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.

Thursday, September 22, 2011

My 1 Year Run-iversary

In the Spring of 2010 I made a decision to run a race.  A pack was made with a buddy to run the Akron Half Marathon in September of 2010.  Unfortunately, due to a bought with tendinitis.  I was left to prepare and race on my on my own.  Yes, I skipped running a 5Ks and made a half marathon my first race.

Thankfully,  a fellow runner and friend, Angie to gave me advise on how to prepare.  I remember not really knowing what to expect that morning and kind of chuckle every time I think about that day.  I grew up in Akron and was always aware of the "blue-line" that marks the course.  My only real experience with the marathon was seeing a Kenyan in first place by 20 minutes a few times while I was sitting in traffic.  I never considered running in the race as I was never a real fan of running.  I think sometimes its the result of playing team sports while growing up.  As running was routinely used as a punishment and I never associated it with fun.

As I arrived that morning.  I was in awe at how many people were there.  Not only running, but spectators along that route.  The next thing I learned was your bladder shrinks to the size of a pea before you run a race.  I also learned to always look at the flavor before you take a free GU at the aid station.  I grabbed one and slammed it as I thought this was the "right" thing to do.  It was very warm and chocolate.  It tasted like hot chocolate sludge and I darn near threw it up all over the route.

I also remember breaking off from the marathoners at mile 11 and thinking they were absolutely crazy as there was not any way I could run another mile.  I made my way back to the finish, which is located inside Akron Aero stadium.  It was unreal finishing in front of so many people.  This is when I learned what finisher's bling was.  A volunteer tried to give me a medal and I told her I did not run the marathon.  She replied "No silly, half marathoners get one too!"  I spent the rest of the day wearing it proudly everywhere I went.  That afternoon, I was sore.  My ankle was killing me and I vowed never to do that again.  I had done something I had never thought I would do and was quite satisfied.  My time was 2:10:08.  This race was the most fun race I had ever ran and the only one where I had no expectations and didn't even listen to one song while running.   Thankfully, my good friend Angie ran with me and helped me through my first race.

So this year I will be returning a year later much more prepared than I was a year ago and excited to run my first repeat race hoping to improve over last year.  I'm trying to focus on this goal as I had planned on running the full marathon this year, but unfortunately could not get prepared in time.  So, I am trying not to get down about that and remain focused on the positives.  I will be targeting a better time than 2:10:08 and who knows.  Maybe if they run gods are kind, I'll make a run at my PR time of 1:56:03.

Yeah!!! Beer and bling!!!!!

As you all know this was not my last race.  Over the past 12 months I have ran 6 other half marathons.  I went to bed that evening never wanting to run again and awoke the next morning thinking.  Wouldn't it be cool to run a marathon?  I think we all know how that turned out.


Thursday, September 15, 2011

2011 River Run Half Marathon

This past Sunday I competed in the River Run Half Marathon.  This was my first time at this race and I had looked forward to it as it was highly recommended by many runners.  The course itself is located in the Cleveland Metroparks and is a point to point race.  Beginning in Berea and ending in Rocky River.

The reason why this race is so highly recommended is that the course is downhill.  I had thought it was a false flat down, but it was a lot more decline than I had expected.  I had just ran the Buckeye Half Marathon 2 weeks before in 2:02 and was looking forward to improving upon that or maybe achieve a PR on this easy course.

I arrived at the starting point a lot easier than I had expected as directions had been a little hard to come by.  With so many runners owning a GPS, I am surprised when organizers don't have a address for the parking lot.  At this race you had two options.  Park at the start and bus back or park at the finish and take your ride before.  Since I live closer to the start, I chose to park at the start.  We arrived before the buses arrived which was nice as we didn't have to wait to use the rest rooms.  A few of us congregated at the start line and it began shortly thereafter.

I got off to a great start and was taking advantage of the coarse as the initial miles weren't too bad.  We broke off and made a quick loop around a housing development at mile 2.  This is when trouble struck.  I exited the allotment was still moving faster than usual.  I reminded myself to not forgot to stick with the usual hydration/fueling plan.  I was so focused on pace that I didn't what to lose track of my plan.  This brief lack of concentration led too....BOOM!!!!  My right foot slammed into a crack and I took a tumble. This was the first time I have ever fell while running and I made the mistake of putting my palms down.  I skinned them pretty good and thankfully did not take the skin off.  While trying to gather my shades and get my feet back, I got a helping hand from fellow runner and friend Kali.  I was really lucky and did not role my ankle.  I did jam it and as I continued to run it began to feel worse.

I really began to struggle as the race went on.  I was still shaken up from the fall and the course began to get steeper.  Not only down, but side to side.  The turns were banked pretty steep and it was wreaking havoc on my ankle.  I kept fighting and was struggling to run at my goal pace.  Things just were not good.  The miles continued to click by and I felt worse and worse.  I ran out of gas at about 8 miles and was feeling pretty fatigued.  It just wasn't my day and it was becoming more frustrating with each mile.  I just felt frustrated I was missing a opportunity to have a great race.

I kept fighting and established a goal of making it to mile 10 at 90 minutes.  My belief was that I could Ralk the last 3 and make it in under 2 hours.  I actually made it in 1:28 and began to Ralk.  With a mile to go, I got back in touch with Kali and she inspired my to get after it and finish strong.  We took off at a 7:30 pace and as I approached the finish.  I could hear the crowd counting down to the 2 hour mark.  I began a sprint and made it just in time.  Gun time was 1:59:58 and my chip time was 1:59:44.  So, no PR on this day.  But with everything that went down and how I felt.  I'll take a sub 2 half.

At the finish area I met up with fellow runners Angie, Jess, Christian, Ryan, Jeff, Mason, and Kali.  Big congrats go to Angie and Christian as they PR'd!!!!!

Tuesday, September 6, 2011

Buckeye Half Marathon

I'm a little slow on getting this out, but the Sunday before last.  I competed in the Buckeye Half Marathon.  It was my first time for this race, but it is basically in my backyard.  So I was very familiar with the course.  It is a two lap loop around a portion of CVNP that starts and ends at Howe Meadow.  The best part of the race is you can sign up at a discount as part of your Akron Marathon registration.  Depending on how early you register you get 2 half marathons, 1 hoodie, 1 race shirt, 2 finisher medals, and a year subscription to Running Times.  There aren't too many big races down here, but the ones they have.  Definitely take care of the runners.

I had no real expectations for this race as I was using it only to gauge where I was after spending the bulk of my time cycling over the past couple months.  To be honest, I have been running embarrassingly poor the past 6 weeks.  I could barely survive my runs and was 1-1:30 per mile slower than in the Spring.  I've been hoping that this was do to the humidity as my runs had been during the heat of the day.  Also, I had not ran more than 10 miles at once since August 4th and to make matters worse.  I ran 8 a few days before and had some serious shin pain training on some hills for Akron.  I had walked it off and ran a mile home pain free, so I wasn't too concerned.  But it definitely was on my mind.  So, I headed in to my 3rd half marathon with no expectations other than finishing on two feet.

As usual I was up early on Sunday getting ready for the race and it was actually pretty nice not having to drive all the way to Cleveland to run.  I met up with Angie who was also running and we headed down to Howe Meadow.  After arriving we quickly ran in to fellow bloggers and dirty runners Stephanie and Justin.  They also had pacers at this race, which was a nice touch.  It wasn't a large race as it only had between 400-600 runners.  I lined up with the 2:00 group and felt pretty good as I made it through the first two miles.  Once I was warmed up I comfortably bridged the gap to the 1:55 group.  At mile 3, I saw Justin and thought I would run with him.  Even after running 20 the day before, he dropped me fairly quickly.  I spent the next few miles slightly behind the 1:55 group, which was a comfortable spot.  I was feeling pretty good through the first lap and made it to the half way point in 57 something.

During my second loop.  I began to fatigue a little around mile 10.  I tried to hold on as I have small cushion at sub 2 hours, but I fell back to the 2:00 group at mile 12.  At this point I couldn't hang with them.  So I called an audible.  I tried @Matty_083's ralk program for the last bit.  So, I walked for 1 minute and then resumed a below 9 minute pace.  I would like to say I did this twice, but I was pretty tired so I walked 1 minute every half mile.  I have to admit.  I think I ran faster at the end than if I would have struggled through the rest.  I managed to hold on for a 2:02:08 half marathon!  Not a PR for me, but it is my fastest half so far this year!  The best news is I was pain free the whole race.

I quickly saw Angie, Justin, Ryan, and Jess at the finish as they finished ahead of me and we spent some time cheering in some other runners and took a photo of our Gansta poses.  Lol.

Overall this is a really nice race.  Especially consider you get a hoodie, medal, chip time, and post race dinner.  Not a bad deal at all.  I definitely recommend coming to my hood next year for the race.