Cleveland Take Two

Before I start on my race recap, let’s back up to Friday and the expo. Outside of the whole parking ordeal, I was pretty excited to get my race shirt and see what other items I could live without needed. I got there around 6, so I only had an hour, which was probably better on my wallet anyway. I saw a few familiar faces, but I was on a mission to get to the pacers booth. One of my coaches from high school just happened to be in town for the race. In fact, the same coach that encouraged us to run with Second Sole back in high school. We spent a good half hour catching up and discussing a number of topics. She gave me great tips, and told me I could definitely go sub 2 soon. Encouraging, but it didn’t cross my mind for Sunday, or even this summer. More importantly, she agreed to help me pace my marathon in October. Seriously, I couldn’t ask for anything better. It was a great start to the weekend.

An inspiration

So fast forward to Sunday. I was feeling pretty good when I woke up at 4:30. I was nervous though, after running the 5k on Saturday, I was concerned on how I would handle 13 miles in the heat. I still had the words “it’s ok if you don’t finish” stuck in my head from my dad. He told me not to go all out, and just take it easy. I continued to get ready and was headed down town early enough that traffic wouldn’t be an issue. I had a parking pass, so I easily found a spot next to Brown’s Stadium and I was ready to go.

I spent the next hour trying to calm my nerves and prepare myself for the heat. I made a quick decision at bag check to run with my fuel belt. It would be my first time using it, and after a quick few steps of warming up, it was already bouncing around. Should I use it, should I go put it back, should I wear it as long as I can handle and then just toss it somewhere on the course? This became my new stress for the next half hour.

Finally the race was ready to start, I decided to use the belt for as long as I could handle it. When that moment came where it was too annoying, I would figure out what to do then. I started out behind the 9:30 pace group. If I could start faster while the weather was cooler I knew I had a better chance of finishing. The first mile was slow and congested, and the heat set in as soon as we turned the corner. I  immediately thought of last year in Columbus where I was mentally done in the first mile. But I didn’t let that thought last long, I had to stick it out, I couldn’t give up yet. Until mile two, I felt off. My fuel belt was slipping and one of the bottles was leaking. My left knee was already stressing from the few smaller hills and I started to think I’d feel this way the entire race. Soon enough I got my belt into the perfect position, just seconds before the first water stop. I grabbed a cup and noticed a familiar form running past me.

Lucky for me, my aunt was just feet from me, so I sped up and tapped her on the shoulder. My intention was to say hi, run a mile together and fall behind her quicker pace. Things didn’t go quite like that and we ended up running together until mile 10 or so. The miles in between were probably the toughest and most rewarding.

Miles 3-5 were quick. We kept up about a 9:00 minute pace and even had a chance to talk. At this point though, my left arch and knee where letting me know they were already getting tired. I could also feel a blister start on my right foot. I told her I may not finish the race, but I would hold on and see how I felt. Mile 6 came and went, and we were under an hour. The temperature was rising and shade was minimal. I had taken advantage of some Gu, all of the water stops, and my water/nuun combo I had in my fuel belt. By the time mile 8 rolled around, I was in shock with how quick the race was flying by. We were a little slower, but still bounced around a 9:30 pace. Not bad, considering everything that wasn’t on our side that day.

Mile 9 has always been my check point. If I’m over 1:30 I know I’m in poor shape, if I’m under 1:30, I better hold onto what ever I have and just run with it. We came in under and started counting down the miles. Running was getting harder, our pace was slowing at points, but we still kept going. Until the hill. This was new and I was a little hesitant on the down hill part, because when you go down, you have to get back up. I looked up and everything was in slow motion. No one was running, everyone was moving at a snail’s pace to get up there. So I shuffled as slow as I could, only to hear two phrases that sent chills up  my back. The man left to me yelled out “I think I tore my Achilles” Ouch, I could feel his pain. Then the lady next to me yelled out, “Call 911” I turned around and saw a gentleman pass out. Everyone was pretty much in a panic and just wanted to get to stable ground again.

Mile 10, just a 5k to go. I checked my watch and I was at 1:35, still at a good pace but I knew that one last bridge was ahead of me before I was home free. Half way on the bridge, my aunt told me to go on without her. She wasn’t feeling her best and didn’t want to hold me back. I felt bad, I was in her same shoes last year at the same exact point on the bridge. So here I was, alone for the last 2.5 miles, it was either fade into the crowd and coast in or see if I could keep this pace for the rest of the race.

A lot of thoughts went through my mind in these last miles. I quickly did the math and knew that I would be finishing in under 2:10. I wanted to keep my pace, I wanted to finish strong. This was the first race that I didn’t rely on my watch or iPod, I just ran. I spent a majority of the race not stressing about time or where I should be with my pace. I was like everyone else, making my way through, hoping to cross the finish line. A mile to go, and I was under the 2:00 mark. I wanted to quicken my steps, but I knew I could easily ruin everything I worked for if I went in too strong. Following everyone ahead of me, I knew we were getting close, I recognized some of the streets and that final turn would be any second. And it was there. The sun was shining, the crowds were cheering and I could taste the finish line. With less than a quarter mile to go I saw my uncle. I sprinted up to give him a high five and told him my aunt was on her way.  This was exactly the encouragement I needed. The winding finish felt like it would never end. I kept checking my watch thinking that seconds were flying by. In those moments, I wanted a number, I needed that number. I was suddenly on the heels of a PR.

PR Party

Crossing the line was surreal, emotional and unbelievable. A year ago I was finishing my first half. In the same place that it started, I ran a new PR. Looking back, I honestly don’t know how it happened. I am not a heat runner at all, I struggled the day before in a 5k. All I can think of is that I had the motivation of running for Team JDRF on my mind and the support of my aunt along the way. We both had low points, but we needed each other. Neither one of us would have made it if we ran it alone.

Race partners

So here I am, my second shot at Cleveland, and a completely different experience. Not only did I experience my first half here, but I ran my best half under crazy conditions. I find it bittersweet. As much as I’ve loved my Cleveland Experience, I knew it would be my last CLE half for a while. I love everything about Cleveland Marathon weekend, but my love for Green Bay wins this next round. Instead of lining of outside Brown’s Stadium next year, I’ll be outside the greatest place on Earth, Lambeau. Thanks Cleveland, for giving me my first and best.

Results:

Official Time: 2:05:55-PR!

Overall: 2593 / 14635

Gender: 1045 / 8262

AG: 139 / 898

Half number seven, The Cleveland Half Marathon

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2 thoughts on “Cleveland Take Two

  1. Dan says:

    I’ve run enough races to see more than one ambulance zip by me on its way to deal with a potentially serious issue. It always makes you pause and think, I should probably reel this in and be safe. After all, a trip to the hospital would definitely take the fun out of running.

    But it’s great when you surprise yourself by putting together a great performance against the odds. Well done on that PR — now just imagine how fast you’ll run in the fall if you keep it up!

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