Cleveland Half Marathon Review & Preparing to “TRI”

Miscellaneous

SPOILER ALERT: They changed the course this year and although I only ran it once before in 2013, compared to last year, it didn’t meet my expectations.

2014 Cleveland Half Marathon Review:

  • Cleveland has been obsessed with the new Cleveland Convention Center lately, and to be honest, it’s really not that amazing. Yes it looks pretty, but this was the Cleveland freaking Marathon – it should have stayed right there in front of Lake Erie, in front of the Cleveland Browns Stadium and in front of the Cleveland Rock and Roll Hall of Fame! Instead they pushed us into Public Square to start the race and then crammed us into the green by the new Convention Center to end the race.
  •  The corals leading up to the start of the race were irrelevant and it was packed to the brim. Starting in Public Square is overrated and was just a bad idea in general. We had way more room in front of the Browns Stadium last year, plus we were right on the water – it screamed Cleveland! This year we were smashed between buildings and unable to see anything around us.

    Smashed into corals pre-race

    Smashed into corals pre-race

  • The crowd support wasn’t as great as I expected. I read somewhere that the reason the course changed was to get MORE crowd support, ironically.
  • One of my favorite parts about last year was entering the Shoreway stretch into Lakewood and looking ahead and seeing a giant swarm of runners heading up the hill. It was amazing and inspiring to see. This year they threw that hill and highway stretch in for the last 1.5 miles of the course. Nothing was more suffocating than a hill at mile 11 and seeing nothing but a stretch of bland highway ahead of you. At this point runners were all spread out and struggling and it didn’t have the same inspiring effect as last year.
  • In 2013’s course, I loved crossing the bridge from Tremont and heading back into the city past Progressive Field. I loved turning the corner on St. Clair and heading down to the finish line. The 2013 course winded and twisted runners around the buildings of downtown Cleveland and you could hear the finish line as you grew closer and closer. This year, the finish line appeared out of nowhere after a grueling highway hill. There was nothing special. No magic. No inspiration.
  • The entire course was reversed compared to 2013. At mile three this year we were passing a church and neighborhood block party passing out beer that we had passed at mile 11 the year before. The whole thing mentally threw me off.
  • The finish line straight was super narrow and I had a hard time getting around other runners while I was trying to sprint it out.
  • Despite how awful I thought the course was, I still managed to set a new PR time for a half – and so did the fiance! My new PR is 2:11. (Next I’m going for 2:05.)
Still managed to set a new PR!

Still managed to set a new PR!

I don’t want to be a Debbie Downer, but the race really did not meet my expectations this year. Maybe I set them too high though. Last year this was my first half marathon ever and the entire sport of competitive running was brand new to me. Regardless, I favored 2013’s course and I hope they switch some things around based off of people’s comments – because from what I heard – the hill during the last 1.5 miles was not a crowd favorite. I still love Cleveland though and I imagine I’ll be back next year.

The three amigos flexing at mile 3

The three amigos flexing at mile 3

So what’s next?

Well… I’m doing it… My first triathlon! I’m two weeks out from The Great Western Reserve Triathlon on June 8th in Ravenna. Of course I’ll be doing the Sprint Distance – 750 meter swim (.46 mile), 13.1 mile bike ride and 3.1 mile run. I’ve been training for about three months and although I’ve gotten better at swimming in that time, I’m still incredibly nervous and intimidated by the open water.

This past weekend I did my trial run-through in which I completed the entire distance in all three sports. I finished everything (including transitioning) in 1:53. I set my goal to finish in around 2 hours, although I won’t be mad if I don’t make that time. My main goal here is to not drown during the swim! As soon as my feet hit the solid ground after that swim on race day I will be one happy girl! My trial run-through gave me confidence that I can compete in the swim, but I have a tendency to focus more on time and just trying to get it over with. When I think like this my form gets sloppy and I quickly become exhausted. As long as I remain cool, calm and collected and I swim with good form then I’ll be good to go, but if I panic and flop around trying to stay afloat I’m done for. Worrying about the swim has seriously kept me up at night lately, but I have to remain in control of my fears.  I have to go into the race with the mentality that I will beast mode that swim and it will be a piece of cake. If I think and believe that I can do, then I’m already half way there.


In terms of the bike and run – I got this 🙂

More races coming up:

  • Mentor Flag Day 5K on June 11.
  • Lake Health Half Marathon in Kirtland on June 15 (I wanted to run this race last year, but it was all sold out when I went to register. It should be a nice, scenic run and I’ve heard good things about it.)
  • Woodland 5K in Kirtland on June 22 at the Holden Arboretum.

Lots of big races coming up! I’m so excited and nervous for all of them. Big things are happening and training is at an all-time high. (Is it weird that I get excited about waking up at 5AM to train!?)

This is what I love about summer – training and going out there and running your heart out at the race. I love summer and I love race season!

My Cleveland Experience.

Miscellaneous

I did it! I did it! I ran my first half marathon this past Sunday! Words cannot describe how amazing it was. The Rite Aid Cleveland Marathon is such an amazing experience. I have already considered myself there running this race for the next 85 years.

Lucky #7106

Lucky #7106

I have never been a part of something so awesome and positive! From the very start people were so friendly and the atmosphere was so exciting. From standing in a 30 minute line to use a porta potty before the race, to the total strangers I ran along side with, to the volunteers and announcers and especially the cheering fans. Basically — this race was AWESOME on every level.

The boyfriend and I left my house at 4:45 a.m. Sunday. We reached downtown Cleveland at about 5:20 a.m. The traffic was a little stressful and slow moving, but eventually we found our way to the $5 parking area, which had plenty of spots still available. (I will plan to get there just as early every year, especially because this lot is located so close to the starting line.) The boyfriend and I decided to use the porta potties before the race since it was only about 6:10 a.m. at this point. We stood in front of a group of hilarious women who had us laughing the entire time.

The starting line.

The starting line.

Around 6:40 a.m. we began to make our way over to the starting line. We had no idea where we were going, so we spotted a couple of other runners with the red half marathon bib and followed them at a good distance. Thankfully they didn’t lead us astray because we found the starting line. Well, it wasn’t the official starting line, but it was the line to the starting line. There were signs here and there with pace times so we picked a spot around an 11 minute mile. I read a couple of blogs before the race about being honest about your start times, so the boyfriend and I decided this was a good pace to try since it was our first official half. (It turned out that we could have been up around 9 or so because we ended up passing almost our entire section, but that’s OK.)

I was getting really anxious and nervous in the last remaining minutes before we started. I knew from my other 5K races that I always felt a panic as I started, especially if I saw other runners start to pass me. I reminded myself not to be intimidated and that I belonged there with everyone else.

"Strong" was my power word.

“Strong” was my power word.

Pretty soon we were off (well we started and stopped a few times) but we officially passed the starting line at 7:07 a.m. “Cleveland Rocks” blasted over the loud speakers as the announcers and fans cheered us on. I got goose bumps for the first two miles just because I had never experienced something like this before. I kept looking behind me and up ahead in the distance to see the giant sea of runners bobbing up and down.

The course was smooth with about three or four rolling hills, nothing too insane at all. I would even go so far to say that it’s a pretty easy course. We ran through a few of Lakewood’s beautiful neighborhoods and then into the streets of Ohio City and Tremont. People were sitting out in chairs on their front lawns drinking mimosas and cheering for us. Some people were grilling out on balconys waving and screaming at the runners below. A few little kids and a mother were handing out clementines to runners as they passed. I had a smile on my face the entire run. The boyfriend and I kept nodging each other and pointing to signs that people were holding up. The signs may have been one the best parts of the race, here are a few I remember:

“You trained longer than Kim Kardashian’s marriage lasted — keep running.”
“Smile if you’re not wearing underwear.”
“Beer in two miles!”
“I am so proud of you total stranger!”
“Wall? What wall? Keep going!”
“I’m so proud of you – Drake.”

And then of course there was this one:

Only in Cleveland.

Only in Cleveland.

We ran past local churches passing out water, a house that was passing out beer (we passed on this surprisingly) and houses that had hoses spraying water that we could run through. We also passed a guy playing electric guitar, a marching band and a singing sign language choir. There were also two live bands playing at two spots throughout the course.

We started out running with the same group of people. There was a group of three woman, a guy with a giant black afro wig and a few others. After mile 3 we started branching off to run faster and from there the only consistent people we ran with was a guy in a full karate outfit and two girls running with him. One of the girls and the karate guy kissed every mile. The boyfriend and I just opted for high fives.

Mile 11 and some change. Mini fist pump and feeling good!

Mile 11 and some change. Mini fist pump and feeling good!

I didn’t even start listening to my music until mile 11 and even then I had one headphone out to listen to the crowd and the people cheering. Houses were blasting their own music that we could easily hear from the road too. After mile 12 I really picked it up and sprinted the last part pretty good. I was surprised by how many people weren’t sprinting the last straight before the finish line. I was dodging people left and right to get past. I crossed the line at 2 hours 21 minutes and 5 seconds. I wanted to be under 2:30 so I was happy with my time.

After the race we got our medals and a few snacks (chocolate milk, bananas, popsicles). We got our picture taken and I met up with two of my girlfriends who also ran the race. We also got a ticket for a free beer at the 26.3 post race party, but I wasn’t too crazy about a Miller Lite at the time.

It’s crazy because I remember getting sick after running only six miles during my training. I felt like I was near death if I ran over five miles and it would take me the whole day to recover. But after the half marathon I felt great, I wasn’t even sore. My how 16 weeks can change a lot!

As we were leaving, I glanced over to the finish line and saw some of the full marathoners still running and trying to finish. I couldn’t help but feel something inside of me wishing to do that, wishing to run the full 26.2…

When we got home, the boyfriend and I couldn’t stop looking up other races for the summer. We talked all day about how awesome the race was and how much fun we had. We told everyone “Consider us there every year from now on.” And I think it just might happen…

Celebrating our 13.1!

Celebrating our 13.1!

First race down!

First race down!