Monday, May 21, 2007

Hip Hip Hooray: A Tale of Many Races!

So, yesterday was fantastic! I woke up at 5:00 and had some toast and coffee. The race started at 7:00, so mrp and I were out the door at 5:45. I was a nervous wreck. I got stressed out at work on Thursday, then Friday was the excitement of my birthday and by Sunday I was still amped up. I was slightly flustered that we couldn’t find a parking space where we wanted to park, but then we found a better spot with a porta-potty right across the street!! The porta-potty was admittedly gross, but a very small line. And hey, all porta-potties are gross!

I did a short warm-up with mrp and then lined up. I made the mistake of joining the starting area near the back. “Pardon me.” “Excuse me.” “Sorry.” “Oops.” “Thank you.” After about two minutes of this I saw the 4:30 pacer and realized I better get a little more aggressive! So I made my way to the side and hustled my way to the front where I found my friend *P* It was nice to see a familiar face and it helped me de-jitter before the start and to have someone else working toward the same goal.

Before I knew it we were off. I had strict orders not to take it out too hard. I wanted to take it out hard but comfortably. I had the idea this would put me in the 6:50-7:00 range for the first couple of miles. I was right around 6:50 give or take a second for both. The course is somewhat difficult. These first few miles roll a bit as we meander from downtown Cleveland down to an entrance to a free way and the up the onramp and over a bridge. Mile 3 was a bit slow and two women passed me. (One went on to run a 1:27 half and the other came in second place for the full marathon). My 3-mile elapsed time was about 20:35 (just about right on the 6:52 pace I needed to eek in under 1:30). I picked it up for mile 4 and my split says 6:22 (it had to be short or I screwed up the split—it might have been fast, but not that fast!) At mile 4 *P* caught up and I was happy to see her! But then we passed a water stop and I stopped and she didn’t or she stopped and I didn’t and I didn’t see her until the finish. Every time someone crept up on my shoulder I thought it was her. At about 4.5 miles I heard someone right next to me I turned my head and it was mrp!

I was wondering if I had missed him cheering at the side of the course because I hadn’t seen him. What a nice surprise! And perfect timing. I was getting hot with my hat on, so I gave it to him. He sweetly accepted and saved my hat for me! It’s funny. I never said one word to him and he only talked to me once the entire time. We’ll get to that. He quietly ran next to me letting me dictate the pace. He didn’t do any work for me, but he kept me company, which meant so much!!

Anyway, I missed the 5-mile split, but at 6 I recorded 40:52 and at 10k I was 42:19 which is a 6:49 pace (that’s my official 10k split). Doing perfect so far! Mile 7 was 6:49. At the 7-mile mark we got back on the freeway after a short jaunt through a neighborhood. I decided ahead of time to take a gu at mile 7. So, I took the gu. Unfortunately, I took the gu right after the mile 7 mile marker and there’s no water station in sight. It must be just over the hill I thought. Made it over the hill. No water station in sight. Ok, it must be around the corner at mile 8. We get to mile 8 in 6:43. No water. Hmmm. I was burpy and feeling maybe a faint hint of a stitch but I had faith it would all be all right. I let it go, knowing water would have to come soon. Mile 9 is almost entirely up a gradual incline. I now know why I felt so crappy at this point in the race last year! Finally we turned a corner and I could see the water station up ahead—literally up. I had to keep climbing to get there but my need for water actually helped take my mind of the hillage. I thankfully grabbed a cup and kept on my way, happy the crisis was averted. My 9 mile split was 7:00 . I made up my mind that I would not sweat slow splits, especially for things like hills and what not. I just plugged along.

During the 10th mile, mrp spoke! He said “you’re doing really well. You’re breathing is good and your feet are light.” I was feeling good too! There was that faint stitch and it worried me because I got a stitch just after the 10 mile marker last year. But I felt so much better than last year and I was running a really even and smart race. I pushed it out of my mind and forgot about it. I focused on my light feet and the fact that at this point I KNEW I was breaking 1:30. I just knew it. I felt too good for things to go bad. Anyway, mile 10 was still slow. I had to recover from the hilly 9th mile and there are some tight turns in mile 10. That was fine with me. My mile 10 split was 6:57. My elapsed time at 10 miles, 1:08:25 was right on pace for sub-30 (but cutting it close!)

Mile 11 starts with an uphill as we go over a mile-long bridge. Mile 11 was back on pace at 6:49. I had the idea all along that once over the hill it’s time to pick it up. After the bridge goes up, there is a long gradual downhill for about ½ a mile. I took advantage of it. I didn’t feel like I picked it up this much, but mile 12 went by in 6:35. After mile 12 we split off from the full marathoners. I made the left hand turn. Suddenly there was nobody. Just me and mrp and then two other women in front of me. One was about a block and a half ahead and one seemed possibly in striking distance but still pretty far ahead of me. I focused on her. For a few seconds it seemed like I was gaining on her. And then it seemed like I wasn’t. This stretch seemed to go on forever. Towards the end I knew I could overtake her. We had to finally make the left turn to the finish. As I turned I knew I had her. I also saw the finish. I just dug deep, ignored my now throbbing calf, and just booked it past her. As I passed she let out a breathy “Good job!” I might have said “you too” but I might have just thought it. Anyway, the finish seemed so far still. I couldn’t quite make out the clock. In my mind I was close to my goal. I needed to pick it up to make sure I made it. I felt so crappy at this point but I pushed and pushed. Finally I could see the clock and I couldn’t believe it. I think from the moment I saw it to the time I finally crossed the matt it took that long for it to dawn on me that not only did I break 1:30 I broke 1:29 and came in with a 1:28:38! YEAH!

I high-fived mrp. I was so elated. What a great race. I stayed on pace and then cranked the last couple of miles. I ended up averaging 6:45 pace, running the last 5k in about 20:16 if my splits are accurate! (My 5k PR is only 30 seconds faster!) Not only that, but I ran 10 minutes and 10 seconds faster than last year and moved up 20 places--from 27th to 7th!

Then I remembered *P*. I turned around and waited just a few seconds before she flew through the finish with a big PR. She just missed her sub-1:30 goal by mere seconds, but she’s an absolutely incredible runner, improving tremendous amounts in such a short time. She will get it very very soon!

After we made it through the finish and said goodbye to *P*, mrp and I decided to head out to watch the marathon finish. My calf hurt pretty bad so I figured a cooldown run might be counterproductive so we decided to walk the course backwards until we started seeing finishers. We made it to a spot where we could see the mile 24 marker and just before the mile 25 marker. We watched the leaders storm up the final hill and then come around to 1.5 miles before the finish. We were an island of cheerleaders. There was nobody out there for them, save for mrp, me and another lady waiting for her friends. Most runners appreciated our attention—some were probably just wanted us to shut the hell up and let them finish in peace. Heh.

Anyway, after the 3:10’ers we decided to continue down the course to see if we saw anyone else we knew running. At about 23.5 I saw daisyduc looking good and well on her way to her eventual BQ. In another minute or so we saw our friend *F*, the friend we went to Boston with. He was running in a guy we work with, *K*. Poor *K* was cramping very badly. He was on pace for a 3:30 until 22 and just tied up (this is the icky kind of thing that happens when you run a marathon before your legs are ready!) Mrp and I decided to join in and help him finish. *K* could only run about 30 seconds at a time because of the cramping, but could limp along walking ok. When he ran, we ran. When he walked, we walked. We did this until the last half mile. At that point the marathon course turns to the finish. We tried to get *K* to put the pain aside and just run it out. He tried. He just couldn’t. We got to ¼ mile to go. He winced and limped and hobbled and shuffled. He made it to the finish running with a time of 3:55. Not a terrible finish time at all, but I know those last 4.2 miles were sheer hell for him. Just after he finished I spotted my friend *S*. I was very happy to see her. I knew she was running the full and I missed her while she was running! Luckily she forgave me. She was kind of bummed. She "only" ran a 3:17! Like me, she was out for a sub-3:10. She went out in 1:34 but just couldn't hang on. She too will reach her goal very soon! She's also amazing--she's a semi-pro soccer player who just started running last August!!

After all that it was time to go find something to eat and go home and take a nap! We had enough excitement for the day (although still not as much as some of the 10k runners!)


Jim said...

An amazing story to go with an amazing race. So jealous.

Joe said...

What an amazing time! Way to go, Salty!

Ginger Breadman said...

Awesome job! And great race report - I was on the edge of my seat reading it, waiting to find out how you had finished.

Quinto Sol said...

You rock!!! Niiiice! If, and only if, I ever run a race with you in it, I'll try to stay with you ... at least for half of the race :o)

Quinto Sol said...

Ah, you modest you! Congrats on the 1st place AG... and 7th woman is PRETTY darn good TOO.

Papa Louie said...

Congratulations on running a great half marathon race! Good strategy on running that course. Although thsy do need more aid stations out there.