Both Sides of the Water Stop

You know how I won’t shut up about my running-induced hip injury? Well, you should know that it hasn’t just led to me being a whiny, whiny cry baby. It has also led to volunteerism and giving back to the running community and forcing my family to suffer right along with me.

I had three races in a one-week period that I wanted to be involved with last month. I intended to run two of them and volunteer at another, but after my body rebelled, I knew I couldn’t run my originally planned 33 miles of racing–or even my plan B of 23 miles of racing–in a week.

The race that got the cut was the Parks Half Marathon, which I ran once and cheered at once, and fell at three times. I deferred my entry to next year (dammit, now I have to run it next year) and signed up instead to work at a water station.

I have benefited from very many water stations in my running career. There is rarely one that I pass without partaking. Sometimes I even take two cups. Water is gooooood. Yet I didn’t know what it was like on the other side of the table.

Photo of me standing in front of a row of tables with hundreds of small cups on them.

Yes, I realize in this photo that I am still on the runner side of the table, but to serve my metaphor, let’s pretend that I’m on the other side.

The great thing is that the woman who was in charge of the water stop had been doing it for years and totally had a plan and kept us organized and efficient and there were plenty of us there to keep everything moving smoothly. I’ve run past water stops where the volunteers were in a state of panic trying to fill up cups not quite keeping up with demand. It always looks like not a lot of fun when that happens. I’m happy to report that that was not us.

I helped pass out and pour the Gatorade. You know what word loses all its meaning after you say it sixteen thousand times? “Gatorade.”

The next race I was involved in was the Kensington 8K. I love that race. When I started running in 2012, it was the first race I ran. I was sooooo slow. And it was really hard. But I did it and I was so proud of myself and I have run it every year since then. This year I had signed up for a 20-mile race the day after the Kensington 8K, so I knew I couldn’t run it.

I decided to volunteer to course marshal the course during the race because that seemed like the most fun and easiest thing to do. Then I remembered that my kids are forced to do volunteer hours to graduate from high school, so I signed the whole family up to help with the night-before-the-race cone-drop. That entailed sitting in the back of a pickup truck and throwing cones out on the sidewalk at intersections along the course route for course marshals to set out the next morning.

The cone-delivery truck was late getting the cones to us, so my kids learned about how they could earn volunteer hours by swinging at the playground while waiting for other people to do their jobs.

Selfie of my family by a brick wall with a poster on it that says "Run the race." I've managed to cut off half of most of their faces.

Just because I cut much of each of them out of the photo doesn’t mean I don’t love them.

Finally the cones arrived and we set out. I sat in the front of the truck with a race director and shouted out how many cones Alex, my kids, and the race director’s kids needed to drop off the back of the truck.

Photo of Sam, Quinn, Jack, and Alex sitting in the back of a truck in front of a big pile of orange traffic cones.

Before. See how Alex doesn’t look even a little bit like he wanted to kill me? That would change.

I think the kids had a lot of fun. I don’t know if they’ve ever ridden in the back of a pickup truck, which is–let’s be honest here–one of the most fun things in the world. Plus we had flashing lights rotating on the top of the truck and they got to jump in and out of the vehicle. It was all kinds of great.

Alex, on the other hand, had all kinds of complaints: “That flashing light is really disorientating.” “That guy needs to stop accelerating so fast.” “That traffic cone distinctly smelled like shit.” “I might barf.”

There is really no pleasing the man.

The next day I sauntered off to claim my intersection, which was a really important intersection because I had to send the runners off in one direction toward a turn-around and then make sure they headed off in a third direction on their way back. This was complicated by the fact Ragnar DC took place that weekend and my intersection was where those two races collided–going opposite directions. It was exciting.

An empty intersection with traffic cones spread out.

My baby.

I really could have used a couple of extra cones though. Someone should have told the cone-droppers that. I had a cop with me as well because I was at the edge of the course and evidently they don’t want cars careening through the course. Prior to the race, I did have a couple of irate car drivers. I had a bunch of really nice car drivers who understood that the roads were closed and/or closing, but there were two who were visibly and verbally annoyed–both of them told me they had to get to a church. Ironic.

It was very enjoyable to point people to the right direction and cheer them on. At one point I was cheering on this kinda confused-looking kid who wandered off shortly thereafter only to be brought back to me by a nearby homeowner who was all, “So this guy was supposed to be running the 1K fun run and got lost.”

That kid was almost two miles into the race. I told him he pretty much won. I had a little interior discussion with myself (the mental equivalent of walking in confused circles) while I considered sending him back along the race course with instructions to go from course marshal to course marshal and whether this constituted an “emergency” that meant I could call the race directors like my instruction sheet told me. I finally decided to keep him with me and instructed him to cheer for the runners after I determined that, yes, a lost kid is an emergency and I called a race director and told her I had a lost kid.

(Yes, the instinct to avoid phone calls is strong in me.)

The race director tracked down his parents who eventually showed up after the last runners had passed. They were very grateful. Apparently they had moved to the area a couple of weeks ago and they were walking the fun run, but their kid wanted to run it so they told him to follow the other people and ZOOM! suddenly he’d run three fun runs.

I’m not going to lie; I felt a little bit like a hero.

After all of that, I finally got to run a race the next day. That race, Revenge of the Penguins, has a 20-mile version and a 10-mile version. I had originally signed up for the 20-miler, but stepped it back to ten miles after my injury. Even that was a little bit of a stretch. I hadn’t come close to running ten miles at one time in weeks. I was determined to get the race jacket that came with my registration though.

A red jacket with a round patch on it. The patch has the name of the race and a running penguin.

I love this jacket. That penguin is exactly what I’d look like running if I were a penguin.

I ran that race so goddamn slow. But I ran it. It was a beautiful canal-side course that was mostly flat. The last couple of miles super sucked, but I ran ’em. And I said thank you to every single person who handed me a cup of water or Gatorade.

Selfie of me post-run.

After. I was a little sweaty.

It was a super well-organized race in a beautiful location with super nice volunteers. If all goes as I hope, I intend to triumphantly return next year to do the 20-miler.

I also intend to continue volunteering at races. Because there’s nothing like getting to hang out at a race with other runners and not having to run. In fact, it may be the perfect solution.

That said, five days from now I have another race–the Army Ten Miler. I hope to run this one faster than snail speed. Wish me luck!

The Best 5.5 Miles

If you’re not a runner or don’t care about running, feel free to skip this post.

Photo of me in the dark after a run.

Me after tonight’s run. Hey, did you know it gets dark at 8pm these days? I didn’t.

I haven’t told you how bad it had gotten.

I think I told you that I was having a lot of hip pain and I was going to a physical therapist and an orthopod, but I didn’t tell you how much it hurt or how depressed I was about it or how I was worried that I was never going to run again.

I’ve had to defer a race until next year. I had to switch my upcoming 20-mile race to the 10-mile option. I was starting to worry about whether I’d be able to run any of the races I’d registered for this fall.

I’ve barely run for such a long time. I could practically feel my fitness draining away.

I had two cortisone shots a week apart and I didn’t run at all for many days, as instructed. I even waited a couple of extra days before running because I was scared that I would try and not be able to. See, even after the shots and even with complete rest, it still hurt just walking around. It’s not even that I cared about the pain—except when I was running.

I finally went out this past Monday. The hip didn’t really hurt, but it was weak. And felt…off. Running was really tiring. I just did a couple of miles and those were run/walk intervals. I was trying to be smart, so I took a day off, then did a slightly longer interval run on Wednesday. Same deal with the hip.

Both of those runs were haaaard. I don’t know if it was that I was out of practice or that my hip was weak or that it was ninety fucking degrees, but I was discouraged. I knew that I could get back, but I figured that it would take a really long time. I started to worry that I’d be doing three-mile runs for months.

I rested another day and today I went on a longer run. I was trying to decide if I could run my ten-mile race in two weeks or if I should defer that one too. I figured if I could run five or six miles after being out of practice then I could get to ten for a race.

You guys. I knew as soon as I set out that it was good. I ran. Without pain. Without weakness. Without walking. I almost started laughing around mile four because I was so relieved.

I ended up running 5.5 miles and could have gone farther. I’m working very hard at not doing too much too fast though so I didn’t push farther.

I’m so happy though. I think I didn’t realize how fully depressed about it I had been until that really started to lift today. I feel like a huge weight has been lifted off my shoulders (or my hip, as it were).

I have a long road ahead of me to get back to where I was and and an even longer one to get to my January marathon. But for the first time in more than a month, I feel like I can run there.

WaaahunghblechWORST :)

I have all the depression about my running injury. I had been working hard in physical therapy and was slowly bringing my running up to a level where I was starting to do the long runs necessary to run my 20-mile race next month.


Suddenly I have this sharp pain like someone is jabbing me in the upper hip every time my heel strikes the ground when I run. Literally nothing else I do creates that delightful jabbing, stabbing sensation—just the one thing I want to do.

I am super agitated about the whole thing.

I am continuing with PT and seeing my orthopedist on Tuesday. I’m hoping he’ll give me a cortisone shot—and, yes, I know that pain signifies something wrong and blah, blah, blah, but I just want the stabbing jabbing to cease so I can fucking run again and I am hoping that the doctor agrees with me that a big ol’ shot to the hip is the way to go.

So. I’m writing this not to get sympathy and not to make excuses and most certainly not to get advice. I am writing it because every time I think about it (read: every time I take a step, ow, ow, ow) I get sad and even more depressed.

I decided that my kids should bear the responsibility for lifting me out of my doldrums, so when I left for work today, I gave them their drawing assignment: “Something happy. Draw good.”

I’m pleased to report that they did, in fact, draw good, and in case you are in your own personal small emotional divot, I would like to share them for you.

Jack went the obvious route and drew “The King of Happy.”

A drawing of a green hill with a blue sky and a sun. Behind the hill is an orange ball with spiky hair and a kinda manaical smile.

I really enjoy the inside of Jack’s brain.

Quinn drew—as he almost always does—his cat, Oreo, but this time he made Oreo play Pokemon Go.

Drawing of green grass and a blue sky with his cat Oreo drawn in pencil and holding a rectangle that says "Pokemon Go."

Cats and Pokemon make me happy too.

Sam went simple, but lovely.

Drawing of concentric hearts in rainbow colors.

I asked Sam what his picture was about and he said, “Love.”

Love makes me happy too, Sam.

So, yeah, I’m still bummed out, but I have a plan and, more importantly, I have three kids who help me keep my eye on the happy things.

The Three Mudketeers

I have a group of friends that I run races with. You might be familiar with them from my Facebook race selfies. Four years ago I could never have imagined that I’d have running buddies. That’s a whole post of its own. I love them.

Between all of us, we get a lot of emails advertising races in the area. We send them around to each other to see if we want to participate in them together. Usually we are able to come to some sort of agreement about how fun a race is going to be and how we should run it together.

I recently sent one out that advertised the Frederick Mud Dog Run. No one bit.

But then I was all, “Aw, obstacle course races are so fun!” and “They’re not hard!” and “I’ve done them by myself but never with anyone and I think it would be really fun to do one with someone,” and by then everyone just felt sorry for me so my friend Lyda signed up.

Then her husband Bob signed up without understanding much about the race past the fact that it was a 5K.

No one else was kind/dumb enough to join us.

Race day was a couple of weekends ago and we all showed up at the start line scrubbed, fresh, and ready to go.

Photo of me, Bob, and Lyda before the race.

We would not be so clean again for quite some time.

Lyda and Bob had, by this point, spent a fair amount of time circling and fretting, both literally and figuratively. To be honest, I wasn’t completely sure that they were still going to be my friends after the first mud puddle.

Incidentally, the first mud puddle is where Lyda learned to keep her mouth closed when you jump into muddy water. That’s a tough lesson to learn.

While she was learning that, I was learning how hard it is to climb up a slippery, muddy slope, even if someone is giving you a hand as long as your foot keeps getting stuck in the mud bog you are standing in.

We had a really fun time, mud, blood, and all. We climbed walls, forded streams, walked across seesaws, and ran between every single one of those obstacles and more. We were awesome. I laughed a lot, even when Bob teased me about all the mud and smeared some on my shoulder. I got back at him by smearing mud on his face. Unfortunately for very many reasons, my finger ended up in Bob’s mouth, which shut him up pretty effectively. (Sorry, Bob.)

Two photos: one of Bob covered in mud climbing out of a bog. One of Lyda sitting on a mud bank grimacing.

See? See how much fun they had? Don’t they look happy?

I kid them of course. They rock. They defeated each and every obstacle with vigor and good cheer. My guess that it would be fun to do an obstacle race with other people? I was right. These two are cheerful and tough—two things I also consider myself to be. We were a good team.

We were a good team even when we came across the bog filled with deep mud that we CRAWLED across. It is maybe the worst thing I’ve ever done. It wasn’t even soft mud either. Under eight or so inches of mud there was no shortage of sharp branches that left little cuts up and down my right shin.

I was really happy when I got to the other side.

Photo of me with arms raised at the end of a field of mud. My arms are muddy past my elbows and my body is muddy past my waist.

At least none of us lost our shoes in there.

It wasn’t all mud though. Roy Rogers restaurant was a sponsor of the race, so they created an obstacle where they mixed BARBECUE SAUCE with the mud.

Barbecue sauce. Imagine that for a moment.

Photo of me and Lyda army crawling under a net. There is a Roy Rogers banner above us.

Look how cute we are even covered in mud and BBQ.

We finished happy, victorious, and with all our glasses and hats intact.

Two photos: One a close up selfie of the three of us covered in mud; the second is a full body shot of the three of us covered in mud.

At this point, I refrained from pressuring my friends into signing up for the zombie version of this race that takes place in October. That will come later.

We dropped some stuff in the car and headed back to the finish line for two very important things: our free beer and a hose—a hose with a very long line. We opted to get our beer first.

Photo of Bob and Lyda sitting at a picnic table laughing and drinking beer.

I love this photo. I love my friends.

Standing in line waiting for the hose was way more fun once we were a little tipsy and I was able to function again because I’d used the beer to clean off my fingertips because if there is one thing I can’t handle, it is dry dirt on my fingertips. You’d think I wouldn’t do these kinds of races with that sort of sensory issue. To that I say I am a bundle of delightful and infuriating contradictions.

There were a lot of people in line for the one operating hose. We patiently stood there until it was finally our turn. Chivalry isn’t dead and/or I was whiniest and Bob used the hose to clean me off first. Then Bob hosed off his wife.

Photo of Bob leaning down and aiming the hose at Lyda.

It must be awesome to have a friend like me around to immortalize moments like this when you’re hosing down your wife’s butt.

Then, just as Bob was ready to hose himself off, the water pressure dropped and there was no more water and so Bob had to drive home covered in mud. No good deed goes unpunished.

It was right around this time that I started feeling even worse about putting mud inside Bob’s mouth.

I had such a good time with my friends—and I am happy to say that they are still my friends, even after I quite literally dragged them through the mud.

Photo of muddy me giving a double thumbs up.


Indulge Me

I promise to not do this every day, but today is my birthday so you’re going to have to let me post photos of the art I forced my kids to draw today.

Today’s assignment was, “It’s my birthday. Draw a picture of me running.”

Jack drew the most realistic picture, depicting an actual event that occurred in our lives last weekend. I was out running and Alex took Sam and Jack biking and we crossed paths going opposite directions. It was lovely. I like that in Jack’s imagination, I was more spritely and less trudgey. But otherwise, totally realistic.

Drawing of me running one direction with my arms in the air and Jack on a bike running the other direction. There is a little turtle floating in the air that says "mine turtle."

Except for the, you know, mine turtle floating in front of him.

Sam also drew a picture based in reality. Mostly.

Me: “I’m pretty sweaty in this picture.”

Sam: “It’s because you’re in first place.”

Okay, so maybe not TOTALLY based in reality.

Picture of me running toward a finish line. There are blue sweat drops dripping from me.

Poor Sam has evidently brushed up against me after hot runs one too many times.

Quinn, on the other hand, took a different artistic path.

This picture is labeled "Accurate representation of what mom thinks on a run." There is a cactus, a sun, a cow, a giant weird looking cat, and a giant water bottle.

Although he’s not really all that far off.

And that is how you trick your kids into giving you sweet little birthday presents.

Stagnation and Progress

Effort is hard, y’all.

Ever since I got back from my half marathon, it has been a struggle to get out the door in my running shoes.

In my mind and on my training calendar, I was going to be back running 11+ mile runs starting the week I returned. That didn’t happen, nor was it probably realistic to imagine that it would happen. I’ve been consistent enough with running and I ran a killer 5-mile race last month, but I need to step it up because I have a 20-mile race scheduled for September 18.

That said, in addition to all the little aches and pains and the worthless right knee that I have, I have developed what seems to be a groin pull. And, in case you’re wondering, if you want to get treatment for a groin pull, you have to both say the word “groin” too many times to too many different people and point to your crotchal region about the same number of times. It’s not fun.

Much to my surprise, however, I did those things. I was concerned that if I pulled a Stimey and ignored it and assumed it would get better that it might, in fact, NOT get better, which would be surprising because isn’t that how these things work? Like I unplug and replug in my groin area and it’s better, right?

Regardless, I decided that even if the pain isn’t a problem for me on most days, I should deal with it now rather than run on it until I am completely immobilized and can’t do my 20-miler.

Happily and coincidentally, I happened to have a med check appointment with my doctor last week, which I turned into a Groin Pull Appointment, which in turn led to today’s evaluation at the physical therapist’s office.

Also, henceforth, my groin pull will be referred to as my Painful Situation, because I have met my lifetime quota for saying the word “groin” to virtual strangers.

The therapist did a full evaluation on my right leg and my right arm (because I offhandedly mentioned an upper arm/shoulder situation that I have been assuming would just get better for a couple of months now and he didn’t seem to think that was the proper course of treatment) and came up with a much nicer way of telling me that the right side of my body is all kinds of jacked up from toe to shoulder.

You guys, physical therapists are like magical mystery workers. He, like, tapped my foot and was all, “Do you have any toe pain?” and I was like, “YES! I haven’t told anyone because, you know, toe pain…that should probably resolve on its own right?…but I’ve been having stabbing pain radiating out from that very spot you are pointing at.”

Magical mystery workers.

Also, probably science and years of training. But mostly magic.

So, the dude has a plan that involves things like better posture and exercises at home and frequent visits to his office, but happily not things like surgery or mysterious toe pain for the rest of my life.

He asked if I had any questions and all I wanted to know was if I could run while treatment was ongoing. Joyously, the answer is yes. I’m allowed to run as long as it doesn’t hurt. I nodded, smiled, and gave two vigorous thumbs up at which time he added sternly, “It can’t hurt after you run either.”

*insert less vigorous thumbs up here along with a questioning face because doesn’t everyone hurt after running*

Long story short, I will likely have a month of easy, shortish, slow runs ahead of me. Not so bad really. So far, physical therapy is kind of awesome.

Race Report: Pittsburgh Half Marathon

Alternatively titled: Weekend Report: Pittsburgh and My Friends Are Awesome

I’m not going to keep you in suspense.

Photo of me after the race standing in front of a "2016 Finisher" backdrop holding my medal and wrapped in a space blanket.

I finished the Pittsburgh Half Marathon!

Thanks for waiting so patiently for me to write my race report, seeing as how the race was May 1. I hope you waited appropriately.

My friend and I clearly waiting in front of a sign that says, "Please do not wait in this area."

My friend Bec and I are brazen scofflaws.

I arrived on Friday afternoon for the Sunday race and checked into the tiniest, cutest little hotel room in Pittsburgh. I mean, first I walked in little circles in front of a confused check-in clerk because I’d patted my jacket pocket for my wallet, panicked when I didn’t find it, come to the conclusion that it was still in the car, started off to retrieve it, then found it in my pocket—the very pocket I’d originally patted.

Things turned around though when I got to said adorable room. I took a selfie and then texted Alex to tell him I was never coming home. I was on the 12th floor and had the best view from the hotel. All my friends were on the 11th floor and had views of roofs and walls and other hotel rooms.

Selfie of me in front of my window overlooking a park in Pittsburgh.

Let’s just get this out of the way right now. There are going to be SO MANY photos of me in this post. I am sorry.

My friends Lyda, Bob, and Heather were also running the half marathon and Heather brought her whole family, which was fun. Plus! My friend Bec and her kids were in town, which was totally delightful because even though neither of us lives in Pittsburgh, we got to hang out in Pittsburgh.

Friday night I went out to dinner with Lyda and Bob and we shared this amazing poutine tots dish that changed my entire world view about tater tots.

Photo of my beer next to a plate of tater tots, cheese, BBQ meat and some other delicious stuff.

Hey, look! I’m not in this photo!

Maybe the best thing about going out of town and having your very own hotel room is that after dinner you get to go to your room (alone) and lie in your bed (alone) and surf the internet (alone) and maybe watch some Hulu (alone) and then eventually fall asleep (alone).

But as day follows night and naps follow parenting, people follow solitude. Saturday morning I met up with my running people and we walked several blocks to find a packed bagel restaurant with a line out the door and stood there for 30 minutes to order bagels even though there was another location of that very same bagel restaurant literally in our hotel lobby. I did get to hang out with my friends though and the restaurant refilled my soda for free, so it really worked out fine.

After breakfast, I got to hang out with my buddy Bec and her kids. Because I was running a half marathon the next day, we decided to wander aimlessly all over Pittsburgh on foot. We visited all of the major sites, like the ticket booth for the incline and the little dinosaur ride in the weird empty mall and also that intersection where I made that fucking amazing u-turn the last time she and I were in Pittsburgh together.

Photo of a sign that reads "PAT employees permit parking only," but because of the window it looks like it says "FAT employees"

No one was parked in this spot outside the incline ticket booth (even though I think that first letter is supposed to be a “P” for “Pittsburgh”).

Photo of me in a yellow dinosaur kid ride.

Bec took this photo on a prior trip to Pittsburgh. The dinosaur has since been moved, but we were able to find it nonetheless. Our detective skills are fucking impressive.

Photo of me pointing at an intersection.

The scene of my u-turn triumph.

Yeah, for real, those are the things we went to see. We are not exciting people. I suppose that is what happens when two people not from Pittsburgh try to go sightseeing in Pittsburgh. We also went to a CVS pharmacy and told the store clerk that Bec had come all the way from Australia to go to the CVS. I’m starting to think it might actually be true.

From there, I rejoined my runner friends and related hangers on and we headed over to the runners expo to pick up our bibs and swag.

Photo of Bob, me, Lyda, and Heather posing in front of a pretend bridge labelled "Pittsburgh Marathon."

See us? See how ready to run we are?

The expo was like a more frustrating Easter egg hunt where there is only one egg and it is in the form of a headband that doesn’t cost thirty dollars and doesn’t have a joke about running for beer on it. (Hint: It will be at the last booth you visit.) Also, I made everyone go to t-shirt pickup first when we were required to go to bib pickup before we could get our shirts and they were on total opposite sides of the giant expo. That was me, paying it forward, making my friends walk a lot the day before a half marathon as well.

We also took in the view of Pittsburgh, which is way prettier than a city with “pit” in the name should be.

Photo of the river in Pittsburgh and a yellow bridge.

I don’t know if we ran over this particular bridge, but I do know that the half marathon sent us over a bunch of them. At one point, I didn’t even know which side of the damn water I was on.

After all of that, I went back to the hotel and took a nap. Because I needed to regain my strength before I headed back out to eat more food with my running people.

Now, I could tell you all about the delicious spaghetti I ate at dinner or how looooooong it took the valet to let me trade my car for that little piece of paper they give you, but I think instead I will tell you about the balloons.

Because we had two delightful young women with us, the roaming balloon animal artist (let’s just gloss over the fact that this restaurant apparently has a balloon animal artist for dinner service) approached our table. One of Heather’s daughters asked for a rabbit and the other one asked for (wait for it…) a snake.

But, and this is the important part, someone asked him to make me a mouse. Because these people know me. Sadly, one of the other balloon animals was a natural predator.

Photo of a small balloon animal mouse being vaguely threatened by a fancy balloon animal snake.

If I’d made a balloon animal snake, it would have been a straight balloon with dots Sharpied on the end for eyes. It probably wouldn’t have had eyebrows.

I saved him though.

Then I went back to my hotel room (alone) and slept some more. It was lovely.

In fact, Saturday was such a nice day that I almost forgot I had to run 13.1 miles the next day.

I was up early on Sunday morning so I could choke down my pre-race food, which includes chicken salad that I’d brought along from home. If you’re ever looking for something unappetizing, stare down chicken salad at 5:45 in the morning. But that is my pre-run food and it works for me and I wasn’t about to change it up before a half marathon. So choke it down I did.

It was supposed to rain, but at least it was warm, so it could have been worse. We walked toward the start line where Heather peeled off for her faster people starting corral and I headed to the back corral, which was NOT close to the start line.

Photo of the back of Bob and Lyda's heads. The start line is waaaay off in the distance.

There are Bob and Lyda in the foreground and there is the yellow start line arch waaaaaaaay off in the distance. We’d already come a fair distance from Corral D by that point.

It started to rain right before the race started, but it didn’t rain long and the air remained the perfect temperature. Honestly, we couldn’t have asked for better weather. What I could have asked for is a third porta potty break before I started running, because I spent the first EIGHT MILES thinking about how I wanted to pee but I didn’t want to stand in line.

I finally stopped after about 8 miles and waited in line for nearly ten minutes. It KILLED me. Up to that point, I had been making really good time. Frankly, I am still pissed that I stopped when I did and for that long. Practically instantly after I had gotten back on course, I started seeing rows of unoccupied porta potties with no lines.

Seriously. Still mad.

I gotta tell you though, training properly for a race is the shizz. I felt so good running that damn race. I really enjoyed it.

Photo of me smiling mid-stride.

Also notice my headband on my wrist. Thank God I purchased it at the expo.

I can understand how people get addicted to half marathons. Although, to be fair, I did take a substantial break while I waited for that porta potty, so I’m sure that didn’t hurt my stamina.

The Pittsburgh Half Marathon course is largely flat, which is awesome, but there is a hill at mile 11.5. I had been thinking about that hill for MONTHS while I was training. I purposely ran up and down a gajillion hills on training runs so that I’d be prepared for this one hill. In my mind, I was all, “This hill is hard, but it’s nothing like what that hill will be like at mile 11.5 in Pittsburgh.”

I may have overprepared.

I was aware of the hill, but I ran up that motherfucker—past, I might add, a LOT of people walking up it. (I also walked past the bystanders offering cups of beer to runners because, really? They wanted me to barf right there?) Now, when I say, “I ran,” what I mean is, “I ran reeeeeaaaalllllly slowly,” but I ran. Yay, me.

Then there was a downhill stretch to the finish line, which was killer, especially when I saw Heather’s family cheering from the sideline and I was able to run over and give them high fives. (Except I missed your hand, A, and I apologize for my terrible aim.) There is no better motivator than seeing someone you know on the course cheering just for you. Thank you, Team P! It was the perfect way to end the race.

The crowd support in Pittsburgh was really wonderful throughout the race. I don’t think there was anywhere that didn’t really have people cheering. And the support stations were fantastic, well spaced, and stocked with really cool people.

But. There was something that happened right around mile nine that eclipsed all of that. Remember Bec? She had told me she was going to come down and cheer me on and I knew she was going to be right around mile nine, which is one of the hardest miles because (a) you’ve run nine miles but (b) you still have to run a long way. I started scanning the crowds for her because I didn’t want to miss her if she’d come all the way out of her hotel just for a 30-second moment with me.

Dudes. I couldn’t have missed her.

And you have no idea. Just no fucking idea.

Photo of two people in full-body chipmunk costumes. They are each holding a sign. One says, "ROYGB!" and the other says, "FULL FORCE STIMEY!"

There are so many inside jokes in this photo that I couldn’t even begin to explain them to you.

That is Bec and her friend Dawn, who I don’t know, but who was delightful enough to answer yes when Bec asked her if she wanted to dress up as a chipmunk for the race and cheer on someone she’d never met.

When I saw them, I think I jumped three feet in the air, started screaming, and then ran directly toward them. I don’t think I tripped anyone but I don’t know for sure because I kind of blacked out from wonder for a second. After that, I had to give them hugs, even Dawn, who introduced herself as I wrapped my smelly, smelly, sweaty body around hers. Sorry about that, new friend.

I still can’t believe I didn’t have the presence of mind to take a photo with them. I so wish I had one. If anyone is planning to go support a friend at a race, you might as well give up now because it’s already been done and done better. I smiled about them and their ninja chipmunk outfits all the way to that hill at mile 11.5. Thank you so much, Bec and Dawn. I hope you had as much fun out there as I did when I saw you. You rock.

I think that is about it. My official finish time was 2:45:07, which still makes me so mad. (Stupid bathroom line.) I think if I hadn’t stopped, it would have been about 2:37:00 or so, which is by no means light speed, but makes me happy. According to my Garmin, my moving time was 2:35:28, which is an 11:40 min/mile pace. Fuck you, bladder. And lesson learned.

Said lesson: Even if you just peed six minutes ago, if you start to wonder just before you cross the start line if you should go again, YOU SHOULD. Okay, no more excuses, no more bitching. I ran a half marathon in 2:45:07 only walking through water stops and I am damn proud of myself.

Photo of me with my medal.

This is so not the most flattering photo of me, but it captures my happy just after the finish line and I love it.

Now, after finishing a half marathon, you don’t get to immediately sit down. You have to walk through a long finisher’s chute where you are handed things like bananas and water and a space blanket. I shuffled through there feeling pretty good and headed over to the spot where I knew my friends Bob and Lyda were meeting up.

Me wrapped in a space blanket

I was always skeptical that space blankets really helped keep people warm. I kinda thought it was a big hoax perpetuated by the space blanket industry and runners who were afraid to speak out against them. Turns out, they really do make a difference. I’m a fan.

Shortly after I took this photo, all the micro injuries and soreness that I hadn’t felt yet started to kick in. I located my friends and then we hobbled back toward our hotel.

I was staying through Monday morning, but Heather and her family and Lyda and Bob were leaving after the race, so we had a post-race shower fest in my room and said our goodbyes. My friends departed to slowly cramp up in their cars, while I stretched out on my bed for a nap. I definitely made the right decision.

I had made this decision so I could see Bec and her family again, which was also the right decision.

I left the next morning to drive home by myself, taking with me happy memories, a sore knee, a heart big with love for my friends, and encouraging signs that now live in my office to remind me of my friends and my achievements. All I left behind in Pittsburgh was a tip for the maid and a small balloon mouse.