Tuesday, May 22, 2012

Cleveland Marathon Race Recap

The Cleveland Marathon wasn't anything like I expected.  I trained well for this race.  I was prepared...

...for a 60 degree race.  It was not 60 degrees.  All of that awesome training went straight to hell in the first half of the race.

The weekend, overall, was great, so let's start at the beginning, shall we?

Saturday, May 19th, we drove up to Cleveland.  My parents met us there.  The little ladies were both running in the kids' race, which was held at the Browns Stadium.  On the field.  It was pretty cool.
Ready to race!
 Aleena ran 50 yards in the Age 3 and Under race
Always stylish, even while racing.

So proud!

and Ellie ran 100 yards in the Age 4-6 race.
Posing with Anne's son before their race.

After the kids' race, we went to lunch at Great Lakes Brewing Company.  It was Randy's request and since the rest of the weekend was pretty much all about me, we went.  The food was good and Randy was happy.

Next up was the race expo.  Randy and my dad took the girls back to the hotel while Mom and I hit the expo.  I was hoping to find a bright pink hat since the hat I ordered didn't come in time.  No such luck.  I did do some damage at the Bondi Band table and I entered a drawing for a free race entry for the Columbus Marathon.

We all had dinner at Olive Garden--Ellie's and Aleena's favorite--and I carbed myself silly, then we went back to the hotel and got ready for bed.  I laid out all of my clothes and gear to make sure I wouldn't forget anything the next morning.
I was a little sad that there were no names printed on the race bibs.  It's really nice when spectators call you by name when they cheer.  Turns out, everyone called me "sparkly skirt" so I knew they were talking to me.  Note to self: when names aren't on bibs, wear something that stands out, people will talk to you.

Sleep did not come easily.  I tried, I really did and here are my thoughts about my attempted night's sleep on Saturday: disturbing a runner's sleep the night before a marathon should be punishable by death.  At 11pm, someone tried to put their key in our door, turn the knob and come in.  Their key didn't work.  It only scared the crap out of me.  At midnight there were very drunk, very loud people walking up and down the hall.  At 2am there was the Harley out on the street below my window revving his engine.  Seriously, asshole.  It's 2am.  Chances are: someone is trying to sleep.  The last time I looked at the clock was 3am...but (oh, come on, you knew there was a but) when I finally did fall asleep, I dreamt my alarm didn't go off and I was late for the race.  Sigh. 

My alarm did go off at 4:40, right when it was supposed to.

Kate and her husband, Dave were picking me up at 5:30am and Dave was dropping Kate and I off at Anne's hotel and the three of us would walk to the Browns Stadium to the starting line.  There were a LOT of people walking to the starting line...
...but that was nothing compared to the amount of people AT the starting line!

Our friend, Allen, was waiting at the stadium for us when we got there. He came to Cleveland to cheer for us and was also nice enough to snap this picture of Kate, Anne and I.
So excited to start!  We had no idea what was coming.

Kate and I dropped Anne off near the 4:25 pacer and the two of us nestled in between the 4:40 and 4:55 pacers.

There were so many people ahead of us that we didn't cross the starting line until 8 minutes after the gun went off.  We started off slow and steady, just like we planned.  The temperature was in the mid 60s and was supposed to be around 78 degrees by the time I finished.  This was going to be an awesome race!

I had tiered goals: A, B and C.  My A goal was to finish in 4:45 or faster.  My B goal was to finish in under 5 hours.  My C goal was survival.  In the first couple of miles, I ditched my A goal.  I had barely run in the past 2 weeks because of this hip thing --which was doing ok-- and the 11ish minute miles we were running felt comfortable so I probably would just stick with it and finish in under 5 hours.  By mile 5, my hip has totally loosened up and it felt great!  Oh, happy day!  I was still keeping our pace around 11 minute miles to make sure I didn't burn out.  I was running smart--one of my mistakes from my first marathon.  YES!

We ran by my family at mile 8.  My little ladies were ringing their cowbells and yelling for us.  It was wonderful.
Only 18 more to go!  (Yea...people don't really say that...)
Then the temps started to climb.  Fast.  By mile 11, we were running 14 minute miles.  What the hell happened?  We were also having trouble at the water stations.  The first water station at mile 2 was really crowded, so we skipped it.  Kate and I had our hydration belts, so we were ok.  Then the next water station was really crowded too.  And the next.  Turns out, there wasn't enough water for everyone.  The runners were going through it faster than the race volunteers could supply it.  Every water station in the first 12 miles had trouble keeping up with the demand.  One water station even ran out of cups.  They had water, but nothing to put it in.  They were offering to refill water bottles if runners were carrying them.

I knew at mile 11 that it was time for me to bust out my C goal: survival.  It was really hot and getting hotter.

I saw my family again at mile 12.  I stopped to re-apply Body Glide since this was the last time I'd see them before the finish.
Right after this point, Kate went in one direction to finish the half and I went in the other direction.  I did consider, for a minute, going with Kate, finishing the half and calling it a day, but I did not.

Shortly after mile 12, I got a text message from Anne: she was nauseous and walking.  Crap.  The heat and dehydration got to her.  By mile 13, I had to take short walk breaks to deal with the heat.  My fingers were swelling pretty badly, but I had no other signs of dehydration, so I think the swelling was from the heat.

The next 10 miles are a total blur but I was texting Anne periodically so looking at the messages, I can recall what happened and when it happened.  Love technology!  By mile 16, I was half walking half running and I had found a buddy to walk/run with.  Her name was Robin and we kept each other company for several miles.  By this time, my hip was starting to tighten up because of all the walking and at mile 20, I sent Anne a text telling her I was contemplating a DNF (did not finish) because I was having pain shooting down my leg from my hip.  Then it occurred to me: I don't know how to stop!  Do I just sit down on the curb? 

In the end I kept going.  Why?  Because I told Ellie's teachers that I was going to Cleveland to run a marathon.  There is no way I was going to that school on Monday to tell them that I couldn't finish it.  No freaking way.

At mile 20.5 a police officer told me that we had a heat advisory and to make sure I drank plenty of water.  Believe me, I was drinking.  My hydration belt holds 20 ounces.  There's a water station about every 2 miles.  I refilled both bottles at almost every station and I drank the Powerade that was offered.  I'm happy to say that I never felt the effects of dehydration.  I never got the nausea, which is always my first indicator.  The hip pain was what was really holding me back.

At mile 22 I got a text from Allen asking where I was.  He was waiting for me at mile 24 and he waited for 33 minutes until I got to him.  There was very little running going on at this point.  I cried when I saw him.  A friend!  He walked, ran and distracted me all the way to the finish.  He pushed me: let's run to that stop light.  He was the holder of random stuff; my fingers were too swollen to get my ear buds in my pouch so he held them for me.  Someone was handing out Rice Krispy Treats before the finish and I was all no-I-don't-want-one-well-maybe-I-should-take-one-anyway-I-might-need-sugar-at-the-finish-but-can-you-hold-it-for-me? (Man, I'm needy.)  He got me to the finish line.

When we got to the stadium parking lot we ran all the way to the finish.  I was completely exhausted and my feet were barely leaving the ground so really, I'm not sure you can actually call what I was doing "running", but I was still moving forward.

Then I saw them.  My babies.  Kate had them on the outside of the barrier and the three of them ran out to me and we all ran to the finish line together.
Allen and I running in and Kate, Ellie and Aleena running out to us.

I was so happy to see them.

There we go to the finish.  Slowly but surely.
I finally made it.  My official time was 6 hours 13 minutes and 22 seconds.  I never thought I'd see a 6 hour marathon for myself.  My goal time was 4:45 for crying out loud!  I was disappointed and felt sorry for myself for about 30 seconds and then I was thankful. 

Why?  I'm glad you asked.  For the last 3 hours of the race all I heard were ambulance sirens wailing as they took a runner off the course.  The runners in those ambulances didn't get to finish their race.  It may have taken me 6 hours, but I finished.
Done!  With a delirious smile on my face and a bag of ice on my head.

Looking back, I don't think there was anything I could have done differently.  In the beginning, I did everything right.  It seemed like the temperature jumped 20 degrees in an hour, there was nothing I could do but slow down or stop.

That 26.2 ended up being 26.59.  I tried to run tangents at first, but by mile 16, I went where the shade was.  It was painfully clear by then that my time was going to be in the crapper so I tried to stay out of the sun as much as possible.

Two days post-race I can tell you without a doubt that there will be another marathon in my future.  This Cleveland disaster will not be the end for me.  I can also tell you that any future marathons will absolutely not be in Cleveland--I wouldn't even go back for the half.  I will also not run another marathon in May.  The weather in May is tricky.  I knew when I registered for this race that it could be 80 degrees on race day...or it could be 30 degrees.  The problem was that most of my training was in the winter.  The 85 degrees that I was faced with on race day was a shock to my system.  Last year, training for USAF all summer totally sucked, but the heat on race day was no big deal because I'd been trained for it.

My thoughts for the next marathon is a November race...or someplace really cold, but there will definitely be a next marathon.

If you made it to the end, thank you for reading.  I'm sorry this was so long, but in my defense, it was a really long race.

Happy running, everyone.  I'll leave you with a few more random pictures from race day...
Anne and I at the finish.

Sparkly 26.2 shirt from Mom and Dad!


Aleena passed out on the way home.

Ellie passed out on the way home.
I passed out on the way home, too, by the way. 

First ever ice bath.  It was cold.

The bling.

Sunburn and watch line.  It hurts.


  1. I like reading your blog because of how honest you are about everything. No sugar coating or bullshit. I'm proud of you for finishing. I couldn't even walk two miles on Sunday because of the heat (I am the biggest heat wimp ever!). You should be very proud no matter how long it took you. You made it and you did it safety! Way to go!!

    1. Thanks Jan. I'm feeling pretty badass--unless I'm walking up or downstairs. Then I turn into a wimpy sore girl.
      I like to share the blog, but I also write for myself. I like to come back and read race experiences and "feel" them all over again. :)

  2. Tough tough day. Congratulations! I saw your friend in the kilt toward the beginning of the race, standing up on a highway divider. How great that he helped you finish. I recommend Disney for your next marathon. It's in January and the weather tends to be more on the cool side. Plus, it's a lot of fun!

  3. So proud of you for finishing! That race was tough for everyone. I'm glad you're going to try another!!!

    1. Thanks, Jessica! I don't think I saw you on Sunday, but thank you for coming out to cheer. :)

  4. Great job of finishing the race!!! You were a real trooper! This one will make the next one seem like a piece of cake. :)

    1. Thanks Dave! I'm hoping the next one is a piece of cake. :)

  5. You toughed it out, you did it and congratulations! You are one strong mama :)

  6. GREAT JOB!!!! Well done!!! You finished a very hard race and should be really really proud of yourself!! I know how hard you trained, and how smartly you trained, you can never predict race day, and that stinks too! I am proud of you. And still inspired!

    1. Thanks, Deanna. It took me a minute to get over the disaster of it all, but I am proud.
      Today, the temps are below 70 degrees. Figures.

  7. So proud of you for sticking it out until the end! Definitely heart-breaking when we trained so hard and were SO ready for this race. Want to run 26.2 just to see how we do? :) (and I'm only partially kidding :)

    1. Yes. I really do. (and I'm mostly serious)

  8. Great job!! Loved the race report. Sounds like a rough day, awesome that you kept going. The Akron Marathon is a pretty good fall race. (hint,hint) Quick recoveries, and happy running.

    1. Thanks, Andrew! I'll keep Akron in mind. :)

  9. What at tough race! The more I hear, the less inclined I am to ever do it! Some days aren't meant to be - I know how hard you trained for this. Way to stick it out and survive this marathon!!!

  10. WOW!n Great recap and what a run. You are an absolute inspiration. So glad you finished - you are incredibly mentally tough. Good on you. This blog will be in my mind when I start running my long runs in preparation for my first marathon. What an inspiration you are.

    1. Thank you so much, Rosalinda! Best of luck to you and your marathon training! So exciting!


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