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May 21, 2013

Cleveland Half Marathon Race Recap

I have a confession to make. I hate race morning. As much as I like to try to pretend I can be a morning person, I'm really not. With a 7am start time for the Cleveland Half, I had my alarm set for 5am.

For the first time in my life, I actually went to bed early. I had my feet up by 7pm, took a warm bath and spent the night relaxing in my hotel room before crawling into bed around 8:30. I slept like a baby and actually woke up about 2 minutes before my alarm went off so I started the morning without the usual I'm groggy and tired and hate this shit feeling that usually accompanies race morning.


Holly came up to my room to get ready with me and we headed down to breakfast. I had half a bagel (one half with PB, one with cream cheese) and really couldn't get much else down. We headed to the Start which was at the Cleveland Browns Stadium.

Let me tell you, BEST start set up EVER. No porter potties (port-a-potties?), but the overwhelming expanse of toilets available in a stadium designed to accommodate 3x the amount of people that would be there on race morning.



I decided to check a bag with my phone, sweat pants and a pair of flip flops for after the race. Bag check was up in the luxury suite area and moved really quickly.


After checking my bag, I made my way over to the starting corrals with Emily who I randomly bumped into in the stadium. I lined up with the 8:24 pacer, stretched for a couple of minutes and just relaxed. The corrals weren't too crowded and I felt very calm. I did get insanely pissed off though at the 2 guys behind me who refused to shut up during the National Anthem OR the moment of SILENCE for the Boston Marathon victims. 

The start was pretty exciting, they played some good music ("Cleveland Rocks" and "Let's Get It Started"), had one of the Cavs wish us all luck and I was over the start line within a minute. 

The first mile was up hill and I was running a good pace. As much as an uphill start sounds like it sucks, it's actually a great way to ensure that you don't go out too fast. By the time the first Mile came though, I felt tired and sluggish and really didn't think it was going to be my day. We were running on concrete which is just so much harder on your body than asphalt and I was worried the whole course would be like that. 

I focused on some advice Gia had given me before the Philly Rock 'n' Roll Half - don't weave, just run in a straight line for the first 3 miles. I actually kept that going through Mile 5 before weaving a little but, but pretty much ran in a straight line the whole race, which led me to some pretty even tangents.

It was hot outside. By Mile 3, I could already feel myself heating up and I was grateful that it was cloudy and that I was carrying my own water. I was running in the mid 8:40s at this point and planned to pick it up, but decided against it since it was so hot out. "Don't be a hero," I told myself and kept the pace. 

Mile 5 rolled around and I started getting hungry. I took some Honey Stingers but was having a hard time getting them out of  my pocket, taking them with water, etc. I slowed down pretty significantly in Mile 5 and had a really hard time recovering. It's amazing how much the heat can affect your energy levels. It took so much out of me to run and take down some gels with water. By Mile 6, I felt my energy increase and I started to pick up the pace to 8:25-8:30. 

Between Miles 6 and 9, I started thinking about my training (or lack thereof) for this race. My last 10 miler was 4 weeks ago...before I went to Colorado. I hadn't done any speed work and had run minimally since then...taking almost an entire week off from running after coming back from Denver. My PR in the Half distance was 2 1/2 years old...I really wanted to run a new PR and I was on pace to do that but by Mile 9, I started fading again. 

Mile 9 wasn't quite the wall for me, but it was that angry mile where I start questioning things. I had my music on and would occasionally turn it off to listen to the crowds, but for the most part, I was in the zone. I wasn't paying attention to anything around me, I was just in the zone. I started doing the math...if I run this pace, I can PR by this much. At this point, I really thought a PR was out of reach. I took some more gels and almost immediately felt a burst of energy that carried me through Mile 10. 

At Mile 11 we started going up over the Lorain-Carnegie Bridge which was a brutal climb. The sun had come up at this point and felt the PR slipping away. I actually didn't lose too much time and I powered up the bridge pretty strongly, but I was getting hot and knew I would start to slow down.

via Cleveland.com
But alas, what goes up must come down and the descent from the Bridge was glorious. I came through Mile 12 and was running about a 7:15 through Mile 12.6 when *bam* side stitch. I felt like someone stabbed me in the side. I have never gotten a side stitch so badly. I looked at my watch and with half a mile to go, I knew I was in shape to come in with about a 1 minute PR but I was in so much pain and I was slowing down significantly. I needed and wanted to stop so so badly but I wanted a PR even more and as I turned the corner that led to the Finish Line, I could feel tears streaming out of my eyes. I had my hand on my side and my teeth clenched and I took one last look at my watch and saw the seconds slipping away. 

MarathonFoto caught this gem of me fighting through tears to the Finish.
I gave it one last push, with everything I had and crossed the Finish. I looked down at my watch. It read 1:54:11. A 3 second PR. I just laughed. I had done it. I was so unbelievably happy. 

Cleveland.com got this photo of me (in the background) at the very moment I realized I had PRd.
My official results shockingly showed a faster time - 1:54:09, for a 5 second PR. 

I couldn't believe I actually managed to pull that out. 

I'm insanely happy with the race I ran. I had a strong base built up from when I was marathon training, which is why I was able to run a good race, but I really didn't run the race I'm capable of. Beating a 2 1/2 year old PR (no matter by how little) just goes to shoe me that with actual training, I'm capable of running a much better race. 

My thoughts on the course overall? It was fast and incredibly well organized, probably one of the most well organized races I've done. There weren't a tremendous amount of spectators but that didn't really bother me. The only complaint I have was the elevation. I don't typically shy away from hills, but as I said yesterday, the course advertises "one of the flattest and fastest courses in the country." This is the elevation profile they had on their website:

NOT FLAT (the red-dotted lines are the Half)
However, this is the elevation profile according to my Garmin, which more accurately reflects (based on look and feel of those hills) how the course went:


HUGE difference...and that was frustrating. 

Post-race, I went back into the welcome air-conditioning of the Browns stadium where I got to use nice bathrooms and had ample room to stretch (something you don't find too often post-race). Once I had cooled off, I headed back into the sun and sat in the stands of the stadium talking to my Mama before heading back off to wait for Holly to finish her FIRST race.

It took 2 1/2 years but I finally nailed a half-marathon PR. Here's to the next one being even better. 

9 comments:

  1. Wow you really want this PR and it shows when you want something really bad, you can do it!! Congrats!!!

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  2. Congrats Christy! Enjoy your PR :)

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  3. SO PROUD OF YOU!!!! I loved reading your recap!! That seriously sucks about the stitch in your side, but you powered through that and finished like a boss. I hope you can come back and run this again next year, or at least in the future, and maybe they'll change the course a bit so that it's not so hilly :-P CONGRATS again, Christy!!!

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  4. Well done!!! It really is one of the best set-up runs I've ever witnessed, love their start/finish area. Congrats on the PR!

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  5. Congrats on the PR! I love the way you talk about Cleveland landmarks, like a true Clevelander.
    It has been great being able to use the Browns stadium bathrooms before the race. So many bathrooms to choose from and water to wash your hands! Love it!

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  6. Congrats!! Way to push past the side stitch at the end for your PR!! What a great place to have for a start/finish! I would love to have a stadium with nice bathrooms at every race start! ;) Congrats again!!

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  7. So so excited for you! Was so glad to have spent Saturday with you as well :) I can't wait til MCM this fall!!

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  8. PR!!!!!!! Let's get some celebratory fro!

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