Thursday, May 21, 2009

Cleveland Marathon Race Report

Fortunately, I have an unflagging ability to sleep, regardless of stress levels, noise levels, pain levels, and levels of any of the other categories that disrupt the sleep of less gifted snorers. I don't take any credit for this uncanny ability to sleep through any conditions; I thank good genes. My sister (lil' sis) has demonstrated similar abilities. I've witnessed her sleeping like a lamb through a party in her own apartment, with her head less than a foot from a speaker cranking at full volume. This is a valuable asset on the night before a big race, when I am keyed-up. It was especially helpful on Saturday before Cleveland, because I had put so much pressure on myself for that race.

I told everyone who asked that I was going sub-3 hours. I said it as a statement of the most obvious fact, with neither equivocation nor hesitation. I put it in writing and published it on my blog. Of course, all of this was stupid. I knew there were thousand of scenarios wherein I would fail miserably. I think it was an unconscious strategy to put as much pressure on myself as possible. I respond better to pressure that than encouragement. Yes, that is ripe for analysis, but I'll leave that to you. I'm moving on to talk about the morning of the race.


So, after a cracking night's sleep, I woke a little before 5:00 AM, showered, shaved (not sure why I bothered on a race day.) I put on my SERC race shirt and a pair of race ready shorts (pockets in the back to hold gels and electrolyte pills), had a light breakfast, and headed out. I picked-up Dawn M. and Barb B., and we drove downtown. Dawn was also running the marathon, and Barb was running the half. We parked and walked to the start. I worked my way through the hordes of stretching and hopping runners, toward the starting line at 9th and St. Clair. I passed the 3:00 hour pace group and talked for a minute with the pacer, Greg D. I move a little closer to the starting line and found E-speed and Steve H. E was running the half-marathon only. She told me earlier in the week that, on the advice of her coach, she was going to try to stay with me for my first ten miles. This was on the expectation that I would hold my target pace of 6:47/minute miles. Hmmm...we'll see about that. ;-)

The horn sounded and we were released onto the marathon course. I crossed the start about five seconds after the clock had started, therefore none of the Bostonian advanced mental mathematical calculations of actual time versus the official clock would be necessary. We ran north on E. 9th, then looped around Browns stadium, and south on W.6th. There was a little congestion in the early part of the first mile, but after than, we could run our own pace. We hit the first mile marker at 6:51, four seconds slow but that was probably due to congestion in the first 1/4 mile. The second mile clipped by at 6:27, which sounds fast but didn't seem difficult being mostly flat and protected from the wind as we were still in the downtown area. By that time, we were a group of four, e-speed, a new-found friend named Yohan, a twenty-something guy (Sean, I think), and me.

For the third through the seventh miles, our group ran westward on Lorain, Detroit, and Lake, holding an average 6:33/minute mile pace. Despite that pace, we were able to have a nice conversation, the contents of which was not important, only that there was a diversion, Between mile seven and eight, we turned first north than east, on our way back into town. Much of that run was along the exposed and very windy shoreway. The times show the effects, as we slowed to 6:51, then 6:49 before bringing the pace back to 6:33, then back down again to 6:56, my slowest mile of the day. Here is a photo of me, Sean (I think) and E-speed, taken by her parents.

Somewhere around mile ten, Yohan fell off the pace. Near the end of mile eleven, E-speed took the exit for the half-marathon. (Huge congrats to E, who kept up with that very aggressive pace, and ended up with 2nd female overall in the half-marathon.) About the same time, the young runner also fell back a bit. I continued on alone. I didn't realize then that I would run the rest of the race alone. The new course goes east out of town first on Lakeside, then continuing on the Marginal Road. Again, exposed with nothing to block the wind, it was not a good situation. The winds gust were over twenty miles per hour, and I was feeling the effects. For mile 14 through 17, I averaged 6:51/minute miles. These were tough miles,and I caught myself falling into the marathon doldrums...running alone..strong head-wind...then in the 17th mile, I heard a familiar voice. Wayne V. was there, cheering me on. "You're my hero, Frank!" It was so unexpected, it gave me a boost. I thanked him and picked up the pace.

Just past Wayne, the course turned south on Martin Luther King Boulevard. It is the longest uphill stretch of the course, but then it hairpins north and provides a low-grade downhill on East Boulevard. I kept all of those miles in the 6:40 range. Just before the 21 mile mark, the course turns west on St.Clair Avenue. It is flat and potentially fast from there to the finish. I say 'potentially' because you have to have the reserves to run those last five and a half miles hard.

Initially, I thought I was holding a pretty good pace through mile 22 but when I checked my time, it was 6:51. The stretch along St. Clair is so familiar to me; I've been up and down that road so many times, yet it seemed eerie running it on a Sunday morning, with almost no one around. I adjusted and ran the next mile at 6:44, passing the only two runners I would see for miles. One of them was the first place woman. At 40th, the course turned south, and E-speed was waiting there. I heard her loud and clear, cheering me on. I was so zoned-out from running the lonely St. Clair miles, it really caught me by surprise. I was glad to hear a friendly, familiar voice shouting encouragement. Here is a photo she took at that point. Do you see any other runners?

Mile 24 is south on 40th, then mile 25 is east one Euclid Avenue. The Euclid stretch ends at 18th where the course turns north again. That turn marks the end of the 25th mile. In Boston, the first of my leg cramps struck me at that point. In Cleveland, my only thought was, 'None of the last 25 miles mean anything if I don't run this next 1.2 mile strong and get my sub-3'. I ran north on 18th, then made the turn west on to Lakeside, totally focused on keeping my form, holding my pace, and ignoring everything else. For the only time in the race, there were crowds, actual crowds, lining the street, as I approached the finish. I felt a pre-camp twinge in my right calf about fifty yards from the finish, and within twenty yards it was a full on cramp. I was not going to stop to stretch it out, so I ran awkwardly, with my right foot on tippy-toes, through the finish line.

As soon as I crossed, I saw Mark G., Steve G., and Barb B. waiting. My calf went into a rock-hard cramp just as I reached Mark, and I am glad he was there to lean on. I walked it off for a minute, then lay down on my back in the street. One of the volunteers came over to check on me. I told her I was fine, and she gave me a water bottle and a banana. After a few minutes, I got up, feeling much better, and got another water. I spent the next half-hour walking around, mostly with Barb. It felt better to keep moving. We walked back to my car to get something to put on to keep warm, then back to the finish to rejoin the group.


My official time was 2:56:55, which was first in my age group,and 27th overall.


E-Speed said...

You did great Frank! Thanks for letting me pace off of you for the first 10 or so. As a side note, I took watch splits at every mile marker rather than the Garmin this time and it is funny how different they are from your splits though we were running together :) For example I had the 1st mile fast and the second one right on :)

Anonymous said...

Nice race report, Frank! Gives you a really good feel for the race. Just wish you could have found something to give me props for besides sleeping :)