Cleveland Half Marathon Recap

Running is all about the numbers. Distance, time, splits, mileage, pace, they all mean something. But one number stands out, a milestone, a goal, a number to crush. After 3 years and 15 half marathons, I finally met my goal. On Sunday, at the Cleveland Half Marathon, I finally ran a sub 2:00 half marathon.

After I ran the Medina Half course last weekend I had doubts about running sub 2. I had put in the miles, and I’d been faster in my races. But the Medina course had me second guessing everything I had done this year. So with the few days leading up to Cleveland, I decided my best shot at running sub 2 would be there. Inside I was bursting to tell everyone that I was going to give it my all on Sunday and hopefully see that little “1” on the front end of my finish time. But instead I kept it to myself, scared I was setting myself up for failure.

Friday after work I went to the expo, and quickly made it through with just a shirt and a few Sport Bean Recovery Beans. As I went down the last aisle, I ran into a familiar face, Coach Kara, my favorite high school coach, and pace coach for Cleveland Marathon. We spoke briefly, and I told her of my goal, hoping to get words of wisdom. She believed I could do it, and handed me two pace bands. If I stayed between the splits, I’d get it.

Goal range

Goal range

Sunday started at 3am for me. I already had everything laid out, so I ate an extra helping of breakfast, stretched, read my previous Cleveland race recaps, and may have shed a few tears. By 4:30, I was on the road and made it to Brunswick to meet up with Jeanne and her neighbor Laurie. By 5:15, we were on the road and making our way towards Cleveland. The drive was fairly easy and we avoided most of the traffic, but I couldn’t help but feel nervous the closer we got.

Accidental team neon green!

Accidental team neon green!

After we parked, we made our way to the bag drop and visited the port-a-pottys a few times to get rid of all last minute nerves. We lined up in corral C, mentioning the plan to possibly stay together, and hopefully get me in under 2. The gun went off and we walked toward the start until it was finally our time to run. This was it, I was going to give it everything I had in these next 13.1 miles no matter what.

The first mile, as always was congested, and we were dodging and weaving to find an open space in the crowd. We quickened our pace and tried to get to where we needed to be, instead of starting out too slow and playing catch up. I was a little nervous I was going out too fast, but I knew it was easier to slow down later than speed up when I was worn down.

Everything felt great, and I was keeping up with the pace pretty well. Jeanne was a little ahead of Laurie and I, but we had her in sight and I wasn’t too concerned about being left behind yet. I was taking sips of water after every mile, and by mile three, the crowd had started to thin out just enough that we weren’t running into each other anymore.

Mile 1-8:44
Mile 2-8:37
Mile 3-8:45

Laurie and I kept running together, checking our watches every quarter mile or so. We knew we were still ahead of pace, but I was feeling good, so we kept with it. I took a sport bean after mile 4 even though I felt I didn’t need it yet. It was around this point that I noticed I had pretty much zoned out on the race. The miles had ticked by quickly, but I hadn’t really been paying attention to them. I was so focused on staying ahead of pace that I blocked everything else out. It was a blessing really, I wasn’t analyzing every second of the race, instead I was just there, running it.

Mile 4-8:42
Mile 5-8:32

By mile 5, I started to wonder what exactly I was doing. My pace had been under 9 for the entire race, yet my legs were feeling great, and I felt oddly comfortable. It was a surreal feeling, but knew that it could change at any mile. As we checked our pace, I mentioned that I’d rather have a little extra time, than cut it down to the wire at the finish. So we would keep going until we needed to slow down.

We were approaching the 10k mark, and I saw Sarah out of the corner of my eye. I yelled hello, and waved, and went on my way to the 10k mark, hitting it at 55 minutes. We continued on our way, half of the race behind us, hoping my legs could keep up for the second half of the race. Any while my splits were still sub 9, I was completely surprised at the times I was hitting. I was well ahead of my normal pace, and still 4 minutes under the 2 hour mark splits on my pace band. We caught up with Jeanne, but after about a mile together she veered off towards a port-a-potty. I was nervous to be left alone, but Laurie stayed with me, and kept me on pace.

I took another sport bean at mile 8 and noticed my hips had a small twinge. They were starting to get sore, but I tried to block it out. I couldn’t let anything get it my head. Eight miles down, five to go, the countdown was on.

Mile 7-8:41
Mile 8-8:35

I was finally back into familiar territory in this part of the race. I enjoyed the moments of shade and tried to keep my pace consistent. I couldn’t help but think back to the Hermes 10 Miler and the Flap Jack 15k, I had done great until the end, and hoped that my body wouldn’t start to shut down by mile 10. I hadn’t pushed myself this hard in a race of this distance before, I was starting to enter the unknown and I had no idea how my body would react.

That thought left my mind as I saw Elayna and Marissa on the side of the course between mile 9 and 10. I was beyond excited to see them, and was quickly overcome with emotion. I started to cheer up and before I knew it, I was running over to see them. I attempted a weird side hug, but my legs steered me back on course. Not even a minute later, my emotions got the best of me and I started coughing and gagging. I couldn’t throw up, not with so much left in the race. I did whatever I could to get back into a normal pace, and about a half mile later, I was finally good again.

It took a while, but I was back on pace. At this point, my hips started to ache more and I was concerned as we approached the last two miles. I knew there was some incline, but my legs weren’t ready for it. I tried to focus on my watch, telling myself that I’d come so far, I couldn’t let the last few miles break me down.

On a mission

On a mission

Mile 9-8:44
Mile 10-8:53
Mile 11-8:48

The next two miles were hard. For the first time all race my pace was over 9 minutes, and by a lot. The combination of the inclines, my sore hips, and running a pace I wasn’t used to for 11 miles hit me hard. I mentally started to break down, questioning if I could do it. Every time I reached the top of the hill, I’d see another. Laurie helped to push me along, and it helped me more than she could ever know. I didn’t want to give up, but it was hard. So I kept telling myself, I’m going to do it, I’m going to break 2. I had to do whatever I could to keep the momentum up.

As we reached the last hill, I could feel my pace start to pick up, and after two incredibly hard miles, I finally felt confident about breaking 2. I had worked so hard for the first eleven miles, I wasn’t going to let the last two get to me.

Mile 12-9:48
Mile 13-9:31

I took advantage of the decline and the straightaway as much as I could. The crowds were getting louder, and I could feel the city pulling me in. Knowing the course showed up long on my watch, I kept staring down to see what I hit when it turned over to 13.1. When 1:55 was on my watch, I couldn’t believe it. I had never seen those numbers together, and honestly never thought I would. I couldn’t help but smile.

I started to pick up my pace, knowing I was so close to the finish, yet I still wasn’t done. I started to fade and veered off to the right of the crowd. I didn’t feel myself, and couldn’t control what would happen next. Instead of running towards the finish with a smile on my face and hands up in the air, I was throwing up, over and over as I made my way to the finish until I finally got there.

Don't puke, don't puke!

Don’t puke, don’t puke!

Last .3-9:06

I got sick again, but I was finally able to walk it off. I grabbed my medal, met up with Laurie, and finally looked at my watch. 1:58:00. I had done it. I broke 2 and ran a 7 minute, 55 second PR. And I had left everything I had on the course while doing it.

Happy as can be!

Happy as can be!

We found Jeanne and got a group picture before grabbing food and taking a seat in the sun. And although I was excited, it hadn’t quite hit me yet. But I soaked in the moment as much as I could. After a while we made our way back to gear check, then the car, and we were back on the road towards home. I made sure to stop at Panera on my way home to grab a cinnamon roll that would be my reward for making it through another long run. It wasn’t until I pulled in the garage and turned off my car, that everything hit me, and I finally cried tears of joy.

I couldn’t have asked for a better day on Sunday. The weather was perfect, the course was greatly improved and for most of the race, my run felt effortless. I didn’t know what I’d feel the first time I broke 2, or when it would happen, but I’m glad that I did it at the race that started it all.

I can’t help but admit that there is a feeling of what now. This number that I held up with so much admiration and fear is no longer there, a feeling of being a little lost. I don’t know if I’ll break 2 again, or if it was a one time thing. But one thing is for certain, I’ll never forget the day I finally broke 2 hours.

Race swag

Race swag

Official Results:

Garmin Time: 1:58:00

Age Group 25-29: 148/726

Gender: 652/3589

Overall: 1752/6113

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Spring TRAINing 10 Mile Recap

A few weeks ago I came across the Western Reserve Racing website and found the Spring TRAINing 5 Mile/10 Mile race. The object of the race was to beat the train to the 5 mile finish. Those who ran the 10 mile would turn around after the 5 mile mark and run back to the starting line. Knowing that I had 10 miles scheduled for this weekend, I figured it would be a great way to get my miles in, and I was pretty excited for what you received once you finished.

Outside of the Yeti Set Go 10k last year, I’ve never really done any trail running. Even though I ran cross country in high school/college, the terrain would change from grass to dirt to pavement. I wasn’t sure what to expect, so I decided to treat it as a training run.

I woke up Sunday morning to find much colder weather and light flakes of snow. Nothing was sticking, so I hoped they would go away and it would warm up a bit. I left for the race around 8:45 to get there by 9:45 for bib pick up and a restroom break. The drive was relatively short, but all back roads. By the time I was about 10 minutes from the race, the roads were covered in snow and the temperature wasn’t getting any warmer. I finally parked, and got in the long line to grab my bib. Before running not only did you get your bib, but you got a cinch bag (green or orange) and a coffee mug. The coffee mug may have been the only reason I signed up, I can’t resist them.

Anyway, I ended up running into a few MCRR members who were mostly running the 5 mile. Luck would have it, Jeanne and her husband ended up behind me in line while waiting for the porta pottys. We talked about how we had both run the Super 5k the day before and what our paces would be for today’s race. We decided to start together, working on a 9:30 pace and go from there.

We lined up on the road and the race director gave a short talk about what to do when we got to the 5 mile mark and how the 10 milers would come back. The train was supposed to  be a 10:00 minute pace, so as long as you made it to the 5 mile mark in 50 minutes, you beat the train.

Everyone started out pretty close together, and you had to weave in and out to find enough room. We hit the trail, and well, it was certainly less than ideal. Because of the cold weather, it was still frozen, along with grooves of shoes and bike treads. It was also covered with snow so it was pretty slippery in most parts. A half mile in and I knew this would be tough on my legs.

Let's go!

Starting off

The first mile was a little rough. We kept trying to get solid footing without slipping or running into others, while trying to find a 9:30 pace. We eventually got there and kept it steady for the next couple of miles, passing groups and watching for roots. I was feeling ok, but it felt like I was running a lot quicker than I actually was. I was also a little concerned that my legs wouldn’t be able to carry me the entire way and hopefully I wouldn’t regret running the 5k the day before.

Over the next couple of miles, Jeanne and I kept the pace pretty even, focusing on running the first half quicker than the second. We stayed pretty chatty talking about training and races and making sure we were on time to beat the train. I’ve never run the towpath before, so I wasn’t familiar at all with the path or the surroundings, but because the path was so unforgiving, my eyes stayed glued to the ground, rather than up to take in the views. I  made a note to come back when it gets warmer to really enjoy the towpath, rather than stare at the ground the entire time.

Once we got to mile four we started to hear the train whistle. Thinking it was still pretty far behind, we ignored it. But the noise was getting louder and eventually the train came speeding past. Checking our watches, we were only at 41 minutes, this train was definitely on a different pace than us. We started to speed up and our pace dropped to about 9:00 minutes, running as fast as we could to get to the half way point. We started to see more runners coming back towards so we knew we were close. Following a few twists and turns on the path we finally made it to the half way mark at 47:50.

Pure focus

Pure focus

We turned around, got some water, took in some fuel and started back on our last five miles. There was something a little daunting knowing that most people were done, and we still had to run back to the start, but knowing we made it 10 instead of 5 would be well worth it.

We decided on a slower pace on the way back because by now our legs were starting to get a little sore. I couldn’t tell if it was the hill from Saturday’s 5k, the hard surface or the lack of miles that week, but my legs were definitely telling me they would need stretched out afterward. Our pace ranged anywhere from 9:30-10:15. Miles 5-6 weren’t as tough, but by mile 7 I had hit a small wall. We kept chugging along, with the goal of reaching 10 miles at 1:35. The closer we got, the more my body tried to break down. I mentally wanted to keep going, but my hips and knees were starting to ache.

We finally reached the last mile, and knew were we almost done. We went off the trail a bit and on to the road, of course with a hill leading us the way to the finish. At this point any incline was brutal and all I could think of was the giant cinnamon roll from Panera I was going to devour once I finished.

Almost done!

Almost done!

We came off the road, rounded out a small path and came across the grassy area of the finish. By this point we sprinted and gave everything we had left in us, beyond excited to see the finish line. We crossed the line at 1:36:32, just 1 minute and 32 seconds off our goal.

Once we finished we stood in line to get our post race goodies and hopefully our medals. They announced that the train was indeed 7 minutes early, and that as long as you hit the 5 mile mark in 50 minutes or less you would receive your medal. Along with the medal, there was ice cream, bagels, hot chocolate and a few other little things. By this time I was freezing, so I packed up and headed home.

Overall I really enjoyed this race. I went in using it as a training run, but I think it’s a good course to use for a PR. It’s mostly flat and as long as the ground isn’t too slippery, it’s pretty quick. I honestly don’t think I would have done as well if Jeanne wasn’t running with me. She pushed me to keep a consistent pace even when my legs were starting to give out.

The thing I got most out of this race, was a good test to see where I am with my training. I’m right where I need to be time was to knock off a few more minutes to reach sub 2:00. With over 8 weeks left, there isn’t a doubt that I can do it.

The event was well run and the race swag was definitely not your typical t shirt. Despite the cold and snow, I’ll keep this as an option for a spring race next year. And considering this is my first 10 mile race, I ran a PR! Now I have something to look forward to when I run the Hermes 10 Miler next month!

Race swag

Race swag

Official Time: 1:36:32

Overall: 61/94

Gender: 28/52

AG 25-29: 5/8

Miles for Madison 5k Recap

The longer I live away from the big city, the more I love running in the country. There’s just something special about running with the rollings hills of road in front of  you and not another person around. Add 600 or so other runners and the fresh smell of cows and you’ve got the setting for Saturday’s 5k. Miles for Madison 5k was in Creston, a small town in the middle of no where Ohio. I picked up my packet on Friday night, which had my shirt and free candle donated by Root Candles. I had also won free train tickets to Lodi Station, so I was able to give these back for a family with children who would really appreciate the ride.

I scoped out some of the course and noticed it was really flat, but had a bit of wind. Seemed to be a pretty easy course to run on the next day. I was really excited for the race, not only would I be hitting these country roads with speed, but this entire race was for one little girl. Madison was diagnosed with SJS last year. She’s in recovery, but it was a great way for others to learn about this rare skin disease and help raise money to a great fund. The event was put on by Medina County Road Runners and the family expected maybe 200 people to show up. They were blown away when 600+ people were there on race day. Even more awesome, many of Madison’s classmates came out to run as well. Cue the tears.

Saturday morning came and I was ready to go. I was feeling pretty good and was hoping to get close to my PR. It was a little windy, but I didn’t think it would be a big issue. After a warm up, I made it to the start line and took my place between the 8-9 mile markers. We started the race and I tried to find a pace I was comfortable with. I knew to ignore Garmin for a while so I could focus on what my legs wanted. A half mile in and I was pushing 7:50. I had no business being anywhere near that number so I quickly tried to slow myself down. I felt like I was moving in slow motion, but I hit the first mile in 8:15.

Shortly before the mile marker we turned a corner and were heading straight into the wind. I’m not sure what happened, but I slowed way down, almost to a point that I felt I was running backwards. I had a sudden change of heart, I didn’t want to run any longer, and I wanted to just sit down and stop. My legs felt heavy and it was as though I had already run 10 miles, not one. With so many 5ks under my belt, I knew that sometimes you get good races, and sometimes you get bad races. I kept going, knowing that since the race was flat, it shouldn’t be a total struggle to make it to the finish. I hit mile two somewhere around 17:xx.

With one mile to go, I focused on finishing. We rounded another turn and I could see a few rolling hills up in the distance. I didn’t expect these and wasn’t sure I’d have the energy to muster up the final half mile. All I could think about was how does someone plan to have hills in the last half mile? Obviously I still don’t love hills. I could hear my college coaches voice in my head, charge the hill, charge that hill in front of you. I told myself this over and over as I passed people and made it to the top. Half mile to go and I was at 22:xx.

There was a slight downhill that lead us to the school and around the back to the track. I started to pick up my speed and gave it all I had left in me. I crossed the line at 26:14.

I think this look explains it all

I think this look explains it all

It wasn’t my best race, but I’ve done a lot worse. I was surprised with how close my time was to last week. Ok, 45 seconds may not be close, but I was pretty sure I’d finish between 27-28 minutes. It was a mentally rough day, between the brutal wind and my legs and the last few hills near the finish, but I completed the race.

Afterword I stood in line for my 5 minute massage and had my hamstrings stretched out. The woman working on me proceeded to tell me that my back was a mess and so were my hips. Thank you for reassuring me with something I already know. She gave me a few stretches and hopefully I can work these out in the future. Maybe this is what’s holding me back from running a quicker pace.

By 10:30 the awards started, I didn’t expect to win anything, but wanted to stick around and find out the fastest times. Little Madison was also handing out the awards, so I felt it was only right to stay for a while. When they got to the 20-24 age group, they called my name in third place. Completely shocked I went up to grab my award, a brick from one of the old local schools. How awesome.

3rd Place Female 20-24

3rd Place Female 20-24

I didn’t realize until I was on my way home, but it would be the last time I ran a 5k in the 20-24 age group. A bittersweet moment that will allow me to jump up to 25-29 and probably never place. But hopefully, it will push me to be a faster runner.

The race was such a great event that was put on in honor of one little girl. MCRR did such a fantastic job, and I hope that this race continues each year. I was impressed with the goodies from our grab bag too. They included a shirt, water bottle, a candle and some coupons for ice cream. Along with the grab bag, the treats after the race were all donated by local companies. They had quite the spread of chocolate milk, cookies, subway sandwiches and I think some ice cream. Seriously a community effort on this event.

Lots of goodies!

Lots of goodies!

Official Results

Time: 26:14

Overall Place: 131/616

Female Overall: 39/382

AG 20-24: 3/20

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