Cleveland 8k and 1/2 Marathon Race Recap

After waffling back and forth for awhile, about two weeks ago, I decided that I’d go for the 8k / half marathon rather than dropping to the 5k/10k. I worried though, as after my last race, I just couldn’t get it together to get a few more long runs in as I had planned. And I knew that to successfully be able to cover the half distance, I’d need to keep my body in motion and not take any significant breaks. The reality with my pregnancy is that my body is changing so quickly, I couldn’t afford to take too many long breaks without facing extremely difficulty in trying to rebuild mileage. My body just isn’t capable of running on no training right now (nor should really anyone run that distance with no training, but life happens)

So, I gave a long run a few last attempts and got in a solid 10 miler and an 8 miler. Both felt good and while I inherently knew that the half was going to hurt and I figured I’d be slow but overall have no major issues.

Cleveland 8k-Saturday Morning

For this race, I planned to push the stroller as I have done the last two years. I was slightly nervous given that I haven’t run with the stroller since before pregnancy so I wasn’t sure how it was going to feel. When racing, I could usually stay in the 8.40 range, no problem. The last few months though, during my solo runs, I was barely hitting an 11 minute mile so I had some concern for how slow we’d likely be moving. And to be honest, pushing the stroller from my car to the start felt like a big effort.

Well, it turned out to be a non issue. About 9 minutes before the race, Liam put the brakes on, telling me that he’s too big for the stroller and he’d prefer to spectate. Fortunately, my BFF Leighanna was there and offered to watch him while I ran solo. I was extremely grateful for that.

They got coffee and stayed dried from the rain while I ran

I set off with no particular pace or goal in mind. I knew that I wanted to stay comfortable and not push at all. I knew that I’d need every bit of glycogen I had for the following day. I had to fight the urge a few times to push a little harder but at the same time, my body feels limited in terms of power and explosivity so any inclination to race was pretty short lived. Racing and trying to be competitive while pregnant is very humbling.

The only issue was feeling a constant urge to pee but otherwise, I felt comfortable. We started with a drizzle, then a little bit of a downpour and finally followed by misty which was perfect for me as I feel like an oven when I run lately. Final time was 55.47 10.59/mile average and the course was slightly long. I guess that makes up for it being significantly short in the last two years.

Cleveland 1/2 Marathon-Sunday Morning

For this part of race weekend, I felt exceptionally nervous. So nervous in fact, I slept terribly the night before and had awful dreams of DNS’ing. This is not at all my typical pre race sentiments! But my reasons for anxiety were very valid:

  • less than ideal training
  • predicted very hot temps
  • no running shorts (see my week 20 recap for more on that)
  • i had a pretty strong bout of nausea about 8 hours before the race; also rare for me

I decided I’d go ahead and start the 1/2 and accept that I’d be uncomfortable due to pregnancy and the fact that this was the hottest day in NE Ohio which meant that no one had had the opportunity to acclimate to temps predicted to hit 80 plus. I’d make it through by practicing positivity and trying to ignore the discomfort.

My mantra for this race and my attempts at managing the belly situation. The tape actually helps

As I had done the last few years, I met up with friends at the Rapid to make the trip downtown. It’s my preferred mode of transport as I can kind of zone out, socialize if I want, not have to deal with parking, eat my breakfast, and then pee one last time in the beautiful casino bathrooms. Plus it basically drops you off within minutes of the start line.

Once off the train, we made our way over to the start for our Ambassador Pic

And a pic of us not in running clothes at the reception the prior Friday evening

And then on to our Corrals. At this point, we had maybe 10 minutes until the race start. Rachel and I had tentatively decided to stick together though I knew it was likely that she’d want to leave (I don’t think she knew this at this time though!) once my pace slowed. We did stick together for about two miles or so before she went on her way.

Obligatory pre race selfie and a baby bump selfie

I felt the effects of the heat almost immediately. We were already in the mid 70’s at 6am so again, I tried to work on acceptance of the discomfort and tried not to dwell on rising temps.  I focused on feeling the cool breeze that happened a few times and being thankful for those moments of brief comfort. I also focused on keeping an even pace, which even though I was slow (for me), it still felt like a lot of effort. I mostly ignored my splits for this race.

Despite my efforts at positive thinking, I really began to worry about the possibility of not making it to the end of the race within the first 30 minutes of starting. This was obviously a really troublesome and uncomfortable thought to me as it was so early on.  So I did what has worked well for me in past events; I broke up the distance into little chunks, leaving myself the possibility of bailing if necessary. My first plan was to make it to mile 4 to see my friend Shannon. This was exactly at the 10k split which I thought maybe I’d take. However, Shannon was just to the left of the split and the 10k’ers had to go up a huge hill. I decided to continue. I literally ran over to Shannon and her family and told them how hard this was. She told me to text her if I needed anything including a ride home and they’d be at mile 9.

I forged on. About a minute later I saw a beautiful sight of people running behind bushes to pee. I’d needed to pee for quite some time but the Port O Potty lines were insane and I didn’t want to stand around longer than necessary. Once back on the run, I felt remarkably better. The pressure of my bladder was causing some cramping which completely disappeared once it was empty. I kept going and slowed down even further as the temps rose and the reflection of the sun off the pavement felt even hotter. At this point, I started to incorporate walking every now and then. I also put on music which is something I rarely do during races. Next goal was to make it to see my girlfriends running an aid station at mile 7.

Mile 7

I grabbed two cups of water, some powerade and then poured more water on myself to try and stay cool, as I told my girlfriends how hard this was but that I was resolved to keep going. I’d hit a mental turning point shortly before this aid station and was feeling more positive about moving on. One of the things that helped me was seeing that it wasn’t just me struggling but everyone around me. No one was exempt from the effects of the heat and hills, pregnant or not.

I moved on with the next goal of hitting mile 9 and seeing Shannon again. I felt steady and capable these next few miles. I was loving the amount of spectators that were out cheering, given that it was a gorgeous day. I also loved the amount of people who’d set up hoses to keep the runners cool-I ran through every single one! At mile 9, I found Shannon at the Westside market and she shared some ice with me which I immediately put under my hat and in my bra. She told me she’d be a mile 12 so that became my next goal.

I continued run/walking through Ohio City and this was the point that I knew I’d finish. Up until then, it had been very questionable, but now, I felt determined. I took my last fuel-a caffeinated gel which I wanted to save when I most needed the extra energy. I remembered this section from last year and recalled how in 2018, I mentally felt over it but that in reality, it was a quick run through the neighborhood and then back downtown. It felt both slow and fast at the same time. For me, the longest section every year is the run back down Detroit, heading to the bridge which then takes you to the finish line. The sun was relentless and there was no shade to be found. I pushed but just barely averaged a 12 minute mile. It was around mile 11 that I used my last ditch option of making phone calls to get me through. First I called Chris just to tell him how hilariously slow I was moving and then I called Rachel who was at this finish to give her an update. Mentally I was feeling good, physically I was feeling very pregnant.

The last little challenge is running up the Veterans Memorial Bridge which I knew was steep but followed by an equally steep downhill. My brain wanted to keep running as I knew that that was really the fastest way to the finish. I made it almost the full way up, walked for a few seconds, decided walking wasn’t working and went back to running. I could hear the finish line just about quarter mile away. As I made my way the last tenth or so, I turned my music off and just tried to take it all in. The finish line was packed with cheering spectators and I reveled in it. I had absolutely no kick left in my legs but jogged it in, crossing the finish in about 2.44, my slowest ever half.

This was the hardest finish line I have ever worked for.

Once over the finish, I grabbed my medal and some much needed salty chips while I made my way down the finishers chute. I felt thrilled, exhilarated and my legs felt done. Somehow i ran into my friend Rizza and we got a quick pic before I met up with my friends at the vip brunch.

After getting my fill of salty breakfast food, I slow walked back to the car with Rachel and her family, feeling so tired but happy.

I am so grateful for the opportunity to run this race once again. As we all learned this weekend, the finish line is not guaranteed. It’s hard to put into words the emotions that I feel after learning of the death of a young runner who collapsed just before the finish line. I’d heard ambulances throughout the race and instinctively knew that it meant that others were struggling but to learn of the loss of this young woman has really rocked me. I think that to sum it all up, this was a day where I learned that running, racing, etc is not something to take for granted. My thoughts and heart are with this young woman and her family and I don’t think I’ll ever approach another start line without thinking of her.

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4 thoughts on “Cleveland 8k and 1/2 Marathon Race Recap

  1. I ran a race where a runner died a couple years ago, and it was beyond sobering. I’ve run past the site where he died twice since that day and it is upsetting each time. It’s terrible thinking that woman woke up that morning thinking she was going to have a fun race, or maybe she was nervous about it, or thinking about a PR, and had no idea that was the last day of her life.

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    • I agree-I’m still somewhat in shock from that exact thought; that she had no idea that it was her last run. I’ve tried to keep that thought in my head each time I’ve run since. It’s incredibly sobering as you said.

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