So I still have multiple posts waiting to be written detailing fun stuff that has been going on the past few weeks or so but I feel compelled to interrupt all of that for a quick race report from yesterdays Cleveland Half Marathon.
I have only raced the Cleveland Marathon once and despite the race being local I honestly had no desire to race it again. I feel that the race has left a lot to be desired in the past. Particularly in the areas of traffic control, crowd support, and a course that is lacking in appeal. But there is certainly something to be said for being able to roll out of bed and drive to a big race rather than having to travel so I found myself towing the line for the half marathon yesterday.
Having just finished Boston and pacing the pig my goals this summer are to work on speed. To help with that a friend of mine from SERC is helping to coach me and he instructed me to run the half this weekend, with a goal of holding 7 minutes or better for 10 miles, then running how I felt, holding the pace if I felt good or jogging it in if I didn't. I really didn't want to pay for the race and was tempted to "bandit" and run 10 miles with my friends then cheer for everyone and help pace in a few friends. But as a pacer and a writer in the local running community I decided it would be better to do the race legitimately. Through my OSF connections I was able to score a comped entry (Ask and ye shall receive, I contacted our editor Wednesday on the off chance I could get a discounted entry and she was kind enough to get me into the race for free) and I will be donating the money I would have spent on the race to a charity this week.
Since the race wasn't in my original plan I didn't really have much time to worry about it, and on coaches orders this was just another workout, so no taper. During the week leading up to the race I ran a good effort track workout Tuesday and a hard 5 mile tempo on Thursday as well as recovery runs Monday, Wednesday, Friday, and Saturday. (Note I haven't been on the track or run tempo since Boston 4 weeks ago!)
My parents and our friend BG were in town this weekend so Friday night we were up late playing games and drinking wine. Saturday I push mowed the lawn and got in a light run, we even ended up at Dairy Queen Saturday night for ice cream before going to bed. Friday and Saturday I also spent time at the marathon expo working the Team in Training booth Friday and the Ohio Sports and Fitness booth Saturday. So really not my typical pre race plan, but with no expectations other than a good hard workout it was what it was!
I felt pretty sluggish Friday and Saturday so I wasn't expecting much on Sunday. My plan was to run with Frank for ten miles since he was aiming for a sub 3 full marathon, and I would see if I could hold onto him through mile 12 and suffer in from there. He was supposed to be aiming for 6:47 pace which I thought might be a little fast, but I was really hoping to run 1:29 despite the fact that I wasn't supposed to "race" I still liked the thought of a PR and breaking 1:30. Coach okayed running with Frank so I lined up with him at the start and when the gun went off I stuck to Frank like glue.
The miles went by pretty quickly yesterday. Frank was going a little faster than what he said he planned to do. He kept commenting every mile that we were too fast and should back it off, we'd pay for the pace later. But the pace felt pretty comfortable, we were around 6:37 most miles which is a pace I seem to gravitate to lately in races shorter than 13. I convinced myself that I should just treat this like any other Sunday run where I would not let Frank pull away from me. And since Frank kept saying we should slow down but kept going the same pace I just stuck with him.
We were getting lots of cheers from spectators excited to see a "lady." They kept informing us I was 2nd. I assumed they hadn't seen other girls ahead as I was pretty sure Beth Woodward was ahead of me and I could see at least one more girl just ahead of us with her i-pod on. Occasionally people would cry out go "girls" or "ladies" and I would assume another girl had caught us, but one of the guys in our group was wearing a pink t-shirt and pony tail and despite his facial hair I think they were mistaking him for my competition :) We had a nice little group of 5 going and although we surged a bit in one of the early miles catching up to the girl in headphones and our friend CK we eventually backed it off to try and retain Franks planned pace.
We were pretty chatty and just enjoying the day. The weather was great, nice and cool, and other than some wind really it couldn't have been nicer. I wore my new Moeben sleeves for most of the race but rolled them down when I started to get too hot (They are fun white tiger striped!). I was pleasantly surprised that the pace felt doable and I wasn't having any trouble keeping up with Frank (he went on to win his age group and break 3 hours handily!). If only I could run all races with my friends I think I would do so much better!
Around mile 10.5 we end up on the shoreway and we start to go uphill. Frank is a bunny on hills and I am not so I started to fall back from him (but knowing I had met coaches goals of sustaining sub 7 pace for 10 miles I was sticking to the plan). I was a little mad at myself for forgetting to don sunglasses because the sun had come out and was right in our eyes. The wind was a bit of a factor from 10-12 as you climbed the shoreway the higher you got the more wind there seemed to be. This section is pretty barren, but at least I had the knowledge that I was closing in on the finish line.
The whole way friends had been cheering for us. Another bonus to running a local race, your friends are out in full force volunteering. My parents were stationed at mile 1 and 12.5 and Salty even came out to cheer us on after finishing the 10k. She let me know I was 2nd female around mile 11 and I asked her if she was sure since I was still convinced Beth was ahead of me. Wyatt was catching up to us after a bathroom break and was encouraging me to finish strong.
Miles 11 and 12 were 7 minutes on the dot and I could still see the girl in headphones ahead, but she wasn't really within reach without hammering pretty hard and having a bit of luck. I was enjoying myself and didn't wasn't to push it too much, since coach instructed me to train through this race I was pretty sure he wouldn't have any sympathy for me this Tuesday on the track if I ran myself into the ground. So I just tried to hold my pace and see if I could hold onto 2nd place.
The half marathon splits from the marathoners after mile 12 and I was on my own, losing my fun pack for good. I had caught up to a man in underwear who spectators were ogling and they cried out to me that they knew why I was holding such a good pace. As if! We dueled a bit but he flew past me in the last half mile as I passed my parents and my coach. There were still two more turns before the finish and the straight away down E 9th was right into the wind and holy crap it was strong! Finally hit the last turn and cruised into the finish with them announcing my name and I watched the clock to see 1:27:52 (Looks like the kinks on the results have been worked out for the most part but for those that haven't seen updates I didn't actually win the walking division, I ran (really) and my 10k split was 41:10, not 40:10). Far better than what I expected and a really nice breakthrough on a day where I hadn't put any pressure on myself. That time is definitely my best PR of any distance so far so hopefully that means there is more of that to come!
I got whisked away to the media tent to be interviewed for the paper (there was some definite paraphrasing there but still fun to get a little plug in the plain dealer this morning, thanks to JT for mentioning me on the news, that was unexpected and very kind!) but eventually made it back to the car and my parents before heading out to cheer at mile 23 of the marathon course and then to pace in GP and Landon. Had a blast cheering for my friends and although GP missed her goal I was happy to run with her to the finish and see her get her Boston Cream Pie that she has been waiting for forever!
I must say that while the half marathon as an event was very good I was still disappointed in the traffic control in the last 4 miles of the marathon. We almost got hit by a van and I know runners had to slow or stop for traffic at several intersections. There has just got to be something the race and city can do to make that better.
Celebrated everyone's fine performances at the SERC after party which my parents kindly attended with me and even let me stay on to party without them as they headed back home to Michigan. I can't mention enough how very blessed I am to have such supportive parents. I only hope we can find a way to repay the kindness over the years ahead as they enjoy retirement! It would be nice to spoil them a bit after all the spoiling I have received over the years.
Living up the performance aftermath. I am really stoked to have run so well despite no real expectations. Thanks to everyone that volunteered and cheered this weekend! And congrats to all those that ran!