Saturday, May 28, 2016

Pittsburgh Marathon 2016 Recap

It has almost been a month and I am just now writing my Pittsburgh Marathon recap. A month. My last marathon I wrote the recap the next day because I didn’t want to forget a single moment of it. Now here I am, 26 days later ready to compose my thoughts. I’m not 100% of the reason it has taken me so long, but I do know there are a couple of factors. First, I’ve been busy. The best part about keeping busy is it has been the savior of my sanity. I have been non-stop at work. Slight tangent, work has been an area that I have totally thrown myself into in the midst of my situation. It is truly an aspect of my life that I have focused on growing and developing in since last summer and it has paid off. I have an amazing boss that is one of the most admirable woman I know. She has encouraged and supported me to become a strong woman. I have done everything I can to excel at work to develop my independence. I’ve also been busy in a social aspect. I am so fortunate to have family and friends that constantly invite and include me in activities. It is extremely rare that I have a free evening, really, if ever. Again, sanity saved. I’ve also taken a little bit of a break from running for recovery and bought a membership at the new Orange Theory studio in Wexford. Another reason, well, writing is hard. It takes time to do it right. To organize my thoughts, check my grammar and think about what I truly want to write and share. And the last reason I’ve avoided writing about the weekend is because it was so, so very hard. I try my best to be positive but the pain is all still there. I’ve been advised that there is no timeline to when I will feel like myself again and that that is okay. I also recognize the fact that it is okay for me to still feel pain every day because my emotions and feelings over everything are real. My family and friends went above and beyond to make the weekend nothing short of amazing for me and yet I still couldn’t wait to get through it as soon as possible because that date is tainted for me and my heart still burns deeply just thinking about it. But I made it, and I have so many people to thank.
A couple months ago my mom came up with the idea to put together a Marathon Relay team so that I could always have someone running with me. Their first runner would start at the start line with me and at each exchange I would wait for the runners to pass off and then continue running with the next runner. Awesome. I didn’t have to spend a single second alone this race or weekend. My mom reached out to our good friend and owner of CrossFit TPA and had a team put together. We had people volunteer to run, organize, cheer, support, etc. The TPA community is amazing. While I don’t CrossFit nearly as often as I used to once I got into my marathon trainings, the TPA community and family is always near and dear to my heart.   
Race morning started at the crack of dawn as per usual. My mom and two cousins spent the night at my house since we drove down together. Maddie and I got dropped off near the start and made our way to the corrals. Overall, Pittsburgh is an extremely well organized race, but the corrals are always a little hectic. I think it’s just because people are excited and anxious to start, not necessarily a malfunction of the directors. We had a small hiccup with them trying to block the entrance to our corral at one point. It felt like we were on the Titanic trapped behind a gate but eventually we made it through and we were at the start line with time to spare. It was drizzling at this point, but luckily the rain never really picked up. Ironically, Beyonce’s ‘Who Run the World’ was blaring on the loudspeaker as the gun went off for our wave to start. Maddie ran the first 4.2 miles of the race with me. For those of you who don’t know Maddie she and I are very much alike. We both hate mornings and are never on time for anything. We’ll probably be late to our own funerals. We love to shop and speak our minds. We just like a lot of the same things. We ran through the strip and crossed two bridges and by the end of her leg the rain had let up. At the end of the 7th Street bridge we bid adieu and I caught up with my second runner and cousin, Norah. I also saw most of my family at this exchange, which was exciting to see familiar faces.
Norah is a runner and was ready to go. Sweet Norah, she is the most kind and easy going person I know.  Our family jokes that she is a golden child, and really she is. Both she and Maddie we're so excited to run and that made me so happy. She ran 4.9 miles of the North Side and West End with me. I could tell she was really enjoying the race. Both of my runs with Maddie and Norah flew by. Before I knew it, I was getting ready to hug and pass them off at their exchanges. I'm so lucky to have them as cousins and that we are all close. I have such fond memories growing up with the girls and watching them grow up. Although Team Bologna Sandwich crumbled at the seams, the girl cousin team of Team Eggwhich lives on forever (family insider).
I dropped Norah off at the Station Square exchange and met up with Jess, a good friend I met through CrossFit. Within moments Jess told me she had a couple things to tell me. She filled me in on a few things and then said, "oh, by the way, I'm going to run the rest of this with you. We're going to do this." Jess is one of those people you meet in life and your thought is just 'damn that girl is badass!' Yes, a badass. A badass CrossFitter, athlete, mom, friend and fellow BeyoncĂ© lover. And she has the best sense of humor. All of these qualities made her fitting for the third leg of the marathon which involves the infamous Oakland hill. But before we made it to Oakland, we trekked the "flattest mile of the course" and also one of my favorite neighborhoods of the course, South Side/E Carson Street. South side is fun. Tons of people line the streets cheering loudly, handing out goodies and waving some of the best signs. I also got to see my best friends Lexie, Alissa, Julie and Janelle on E Carson which gave me a huge boost of energy. They all weathered the crappy ass weather to cheer me on, and for that I am so thankful. Jess and I took every snack and drink offered to us in preparation to cross the Birmingham Bridge and get to the base of the Oakland hill. While crossing the bridge, a spectator was handing out paper 'F's with a sign that said "F this Hill." We took our paper F's to give us the f'ing power to get up that hill. I stowed mine away in my pocket only to find at the end of the race completely soggy in my pocket. Gross, but whatever.
Jess talked my ear off and I barely noticed the hill. It was long, that was for sure, but it wasn't steep. Maybe it helped that I knew what to somewhat expect going into it. I don't know. We trucked along through Oakland, then through Shady Side where I saw a family member on my dad's side, Sam. I wasn't expecting to see her so it was a nice surprise. Sam hopped on the course and ran alongside me for a good couple minutes, all while carrying a mug full of coffee. It made me smile.
Shortly after Shady Side we approached the next relay exchange in which we picked up our other good friend from CrossFit, Dorsi. If you ever need some sunshine in your life consult Dorsi Pugh. Dorsi is an amazing lady. You can't be sad or mad or anything negative around Dorsi. She just radiates positivity and is full of life. Well, life without social media. But we all know that Dorsi is too on the go for that! Dorsi is a trooper and we enjoyed adding her to our little running pod we had going on. At this point, people could see their shirts reading Kate's Army and we started to get conversation from runners around us. I was starting to hit the wall at this point, but the crowds in Homewood and the conversation was keeping me alive. This is the point where your mind starts to have the "why the fuck am I doing this, this is miserable" thoughts. 26.2 miles is a LONG time to be on your feet and things just start to hurt after awhile. I wasn't hitting the blazing paces I was hitting in Philly, but I wasn't feeling injured either, which is most important. I was just getting tired and my butt hurt like hell from the hills. I just stayed focused on fueling better than I did in Philly and tried to keep up with my gels and oranges.
Dorsi's leg was only supposed to be 6 and some change miles, but if you know Dorsi, she has a competitive instinct about her. The closer we got to the final relay exchange she started having an internal battle if she should just keep running with us or finish her leg at the end the relay exchange. In a moment's notice as we picked up my mom, the fifth runner, Dorsi said "oh what the hell" and stuck with us to the finish, a total of 10.9 miles. Oh, by the way, Jess ended up running 17.1 miles that day. My mom joined our pod and we cruised through Bloomfield, another fun neighborhood. My favorite part of Bloomfield was a man playing "Too Legit to Quit" on a boom box in the middle of the street and doing all the hand movements. But then came the long downhill out of Bloomfield and back into the Strip. I never once imagined I would hate a downhill as much as I hated this downhill. Your legs are so tired at that point that having to use your muscles to control yourself going down this hill is actually painful. It kind of messes with your mind. We made it down the hill and got to the flat Strip in which I was super excited to see my dad, grandpa and some other of my good running and CrossFit friends. I was really starting to feel the wall at this point and seeing Tammy, Susan, Tiffany, Tracey, Kim and Maria really made me smile! Jess took advantage of the beer being passed out for her final jolt of fuel and I just tried to mentally get myself to the finish line.
We pushed through downtown where I was finally able to get my typical "oh here's a random burst of energy to sprint to the finish line" and we made it. Right off to the left was the rest of my entire family and it filled me with tears to hear their cheers and see the huge blob of camo and pink. It was this moment as I crossed the finish line that I felt more loved than ever before. It is entirely amazing what everyone did to turn what could have been the worst weekend of my life into a weekend filled with love, comfort and support. They can't erase the pain for me, but they can fill the voids of love. I am so loved and grateful for these friends and family. I am forever thankful for #katesarmy.
My total time was 4:23 and some seconds. I don't even have the seconds memorized because truth be told I wasn't happy with my time. I was significantly slower for me than Philly. That's not to say I'm not proud of myself for finishing at all. I do know that Pittsburgh is a ridiculously difficult course and I have to remember that I was having a very emotional weekend. I finished in one piece and that is all that matters. Once we made it through the finish line we got over to the park where I was greeted by everyone for tons of hugs and pictures. Thank you, thank you, thank you to everyone who came out. You truly made my day. My cousins, mom and I then paid a banana to take a rickshaw back to the car so we could stop home, shower and get ready for the post race fiesta at my parent's house. We all spent the rest of the night together sharing stories, loving on baby Everett, playing croquet and drinking a few too many margaritas. A good time was had by all and it was a fun way to cap off the day.

The morale of this recap is that my support network is amazing and I am so thankful for each one of you. Thank you for giving me a reason to smile when I want to cry. Thank you for being an open set of arms when I need a hug. Thank you for giving me a reason to believe that brighter days are always ahead. Thank you for running and walking by my side and holding my hand all these difficult months. Thank you. I love you all. XOXO, Kate.

"Every night her thoughts weighed heavily on her soul but every morning she would get up to fight another day, every night she survived." r.h. sin