I absolutely adore the city of Cleveland, but when it comes to Ohio marathons my heart belongs to Columbus and Akron. This was the 6th year in a row (2010, 2009, 2008, 2007, 2006) that I have participated in the Akron marathon as either a relay runner or pacer and as always a good time was had by all. Our usual crew was not ready to roll out when we made up the team this year. CV has been dealing with PF and Solar is having a baby so we had to look to some of our other fun running girlfriends to step in! When we signed up I was healthy so I offered to take 2 legs meaning we only had to fill in 2 spots as Daisy was on board as usual (despite just having done a Ironman a few weeks ago!). We got speedy Salty on board and our buddy EH (my doppelganger) who isn't afraid to tackle Sand Run (short but brutally steep!) to fill in. I usually anchor or take Sand Run but having paced the full I have run the first 9.2 miles of the course before.
Clearly not having run anything faster than 6:50s since the Indy half I was pretty unsure how my 9.2 would go. The doc told me to go to town and test the foot, but sadly I am afraid going to town was going to be slower than I would desire. Also I haven't run more than 7-8 miles since Indy so I wasn't sure how I would feel running 9.2 hard. To tell the whole story of my relay legs that morning would contain a whole lot of TMI so we won't go there but let's just say many systems were not go Saturday morning.
I jogged about a minute to the start line and found my lunch run buddies who were planning to go out around 7 minute pace for the half. I did a quick lunge warm up and decided to head out with them and ease in the first few miles before picking up the pace. I didn't trust myself to start at the front as I knew competitive E would take over and I'd be suffering rather than having fun late in the race.
First mile felt great right around 7 minute pace but I was having other issues so I pulled away from my buddies in search of the first set of POPs. It has been a long time since I have had to do that in a race but I am glad my teammates had made it clear that I did not need to feel any pressure to perform as the stop was needed and while I lost 30ish seconds there I am sure I gained a minute in comfort. I was going watch free for the day. I had it on to track total run time for the day but no garmin and no pacing. I picked up the pace to chase down everyone that had just passed me and basically kept working my way up through the field for the next 7 miles.
I was working hard so I was glad to catch some marathoners and half marathoners along the way. With about 2 miles to go I could tell I was closing in on one relay female and thought maybe I could catch up to my friends who were gunning for around 2:50 marathons. A timely band amped me up on one of the many small rollers and I stepped up the effort and eventually passed the relay female and came within 10 seconds of catching the first female relay (who I thought was a half or full runner as she did not have the relay bib on her back) when I finally handed off to Daisy a bit shy of catching my marathon buddies. I had to walk it off for awhile. I was pretty spent and my foot was a bit angry (but much better than Indy, progress!). I tried to rally and run it in with my buddies when they came along but systems were now in shut down mode and I settled for walking via a short cut back to the finish!
Found some SS buddies and we cheered/hooted/hollered as our SS mens relay came in and local super star BM won the marathon then it wasn't too long before I saw Salty speeding in to nab us 3rd place for the female relays and 9th relay team overall! Not too shabby for being one female shy, one gimpy runner, one recovering ironman, and one workaholic. Salty was our saving grace :) Of note all of our leg times were in the top 5 times for each leg amongst female teams. Very proud of my ladies! Wish I could have been 100% and running fast enough to give us a run at first, but we hold on to our tradition of podium placement still and of course we partied like rock stars as always post event! So glad my body let me get out and put in a hard effort. I really did not want my last race in my 20s to be a suffer fest and despite all my issues Saturday it felt so good to run hard and feel the pains of racing again and actually enjoy them!