Race Recap: Cleveland Half Marathon – May 17, 2015

This post is overdue but I couldn’t help myself – I was in Ohio last weekend visiting with my one and only grandson, Dylan and his family (my son, Mike, and his wife, Amy). When I’m with Dylan and Batman, Robin, Superman, the Hulk, Wonder Woman and the rest of the superhero gang, the last thing on my mind is blogging. Now that I’m home in Florida with a little time to spare (not really), I thought I’d sit down and let you all know how the Cleveland Half Marathon adventure turned out!

Most of you know I was selected to be a Rite Aid Cleveland Marathon Race Ambassador this year. Last year I was a guest blogger and I really enjoyed it, so when applications were accepted for ambassadors, I applied right away. It was a very exciting experience being a Race Ambassador, and race weekend started out with a Friday night VIP reception at the Hyatt Regency downtown Cleveland. (You can read about that in my pre-race post, Race Day Is Almost Here.) It was really cool to meet the other ambassadors and to see the people who are behind the race, the coordinators and staff, and the sponsors.

On Saturday, I woke up and hung out with my son and grandson for a bit, then I zipped over to Valley View to have an early lunch with Jane’s mom, Helen. After lunch, I headed downtown to the Expo held at the Cleveland Convention Center this year. Considering the fact that I was staying in Mentor, this location was definitely a nice change from last year’s Expo at the I-X Center.

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As soon as I got to the Expo, I figured out where my “must see” booths were located – the hometown companies that I love – the BOOM! table and the SureSport table. I also saw a huge Hoka display I wanted to check out along with some of the official race shirts I saw – and oh yeah, I guess I was actually there for packet pick up!!  

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Speaking of packet pickup, although I didn’t take a picture, to me, it felt like some kind of walk of shame. Let me describe it for you: on the left-hand side above a long strip of tables, the sign said “Men’s Small/Women’s Small”.  To the right of that sign continuing down the tables toward the right, it said “Men’s Medium/Women’s Medium”.  Next to that toward the right was “Men’s Large/Women’s Large” and so on. The signs were HUGE and plastered on the wall and I realized that I needed to keep traveling down the tables almost to the end on the right until I hit my Extra-Large sized tables. Geez, could they make it any more obvious?  Oh well.

I checked out lots of products and met some really great people. Coach Jenny Hadfield had a booth, and I had the opportunity to chat with her a bit while at the Expo. In addition to being a running coach, Ms. Hadfield has written a couple of books with John Bingham – check them out on Amazon HERE! I wish I would have had one of the books for her to autograph! 

Once I completed packet pickup, chatted with a ton of people, captured a few pictures, and scored a pair of new purple Hokas, I was on my way over to check in at the Hyatt Regency. I checked in at the hotel and then drove from downtown back out to Mentor, picked up my son, daughter in law and grandson, and we all went out to dinner for some pre race pasta. We then headed back downtown to get settled in our suite at the beautiful Hyatt Regency.

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Before settling down for the evening, I set out “Flat Debi” and made sure I had everything I needed for race morning. When the alarm went off race morning, I hit “snooze” a couple of times since I was the only one in the room getting up. I finally got up, showered and scrambled out. I loved not having to jump in the car and driving to the race start and instead, walking a couple blocks – much less pressure!

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The only drawback to out of town races is that I don’t get to enjoy my favorite protein shake for breakfast and instead I have to figure out something different. I had all kinds of ideas, but never followed through and ended up eating a granola bar on my way to the start line. Before the race, the Race Ambassadors had all agreed to meet up at the start line at 6:30 a.m. Some of us actually made it to the meet up, and we have a photo to prove it! 

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As soon as this picture was taken, we headed to our corrals. I was assigned Corral F (for F-u-n!). It was the corral right in front of the walkers, which was fine with me. I saw fellow Ambassador, Jill Grunenwald when I got there and we chatted a bit. As soon as I got to my corral and started praying and preparing mentally to begin the race, the sky opened up and it began to POUR down rain! Most people scurried over to the buildings trying to stay dry under the awnings and under tree branches, including me. There was one lone man still standing in the street when the rain came down! Prior to the race, I thought it might rain so I wore a black shirt, but I never expected a Florida-like rain blast that came in hard and left five minutes later. The rain came down just long enough to make my shoes and socks and the street soaking wet. (Did I feel the blisters beginning and the toenails loosening already?)

Ever since I started running again following the accident, I have lived by the rule that I don’t run in the rain. I have gone to local 5k’s, picked up my shirt and bib, and driven home for fear I might slip and fall and re-injure something or break something new, and that’s just something I can’t afford to do. I was thinking about stealing away and not participating in the race at all when it started pouring down rain. I was thinking that we had already done the ambassador photo, so who would be the wiser – except me and my Maker, right? I shared with Jill that I was on the fence about doing the race at all since I hadn’t trained well, I didn’t like running in the rain, and overall, I was fearful. She reminded me that I could walk, that I didn’t have to take any risks and didn’t have to run if I didn’t feel comfortable. Thank you, Jill, you were absolutely right and I didn’t start the race out quitting; instead, I moved forward.

I took a few moments in the corral and I prayed, asking God to grace me with the strength and ability to complete this race despite my lack of proper training. Then the National Anthem was sung, the horn blew and we were off. It took 8 minutes for me to cross over the start line once the horn blew because of the fact that there were about 30,000 people participating in the 10k, the half marathon and the full marathon combined, and all three races were starting at the same time. I had set my Garmin for the run/walk sequence, and I was able to follow it very tightly for about the first four miles.

Last year at the start of this race, it was 33 degrees and I was so happy – a little cold but very happy. No heat and humidity like Florida races. This year, however, that was not the case. I read somewhere that it was 88 percent humidity and the dew point temperature was 68 (not sure what that second part really means). Needless to say, it was hot and humid like Florida, but gray in the sky like, well, like Cleveland. 

I forgot what roads look like in the spring after all the snow goes away – there were pot holes EVERYWHERE! The streets were all patched up (or not patched up), and there were holes and bumps and everything was all uneven. I found myself looking down watching where I was stepping to make sure I wouldn’t slip on the wet blacktop or twist my ankle in a pot hole. It is always so cool to run around Cleveland though, and I really enjoyed the scenery as I always do in Cleveland. It’s not like the course is all scenic or anything, but living in so many of the neighborhoods that we went through on the lower West side, it’s like going down memory lane for me.

I know at one point in the first ten miles it started pouring down rain again but I’m not quite sure where we were at that point. (As an aside, I was grateful that I didn’t get use hairspray like I usually do, so I didn’t have any problems with hair product rolling into my face.) When we got out to Clifton and West 102nd, there were a couple of girls sitting on the curb near a house I actually used to live in. The house looked the same, a big brick two-family, and it was funny to see these girls sitting there – probably the same age as when I lived there!   

When I got to the mile 10 marker, I was thinking to myself how awesome I felt and how I wasn’t hitting the wall like I usually do at mile 10. I’m glad I didn’t dwell on that thought for too long, because by mile 11, I felt like a Mack truck ran me over and kept on going. How could I have forgotten that the last two miles were on the Shoreway and that it was like the hills of Nashville? It seemed all uphill to me, although maybe it was up and down, I’m not really sure.

Somewhere right before mile 12, a group of people had a cooler with a sign that said “free popsicles” and despite my “nothing new on race day” rule, I grabbed one. By then, the rain had stopped and the sun started beating down trying to set us on fire I think. Judging by the picture, the blue stick-type of popsicle must have made me happy!

So yeah, then I pushed through and finished the race. Nothing about the last three miles was pretty at all. It was very ugly, but I didn’t quit. When I passed the mile 13 banner, I got a cramp in the back of my left thigh that almost landed me on the ground. I kept stepping on it like I do when they happen in the middle of the night, except I wasn’t just stepping, I was pushing – running – finishing – and that makes me a finisher. I thank God, as always, for carrying me through to the end because I know I couldn’t have done it without Him.

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There a zillion great things about a hometown race, but the very best thing about a hometown race? Your “people” are at the finish line! I have had family at the finish line before and if any of you are reading this, I love you all very dearly and I’m very grateful you support me, but there’s something about my 4-year old grandson yelling “Grandma Debi” over and over until my eyes could find him that made it very special.  

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As soon as I crossed the finish line, I grabbed chocolate milk for me and a banana for Dylan.  I hugged Mike and Amy (I think), and staggered over to sit down. I shared my medal with Dylan for a short time and then we walked about three blocks back to the Hyatt so I could shower. I knew I couldn’t sit down for long or I might not get back up so we left the Hyatt and headed to my favorite Mexican restaurant followed by a first communion party, followed by visiting more family, followed by finally getting to bed at midnight.

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Did I mention my son and his wife just bought a house? It’s a split level so no matter where you are trying to go, there are steps. Six or seven of them each way. Up and down…..and up and down…..and up and down. Not a good thing for the “day after legs” of this poor-training half marathoner!

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