Running over the winter had sounded so tedious and unsatisfying, but minus blizzard like conditions and weather that made my butt cheeks freeze I found it quite inspiring for the first time ever. I so looked forward to my run every day knowing it was a break from the pediatrics or obstetric critical thinking thinking skills I completely seemed to lack.
I debated signing up for Cleveland, knowing I could have a "rough spot" for training, but then after some enthusiatic positivism from my aunt and mom I forked over the money around spring break for 26.2 miles of fun on 5/16. It seemed a sub-3:30 was inevitable with my training runs, but then I got plantar fascitis in my left heel and tendonitis in the ball of my right foot, followed by a week long stomach flu. Then I aggravated my left hamstring (the same one I had hurt the year before -- idiot!!) a week later. It was all tweaked and I was a mess between finals, work and stressing about totally flubbing a marathon I had begun to regret I had signed up for.
Then I got a grip and the part of me that can't stand backing down and giving up went for a really slow 17 miler 2 weeks out from Cleveland and survived. It was at that point I decided come hell or high water I would start and finish Cleveland, no matter what. My mom kept hassling me about what time I would come through the half at and what my goal time was, but I had no clue. I figured on a really bad day with no injury I could finish under 4 hours, but on a super awesome day I could break 3:30. I know secretly my mom was thinking sub-3:40, but she didn't push me too hard, thankfully and I told her the plan was to just run under control for the first hour like I did on my training runs.
The day of the race I didn't feel the "fire" and the "fight" I normally do about a marathon. I just kept thinking "are you really this f*cking stupid to try and run a marathon today?" I did everything the same as I normally do before I run a marathon, but I couldn't get the "spark" to light the fire inside me that I knew I would need for a marathon. I switched into my racing singlet and gave my mom my backpack at the last minute. She gave me that look that said "you will do this, you will fight to the finish, I love you and you will kill yourself before you give up!" just before the start. I finally got a rush of emotions when I told her "I would see her soon." I always tell her that before I start every marathon. It's my way of telling her I wont give up and I know she is waiting for me. I swallowed and felt the lump in my throat and then the gun went off.
It took me over 3 minutes to get to the starting mat. I had originally lined up just in front of the 4 hour pacer, but when I started I think I actually ended up behind them -- drat! I knew 4:00 and 3:40 would probably the biggest two pace groups I would have to contend with and I didn't want to be stuck behind either in the beginning....oh well.
The race started really slow for me from the get-go. I wasn't too worried. I have had problems holding back in all my races as of late and I hoped the crowd would help keep me under control. My plan had been to run under control for an hour, get warmed up and go from there. I caught and dropped the 4 hour pace goup in the first mile. I should have known 9:16 would be way too slow, but as I pulled even with the 3:50 pace group up w. 3rd I stayed with them. I made no extra effort on the hill and just sat in cruise control. I never saw a mile marker until mile 6, but when I pulled up to the third water stop and assumed I was over 4 miles and had not dropped the 3:50 pace group I was a little concerned. I was running at the right effort, but was I really only dropping 8:45? Shortly after I heard a few people yell out at the pacers that they were dropping 8:20-somethings for the first 5 miles and that was way too fast. I breathed a sigh of relief. I had known something was wrong. The pacer said it was no big deal, but the group was definitely pissed off and after that point I immediately dropped them as they slowed significantly. After my first attempt at "racing" a marathon I had learned pacers are of no use to me. They are only there as time markers and people to chase down. I train alone. I train by effort. I trust myself. I know even if I don't negative split a race, I wont fall off the pace much.
Somehwere in Ohio City or Tremont I saw this amazing group of boys playing drums on garbage cans, which was unbelievably freakin' awesome. I passed through 6 miles somewhere around 50 minutes (when I finally saw my first mile marker). I think a year ago, I would have panicked not knowing every mile marker, but on this day I was so calm and relaxed. I knew I was running the correct effort. I could only hope the clock was saying something decent. I didn't smile or look around much, but if I noticed little kids with their hands out looking for high fives I made the effort to tag as many as I could. I knew I was running the best I could and that was all that mattered that day. It was way too hot for me and I was dying. From the get-go I wished I had not put my jersey on and I was taking water and gatorade at every aid station I passed. Thankfully, running up Lake was shaded and there were lots of people cheering throughout which was so uplifting.
The shoreway started off with what I felt were some fast miles and as I approached mile 10 I was stoked to see a cow, but to my surprise I saw Bert and Ernie shaking what they had in 'dem jeans. I knew it was some of my friends and it was good for a few miles of laughs, but the course did take an uphill turn and I definitely lost any time I had gained from the previous miles. I still felt pretty good and mosied my way back into the city.
**I was very content the first half running leisurely, but focused and as I went through the aid stations I made sure to take the time to get the fluid in over rushing through them and shoving it down. I also started pouring it all over me from the get-go too. I was fying like bacon!!**
I had taken in so much gatorade and water throughout the first half I don't think I took my first gel until somewhere around mile 8 or 9. I had trained to take them around the hour mark, but I hadn't ever shoved that much fluid down before so I waited for fear my stomach would go to shit on me early in the race.
The half marathoners split off to the right once back in the city and we headed back toward the Brown's stadium where I knew my mom would be impatiently standing with my dad watch in hand willing me to come through in less than 1:50. I finally saw them right before W. 6th and I ripped off my jersey threw it to my mom and yelled "I am about 3 minutes behind the clock" and then trotted away. I could tell my mom, was excited to see me because the 3:40 pace group was about a hundred feet in front of me. I tried to mentally prep myself for the hell that lay ahead. It would be a windy 3.5 miles up Marginal and then 4.5 miles of winding roads with 2 climbs and finally 5.2 miles of fire and heat to the finish.