Here it is, folks! My 2015 Rite Aid Cleveland Marathon recap. This is actual a two-part post. As I was telling my story I realized it got pretty lengthy. I mean, it was 26.2 miles after all, so of course it was going to be longer than my normal posts. This is the first half of the race — a half marathon, if you will. Well, that’s not entirely true. You’ll get to mile 16, and then you’ll have to come back on Friday to read the gripping finale.
So, got your coffee? Here we go!
I definitely feel like I ran a marathon. I just can’t believe it actually happened.
It all started last week…
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I was a bundle of nerves for essentially the entire week leading up to the race. As you know, I was am battling an ITB issue that I acquired during the first two weeks of my taper. I was diligently rolling, stretching, and strengthening. I went to two appointments at the chiropractor where my doc used ART and Graston on me. ART stands for “Active Release Therapy,” and the doc basically shoves his fingers into your muscle/tendon and makes you move said muscle/tendon. It both hurts and feels really good. Hurts during, feels good when it’s done. Graston is a brutal technique meant to “injure” an area near the problem area, which is supposed to trigger an immune response to help heal the problem area. It’s pretty painful. The first time he did it I was bruised pretty badly. The second time was less brutal. I don’t know if it works or not. I also did all the exercises and stretches prescribed. I was quite concerned about my knee but I was doing all I could do mitigate any further injury.
My kids were also both sick for the entire week leading up to the race. Fevers, runny noses — the whole nine yards. And my daughter is notorious for being an awful sleeper while she’s sick — usually up 3-4 times per night for 2-3 days in a row. I was loading up on vitamin C and echinacea like it was my job.
Between the ITB issue, lack of sleep due to kid-illness, and paranoia about getting sick myself, pre-race week was kind of a disaster. I tried to stay positive, but boy was it hard!
On Friday evening I met up with Julie and Noemi for some pre-race carb-loading at one of our favorite local restaurants, Pizzazz. The pizza is phenomenal, the pasta is great, but the salad dressing is to die for. If you’re local to CLE or ever visiting the Cleveland area, make sure to hit up Pizzazz. You won’t regret it.
Saturday was spent making preparations for the race. Julie and I hit up the expo to pick up our bibs and shirts, and we got to hang out together, get taped a couple times (more on that in a second) and let the pre-race buzz excitement run through our veins. Plus, we bought some stuff. First time I’ve ever done that! But the expo was so fun, and despite losing my garage ticket and having to pay $16 for parking (!!!!!!), it was a super fun morning.
A note on taping: if you’re going to get taped for free at an expo, #1: don’t expect a lot from said tapers. #2: be very specific about the injury you need tape for, and #3: if the tape ends up sucking, take it off. I hit up the RockTape booth where I was taped for a different knee injury than I had. I then went to the KT Tape booth where I was taped correctly, but the tape started curling. As such, I taped myself on race morning.
On Saturday afternoon, I got all my fuel together, chose my race attire, and put all my gear in one place. I also packed a bag full of “extras” in case I needed to change shoes, socks, or needed more food on the course. After a pretty laid back day and evening, I set my alarm clock for 4:00 am. I went to bed on edge, but I slept pretty well considering… Race morning was coming!
I woke up nice and early on race morning. 3:51 am to be exact. I got out of bed surprisingly refreshed, and made my way downstairs to begin my pre-race ritual: drink a big glass of water, a sip of coffee, eat a piece of toast with jelly, and then tape my knee and pin my bib to my shirt. And hopefully a trip or two to the potty… Clutch if you’re a runner…
Everything was working in my favor on race morning. I wasn’t stressed except for whether to wear a tank or a tee. I ultimately chose a tee despite having the tank on earlier. But it was supposed to be overcast and rainy, which meant I would be chilly. I should have listened to my gut and stuck with the tank. This decision would come back to bite me in the a$$ later.
Julie and her awesome boyfriend came to pick me up at 5:20 am. When we arrived downtown and split from her boyfriend, Julie and I made our way over to the starting line. We made a quick stop at The 9 (yep, the swanky hotel) for a pee stop. Flushing toilets, running water, and a clean bathroom are far superior to the rows of porta-potties at races. After a quick bathroom selfie, we continued on our way.
|Let’s do this!|
|Swanky hotel bathroom selfie!|
Despite having just used the facilities at The 9, we decided to hit up the porta-potties anyway. Just in case — you never know! After the second potty stop, we met up with some friends at Progressive Field for a pre-race photo opp. It was really fun meeting one of my “friends” from Instagram, and we met up with one of our training partners, Eric. Then we made our way over to the corrals for more meetups and photo opps. We connected up with Noemi, Sara, and one of Sara’s friends.
|Me, Heather, Eric, and Julie|
|Noemi, Eric, Julie, me, and Sara|
By this time, I wasn’t very nervous anymore and I certainly wasn’t thinking about my knee. It started to rain, and there was nothing to do but stand there and take it. So we did. Thankfully it didn’t rain for too long but it was the big fat, heavy drops which made for some chilly moments standing around. At this point I was happy I wasn’t in a tank. We bid Julie farewell as she made her way up to the faster corrals, and then we got ready to start.
All of a sudden the crowd started moving forward. This was it. Was I ready? Didn’t matter. It was happening.
I quickly lost Noemi and Sara. I was running with one of Sara’s friends. It was her 42nd birthday and she was running the half. Here I was, separated from my friends and running at a faster pace than I was planning. I was a little worried, but less worried about the pace and more worried about running solo when we split at the half. I decided to pull off to the side to wait for Noemi and Sara. Thankfully they weren’t too far behind me.
The first mile or two is kind of a blur. I was recognized quite a bit due to Instagram and likely my race apparel. I “met” another IG friend who cheered me on. It was fun!
At mile 3 disaster struck. My ITB began to rear its ugly head. I didn’t know what to do. So many questions and so many what ifs and so many scenarios began playing out in my head. Should I stop and stretch? Should I walk? Should I keep going? Should I split off at the half? Should I take a *gasp* DNF?
Fortunately I had two things working in my favor. I had Advil, and I had Noemi. Noemi had been battling runner’s knee for a couple weeks. While I don’t ever wish injury upon anyone, I was somewhat comforted knowing that she wouldn’t mind stopping to stretch with me every few miles (or minutes). I took one Advil, she took one, and we kept on going. I kept getting separated from Noemi and Sara, though, and it caused a spike in anxiety. It was a bad combination. I turned on some tunes but still had a down moment where I had to make a phone call to my husband for support. I was almost in tears, on the phone via headphones, and this awesome runner came to see if I was okay. I recognized her but didn’t really recognize her. I thought it was someone that looked like someone I knew, but at the time I wasn’t really sure and wasn’t completely with it anyway.
But between the random runner who I thought I knew, and my husband’s pep talk, I got my sh!t together and finally decided this was my race, and if I had to run in pain and/or solo, so be it. I kept going. I caught up to Noemi and Sara and asked Sara for another Advil. I had to get through this.
|My leg was already bothering me, but I was in great spirits!|
At some point Noemi and I had gotten further ahead than Sara. We both had to pee and hadn’t seen a potty stop in a while. As we approached a Burger King, we debated whether to stop or not. Earlier in the race we watched two ladies go into a different Burger King to pee, so we decided “why not?” Again, running water and flushing toilets for the win.
The next several miles went on with some pain but nothing I couldn’t conquer. I just kept going. Noemi and I had a nice chat and talked about our previous week and upcoming family adventures. When we got to mile 9, I sent a text to my husband to let him know where we were so he could plan to meet us at mile 15. The half marathoners split off. We kept going.
It sprinkled off and on, which was both great and worrisome. For the most part it was welcome because it was a bit stuffy outside, but I was worried it was going to dump buckets on us.
My stomach was in a bit of upheaval through the middle miles. It was around mile 9 I think that I had some ProBar chews and they just did not sit well. I’m pretty certain it was a combination of the pre-race anxiety and the sugary fuels on the road. I ignored it.
Starting at mile 12 I started getting excited. I knew we were going to have road support at this point. Julie’s boyfriend was going to be at mile 13, our friend and training partner, David, was going to be at mile 14, and my husband was going to be at mile 15.
Just before mile 13, we saw Sara off to the side saying hello to her family. When we came up to mile 13 and saw Julie’s boyfriend, it was super fun. We caught some high-5s, and then kept running to meet up with David. Sara fell back in with us and we continued on together. At one point, Noemi mentioned she felt some chafing pain. We hadn’t seen a First Aid tent yet, which was somewhat surprising since we were pretty heavy into the miles at this point, but I knew I had packed some Body Glide in my “extras” bag.
As we approached mile 14, I saw David in the distance. It was so awesome to see him. He supplied us with pbj sandwiches, waters, and popsicles. The pbj was a very welcome addition to my fuels which weren’t sitting so well with me at all. After the mile 14 stop, it was off to mile 15 to see my husband.
|Mile 14 selfie!|
At this point I was getting pumped. I was running strong and despite a little discomfort, I was feeling pretty good. We came up to mile 15 and saw my husband. I had decided somewhere between mile 13 and 15 that I had to ditch my hydration belt. My stomach was already a mess, and it was kind of pushing into my bowels. Plus the water stops were ample, so as long as I could carry enough fuel to get me from mile 15-20, I would be okay. I took my pretzels and a gel with me, and left the belt. I was already relieved. Noemi and Sara borrowed my Body Glide. Noemi’s leg looked atrocious. I’ve chafed before and I know how it feels, so my heart went out to her. I don’t know how she had kept going for so long without being in complete agony.
Around mile 15, just as we were leaving my husband, it started getting really hot, and really steamy. The roads were soaked. It looked like it had just poured where we were, but we were stuck with the heat and humidity. The conditions were brutal.
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This seems like a good stopping point. Things are about to get real here, guys. You’ll definitely want to come back for the rest.
See you tomorrow!
(Click here for part II of my Cleveland Marathon Recap!)