May 25, 2011

2011 Cleveland Marathon - 2:54:42

I arrived at the start line with about 5 minutes to spare and had a chance to mingle with a few other runners. The court announcer from the Cavaliers was there to pump up the crowd and give the official start. It was a smooth start… no jockeying for position, etc. I kept my eye on a group I knew would be running 6:15-6:18 for the first mile and distanced myself far enough back hoping to lock into my target pace. Mile 1 was up W. 3rd and onto the shoreway (heading towards Edgewater / Lakewood). I felt a little winded early and wondered if I had gone out too fast, but in hindsight I think it was a combination of the early climb and my body adjusting to the brisk pace after standing around all morning. I also started to feel a little warm in the early miles and considered shedding my arm warmers, but decided against it because I knew the temp was going to drop slightly and the rain would continue. My mile splits stayed pretty consistent through the first half with the slowest mile being a 6:46 mile 11 (over the bridge against a headwind). Figured I was around 2:51 pace at the half, which is pretty much right where I wanted to be. I knew I was not likely to run the second half as strong as the first but I set myself up for a very realistic chance at running 2:55, and was almost certain to break 3:00.

The second half of the course brought with it two new challenges… isolation and unfamiliarity. Isolation is by far the greatest challenge but knowing my family was waiting for me at mile 17 made the first four miles bearable. At that point, the course became a little more familiar (very familiar actually) as we descended north on MLK towards the lake, but this is the most isolated part of the course by far. A couple strong runners passed as if I was standing still and I watched them slowly but steadily increase their lead, leaving me to wonder whether I was slowing or they were surging. My splits for mile 18 and 19 were 6:42 and 6:38, respectively (dead on pace), which made me feel better. By the time I hit the lake, I was starting to feel it in my legs… nothing was cramping but that all too familiar feeling of pain and discomfort was present and it’s at this point when my natural response is to do whatever is necessary to ease the pain, which in most cases means slowing down. This is also the point I train months for (both mentally and physically) so I tapped into my favorite mantra “You earned this pain” and my thoughts and inner dialogue were with a dear friend who passed earlier this year. Mile 22 was slow (7:32) but I knew it was due in large part to the hairpin turn coming off of marginal and the climb up E.55th towards St. Clair. Also because I walked through a water stop for water and a gel. Fortunately, I was encouraged by a runner just as I was starting back up after water, which really helped get me back on track. Unfortunately, he was moving too fast for me to go with him, but it was just the right amount of motivation to keep me from fading. At this point in the race, motivation in any form is welcome and I received it once again somewhere between 22 and 23 when another runner was on my heels and passing. This time, I urged myself to go with him. Looking back, this was the most critical moment of my race. Had I let him go, I would have watched another dozen or so other runners go by, having no energy or confidence to go with them. We silently urged each other on until just before mile 24, when he suddenly stopped to stretch. I had no idea he was hurting because he just looked so damn strong to me. I was running alone once again but was less than 15 minutes from being done and starting to surge knowing sub-3 was a lock and 2:55 was still on the table. Miles 25 and 26 were 6:59 and 6:56, respectively.

Earlier in the morning as I headed down E. 9th towards Brown’s Stadium, I saw mile marker 26 and it was practically falling over backwards given its position on the steep descent towards the lake. Pretty much right at mile marker 26, I spotted Teresa and the boys off to the left. I remember yelling, “I’m doing good!” and “I think I’ll be around 2:55!” The homestretch was incredible as always and I crossed the finish line in 2:54:42! I really wish I could be a spectator at my own race because it would be interesting to see how I look on the outside knowing how amazing I feel on the inside. My guess is that I probably look like a pile of garbage! My finish time is a new personal best and was accomplished on about 8 weeks of training with next-to-no running in the second half of 2010. During my training, I think the following things worked in my favor:

  1. Perfect mix of training runs (i.e. tempo, speed, LSD, etc)
  2. Quality over quantity... 35-40 miles/week except for the last week before taper (70 miles)
  3. Did not over-train (i.e. peaked at just the right time)
  4. Lots of core work (P90X - Ab Ripper X)
  5. In bed by 10PM most nights
  6. Took a full year off between marathons (plenty of time to put running/marathoning into perspective)
  7. Support of my family! This is a constant, but I'm eternally grateful for their love.