Last week I had the pleasure of spending time in Pittsburgh and racing the EQT Pittsburgh 10-Miler on October 25th. This was my third time visiting the city and I was eager to return - located on three rivers and nestled in hills, the city is quite scenic (especially with the fall colors on display!). What's more, the P3R team, who put on this race as well as the Dick's Sporting Goods Pittsburgh Marathon and the Liberty Mile, are one of my favorite race teams to work with. They take amazing care of their elite athletes and make you feel like family. Needless to say, it was a no-brainer to come back to Pittsburgh for my third appearance at the 10-Miler.
I arrived in the Steel City a few days ahead of the race to participate in some community engagement events, primarily a visit to a local elementary school that is part of the P3R Kids of Steel program. The program serves over 4,000 youth in Pennsylvania and West Virginia and promotes active, healthy lifestyles for youth - I fully support their mission! I was thrilled to get to meet some of the KOS participants from George Washington Elementary School in Bethel Park, PA. Fellow elite runner Emily Gordon and I talked to the students about what it means to be a professional runner and how we got to where we are today.
The teachers at GW Elementary have a saying they instill in their students: "Keep NED in your head" -- NED means Never give up, Encourage others, and Do your best. This simple message hit home for me - the advice is so straightforward, but so true! As professional runners who have been doing this for a while, we sometimes forget to go back to the basics. We get caught up in splits, tactics, how many miles we've run, how much we weigh, how we compare to others... and we forget the fundamentals of why we run in the first place. The message of NED really resonated with me, and I adopted it as my race plan for the 10-Miler. Just add "Run joyfully!" to the saying and you've got the whole package :-) Thank you GW Elementary for reminding me of the importance of sticking with it, supporting others, and always giving it my all!
The students made dozens of posters for Emily and me, rooting us on for Sunday's race. The posters were so special and definitely one of the highlights of the trip. Many thanks to my young fans for your encouragement + support!
Another highlight of the weekend was getting to spend time with the P3R team. This organization is committed to growing the sport of running, getting people active and promoting healthy lifestyles, and supporting elite American distance runners. P3R has supported me at this race before I'd run any breakout times, and they've helped many emerging elites get to the next level in our running careers. What's more, they believe in the power of elite athletes to make a difference in our communities. I share this vision and was happy to be part of it on race weekend. Thanks, P3R!!!
And finally, the race! Race morning was dark and a little rainy but thankfully not cold. Still, I couldn't seem to get warmed up and ready to go - my body felt sluggish, as if in a fog. A few hard strides served to pump me up, but unfortunately, the physical and mental fog remained throughout the race. After the first mile, I found myself running in 5th place but completely alone, unlike in recent races. Totally solo, I had to dig deep to push myself up Pittsburgh's punishing hills. At mile 8.5, I briefly had company - Esther Atkins (Erb) had come up from the chase pack and caught me. Despite her words of encouragement, I didn't have any gears to go with her. Though I tried to "keep NED in my head" and repeat the cheers of the students I'd met, my glutes tightened up and my last mile was my slowest of the race. A bit disappointed, I crossed the line in a frustrating time, 6th overall and 3rd American.
While the time and place weren't what I wanted, I *did* accomplish my goal of being top 3 Americans and getting an American flag at the finish! Last year I missed out on a flag by 1 second(!), so I was thrilled to have earned one this year!
I capped off the weekend spending time with running friends -- my roommate for the trip Emily Gordon (fellow Californian and marathon stud running for Team USA MN), former USF athlete and dear friend Maor Tiyouri (Israel's national record holder in the 5,000 meters!), one of my Ohio running besties, Heidi Greenwood (Oiselle marathoner and the fastest gal in the Dakotas!), and P3R elite athlete coordinator Ryan Hogan, who made the weekend possible. You can't stay blue for long when you have good friends to keep you smiling!
Now that I'm home from Pittsburgh, I've decided to take a mini break and end my fall racing season early. I'm bummed to skip the 12k National Championships in Alexandria next month, but I know the R&R will be helpful before I start my marathon buildup for the Olympic Trials. February 13, 2016 is approaching fast!
Til then, happy training!