Tuesday, May 24, 2011


1/4 mile to the finish

Well, I did it. I ran my first half marathon. 13.1 miles of I can do this, why am I doing this, is it over yet, oh my God I am so close and wow, it wasn't that bad. All of the training and support paid off so well. It wasn't the training, it wasn't the right diet, the music helped (you will see below) but it was the mental preparation.

I know what a race feels like. I know what it feels to surge, to get a good steady pace, but I thought about how I would deal with a course I never ran, a possible schizophrenic Shuffle, tired legs, running in an elevation...the last mile. You have to mentally prepare for this is going to hurt, not as much as those sadists running 26.2 miles but life could get a little uncomfortable.

Of course, you know me. I think that if I maybe ran a few more days I would have done better than my 2:14:26 finish. But, in the end - I finished what I started. I think that signing up for the half would not have sufficed. Knowing that I was raising money for the Mario lemieux Foundation -- that people gave me money to run my best for a charity -- it kind of seals the deal.

The whole weekend was organized extremely well - from the packet pick-up to the corral system. I found a great sushi place to get a nice mix of noodles and some protein Friday night. I stared at my running bib for a while wondering what I had gotten myself into.

Saturday was a mix of nerves, carbo loading and taking in some Pittsburgh faves. I had never been to the Andy Warhol Museum. I trecked over the Robert Clemente Bridge - soon realizing, Oh my God, did I just jinx myself? This is the end of the race tomorrow. I stopped and did that mental thing - No, look at this spot. Tomorrow, when you come over this bridge *note this is also the final hill of the course * and you see the sign that reads: We Are Victorious. Remember how you feel. Remember the run not just the finish.

I spent two hours in the Warhol Museum - not realizing there was a keep at least a foot away from the painting rule...I wanted to see the brush strokes. I proceeded to the Strip - I needed food. It still amazes me this part of town - so diverse and so Pittsburgh.

Gaga World

The Strip

I ate my carbs at Rolands -- then ventured to the Heinz Museum to see the Sports History Exhibit. So much sporting history - The Crawford Grays, Roberto Clemente, Mario Lemieux.

I was THERE!
Ultimate fan

A Legend

The day was getting late -- no more procrastinating -- I had to rest. I had to run the 13.1 miles in my sleep.

The day was perfect.  A nice drizzle, kind of cool, and I felt the two carbo loading days - I felt energy and positive and READY TO KICK SOME PITTSBURGH ASPHALT! 

By some miracle, I was placed in the second corral with people who could run -- ha ha. Seriously, these were 8 minute milers. I had to remember to not rush - to pace. I cheated and listened to what my first song would be. Traveling Without Running by EMF...good pace song.

National Anthem, God Bless America...Oh my God the race just started. It was just like that. Run. The first mile was met with enthusiastic crowds, a drumming circle that played until the last runner / walker crossed, a fire breather and a lot of people who only cheered for their friends (boo Pittsburgh - we have names on our bibs for a reason). EMF, Lady Gaga, Skynyrd, so far so good.

The first four miles went well and I was on my way into the Northside. The crowds got bigger. Mile 5 heading towards the West End Bridge brought possibly my favorite moment - a full gospel choir. Seriously - if that does not motivate you than you should step aside and let me Glory Hallelujah to the South Side sister. We crossed the bridge as Cold Play - the anthem to last year's marathon played -- appropriate.

The South Side -- also known as the reason why i HATE flat stretches. Great people - costumes, gummy candy, music...and dehydrated on my end. I could feel it -- I had been drinking Gatorade and sipping water. My very pleasing 9:45 miles was diminishing. I stopped at the mile 11 fluid station...make or break - I drank two entire cups of water. Then I ran - and here comes the Forrest Gumpism -- I just started running. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=AN8kAjbuCIA I miscalculated and was soon at the Smithfield Street Bridge - a surpise - I WAS GOING TO MAKE IT. In my head, I knew that the downtown stretch was a few blocks - Smithfield to Sixth - Roberto Clemente - finish.
Wait - there was one final goal. I forwarded through songs until I found it -- the song I vowed to end with -- Maniac by Michael Sembello. I knew it wouldn't take me to the end - I wanted to hear the crowd, Ryan Clark, I wanted to hear my feet cross the finish line.

The first lines killed me to tears -- Just a steel town girl on a Saturday night, lookin' for the fight of her life... I am a maniac. This song is Pittsburgh to me. Girl power. Overcoming obstacles. Achieving dreams.

Finally - 12.5 miles into the race as I crossed into the final hill of the race, the Roberto Clemente Bridge, just as I got into that zone of "remember this, remember the run" like the Voice from Field of Dreams took over in my head. Someone shouted my name  GO PAULA!!! Finally - someone can read!! Around the corner and down the chute. 2 hours 14 minutes and 26 seconds. I DID IT.

It feels amazing to know that I was able to take something that I never liked at all and learn to appreciate it. Now, I love it. I love the challenge of a new hill, lack of motivation and rain. I love learning about a new world and meeting new people. I can share this with my husband - who introduced me to running - and how it can give you a new outlook, a place to hide and a way to work out your mind. I don't know what is next - I would love to improve my time. I cannot fathom the life commitment of a full marathon - but I have learned to never say never.

What would this be without some music -- a little commentary on my Shuffle List:

1. Traveling Not Running - EMF Perfect for the pace -- ironic title
2. Judas - Lady Gaga I wanted to dance at this point -- and run next to Norman Reedus
3. Bang Bang Bang - The Virginmarys Good power song -- since people were silent
4. Fuel - Metallica Cranked this one
5. Free Bird - Lynyrd Skynyrd Would have preferred this at the end - on Carson Street
6. Channel Z - B-52s Took me back to 6th grade
7. I'm Still Standing - Elton John I began to feel like Elton was mocking me at this point
8. I'm Being Followed - Duran Duran One of my new faves -- the sirens help run fast
9. Vida la Vida - Coldplay Last year's anthem for the marathon - motivation
10. Rolling in the Deep - Adele I think I was strutting to this...sing it Adele!
11. Rockaway Beach - Ramones Where I wanted to be with a beer at this point
12. State of Love and Trust - Pearl Jam One of my fave PJ songs, don't remember this
13. The Fly - U2 I began to think about Bono chasing me in the Fly outfit ... dehydration
14. Against the Wind - Bob Seger The Gump moment...
15. Working on the Highway - Bruce Springstreen Nice pick me up
16. Glory Days - Bruce Springsteen Had an 80's moment here
17. Pride and Joy - Stevie Ray Vaughan For anyone who knows my history with SRV -- LOVE
18. Dance Tonight - Paul McCartney Lighthearted for the tough beginning on Carson St.
19. Powerful Stuff - Fabulous Thunderbirds Had doubts at this point --needed water
20. Same Direction - INXS Yeah - not too enthused at this point.
21.Moneygrabber - Fitz and the Tantrums Small burst of energy -- think it was the gummy saver
22.Tennessee River - Alabama love this song - quickly forwarded it for motivation
23. 40 - Franz Ferdinand Now we are talking! still want water
25. Don't You Forget About Me - Simple Minds WATER!!!!
26. Should I Stay or Should I Go - The Clash Miraculously -- I was saved
27. Enjoy the Silence - Depeche Mode Singing out loud I think...imagining I was carrying a folsing chair through the moutains with a cape and crown ... oh, that wasn't me.
28. Hey Hey (What Can I Do) - Led Zeppelin Robert Plant I love you
29. Major Tom - Shiny Toy Guns remix  http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=KGultrg7l0I&feature=related
30. Truckin' The Grateful Dead Good song for cruise control...but I have some time... Wait, bridge bridge, no I don't!!!
Skipped  some songs
31. Maniac - Micahel Sembellohttp://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5x1K5UH2nek


The miracle isn't that I finished. The miracle is that I had the courage to start (John J. Bingham)
The reward

Monday, May 2, 2011

3500 Days

Courtesy of NYTimes...Ladder 4 The Pride of Midtown

Disbelief. Closure. Anger. Sadness. Bittersweet. That pretty much sums up the feelings of the news that Bin Laden was killed. When the news of the President making an "unannounced subject speech" was made, three things came to mind: UBL was caught, peace in the Middle East was secretly secured or someone accidentally pressed the red button in Moscow and nuclear annihilation was imminent. Geraldo was the first I heard say anything about Bin Laden. Everyone assumed it was news about Libya.

Who knew the day would be capped with news of Bin Laden's demise. There was the initial - wow-finally. But the was soon followed by the thought of "it's not over." No, the death of Biden does not signify the end of AQ or terrorism, it is more symbolic if anything else.
As terrorism goes, Al Qaeda was not ruled by Bin Laden so much anymore, he was more like the Queen of England, a figure head, but a powerful one at that. His death, which some may call a martyrdom, could be a catalyst for the extremists. It is time for us to be more vigilant - we have stirred the hornets nest indeed.

For the families and friends of those who have lost loved ones on 9/11, from the Deutschebank fire, and who died fighting overseas, I wish them a sense of closure. Bin Laden was the face of 9/11, although we all know the enemy is faceless and an extremist theology wrought with hatred and retribution. This has been going on since Isaac and Ishmael (look it up - it's in the Bible).

3500 days have passed since that blue sky September day. Once I got home tonight - I watched familiar faces on the news, men I call friends relieved that their brother firefighters received justice. They rushed to Ground Zero - as they did over 3500 days ago - this time to celebrate then seeming closure of a wound that will always remain open. I watched the Concert for New York: Mike Moran telling Osama to kiss his royal Irish Ass, Paul McCartney talking about his father, a fireman; Cop, Fireman, Rockstar there to heal with Music. Tears and memories of our world that changed so quickly 10 years ago.

No matter how you feel about today -- I ask that you simply follow this: Never Forget.