It wasn't until the drive up I-77 towards Cleveland that hit me, I'm going to run another full marathon. It has been a year and a half, and eight months since the Columbus debacle. I can't lie, I got a little nervous, but more excited. I thought often on the trip up, but tempered my emotions by blasting stupid music and annoying my wife. We got to our hotel, checked in, and immediately headed to the expo. There I picked up my bib, met fellow Cleveland Marathon Ambassadors Jill and Brian, and walked around for a little bit. I made the inevitable purchase of a Sole Clothing shirt, you should definitely check out their stuff.
After a few hours, we headed to the VIP reception and hung out with most of the Ambassadors and staff from the race. It's always a good time, and you can read more about that, and my 8k, here. After dinner, we headed back to the hotel and got some rest for the next morning.
I ran the 8k and finished 8th overall, and felt really good about how my body felt. After walking around to cool down for a bit, I headed back to the hotel, for some stretching and foam rolling, then the boring part of marathon weekend hit. The waiting. I watched infomercials and QVC, I was completely bored out of my skull. My wife went to volunteer at the expo though, so I didn't feel like I had to entertain anyone. Though boring, it was what I needed before tackling 26.2 miles the next day.
After my wife got back from the expo, we headed off to the pasta dinner, carbed up, and then went to the bar of the hotel for the final beers before the race. Relaxing came easy to me this night. I didn't feel like I was in thoughts too much, and fell asleep pretty easily. When I woke up at 5:00 on race day, I didn't feel tired and was ready to get out the door. So I grabbed my gear check bag, dropped it off, and headed to the start. It was a little less hectic than usual for me, as I waited till the last possible moment to leave the hotel. I needed no final port-a-potty visit, and lined up about 20 minutes before the start.
It started to hit me a little bit as the corral filled up, but I kept myself in check. I reminded myself that I was doing this for the fun of it. Don't get ahead of myself, keep my expectations low, and just go out and have fun. As the marathonfoto lady was milling around, I sensed her about to ask me to have my picture taken, so I turned around and walked away. I went up the pacer of the group I'd be running with and asked "Am I the only who walks away from the photographers at the start?" He laughed and let me know that he does the same thing. That was the beginning of what would be an hour and a half of conversation with Kenny. He recognized me from the 8k the day before, and we began to talk a little bit.
Before we knew it, we were walking up to the start, and Executive Race Director Jack Staph sounded the horn. We were off! The thing I love about running with a pace group, particularly at the beginning is that they can keep you reigned in. I kept feeling myself going ahead of pace, and I'd look over my shoulder and realize I need to dial it back. We wound through Playhouse Square, passed by First Energy Stadium (home of the Browns) and the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. As we passed through there, the crowd began to thin out. We made our way through the flats, this was a beautiful addition to the course this year. But no good deed goes unpunished.
As we came out of the flats, we crossed the Cuyahoga River (thanks to Share the River for the photo), and came to mile four. Oh boy. That was a freaking hill. It was one of those long, straight, steep hills. When you think you've made the top, you realize you're only half way there. This was the first time I felt the effects of the 8k the day before. After we hit the top, it took a solid two miles for me to get my legs back, but I kept moving. I had thoughts of dropping off, but I kept telling myself, "get to 10k, then decide". By the 10k mark I was feeling better, and ready to rock. It was about here that Kenny yelled he was taking a bathroom break, and I kind of had to pee. So we took off for the port-a-potty, and then got back on the road. About two minutes after our break, Kenny caught up to me. But the rest of our group was pretty much gone. Kenny and I talked for quite a while about running, work, life, food, whatever. The miles were ticking by.
My goal coming into the full was to have fun. Period. I didn't care about time, but had to have a goal. That goal will always be to PR, and the 3:15 would have brought me that. We were coasting for a while. We got to the half split about a minute ahead of schedule and all seemed to be going well. We caught a few other members of our group, and carried on for a bit. That's when Kenny said he was stopping to stretch his achilles. We carried on.
He left us about mile 14 or so, and we all kept moving. But that's also when I started to feel the effects of the 8k on Saturday. I struggled mightily with blisters two years ago, and I started to feel some of the same hot spots developing on my feet. I kept up the pace until mile 16 when I saw a med tent. I decided to nip this in the bud, and throw some Vaseline on my feet. As I pulled off the road and stopped, I could tell I kind of swayed a little bit. I was weaker than I thought. The lady even asked if I was ok, and I insisted I was. This was the break I needed, but I'd be ready to roll the rest of the way.
After this stop I got back on pace for the next mile or so, but after the turnaround at 17, we had a hill. I made a point to look strong, since I knew I'd see my friend Jamie, but I knew I was about done. But just one foot in front of the other at this point.
I didn't have the most ideal training cycle, and raced my ass off in an 8k the day before, I knew this was to be expected. Honestly, I was just hoping it would happen a little later. My pace slowed pretty drastically at this point, and I began walking the water stops. But every time I would walk, instead of getting down on myself, I would just remind myself to HAVE FUN! When I would do that, I would chuckle to myself and start running again, even if it was slow.
About mile 19 or 20, my friend Ryan came up, pacing another group, and I thought I'd hang with them for a while. We talked and he helped keep my spirits up, but my legs just had nothing left to give. I hung with them for maybe half a mile or so, but I couldn't any more. My pace slowed some more.
The next mile or so I went solo, and the rain began to fall. That's when Dominic, a new running friend, caught me. We were both in the same boat. Just struggling to push through that wall that hits so hard late in a marathon. We had passed each other a couple of times throughout the race, and we just began to talk. It made the next little bit go by quicker, but he started to cramp and had to fall off. I was back on my own.
Before I knew it, the mile 24 flag was finally in sight. I began passing walkers from the half, and I could feel it was finally coming to an end. But I still had two miles to go. That's when I came across an unknown gentleman. I came up beside him and gave him the "Good job today man, you got this". We started talking, and pushed a little more the last little bit. As we came up on the 26 mile flag, he thanked me for pulling him with me. It's stuff like this that makes it "fun" even when it shouldn't be.
As the adrenaline hit, I was able to kick it a little bit. I saw the clock and thought "Get it below 3:30". I just managed that. 3:29:59. It wasn't my best time, but it was an awesome effort, and a great experience. This race was a reminder to HAVE FUN! That I did. I crossed the finish, and found my wife who was handing out medals, and went through and got food and my gear check. It was pouring down rain, and I just wanted to get back inside... But I couldn't.
Shortly after my Ambassador friend Melissa got engaged at the VIP reception, my friend Dan came up to me. Dan is Stephanie Lesco's boyfriend, she's also an Ambassador, and they've become great friends of mine. He let me know that he was going to propose to her at the finish. So we found our way back up to the front of the finishing corral, and waited for Steph to finish. (I also snuck a selfie with Ryan, he hates those things). It seemed like an eternity with the rain, but soon we saw her. The whole race was in on it too. You maybe even have seen video of it. It was really special to be a part of, and I want to thank you guys for letting us be there and share the moment with you.
I tell you what, to see two of your friends get engaged on the same weekend is freaking awesome! This was a weekend I'll never forget, and a race I'll always enjoy. I can't wait to come back next year.
Without a doubt, always on of my favorite weekends of the year. It has come and gone, and I'm quite melancholy about that, but there is so much good to reflect on. This was my third year being an Ambassador for the Cleveland Marathon, and doing that during the 40th edition was insanely special. Our Ambassador is really close, and we had a lot of huge things happen this weekend.
But first I'll start by saying that this was the first weekend my wife and I had to ourselves since our son was born four and half years ago. A great excuse to spend a weekend together, and really special to be without the kid for a couple of days. It was really cool because Brittany hadn't had the chance to meet all of the Ambassadors yet, and she got to go to the VIP reception with me this year. So we got the chance to get all fancy, and she got the chance to meet everyone. She fit right in, because they all kept saying they pretty much knew her anyways.
The VIP reception is always full of laughs and good food... and plenty of beer (it's free, sue me), but this year had something extra special. Melissa Bixler is one of the favorites of the group. I got the chance to meet her boyfriend at the reception, and let me tell you, she found the right guy. He knew what this group and event meant to her. We all take pictures with our significant other on the steps of the Arcade, but she got so much more. Chad certainly listens and pays attention to Melissa, and after they took their pictures, he got down on one knee and proposed to her. Couldn't believe we had an engagement this weekend! So happy for you guys, and congratulations! Here's to many years of happiness!
After the VIP reception, it was off to a bar to watch the Cavs game. Fortunately it was over at the second quarter, and I was able to get some sleep before the 8k the next morning. I chose to do the 8k/Full challenge as a chance to get back to having fun in running. I knew that I could race a good 8k for confidence, and that it would take some pressure off of the Full the next day. If I run out of gas, I blame it on the 8k, and get out and have fun. Was it the best strategy? For racing and time, probably not, but for fun, absolutely! So I woke up Saturday, put in a little warm up, stretched, and towed the line. I was ready to go full bore for 4.97 miles and try and defend my age group (30-34) crown from last year. Last year I ran 6:33s for the whole event, and knew I needed to stick around there or faster. The hard thing about going after age group titles, you never know who you're racing. I can't compete with the college kids or high schoolers, but most of the 30 year olds, I can hold my own against.
Once the race started, I managed to hold myself back from starting out way too fast. It's hard when all the little kids and teenagers start running 5:30 miles to do that. People just sprint in the shorter races, for a half mile before they die, and I knew better. So I dialed it back, and felt great. We ran through downtown, by the Browns stadium and Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, and hit mile 1.... 6:12. I was a little irritated with myself on that, but still felt great. Then we hit mile 2 and 3, and I was still rocking around 6:30. I was happy with that and knew I'd be where I needed to be to come close to my AG winner. As one of the older dudes, one of my favorite things is pounding a high schooler into the ground. Usually it happens towards the end of a half marathon. But with this being just over 5k, I came across one about mile 4. I slowly reeled him in, then floored it past him. I felt him hang with me for maybe a quarter of a mile, but turned around at one point and he was gone. Then ahead of me I saw another guy. He looked like he could be about in my AG, so I wanted to start reeling him in, but I just didn't have enough time.
I loved that the race added a second water stop to this event this year, and was really pumped when @amyballa (instagram) shouted me out. Thanks for being out there this day, and making me feel so cool! It was enough for me to continue to try and reel in this guy ahead of me, and we came into the 5k walkers on the course. The guy ahead of me took the route of running outside of the runners, I decided to try and zig zag. He was maybe 8 seconds ahead of me, and I knew if I could hit the tangents better, I had a chance. We made a final turn, and then I saw the finish. I looked at my watch and thought "There's not enough course. This isn't long enough". I actually freaked out for a second and thought we cut the course. An 8k is 4.97 miles, but I wasn't even close. I kicked to the finish and stopped my watch at 4.75. Mary Sutter, the Social Media Guru for the event, stopped me to congratulate me on my finish. I was seriously freaking out. I never want to cheat in running, and felt maybe I did. Turns out everybody said the course was short, so it is what it is. I was able to finish 8th overall, but just missed my age group with a time of 30:35. The actual distance was 4.75 which was 6:26 miles. I want to count it as an 8k PR, but I can't.
Here's a lesson for people who may be new to running, there is usually a reason something isn't perfect. I am actually pretty upset the distance wasn't where it was supposed to be, but I understand that this race did a lot to share the finish across FIVE events, 5k, 8k, 10k, half, and full. Then you are at the mercy of the streets in the areas to be able to map a distance perfectly. The focus of the Cleveland Marathon wasn't to make the 5k/8k courses perfect. It was to add a special element for people who want to push themselves even harder, accomplish new goals, and get some extra swag. The 5k/8k courses weren't certified, and that's OK. I say all this to say, no race is 100% perfect. Some races focus on amazing swag, some focus on fast courses. Some races put their energy into making a world class event with entertainment. You are NEVER going to get it all.
A lot goes in to coordinating these types of things, and I am grateful to have received an awesome medal for the 8k, and a super badass medal for completing the 8k/Full. Sure, I could bitch and moan about the short distance, but that would take away from MY accomplishments. Perhaps you could just sit back and enjoy what you did on a given weekend, and revel in the fact that you're a complete badass. That's what I'm doing with my 8k. Didn't win my AG, but I beat a youngin' into the ground, and finished top 10 overall for the second straight year. I have plenty to be thankful for.
Here I am, sitting on the porch, a storm rolling in, and Yardarm IPA by Royal Docks Brewing cracked. Trying to reflect on what has been a very weird, yet fun, training cycle. It seems like spring trainings are always interrupted by things. Whether it be sickness, home improvement projects, or just life. I can't seem to find a groove, and just make due with what I put in. I've been sick more times than I count, and attribute it to IBS from stress, and am hopeful that I can get that under control moving forward. I laid new flooring throughout our entire first floor, and that just took it out of me.But this training has had one aspect that many seasons previously have missed. I had fun. When I went out on my longest run, 18 miles, I seriously enjoyed it. If it weren't for having to go to work, I would have done more. The Columbus Marathon last year left so much to be desired, and I earned my first DNF (finished the half, not the full). But I realized something, I got so wrapped up in a BQ, that when an incident happened on the first water stop, I was so distraught that I magnified the pain and gave myself an out. It wasn't fun anymore.
Isn't that why I got into this? To have fun? Sure, I love the accomplishments and the medals, but every time I look at that half medal from CBus, I cringe a little bit. I hung the shirt up in my basement gym, aka the "Pain Cave", as a reminder. It says "MOTIVATED" on it. This time around, I was MOTIVATED to have fun and enjoy the process and the miles.
The weather forecast for Sunday is far from ideal, although I have a feeling it won't be as bad as we're expecting forecasting it. But I find some comfort in it. While I want to have fun, I have to set out for some kind of goal. At the beginning of this training, I set out to earn guaranteed entry to Chicago 2018. That requires me to run a 3:15. More modest than a 3:05 (that wouldn't even get me to Boston), but good enough for a two minute PR and a sweet prize. But with the weather, I've decided I don't really care. I just want to have fun. My idea of fun isn't having a terrible race plan for the conditions and hating the last 8-10 miles of the race. My idea of fun is to go out and leave it all out there, but finish strong.
This is what I'm doing, and I encourage you to do the same, or similar.
1.) I am hydrating like it's nobody's business. It doesn't help I'll be racing an 8k the day before, but I have got to make sure that I do everything I can to have my body ready for the big day.
2.) I am going to start with the 3:15 pace group. Usually in a marathon, I would evaluate things at mile 10 and half, see where I stand. I'm going to eat this race one 10k at a time. I've been doing a ton of 10ks this training, and see that as a good marker to evaluate my effort. After the first 10k, if it's too much for that day, I'll back off for the next 10k. The 3:20 pace group will find me by half, maybe, and I'll just hang with them the next 10k. Then there's only 12k to go, and maybe I can race it a little bit.
Now I could be completely overshooting here. This cycle has been absolutely awful, but maybe, just maybe, I am in better shape than I think, and peaking at the right time. Only time will tell. Fortunately, there isn't too much time until we find out.
Three weeks to go. Three weeks until I head to Cleveland for 31.2 miles in two days. It's a difficult thought to have after a very mediocre training cycle, but this weekend I may have gotten some answers on the shape I'm in.This was my favorite weekend of the year, where the City of Canton welcomes thousands of runners to our streets for the Hall of Fame Marathon. This has become a fun tradition for my family, and so much so that my brother and nephew came up from Columbus. It's only a two hour drive, but it's a great reason to get together and have some fun. This year was the best yet.
The race used to run right passed my house, but this year they moved it to downtown Canton, which meant we had to drive to a spot to cheer and spectate. We didn't know exactly what to expect, but what made this a little more fun, the fact it gave me a chance to finally RUN in the race.
When the race ran past our house, we were around mile 20. We cut up fruit and handed out popsicles to everyone, and did the same this year. The beauty of it was, though, mile 22 was about a mile from the finish. I decided to head out and do the half, then walk to meet my family and have some fun.
It didn't disappoint.
Before I go any further, I want to apologize to anyone who had issues on I-77 or parking. I know it isn't my place to apologize on behalf of the race, but I can't imagine how frustrating it must have been to be stuck for over an hour waiting for a shuttle. This is an issue that has been there in the past, and it certainly needs to be remedied in the coming years if this race is going to continue to grow. I do believe it will get immensely better when the construction on the Hall of Fame Village and Stadium are done, and the start doesn't keep moving each year.
But now to the race itself. I woke up on race day, had a cup of coffee, ate a banana, and used MY OWN bathroom half a dozen times. Then my brother drove me down to the start to drop me off. I ran into some friends at the start and enjoyed some good conversation about running, the race, and life. We had an extra 15 minutes due to the parking fiasco, but the people at the start were more concerned with the weather. The weather was calling for 75 degrees by 10 AM, so we wanted every "cooler" mile we could get. I was thankful to only be running the half.
After a longer wait than we thought, we were off. This was one of the smoothest starts I've ever had in a race. And after the problems at Columbus last year, this was very refreshing. There wasn't a huge bottleneck at the start, and crowd was relatively thin at the front. We took a turn just before the first mile marker, and we were running near the trails I run all the time. It was so cool to see crowds lining the streets and be running roads that I've been on so many times. This race did a great job highlighting our best parts of this city, and I couldn't have been more impressed with the route.
By about mile four or five, we ran past the McKinley Monument. At this point I had been running with the 3:15 pace group (that's my "goal" for Cleveland), but felt I had a little more. I saddled up next to a new running buddy Jim, "The Mayor" was his bib name, from North Canton. An older dude, in his 40s, we just ran and talked for the next few miles, and pushed the pace past that pace group a little bit. We hung together past Aultman Hospital into the surrounding neighborhoods, then he dropped back a little bit. That's when I met Heath. I picked up Heath about mile seven, and he pushed me a little more. The sun really began to creep out from the clouds, and the rain from the early morning was definitely in the air. As we came up to mile nine, we hit the biggest hill and highest point on the race. This dude charges the hills, but I stuck with him. It wasn't long before I lost our hip to hip, as we hit some shade. When we came out of the shade, the heat really got to me, and I backed off just a tad. Once again, thankful for only running the half. After a few more hills, it was a gradual decline back towards downtown, and I was able to catch a second wind. I never lost sight of Heath, he was never more than five or ten yards ahead of me, then I got back next to him right as we hit the split of the races.
I took the final turn, and despite the heat, was kind of bummed it was all over. I look so forward to this race, and this was an amazing experience to actually be on the course running for a little bit. I took it in as I came down the final stretch, saw my friend Melissa (fellow Cleveland Marathon Ambassador), and crossed the finish line in 1:35:38. It wasn't anywhere near a PR, but that's not what the goal was and the weather didn't really permit it. The goal of this year is to get back to having fun, and I had an absolute blast this day. It was a tremendous experience, and I loved every second of being out there. Not to mention the medal is freaking awesome!
This, to me, answered some questions about what type of shape I am in. I am not where I was when I PR'd in 2015 at Columbus, but I am where I was that spring and summer. I would like to PR at Cleveland and keep moving forward to loftier goals, and this race in these conditions gave me the confidence that I can just that. Placing 5th in my AG and 45th overall in that heat, showed my time was indicitive of my performance. The beauty of it all is, I didn't even care. I crossed with a finish, and enjoyed every step of the race. Hoping to keep it moving forward in Cleveland in a few weeks.
More to come on the amazing events of after the race, as this was only the beginning of the day. But I would certainly encourage anyone to come Run Canton with us one day. Jim and staff did a great job, apart from the parking, representing Canton and showing us off. The crowd was amazing, and I honestly thought it was going to be terrible. It wasn't a great day for a PR, but it was a great day for running, and a great day for Canton.
So, here we are, six weeks out of the Cleveland Marathon Challenge Series. 31 miles in two days. And I just misssed 10 days of training smack dab in the middle of it all.
Let's go back to before these 10 days off. It was about three weeks ago, I was run commuting home from work, and couldn't believe how good I felt. I was close to my record on this route, which was set before a PR at Columbus a year and a half ago, and had a renewed confidence in my training and physical condition. I really felt I was closing in on that shape that I had for Columbus when I set my current PR, and this was for a spring marathon. I typically don't believe I'm in my best shape in the spring, rather I gain that over the summer months and in to the fall. The thoughts of what this year could hold were running through my head, and excitement was brewing. Then came the Thursday of that week. I decided to take an extra day off of running so that I could lay new flooring in our living room and hallways. I counted it as strength training. It was the most grueling home improvement project I have tackled, and the next day I felt like I got hit by a truck. I even joked with co-workers that I felt like I had the flu. The body aches were intense, but I thought I was ok. Then came some chills. Then a headache. Then I got home and decided to take my temperature. Sure enough. FLU!
I just had that run that really got me moving and excited, now this! Great! I spent the next 48 hours in bed, just hoping to recover. I can't lie, I just plain didn't have the energy to run for the next few days. I tried, I really did, but I just couldn't get moving. But over the next few days, it seemed like when I had energy, I had something to do around the house. There was more painting, more flooring to lay down in the bedroom. More everything. It has been a never ending cycle of shit to do, and it's driving me crazy. Last week I managed to do a little better getting out and running, but still not like I should.
So what does this mean for Cleveland and the rest of training? Who really knows?
I know I am not going to be setting any records, and likely no PRs, but maybe, just maybe, I can turn the tide towards the fall. So I'm kind of viewing Cleveland as a training run for the fall. Get me moving towards the summer, get some fire and habits going.
I have decided on two things. First, I want to make sure I get as much mileage in as I can, without overdoing it on long runs. I can't go from 12 miles to 20 in the span of two weeks, and expect to not get hurt, or maximize the potential. So this time around I'll probably top out at 16-18 miles. Usually I focus on more speed and recovery miles during the week, keeping my mileage a little lower than some, but I'm going to try and get the mileage up throughout the week. Following closer to the Hanson's method.
Secondly, I am turning my focus to simply finishing the Full Challenge Series in May. I had thoughts of dropping down to the half, but emotionally, I can't do that. My original goal was to defend my age group crown in the 8k, then guarantee entry to Chicago 2018 with a sub 3:15 (which would also be a 2:18+ PR). I'm still hoping for that, but I won't be devastated if it doesn't happen. I am going to focus on racing the 8k well, but not worry too much about the time for the full the next day. Just enjoy the experience of my favorite race (you should definitely join me).
That's pretty much it for now... I'll be back soon, got some other things to write about soon.
Have you ever gone through cycles like this? How did you handle it, and what your race results like?
I am a 31 year old husband, father, and marathon runner. Faster than the average joe, but trying to get better and better each day. Join me on journey to accomplish more than I ever thought possible.
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