I woke up to overcast skies, a temperature in the mid 50's, high humidity, and a bit of drizzle on race morning. I got to the starting area and did an easy 2 mile warmup before joining the masses at the start line. After listening to about a million sponsors speak and the Pitt Glee Club singing the national anthem, the race finally started. After the gun went off, the song "Shout" immediately began playing, which seems to be a Great Race tradition.
I should mention here that I decided to conduct a little experiment and run with my compression socks on. While there is evidence that compression socks improve recovery time, there is conflicting evidence on whether running in compression socks actually improves your performance. I figured I'd give it a try, and see what happened. I did notice a few people looking at my socks before the race - probably wondering to themselves why I was running in knee socks! When I did the half ironman tri in August, I saw people with compression socks on before and after the race and a few people cycling/running in compression calf sleeves. Apparently this trend hasn't reached Pittsburgh runners yet.
Because of the prediction for rain in the forecast, I decided to leave my iPod at home. I felt naked without it, and since it currently wasn't raining, cursed myself for not bringing it with me. The first few miles were uneventful but HUMID from all the rain overnight and earlier in the morning. I kept an eye on my heart rate and used that to set my pace. I passed the 5k mark at just over 25 minutes, meaning I was already almost a minute behind my pace from 2 years ago. My heart rate was already higher than I wanted it to be, and I felt myself fighting off a cramp in my side, so I didn't try to push any harder.
Around mile 4, it started sprinkling. Around mile 5, it was raining more. (I retracted my earlier self-curses and thanked myself for leaving the iPod at home.) The last mile is a gradual downhill grade, and I tried to pick up the pace a little bit more and push myself, but I really didn't have much left. My chip finish time was 51:51, 8:15 min/miles, which was my third fastest time for this course. I'm not sure if the humidity got to me, if I hadn't eaten enough for breakfast (a banana and 2 pieces of toast with peanut butter), or if it was just the fact that I hadn't done any speedwork in a very long time. Possibly, a combination of all three. (I don't want to consider the possibility of the compression socks working against me!)
One of the best things about this race is that since it's so big, you usually know a bunch of people running it and at the finish line it's fun to get food and mingle. Unfortunately, it was raining even more at this point, and I was soaked, so I got really cold once I stopped running. (Where are those mylar blankets when you need them?) I grabbed some food (Eat 'n' Park smiley cookies, the recovery food of champions!) and headed for the bus back to the start line. Out of the 12,000-ish people at the finish line, I ended up on the same bus as my cycling teammate, Patty, who had run a PR, so it was fun to chat and catch up on the way back to the start.
As for the compression socks, who knows? My legs were sore on Monday and Tuesday, but I felt better by Wed, which seems like my pretty normal recovery period. I guess the jury is still out on this one!