had a lot to do with my sudden increase of speed. 6:50 pace in this section. I was getting caught up in the moment.
I turned it down a notch after three blocks then I saw the corner of Smithfield and Blvd. of the Allies up ahead and thought, “the finish is around the corner. I will take this corner fast and then drive it in into the finish. Woo Hoo!” I picked up speed, turned the corner, only to discover the the finish line was still three city blocks away AND there was a slight uphill to the finish. “Oh crap!”, I thought.
Since mile 21, I have been chewing it up! I was the boulder that almost crushed Indiana Jones! I was a runaway train barreling down the Main Line. I was passing people left and right. Even the relay runners were being tossed aside in my wake. Then when I hit downtown, I was passing dozens of runners at a clip. I had enough in the tank and enough fast twitch muscles firing that I was in the zone. It was race of my life. But when I turned that corner, I thought “I am cooked. I am done. I can’t sprint it to the finish.” Then… just I was thinking this, on the other side of the street, to my left, this kid in green comes out of nowhere and starts passing me. “Oh. No. You. Don’t… You. Punk. Ass. Kid! You are not beating me to the finish!” Now we have an old-fashioned foot race, mano y mano. We both looked at each other, sort of like how the teens in their hot rods did in American Graffitti. Game on!

Okay… I Photoshopp’ed the guitar, but I was rock’n.

I am not totally sure, but… I think he beat me. But he did give me the push to end very strong. Just before the finish line a punched out a 6:05 pace. I crossed the line and I gave a halfhearted Steve Holt-ese fist pump but with one arm. A friend said they mistook it for an impression of Pete Townsend winding up his guitar. I finished my first marathon in 3 hours, 51 minutes and 49 seconds with a total average pace of 8:50. But more interestingly, I killed it in the last 10k. Not only my overall pace went from 8:55 to a 8:50 pace but that 10k was also my fastest during the entire race in 53 minutes and 38 seconds at an average pace of 8:39.

THE LAST 10K WASN’T SO kind for my running mates unfortunately. Adam, who was still running strong at mile 20, and was 15 minutes ahead of me, had his wheels come undone and finish only two and a half minutes ahead of me. Somehow I gained 13 minutes on him. He ran the last 10k at a 10:38 pace compared to an average pace of 8:09 in the first 20 miles.
Tina, who ran out of fuel and was 12 minutes ahead of me, finished at 3 hours, 50 minutes, 33 seconds, just a minute ahead of me. Her last 10k was at a 10:21 pace down from a 8:19 pace for the first 20 miles (Even though I passed her on Liberty and I crossed the finish before she did, her chip time is one minute less than mine since she started one corral behind and would have started running many minutes later than me.) Disappointed she did not BQ, she did improve her personal record for a marathon by 22 minutes which is still very impressive.
Even though she didn’t hit the wall, Betsy Simmers, who probably was the most brightly colored runner in the entire race with her neon green top, electric blue retro shorts with orange piping and day glow calve sleeves, was hit my a kid who darted in front of her on the course and ended up in a messy entanglement of limbs and asphalt grit. Tim Sheehan had his worse marathon and had to hopscotch from med tent to med tent. Frisco also disappointed. Just today I was talking to Randy who described to me symptoms that vaguely sound like he had a mini-stroke. I kept staring at the left side of his face for any other signs.
But it wasn’t all doom for everybody. Donnie Rhodes did miss his 4 hour goal by one minute, my conversations with him makes me believe that he had a great effort and I think he had a great last 10k. Kristie Runk, whose goal was also a 4-hour marathon was on target for most of the race but did slightly fade as to be expected. She ended with a 4:08. The rest of the crew all did reasonably well considering the hot conditions and I assume all lived to tell their stories.

Post Race.

After crossing the line, I felt pretty good – so much so that I totally forgot about stretching out and walking it off. I was more preoccupied with my iPhone. The phone got so damp with a mixture of protein sweat, salt and suntan lotion, that the touchscreen was rendered totally useless and I could not turn off my running app, nor text message, nor answer calls. I think I spent 15 minutes trying to get it to work then gave up. How funny is it that I just ran a marathon and this my biggest concern! (It wasn’t until two hours later with clean hands and dry towels before I was able to shut off the app). Eventually, I went to get my picture taken with my medal and slowly made my way out of the runners chute, grabbed a banana, some water, potato chips and a bagel. I got out of the chute to realize that I was not sure if I was to meet everyone at either the Sheetz tent, the Sheetz vending truck, or the Sheetz 18-wheeler at the finish festival. I ended up walking back and forth from each as well as a stroll to the OAR charity tent. Then my GI problems started to kick in.

FOR THE PAST MONTH, I would end up having diarrhea somewhere near the end of my long runs. The week before I thought I solved the problem by not eating heavy protein for breakfast or the day before a long run. I was worried that I was doing to have problems during the race but luckily (except for what I would call some wet-farts back at mile 23) I was able to finish without incident. Now my belly cramped and I was wet farting all the way to a porta-potty. I will spare you most of the details but what happened next was a bowel movement so large I was surprised to have any bones left. How could anyone have that much crap in them? Strangely, it was so bad it actually made me sad that I was convinced that I don’t deserve to be loved.

Here are some of the marathon group including Randy on the left, Donnie in yellow, Kristie in blue, Amber in white, and Kristen in pink.

After what seemed an eternity trapped in that ‘awful smelly plastic blue box of bad things’, I went back to look for the others. Luckily I ran into Donnie and Amber. A little bit after that, Adam and Ethan showed up. Adam had to make friends with a trash can and hurl his guts. He said that is unusual for him after a race. Some take a walk. Some get a craving for salty snacks. Adam pukes his guts inside out. But granted, when I saw him, he looked pretty good and you would not have known what he went through about 45 minutes ago. We hung out inside the Sheetz VIP tent since it was so hot in that sun. We talked about our experiences and also our plans for the summer. The whole time I noticed how really, really bad I smelled from 26 mile marathon sweat, gel and salt seeping out of my pours, and wet farty running shorts. I wanted to strip down naked, put my clothes in a plastic bag, toss the bag into the river and then hurl the river into the sun!

Me, Adam, Betsy and Tim.

After about 40 minutes, and the parade of runners in our marathon group came and went. Ethan and I went to the car and headed back to Squirrel Hill. If you asked me a week before the race, I would have thought that I would not be physically or mentally capable of driving a motorized vehicle after a marathon, but here I was, except for the visit to the blue plastic carton of stink, I was feeling much better than I would ever have imagined. We got into my car and because of the road closures we faced trying to leave downtown, he took the most indirect way back to the Parkway. We went from the Downtown, to the Strip, back Downtown, to the Northside, around Heinz Field and the casino, across the West End Bridge, down Carson and onto the Parkway via the Fort Pitt Bridge. We got back to Squirrel Hill, I showered, then Ethan, the McKnights and I headed to the Southside and Hofbrauhaus. Walking from the parking garage to Hofbrauhaus, then leaping over chairs and moving around like it was any other day, Ethan started to accuse me of “sandbagging” the race. “There is no way anyone who just did their first marathon should be moving around like you.”
Honestly, I can say for certain that I wasn’t sandbagging or holding myself back. I was running the race as well as I was physically able to do. It was just my day.

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Here are two additional pics from the start I found since I wrote the first entry.

Here I am crossing the timing mat and the race begins.

At the start. You can see me between the W and I about a third of the way down. http://wickphotography.com/