Avoid the flat, Hit the hills and Run Pittsburgh!

hillsWhen looking for a race, people usually are looking for flat or downhill courses. Two years ago, when volunteering in Richmond to present the Pittsburgh marathon I was surprised to see how many runners were reluctant to sign up because of the elevation profile. The city is known for its hills and the race directors did a great job to avoid steep hills (look at the five steepest hills to get a general idea). But when presenting the course, you have to come with an elevation chart to convince them it was not too hilly.

The general idea is that a flat course (or a downhill one) will be easier on your legs and require less efforts. Of course, this is obvious you are going faster on a flat course but was the elevation never change, you are working the same muscle group. And if you choose a downhill race, this can also put a lot of stress on your joints. Even for a flat race, you are putting all the efforts on the same muscles group and exhaust them until the last mile. If you are going to try to qualify for a particular time (Boston qualifier anyone?), this can be (1) very exhausting and (2) hard to recover as your body is not used to such long and intense efforts on the same muscles.

That might seem odd but running a race with some elevation variation can be easier on your body. As your running form is changing according to the elevation, you are not using the same muscles and when a muscle group is used, the other can rest for a while. Of course, this will not be easy, but if you are trained and used to take some hills, it will be definitively easier.

One example on the east coast is Erie and Pittsburgh. Erie is a big Boston Qualifier race: very flat, the course takes place in what one might consider as ideal conditions (perfect temperature most of the time, completely flat race). This is a two 13.1 loops on Presque Isle. Needless to say, pretty boring: after the first loop, you have only one wish, finish as soon as possible. On the other hand, Pittsburgh (or even Richmond) have some slight hills and is considered more difficult. But as long as you are used to run some hills, your body will recover quicker. And the course is nicer: you experience most of the neighborhood and the volunteers are pretty awesome. No matter if you are a Pittsburgh native or a new visitor: you will experience the city from a different perspective. Better than doing two loops on the same course. If you never experience the Steel City, I just recommend to come and experience this race. This would show you why Pittsburgh is one of the best city to live in the USA.

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Avoid the flat, Hit the hills and Run Pittsburgh!

Tobacco Road Marathon: Race Report

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The 2015 medal

The Story

A friend of mine familiar with the North Carolina area told me that there was a fantastic race around called Tobacco Road. It was also selected by Runner’s World as one of the top 10 marathons in the USA. As the registration fees for early birds were pretty cheap ($50), I registered immediately. The course seemed wonderful and is really flat. The race director highlights that this is an  ideal Boston Qualifier: pretty flat with good temperature, you might get a good time and qualify to run the mythical Boston race.

If you plan to do it, I would recommend to register early: the early bird registration is $50 and the fees goes up to $110. At $50, this is a fantastic deal but for $110, it seems too expensive for what it is and you might prefer to sign up for another race (Pittsburgh?). While the race was not sold out, it might be a good idea to register as soon as you know you can make it to save on registration fees.

How I got there

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Natty’s Greene Brewing Company

Many friends decided to run the race but as a matter of fact, for several reasons, I was the only one to finally make it it. As I never DNS or DNF (for now … knock on wood!), I went there alone! As I was working in DC the week before, I take the drive from Washington, DC to Raleigh. This is a pretty straightforward drive.

The conditions for a horrible day were met: I fell few days before the race and injured my arm/hand and I was sick two days before, so, I was looking forward to see what will happen. Also, this is the first time I tapered before a race and did not run on Saturday before the race and took plenty of sleep. I wanted to see the impact of sleep over my performance and ability to race.

I arrived in Raleigh on Friday. Packet pick up and the race expo are at the Embassy Suites hotel on Friday and Saturday. You cannot take your packet on race-day, so, be careful to get there at least a day before. The expo is pretty basic with running stores, shoe sales, etc. I took my packet on Friday and want to Natty Greene’s, even if I was sick. The race is sponsored by Natty Greene’s Brewing Company, so, this was also a good opportunity to go and try their beers! In a nutshell: the food is ok and the beer is average. But obviously, they sponsor the race, so, what the heck, give them your bucks!

On the other hand, I was totally sick on Friday and was just hoping it will eventually get better after a few hours. The strategy was just to try to sleep as much as I can and avoid to overload my stomach and just try to keep something inside. Very romantic week-end in perspective. I got plenty of sleep during Friday night and Saturday and did not do any carb-load or special nutrition strategy. It will be definitively an interesting race!

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Safety measures were already up on Saturday

The Race

The race organizers did a pretty good job to make the area safe and convenient for runners. On Saturday, there was already signs to indicate there will be runners on Sunday. This might be be so significant but it shows the attention and efforts the race director put into his event.

The race is well organized. Parking is limited at the start so you have to park few miles away and a shuttle bus connect the race site with this parking. There are a lot of portable toilets as well, either at the start/finish line or even on the course (there are not many but they are there very often).

 

 

The elevation profile - pretty flat
The elevation profile – pretty flat

 

The race starts with 2.5-ish miles on the road and after, you run on the Tobacco Road trail. You start a first 6-ish out and back (so, 12 in total) and do another 5-ish out and back  and finish by taking back the road (2.5-ish) to the starting line. Simple course, not exactly flat (it has slight hills, see the elevation chart) but definitively not an aggressive elevation profile. This makes this race a great Boston Qualifier for those who do not like hills! There are many aid stations with Water/Gatorade (probably even 2 to 3 miles) and some propose GU gels. Also, the second turn around (about mile 19-ish) is more an ultra-station with Peanut Butter & Jelly, Pretzels, etc. The beer enthusiasts will be happy to know that there is a beer aid-station (probably not official) around mile 7-ish and 9-ish). I appreciate the initiatives but on this day, I did not want to try such a thing, especially so early in the race! But it shows the support of the local community and how nice and friendly is the people around!

Over all these miles, you can see the nature, run on bridges, listen to the birds: that sounds very romantic. But what seems a great race on a sunny day could be a nightmare with more rain. We were lucky that the race was on a sunny day but in case there is rain it can be a complete muddy course. So, your race experience might be impacted significantly by the weather.

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Get ready at the starting line

Once you finish, you get your medal (yeah!) and you can go to the dedicated finish area to get chocolate milks, beers, pizza and bread! The beer was nice and pour were smalls so that you do not drink too much  (which can be hazardous, especially if you have a long drive right after!). The bread was great and tasty, the Great Harvest Bread Company did a great job, their products were definitively the most appreciated sponsor here! I would have made my complete post-race recovery with bread and butter but I did not want to take too much!

The medal is very cool and original, another good reason to sign up! The ride back to the parking lot using the shuttle takes about 10 minutes, the system set up by the organizers is really efficient!

As for popular Boston-Qualifier race, the emphasis is put on the PR bell, the potential BQ for every runner, etc. Fortunately, a runner from Steel City Road Runner got her BQ at this race! So, it seems to be legit!

Lessons Learned

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Representing the Steel City Road Runners

This race was the first one after a long time. As I was injured, the training was really different and this gave me an opportunity to learn a lot. Some thoughts:

  • sleep is definitively underrated and carb-load overrated: the race was done on an (almost) totally empty stomach but after two 9 to 10 hours night of sleep. During the run, I was able to put down three gels and a peanut butter square. I felt great (no bunk) and not tired at the finish. No wall effect as well.
  • walking might be necessary and do not impact significantly your time: the pain related to the injury started to come back sometimes, making running extremely difficult and painful. When it happens, I just walked for one to two minutes and then, the pain disappeared. It happened three times during the race. This is probably better to lose 6 minutes on your finish time than suffering for four hours.
  • running is definitively a mental process: all the conditions were met to have the most terrible experience. Previous injury, not having the friends I was expecting, being sick before the race, the list might be long and I could just decided not to start. But putting your ass on the starting line is probably the most important step to finish. Do, stop whining or complaining: put your ass on the starting line and do your thing. Action matters more than anything else.

The Take-Away

This is a great beautiful race if you run it on a sunny day. For $50, this is a great deal and I would not consider to run it for more (I would consider running another race). If you want to qualify for Boston, this is a great opportunity, especially if the race takes place on a sunny day.

The race is really well organized and there is nothing to complain about, there is truly a great event! This can be a great opportunity to make a road trip with other friends and discover North Carolina! Plus, you can meet famous people: Sean Astin, an actor in “The Goonies” and “Lord of the Rings” ran the race! Pretty cool!

More Information

Tobacco Road Marathon: Race Report

Pittsburgh 2015 Race Guide

After running more than 3500 miles and a few races in 2014 (including 7 half-marathons, 5 marathons, 1 50K and one 50M – complete list here), there is a list of good races in the Pittsburgh area. As many running friends are asking for good race, I hope such a list could be useful! This is definitively not complete and you might find your perfect race elsewhere. However, I am hoping this might help some runners out there!

Happy new year 2015 and run happy!

Finish are of Run Around the Square
Finish are of Run Around the Square

5K & 10K

There are a lot of small races: easy to organize, they do not need to much administrative work (compared to half-marathon of full marathons) and many folks can join (you can even walk a 5K within a hour). There is a good choices for 5K and 10K around. The following are particularly recommended:

  • Run Around the Square (August): very friendly 5K that includes a beer stop and hot dogs at the finish. The race go into Frick park and can be challenging for beginners. Even if the race can be seen as expensive (almost $30), Forbes Magazine reported that you can eat for two days after running so it pays off. See the race website and the 2014 race report.
  • The Steel City Road Runners “Flash 5K” (several races during Summer): the Steel City Road Runners club organize Flash 5K. These are a series of 5K around the city. Races are free of charge and very friendly. You need to be a member of the club, but considering the membership price, this is definitively not too expensive. It gives you an opportunity to gauge your performance without paying an expensive entry fee. See http://steelcityrrc.org/
  • The FAAP Fall Classic 5K or 10K (September): yes, the website sucks but the race is fun! With a registration of $20 that supports a charity, this is a fun race in North Park. Different from the hype of many other race, it can be also challenging for runners not used to trails! See the website http://faap5krace.yolasite.com for more information and the race report of 2013.
  • Marathon week-end 5K (May): yep, the highlight of this week-end is definitively the marathon on Sunday. But the marathon week-end has also a fun 5K, a great way to get started for the week-end! At $40, this is definitively an expensive race but if you are just looking for a first race and discover the marathon events, this is a good event to go. More information on the race website.
  • The Great Race 5K or 10K (September): never run it so far but heard a lot of good things inside the running community. The route is not too difficult and the event is really big. More information on the race website.

Half-Marathon

  • Dirty Kiln (April): dirty kiln is not a race, this is a real challenge! There are two options: a 5 miles and a half-marathon. This is a very challenging course on muddy trails. Very cheap (between $25 and $30), friendly with Pizza at the finish, this is a must-do if you are looking to run trails! More information on the race website or the 2014 race report.
  • Pittsburgh Half-Marathon (May): looking for a half-marathon and not running the Pittsburgh marathon? Do the Marathon! And if you are a member of the Steel City Road Runners, you will have access to a pre-race breakfast and finisher area! More information on the race website.
  • Run to Read (January): a very low-key half-marathon in West Virginia in January that benefits the Volunteer. More information on the race website on the race report.
Finish of the Pittsburgh Marathon!
Finish of the Pittsburgh Marathon!

Marathon

  • Pittsburgh Marathon (May): of all marathons I have done so far, the Pittsburgh marathon is probably one of the best experience. The race is very well organized, go through many different neighborhoods and let you discover the city. More information on the race website or the 2014 race report.
  • Richmond Marathon (November): probably the best marathon I ran after Pittsburgh. The route is beautiful, the support across the different neighborhood is fantastic. One issue: it is far from the Burgh, so, you’d better make a week end of it rather than driving on race day! More information on the race website or the 2013 race report.
  • Erie Marathon (September): flat course with two loops, it can be boring if you expect to have different views during your race. However, Erie is a very easy and scenic course in Presque Isle. Plus, this is a Boston Qualifier race, so, if you want to qualify to go to Boston, this is a good candidate! This event used to have a half and full marathons but, because it is a popular Boston Qualifier, it will be only a full marathon for 2015. More information on the race website, the 2013 race report and the 2014 race report.
  • Columbus Marathon (October): I never run the Columbus marathon but heard many good thing about it! If you want a wonderful fall race, this might be the one for you! More information on the race website.
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On the Laurel Highland Trail

50K

  • Laurel Highlands (June): a challenging 50K or 70 miles race. The first 8 miles have more than 1500 feet of elevation which are very hard to climb. The support is limited (not as many aid stations as in other races) but this is definitively a wonderful and scenic course. If you are in love with trails, this one should be on your list! Be careful, the races have a hard cap and are sold out every year! More information on the race website.
  • Groundhog Fall 50K (May): The biggest surprise of 2014 with Dirty Kiln and Rock’n the Knobb. One of the most friendly race, a lot of support with aid stations about every 5 miles (with people baking cookies for the runners!) or so, a very affordable race ($25 for 25K or $50 for 50K), support of veterans and team RWB. Very good first ultra (if you do the 50K) or trail race (for the 25K). The race director is very friendly (however, a new RD will take over in 2015). More information on the race website or the 2014 race report.

Misc

  • EQT 10 milers (November): there are not so many 10 milers races in this area. The Pittsburgh 10 milers is definitively a good race even is the route is not so scenic. For the price, it provides a good workout and provides the ability to log a long run on a Sunday. If you like to run in the city, this is worth to have a look at this race. See the race website for more information or the race report for more information about the race.
  • Rock’n the Knob (September): a trail run organized by the Allegheny Trail Runner group. Very hilly and challenging course! There is a 5 and 20 miles option to accommodate different running needs! This is a very friendly race and there is a beer brewed just for the race! Definitively a good one if you plan to run on trails! More information on the race website or 2014 race report.
Hungry to pace!
Hungry to pace at EQT!
Pittsburgh 2015 Race Guide

Stepping down

Talking about the Steel City Road Runner club is not. After 18 months, being part of this group is one of the reason I loved this city so much. I will remember forever my first run with SCRR, my first discussion with Shannon about this club and the difficulty to understand each other because of my frenchy accent. This is also how I met Jon, the dude that inspires me to run ultra marathons (the guy ran several four 100 milers the same year). I was definitively hooked: running was part of a new lifestyle, not just a thing to stay healthy and in shape. It started to be my religion, my drug, my addiction and the Steel City Road Runners became the church when I got my regular fix. For that reason, I wanted to give back to the group, contribute and improve it. As the group was getting more popular, new leaders were required and volunteer positions were posted. I applied immediately: I wanted to give, be part of the magic of this group. I was nervous to be rejected: what if I do not qualify? What if I am too weak and not good enough to be part of this group? After a couple of weeks, the decision came on July, 31: I was selected as an Ambassador. I was then able to be part of the community and propose my own improvements! It was an opportunity: the club was growing and faced many challenges. I was then happy to be part of the team that will address these concerns.

However, after more than three months into the program, I am sad to say that it is probably better to step down. I will try to summarize why I stepped down, and what are the problems SCRR is facing now.

How it happens

Once I was selected, all Ambassadors had a meeting with the new group leader, a new employee from the marathon office that was now in charge of the club and coordinate all volunteers. The meeting was very confusing: we were not invited to introduce ourselves (our name was not even asked!) and we were required to provide idea but were not invited to present them.

The only objective that was discussed was to increase the number of members. Make SCRR bigger. Growing. Talking quantity. Not quality. I thought my objective was to represent the members and act for their best interest. So I tried to talk about their concerns and talk about what they reported:

  • no restroom: we were previously offered to use the marathon office bathrooms for our events. Unfortunately, as the club was growing, this created some issues related to having a big crowd in a small space. A member broke a window, others hang out after the run. We were no longer welcome and for a good reason. However, we still need to offer bathroom. I proposed several alternatives but they was always turned down.
  • pre- and post-run, no post-run nutrition: SCRR previously provided post-run nutrition and snacks. This was done by using $50 gift card from sponsors and buy chocolate milk and snacks at a grocery store. It was a good way to finish the run and refuel: people hang out a little longer, discuss and connect each other. Now, people are hungry and come back home right after the run (or get breakfast somewhere) soon rather than staying around. Was was a great way to connect with the rest of the group after a good workout. The club no longer provides that. The new club representative reported that is was “not a priority”.
  • membership perks: all the membership benefits were removed from the website. Looking at it, there was no longer a good reason to be part of SCRR. The webpage was not talking about the perks on the day of the marathon. Nothing about the runningwarehouse.com discount code (just 15% off with free shipping!). Nothing about having supported runs (of course, they no longer exist!).

After expressing these concerns, the meeting was over and it was promised that these concerns will be addressed in a timely manner. This was three months ago.

 

Feeling cold because you have to go to a portable toilet in the snow during our run? Not a problem, our sponsor offers a pair of socks! Lucky you!
Feeling cold because you have to go to a portable toilet in the snow during our run? Not a problem, our sponsor offers a pair of socks! Lucky you!

 

Follow-up

A second meeting took place on October, 13. The meeting started with a 5 minutes video totally meaningless about team building. The same type of video you watched to build self-confidence that you can manage a project or lead a team. None of the issues reported previously were addressed or even considered, the new club representative considered them as a “low priority” (words repeated several times). Regarding the concerns expressed previously by the members:

  • no restroom: it was ok to use the restroom again without evidence or document. As we need to prepare the marathon training program, it was critical to have a place we can rely on. After asking for more details, I was offered (in an e-mail signed by the new representative and the CEO of the marathon office) that as a volunteer, I was invited to repair the damages done by the club members. It showed all the consideration the office has for its volunteers and ambassadors and the plan to use them as a cheap labor.
  • pre- and post-run nutrition: it was reported by the new group leader that this was not a priority and that it did not matter. I was amazed that a new person in the group seem to know what the members wanted (in that case, why are we supposed to report members feedback and suggestions?). A coach told me that if people comes for that, it was better not to have them in the group. I was also surprised by such an aggressive behavior. So, I made my experiment to see how much it would cost to provide support. I organized a unsupported run with 18 people and provides post-run snacks and nutrition. It costs me roughly $15 and half of it left after the run. After working on number, it seems that offering post-run nutrition would cost between $2000 and $3000 per year. With an operating budget of $40k, it seems we could afford that. Instead, I was offered (still by the representative and CEO of the marathon office) to find local dairy provider and have a sponsor agreement to get post-run food. This showed the marathon office priority for the club.
  • membership perks: the only update was focused on non-running perks such as discount for food or cultural events. Even if a running group can grow as a social group, it must adhere to basic and core values. Providing support for runners must be and stay the first priority for such a club. By putting support as a low-priority and starting to highlight social perks clearly shows the new focus of the group.

At that point, it seems clear that the club was no longer focused on supporting its members but to forcethem to embrace a specific vision. Finally, the meeting agenda focused on other minor aspects. It then started to be clear that we were not used to provide feedback but just spread and good word and believe in the proposed propaganda.

 

Exclusive discount for SCRR members, forget the 15% at running warehouse we have since several years and that is better!
Exclusive discount for SCRR members: forget the 15% at running warehouse we have since several years and that is better! For information, the Fleet Feet discount is shown on the members perks while the Running Warehouse is hidden. Why?

 

Forget your Freedom of speech

One of the topic during the meeting was the social media policy. When joining the facebook group, SCRR members acknowledge to respect the group rules. The rules are basic: no defamatory message, personal attacks or arguments. But even sarcasm or humor is no longer appreciated. A fellow known runner once made fun of the marathon office on facebook and his post was deleted. Forget that the dude was one of the best (and probably biggest) advocate for the group (the dude is well known in the community and run probably more than 50+ across the country). Most of the folks I know found its words funny, especially because it was also a sarcastic way to report the issues the club was facing. However, it seems that the leadership team did not appreciate this type of humor and censored the post right away. This was a clear first warning: our words must be supportive for the club, do not discuss issues and be polished and clean.

On my side, I invited the members to a training run I organized on a Sunday and put a disclaimer to notify this was not a supported event (which, basically, is probably a good thing to avoid having any issue is somebody hurt himself on the run). I got an e-mail right away from the club representative inviting me to “Please consider “re-wording” your disclaimer, or not having one at all“. The representative also indicated that : “As an Ambassador for SCRR, you are part of our staff so I would ask you to remember that when you write something for the public to see.“. Problem is: I did not want to be part of her staff, just be supportive for my friends. There was a willingness to control my freedom of speech for just inviting somebody to an event. But also asked me to adhere to a polished language.  Something totally clean, tasteless, boring. Again, by joining a fun group, who the hell wants that? We want fun, we want to make fun of ourselves, we want to have great time! Screw the conventional language, the SCRR representative, I am not part of this group to speak as in a professional conference! I am here to have fun, to speak, to feel free.

In other word, fellow ambassador and Comrade, please comply with the party policy!

Solving problems SCRR style!
Solving problems, SCRR style!

 

Willing to help? No thank you

Another area I tried to help: the website. Let’s face it: the Steel City website is poorly designed, mostly because of its CMS, wildapricot. The system does a poor job for resizing pictures, layout text, etc. If you are not a webdesigner, it can produce a really bad content that is compliant with w3c standards and has a browser-dependent rendering. In addition, there were some features the members wanted: a database of our routes, a directory of the members that plan to attend to run, having a mobile-compliant website, etc. The user experience was just a disaster and loading pages was just terrible and took a lot of time (some pages require to download more than 3Mbytes, which can kill your data plan if you are using only a mobile access with a limit).

All these issues are normal for a club that does not have a focus on technology: the club leaders are probably not web-designers and have something else to do. Maintaining the club, coordinating volunteers and organizing events take already a lot of time! I offered to help. I designed a database system to record and search for maps to run around Pittsburgh. I also proposed several times to help to improve the website. As I did a lot of webdesign and work on many online software, I think I could help. As a previous developer of mobile applications, I was thinking to make an online app to synchronize runners agenda and automatically check-in at training runs. Of course, I offered that at no cost. The offer was always turned down and never had any follow-up.

 

You have some ideas? They are no longer yours

When going in the first meeting, the new club representative asked us to come with two new perks for the members. I came with two perks in mind:

  • trail running 101: introduce members to trail running. Schedule two trail runs per month during the months, provide support, pacing groups and have sweeper to make sure nobody is left behind or is injured without support. Each run will end with discussions between runners to exchange advice, tips and good area/trails to run in the area. In other words, build a trail running community within SCRR. I proposed this idea at no cost, I just needed an acknowledgment and the ability to put my training on the calendar. After the meeting, I asked how to implement the idea. I was told that it was not a priority and will be implemented with a coach from Greensburg (and was not aware of that). This is clearly not the way I wanted my idea to be implemented and after being notified, it appears that the idea was no longer mine but was taken over the leadership team.
  • a training race for the fall season: many of us come to the Run for Gold race. It is a cheap, friendly race on a scenic trail that is perfect when training for a race in the fall and see where you stand in your training schedule. Unfortunately, it is far from Pittsburgh (2 hours to drive which is not convenient in the morning), so, one idea was to make a race with a similar characteristics (under $30 for non-SCRR and $20 for SCRR members for something around 15 to 20 miles) around Pittsburgh. I wanted to make a french race, had sponsors, a plan for nice finisher medals (Eiffel tower medals anyone?), specific wine-stop (forget the water kiddo!) and a friendly and friendly post-race party (want to refuel on wine and cheese?). The idea was proposed and immediately turned down. Several folks in SCRR told me they will be willing to help me to implement the idea and I already had enough potential volunteers. Such a perk would come for free and would probably attract more than a pair of socks. But it seems this was not the opinion of the new leadership team.

thankyouambassador

Let me attract you with rewards

During the meeting, it was reported that ambassadors and coaches will be rewarded if they support the club during wellness events. The rewards? Gift cards, coupons, etc. That was a huge miscommunication mistake and a lack of appreciation of the reasons people join this program. Coaches and Ambassadors did not come to get a reward and do not care about having a $25 gift card to shop for groceries. They are here to be active, be supportive for their communities. Not to be a cheap labor at the service of a poorly managed organization. Why should we rewarded? We love working for this club!

Even if the general idea was to reward people, it was one of the biggest mistake because it shows the real consideration from the marathon office to the coaches and ambassadors. They assume to be a cheap labor and execute what we were instructed by the new club representative. We were not considered as ambassadors able to act, help the group and support the members by implementing new ideas. From that moment, it appears clear that our ideas will not be implemented and the club will not let us give us the freedom we wanted.

SCRR is working hard to attract new coaches and ambassadors
SCRR is working hard to attract new coaches and ambassadors

Let’s focus on our core values …

What is the current problem with SCRR? The club is just trying to focus on numbers and quantity. Adding members. Such a policy an usual trap and pitfall when an organization grows and loses its core values. So, what are SCRR core values: a club for runners by runners.

Nothing else.

But among the months, many benefits were lost:

  • members no longer have training programs (unfortunately, the club tried to use runcoach last year but this was mostly a disaster as the software has plenty of issues and was not accurate)
  • maps are not as attractive as other clubs (fleet feet propose maps with a specific theme each week, which gives a context for your run and introduces specific area of the city)
  • pre- and post-run support is no longer there (no post-run nutrition and bathroom as discussed before).

On the other hand, during the meetings, the focus has been to reach out to new potential members and present SCRR as an organization that promotes wellness, friendship. This can be great, but this should definitively not be the first priority and not be at the cost of our core values. Having 10% discount on a fitness class? Some might appreciate but the majority is here to have support for running.

Because at the end, all what our members want is to run.

Making a great club would not cost so much. With an operating budget of $40k, this is easy to make an organization that does not sacrifice the core benefits. Many tasks can be done almost at no cost: there are many volunteers that will be more than happy to help. Of course, it requires a good organization and this would be the role of the club coordinator and representative: trying to find synergies and synchronize collaborations, not to over-control every contribution and turn them down. A minimal budget would be $10k to cover the basics, the actual budget could then offer a lot of margin to provide additional perks (such as access to a private space with bathroom for the Pittsburgh marathon).

Starting to change things is not difficult and can be done quickly with a very simple plan such as the following:

    • reach out the members. now and find out what they want
    • publish the financial numbers, show how the memberships are used and stop any rumors about potential misuse
    • classify the recommendations of the members
    • implement the changes

Based on that, it is possible to decide what changes will make sense and implement something that is requested by the members, not the leadership team. Because after all, the leadership is here to serve the members. Not the opposite. Without the basic understanding of what the members want, this is going to fail because there will be no approval from the members.

 

training

 

… and define who we are

There has been discussion about what is the structure of SCRR: an independent non-profit? a company? something related to the marathon office? For now, this is clear that the club is tightly related to the marathon office. But the question of having a real, independent club has never been debated. Each situation has his pros and cons and the members would have to choose what structure is the most appropriate:

  1. if the club is related to the marathon office, we can have support from this bigger entity. This can be useful to connect with other organization related to running and overall, wellness activities in Pittsburgh. On the other hand, this also create some issues:
    1. be transparent about the budget. Rumors have circulated during the last weeks that the marathon office considers the club as its ATM. One solution would then to publish the accounts. This would also shows who is paid and how much they are paid. Some SCRR members are paid by the marathon office but knowing exactly the details would help the members to know how the organization works internally.
    2. identify duties for all members. It means that the club must have an organization chart with established duties. I requested such an organization chart for the current club. After one month, I have been given a PowerPoint chart with the name of the ambassadors/coaches without the name of anybody from the marathon office nor any assigned duty. In other words, they just tried to avoid to discuss that.
  2. if the club is independent, it needs to define its own structure (a non-profit for example). The leadership team could be selected by a yearly election or anything else that will bring more transparency than the actual organization. On the other hand, such a structure will bring other challenges:
    1. coordinate efforts. Need to have several people for each activity with potential backup. This will also need to coordinate all efforts. On the other hand, this can be done efficiently and cheaply with an appropriate management system (and there are software to manage that with mobile- and web-applications).
    2. secure funding across the years. Make sure we have enough to support the club activities. On the other hand, with a $40k operating budget, there would be already enough to cover the club needs.

No matter the structure, each option has pros and cons. So far, the choice has been to be associated with the marathon office. However, the relation with this organization and showing a proof of independence has not be demonstrated. On the other hand, this is important to show that the club is dedicated to support its members and nobody else. Having evidence (publishing organization charts and the yearly budget online to all members) would then address this aspect and then stop any rumors or criticism from the members or potential competitor.

 

scrrbenefits

And now what?

For sure, this article will initiate discussions, animated debate and potential minor changes. After stepping down, several persons asked me to reconsider my decision. I was also offered to have a discussion from the CEO of the Pittsburgh Marathon. Yes, with the same person that endorsed an e-mail that invited me to repair the broken glass of their building and never show any consideration for our efforts. I do not think that this is going to make a difference and this three months experiment was probably already enough.

There will probably be some quick actions/efforts to defuse the bomb and stop the debate. I would be not surprised to have a group e-mail or many facebook to explain that change is coming for the best and that what is reported in the current post wrong. Unfortunately, actual coaches and ambassadors have evidence to support each argument developed here, you can just ask for it: this is your club and there is nothing to hide. But beyond that, the best proof is just the facts: the new leadership team took over the SCRR leadership since three months. Since then, nothing happened. The changes that have been implemented are not related to running and the probation period is over. Is implementing quick changes take so much time, we should then be worried of what would happen when bigger changes are required.

On my side, I will still stay in SCRR as a member (assuming I am still on the members list). I want to keep running, support my family, the people that keep inspiring me along these years. I do what I love, love what I do. I do stuff because I believe this is the right thing to do, not because somebody told me this is the way to go. And this is not going to change.

scrrjesus

Stepping down

How to sh*t your pants during a race: Grand Canyon PA Half-Marathon and Marathon – race report

The beginning

The Grand Canyon, PA half-marathon and marathon races were held on July, 26 and July, 27. You can do the half, the full or decided to “rock the canyon” which basically means you are doing both races. I decided to “rock the canyon” and signed up for both! The races are not very expensive considering what you get: about $80 for the full, $45 for the half and $110 for both. Considering the price of some events, this is definitively worth it: you can enjoy the fresh air of the mountain and have some space to run. Nothing to compare with events like Disney which charges you more than anybody else to run on roads open to traffic packed with people stopping every two steps without going on the right side of the road!

My partner in crime and I drove to Wellsboro, PA on Friday, the day before the race. As we wanted to support the event sponsors, we stayed to the hotel that sponsored the race, the Penn Wells Lodge (which was a huge mistake, more on that later). The drive was 4 hours from Pittsburgh, not too bad at all. The  hotel has a swimming pool, a hot tube and other facilities you will enjoy. But, as the Walt Disney Marathon, this hotel was a mess, but I will discuss that later. After getting there lately, we decided to go for dinner early. Most of the places were closed and we ended up in a Steakhouse in Main Street. Our experience was almost as good as the one with the hotel: I would get better service and food at McDonalds. If you are looking for a good place, I would rather recommend the Wellsboro House, not too far from the hotel (if you are willing to book in that place …). They have a great service, are accommodating with special diets and very friendly!

Heading back to the hotel, I asked if this was possible to get a late breakfast on Saturday. The race started at 07am and after completing, we had to come back with a shuttle, which might take about one hour total. After all, if they are the official hotel for the event, they should be “runner compliant” and accommodating? However, the staff reported they had no intention for doing such a favor and the service will end at 10am no matter what. I asked also if it was possible to extend the hours a little bit and explained why (the half marathon started at 7am but you need to take a bus to go to the starting line and come back) but again, they were not willing to do so. Apparently, “customer service” is not something well known in that place. About the hotel itself and the rooms: the walls are so thin that you hear your neighbor pretty well and surprise, the bathroom have mold! Not the best place to stay.

Packet Pick up

Packet pick up was held on a School, where the shuttle to the race started. It was well organized with a swag that contains all the necessary information to go to the starting line and visit the area. There was not so many vendors but anyway, do you really shop a lot during race expos? On the other hand, there was a nice local chocolate/candy vendor. I was not able to refrain myself from buying some of them, pretending I cannot go there without trying the local specialties.

 

The book that should be provided in the goodie bag
The book that should be provided in the goodie bag

 

The Half-Marathon

The race started at 07am but you have to take a shuttle to get there. The last shuttle leaves at 0545am and it is really better to be there before to avoid congestion. By taking this last one, you are on the course at the latest by 0630am. There is a lot of port-o-potty when you exit the buses but … none next to the starting line. Which is a big issue because people had to go back and forth between the pick up location and the starting line.

The race started on time with a friendly weather. Part of it is on the road but most on dirty road. Elevation is not too steep, but, having trained in Pittsburgh, this might not be the best reference. The course go through the Grand Canyon and you have one or two great views (see below).

Type of view you can expect
Type of view you can expect during the race

 

There are water stops every 2 miles or so, so, you will not be dehydrated as long as you keep taking a sip at every stop. There was no “real food” at the water stops, only gels but nothing else. On the other hand, this is not a big issue on a half-marathon, as such a distance can be completed without food. On the other hand, this might be an issue for the marathon (more on that later).

The big issue was the port-o-potty: there was almost none on the course. While I do not really care because my GI system is made of titanium, this can be a big issue for other runners who are more sensible. I have seen only one port-o-potty on the half-marathon course while there was 10+ of them at the starting line. This is a real downside for the half. Some might argue that you can go in the nature but this is clearly not an option for others. The elevation profile is not too difficult. There is no steep hill but no “flat part” at all. So, you just alternate up and down hills. Just have to be used to this type of course, which is not an issue when you come from Pittsburgh.

Elevation profile of the half marathon
Elevation profile of the half marathon

 

Once you finished, you received a medal. The results are updated regularly during the party on a board. You get a nice box for food, extra fruits (apple, banana) and pretzels are also available. But not having a port-o-potty at the finish (they are at 0.5 mile so you need to walk) is really inconvenient. This is very unfortunate because all the rest (transportation, course, schedule, results) is well executed and makes this event a great one!

Once you are done and if you did not shit your pant, a bus service takes you from the race to the parking lot so that you can bring your car. It takes about 30 minutes to come back.

In between

We came back to the hotel at 10:02. Fortunately, the hotel staff was wrapping up the breakfast area. Just on time to try to grab some stuff to take as a post-race refuel. At that time, I had no t-shirt, I took it off after the race because if the heat and having blood on my chest (you know, this runner issue …). While I thanked the staff for letting the breakfast a little bit lately, I got the following friendly reply: “put a shirt: no shirt, no service, this is the law”. I was just amazed how unfriendly with their customers.

Conquer the Canyon!
Conquer the Canyon!

The afternoon was the opportunity to visit the area around Wellsboro, rest and prepare for the Marathon the next day. The bib, t-shirt and other stuff were included in the packet I took on Friday, so, no need to come back to the expo. To sum up, the area is great and this is definitively worth to drive around and look at great lookouts. If you planned to go there, consider to take a GPS or a map: you have no cell service at all the the directions are not clearly mentioned. So, this is easy to get lost quickly.

On race day, after waking up at 0430, I saw the hotel staff preparing the breakfast area and asked if I can get a bagel as I was preparing for the day (coffee, breakfast, etc.). The staff told me that: “breakfast will be served in 20 minutes” (in other words, when the shuttle was leaving … so convenient when racing!) and that it is not the rule to serve breakfast before the time. The staff also mentioned that if they give me something, they have to give to all hotel customers. Surprisingly, this does not seem obvious for the hotel to give to their customers what they paid for. I can understand such a service from a normal hotel that is not prepared to accommodate needs for customers with special constraints. But considering they sponsored the event and claimed they were runner friendly, I do not know why they were not more accommodating. The manager might be french or just rude and unfriendly.

The Marathon

As for the half, the marathon starts at 0700am. You have to get a shuttle as well to go to the starting line. As being said before, the main issue is the port-o-potty that are not next to the starting line. There are 10 next to the buses but this is 0.5 mile from the starting line to that, if you want to make a break, you have to come back and forth. Definitively not convenient.

The marathon route go through the same area as the half. Basically, the first part covers the half marathon (except the road part) and go further. There are some hills, while they are not too steep: the biggest elevation is 200 feet, which is not to difficult. What might turn you down is that there is almost no flat area. So, you will constantly go either up or down. Just have to deal with it.

The course is an out and back, so, one you get to the 13-ish miles point, you just turn and hope that your pants are still clean. For an obvious reason: there are no more port-o-potty than for the half! On the marathon, there is only 2 places you can get some rest! So, if you ate the fettuccine alfredo the night before, pray for the best. Otherwise, pack some toilet paper and prepare yourself for a great experience with mother nature.

Elevation Profile, not so hilly!
Elevation Profile, not so hilly!

 

There are water stops every two miles as well, so, the race is doable without an hydration pack. On the other hand, the food available at the water stop is really limited (same as the half): gels at miles 4-ish, gels + banana at mile 14-ish. I am glad that I packed energy bars and asked my partner in crime to bring some extra! This is also definitively a big downside and could be easily fixed (get a costco card and buy some packs of candy or pretzels would be more than enough!). If having limited food for a half is not a big issue, this can be inconvenient for a full.

Once you finish, you receive the medal and, if you completed the half the day before, get an extra-medal for completing both races. On my side, I received an additional reward for having finished 3rd in my age group in the marathon. As for the half, you get a box with food when you arrived and the selection is actually very good as well.

The Medals
The Medals

As for the half, a shuttle gives you a ride back to the parking lot (it takes 30 minutes). But be quick: the hotel that sponsored the race allowed a late checkout at 1pm instead of originally … 12pm! In other words, if you completed your marathon in 4:30 or 5:00 (which is common for many runners), this is almost impossible to check out on time! And do not even think about taking a shower!

Many runners asked before to get a late checkout 2/3pm and the hotel previously acknowledged. But upon arrival, they distribute a paper indicating they changed their mind and asked for a checkout at 1pm. This issues with the hotel also impacts the overall week-end experience. Considering that you pay almost $130/night for a room with mold, no breakfast and rude and unfriendly staff, you just feel that these folks just make fun of you.

 

The Takeaway

Highlights

  • Course well organized: timing was available, results posted quickly
  • Schedule on time: at the latest during the afternoon
  • Bus shuttle from the start to the parking lot: lots of shuttle, pretty quick to get there
  • Packet pick up and expo was simple with just what we need!
  • No car, scenic and offer the opportunity to discover a scenic area: this is a unique opportunity to race in this region.
Next Sponsor for the PA Grand Canyon
Next Sponsor for the PA Grand Canyon

Suggestions for Improvements

  • Put several port-o-potty at least every 5 miles: Having limited space for them is understandable. On the other hand, having only 2 for 26.2 miles is definitively not sufficient. Having at least 3 every 5 miles would be more than appreciated.
  • Sponsor the course by Scott: is the organizers cannot put more port-o-potty, I suggest we replace an existing shitty sponsor (Penn Wells Hotel) by an appropriate one.
  • Have a real runner-friendly hotel: the Penn Wells Lodge was everything but friendly and accommodating for runners.
  • Having a Rock the Canyon results: for those who completed the rock the canyon, having some specific rankings would be useful. Making the half or the full is though but completing both is another story and knowing there you placed among the participants could be useful.
  • More food option on the road: the food at the finish is more than enough (the package is great!). But having more options on the road (especially for people who do not like gels) will be greatly appreciated. This might be easily fixed by making a trip to costco and buy candies, pretzels and other high-carb food for runners.
  • Provide a copy of the well-known book How to shit in the Woods(great reference by the way)

 

Summary

This race is definitively a great one. Not having portable toilets might be an issue for some but most of runners would not have any issue at all. I would just recommend to be prepared (wither not to eat anything heavy and/or take baby wipes with you). But this is a minor issue considering the race, the nice lookout and the unique opportunity to run in these mountains with adequate support. If you like the nature and are looking for a great race, I definitively recommend it. Just do not stay at the Penn Wells, there are better and cheaper places in the area!

How to sh*t your pants during a race: Grand Canyon PA Half-Marathon and Marathon – race report

Race Report: Pittsburgh Marathon 2014

Writing a race report about the Pittsburgh Marathon is a difficult task because it is connected with so many facts about my life during the last month. Being fair and avoid any partial judgment will be hard but I promise I will try to do my best.

First of all, Pittsburgh is the city I felt in love with many years ago (in 2008 exactly) when I visited Carnegie-Mellon University as a PhD student. This is the city I wanted to live in and this dream came true more than a year ago. This city offered me a new life from many perspectives (social, work, etc.) and literally transformed my life. Also, this Pittsburgh marathon reminds me how stupid I was after loosing all the weight few years ago. After losing 150 pounds, I was so worried to become fat again that I exercised every day for 1 or 2 hours. This impacted my social life so that I ate almost nothing but salad and lean protein. I felt tired, irritated, exhausted and bored all the times but I kept my exercise/diet routine at no cost. With almost no friends, no social life: no matter what, the goal was to continue exercising. I was also into a weird behavior where I had to exercise for one additional hour if I ate some bad food (such as a scoop of ice cream) or drink something else than water (such as a beer). I was fit but alone. Last year, I did the Pittsburgh Marathon 5K and, even after running since more than 4 years, I was clearly not able to complete a marathon. I remembered watching the marathoners from my gym and thought the runners were crazy: they were pushing too hard and just not healthy to do such a stupid long-distance race.

But after a while, I met the Steel City Road Runner group, started running seriously and these guys that eventually become very good friends. Sure, I gained weight but stay fit, healthy (my heart rate is below 50, I think I still look ok) and (bonus) have a real social life. Also, in the meantime, I ran four marathons, several half and usually run more than 50 miles a week. Also, another important fact is that my partner in crime, a PA native, is also a runner and we enjoy traveling across the country while we participating to running events.

So, yes, talking about the Pittsburgh marathon is a difficult topic and I will try to do my best to make a report to tell you can expect. But this is clearly not a race, just a fantastic experience.

At a Glance

The Pittsburgh Marathon is organized over a week end. It includes several events:

  1. a 5K, a 1M kid run and a pet walk on Saturday.
  2. a half-marathon and a marathon (and a relay also) on Sunday.

As the marathon was on May, 4 this year, the force was with us (“May the force be with you!”). The short-distance events might seem on the expensive side ($50 for the 5K) but the price for the half- or full marathon (between $85 and $145 depending on when do you sign up) is reasonable considering the experience. If you want to do it, register only to avoid price increase but also the possibility for not having any bib (the race sold out quickly this year).

 

runner-with-vader

May the 4th be with you!

The festivities started on Tuesday with the expo – people can take their packets, hang out at the expo to shop of discuss with other runners, etc. Serious stuff starts on Saturday with the 5K, the kid run or the dog walk. Then, on Sunday, the half-marathon and the full marathon (with the possibility of the relay) start. The half-marathon and the full were sold out, which shows the popularity of the event. More than 50000 runners were part of the event.

Race Expo

The race expo was really big with many shops and other companies wanting to sell their stuff. Hoka had a dedicated stand with the new shoes and I resisted to the call of the Rapa Nui (a new model proposed by the brand). As a member of the Steel City Road Runner club, I volunteered at their booth. I arrived at the expo on Saturday at noon and my shift was from noon to 4pm. After my shift, I visited the other booths and resisted to the call of buying more and more running gear. I just took my packet, check my bib information and go for a noodle diner in downtown!

Jeff Galloway, the dude behind the run/walk method (and also one main coach for the Disney marathon) was just next to the Steel City Road Runner booth! Surprisingly, he is very accessible. As I was next to him for four hours, we discussed a lot of time. This seems weird to see him so accessible: anybody at the expo could come, discuss with him and have some information. Sure, he was there to sell his book but he did not mind to spend 20 minutes to discuss with somebody. This convinced me to buy two of his books (so, he is also a good sales representative !).

julien-galloway

Looking good at 70!

 

Race

Organization

The race was really well organized from the start to the end. Everything went smoothly, the signs were easy to spot, there was plenty of water stops, etc. In terms of water stops, many volunteers distributed Gatorade or Water. At some stops, you can get Powerbar gel or chunks of Powerbars.

There is a stop every two miles, so, you do not need to carry your own water or energy bars as long as you are ok with what is provided. Also, at the finish, there is plenty of water, bananas, bagels and other foods. Food was available even after five hours, so, if you are slow, you can still refuel after your race!

Another nice feature is the drop bag: all runners can drop a bag before starting the race and pick it up once finished. So, you can go ahead, bring some money or your cell-phone, put that in your drop bag and take it back when you are done! Packet drop-off and pick-up were not so crowded and accessible, which is not always the case in all events!

Packet

The packet contains the minimum: your bib, some gels, sunscreen and the drop-off bag. There is also a nice journal about the race. Nothing really fancy, just the minimum. But more than enough.

The course

The course goes over most Pittsburgh neighborhoods. You can find the course on my mapmyrun related activity and also on the official website. Overall, this is not very hilly and the organization crew did a good job for avoiding most hilly soits. In fact, Pittsburgh has two of the steepest streets in the US and so, it is possible to make the marathon a real fitness challenge! Instead, we have only one medium hill (before the half-marathon mark) that is not too difficult and just refresh you half way!

 

pittsburgh-bridgesPittsburgh Bridges by Shaun

In addition to the elevation profile is the view over the city. Pittsburgh is full of bridges and all runners (half- and full-marathon) cross four bridges, and probably the best ones! Runners go over Rachel Carson bridge, Andy Warhol bridge and Birmingham bridge. But the best thing is to cross the West End Bridge, one that has high traffic and not easy to run on while training. Running on these bridges give the experience to have a unique view over the city, which thrills you and give additional energy to continue your journey.

 

Timing

The race started at 7am. Four corrals separated runners at different paces. Obviously, the starting line was pretty well organized. I was in corral B and started to run at 0705am. The bib has a chip and the timing results are posted on xacte. Six different times were reported:

  • Starting time
  • 10K
  • Half-Marathon mark
  • 15.4miles mark
  • 20 mile
  • Finish time

runpix-example

A nice perk that comes with your registration is the runpix report. It shows you a graphical representation of the results: where was you when a friend finished, when the first dude in your age group crossed the finish, etc. Many would argue this is totally useless and they might be right but I still love having such a feature!

Also, the race is tracked by Race Joy, an app that provides the ability to track your friends over the route. Also, you can track several runners using text alerts: you register your cell phone for a runner and as soon as he crossed a particular point on the course, you receive a text message. This feature is particularly useful for people cheering: they can know when you are supposed to pas next to them! Some friends used this feature to find me on the race!

Finally, the race has a 6 hours cut-off time, so, you have to cross the finish before these 6 final hours! While I think everybody made it in that time frame, a dude finished just on time. In fact, he ran the whole thing in a fireman suit (see picture below).

firefighter-pittsburgh-marathonLast finisher: the fireman runner!

 

The Neighborhoods

The course go over most Pittsburgh neighborhood: Downtown, the Strip-District, North Side, West end, South Side, Oakland, Shadyside, Regent Square, Homewood, Highland Park, Friendship and Bloomfield. When running, signs show when you enter a new neighborhood. Also, the race book have the list of the neighborhood with a logo for each of them. During the race, I enjoyed most of them, pick a bottle of water in Bloomfield, take a cookie in Friendship but pass on the beer and booze stop in Bloomfield. I also appreciated seeing many folks I met these last months in the city: my former roommate Jon who ran 2 miles with me, many colleagues and their family, etc. Seeing people you like gives you a boost and additional energy to continue your race.

The organizers did a great job by cutting the course over these different neighborhood and excite its residents to cheer on the runners. Most of the neighborhoods were active: people dancing, cheering, encouraging you to continue to run! This is definitively something that improves the overall race experience! Having band playing music, seeing people giving water, cookies, beer, reading funny signs make these 26.2 miles pleasant and fun.

The best neighborhood was probably Homewood. While being not so popular, this was a fantastic with people playing soul and funk music, dancing and cheering at you. The worst one being Oakland: streets were empty, quiet and almost dead. This is unfortunate because many university (such as University of Pittsburgh and Carnegie-Mellon University) are within this neighborhood and could be something for this community. Hopefully, the Filipino American Association of Pittsburgh (FAAP) made a great Cheerathon between Oakland and Shadyside and were probably the most innovative Cheerathon over the course!

 

 

Steel-City Road Runner Benefits

Being a member of the Steel City Road Runner club provides additional benefits during the race week-end! Among them: access to an indoor space before the race with breakfast and bathrooms, private bag check and access to a finish tent with food (including ice cream, chicken, salad, etc.), massage, photo booth, etc. Considering the membership is $40/year and provides many other perks (e.g. race and gear discount), this is definitively worth it!

Having access to the Benedum center before the race (it opened at 0530am!) was a big advantage. On the other hand, considering the size of group now (probably around 2000 runners) it would be appreciated to have bigger bathrooms and many guys waited in line. The breakfast was also a good idea, very simple and enough for a pre-race fuel.

At the finish, the tent was a blast: the massage, the food was just great! Having a large choice of food options (with lean protein) was appreciated, as well as the treats (such as the ice cream). This is really something that makes the overall experience better. Also, having our own bag check was appreciated: we then can just pick up the packet and enjoy the company of other runners.

scrr-group

The Steel City Road Runner – before the run

But beyond the basic benefits, this is just great to have a place to meet together, take pictures and just hang out. This is probably the biggest benefits among all: being able to stay together, connect and share the fun we had during these 26.2 miles.

 

Let me make my French …

As many folks already know, french people complain all the time even during the best moments. So, I feel I have to put a french touch to this report and detail what could be improved. If you feel offended, just “excuse my french”!

About the race itself, there is not so much room for improvement. Obviously, having done Asheville Marathon, Richmond and Disney, this one is probably the best I did and, among all the running events, among the best one. The race was wonderful, there is nothing to complain about the organization and there are many perks. To be picky, one thing that might be improved is cheerathon in Oakland: the area seems really dead when we passed it. The FAAP is the only nice spot in the area, and this is a good thing they are here! Another thing that could be improved is the content of the bag: having more toys, nutrition sample, coupons or race invitations. But obviously, these are small details and the event already do more than most other events.

From a Steel City Road Runner member, the club might offer more perks and benefits. While it already offer many advantages, there might have additional good ideas to consider:

  • Having a SCRR-dedicated photograph for free pictures in SCRR-designated areas. Taking a dedicated photograph to make pictures at areas where the group met and publish them for free. For example, having one photograph at the Benedum Center in the morning and after the race, within the tent. Providing free pictures on area covered by the official race photograph services might be unfair but, having such a service for the area dedicated to the group might be doable and not so expensive.
  • Official picture discount. About the picture, even if I am not a big picture fan, many folks love to get their picture during the race. However, the official photo service if really expensive (about $25 for a picture and $75 for all your pictures …). Having a SCRR-dedicated discount for buying pictures will be a nice perk and would probably get more folks to purchase them!
  • Bib switching/trading service. Having a service to switch the bib with other runners or defer the entry to the next year. Many folks registered early and get injured during the training season. Many try to transfer their bib but it can be difficult. Having a dedicated service that take care of it would be a wonderful perk. It would encourage people to sign up and training according to their schedule and constraints: if they do not feel ok to race, they can defer and if they feel really good, they might upgrade as well.

One more thing

This Pittsburgh marathon week-end was the opportunity to discover one more time how great running was, how much I enjoy and like this community. The unique experience I got over this week-end is something that originates from a long-term relationship with other runners within the Steel City Road Runner community. I am really thankful to these folks: in some sense, after traveling in many cities, relocating in different parts in Europe and America, they became a sort of adopting family. Again, I am really thankful to them and they change my life way more they might think.

For the same reason, there are also special thanks to two dudes. The first is Jonathan Kissel that initially organized the group activities and made it bigger, stronger. I was hooked by the training runs he organized over the last year with the different pacing groups. The second amazing dude is Dave Spell, another organizer that is now more involved in the organization of the group. As Jon, he is also a fantastic runner, and a great organizer that started new programs that get more people involved into running. Congratulations to these guys!

Also, this race was an opportunity to look back 18 months ago and think about what happened since I land in the Pittsburgh area. The course was an opportunity to see many folks I met over these months. Some are friends, some enemies and other frienemies. No matter what, they are or were part of these last months and made this time wonderful. Thank you again.

 

Notes

  • Some pictures are not from me and if this post violates any copyright, please contact me.
  • Fore info, a guy published his pictures from the Marathon for free. See http://www.hodnick.net
Race Report: Pittsburgh Marathon 2014

Taking rest

Well, after running every day 10 miles a day, this was time to take some rest. Only some basic exercises, some body-weight training and nothing else. This was also the opportunity to discover that MacDonalds was not evil and can have decent food items at a reasonable price.The McDouble is definitively a blast and just well balanced in terms of nutrition: paired with one (or two) side-salad, it then provides enough protein, fiber and al the nutrients I need when not exercising too much. Definitively a good deal for less than $5.

The next couples of days will be the opportunity to head down to Asheville for racing 26.2 miles. No big plans here because this is rather a scenic run. No performance, just a race to enjoy on a beautiful Sunday. The target time is 05 hours, no more, no less: this is useless to run faster when the goal is to last as much as you can on the road.

Training will resume next Monday to prepare for the first ultra and then make an attempt to finish JFK under 10 hours.

Also, on a computer programming side, this is time to come back and program some stuff. For that, a new github project has been opened. Nothing fancy for now, just some basic stuff to make some home automation using some OSS software. More on that later.

Taking rest