Sunday, May 31, 2015

Race Review: Medina Half Marathon

Or "How I Didn't Run Like a Dumbass this Time"

And there you go.  Thanks for reading--see you next week!

Ok, I know that wasn't enough.  You probably remember my recap of the Rite Aid Cleveland Half Marathon two weeks ago.  In a nutshell, I ran like a. . .well, a nut.  I didn't take the humidity into consideration, I didn't have goals, yadda yadda yadda.  As a result, I crashed and burned after the first 10k.  I was determined to rectify these errors for the Medina Half Marathon, especially since the weather was worse than it was in Cleveland.  88% humidity and high temps, anyone?  No takers?

Knowing that my biggest problems are the Voices in my head (sorry, Voices, you know I still love you), I came up with some strategies to run safely in this race.

1.  DO NOT even think about a PR.  Just don't.

2.  Set goals.  My secret goal was 2:05.  The goal I told everyone was 2:10 or less.  The time I would take without complaining too much was 2:11, as long as it wasn't because I was a zombie at the end.

3.  Take all water stops.  One cup down the throat and one over the head.

4.  HOLD BACK.  I was determined to keep my pace consistently between 9:30 and 9:45.

5.  Enjoy the moment.  Touch the power station signs.  High-five little kids.  Thank the volunteers.  Wave to friends in the crowd.

The Medina Half is a special race for me because I teach at Medina High School.  I love to look at the crowds and see students, former students, and colleagues cheering on the runners.  This year was even more special because two of my friends chose Medina for their first half marathon.  You always remember your first!

TORN represents!

Shannon is running her first half!
Heather, Lauren, and I all run for wine!
One of the many things I like about the Medina Half Marathon is that the race is capped at 1,000 half marathon runners.  This means that there is plenty of free parking and bathrooms, two factors I always consider in races as they make me very nervous.  This also means that I didn't have to get there super early.  As Joy and I lined up in the corral, I tried to get my mind in the right place.

Joy and I are ready to go!  
When we started, I was very tempted to try to catch Joy (who is a freaking rabbit), but my mantra was "Run smart.  Don't run like a dumbass," so I deliberately dialed it back in the first few miles.  I didn't dial it back as much as I should have (9:30-9:45), but I did manage to keep it at 9:20-ish for the first three miles or so.  As I am not a good negative split runner, I'm not convinced that running even more slowly at the start would have given me a better time at the end.  My legs felt fine this time (not like in Cleveland); it was just the heat and humidity that were killing me.

The course has changed again this year, and I really liked it.  I'm not the best person to ask because I'm not always aware of my surroundings, but I feel like most of the hills were gone from the back part of the race, which I really appreciated.  The biggest hill didn't change; that was on route 18, where I saw the TORN Superfans and they took pictures of us suffering the hill.

Yes!  This hill is my bitch!
It felt like there were fewer spectators this year, but I didn't mind because the tradeoff was that there were fewer dangerous drivers ignoring course marshals and weaving around runners.  This was my biggest complaint in previous years and my main concern this year: too many dangerous and inconsiderate drivers and not enough police to keep them under control.  I am happy to say that the Race Directors took this seriously.  My colleagues who live in the areas of the course had told me that there had been lots of notice, even a door-to-door campaign to make the residents aware of what would be happening that morning.  I noticed many more police at intersections, and I am grateful because this is the first year I felt safe on the course.  Thank you, Medina police and volunteers, for giving your time for us.  Thank you, Race Directors, for being committed to our safety.

Also, I didn't mind fewer spectators because the road-chalk messages more than made up for the lack of people.  I LOVED all the messages spread out on the course!  Thank you to all the people who put them there!

The heat and humidity definitely took their toll on runners; I saw a runner being loaded into an ambulance around mile 10, and I saw another runner buckle just before the finish line.  Two runners picked her up under the elbows and brought her across.  Again, I repeated my mantra and adjusted my expectations.  I thought I might hit my secret goal, but I definitely got slower after mile 10, and the 2:10 pacers passed me around mile 11, so I realized I had to kick it in gear.  Unfortunately, I was running on bricks for about half of mile 12, and I was worried about falling or twisting a foot, so that slowed me down considerably.  When I got off the bricks, I could see and hear the crowd at the finish, so I was able to pick up the pace, even though I was running uphill a bit.  I could hear my friends in the crowd calling my name, and I was able to sprint to the finish, something I couldn't do in Cleveland.
This was just before my final kick.  No, I was not sprinting here.
The food for this race was awesome: Subway sandwiches, fruit, rice chips, chocolate milk, water.  The race entry included a ticket to the after party hosted by Stand up for Downs, where we drank REAL beer (IPA!) and ate Romeo's Pizza.  I had intended to meet my peeps elsewhere for a post-race lunch, but it was really nice to sit at the after party, so we stayed there for a while.
TORN Peeps drink beer.  Look at Erin after her first half marathon!
All in all, despite the weather, I really enjoyed the Medina Half Marathon this year.  Thank you to the Race Directors for taking runners' comments into consideration and planning a quality event for a great price.  In fact, I bought my race entry for next year at the expo because I had faith that this year would be a good one.  I believe in Medina, and I believe in this event, so I think it will continue to improve every year.

Do you want to get in on this, Peeps?  I bought my entry for 30 bucks at the expo, but if you missed that chance, you can buy yours online for only 35 bucks until midnight tonight (May 31) and for only 45 bucks until November 1.  Not bad, eh?

Look at this sweet medal!

Nice tech tee, too!

Thanks to the TORN Superfans for lifting my spirits in this oppressive humidity.  Thanks to the Dargan clan for cheering for me, and thanks to Jess Toocheck who was at the hill before the finish.  You are all amazing!  Medina, I will see you next year!

Like what you read?  Follow me on Twitter @itibrout!

Sunday, May 24, 2015

Running with Friends

In my going-on-four-years of Running away from Trouble, I've learned that running friends can not only help you run away from trouble, but they also can keep you out of trouble in the first place.

I started my running journey with the Towpath Turtles, a group dedicated to preparing new runners to run the Akron Half Marathon.  From them, I learned how to pace myself so I could run farther than two miles at a time.  With their gentle encouragement, and with the sometimes not-so-gentle-encouragement of our coach, Sheila, I ran my first half marathon in September 2012.  Read about my time as a Turtle here.

The Towpath Turtles at the Lyndhurst Perfect 10-Miler in 2012
I graduated from running with the Turtles to running any time and distance I liked with fellow members of The Ohio Runner's Network.  Through the years, I have come to depend on these Peeps for my Sunday long, slow distance runs and for camaraderie in races.  These are just a few of the many memory shots I have with my TORN Peeps:

Shelby, Me, and Jen, looking into the sunlight

TORN runners at the 2014 Tryptophan Run 

Towpath Turtles at the 2013 Mother's Day 5k

Heather and I run the 2015 Shamrock.
Renee and I are trail running!

Joy and I are warming up before the 2015 Canton Gold Jacket 5k.
Shelby and I set a goal for the half marathon.

TORN at 2014 Lyndhurst Perfect 10-Miler

TORN at 2014 Medina Half Marathon
Bay Days 2014

I'll tell you a little secret, and you may find it shocking: I don't really like people much.  Wait, why are you laughing?

I think it's because I spent sixteen years in the food service industry, which I was really good at, but it REALLY made me hate people.  Oddly enough, I love my job, which is teaching teenagers.  Teens are awesome; at any moment your average sixteen year old is feeling more hormonal than I am on my worst day.  I'm not being ironic when I say I really enjoy working with teenagers, their drama, their sincerity, their craziness; however, because of the amount of energy I spend at work, it takes a conscious effort for me to make sure I don't have Resting Bitch Face when I am around people.  I decided a long time ago that I didn't need new friends; I'm just fine with the friends who have decided to stick with me.

Until now.

As a Rite Aid Cleveland Marathon Ambassador, I was able to connect with other bloggers/runners who were so different from me (and from each other) and yet so familiar.  I have been following their blogs for almost a year now (some longer than that), and we all got to know each other through our writing and later in person.  What I found was an additional support group, something I didn't know I needed or wanted.

Each Ambassador has an interesting story to share, and I enjoyed meeting them in person after reading all about them.  When my performance in the half marathon was disappointing at best, especially when I compared my results to their fabulous PR's, the group seemed to know what to say and what to post to make me feel less angry and sulky.  I think the funniest post in our Facebook group was from Andrew (@andrewrunsalot), who posted a race pic of himself in genuine agony and invited us to caption it.

At our first meet-up
Start of the race

VIP reception

 It turns out that I can still meet new friends, and these friends have so much to teach me.  I look forward to following them in their pursuit of their goals, and I look forward to future races and meet-ups together.  Thank you, Rite Aid Cleveland Marathon, for giving me this opportunity!

To my "old" friends: Thank you for sticking by me, even when I insist on running alone.  To my "new" friends:  Thank you for being so positive and such great role models for me.  This is the beginning of a beautiful friendship!

Like what you read?  Follow me on Twitter @itibrout!

Monday, May 18, 2015

Race Review: Rite Aid Cleveland Half Marathon

I made some stupid mistakes on Sunday, May 17, at the Rite Aid Cleveland Marathon.  Wanna hear about them?  Maybe you can avoid my mistakes in your own races. First, let me start with a review, and then you can laugh at my mistakes later.

The Expo:

I went to the Expo at the Cleveland Convention Center on Friday after school.  I parked in a deck directly across the street, and I heard that many people found free street parking, so that didn't seem to be a problem.  The Rite Aid Cleveland Marathon Expo nailed it again this year.  So. Much. Fun!  Some people like meeting up in groups at the expo, but I love to navigate it myself so I can do whatever I want.  And I did!

American Greetings took my picture:

It took like 10 tries because I broke the camera.  I'm not kidding.

I got my nails done FOR FREE!!!

These are press-ons!  They were so fun!
I bought a 13.1 tattoo, but then I put it on upside down, so I had to scrape it off.  Mistake #1?

After picking up my shirt, I headed to a reception, sponsored by Tito's Handmade Vodka, in the old Arcade, where I hooked up with my fellow #runCLE Ambassadors.

We clean up good, don't you think?

Saturday the Ambassadors roamed the Expo, but for me it was cleaning day, so I stayed home and then I tried to go to bed early, but not before I applied another pre-race tattoo:

This is from Ulysses.  #litgeek

Two of my biggest worries about races are parking and bathrooms, and neither were a worry at this race.  I easily got into a parking deck at 5:55, and I didn't notice any terrible traffic jams as I walked to the starting line.  There were tons of porta potties lining the starting corrals, and there were bathrooms at the Q.  The ONLY problem I had was that there was no sanitizer anywhere to be found.  I ended up begging sanitizer off Jamie's mom (Jamie is a fellow Ambassador) because I knew I wouldn't be able to function without attempting to clean my hands after a visit to the porta potty.

Some of the Ambassadors met at the start for a picture:
We are ready to rock this run!

I also had a nice surprise: I spotted Christina, who is a former student and was about to run her first half marathon!

You always remember your first!
As we waited in the starting corrals, the skies opened up and drenched everyone, which wasn't too bad considering the temps were a steamy 68 degrees with humidity around 100%.  I thought this was a good sign because I was starting cool, and I knew I would need to keep cool during 13.1 miles.

The corrals were neatly organized; I lined up with the 4:00 pacers, and there was lots of room to navigate.  Actually, I had very little need to dodge runners because we all were on pace.  That is very refreshing, as dodging and stutter steps tend to sap my energy, and I can't keep myself from doing it if people are too close to me.  Speaking of the pacers, one of them was calling out information about the city as we passed the landmarks.  He was amazing.

The course is soooo fabulous, Peeps.  Some of it was a blur, but I loved running around Tremont, Ohio City, and Edgewater.  The crowd support was nice, although I didn't see as many funny signs as I saw last year.  I saw my friend Ed (who is a super-speedy runner) twice around Ohio City, and that gave me a nice boost for a while.

So, let me fill you in on how I handled the heat and humidity in this race.  I'll give you a hint:  not well.  I did a lot of stupid things during these 13.1 miles, and most of them were during the first 10k.  First of all, I didn't have any true time goals and I should have.  Normally I have a secret goal that I would be ecstatic if  I hit, a challenging goal that I'm pretty sure I can hit, and the "acceptable" goal that I won't beat myself up about if I at least hit it.  I didn't have any of that.  I just said, "Let's see how I feel," and that was stupid because I am never truly aware of how I feel in the moment.

I tried my trick from the 2014 Akron Half Marathon, when I focused only on how I felt during that mile, and so each mile when I asked myself if I felt good, the answer was yes.  Then I hit the 10k mark, and when I asked myself how I felt, the answer was AWFUL.  I realized that even though I was hot and sweaty, I was shivering and wanting to vomit, and that means possible sunstroke, Peeps.  Not good.  After I crossed the 10k mat, I deliberately slowed down and then walked through every water stop available on the course, drinking one cup and dumping another on my head.  Normally I might hit three stops on the course, but I knew the weather was a major game-changer, and I needed to take care of myself.  Kudos to the Rite Aid Cleveland Marathon organizers for having so many water stops; I needed every darned one of them.

Kudos, too, to the volunteers who cheerfully handed us water, Powerade, and Carb Boom! Gels.  I am especially grateful to the lady who sprayed me with her garden hose (I think I love you), and I think the person who placed a sprinkler on the highway around mile 11 is a genius.

Despite all of these wonderful people, I feel like I just couldn't get my act together after the 10k.  At one point my Garmin shorted out, so I didn't see until I checked my data later that I ran an 11 minute mile.  Dammit.  I just fell apart.  I saw Ed three times on the course, and the last time was on the highway for mile 12.  I was a mess, but I was grateful to see him as I shuffled by like a zombie. When I got close to the chute, Laura and Erin called my name, and I told them I was toast, but they continued to encourage me.  I didn't really have anything left to kick it in the end.

What I should have done was pick a pace that I knew I could consistently maintain in that heat, and I still would have done better than I did by pretending to be Speedy Gonzales in the first six miles and then breaking down in the second half.  It was a dumbass move, and I don't intend to repeat it for the Medina Half Marathon in two weeks.

After crossing the finish line, getting my medal, and chugging some chocolate milk, I found my peeps from The Ohio Runner's Network, and we had some Great Lakes Brewing Company beer together.  This was a welcome change from the crappy "ultra" beer we get at other races, and I really enjoyed mine. . .until I spilled it.

This is really long already, so I'm going to cut it short and leave you with two more positive things I got from the Rite Aid Cleveland Marathon:

1.  I made a new bunch of friends, and I'm going to write about them and their support in my next post.

2.  This:

I earned this shirt and medal!
Until next week, run happy, Peeps!

Like what you read?  Follow me on Twitter @itibrout!

Sunday, May 10, 2015

Trust the Taper

This is taper time.  I'd like to say that I'm really embracing it, but the truth is that my week hasn't really been different than other weeks.  I ran two four-milers on Wednesday and Friday, and today I did a long run of ten miles.  I also ran in place for about fifteen minutes before lifting on Thursday, so I count that as a mile.  The only real change I made was to skip my Saturday run and/or walk, which usually was between four and six miles.  Maybe I'm not doing it correctly, but the 2015 Rite Aid Cleveland Half Marathon will be my seventh half marathon, and I've done it this way almost every time.

It's funny (maybe not funny haha) that I post each week about training when the reality probably is that I don't know what the hell I'm doing.  Am I running long enough during the week?  Is my speed run REALLY a speed run?  Are the weights heavy enough when I lift?  Should I be doing those sequences?  Who knows?  I see my esteemed fellow bloggers, and they all seem to have a plan.  My plan is always the same, and it is the mantra I recite while I fist bump whoever starts the race with me (if you are standing next to me in the corral, it might be you!):  No falling, no puking, no dying.  I used to say No Crying, but I think crying is now ok if it's because you are emotionally involved in getting to the finish line.

I do know, however, that I need to hold back this week, even if I feel like I want to run more.  Science says that tapering works, even though every runner I know secretly believes that it will weaken him/her and lead to a more difficult race.  Not true, Peeps.  My coach says the taper should make you feel like a horse, nervous to break out of the corral.  It does.  Oh, it does.

Today I gave myself a treat, and I ran my favorite ten mile loop.  It follows the fading blue line from the old Akron Marathon course through Sand Run Park, around the golf course, up to Highland Square, down Merriman past Stan Hywet Hall, and down, down, down hill back to Sand Run Parkway again.  The first four miles are pretty much uphill, so it is a challenge, but finding this on the path at Mile 1.5 lifted my spirits:

How cool is it to come upon a painting in a metropark?
I stopped long enough to take this picture and then scan the QR code to see what this is all about.  The code led me to Akron Art Museum's Inside/Out Tour.  If you follow the tour, you can find paintings like this all over Akron.  Here is the link to this particular painting.

It has been a long while since I've run this loop, and it gave me plenty to think about: lesson plans, this blog, my family, my career goals, and of course the race coming up this Sunday.  I also thought about how far I have come in strength and pace and overall physical fitness.  I even flashed back to my first blog post, which I composed while running this very loop.  As I ran downhill for the last mile, I felt like I was flying, and as I finished, the rain started.  Perfect timing!

This is EXACTLY how I look after running 10 miles in terrible humidity.  Oh wait. . .
THIS is EXACTLY how I look after running 10 miles in terrible humidity.
UPDATE:  We have a winner for the Gold Jacket 5k free entry!  Congratulations, Lyndsey H!  Check your email.

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Like what you read?  Follow me on Twitter @itibrout!

Sunday, May 3, 2015

Pro Football HOF Relay and a Giveaway!

Beast Mode 5 got the job done on Sunday, 4/26, the day of the Pro Football Hall of Fame Relay.  It was my first experience with a relay, and I'm glad it was this particular race.

I was a bit worried about running my 10k leg (#1) because I had run the Gold Jacket 5k the day before, and I ran it hard enough to just miss a PR.

I know I had written that I was going to go bright and early to Belden Village to take the shuttle, but Michael (Leg 3) lives just across the park from the starting line, so we parked at his house and I used the park as a warm up.
This is Michael.  He saved us from shivering in a parking lot at 4:00 AM.
We met the other members of The Ohio Runners Network (TORN) on the Hall of Fame steps for a photo op:

We are fresh and ready!

And then we got a special Beast Mode 5 pic:

Check out the headbands. Beast Mode 5: Does the name scare you?  NO????
After that we waited for the start.  And waited.  Unfortunately, the lines for the shuttle were super long, and rather than start without all of those people, Jim chose to give them another ten minutes.  I think that's a really difficult call for a race director to make because you're damned if you do and damned if you don't.  Some people were really cold, but I felt ok because the sun was coming out and I was crammed next to a bunch of runners in the corral.  Plus, I was excited.

If you read my post about the Gold Jacket 5k, you know that I was irritated that I couldn't get around the walkers in the first mile of the race.  I was really worried that I would have the same problem, and because I was the first leg of the relay I didn't want to screw up our team by having a slow start.  Luckily, starting in the 9:00/mile corral was exactly what I needed; I was able to get into my groove soon after crossing the starting gate.

I felt great running my 10k leg.  The course had a few small hills, but nothing a Beast Mode 5 team member couldn't handle.  I stayed at a pace I thought I could handle for six miles and still push myself at the end, and as a result, I PR'd the 10k by over three minutes!  Unfortuately, my time isn't officially recorded because even though I crossed a finish mat,  the slap bracelet I was wearing didn't register my individual leg--just the overall time of the team.  I'm disappointed, but at least I know what I can do for my next 10k (Akron Rubber City Series).

The exchange points were really well-organized, but that didn't stop Beast Mode 5 from screwing it up right away.  I lost at least 30 seconds, maybe a minute, because I couldn't find Brad.  I suspect he was in the Port a Potty, but I would never say that publicly.  Oh wait. . .
I guess I did say that publicly. Way to go, Brad!

Anyway, Brad, Michael, and Mandy were awesomely speedy in running their legs, but I still had a few hours to wait for Joy to come in.  The day was beautifully bright, but there was a cold, cold wind blowing.  Luckily, I had brought a change of pants and I already had my amazing finisher's blanket, which I immediately wrapped around myself while I huddled on the field and ate some food.

This is EXACTLY how I look when I'm huddling on the field with a blanket and a hoodie.

Great food, by the way:  Subway sandwich, spicy rice chips, Caveman bar, bananas, chocolate milk.  Yum!

When it was time for Joy to come in, we were waiting for her at the entrance to the stadium for our relay team finish, and it was fabulous!  We loved running in together while the announcer called our team name.

Beast Mode 5 races in.  What you don't know is that my pants were falling down here.  What a dork.

We collected our medals and posed for our post-race pic:

Tired, dirty, and happy

Would I do this again?  Yep!  I loved running with a team, and this was a fun race to try.  The pluses: the course (challenging, some nice residential parts), the medals (sooo awesome), the food, the finisher's blanket (soft and warm!).  The minuses:  the unexpected wait at the start, no record of times on individual legs.  I think these could be easy fixes when Jim gets together with his team to plan for next year.  I do have one more suggestion that would have made the cold wind, the wait, and the lack of an individual finish time much more bearable: BEER.  Michael, Brad, and I agreed that beer would have really helped us feel better about waiting in the cold wind for Mandy and Joy, but it certainly isn't a deal breaker as there are a lot more positives than negatives about the race.  Maybe I'll bring a deck of cards while I'm waiting next time.  And a space heater.

I'd like to thank Jim Chaney for giving me the opportunity to blog for the Pro Football Hall of Fame Marathon, Half Marathon, and Relay.  I hope this is only the beginning of our partnership, and I intend to continue blogging about the Gold Jacket 5k when I run another one.  Would you like to run one with me?  You have a few more days left in my Giveaway.  Enter here:

a Rafflecopter giveaway

This week I ran my last long run until the Rite Aid Cleveland Half Marathon.  Eleven miles (eight of them on the trails), and I'm ready to collapse.  My taper starts. . . NOW.

Until then, run happy, Peeps!

Like what you read?  Follow me on Twitter @itibrout!