After a whirlwind day Saturday (8k race in the morning-swimming lessons-graduation party-driving over 100 miles-solo parenting-collapsing in bed exhausted at 8pm), I woke up Sunday morning with that feeling of just being ready to get the race over with. I had gotten a good night of sleep but knew that I had another long day ahead of me and my 4:15am alarm as usual came way too early. I also decided in that moment that this was my last race ever; I’m over waking up early to go run in with 1000’s of people. Totally a lie.
I decided to travel lightly for this race as I just didn’t want to deal with carrying anything extra. I decided to depend solely on the aid offered by the race. I didn’t look into what would be offered on the course but figured whatever it was, my stomach could handle it. It was kind of freeing to only carry my car key and phone. So getting ready in the morning was quick and easy and I headed out around 5am for my traditional breakfast of black coffee and a poptart from my local always open at zero-dark-thirty gas station.
As I have done in past years, I’ve relied on public transportation to get to and from the race. I find this to be the easiest as I can zone out on the train and not have to worry about parking. Plus the train basically takes you to the start/finish line. I was thrilled to be able to meet up with my friends Rachel and Carol for the ride down. It always helps to reduce the pre race nerves and makes me aware that I’m not the only one who has self doubt despite having run this distance multiple times. Plus the energy from the couple hundred runners also riding down is palpable and floods me with those amazing pre race endorphins.
Breakfast on the ride down
As we made our way to the start line, we made a quick stop at the casino to use the warm, fancy bathrooms (and I always love having to convince security that I’m over 21-that always makes my day!) and headed to the Ambassador Meetup location. A perk of being an ambassador is we were able to line up in the Elite start for a quick pic before being ushered back to where the normies begin (for me, that was Corral D.)
I just love these pics and my fellow ambassadors
Heading to the corral with Rachel
Lining up was quick and easy. Within about 5 minutes the gun went off and we made our way forward to the start. I always love the energy as we begin to head out -the start line DJ always does a great job of making me feel pumped up and ready.
Miles 1-3: 10.09, 10.09, 9.37
I kept up with Carol and Rachel in the first few miles. I focused on maintaining an easy pace and of not going out too hard. I knew that I wanted to find a pace that I could maintain throughout, so with that in mind, I was very careful to not go out too hard (which is what I did in 2017.) I listened as they talked and made my way through mid town Cleveland. I shed my throwaway layer at the two mile mark and despite the rain/drizzle, I felt comfortable in a tank top and capris for the rest of the race. At about mile 2, Rachel and Carol stopped to use the bathroom and I kept going solo.
Miles 4-6: 9.42, 9.43, 9.42
We made our way into the Flats section of the race. This is one of my favorites as it’s just incredibly visually interesting to me: think bridges, old architecture, old industry. I’ve always enjoyed the views and looked forward to these miles. I found my comfortable pace in the 9:40’s range and was able to stay there.
Miles 7-9: 9.56, 9.34, 9.28
We hit a huge ass hill in this section-thinking 9% grade or so. I’ve always prided myself on being a strong hill runner so I focused on tucking in, putting my head down (not ideal form by the way) and maintaining a constant slow stride. I also knew that once I crested, I’d quickly recover. And sure enough, I was able to get to the top and flush the lactic acid out within about 60 seconds or so before getting back on pace.
Big ass hill
Miles 10-13.59 (yes this course was hella long): 9.36, 9.34, 9.28, 9.25, and 8.32 for the last little bit.
I employ this little mental trick in long races which basically consists of telling myself that I can’t complain/bitch/or just feel over it until I hit a certain mile. I gave myself until mile 10 before I would allow myself to notice the building cramps/empty feeling in my quads. I expected that I would feel tired at some point due to an overall lack of mileage and long runs, though the good news is that I didn’t bonk. I consumed a ton of blue powerade (and wore quite a bit of it too) as well as one gel on the course so nutrition was on point. This was more just feeling tired and ready to hit the finish. At this point, I put music on and just focused on running one song at a time. I also remembered that I always wish half marathons were only 10 miles long.
Around mile 10, I noticed that my Garmin was way off from the course mileage markers. Like 5 minutes off. I thought about starting to auto lap on my watch but then figured it was useless-the course was going to be substantially long. It was a bit disheartening to hit 13.1 miles and concurrently have a spectator yell “great job, only a half mile to go!” I hit 13.1 around 2.07/2.08 so that was a bit frustrating as I knew I was on pace for that time given my splits but that I wasn’t going to hit due to the extra half mile. So I just sucked it up and made the most of it.
As I headed back into the public square, I turned “Free Bird” up as loud as I could and gunned it to the finish, passing 4 or 5 people along the way. I smiled like a crazy person as I headed in which led to some amazing finisher pics! I crossed the finish in 2.11.04 and stood around in the press area for a few minutes to see the male marathon finisher cross in 2.16.
Check out my finish line enthusiasm look waaaaaaay in the top right hand corner- I finished just minutes before the first marathoner. Side note: thanks to the people who are actually pictured- Jack and Ralph Staph (executive director and race director) You guys rock!
I made my way through the chute, grabbing some snacks along the way and a heat sheet which I was so grateful for as I had no post race gear (I hate gear check.) I sat around kind of reveling in the post race for a few minutes and called my husband to let him know I was finished and feeling good. I then grabbed my challenge series completion medal, hot coffee and a seat on the train back home.
My attempt at a post race selfie
Delicious post race beverage and snacks-I NEVER drink milk and paid for this the rest of the day pic taken by a kind fellow runner
I’ve reflected on this race for the past few days and while I’m not happy with my time, I do understand that it’s not necessarily reflective of my fitness. The course being long added about 4 minutes but we all ran the same course on the same roads (average distance according to about 150 Garmin users is about 13.51 miles.) I also want to qualify my feelings with an acknowledgment of my training. I did not run many miles as I mentioned earlier. So did I get the race I wanted? No. But I likely got the one I trained for and today, I’m ok with that. I wholeheartedly love the Rite Aid Cleveland Marathon Races and I’m so glad I was able to participate once again. The great experience helps me to put aside my thoughts on my performance.
Next is figuring out where to go from here. My all time 1/2 marathon PR is 1.58.30 from the River Run back in 2015. I’m trying to figure out whether I want to give that race another go as it’s one of my all time favorites as well as was my first half marathon back in 2011. Currently I’m staying off all of the registration pages and giving my legs a little extra loving and thanking them for carrying me through last weekend!