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Stories

First Run in Pittsburgh, PA!

I left Baltimore for Pittsburgh at the start of this week (Sunday) to attend a five-day long conference in the steel city. My friend and I made a pretty uneventful drive of it along 70W and 76W. On entering the city, however, we were treated to a lovely vista — this nugget of a city nestled at the confluence of what I later found out to be the Allegheny and Monongahela rivers. We did a fair bit of walking trying to find our dorm at the Duquesne University campus. But find it we eventually did! And we took another hike downtown to the Wyndham Grand for conference opening activities. The city’s architecture is striking. And I was instantly in love with all the crisscrossing bridges. I have now learned as at the time of writing this blog post that Pittsburgh is second only to Venice, Italy, in the number of bridges it lays claim to. Anyway, enough of my Pittsburgh-gushing. As you can tell, I love visiting and experiencing new spaces.

After three miserable weeks of erratic sleeping and running patterns, I decided that this week would begin my second phase of regular 30-mile (or more) weeks. So, early this morning, I set out to hit the dirt and pavement. I emerged from my dorm room at 6 am and did a 1.5 mi out-and-back to purchase soap from CVS (I always tend to forget this one important item on short trips!). It was a balmy 66F out, but it was still pretty muggy. By 6:30 am, I was ready for the actual run and I didn’t think twice about going shirtless as I didn’t want to deal with a sticky shirt and chafed nips!

I had briefly scanned the surrounding area on Google Maps and knew I wanted to head in the general direction of Schenley Park, which I read had a decent trail system. But as things usually go, I somehow never made it to the park, getting derailed through some quiet neighborhood with a bunch of mini-hairpin turns on a cat-5 descent that popped me out at the tech center (or one of the many) at Carnegie Mellon U. The downhill run was fun (of the cautious, gingerly, variety)! The road was semi-dirt, and I forgot to add I was decked in my trusty New Balance Leadville 1210s (which had taken a 311-mi beating up until this point)! The next mile or so from CMU had me do a solid flat along Second Ave. I always love running in traffic — you get to show off your amazing (in your mind elite) form while feeling super fast amid gawking motorists. Plus there was a cool headwind to boot. Ugh, glorious. I offered up a brief word of gratitude for this simple joy of being able to get out and run free. There is really nothing like it!

From Second Ave, I hit the 10th Street bridge over the Monongahela. Great view! Felt fast! I saw a super-elevated road bridge in the distance and I decided I wanted to run across it too! It was the PJ McArdle Roadway, and, thankfully, I did not miss it! The Roadway connects to the Liberty Bridge over the Monongahela back into the city. The intersection was crazy and the lights were super long. (I mean, in the 3-5 minute range.) And then this happened (this is why I just love to run the streets). While waiting at the first of two stop lights, the driver of a truck behind me started honking and yelling — I had no idea what! When I crossed the first strip to the second island (to begin the longest wait of my life at a stop light), he beckoned toward me, and I actually walked over to his passenger window to hear him out. “Gotta keep those legs moving!” he yelled. OK! All of me really just wanted to stand still but under his watchful eyes, I kept jogging on the spot. I did not realize how tight and weak my hip flexors had become. But I kept jogging, and every minute, we would both exchange thumbs ups! When the light mercifully turned green, he honked at me again as I took off like a bolt! I had a strong feeling this guy must have been a runner (or coach) in his earlier years. Keeping my legs moving certainly did me a whole lot of good, and I blazed across Liberty with a huge grin plastered across my sweat-creased face. Unfortunately, I nearly gave a pedestrian a heart attack at the halfway point along the bridge. She was completely startled to see me edge by on her left, and I had to apologize a couple times while she cradled her heart, as sudden fright melted into sweet relief!

I was feeling really good! Eased back into the city and made the hill back to the Des Places building on the Duquesne campus. I got a good post-run stretch session in. And there was a turf field and track right by the dorm, so I got some ab work and push-ups in, as well. Absolutely splendid morning! I didn’t even feel hungry when my friend and I stopped for breakfast at a cafe I don’t think I’d ever want to visit again! (My bagel sandwich is still in my bag, uneaten.) But I got a bottle of chocolate milk and, so far, it looks like it might hold me over till lunch.

I just wrote this from a coffee shop, and here’s the view from my perch on the plaza:

View of the sky from the plaza by 21st Street Coffee & Tea, Pittsburgh, PA

View of the sky from the plaza by 21st Street Coffee & Tea, Pittsburgh, PA

Not too thrilled by the coffee scene in the city, but hopefully I’ll get a good surprise in the next few days.  The 6-mile jaunt—my first in the steel city—was a great start to the day (although my left ankle now feels a tad wonky!). But I’ll remain grateful for this beautiful gift, while I try to muster up the energy to finish my conference presentation in these next few waking hours. Absolutely cannot wait for tomorrow’s adventure!

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