Wednesday, September 28, 2011

2011 Akron Marathon (half marathon)

My plan all along was to run my first marathon this past weekend.  Due to several things outside my control.  I made the decision to run Cleveland as my first and then do the double by running Akron.   Unfortunately,  I failed at training for this race.  I attempted 3 times to run 20 miles and failed every time.  A hard decision was made to abandon the full and run the half.  It was a hard decision to make and I held onto the dream that I would still attempt the marathon throughout the rest of my training.  After discussing it with several friends, I realized I was making the right decision.

My running during the summer months had not gone well.  I was running a minute to minute and a half slower than what I had been running during the Spring.  I never felt comfortable and was laboring a lot more than I should have been.  I started running races again a month ago at the Buckeye Half Marathon and surprised myself with a 2:02.  During my training the following week.  I realized I developed some had habits.  I was no longer driving with my shoulders/arms and my stride felt short and choppy.  I began to work on this by driving more and lengthened my stride a little.  My training times immediately improved to the levels at which they were at during the Spring.  The original plan was to try this out at RiverRun Half Marathon 2 weeks ago, but after my fall.  I never recovered and I never felt right the whole race.

In the days leading up to the race.  I was upset that I would not be running the marathon.  I had tried not to get down, but I was.  In order to help myself feel better at failing.  I established a few goals that I would strive to meet:

1) Improve on last years time of 2:10:08
2) When the half route re joins the marathon route.  Be there fast enough that I can't see the leader.
3) Try to run sub two hours.
4) Do not ralk
5) If have a chance, go for a PR.

I got up extra early on Saturday as I wanted have me pre-race coffee and get downtown in time to meet up with a few other runners.   I was successful and got to visit with fellow runners Stephanie, Justin, and Kimi.  Before I knew it, the time had arrived and it was go time.

I lined up with the 1:55 pace group as I didn't want to get stuck in traffic.  This year Akron divided the start in half and the division point was at the 9:10 pace.  As the race begins, it is a slight false flat down through downtown then over a long bridge.  As you cross the bridge it is a quick climb then around a block and back across the bridge.  As the race began, I got off the a great start.  I was feeling really well and had been fairly lucky with managing traffic.  I was running around 8:00-8:30 per mile and feeling really good.  As I approach the turn around past the bridge, people began to clog up.  So I jumped over to the sidewalk and ran around the block traffic free.  Back across the bridge I ran, heading back into town.  A quick look at the watch and I was still at that pace and feeling good.  Since we are only a block south at this point.  All the people cheering at the start head to the next street and line the first hill.  Both sides of the street are lined with people cheering everyone on.  Feeling well I attacked the first climb and accelerated up the side.  I quickly arrived at the first relay point and thought it was 5K into the race.  I quickly looked at my watch and was at 29:49.  Mildly disappointed at that for a 5K time.  I began to think I wasn't running as well as I thought.  In reviewing my post race time splits.  I was actually at 3.5 miles this point with an average pace of 8:31 per mile.

I pushed on and was still running free and easy in the low 8's.  Next up was a long false flat up to Firestone park.  This is a tricky portion as it will wear you out.  I pushed on and migrated to the edge of the road as there was no traffic.  At this point I was trying to decide if I should dial it back a bit as I wanted to save energy for mile 11.  I kept thinking I had gone out too fast and was about to blow up before the finish, but I felt too good.  As I rounded the corner into Firestone Park.  It was time for the next hill.  I attacked again.  Never before had I ran so hard on the hills.  I just kept telling myself to go and turned up the iPod.  The road flattened out again and my heart rate immediately dropped.  Again I was running free and easy in the low 8's.

Next up was another loan climb up Brown Street into Akron U's campus.  I could see the Buildings in the distance as the road began to kick up again.  I accelerated again just telling myself to GO GO GO.  I moved over to the right of the road as I had planned to see my sister who had been waiting for me to run by.  Last year she waited 2 hours for me, but I looked on the wrong side of the road and I ran right by without seeing her.  Thankfully, our plan worked as I gave her a high five as I flew by.  At the top of the hill, it felt like my heart was going to leap out of my chest.  I looked down at my Garmin and I was running a 7:00 pace up the hill.  I quickly backed it down and thought I may have just cooked myself.  I was through the first 9.2 miles in 1:21 with an average pace of 8:50.

At this point running 2 hours was becoming a reality.  I had built enough of a cushion that I thought I could survive mile 11.  As I crossed through campus.  My heart rate miraculously dropped again.  I took off and took advantage of the downhill portion back through downtown.  As I approached the final steep downhill.  I saw a spectator  jumping up and down on the side of the road.  It was Jess!!  I flung my arms around in an attempt to say hey.  I quickly reached the down hill and tried to get every possible second before I hit mile 11.

Now, mile 11 is roughy when the half splits off from the full and is better known as heart rate hill.  It is roughly a half mile and is a 5% grade up.  As I made the left to hit the hill.  There was a sign that read. "Pain is temporary, but the glory is forever"  I hit the hill and it hurt.  I struggle mightily at first and there was carnage everywhere.  I was dodging runners left and right that were stopping to walk.  I kept telling myself that it this will be over soon.  I ran as hard as I continuing to tell myself it will be over soon and that 2 hours was mine for the taking.  In the distance I could see the bridge that is at the top of the hill.  Running harder, I kept telling myself get to the bridge.  get to the bridge.  I hit the bridge and made the left.  A quick peak at the Garmin and I only lost 2 seconds off my average pace!!  Not only was I under 2 miles from a sub two.  I was on pace for a PR!

I ran on and the route wound around back to the marathon.  I looked up the round and the marathon leaders were not in sight.  Next was a steep hill up Market Street before the home stretch.  It hurt and hurt bad.  I made it up the hill and my heart was pounding.  The road flattened out as finally struggled to regain pace.  I had thought I had finally ran out of gas.  I kept telling myself that I can't come this close.  Then in the distance I could see the Evans building, which is across the street from the finish.  As I reached the 1/2 mile mark the streets were lined again with people and I tried to run as hard as I could.  Then my heart rate miraculously dropped again.  I took off, feeling like a player in the madden game with somebody hitting the turbo button.  I was flying and passing packs of people.  Telling myself repeatedly to go.  I hit a quick right and burst into Aero stadium.  I could see the clock and a PR in the distance and sprinted to the finish.  Finishing in 1:54:03.  A full 2 minutes better than I ever ran and a improvement of 16 minutes over my time at this race last year!!

Post race beers with Jeff.

I never in my life thought I could run this well on a course this hard.   I've been walking around with a smile and floating on cloud 9 ever since.  It was the perfect day and I will always look back on this day and smile.


The dirtyrunner crew Ryan, Jeff, Allison, and Justin.


Jeff - DangleTheCarrot said...

Good job dude!

Matty O said...

Damn buddy, didn't realize you ran that awesome on Saturday!!! I thought you just inched past your PR, you smoked it!

Wish I saw you finishing up. Got caught up with a buddy then walked down to find heather and colleen and honestly forgot to look for people haha.

Isn't it funny that on a hilly course like that you crushed your PR? Solid work, and what a payoff for a year of ups and downs right?

So to celebrate, first Xmas ale is on me. Now lets just get it on tap!

Anna Norris said...

Awesome job Beal! I felt like I ate those hills for breakfast, especially the long one by Firestone Stadium. I just ran out of gas at heart rate hill and had to switch between a run and a power walk and power walked halfway up Akron. Up until that point I was surprised how strong I felt and how much I was able to keep pushing myself. That feeling has upped my confidence level now 30 days out from my first marathon.

Erika said...

Congratulations on the PR and running such a great race!!

mojamala2 said...

I thought you said this was going to be a long post. This was nothing.
You did awesome on Saturday and so glad I was able to see you when I did. Congrats on the PR! Tough course.

Big Daddy Diesel said...

Congrats on the race, I think I was the only blogger in the state of Ohio not at this race