Dry Martini: Racing and Retreating in Pittsburgh and Ogden

A marathon in five words.

I spent the better part of January, February, and March running in circles on the indoor track so that I’d be prepared for all of the outdoor running I planned to do in the spring. What I didn’t know is that I was also training for some endurance-testing travel — but more on that in a minute.

I’ve already gushed on and on about Seneca 7. It was freezing and slushy and gross. Mostly, it was epic. I hope the dice roll my way and I can do it again in 2019. This time around, I’ll pack some spare van shoes and even more (more!) snacks.

I had just enough time to do a mountain of laundry, re-pack, and head down to Pittsburgh, my hometown, for the half marathon. Five years ago, this particular half was the first I ever ran. It’s how this column was born, too.

For those who don’t follow every in-and-out of my writing career (which I hope would be all of you because, seriously, it’s not that interesting), I met SBS and Dimity at the Albany-area AMR party months before I’d dreamed of running a half. I pitched a couple of stories to them but nothing really stuck until a few months after the party, when I floated the idea of training for 13.1 and writing about it. The rest, as they say, is history.

Five years on, the Pittsburgh race still holds a dear place in my heart. And feet. And lungs. It’s not the easiest course to embrace. Just when you crest one hill, another steeper one is ready to pounce. The crowd support can get a little thin in some neighborhoods. Still, those streets are mine and I’m proud to be a five-time runner of steel.

This year, though, I just wasn’t feeling it. I went into the race weekend thinking that I’d just rather … not. I dreaded standing in a starting corral with 40,000 of my closest friends. I didn’t want to meander through Lawrenceville and the Strip and the North Side. I didn’t feel like dealing with the rain, which was certain to move in before I was across the finish line.

I did want to run the bridges. I always want to run bridges and the day that I don’t you should maybe check my pulse because I might be dead. I did not, however, want to run the bits around the bridges.

This particular bridge could use a coat of paint. Still a thrill.

Because I wanted a fifth medal of steel and my BRF Lisa wanted her first, I laced up and ran. I didn’t attack the course with any real sense of purpose; rather, I took in the sights and sounds of all 13.1 miles. I felt pretty great, frankly, and felt zero pressure to do anything but cross the finish.

Which is why it took me the better part of the day to realize I’d set six-minute personal best on the course. SIX MINUTES. I actually had to look up my previous official times because I simply didn’t believe what Strava was telling me. But there it was.

I’m sure there’s some great running lesson in there somewhere. I’ll leave it to our own Justin Ross to tease it out.

Two weeks later, I was off to Ogden for the AMR Retreat. I’m not going to gush on and on and on about how fulfilling and inspiring it was (even though it really, really was both of those things) but I will hope these pictures convey a few thousand words.

Coach Amanda, three-quarters of the Kansas City crew, and I hiked into the mountains on Friday. The scenery was worth the climb.
Race day! I think I got the prettiest leg.
The view from my bed.
Then this happened. Yes, that is Sarah.

I wouldn’t have missed any of those moments for the world. Which is good, because my travel karma this trip was in the depths of a honey bucket.

Outbound, I nearly missed my flight because of two car accidents that left I-90 a literal parking lot. I hit the check-in counter with literally 20 minutes to drop off my bag, get through security, and get my behind on the plane. Which I managed. Barely.

There’s always some part of travel that gets all FUBAR. I figured that was it and I’d be GTG on the way home.

How naive I was.

My initial itinerary took me from SLC to DEN to ALB, which would have arrived at midnight eastern on Sunday. I made it to SLC with time to spare, even though I had to undergo the full pat-down and bag search at security. Katie, who was on the Denver-bound flight, too, said she was surprised that the flight looked like it would be on time. That, my friends, is a phrase that should never be uttered.

The flight was delayed five minutes. Then 20. Then was diverted to Ogden to refuel. Then the tail winds picked up in and Salt Lake’s runways were closed. Then I threw myself on the mercy of Nancy at customer service who did her best to work every permutation we could think of before realizing that my best option was to give up and try a new series of flights on Monday.

Me, my luggage, and a random hotel near the airport. As one does.

Monday started waaaaaay too early, mind, but, again, made it to the airport with time to spare, which was good because I got the full pat-down and bag search again. The plan was Chicago-Midway to Albany, where I’d land at 4:55 p.m. The Chicago leg went off without a hitch until our final landing approach. The pilot had to pull-up at nearly the last minute because the wind was weird.

That maneuver is as … exciting … as you’d imagine. I didn’t wet my pants but it was a near thing.

We diverted to St. Louis because the plane needed more fuel. And, I suspect, the pilot needed a nice cool towel for his sweaty head and hands. An hour later, we were back in the air to Chicago, which left me 15 minutes to get to my Albany flight.

Thanks to fartleks and tempo miles, I made it. And landed in Albany bang on time.

I texted my husband, who was driving me the hour back home, and waited by baggage claim. And waited. And waited. And nearly put my head on the counter and burst into tears when the baggage claim lady let me know that she had no idea where my suitcase was and that paperwork would be involved.

I told you all of that for two reasons:

  1. It was an adventure. I was never unsafe--just incredibly displaced.
  2. EVEN with all of that bedlam, my high from the weekend retreating with BAMRs isn’t dimmed at all. (Plus, their comments on my real-time Facebook posts about the various insults from the sky gods helped keep me moving.)
My luggage got to go to Newark and Syracuse and Binghamton without me. I’m so proud that it held it together on its own.

My luggage, by the way, turned up at my house on Wednesday. My stinky running clothes had an extra few days to marinate and are even more fragrant that you’d suspect. They are in with all of the Sweat X ever as I type this. Fingers crossed!

So … what’s your most recent travel mishap? Or do you have a race PR you'd like to share? 

11 responses to “Dry Martini: Racing and Retreating in Pittsburgh and Ogden

  1. Adrienne, is my mind tricking me, or did you also have travel woes on the way home from Spokane last year?? 🙂

  2. I had flight issues coming home from the Ogden race too. I don’t enjoy flying unless there’s no hiccups.

  3. It was so nice to talk to you at the expo. Even though I did not hit my time goal. (I’ve got to work on my mental game) I did use the information you gave me. By putting a spot light on all the things around me instead of how much this hurts did get me through the race enjoying my time out on the course. Thanks for taking some time to help me out at the Expo.

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