Monday, May 19, 2008

Five Things I Learned at the Cleveland Half Marathon

1. Running in the rain isn’t half bad.
Weeks before any event, I track the weather day-by-day to see how my race day will fair. Even 2-3 weeks out, May 18 wasn’t looking good. And as a non-rain runner, I was making too much of the weather. I always do.

Cleveland Marathon takes off on a damp morning last year... this year, the rain was a little more active at take-off!I woke up on Sunday morning, pained to hear lots of drops slapping the windowsill. To my surprise, though, I just got up, put on a baseball cap and rainy-running jacket, and piled into the car with my mom, who dropped me off at the starting line (thanks, mom!).

One of the biggest benefits of training in the blogosphere: getting to know plenty of non-wimps. Afraid of a little rain? Try Salty’s Nor’easter battle at Boston or a couple of E-Speed’s and Monica’s blustery races this winter. Plus, after running in the rain and traily mud with JenC & co. a few weeks ago, I actually thought this might be fun.

And it was.

I made it to the starting corral about 15 minutes before the start and waded through the crowd on an unsuccessful attempt at finding Landon (he ran a stellar full marathon) near the 4:00:00 pacer. By the time I made it to the front of the corral, the pacers had just put up their signs, and people really closed in behind me. So, I stayed put.

Because I ended up next to the 3:10:00 pacer for the start, I blew across the start after the gun and got out of the way. I had anticipated a blast of runners blowing by me, but the whole route seemed wide enough to accommodate the crowd and I didn’t feel slowed or cramped (or that I was slowing or cramping anyone else) the whole 13.1. Nice job, Cleveland!

The coolest part was that I could see the front of the pack for most of the first mile. Granted, it was a straightaway. For a middle-of-the-pack runner, however, that’s pretty cool.

And by the time I crossed the mile-1 marker at 8:17, I was pretty soaked and pretty OK with it.

2. It is possible to run into people you know mid-race.
After my last couple races, my friend Melissa (who’s about to have a baby in 1.5 hours!) reminded me not to over-think my runs and not to psych myself out mid-race whether I’m running too fast or too slow. So, I didn’t.

In fact, after I crossed the mile-2 marker at 16:56 (8:39 split) I stopped focusing on my pace and just ran. I’d check my time at each marker to make sure I was keeping my general desired pace, but I didn’t calculate my times or focus on how long each mile took.

I just ran, ran and absorbed the scenery of Cleveland’s inner East side, lakefront houses on the near West and about 30 guy runners lined up and peeing into the trees of OH-2 between miles 4-5. Ahh, where nature meets the city.

Often on the route, however, I’d get these jolts of energy. And it wasn’t the breaks in the rain, the GU or the prospect of first desserts (OK, maybe a little of the dessert); it was the awesome people roadside cheering us on.

I felt like a bleeping rock star under the West 3rd bridge (which is where, JenC indicates, E-Speed was leading the race’s best cheers!), down Lake Avenue and throughout downtown. Wow-ee. Plus, it was totally rad running into people like Greg on the OH-2 bridge and Kathy on Lake Avenue. What are the chances?

I wish I could have seen the scores of other people, including TriGuyJT, Charlie and JenC running the half, Monica volunteering at Mile 17, Salty and her mom rooting us on (and anyone else I'm forgetting), but I'm glad everyone braved the rain and joined the party!

Boston has Wellesley. Cleveland has John Carroll.3. Wearing a local college T-shirt, however, is also a good way to get cheers.
Not much thought went into throwing on my John Carroll T-shirt on Sunday morning. One T-shirt that doesn’t chafe is just as good as the next, right? Well, the crowds went wild.

At least 10-12 times between Lakewood (when I took off my jacket) and the finish, I had individuals or entire crowds cheering for John Carroll. I’d hear “Yeah, JCU!” and “Go John Carroll!” and “JCU! Woo hoo!”

The best cheer, however, came from a St. Ignatius crowd (the high school and college are closely associated) that yelled out “Hey! JCU!” and cheered loudly while performing an impromptu wave. I have to say my feeling-special-o-meter was off the charts there. It may not have been the Wellesley girls, but I’ll take this Cleveland version!

4. GU is easier to open than Hammer Gel.
I wasn’t too keen on the Hammer Gel version of gooey energy gunk. At least not the container. I hereby declare myself a GU girl.

Hammer gel has a cute design that wasn't so cute around mile 9.Around mile 5, I walked through a water stop (actually, I walked through all water stops—some faster than others) to take down a chocolate GU and power through the next couple miles. Smooth as can be! But when I hit the Hammer Gel station closer to mile 9, it wasn’t so pretty.

Don’t get me wrong: the gel was plentiful, the volunteers rocked and I had my water ready to go. I just couldn’t get the stupid package open! My first try tore the gel right above the tear line and subsequent attempts got me closer, but got me no gel! I went for the second pouch and did the same thing. Grrr!

So, I just stopped running, walked and focused on the Hammer Gel. By the time I finally got the thing open, took it down and started running again, I had probably wasted—beginning to end—at least two minutes. At least I know, for next time, that I can shave off a couple minute by not letting the extra hammer-detailed tab on Hammer Gel defeat me!

5. An easy half marathon makes a nice distraction.
Except for the weather-worrying and a few moments of “have I trained enough?” despair, I didn’t spend much time thinking about the race. Between big work projects and the move, I didn’t have much brain left to focus on the race. And it actually turned out to be a good thing.

My race summaryNot only did I avoid wasting energy being nervous about the race, I ran a totally laid-back half marathon, managed a PR at 1:53:27 (I hit the 10K at 53:55) and earned myself some major dessert-love in the process (still waiting on photos from my mom)!

Neil, my mom and Philip met me at the finish, equipped with smiles, a Boston Cream pie and spoon. Now that's love if I've ever seen it.

I walked away from the finish line still feeling pretty energetic, plenty proud and honestly thinking, “that’s it?” Who would have thought I’d come such a long way? I still remember when I finished my first full mile. Last year.

So, what’s a girl to do?

Full marathon.


TrainingtoTri said...

Congrats Gina. You did awesome!!! You will rock a fall marathon. I am now thinking towpath instead of akron for me so I have more time to train after my HIM. It's soft, fast and flat if you want to join me :)

I am a hammer girl b.c they seem to be easier on my tummy, but I wholeheartedly agree the packaging is stupid. It's hard to open and too big.

JenC said...

Woo hoo! Good times! Congrats on a well-run race chica!

You know, I've never had trouble with the hammer gel, but of course, during races, I usually use my teeth to open it.

CJ said...

Nice job! Too funny about the JCU t-shirt.

triguyjt said...

Fantastic race!!!! You rocked!!.
Sorry we did not bumped into you after the race, or during for that matter but it was a big throng.
I'm with you..the rain was no biggy..and yes, E-Speed was great cheering us on. After racing, I even tried to drive to MLK and see Monica and Tracie but traffic was not allowing it.
I want to state , on the record, I was not one of those guys on the Shoreway..ahhh...well...ahh..adding to the moisture content.. kinda of. I was a good boy.
Loved the course. Its already on my 09 calendar.
In honor of your Boston Cream Pie, you should head to Boston next spring...take in the spectacle of the Race..enter Cleveland Rita Aid Marathon and enjoy a Pierogi Pie afterward... just thinking..
Again, way to knock it out of the park??

Anonymous said...

Really nice run Gina, I enjoyed your report, and the Hammer Fight you had.

I was not too far behind you at the 10k mark, and half, and then punished myself through another painful half!!

Great Race and Great Time!!

tracie said...

awesome job g!!! congrats on a well run race! :)

Tracy said...

Woot Woot! Maybe I will join you next year... Thanks for the info on the goo, I am not a fan and really need to try to find something to put in my system while running. Any suggestions?

Sarah said...

Nice job speedy! Wowza! You can definitely kill a marathon!!

Papa Louie said...

Congratulations Gina on a race well run. Sounds like you had lots of fun and learned a few things along the way. Good for you.
I can't remember the ingredients in GU but after reseaching all the known gels I've narrowed it down to Hammer. They use good stuff and it works for me.
Good luck with marathon training.

Dana said...

You ran a great,smart race & now you have NO excuse not to run in the rain anymore!

E-Speed said...

Great job out there! Congrats on the PR!