Cleveland Half Marathon Race Report

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So, last Sunday, I decided to run my third half marathon: the Rite Aid Cleveland Half Marathon. I ran the 10K last year and had a great race, so I figured I’d give it a try. On the same day as my master’s degree graduation. Not my best idea…

I volunteered at the marathon expo on Friday and was really happy to meet a bunch of my fellow half marathoners before Sunday’s race. I heard a few complaints from non-local runners about how far out of the city the expo was, but since I’m a local, it didn’t bother me too much. I picked up some gels and bondi bands for my summer runs before my shift, but otherwise, the expo was pretty uneventful for me.

On Saturday, I sat around getting hydrated until my parents and youngest sister came into town – mostly for my graduation, but they planned on meeting me at the finish line. We checked them into their hotel and went to dinner at a pub, which had the best bread I’ve ever eaten. Seriously – my dad (a former triathlete and respecter of carbo-loading) and I destroyed a bread basket. After my parents dropped me off at my place, I got everything ready for the next morning and chilled before heading to bed.

My alarm went off at 5AM (waaay too late in retrospect), and I spent the next half hour getting ready. I had initially planned to ride the light rail in, but since I had such a late start, I decided to drive down to the race. Again, a big mistake, as I’d forgotten that roads were closing at 6AM, so by the time I arrived downtown, the streets were all blocked and most of the parking was gone. I think they actually closed the roads earlier than 6AM, since I arrived at about 5:45. I was supposed to meet the members of my running group, but since I was running so late, I missed our meet time. I managed to find a parking spot a long hike from the start, but it worked out fine, since I just used it as my warm-up – on the way back, it was not so pleasant.

When I arrived at the stadium, I rushed to bag check and to the restrooms. It was raining and chilly, so a lot of people hid out in the stadium until right before the race started, and I certainly can’t blame them. Afterward, I had just enough time to make it to the start. The starting line was chaotic. The road was far too narrow for all of the marathoners and half marathoners at once. Since I wasn’t looking for a time under 2:20, I was fine with the traffic, but other runners around me were frustrated. While I understand why the organizers moved the start from last year’s location, they might be better served to use corrals or to stagger the marathon and half marathon starts next year.

The race started, as did last year’s, with “Cleveland Rocks.” The buzzer went off, and we were off!

I decided, well before the race, that my only goal was to run under 12:00/mile, so I focused the first few miles, which pushed us out towards the West Side, on not overdoing my pace. I generally followed this, although mile two was a bit faster than I intended, since we were running in pretty familiar territory for me – near the park where a bunch of other races start. The following miles were pretty much a blur, since I was so focused on my pace. My legs were feeling okay, but not great, especially my knees. I was walking every aid station, but since they were about 1.5 miles apart, I felt okay about it. I took a gel at mile five, as planned, since I was right on pace at slightly under an hour. I vaguely remember some spectators in Lakewood, but the crowds didn’t pick up until we passed into Ohio City and Tremont, where we saw a bunch of great people holding signs and a high school band playing “Poker Face.” Afterward, we ran through a part of the city I’d never been in before, which was pretty torn up with potholes – not a fun time.

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I have some wicked tan lines here.

At about mile nine, after prematurely forcing another gel (the aid station people handed it to me and I didn’t want to carry it), my stomach started to protest. I suspect it was taking the gel too early and drinking too much Powerade, which I don’t normally drink during training runs, that caused it. I made a pit stop before the ten mile mark, where I took the opportunity to plug in my iPod, which I’m glad I saved for the last 3.1 miles. I had a rough spot right after ten miles where I suddenly couldn’t catch my breath and my legs were lead, as we were crossing the Lorain bridge, and I stopped to walk for a minute. I managed to pick it up again, but I had hit the wall, and miles 10 and 11 – which looped around by the Q and the Hard Rock Cafe- were a struggle. It was only after we broke from the marathoners, at about mile 12, when I got my legs and lungs back. The last bit was downhill (thank goodness), so getting into kicks at the very end felt really good, especially since when I calculated my chip time when the clock came into view, I knew that I’d definitely beat my PR and my race goal. I crossed the finish line at 2:41:56 and checked my Nike+, which told me that I’d beat my goal of 2:36:00 by at least a minute.

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After finishing, I grabbed my metal, a bottle of water, a banana, a popsicle, and chocolate milk and looked around for my family – who I couldn’t find. After a little bit of walking around in the rain (some people had heat sheets, but apparently they ran out pretty early on, which SUCKED, because I sure could have used one), I gave up and limped over to bag check and found a voicemail from my mom telling my that the traffic had been too bad due to road closures and our university commencement for them to make it down to the race. I called them and told them that I’d meet them at my apartment instead. After making it back home, showering and changing, my parents, my sister and I went to the graduate studies reception and commencement, where I saw one girl wearing her marathon metal. Since I didn’t do this, here’s a picture of my two prizes for the day: my half marathon metal and my master’s diploma.

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Would I do it again? Probably not. It was funny to have my professors and classmates come up to me and ask me how I was still on my feet at the end of the day and to have everyone marvel at how awake I was (I actually was completely dead on my feet, to be honest), but I was completely exhausted by the time my family left that evening.

The short version:
Previous PR: 2:42:24
Goal: 2:36:00
Clock Time: 2:41:56
Chip Time: 2:34:52 (New PR!)
Overall: 5903/6779
Women: 3330/4000
Division (25-29): 752/849

It’s not a super impressive PR, but considering the level of training I was at before the race, I’m very happy with it. My next race is the Warrior Dash Ohio on June 5, so I’ll be using the time between now and that race to focus on speed, since I’ll have to start back with distance training after that race for the fall races I’m thinking about.