Tuesday, May 17, 2016

Race Recap: Rite Aid Cleveland Half Marathon

Subtitles: Hailmageddon!


I Am Cursed!

I have looked forward to the weekend of the Rite Aid Challenge Series for a year now.  Originally I signed up for the 8k/Half Marathon Challenge because I thought since I normally don't train well over the winter I wouldn't be trying for a speed goal in the half marathon.  Well. . . for the first time, I trained all through the winter.  Yep, 400s, 800s, tempo runs, long runs, easy runs; you name it--I did it. I started thinking, "Damn.  I could PR this race.  This might be the sub-two hour half I've been pursuing for two years."  Then I realized that I had signed up for the 8k also, and it started messing with my head.  Because nothing can ever be simple for me.

I had carefully planned the whole weekend to revolve around the race activities, and I watched all of those plans fall apart, one by one: My babysitter became unavailable.  My daughter had a music competition at the same time as the reception on Friday night.  My husband told me he would stay home to watch my son Friday night, but he is a chef of two restaurants, so seriously?  I knew that wasn't going to happen.

And then the weather.

I ended up taking my son to the expo and the VIP reception.  He had a fun time at the expo, and then he parked himself with a plate of food (consisting mostly of chocolate cake bigger than my head) and his DS while I took selfies with the other Ambassadors.

There I am!  Official Ambassador!

Ben and I are framed at the Expo.

It was a Care Bear Chair.  Why?  I dunno.

Melissa was spreading goodwill everywhere.

My date.  So dreamy.

What is wrong with this picture?  Andrew has a beer in his hand, and I have. . . nothing.

The following photo may be the best one of the VIP Reception:

This happened while I was taking selfies.
 Of course, we did have to take our Ambassador group picture:

Damn--we are a fine-looking bunch!

Now, I look happy and everything here, but I was really a bundle of nerves.  That 8k on Saturday was really working me, and I was toying with the idea of dumping it so I could save myself for a sub-2 half.  The weather predictions weren't helping much either.

As I drove home, I felt a tickle in my throat that quickly turned to a tightening in my chest, and I knew I wasn't running the 8k on Saturday.  Yep.  Bronchitis.  Geez o Pete.  I haven't had bronchitis in about 20 freaking years.  Why now?  BECAUSE IT'S ME!!!  DON'T YOU GET IT????

It was full blown by Saturday morning, but I wasn't going to let bronchitis stop me.  As I drove to the race on Sunday morning (in a rainstorm), I could only laugh.  That's all you got, Mother Nature?  I can PR in this.  (I should have NEVER mocked Mother Nature, by the way.  Such a rookie move.)  When I pulled in the parking deck, it took everything I had in me to get out of the car and walk to the starting line.  This is the pre-race selfie I posted on Instagram, complete with the original caption:
Must get out of the car.  Get out of the car.  GET OUT OF THE FREAKING CAR!!!

 I walked to the starting line with Andrew, who asked me if I felt ok.  "No," I responded, "but I'm going to make this race my bitch anyway."  We took a starting line picture:

I am smiling, but I am not happy.
Normally my biggest problem in a race is hubris. I shoot out of the gate, and I go too fast in the first six miles, when I feel awesome.  This time I wore a wristband with my paces on it, and I was determined to stick with it.  Since my beginning pace was about 15 seconds per mile slower than what I'm usually comfortable with, I thought I would really enjoy the race.  When I realized I couldn't catch my breath enough to stick even at that pace comfortably, I knew I had problems.

Somewhere around the second hailstorm (there were four when I was out there), as pea-sized bits of ice pocked my cheeks (Jesus!  Am I bleeding?), I realized that I would NEVER enjoy this race.  At mile 6 my goal became survival.  Keep going, Stephani, (I thought)because you are going to freaking DIE out here, and nobody will find you because you will be covered in snow. SNOW.  20+ mph gusts of wind.  Rain.  Lightning. Hail.  WTF.

The two big hills I dreaded starting at mile 10 never came, and that's how I realized the course was a lot different. I was so relieved not to climb in the last three miles, but the real relief came when I finished.  I looked for fellow-Ambassador Andrew's wife, who was giving out medals, and I managed to make her drop her medals.  Sorry about that.  I took my stuff and walked directly to the parking garage where I stripped down in front of God and everybody and put on some warm, dry clothes.  No beer.  No pictures.  I didn't look for anyone I knew; I just wanted to get some feeling back into my body.

I walked to the VIP brunch where I wrapped my shaking hands around a cup of coffee until I could stop shaking enough to get some food. Luckily for me, Mr. Jack Staph (Executive Race Director), and Mr. Ralph Staph (Race Director) sat at my table with their group, so I had the privilege of eavesdropping.  I have to say that I am so impressed with how calm they were while constantly evaluating the situation through walkie talkies and telephones.  Where is the last runner?  Who is it?  Is she ok?  What is her predicted time?  Who is injured?  Hypothermia?  Fluids ok on the course?

At one point I choked on my coffee when Jack casually said, "Hey Ralph, how are those waterspouts doing?  Are they breaking up yet?"

Seriously, Cleveland?  WATERSPOUTS????  Buffy the Vampire Slayer always said that there was a Hellmouth in Cleveland, and it looked like it opened up on race day.

When I got home, I drained all the hot water during my shower and crawled into bed.  As I closed the door to the bedroom, my son said, "Hey, what about lunch?"

"Good luck with that," I replied and locked the door.

My husband can be very intuitive sometimes, and somehow he figured out that I wouldn't be cooking dinner that night, so he took us all out for steak and wine.  Lots of wine.
I am finally warm here.
Notice how I didn't tell you whether I met my goal?  I DIDN'T.  I did 2:07:29, which is very far from my goal. In my initial Facebook post, I blamed myself and I said I just didn't have it in me, but a trip to the Urgent Care (complete with antibiotics) later showed me that I really was sick, and I am allowed to blame it on that.  When you spend all your energy trying to breathe, it's difficult to focus on pace.

So, I didn't make my goal, but it was a course PR for me.  I'm proud that I was badass enough to run in the weathersuck that was the 2016 Rite Aid Cleveland Half Marathon.  As my fellow-Ambassador Andrew said, this is the #mostclevelandraceever.

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