Monday, May 27, 2013

Cleveland Rocks...

For a while, I knew I had a work presentation in Cleveland, OH. I was going to be there during the third week of May. During the last week of April, I found out that Cleveland had a marathon the same weekend I was supposed to be there. I knew someone who was going to run it so I thought about cheering them on during the race. The more I thought about it, I was like hey, I could easily run the half marathon. As I dove into it a little bit more, I contemplated about running the full marathon. I asked around to see what everyone thought. Most of the responses were encouraging. I eventually said sure why not, let's do this and signed up.

With my crazy running month in March, I had a decent base. I also normally run at least a ten miler once a week. I had four weeks of training to get ready for the race, but I had only three long runs with no tapering to get close to 26.2 miles. When we were out of town in Lubbock on that first Saturday, I ran 14 miles. I felt like I ran all over the city. The following weekend I ran 18 miles through our neighborhood. It was downright boring. When I ran 22 miles the weekend before the race, it was tough and hot. As the miles piled up, the temperature and the sun got hotter. I struggled to the end because of the heat. I did the best I could to get ready for a marathon with less than a month of training.

Because I had trouble sleeping the night before my flight to Cleveland, I only got in about four hours of sleep. My flight was at 7 am so I could get in early enough to have time to pick up my race packet at the expo. I was able to sleep a little bit on my flights. After I picked up the rental car at the airport, I headed straight to the expo. At the expo, I met up with a person I knew from my facebook running group. It is cool to meet other runners in other cities. I grew up in the Cleveland area so I was familiar with it. I drove by our old home and took a picture of it. I stopped by an old friend's house. Her mom had worked with my mom and her dad had worked with my dad back in the day. I had dinner with her and her family which was nice, and we caught up and reminisce. After dinner, I went to check into my hotel which was across town. I am not a fan of the speed limits because it was 60 mph on the freeway and 25 on the side street. Because I am a speed demon, I am glad I do not live there.

I woke up the next morning on my own at 4:30 am. It was a good thing because I had set my alarm for 4:40 pm. I ended up only getting about three hours of sleep. I had a granola bar for breakfast, but the hotel was also gracious enough to get me a bagel and a banana. I drove downtown and found parking in between the starting line and Progressive Field. I was going to the Indians game after the race. Some of you know I hate to pay for parking, but shelling out five bucks was worth it this morning. I did not have to worry about finding a spot plus I parked at one location all day. It was about a mile walk to the start line, and once I got there, Mother Nature called at the right time. I also used gear check for the first time ever. I did not want to run with a giant key chain from the rental car in my pocket.

With a short training regimen, I had no idea what my goal for the race was. At the expo, one of the pacers said I should just shoot for 4 hour marathon and maybe 3:45 at best. When I got to the starting line, I lined up with the 3:30 group. I am pretty stubborn and felt like 3:30 would not be out of the question. The weather was overcast and a little bit humid, but it felt pretty nice at the start. The first few miles of the race were pretty uneventful. We ran along the lake and through some nicer neighborhoods. Some parts of the course were familiar to me, and it definitely jogged my childhood memories. There were a lot of people out cheering for the first half of the race. I gave a little bit of gas around mile 6 and decided to catch up to the 3:25 pace group. Around mile 11, the sun started to peak out. I had a feeling this was not going to be good. Training in Texas is definitely good practice for the heat and humidity, but you never hope to race in that kind of weather though. I was checking the forecast all week before the race, and the highs and lows were around 50/30. Of course the starting temperature was around the mid 60's this day.

At the split where the half marathoners and marathoners went their separate ways, there were a lot of people cheering. I like it when there is a big crowd because there is so much energy in the air. After the split, the crowd was nonexistent, and the energy was zapped. Houston was my first marathon, and I loved the crowd support there. I need to run the Chicago and NYC marathon soon. I heard it is one big giant party along the course. The next stretch of the race was really boring. We ran by industrial areas and warehouses. I started to pass people who were walking at this point. It was disheartening to see this because most people put in a lot of training to then get defeated by the sun. I noticed my pace was starting to slip so I picked it up a little. I took a quick pit stop at mile 18 which is strange because I normally have to go around mile 10. The next few miles were through a nice shaded park. I had no idea this park existed when I was growing up. The shade definitely helped me because after the park, the sun was starting to get to me.

There was an underpass at mile 22 that I felt like I was walking up it because I was running so slowly. I swear I am allergic to the sun. I fought the urge to walk. At this point of all of my marathons, I start to doubt myself. Why do I choose to run marathons? Did I go out too fast? Is this my last marathon? The way this race was going for me was similar to the Lubbock marathon. I started too fast and faded in the sun. I did not feel like I hit a wall though. I took 3 gels along the course, and that was enough energy for me. The race volunteers were hosing people down with water at every water stop. I normally would not want to get wet to avoid blisters and chaffing, but I did not mind it all this day. I was still passing people as the miles racked up. In past races, my calves would tighten up towards the end. Today it was a different story. Before the race, I bought some compression calf sleeves. I wore them for the first time on race day, and they felt great. I felt no fatigue or tightness in them during the race. You could see downtown Cleveland starting at mile 22.5. It felt so close, but yet so far away.

At mile 25, I drank some water and knew the finish line was so close. I got water at every water stop during the race to make sure I was well hydrated. I was hoping to get some kind of sports drink at a couple of the stops, but they had blueberry blast Powerade each time. I am not sure why they had that because that is a terrible flavor to drink during a race. At every stop at the end, I grabbed a cup hoping it was something else. Nope. As I started to see the crowd pick up, I felt a third wind come on and sprinted for the finish line. I was passing people left and right and felt fast for once. I crossed the finish line with a respectable time of 3:31:44. I told everyone my goal was to run under a 4 hour marathon, but secretly I wanted to PR. None of my miles were over a 9 min/mile pace. Given the amount of training I put in and the weather conditions, I was happy with my results.

When I finished the race, the temperatures were in the high 70's. That's definitely warm for me. They say when you are running, it feels 20 degrees warmer. Yikes. I drank a bottle of water and ate a popsicle after the crossing the line. I changed and got my finisher's beer. I am not a fan of Miller Lite, but today, it tasted so good. I was crunched on time so I ate some fish and chips at an Irish pub along the way to the ballpark and washed it down with a local beer. My seat was behind home plate which was awesome, and it was not expensive at all. +Amber McGee and I are a fan of Leininkugel's Summer Shandy. I got one at the ballpark, and it was so much better on draft especially on that warm day. I am pretty sure most beers are better on tap.

As of right now, I can officially say my race season is over. I have said that like three times in the last couple of months. I am sure Amber is happy to hear that. I will keep running my usual 100 miles each month. The Austin marathon entry fee has been taken care of so I assume that will be my next marathon. I have few races leading up to that in the fall.

Until next time, happy running.