Tuesday, May 23, 2017

Race Recap: Rite Aid Cleveland Marathon

I started training for the Rite Aid Cleveland Marathon without even realizing it. I was doing long runs with a friend, who was training for the Pro Football Hall of Fame, and there came a point where I realized I should just go the whole way.  So, I did.

Here is my disclaimer: This is my third year as a Rite Aid Cleveland Marathon Ambassador. This means that in exchange for sharing my training for the race, I got a free entry, one to give away, and some sweet swag.

I have always enjoyed being an Ambassador, and I ran the Cleveland races before I ever officially blogged about them. You can read about my 10k experience here. I loved that race!

Anyway, this year I upped the ante, even though I knew thorough training for a marathon would be difficult for me given that most of my miles take place before 5:30 AM.  I did it, though:

I ran the miles, sometimes on a treadmill, but more often not.

I did the speedwork.

This is EXACTLY how I look when I do speedwork. I am often chasing a gazelle.

I did the strength training.

This is EXACTLY how I look when I lift weights.  I use my moustache to wipe the sweat from my face.

What I did NOT do was watch my weight, which is what I should have done. I ran this race 10 pounds over my racing weight, and I could feel that difference. In fact, I'm feeling it now!

Anyway, let's not talk about me; let's talk about the race.

I got into Cleveland at 5:30 AM. I was nervous about finding parking at that time, so I decided to park in the Muni lot. This was silly for two reasons: 1. It's a mile away from the start and finish lines. 2. There was PLENTY of parking available.  Anyway, I'm a dufus, and it was probably good for me to walk the extra mile back to the car to stretch my legs a bit.  Yeah. Right.

The weather prediction was thunderstorms, but the sky looked ok at the start, although it was humid. I lined up for pictures with all of my amazing peeps, some who are Ambassadors:
Stephanie, Melissa, Sara, Pam, Jessica, Me, Jamie

and some who are teachers:

Laina, Me, Katie. What is up with my hair???
I started in corral F, and I found the 4:55 pacer there. I asked him about his pacing strategies, and while he seemed like a really nice person, I realized he was a wild card when it came to pacing. My goal was to start with his group and then pull ahead if I was feeling it. It took me all of two miles to decide that I wasn't sticking with this group because a woman kept cutting me off in order to run RIGHT NEXT TO THE PACER. God forbid she get two steps behind or ahead. It didn't matter where I went; she would cross in front of me. I pulled ahead.

My goal was to stick with 11:00/miles, especially in the beginning miles. I felt super good, but I managed to stay between 10:45 and 11 most of the time. At Mile 4, we hit the Flats. This may be my favorite part of the race. We ran up the hill to the Columbus bridge, and the hill was pretty awesome. I am used to hills, so I kept my pace and breathing steady, and I watched the spectacle around me, namely the Pope (or a bishop?) with a pitcher of beer, a man yelling, "Get up that hill!" and some fun signs. Check out this awesome video from Share the River that shows exactly what it was like:

When we reached the top, I made my signature move: I threw my fists in the air and yelled to the almost-silent runners, "YES! I MADE THIS HILL MY BITCH!"

I also enjoyed running through Ohio City, Tremont, and Gordon Square, where I found a man in a Speedo standing on a wall yelling, "Let's have some laughter and fun! C'mon! I'm wearing a Speedo! Look at me!"I am also grateful to Didi (with whom I ran Burning River last year), who found me and cheered for me there.

My second favorite part of the route was the out-and-back on Clifton, even though it started to rain when I got to Mile 14. I like out-and-backs because they give me the opportunity to look for my friends, who are all faster than I am. For the miles going down to Rocky River, I was able to spot Steve (pacing), Ed, Andrew, Stephanie, and Marta. Coming back I concentrated on the gorgeous houses, which definitely helped me take my mind off the pain I was feeling in my legs and feet by Mile 18.

I found a burst of energy at Mile 21 because I had reeled in a man with cool dreadlocks. For a minute we ran side by side, and then I started to drop back and let him go so I could fuel, but I noticed that he also dropped back with me and kept pace. At this point I wondered if we were pacing or racing each other, so I sped up a tiny bit. He sped up with me but didn't pass me, so I realized I had a new running buddy. He kept me going for that mile at a faster than usual pace, and then I decided to go through a water station, so I lost him. I found him after the race and thanked him for getting me through a tough mile.

Coming into the city was hard, but not because of the route, which was fabulous. Aerobically I felt fine, like I should have picked up the pace, but my legs and feet were really hurting, and I knew it wasn't possible to run any faster than I was going. I saw Didi again, and I yelled to her, "I'm dying, Didi, seriously!" but she assured me that I wasn't.

By now I was in the last two miles and it was pouring (but no hail or lightning, thank goodness). I found Lyndsey, who was running this after the Pro Football Hall of Fame Marathon, and I told her that we were going to finish strong. I was thinking of walking a few steps, just to stretch my legs, when I heard a dreadful, familiar voice behind me: It was the 4:55 pacer. WTF!!!! I looked at my watch; he was ahead of schedule. I KNEW that guy was a wild card. That was when I decided to get my ass in gear because there was NO WAY that pacer was going to finish ahead of me.

Coming in to the finish was amazing. I heard John Adams, the Indians' drummer, and that was definitely enough to put a smile on my face. I LOVE hearing the drum at the Indians' games.

I ran through a row of American flags, and I found the energy to pick up my legs and the pace for a strong finish. I got my medal, my food and water, and a super-cool towel, and then I got my gear and started back the mile to my car before the stiffness could set in. I looked absolutely pathetic draped in a beach towel, carrying a bunch of stuff and a gear bag, and shuffling painfully to the Muni lot.

I did it. I ran this marathon all by myself like an adult, and I did it without crying and without music. My fellow Ambassadors encouraged me and told me that I had it in me, and they were right. Thank you, Friends, for believing in me when I found it difficult to believe in myself.  I PR'd that bitch by almost a minute and a half. I am proud of myself.

Overall, I have to say that I LOVED this experience. The race course was so interesting and fun for me that I didn't need any music or conversation. The medal and the swag are fabulous. There were plenty of water stops, fuel (including waffles!), and portapotties. The spectators were kind and fun. This has been the best Cleveland race experience I have ever had.

As the race amnesia sets in, I realize how difficult it was for me to train for a full during the schoolyear, but honestly, if the race next year is like this year, I intend to do the full again. Thanks, Rite Aid Cleveland Marathon for an empowering race!
Look at my medal! LOOK AT IT!!!

I'll be back! Will you be there with me? Until then, run happy, Peeps!

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