Race Report: GNC Liberty Mile 2014

Last night I ran my first one-mile race, the GNC Liberty Mile. The course was through Downtown Pittsburgh with the first half on Penn Avenue to the Greyhound bus station and then back on Liberty Avenue.

My husband Dave had agreed to run it with me. This was not only our first race together but also his first race as an adult since he hasn't really run since track and cross country in high school (22 years ago!). So I walked from my house to meet Dave at his office Downtown. We walked to Market Square to pick up our bibs and packets. Earlier that day I bought the Lululemon Swiftly Racerback in Jeweled Magenta and decided to wear it for luck. It is light, soft, and very breathable, so it was perfect for the humidity. (It has been wonderfully cool all week and only on race day did it get hotter at 86 degrees and humid--of course!)

Right after we picked up our numbers we met Shaun and his cousin Chris and talked to them for a bit.

We picked up our bags and took them back to Dave's office to stash them before heading back out. As we were walking around, we ran into Kim and her friend Mike and talked to them for a few minutes.

A few other people we passed asked us if there was a marathon going on. I love how non-runners think that all races are marathons, ha ha!

We decided to do our warm-up run up Penn and back down Liberty to check out the course. As Chris had noted, Penn was a slight upgrade whereas Liberty was a slight downgrade. It was so humid that we were both sweating a bunch after our warm-up (see Dave's sweaty shirt in the photo below, ha ha!). After some stretching, we made our way to the start line. I wanted Dave to have a spot up front since he would be running fast. We saw Shaun at the start, I met Chelsea (behind us in the photo below), and we ran into Steff and her friend Natalie. I am bummed that I did not get a picture with Steff, who looked super cute in her Oiselle singlet along with Natalie!

I left Dave to make my way back to about the middle of the pack, where Chris and Anna were.

This race was actually the first time I've ever run a one-mile distance, so I really had no idea what to expect. Based on my last 10K results, the race calculator predicted I would finish in 8:47. I figured I'd be happy if I finished under 9:00. So when Anna said she was shooting for 8:34, I decided to try to follow her. The problem with that is that I was lined up in front her her and then....

The gun went off, and if you think everyone starts fast at races in general, you should see how fast they start at a one-miler. Everyone tore off, and even though I planned to try to run a bit slower for the first half and then speed up in the second (always my plan that never works!), I tore off as well. I had set my Garmin to record my pace at every .25 miles but didn't check my Garmin once during the race because...

It was complete, total, unimaginable agony for the entire race. Not too long after I started, my throat started burning and it felt like I was running through a forest fire. My throat and lungs were on fire, and I was wheezing and gasping like I was dying, which I felt like I was. By the half-mile point, I was done. I had no gas left in the tank. I turned the corner onto Liberty and saw the finish line far, far in the distance. It was only a half-mile away, but it looked like it would be impossible to reach. I felt the slight downgrade and was able to surge slightly, but only slightly before I started slowing considerably. My body was begging me to just stop, so my goal at that point was just to finish. I felt like I was going super slow, and I imagined that I was going at a 10-minute pace, but I could not speed up. Everyone started passing me, including Chris, who whizzed by.

So imagine my surprise when, not only did I manage to make it to the finish line, but the clock read 8:15 when I did! I was thrilled and never thought I could run that fast, especially when it felt like I was running so slowly in the second half. Unfortunately, I forgot to stop my Garmin until a minute or so after I finished (because I was dying!). But here are my .25-mile lap results:

Lap 1: 7:00
Lap 2: 8:04
Lap 3: 6:33
Lap 4: 8:11

Something isn't right with that, though. The average of those doesn't equal 8:15. And it doesn't align with how I was feeling. Lap 1 (starting fast) and 4 (ending slow) do, but lap 3??? I was able to surge slightly at the start of Liberty, but shortly after that I felt like I was really slowing down. It's also interesting that I felt like I was running really slowly but actually wasn't. But overall, this is super, super fast for a slow runner like me!

In the finish corral I caught up with Dave, Shaun, and Chris. We all stood gasping and wheezing for a while before we could talk! I also saw Steff shortly after. She, Natalie, and Dave finished at the same time--right around 6:30.

Dave had the same experience I had. He started super fast (he said for a while there were only about 10 people in front of him) but then died by the time he got to Liberty and said people were just flying past him in the second half. He also felt the same throat-fire agony as I did. He must have looked so bad that when he finished, one of the volunteers asked him if he needed assistance! Dave has only been running a couple miles a couple times a week for the past couple months--plus just quit smoking a few months ago--so I think him finishing in 6:30 is awesome.

Both of us couldn't stop coughing because our throats hurt so bad, so we decided to walk back to Dave's office to recover. It took a long time to recover and stop coughing. Dave changed his shirt because his was soaked. Though I had brought other clothes to wear after the race, the Lulu Swiftly had already pretty much dried (and is made of unstinkable fabric so wasn't stinky) so I didn't have to.

At Dave's office, there is a tradition of doing shots at the end of the day on Fridays before they leave (yes, it is very Mad Men, but only five people work there). He hadn't had his Friday shot since he didn't want to drink before the race, so he wanted me to have a shot with him after the race and had bought me Absolute Mandarin.

I don't drink a lot in general because I'm a lightweight when it comes to drinking, and I never do shots. But I figured since Dave ran the race with me, I'd do a shot with him. The shot was nearly as bad as the race, ha ha!

We headed back out because we wanted to watch the rest of the races. When we got to the finish line, we saw Kim and talked to her and Mike for a while before getting a spot along the course to watch the pro runners. It was very exciting with close finishes! Jordan McNamara won the men's race in 4:03 and Gabriele Grunewald won the women's race in 4:32.

Unfortunately, the rest of the results haven't been posted yet, so I don't know what the official results are for Dave and me, but I'll update this post when I have them.

Going into this race, I had no expectations of my performance so didn't feel any pressure and wasn't anxious like I usually am before races. And I did really well! That's a really good lesson for me.

Still, I do not think I would do this race again. It was awesome to meet so many people I know through blogging, but otherwise it might be the most agonizing 8 minutes I've ever had to endure...and my throat still hurts today! Last year we brought our dog Downtown to watch the race, and I suspect next year we'll be doing the same thing instead of running, ha ha!

Congrats to everyone who ran the Liberty Mile!


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