Monday, March 3, 2008

Week 7 - Mill Creek Park Half Marathon!

Week 7 started out slowly and once again I was battling the weather. Monday after work I got in a 4 mile run in some frigid conditions. It was snowing, blowing, and really quite miserable.

Tuesday brought freezing rain and snow and we cancelled swim practice. I took the opportunity to get in a short run in some bad weather. I ran for about 30 minutes but did not enjoy even one minute of it. I am now at the point that I am getting frustrated putting on all the clothes, walking down an icy driveway to run in really crappy conditions. I keep telling myself it is going to get better, but with the snowiest February on record, this has been a challenging year to train for a spring marathon.

On Friday it seemed warmer so I went out for a run right after I got home from work. It was raining a little but it did not seem so bad. It was probably about 34 degrees so it actually felt like a heat wave. I ran around McDonald and decided to run roads I don’t normally run to break up the monotony. As I was heading down Iowa Avenue, I ran into one of my friends Ed Robinson who was out running also. He was just finishing up so I walked with him for a few minutes as he cooled down. It started raining harder so I told him I better get on. I ran for about another 25 minutes or so and as I was walking to cool down a little, Chris Rizer, a runner from the McDonald cross country team, came up behind me and walked with me a bit as I stretched out. It was nice to see some of my friends out running in the rain with me.

Saturday brought an all day swim meet at the Canton Natatorium. The Youngstown Y-Neptunes swam well and I was proud of all of them. Needless to say, leaving at 6:30 a.m. and getting home close to 9:00 p.m. meant no run for me. I did however stop in Alliance on my way home and met my son Taylor at Mount Union College. We went and ate at Don Panchos in Alliance for some Tex-Mex. It was good and he enjoyed the company and getting away from college for a bit.

Sunday morning I had planned on running the Mill Creek half-marathon. I got up at 7:00 and had all of my stuff ready from the night before. One of my Junior High cross country runners had called me on Saturday night and wanted to do the run also, so I left at about 7:45 to pick up Kyle and his mom Rita. As we were driving to Mill Creek, I tried to give Kyle an idea of the hills he would be running. Mill Creek is hard to describe to someone that hasn’t run there much. Some hills are steep and long, some are on gradual grades, and some of them just make your legs burn while going up them. I told him this would be the hardest run he has ever done. I knew Kyle was a good runner, but I hoped he would have enough energy for this.

The race started promptly at 8:45 a.m. I started off by staying conservative and running with a group of people. I talked with Jim Harris and his son Eric and wife Beth. I also said hello to Kelli Maheu and her daughter Audrey. Lenny Maheu, who I had run with a couple of weeks before, was feeling sick and chose not to run today. He was out there to support his family and friends.

The half marathon course stays within the historic district of the park and winds throughout the hilliest sections. I don’t think there was ever a point longer than a half mile that we were not either going up hill or down hill. I enjoyed every mile, every hill, and everybody I talked to. I ran a very comfortable pace and at times was just waiting for my legs to cramp, or to start feeling like I was running out of energy. That never came. The only hill I chose to power walk was Big Bear, and that was about mile three of the race. I ran half-way up and thought to myself, why am I killing myself here? I power walked and actually passed a few people. Kyle was with me at the time and we ran together to just before we got to the Mill. He seemed like he was doing okay, so I kept on my pace. I did not see him again until the end of the race.

I pretty much ran by myself for the next 9 miles or so. I remained within the same group of people, but we all kind of kept to ourselves. This was good with me, because I like to run by myself. I like to look around at the park, occasionally talk to people, and take it all in. You miss a lot if you are busy talking and gabbing. The miles went by quickly and I enjoyed each one. They were all different, but when you are running hills, in your mind you are always preparing for the next one. When you reach the top of the hill, it feels like you have reached another milestone. When I crossed the Silver Bridge, I laughed to myself. Just a week ago I stood on this bridge while Brian Musick took my picture. The King of the Winter-Wonderland I thought to myself!


On the final loop, coming from Lanterman’s Mill, I climbed the long hill from Scholl pavilion. At the top of the hill there was a bunch of people cheering that had been out there the whole morning. They were there when I passed this area over an hour ago. When I got to the top I noticed they were all jumping up and down. I was so happy after climbing that hill that I ran right towards them and started jumping with them. They went crazy and started cheering and patting my back and giving me high fives. I was so pumped when I left that group I felt my pace quicken. What a great group out there at that tough spot on the course.

I had about 3 miles left to go and thought to myself, It's just a 5k. I looked at my watch and decided that if I stayed on pace, I could get in under 2 hours, which was my goal. I kept checking my watch so much that finally I took it off and put it in my pocket. I decided not to look at it again until I got to Bear’s Den and the final climb. At the bottom of Big Bear I saw my eye doctor Bob Gerdes for the final time of the day. He had been there all morning and it was good to see a familiar face out there.

I continued along the course and I felt a lot better than expected. I felt like when I started to push a little harder that I could feel it in my thighs. I wasn’t cramping, but my legs definitely had done their work today. I had one more climb to go and I knew it was not going to be fun. Bear’s Den is a series of hills that resemble a staircase. You climb one hill, level off a little, climb another hill, level off, and then climb another hill and then a gradual climb all the way to the finish. All of this while enjoying some mammoth rock formations and the beauty of Mill Creek Park. I shortened my stride and was determined to climb these hills. I pushed up each one. I wasn’t going fast, but I was going as fast as I could. After the last big climb, I knew the finish was less that a ½ mile away. I checked my watch and it was 1:54.00. I now knew barring any catastrophic thing from happening, I would be under two hours. I pressed to the finish and completed the run in 1:58.24. I was ecstatic.

After finishing I went inside to get warm and have something to eat. I came back outside and found Rita standing near the finish line waiting for Kyle. I waited a few minutes, but then I told her I was going to change out of my wet clothes. I went to the car, changed and came back and Rita was still standing there. She said she was starting to worry, so I told her I would go back out on the course and see if I could find him. I jogged from the finish line back down the course and offered encouragement to those that were making their final push to the finish. I was greeted with several smiling faces.

I traveled half way down Bear’s Den and decided to perch at the top of one of the hills so I could spot Kyle. I continued clapping for the runners as they made their way up the hill and I think my support was appreciated. After about 10 minutes, I spotted Kyle at the bottom of the hill walking along the edge of the road. I yelled some encouragement and after a few minutes he made it up to where I was waiting. He said his legs were hurting bad and he had nothing left. I asked him to jog a little and he made it about 100 yards before apologizing and started walking again. I told him he was less than a half mile from the finish and he started to smile. We turned the last turn towards the finish and I told him that the finish was just on top of the hill. He said he would walk until he reached a pine tree on the right and then he would run the rest of the way up. When we reached the tree, he took off and made his way to the finish. He completed his run in 2:34.00. I was happy he finished and ran to finish line.

This was another unusual week of training for me but it was capped off with a good, challenging half-marathon. Swim practice times are being shortened the next two weeks so I hope to increase my mileage. Here is a run down of this week.

Total miles = 28
Long Run = 13.1
Weight = 198
Attitude: Can’t wait to run on Monday the 3rd. I got some stiffness the day after the race and am looking forward to working it out in my new Asics Gel Nimbus shoes.

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