MY FIRST MARATHON RACE RECAP!
The Rite Aid Cleveland Marathon, May 19th 2013
Day/Night Before: After a long day of carb-loading and last-minute preparations, I tried to go to bed Saturday night at about 8:30pm. I had laid out my outfit, charged all electronic devices and had my race bag packed and ready to go. Car pool plans were in place and Phil had even put the bike rack on the car so he could quickly load his bike in the morning. My nerves did not kick in until about 8:15pm, so going to bed soon after my heart started racing might have been a mistake. After much tossing and turning and several attempts at meditation, I finally gave in and took a Tylenol PM to help me sleep. I estimate that my brain finally gave in at about 11pm. Lessons learned: Take the Tylenol PM earlier next time. Nailed it: Hindsight tells me I ate well the day before. My stomach was fine the entire time and I had energy to spare. Carb loading success!
Pre-race morning: My alarm went off at 3:55am. I hit the coffee first, then toast with peanut butter and jelly and water. I knew the temperatures were going to climb, so I drank more than I normally do before a race. I dressed, applied some anti-chafing powder, sunscreen and chapstick. I double checked my bag and was in the car waiting for my brother-in-law to arrive at 5:10am. We traveled about 10 minutes to pick up my friend Josh and were on the road to Cleveland by 5:30am. Lessons learned: Should have applied full body sunscreen. I’m not sure my wicked farmer’s tan could have been avoided, but I think a little sunscreen on my arms and legs could have helped. Nailed it: Timing. I had just the right amount of time to get ready, leaving me with little time to obsess over the details.
Arrival: We arrived downtown just before 6am and were thrilled to take advantage of VIP parking on West 3rd Street (Thank you Rite Aid for this amazing treat!). We parked, gathered our supplies and headed to the stadium. There were zero restroom lines at this time, another advantage of arriving early. We also enjoyed the scenery at Brown’s stadium, snapping photos while Josh checked his bag. I had planned to meet Christian, another Rite Aid Marathon Blogger, at 6:30am in Charity Village. We moved through the crowd, located Christian and headed down to the starting corral. Lessons learned: None. Nailed it: Everything! I’m proud of my pre-race planning. Early arrival eased my nerves and gave me prime bathroom availability.
First Half: My goal time for this race was 5:00, but early on I had been willing to adjust plans if the heat was at all similar to 2012. I wore a pace bracelet from the 5:10 group, hoping to follow the times throughout the race, perhaps even running slightly ahead of them. Christian, who generously offered to pace me for the entire race, suggested that we attempt to hit the first half slightly faster since temperatures would be lower during this time. Now, it’s important to note that Christian, who raises money for Autism research, was dressed as Richard Simmons, complete with afro-style wig. Taking advice from a man in tiny red and white striped shorts is new for me, but I decided to follow his lead. The first mile was sluggish and congested, but we made up for it during miles 2-11. We avoided running hard through any hills, walked through water stops and hit downtown well ahead of the 5:10 pace. We started to feel the heat rising and began to discuss our plan for the second half. Lesson learned: Wear a pace bracelet for future races. Nobody has time for mental math in the middle of a marathon. Second lesson learned: Ask for help. Chris was invaluable during this race. If I had run it alone, I’m not sure how I would have done. The running community will support your goals, just ask. Nailed it: A steady, enjoyable pace through the first half of this race. I’m proud of our strategy. Also, the sign I put on my back led to some good encouragement along the way!
Second half: As we hit the second half of the race, Christian and I both agreed that we would need a restroom stop. We stopped near the 13 mile marker and found port-a-pottys with no lines. We also got our first spray from a hose at this point, a welcome relief from the heat. At this point of the race, I was still only drinking water, taking in Gu and salt tablets. My stomach was holding up and I was feeling warm, but healthy. Chris warned that the miles ahead would be the worst, and he was spot on. Miles 15-18 of this race were horrendous. We were in full sun, on cement with no shade. Red flags went up on the course, indicating high heat risk. We started to see people passing out along the course, an alarming sight at any time, let alone in the middle of a race. This 3 mile leg included short bursts of running, followed by walking. We tried to keep a 4:1 ratio of run/walking, but were not always successful. I started to drink Powerade at the water stops, willing to exchange a possible upset stomach for staying on my feet. I began to look forward to the shade of Martin Luther King Dr. like one would hope for an oasis in a desert.
My relief kicked in near mile 19 when my husband came in to view. He had ridden his bike from the starting line to be at this difficult point of the course and I was thrilled to see him. I hugged him, handed him my iPod (rendered useless by the sweat in my ears and the constant spraying from hoses) and chatted with him about how I was feeling. The shade on MLK was a welcome relief and I started to feel better. I had made arrangements for my family to be stationed at the turn from MLK on to the Marginal. I looked forward to seeing them and knew that if I could just get there, I would be home free. They had great signs, loud voices and I kissed everyone I could. These are some of my favorite photos from the race. As we passed them, my first race sobs escaped, and I’m grateful for Chris’ kindness and empathy during those few minutes.
Miles 22-25 of this course were again in full sun, on pavement, with no chance for shade. At this point, I took in Powerade and water at every stop and welcomed being hosed down with cold water.
Phil continued to ride his bike, but also checked in on my brother-in-law who was just ahead. As we neared the 24 mile water stop, I spotted Jon’s blue shirt ahead and was elated to see another familiar face. I worried about how he was faring and Phil rode ahead to tell him we were close by. We caught up and faced the final miles together. I wanted this race finished and my legs were strong through the final miles. As we headed down the final stretch, the announcer yelled out the words on my shirt (GO RUN) and connected my bib number to my name. He shouted “You are a marathoner! You nailed it kid!” Lesson learned: Getting your feet wet will lead to blisters. One well-intentioned hose operator sprayed my shoes and I ran with wet feet for the last 4 miles. Two huge blisters is the most I have to complain about. Nailed it: Hydration and pace. We ran the second half of this course slowly, but we stayed on our feet and didn’t require medical attention during the race or after. I consider that a victory given the heat. Hydration was key and I’m happy with the fluids/Gu/salt tab combination that I took in. While I may not have nailed my time, I’m proud of the finish. Marathon #1 done!