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.


Official Time: 2:05:55-PR!

Overall: 2593 / 14635

Gender: 1045 / 8262

AG: 139 / 898

Half number seven, The Cleveland Half Marathon


As much as I love Cleveland, I love traveling down 71 to see old friends. Friday night was spent in Wooster, partly to make sure I wouldn’t be borrowing a friend’s couch to sleep, but also to help break down the drive. I woke up Saturday and did a short run to shake out my legs, trying not to blow away I headed around Route 83, dodging cars, and quickly found a housing development. I heard my knee pop just as I turned onto the sidewalk. Immediately I thought, this couldn’t happen, after taking two weeks off and being careful, I couldn’t bare starting the pain all over the day before the race. I slowed down and turned back. Luckily it was just a pop and some small pain. By the time I got back, it felt like nothing happened. Hopefully this was just my body’s way of telling me to be careful this weekend.

The drive from Wooster to Columbus felt like forever, probably because I was so excited to get to the expo! I was even more excited that Darren would get to experience it, and maybe it would make him want to be a runner….(wishful thinking). I got my number, pretty cool shirt and race bag, then I was off to see what I could find that “I had to add to my running closet” After spending more than I should have, and spending more than enough time, we were off to watch the Buckeyes at Eddie George’s.

We met up with one of my best and oldest friends Elayna

She stayed for the first half, and then left me in charge of Darren’s friends. Let’s just say that being the only sober person in a bar during a Buckeye game, isn’t always fun. But OSU won, so it was a great start to the weekend!

After spending about 6 hours at the bar, we met up for dinner with my old high school running buddy at this cute little pizza shop. Luckily the pizza was good, because we found out they took pasta off they’re menu. I was not a happy camper 😦

Laying in bed, my mind was all over the place. I don’t know Columbus that well, I wasn’t even sure how to get to the start of the race, or even where good parking garages would be. I wasn’t familiar with any of the race course, so I had no idea what to expect for the course. I had trouble sleeping because I was so worried about getting lost, but I could have easily overslept had I really wanted to. I was still really unsure as I was getting ready in the morning. I was so excited that a number of friends would be running their first half/full marathon. But my excitement quickly diminished for my own race. My stomach was a mess and I was undecided on long sleeve or short sleeve all morning. Stresses I didn’t need.

On my way to drop off my bag, I found Sarah, a friend from high school who was running her first. She was so excited and nervous, everything I had felt 5 months before, getting ready for Cleveland. I wished her good luck and was about ready to start. I barely fit on the street, but started to get excited as the fireworks went off and the race began.

Within the first half mile, I was already regretting running. I was thinking of ways I could get out of the race, trying to convince myself it wouldn’t be my day. Right as I wanted to turn off I felt an arm around me. Who is hugging me in the middle of the race? It was my aunt! We ran together for a few minutes, got my mind off everything and she sped up to do her own race.

The miles went on and soon I decided I needed to take a bathroom break. Waited in line for 2-3 minutes, then I was back on the road. My stomach was in bad shape and I could feel my legs slowly deteriating. The only thing getting me through was knowing I’d be a fanatic at the end. I was still keeping my normal 10:00 minute pace, but there was no way I’d be able to negative split on any miles. By mile 7 I was growing thin, my stomach was growling, cramping and on the verge of losing the Cliff bar I had in my stomach. This was about the time that the volunteers were handing out some sort of energy gel. I grabbed one. I figured nothing else could go wrong, so I might as well try one. Thinking in the bad of my mind, never try something new on race day, I figured it was worth a short, anything to help me through the race.

Slowly but surely, I started feeling better and had some energy. My legs were still sore, but I was feeling better. Thinking back, I should have put more IcyHot on to block out all pain. Around German Village I remember Elayna said she would be there to support me, I tried to find her, but unfortunately couldn’t spot her. She later told me she found me and that I looked great.

Two miles left and I hit my usual wall, not as hard, but my time was definitely slowing down. From then on it was just a solid line of fans on both sides cheering and pushing everyone to get to the finish. I don’t remember much of this part, but for the first time I knew I was going to make it. When I saw the sign that told the half marathoners to split off, I started to speed up, increasing my stride and opening up my legs, I was just seconds of finishing. And that moment never felt so good. With everything against me I made it at 2:17:38, just 2 minutes off my PR (Shouldn’t have taken that bathroom break) My greatest feeling was that I was finally a fanatic. I had worked hard to get to this point, and I could smile through the pain.

So here I am, Half Fanatic #1441. My toughest race to get to this accomplishment. And even though it was a horrible race, it made me stronger. I was 90% mentally not in the race, but somehow I made it through, had some firsts, and wasn’t far off my regular pace. Even bad races can be good.

Columbus swag

After I got myself steady I got a much needed massage, watched the finish and waited to see a fellow Muskie come across the finish line. I was already on the verge of tears after watching little kids squeeze through the fence to finish with their parents and saw a man being helped to the finish after his legs gave out 500 feet from the line. So watching Kimi finish her first marathon, I was completely overwhelmed. Even the guy next to me was excited for her. So proud she had an amazing race!

She’s my inspiration

Oh and hey back 13.1……I’ll see you next year!

Pre race jitters

Nervous? Yes.

Scared? Not really.

Excited? Absolutely!

Sunday is the Columbus Half Marathon. After a couple of weekends off from races, I’m nervous all over again. But these are the excited nerves. There is so much to look forward to on Sunday….

  • This is my 4th half marathon this year. Remember how scared I was for my first one?
  • After Sunday I will be a half fanatic!
  • Sunday will be the first half marathon for a fellow Muskie and an old friend from high school.
  • Traveling down 71 allows me to meet up with some other friends who now call C-bus “home”
  • It’s Expo time, and I love Expo time!
  • The most exciting thing…it’s Kimi’s first marathon!! Her journey to Columbus has been amazing and she’s going to rock on Sunday!

As for me this weekend, I’m excited to see what Columbus has to offer. I’m hoping to get a time of around 2:15, maybe even 2:10. My body feels much better after taking a week and a half off after Akron. And no knee plains, which means I can run a stronger race than I have been. At this point, it’s all about enjoying the race and being proud to say that I can run 13.1 miles.