Last Sunday was the Rite Aid Cleveland Marathon, Half Marathon, and 10k. I had decided prior to Boston that I would participate in the 10k this year. That race is usually competitive with a larger prize purse than the marathon and awards to top Ohioans on top of overall placement so it tends to draw the best around. While the course is not scenic at all, lots of cracks and potholes, and guaranteed headwinds for half of the way, it is flat and fast and local. Add to that my less than stellar performance at the Detroit Turkey Trot last year and I was ready to crush a 10k. (And frankly there aren't many 10k's to do that are certified courses) I tend to run well 3-4 weeks post marathon so I had a good feeling Sunday would be a good day.
Add to that my sister doing her first half marathon and my training partner doing her first marathon and it was a recipe for an outstanding exciting morning!
We got to the parking lot with a little less than an hour to spare and KT and I headed to the gym to drop off our bags before meeting my cousin who would be starting with KT since my race started 15 minutes later I would need to be warming up while they started.
This timed out pretty perfectly and we avoided the porta potty lines and got KT to the start and her "throw away" to my mom and dad with ease. Wished KT and all my friends good luck then I headed out for my warm up.
Popped a Roctane Gu with 15 minutes to go and cheered for the runners as they rolled through the first mile of the marathon and half marathon. I did 2 miles easy with 4 strides before the start and a few dynamic stretches. Stripped my jacket and throw away shirt and headed to the start coral.
Found my friends MD and JU in the coral. A few last stretches then got pumped up to Cleveland Rocks and before you could blink we were off.
Coaches instructions were to race the 10K like a 5 mile. His goal pace was 6:10 which would give me a 38:19. I knew this was reasonable and thought with a little effort I might be able to still get what my goal was of 6:04 pace and breaking 38. I was supposed to go out in 6:05 then settle into 6:10 and push hard (at least mentally if not physically) the last mile and up the final hill to a sprint finish. I knew at the 5k I should be at 19:09 and at 5 I should be at 30:50.
We started downhill and I made sure not to go out too quickly. I heard Salty cheer and gave her a peace sign as I flew down the hill trying not to get jostled. The 10K at Cleveland draws a pretty competitive and large field so the start was crowded.
The race is run mostly on North and South Marginal, which are flat, but along the lake, which means one way will be into a direct headwind anywhere from 5-20 mph depending on weather. I had run the course earlier in the week with my training friend BB and had done my tempo on the course to get an idea of which areas were slightly up that I would need to push and where I could take advantage of slight declines. The roads are in terrible shape so you have to focus to make sure you don't trip or step in a pot hole. Before the 5k there is a slight hill then a bridge followed by a downhill. As you hit mile 6 you make two right hand turns uphill before making a right hand turn onto the last straightaway of about 200 meters to the finish.
I made sure not to get too close to MD as I knew he was targeting 6:00 pace and that he would go out fast. As I hit the first mile marker in 5:45 I knew I needed to settle in but wasn't worried since it was downhill and felt controlled.
I decided once again that I did not want to look at my watch and that I would use the race clocks since my time would only be a few seconds off. I continued to work my way up trying to get in a pack and avoid my typical race behavior of running alone. As we rounded a ramp I tucked in behind two men who were running between 6 and 6:07 pace and did my best to draft off them and save my energy into the wind. I felt very controlled and knew we were in my desired range so I just went to work sticking to them like glue.
We hit the second mile around 11:55 (about 6:07 for this mile) and surprisingly I was coherent enough to do math this entire race, but thankfully not well enough to know what each individual mile was, just enough to know where I needed to be total time each mile to hit my goal. I felt controlled and like I was racing the plan, even if it was a bit faster than coach had intended. I know from doing my tempos out here most of last year that the road is slightly up here and I was happy to be cruising at pace and looking forward to a slightly faster mile after the small hill at mile 3.
I stayed glued to the two men in front of me but was surprised that I could see a few women ahead who I met at the Kent Tune Up 5k in February. They were never within my reach, but considering they had lapped me twice at the Tune up 5K I was happy to see I wasn't letting them pull too far away from me. I could also see MD up ahead and wondered if he would hold on to that pace or if I might reel him in.
I fell a bit behind the two men I was with as we pumped our way up the small roller and turned right out of the wind hitting mile 3 in 18:02ish (about 6:09 for that mile). It was obvious one of them was just getting into a groove and ready to push harder. I used the downhill as we rounded the next corner to close in on the other. The tight groups that had been sticking together ahead of us had now spread out and pretty much everyone was on their own. I reeled my "pacer" (Thanks 15111!) in and told him good job as I passed and hit mile 4 around 24 even (What I knew would be a quick mile was indeed around 5:57). I knew the next mile was a false flat and that I needed to work to maintain that 6:05 to 6:10 pace. Hitting 24 minutes for 4 I felt very confident I was going to hit the goal. Even if I fell off to tempo pace I would be good to go.
With the wind at our backs now it was starting to get a little steamy and I flipped my sunglasses onto my head to see the uneven ground better. I kept plugging away and was stoked to see mile 5 around 30:05 (about 6:02). 45 seconds ahead of my coaches target I knew now it was time to work if I wanted to get my personal goal and break 38.
I started closing on a few men and just kept pushing to pass as many as I could. I knew my friend Salty was waiting to cheer at the hill and I started wondering if I might get caught by KG, she tends to go out slow and close well, so I used that knowledge to drive myself a bit harder. I never saw the 6 mile marker, but Garmin has that one at 6:00 pace so I was definitely doing as instructed and pushing both mentally and physically. I hit the hills and did my best to "get on my toes" and was happy to never hear Salty cheer for KG meaning I was going to hopefully hold onto my place.
I pushed up the hill but in retrospect I should have driven harder, my effort was there, but I knew my form could have been better, I was just content to hammer and come in ahead of my goal, but one of these days it will take perfect form to hit the goal and I need to be able to do it when it counts! As I came up the second hill coach was yelling at me to get on my toes, keep my form up and down and mentally I am thinking, I am working my ass off here and I am crushing it, cool it coach :) But he was totally right, I can do better, and I will!
I rounded the last corner and ran as hard as I could watching the clock and pumping my fist as I crossed the line well under my goal to break 38. 37:36! For an average of 6:03 pace. I was so stoked. After 3 personally mediocre races this year it was nice to line it up. These are the kind of races that keep us coming back for more!
In my adrenaline rushed state I looked around to see if I could find a few pals that were ahead of me. And I noted that there were quite a few girls standing around in bun huggers. Holy cow! These girls had been done long enough to be munching on bananas and going over their races while I was crossing the line! I just had my best personal race ever and I was over 4 minutes behind the leader, the closest female was 36 seconds ahead of me! Talk about fierce! What an incredible field of runners, it was really neat to be a part of that. Nothing like coming in 13th to keep you humble and driven!
I was pumped but no time to stay and chat. My business done it was time to go get out of my racers (which had once again shredded the crap out of my feet) and into some trainers to go back and cheer on my friends and run my sister in the last 3 miles of her race.
Found Salty who was running in her sis for the full marathon (also her first). We did a little happy dance in celebration of my 10k as we headed backward through the course and cheered on all our speedy marathon friends. Mile 12 I let her go as I ran backwards through the course headed for mile 10 to run KT in. I cheered for runners as I went and tried to ignore the funny looks and the "You're going the wrong way" comments. At 10 I decided I had time to go a little further back and ran into Bert and Ernie breaking it down on the shoreway and decided this was the place to wait for KT. I cheered and danced with Bert and Ernie thinking I had 10-20 minutes before KT would arrive. But surprise surprise I was not the only sister having a good day!
KT comes strolling through well ahead of the goal and after a quick shot with Bert and Ernie we were off. She said she could hear me yelling for about a half mile before she got there. This part of the course is boring, into the sun, into the wind, and uphill so I knew it would be tough. Especially since this was her first half. But she sounded great and looked good! She said it was getting hard but she didn't want to slow down so we worked our way through the crowds taking runners down one by one as I chatted to her about my race and tried to distract her from the task at hand. With a mile to go I called my parents to let them know we would be ahead of schedule and to get ready to cheer!
As we ran through downtown I hollered at the crowds to start cheering and that gave KT a nice little adrenaline boost to finish strong! Coming into the race we thought she should be able to run 12 minute pace, perhaps as fast as 11 minute pace if feeling good. Instead she ran 10:45 pace crushing her goal and running her second 10k faster than her stand alone 10k PR! 11:08 pace through the first half and 10:24 through the second! We gave each other high fives and I found mom and dad and sent them to meet her at the gym. Because she ran so fast I had time to go back out on the marathon course to cheer for my buddies.
I headed backward through the course and first saw PR crushing his marathon PR and running a 2:44. He looked great and I am so glad he finally got a good marathon under his belt. Next up I started looking for my gals. There were quite a few hoping to go sub 3 and with the great weather and good field I was sure they would do it. Sure enough I get to mile 25 and here comes my training buddy leading the women's field in her debut marathon well under 3 hour pace. Cue insane screaming and cheering and quite a few F bombs from me, only to turn and realize I am in front of a church choir and a man throwing holy water on the runners. I'm pretty sure he went back in then to get a bucket for me and my filthy mouth, so I opted to keep running backwards through the course and cheer somewhere a little further from those who might frown on my enthusiasm :) (NC went on to win the marathon in 2:55!)
Shortly after were local friend BW and SI who had both raced Glass City a few weeks early in 3:10 and 3:03, they both reached sub 3 and I am so stoked for them!
I decided to continue moving backwards. I had two friends whose training was not that great for the marathon so I thought they might like some company the last few miles. On the way I saw many more friends and cheered on all the runners like I was getting paid for it. And like clockwork my friend BH comes through just behind the 3:40 group. I asked her if she wanted company and she seemed amicable. I know she pushes herself hard and I know unlike my sister she would not want me to be a peppy blabster if I were to keep her company. I asked if she wanted to hit the 3:40 and told her I'd do my best to help if she needed me. We were clicking along 8:20-8:30 pace and I told her every few minutes that she was doing great and we were right on pace. I wasn't sure what her official time wise so at mile 24 I asked her.
She was 3 minutes behind the clock and that put us really close to the 3:40 goal time. We were probably sitting around 3:40:30 if we held the pace steady. I told her we were going to have to work to get it and that we needed to start taking people down one by one. I told her she wanted to get in under 3:40, we didn't want to use those extra 59 seconds! I could tell she was struggling but she was really running strong. She was overheating and getting fatigued but her form and breathing were good and I was confident she could push herself to the end and get the goal.
With about a quarter mile to go I had to pull off to avoid having to go through the chute and I screamed at the crowds like a crazy woman and screamed at BH as I sprinted through the crowds on the sideline to try and see her finish and the clock. I knew it would be close and I was so proud of her for pushing herself to the limit. She did it in 3:40:01 after starting with the 4 hour pacer and after basically being forced into a 6 week taper because of work, school, and an injury. Girl is damn impressive! I was so glad she allowed me to experience it with her as I know how driven she is and how hard she is on herself I wasn't sure she would want my "help."
I found her in the chute and we celebrated her getting her BQ out of the way again, hopefully she will be able to join us in Boston next year! After that it was time to party. We had good food at Barley House with a bunch of CTC friends and my family then it was off to the SERC party where I found that as usual most of our club had phenomenal days. Around 8pm the adrenaline (and beer) wore off and my poor thrashed feet started barking.
But man what a day! Totally worth it!