Tuesday, July 11, 2017

Running While Away

I just got back from Boston a few days ago. I am super-tired. I spent a week there participating in the National Education Association Resident Assembly.  If you're curious about what I did in Boston, feel free to follow my adventures here.

This is a picture of me, Bradley, and Katie, the 3 Medina delegates.

I've been to Boston with my family before, so I knew where to run (Boston Common); plus, our hotel was about half a mile from there. The only problem was that I had to be at the Ohio Caucus every morning at 7:00, and we never finished our day before 10:00 PM. That meant a 4:30 wakeup if  I wanted to run or lift weights.  Well, that is what I do during the school year, so I sucked it up and set my alarm for dark o'clock crazy every day. Most days I made it.

The first thing I had to do was get a picture at the finish line for the Boston Marathon, of course. You may remember that the last time I posted from Boston, my picture showed me stepping on the finish line. I have since learned that this is a no-no, so I had to take another picture to reverse the bad mojo.

No stepping on the line!
Then I ran loops in the Park and Boston Common.

I JUST NOW noticed that my Cleveland head band is upside down. What the hell is the matter with me?
Each day that I ran outside I managed to do at least 4ish miles, and one day I did 5ish miles, but there was no long run this week. I just didn't have the time. I did add at least 20-some miles of walking this week because we walked everywhere, but I didn't officially record it.

There were two days that I ran 2 miles on the treadmill and then lifted in the fitness room, and that was a luxury because my weights are crap, and so far I have been too cheap to buy what I really need.

I am especially proud of myself for running after three hours of sleep on the evening of July 4. The alarm system went off in our room, and a recorded announcement told us to prepare to evacuate. Katie and I walked down to the lobby from the 22nd floor; that was fun. 

This is EXACTLY how we look after walking down 22 flights of stairs at 3:44 AM. I'm not wearing a bra here, by the way, so that was interesting.
When we got the all-clear, everybody jammed up the elevators, so I walked back UP to the 22nd floor. By the time I got up there, it was time to get up to run, so I just changed into my running clothes and ran back DOWN the stairs to go to Boston Common. Damn, I'm dedicated.

When I got back from Boston, I needed to get back to group runs, so I responded to two running posts with the Burning River Goddesses. On Saturday we ran loops at Hampton Hills for a total of about 6 miles.

Look how matchy I am with my BondiBand headband! I am wearing  matching compression socks, too! #stylista

On Sunday we ran from the Boston Store to Pine Lane and back for a total of about 8 miles, and then Renee and I put in two more miles on the Towpath.

I'm wearing my Orange Mud HydraQuiver here. It has grown on me. No, really, it has GROWN ON ME. Can someone help me take it off?
I intended to eat a banana and do 5 more Towpath miles after Renee left me, but it was so hot and humid, and I felt so tired from my trip, that I called it a day after 10 miles.

This is EXACTLY how I look when I call it a day after 10 miles.
Overall, I think I did the best I could under the circumstances of travel and heat.  I started this week right by doing over an hour of yoga--really good poses that I knew I needed to do--and I jumped into 5 miles today.  I'm going to get back into those 45 mile weeks again, and now I'm going to try to focus more on trails because Burning River is coming up!

What is the focus of your training? Whatever it is, I hope you Run Happy, Peeps!

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Thursday, June 29, 2017

Running with Heart

So, you may remember that I have had concerns about heart palpitations during certain races or runs. If you don't remember, you can read about some of them here and here.

You may also remember that this is the second anniversary of my father's death after a heart transplant.

If you put the two together, you might conclude that I should be seeing a doctor to determine if I have heart problems of the same magnitude as my father. This is definitely what my mom thought (Hi, Mom! Love you!), and so I made a series of appointments for tests and consultations with various specialists. Every test turned out normal. During my echocardiogram, the technician kept saying, "Boy, I wish every patient had pictures like yours!" I take a strange pride in the fact that I have pretty pictures of my heart.

This is EXACTLY how my heart looks in the echocardiogram pictures.  Except it isn't a tree.
The fact that all my tests were normal and I hadn't had any episodes since last Thanksgiving led me to believe that the palpitations (tachycardia) were probably stress-induced. My cardiologist (a young kid, by the way), however, wants to monitor my heart activity for a month to see if he can catch an episode. I have to wear the monitor at all times and do everything I can to provoke the tachycardia so that he can get a recording of it.

Me: Wait, so I can run, do speed work, race, all that stuff?

Doctor: Yes, exactly. I want you to provoke an attack so I can study it.

Me: Won't this be harmful? Couldn't I, like, die?

Doctor looks at me for a full minute, then says: Do you honestly think I would tell you to provoke an attack if I thought it was harmful to you?

Me: I don't know. Maybe you don't like me.

Anyway, now I'm sure he doesn't like me because wearing this event monitor SUCKS BIG TIME.  It's huge, so it looks like I'm carrying around a beeper from the 80s.  It has suction cups, which I have to move to a different place each day, so it looks like I have hickeys on my chest.  I have wires protruding from all parts of my body. I have to sleep with it, so I roll on it and it pokes me or vibrates to let me know that I'm killing it.

This morning I went for a long run (12 miles), and I wore the monitor.  This is how it looks:

One electrode here

The second one here just under my bra
They connect to this big, freaking box.

I can't see any data from it.  There are only buttons to push and one light that blinks when I have to upload the data.  How do I do that? I have to call a number, hold the box up to the phone, and let it play a whiny fax-machine-sounding thing for at least five minutes. I'm not exaggerating.

The good news is that I feel much better knowing that this isn't really harmful; the word the cardiologist used was "nuisance," which I know pretty well. I can live with this nuisance, but I'll wear the damned monitor while I have to (love ya, Mom!).

I'll leave you with something positive--my view at the Beaver Marsh on the Towpath this morning:

Those green plants are lily pads!
And this is how I felt when I finished my 12 miles:

I'm hot, I'm sweaty, and I'm fabulous!

Also, my fellow-Cleveland Marathon Ambassador Andrew (@Andrewrunsalot) found a picture of me on the Akron Marathon page!

I'm in the bright yellow. Look at that ass!
However you run this week, I hope you run with your heart--see what I did there? Until then, run happy, Peeps!

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Monday, June 19, 2017

Outta My League

Have you ever looked at a group of runners (probably completely cut, shirtless or wearing only running bras) who pass you chatting and laughing with each other while seemingly-effortlessly running 4 minute miles?  Have you looked at them and thought, "Whoa. Those runners are WAY OUTTA MY LEAGUE," yet you couldn't help but get a small twinge of wondering, "What if? What if I tried to hang with these machines? How far would I get before I cough up lung butter?"

You know, like this guy, who for one glorious mile got to hang with Meb and the elite pack at the Boston Marathon. Sometimes we just have to try to hang with people way out of our league, and that is what I did this week.

Example #1: I belong to quite a few online running groups, and while I lurk there, snooping on their runs and pictures, I have never run with many of them because. . . well, look at the title of this post. Phillips Phlyers is one of those groups.  They run at all times of the day and night, and there have been many times I've seen them at races or the same running route I'm taking that day. Last Tuesday, Joey Phillips (the leader of the Phlyers) posted a hilly 7-miler at 9:30 in the morning, which was just the time I was trying to kick my butt in gear. I first posted to Joey about pace because my main concern is I don't want to jack up someone's run. He told me to join them, so I did. After an interesting initiation ceremony that involved some group chanting, a selfie, and an American flag, Joey, John, and I got going.

This is EXACTLY how I look before running with Joey and John. 
We ran up the biggest hill ever. I tried to give up, but Joey and John weren't having it. I made that hill my bitch (you knew it was coming), and then Joey and I split off to the trails while John continued on the road. To take my mind off the fact that I was dying, Joey told me about his running history, and boy, am I glad he did! This man ran the Boston Marathon 20 TIMES!!!!  He trains hard, he is an amazing runner, and he is super-kind.

We met back up with John at the end, and he had water for us. I was feeling a little guilty because I knew they had run more slowly than they are used to, but they were both so kind about it that I got over myself. Thanks, Joey and John for letting me run with you on a super-hot day!

My Instagram Post after the run: I survived a run with Phillips Phlyers. I'm going to go throw up now.
Example #2: I needed a recovery run the next day, and I saw a post from the Canal Rats. I've run with the Rats a few times, so I should have known what I was getting into there, but, well, I'm not that smart. The Canal Rats meet before dawn to run the Towpath and/or Sand Run. They have a set weekly schedule, so I know that if I run with them on a Tuesday or Thursday, I could use it as a tempo run. This post was on a Wednesday, and it said "Relaxed Pace," so being gullible, I showed up at 5:50 AM to run "4 easy miles" on sore legs after my hill run with the Phlyers.  Umm.  Yeah.  The easy run was sure enough at my half marathon pace, and I had jumped into it with my eyes wide open.  Dumbass.  I ran the first two miles steps behind the pack (on the struggle bus the whole time), and then at the turnaround, Mary Jo ran back with me. This is usually what happens when I run with the Rats; they are so kind that one of them takes one for the team and runs with me for a few miles. I stayed with Mary Jo for one more mile, then I told her to catch up to the pack because I was going to cool down with run/walking.

My Instagram Post after this run: Aaaand today the Canal Rats kicked my ass.
Example #3: My friend Pam (@HopRunner), a fellow Rite Aid Cleveland Marathon Ambassador, is training for the Canal Corridor 100, and she has been putting in serious miles each week. She is a real badass, so I knew this was the time to try to run with her, while her legs are seriously tired before the taper. We made a plan to run 15 miles together on the Towpath on a hot Sunday morning. Pam needs to run slowly, so I thought I'd be able to keep up with her.  Unfortunately, I made a really stupid rookie move by doing lots of lunges and goblet squats the day before our run.  GAAAAAAA.  My legs hurt SO MUCH on our run. I have NEVER punked out by walking so much at the end of a run in my life! After mile 12 I was over-heated and my legs were toast. I felt terrible for Pam, but she was a great sport about it. We had a great conversation over the 15 miles, and I'm so grateful to her for letting me run with her and soak up some running-wisdom along the way.

This is the before pic. No way was I going to take an after-pic.  Look how fresh and pretty and cool we are here!
Ok, so I really stretched myself this week by running 47 miles, 15 of them counting basically as speed work. I'm pretty proud of myself; I ran a lot, I ran hard, and I didn't injure myself. I attribute the non-injury to my secret recovery drink:

Most importantly, I spent time with some inspirational people this week, and I learned a lot. As you have read, I learned that runner peeps are the best peeps, even when they are Outta My League.

How are you handling the heat? However you are doing it, I hope you Run Happy, Peeps!

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

Monday, June 12, 2017

Green Jewel Recap: I Don't Read Directions

This week I ran the Green Jewel 50k relay with my friend from high school Marsha. She is a real trooper to step in at the last minute and do this with me, especially on such a hot day. How did we do? I'll let you know soon, but FIRST, I need to tell you how badly I failed at paying attention and following directions.

Normally, this isn't me. I am the one who reads the directions on the box, both in French and in English so that I don't mess anything up. I roll my eyes when my husband, the master of Oh-Hell-Let's-Just-Look-at-a-YouTube-Video-and-Wing-It decides he is going to fix something or put it together. My pet peeve as a server (16 years!) was adults (not children, children always listen to the server) who don't listen when I give them choices. For example:

Me: What would you like to drink? We have Coke, Diet Coke, Sprite, Pink Lemonade, Root Beer, and Iced Tea.

Customer's Kid: I'll have a root beer.

Customer: Do you have Mountain Dew?


This is EXACTLY how I looked as a restaurant server. Creepy, right?

I digress. The point is that I am usually the person who reads the directions carefully, especially when I get any information about a race.  Not this week, Buddy.

My first directions-fail was in not paying attention to packet pick-up information. I found the location, Vertical Runner Brecksville, and I went there after I finished whatever it was I was doing at the house. I couldn't find an address on the webpage, so I plugged the store into my map and took off.  And got lost. Siri kept directing me to a bunch of buildings at the store's address, and none of them were Vertical Runner! Then I decided to drive around to see if the store might be nearby.  Nothing. Finally, I called and explained that I was lost, got the REAL address for the store, plugged it in, and arrived to pick up my packet only to find out that. . . it didn't start for another hour.  Sigh. Seriously? I was certain the hours were after 1:00 pm, but when I checked again, I could see that it started at 4pm.  Nothing to do but go to Starbucks and slowly drink a Midnight Mint Mocha Frappucino while reading my daughter's copy of Divergent for the second time. (Hey, it was the only book I had in the car.) Ok, no big deal. I just took up more time than I probably should have, but maybe this was the Universe's way of letting me know I had to relax a little bit.

Do I look relaxed here?

Next fail involved the Green Jewel relay legs. I ran leg two, which I understood to be 16 miles. I don't know why I thought that; in my head I can picture myself looking at the webpage and seeing that distance, but it turns out that I'm the only one who thought it was 16 miles. This really affected how I ran.

It was sooooo hot on the day of the race, and as leg 2,  I started a bit later in the morning, so the temperatures were rising quickly. My partner Marsha was a real badass; she finished her leg and gave her all, giving us a great time. Plus, she said she would move my car to the finish line for me! You may remember that I put it out to the Universe last week that I would need to find a way to my car. Well, first, Kelly, a Burning River Goddess, said she was volunteering at the finish line, and she offered to drive me to my car. This was so awesome of her, and I accepted. Her offer put me in a bit of a worry, though. I didn't want her to have to wait too long for me to arrive, so I was trying to figure out how to rev my engines without dying of heatstroke.  When Marsha offered to move my car, this took the pressure off; I knew it didn't matter at that point how long it took me to run the leg. In retrospect, this is one way I veered offtrack in my running strategy for that day. I texted Kelly at the first aid station in my leg and told her she didn't need to wait for me.

The Green Jewel is a beautiful course. My part ran from Berea to Rocky River to Lakewood, all in the Cleveland Metroparks on a paved path. I was mostly in the shade, thank GOD, and there were really only two hills that I could remember. I know Marsha had lots of uphill work in Leg 1; I know this because she texted me about it. My response: Better you than me, Sister.

There was an aid station at my Mile 5 and another at my Mile 11, and the volunteers were really great. There was plenty of water, Tailwind, pretzels, endurolyte tabs (lifesaver), and GINGER ALE, which is my ultimate favorite running treat.

Here is where things get iffy in my head: Remember that I thought my leg was 16 miles.  At the second aid station, people coming the opposite way were telling me that I was almost done. I brushed it off as their knowing that I looked like I was dying and wanting to encourage me. It was incredibly hot at that point, so I decided to incorporate some walking if I felt like my heart rate was getting too high. I also decided to stop at a bathroom and later at a water fountain to splash my head with water. When I got to mile 14, I saw a hill, and I decided I was going to walk that hill when I reached it. A third of a mile later, a volunteer told me he was going to cross me at an intersection because of all the cars around. I thanked him and started toward the hill, but he stopped me. "Hey," he said pointing down into a parking lot, "there's the finish. Go for it!" Wait. What????

So, yeah. I didn't pay attention to directions, and it kind of cost me some time. I figure I lost at least 6 minutes to screwing around either by walking, hanging out in the aid station, or going to the bathroom.

When I got to the finish, I saw my fellow Cleveland Marathon Ambassadors Pam (and her husband Steve) and Stephanie.

Stephanie took 2nd place AG;Pam took 1st AG. I have a bug on my face that nobody would tell me about.
I didn't bother to check the awards or time sheets, but I should have.  Marsha and I placed 2nd in the Women's Relay!  Yay for us!

There is no way that we could have come in first place; I checked those times, and that duo was CRAZY-FAST, but I am still a little disappointed in myself. Could I have shaved off some time if I had been paying attention? Yes, I'm sure I could have. Ultimately, though, it doesn't really matter. My true goals for this race were to 1. Compete a long run to keep up my mileage, 2. Make sure I don't shame my partner, and 3. Try something different.  I did accomplish those three goals. For my next spontaneous race, I will add a 4th goal: PAY ATTENTION TO DIRECTIONS!!!

Cute medal and shirt!
I hope you pay attention to directions, too! Regardless, make sure you Run Happy, Peeps!

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Sunday, June 4, 2017

Another Race? What?

So, on a whim I signed up for the Green Jewel Relay. The price was right, and I thought this would be a good motivator to keep up my mileage instead of starting from scratch to train for the Akron Marathon. I put out a call to every running group I know, and eventually a sucker nice runner volunteered to join up with me for a total of 50k. Beth, race director for the Medina Half Marathon, will be running the first 15 + miles, and I will be running the next 16 miles. I've never done this race, and I have no clue how it works, but I'm not going to sweat it, Peeps. I'm going to show up at the relay point and hope that I find a way back to my car when I finish. This, by the way, is not a smart strategy, but I have never claimed to be smart. I am putting this out into the Universe: I need to 1. survive the Green Jewel Relay and 2. find a ride back to my car. If you see me, Peeps, I would appreciate some help.

This is EXACTLY how I look when I'm pathetic and needy.
Today I ran 8 miles with the Goddesses. Everything kind of derailed for me on this run. I had meticulously packed my bag anticipating running 8 miles on the trails with the Goddesses and then finishing about 6-8 more miles on the Towpath. That just didn't work. There was some rain and some thunder and lots of conversation, so when we finished I had run out of time. I had to go home and garden, Peeps, which is THE WORST.

This is EXACTLY how I look when I'm avoiding gardening.
I saw Pam (fellow Rite Aid Cleveland Marathon Ambassador) and her husband Steve on their long run completing a 100-mile week. I was really tempted to ask them if I could run with them, but they sensed the desperate-ness and told me that I was technically in taper for the Green Jewel, since I had run a marathon two weeks prior and a half marathon the previous week. It was nice of them to phrase it that way. Anyway, I called it a day.

Now that school is out, I'd like to share my new strategy:

1. Track all my food AGAIN. Always. If I can lose 10 pounds, I can be back to my racing weight.
2. Increase my weekly mileage instead of starting from scratch when training for the Akron Marathon. Of course, I trained for the Rite Aid Cleveland Marathon during the school year, so I had limited time, but now my goal is to increase my during-the-week mileage (without injuring myself). My theory is that I need much higher mileage to better my time from the Cleveland Marathon.

As I continue to write this summer, I'll show you how I am increasing my mileage safely.

What are you training for? Running any trails lately? Check back next week to see if I got stranded during the Green Jewel.  Until then, run happy, Peeps!

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Tuesday, May 30, 2017

Race Recap: Medina Half Marathon

The Medina Half Marathon is a tradition for me. I am a teacher at Medina High School, and this race takes place the Saturday after school lets out every year. It is my way of saying goodbye to the school year and to Medina for a brief vacation. It is my way of letting go of the stress and the tears and the sleeplessness of grading and worrying and juggling schedules.

This is part of Medina Square. The course begins and ends here.
Each year I sign up for next year's race at the expo because it is only $38, which is an amazing price for a half marathon with an awesome medal. So, when I signed up for the race for this year, I didn't realize at the time that I would decide to run the Rite Aid Cleveland Marathon, since I have been running the half for a few years. This meant that I would run 26.2 one week and then 13.1 six days later.

I was committed to both races, so I figured I could walk as much of the Medina race as I needed to if I was still suffering from the marathon.  It turns out that I felt fine after the marathon, so I decided to run the half. Notice that I didn't say that I decided to RACE the half. I think that might have caused an injury, and I didn't want to do anything stupid. Well, more stupid than usual.

As a bonus, Marta from the Burning River Goddesses messaged me and asked if I wanted to run the race with her; she was also still recovering from the Rite Aid Cleveland Marathon.  Su-weet!

We decided to just run how we felt. . . and we felt pretty good! We decided about halfway through that we could probably shoot for a 2:10 finish.

The course has changed each year, and this year brought fewer hills, which surprised me greatly. I had warned Marta that we would be feeling the hills, and then I kept wondering when we would find them!  One other change from previous years: the race course was much safer in the residential neighborhoods this year. I think that our Medina friends have finally realized that the race is here to stay, and they have learned to live with it. In previous years, I have seen cars weaving among runners, and it was super-dangerous. This year when there were drivers, they listened to the course directors. Kudos to the Race Director for working on this problem.

As we came to the end of the race, I heard my friends shouting my name (thanks, Ailene!), so I found the energy to kick it in gear and sprint. Marta and I finished in 2:10:01.  I'll take it!

It looks painful, right?
 Now for the worst photo finish EVER:

Hahahahaha! So dramatic.
After I walked off the feeling of wanting to throw up, Marta and I took some happy pictures by the Gazebo (which is a Medina-thing):

Then we went to the best after-party EVER: Pizza and beer and a great band sponsored by Stand up for Downs. I drank some Fat Tire (no crappy Michelob Ultra here) and ate some pizza and basked in the sunshine with Marta:

Before we were faking it. Now that we have beer, we are truly happy.
And check out the awesome medal:

There are little sparkles embedded in the medal.
All in all, I give the Medina Half Marathon a big stamp of approval. This race gets better every year. The race directors listen to our feedback and work really hard to make any necessary improvements for the next year, and honestly, there is a lot of bang for your buck. I will continue to make this half my traditional hello to summer.

How do you say hello to summer?  Whatever your tradition, whether it involves racing or not, I hope you run happy, Peeps!

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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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