Wednesday, May 21, 2008

The Week Before; The Week Of; and The Day of the Race

Well I held off writing week 17 for a couple reasons. The first is I worked way too much. The second is, I felt like crap and was trying to ignore it. My legs were both sore and I developed a sinus infection, so the thrill of running a marathon became more of trying to get myself better to make the run as best as I could.

From May 5-11 (week 17) I only ran three times and struggled on two of the three runs. The muscle behind my left knee was so tight and sore that I could barely stretch it out in front of me and actually felt like I was limping while running. I managed a 4 mile run, a 2 ½ mile run and a 7 mile run. I decided that was enough.

During the final week (May 12-18) I decided I would run twice and that would be it. I did two four mile runs early in the week and actually my legs did not feel too bad. Unfortunately, I developed a sinus infection and that zapped me of a lot of energy. I rested up Thursday, Friday and Saturday and prepared for my run on Sunday morning in Cleveland.

My whole family traveled to Cleveland on Saturday afternoon and checked in at the Hilton Garden Hotel right next to Progressive Field. We had a great view of the stadium and were not too far from the start of the race.

After checking in we went to the Expo Center and checked in for the race. This year the race director chose to use a new “chip” technology that is disposable. It fastens to the lace of your shoe and at the end of the race you throw it away. Taylor and I got out goody bags and then went in to peruse the vendor area. We walked around the whole Expo looking at all the new stuff out for runners and bought some stickers and stuff like that.

Just as we were getting ready to leave the Expo, we ran into Bill Rodgers. Bill is a really nice guy and we talked for a bit. I reminded him that I met him in Youngstown a few years ago at the Peace Race but I got the idea he did not remember me. We shared some laughs and I told him that this was Taylor’s first marathon and he wished him well.

Bill then introduced us to Bart Yasso, who is another well known distance runner. Bart has run all over the world and is probably best know for a workout known as the Yasso 800’s. The Yasso 800’s are essentially a track workout for distance runners to increase speed and endurance. I did them once and remember how hard they were. Bart was another great guy who talked with us for a while and wished us both well. Taylor ended up buying Bart’s book and has since finished it.

After the Expo we went back to the hotel and crashed for about an hour. I then called my cousin Brian and we drove to his house to meet him for dinner. Brian had picked a small Italian place called Pepper’s in Lakewood that was recommended to him by several of his co-workers. They had a table and sat us immediately. We laughed at the sign that said maximum occupancy 28. It was a real small place! Pepper’s had great authentic Italian food with great service. We were all stuffed when we walked out the door. Brian did good and I thanked him for doing his homework.

After returning to the city from dinner we drove to make sure we knew where the start was. We also ventured down to Cleveland Brown’s stadium, the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame and the Science Center. All of them were closed but we checked out the area.

Sunday morning came early and it was raining hard. I showered and woke Taylor up to let him know the weather forecast – RAIN! We went about out morning routines and prepared for a long wet run. I pulled my favorite red “Headsweats” hat out of my bag. It is my signature for running in the rain and I was glad I brought it.

We ate a quick light breakfast (A Power Bar and a Bottle of Gatorade) and headed for the nearest parking lot to the start of the race. When we got out of the car I would describe it as pouring. The four of us huddled under two umbrellas and we hustled down the street to where the action was. It took us about 10 minutes to walk to the line and we got there about 6:45. Taylor and I shook hands, wished each other well, and headed to our respective areas within the crowd. Taylor went forward to the 2:55 group and I went backward to the 4:00 hour group.

As we stood there for what seemed an eternity, it seemed like the rain got harder and harder. I was getting soaked and so was everyone else. At about 7:05 they finally started the race. It took me about a minute and a half to reach the actual start line and that is where I started my watch.

The pace started out slowly because of the crowd and I was happy to run along easily. I was stretching out my sore leg and actually enjoyed jogging along through the city streets. After a short while it thinned some and we started to get in those comfortable pace groups that seem to form at every large race. Each person moved along in their own world, some talking, most not, and some with the look on their face like why am I out here running in the rain. I jogged along taking in all the sites of the city.

When I reached the 10k point I was right on pace at about 53:00 minutes. I remember thinking that I would be fine if I just stayed relaxed and ran easy. In my mind I wanted to be at 1 hour 30 minutes for 10 miles, 3 hours for 20 miles and then whatever it took to cover the last 10k. At 10 miles I was at 1:29.00 and I smiled to myself. The next 10 miles got a little harder and I reached the 20 mile at 3 hours and 3 minutes.

I was now in the heart of the race and the rain had stopped and the sun and wind decided to join in the fun. I was getting tired and we reached probably the worst part of the race. Down along the edge of the lake and between the highway is a road that cuts along the airport. It was here that I really decided I hated this run. The headwinds picked up to about 15-20 mph and the fatigue set in quickly. Everyone that I was running with began to slow down, including me. I could not move any faster and the conditions were not helping.

I pressed on to the next water stop and walked for about 2 minutes. My legs were on the verge of major cramping and I wasn't sure how hard I wanted to push it. I looked at my watch when I reached mile 23 and I was at 3:35.00. I then knew that being under 4 hours was most likely not going to happen. I jogged and walked some for the next couple miles with my shoes squishing and squeeking with every step. When I finally reached the end of the road we made a sharp left turn and went up a hill. I was never so glad to see a hill.

I pushed up the hill and stretched my calves as I went. It felt good. I told myself "NO MORE WALKING TODAY" and pressed along slowly. Every time I would try to go faster I would feel a cramp in my right groin area and in my left calf behind my knee. I decided to jog as fast as I could and not walk. It was ugly but I was moving.

After we made a turn in the city I heard one of the volunteers yell out, "One more turn and a half mile to the finish" Those were magical words. I ran with determination but careful not to let a cramp catch me in the last half mile.

I turned the corner, saw the finish line and smiled. It is the greatest feeling knowing it will all be over soon. I made my way along and just prior to getting to the line I saw my wife and daughter there cheering me on. I crossed the line with a finish time of 4:12.57 and was very content with that.

As I walked through the recovery area I saw Taylor standing along the fence. I gave him the thumb's up and he returned it to me. I said "Boston?" and he shook his head no. Taylor had run his first marathon ever in 3:23.00 and he was happy too.

He came in to join me and we grabbed some food and drinks. I was exhausted and we headed for the car.

No one can explain the feeling each person has on a long run, whether it is 20 miles, a marathon or ultra-marathon. You find out a lot about yourself. You dig deep and find strength in areas that you did not know you have. As for me, I was thrilled to have run in a marathon along with my son in his first. I know it was a special day for him and we talked about it all the way home. I hope to run many more races with my kids and I have already promised my daughter to join her in her first marathon.

1 comment:

Taylor said...

Slimm!!! I finally got a blogspot. I'm glad that I got to run my first marathon with you being in it. Hope to get a few more in!