Spoiler alert - this post could also be titled "It just wasn't my day"
carrying on the saying/team name from the flying pig 2 weeks ago. It brought me some motivation and a lot of comments during this race.
Alright settle in this takes awhile...
Sunday I lined up to run the 34th Rite Aid Cleveland Marathon for my 3rd year in a row. For the 2nd year Mr. H lined up to pace me and my friend Sarah ran her 3rd Cleveland half marathon. They have both run one of the races (10K, half, marathon) for the last 5 years.
Mr. H was with me once again because during one night of drinking while home for the holiday in Dec 2009 I asked the speedster to get me to a sub-4 hour marathon. I struggle with the Cleveland course each year but I keep signing up because I'm a
masochist always one for a challenge. At this point my friend is as determined as I am for me to break the 4 hour barrier. Though after being injured and coming out of the boot only 13 weeks ago, having a lackluster training because I spent much of my time building my base back up again, not having the time to commit due to my crazy travel schedule, and general lack of motivation I wasn't feeling overly confident this year.
I was up and at 'em at 4:30 am Sunday morning. Sarah, Chris and her parents (my 2nd mom and dad) were picking me up from my dad's house around 5-5:15 a.m. to make the drive to Cleveland. It was a foggy and cool though humid morning with on and off rain showers. We arrived almost an hour before race start so we killed time making several bathroom trips. Luckily we had access to the Brown's Stadium and every bathroom was open and there was cover! So many people didn't realize that if you walked 10 additional steps the opposite direction there was one with no bathroom line. We made the extra effort and had no waiting each time.
About 20 minutes before the start time we headed to the start line. It was chaotic! This was the first year for the race starting by the stadium and there was limited space. Cleveland also doesn't use corrals or very many barricades so spectators were standing with the runners in the shoot. We weaved our way through to the 4 hour marathon pacers and found a spot on the sidelines until the races started instead of smashing our way into the line. We had just enough time for a quick pic before the start.
The half marathoners and marathoners started together. Since Sarah was attempting to break the 2 hour half marathon bar she started with us! Around the end of mile 1 I turned to her and asked "In high school did you ever see us running a marathon and half marathon together ever?" We both had a good laugh. While we both played sports in high school we were much larger and not runners at all. In fact Sarah threw the shot put and discus! How times have changed!
We started out slow and kept the 4 hour pacer group in sight. The first few miles went by quickly and I mostly just buckled down to a pace that felt right and fell in behind Mr. H. Around mile 6 Sarah decided to back off from us and finish on her own. We wished her luck and kept on. We saw Mr. and Mrs. Dobney in Tremont (one of the best areas of the course) around mile 8. Always a boost seeing people you know.
At the point of the course where marathoners turned right and half marathoners went straight to finish I took a turn for the worse. My stomach felt off and everything felt heavy. I felt like my week of travel and being stressed was catching up to me in the worst way. I asked Mr. H if we could just finish the half and call it a day. He said he would do whatever I wanted but I was determined to at least finish another marathon so I turned. I have never felt this bad this soon in a race and it really got to me mentally. I was still only about 2 minutes off my pace and gaining time but it felt like such a struggle to maintain. When we turned onto Euclid Avenue before mile 13 were were greeted with dropping temperatures and wind. Oh and a open bus lane and cars trying to maneuver around the runners. Yeah, that was a bit scary. Around this point I lost the 4 hour pace group and honestly I couldn't have cared less.
By mile 15 I was trying not to get sick and started dry heaving. Everything felt off and I couldn't recall any positive affirmations only a very negative "this is a little early for the death march to start". I made mini goals of just get to the next mile marker or to the next water station. I let myself walk through every water station. My stomach was off and I was struggling to fuel properly. Chris was being great and if he hadn't been there I probably would have walked off the course and called it a day. Not one to let anyone down I kept on trucking slowly.
Around 19 I grabbed a jet blackberry GU and walked to take about 3/4 of it in. We were leaving the University Village/Metropark area which was pretty but absolutely dead! The water stations had wonderful volunteers but few spectators showed up on the back half of the marathon (like usual). This year there were even less because of the weather. I'm not sure more support would have mattered because I was not noticing or registering much at this point. As we turned left onto the bike path we had the wind at our back and I had a short reprieve from my stomach pain. I found some energy, started belting out some random rap song that had come on my ipod and nailed a sub-9 minute mile for mile 20. I thought maybe I was finding some random 2nd (or 3rd, 4th) wind.
Then I officially crashed hard. By mile 23 I wanted nothing to do with this stupid course, I kept apologizing to Chris, and generally felt like s*%^. My usual "you can do anything for a 5K!" was having no effect and I was walking every chance I could. By mile 24/25 I had an 10:50 minute mile. I'm surprised I could even muster that!
I didn't talk much and Chris tried to push me (as I had instructed him to!) to pick it up and take it home. I let out a small "it's not happening today Chris" and he understood. I told him I knew I would make it even if I had to walk and I would get there eventually. Just before mile 26 marker we saw Sarah and her parents and turned right onto a downhill which actually felt okay on my legs. The rain started to pick up but I didn't care I just wanted to see the finish line banner. Over the last mile we had to dodge and weave all the 10K and half marathon walkers who were walking 2-5 across as well as spectators who had edged onto the course because there were no barricades keeping them on the sidewalks. Something I hope the race officials acknowledge and fix.
We crossed the finish line officially in 4:10:33 for a 9:33 pace. Not my worst but not my best. I wasn't all the happy with myself but I was happy I finished my 6th marathon.
Sarah ended up with a 2:02 half marathon! A new personal best for her! Yea Sar!!!
Maggie asked to try on my medal ;)
I swore I would never run another marathon after this death march. Of course I'm checking out marathonguide.com today while laying in bed still unable to walk. I think my next step is to re-focus on half marathon and shorter distances. I want to get some of my speed back. I also like that there is a much shorter recovery time for the half. I think my next challenge will be back to back half marathons and see how I handle that before jumping back into a full.