Since the Rite Aid Cleveland Marathon was my first half marathon, this race recap is long. But I want to remember everything (that I can). I want to share it in case someone else is wondering what a first half might feel like or what to expect or what not to do or anything else.
Let’s start at the beginning…
Mile 0: I had some interesting happenings getting to the race itself, above and beyond not being able to walk without pain 11 months ago, training in lots of snow, and generally pushing myself above and beyond what I thought I could accomplish.
Last month, after we realized my husband couldn’t make it to the race, my parents went to book a room in the city. I pulled up my reservation to tell them which hotel I was staying at, only to realize I booked my hotel room at the Radisson for Sunday night, not Saturday night. After panicking on twitter briefly, I made a quick call, only to be met with a negative answer. I bought the “web price only” package, so I couldn’t change my reservation. The Cleveland Marathon twitter team responded and tried to help out, but they were met with the same answers. They even tried to find me another room downtown, but at that point, everything was sold out. My parents did get the last room in downtown at University Hotel and Suites, which was about 2.2 miles from the start line. It wasn’t the worst hotel I ever stayed in; I wouldn’t recommend it but I wouldn’t avoid staying there if it was the last room in the city again.
On Saturday morning, I took the boys to their baseball games. Then I packed, because why would I pack before the last minute? My mother-in-law arrived to watch LittleBrother, so BigBrother and I hit the road around 2:00pm for Cleveland. We had an easy, uneventful drive and arrived easily at the IX Center for the Race Expo. The Expo was a decent size, though I wish they would have had a handheld map (or, hey guys, it’s 2013, an app!) to maneuver through the booths and such. I eventually asked someone working the Expo where to find my bib, picked it up, got my goody bag with a beautiful, v-neck tech shirt, grabbed a green, circular 13.1 sticker, checked out some really pretty running skirts, waited while BigBrother made me a sign at the American Greetings booth, eyeballed some shoes though I think I’m a loyal Mizuno runner now, and then we left. If I wouldn’t have had BigBrother, I might have lingered longer, but he did very well.
I arrived at the hotel, registered my car so they didn’t tow it out of the parking lot (because, HEY! FREE PARKING!), and went upstairs to meet my parents. We were all hungry at that point, so we decided to go just out of downtown (since it was crazy busy with all the runners) and hit Steelyard Commons for dinner. I had a big bowl of pasta. We got back to the hotel room, I checked in with my sister-in-law, took a hot shower, called my husband and lights were out in our hotel room at 8:30pm.
But not before a great text from my mother-in-law:
Booey was tired from bouncing at a birthday party for an hour.
The alarm went off at 4:30. In the morning. I panicked that the coffee pot was broken and that I had pink eye. It turned out that the coffee pot wasn’t plugged in and that I most likely just have some wicked allergies or an irritation. After some laughter, I got dressed and woke up BigBrother. He flailed around in bed and said, “I can’t believe my Mom woke me up in the middle of the night.” More laughter. My sister-in-law arrived, we all piled into her car and tried to make our way to Cleveland Browns stadium before the road closures started at 6:00am. However, Cleveland is in a constant state of construction, so it took a little bit to find our way around some other road closures. We parked in a small lot next to the FBI (who were geared up and waiting to move out, by the way) and walked just under a mile to the stadium.
We eventually found the starting line and the 10:00/mile corral. I said goodbye to my family. And then the people in front of me started to move.
Mile One: As we headed up and onto the Shoreway, I wondered why they advertise the Cleveland course as “flat and fast.” The hills didn’t quite phase me as I did most of my training in my rather hilly neighborhood, but the hills definitely caught other runners off guard. I tried to find a decent pace, but there was absolutely no elbow room yet. I felt good, but couldn’t pick up speed. Split: 10.22
Mile Two: At this point, still climbing a small hill with no elbow room, someone spilled Gatorade down the back of my legs. This becomes important later in the race. Immediately, the back of my knees began sticking to the back of my knees. I was less than pleased, but began to weave through some runners who found the hills to be not-so-fun. I felt thankful for the light cloud cover, but it was still very humid. Split: 9:30.
Mile Three: I fell into a groove, as I usually do around mile three of any long run. I found myself smiling and enjoying the race. Until I realized that due to the Gatorade spill, the tongue of my shoe was rubbing and sticking to the front of my ankle with every single step. I knew it wasn’t going to feel good soon. Split: 9:38
Mile Four: The rubbing tongue on my ankle didn’t feel good. It was starting to burn and it was distracting me from my run. I said a prayer. I asked God to take my mind off of the rubbing and the burning feeling. This comes into play in just a little bit. At this point, we were in the Edgewater area which was my favorite to run through; it was tree covered and road was in the best condition on the whole course. I did hit the water stop, accidentally grabbing Power Ade (Berry, ew), so my time dipped a bit here as it was my first water stop ever. Split: 10:05
Mile Five: I began to wonder at this point how people write race recaps explaining every little thing, because I didn’t remember passing the five mile marker. Split: 9:50
Mile Six: At this point, apparently God answered my prayer because I stopped concentrating on the burning pain of my ankle rubbing problem and instead focused on my right foot. I have this weird problem where my first and second toes cross. They haven’t been doing it for a few months, so of course it would happen on the race course. I worked on wiggling and moving my toes and generally trying to make it stop before it began to hurt. It didn’t work. Split: 10:04
Mile Seven: Looking at the map, I know that I hit a water station here — drinking half and pouring the other half over my head. The humidity was starting to creep up, but the sun wasn’t all the way out from behind the cloud cover. I don’t know what I thought or felt here. I just kept running. Split: 10:19
Mile Eight: OMG, MY FAMILY! My dad handed me my “magic beans,” BigBrother nearly jumped out of his skin with joy, and I was off again. I looked good in the picture. I apparently still felt decent, but I know that seeing my family made me feel amazing. Split: 10:06
A) My dad is awesome. B) DUDE, look at my calf muscle. BAM!
Mile Nine: Nothing. I don’t remember passing the mile marker. I don’t remember signs or feelings. Nothing. Split: 10:12
This was an awesome surprise!
That made me feel great, especially after the blur of mile nine. In fact, mile nine was such a blur, that I was disappointed that mile 10 was only mile 10; I thought it was going to be mile 11. The sun was out full force at this point. The humidity soared. My right toe problem was still driving me batty. I felt not so hot. A bridge we ran over made a squeaky, shaking noise. I made the decision to switch from the pace screen on my Garmin to the mile screen, focusing on the few miles I had left. I let go of pace at this point, knowing it was a necessary decision to finish the race. It was a good decision as a whole, because it was here that people started to drop. Literally. It’s kind of scary to see people fall down, to watch other runners come to their aid, to hear yells of “MEDIC!” Between mile 10 and 13, I saw 5 go down, though one was just a trip-and-get-up fall. I felt assured that my decision to let go of pace and focus solely on finishing was the right decision, but seeing my times on the next three miles makes me sad. Split: 10:45
Mile Eleven: I don’t know. Split: 10:58
Mile Twelve: Best water station ever. I nearly tripped over another runner who stopped right in front of me; like dead stop, not walking. I did the drink and pour while shuffle-jog-walking I had done at previous stops and trudged onward. Split: 10:50
Mile Thirteen: Just before the last turn, I saw Amanda, Wes and the girls. I remember jumping up and down and waving and yelling, “OH MY GOSH, I AM SO TIRED!” I did feel rejuvenated by seeing my friend, and headed off toward the finish line. I wanted to push, but saw another runner down — one who had been around me throughout the run — and decided not to push at all. I just ran what I could, which was next to nothing. Split: 11:03
Point One: (Or, as my Garmin says, .26 due to bobs and weaves along the course and such) As I entered the finish line area, I heard my name. I was surprised to look up and see my family again. They had booked it from mile eight across side streets and bridges and such to beat me back to the finish and cheer me on. It made me feel amazing, but I really had nothing left. Split: 2:31
Official time: 2:16:21
Crossing the finish line was surreal. I choked on some tears. Then I downed, in order: half a bottle of water, half a banana, 1/4 a bottle of chocolate milk (Dairymens’, mmm), and a whole strawberry Popsicle. I grabbed my medal in awe. My dad tracked me down as I had my official finisher photo taken. We leaned over the fence to get a band-aid for my ankle. Then we went to find the rest of the family.
Best. Hug. Ever.
BigBrother ran up to me and said, “YOU DID AWESOME,” as he gave me a big hug. That felt amazing.
We sat under a tree in the shade while I drank a (yellow, of course) Gatorade. I called my husband, choked on more tears. I looked at twitter for the first time, in awe of the love and support. We took some pictures.
BigBrother took this photo. Also, my eye bags have eye bags. Exhausted much?
We then walked to the car, fought road closures to get back to our hotel (note to city of Cleveland: that street fair the same day as the marathon was not your smartest move) where I took a shower, and we hit the road.
Today… would you believe that I forgot to even think about the fact that might be sore until I stood all the way up and took my first step this morning? My legs are sore-ish, but not intolerable. My feet are tired. My raw spot on my ankle burns still, and I actually have a small one on the left ankle too that was just starting as I finished the race. I took a walk with the boys last night to shake out some of the soreness, but I don’t think I’m running today. Maybe tomorrow. Today is for rest.
I need to thank a list of people, some specific and some general.
My husband: Thank you for putting up with the time apart, for being my biggest supporter, for encouraging me when I felt down and out, for believing in me when I didn’t believe in myself. You are my favorite.
My boys: Thank you for putting up with the time apart and cheering me on in all of your ways.
My parents: I love you guys. Thank you for coming with me, for making the weekend easier for me. You’re the best.
Amanda and her family: Who gets up and drives at 4:30 in the morning to see me for less than 10 seconds in the blazing hot sun in big crowds? Oh, they do. Love you guys.
My sister-in-law: Without you, I wouldn’t have attempted this journey. Thanks for your advice, your inspiration, your support. I’m lucky to have you in my life.
My mother-in-law: Your encouragement and your support mean the world to me.
OMG, INTERNET FRIENDS: Your texts, your tweets, your Facebook likes and comments, your Instagram comments, everything. You went above and beyond. You are amazing. You are a lifeline. I love you all. I wish I could buy you all a beer (or a Gatorade or whatever you drink… but not berry Power Ade because ew).
My local friends: Thanks for listening to me rant and rave about running over coffee and playdates and such. I love you guys.
God: Thanks. Without you, none of this even matters.
The question has already been asked. Will I run another half? Yes. I’m running the Columbus (Half) Marathon in October. My sister-in-law has plans to run with me. I’m hopeful that our schedules will mesh better and my husband will be able to come. I think I’ll form a better plan for my family, sending them to certain miles instead of leaving them to find their way around and race back to the finish. But yes, I’ll run another. And no, I’m not ready for a full marathon.
Thanks for reading, for supporting me through this journey. I don’t start official training for my next half until July, but have a few 5K and other little races this summer. I’ll start officially blogging my training bi-weekly again when it’s time!