Monday, May 21, 2012

2012 Rite Aid Cleveland Marathon Race Report

There is so much I want to say about yesterday.  I don't even know where to start.  First off, I want to thank the Rite Aid Cleveland Marathon staff for holding another great race this year.  I also want to thank them again for allowing me to be a Official Marathon Blogger.

As the week approached, I began to grow more worried.  As each day passed, the forecasted temps increased.  Thankfully, the race started at 7am when the temps were in the high 60's.  Unfortunately, the temps would be building to the mid 80's during the race.  To battle the temps, I increased my electrolyte consumption throughout the week.  I was still worried as i'm a bigger runner and the heat effects me greatly during runs.  

Race weekend arrived and I had a great time meeting new people and visiting with friends who are very inspirational.  I know the race is getting beat up pretty bad over the $8.00 parking at the IX Center.  Seriously people?  Last year's expo had free parking, but people complained it was too far away.  This year it was much closer, but runners wanted free parking.  Unfortunately, there isn't the space downtown for an expo right now.  Even if there was.  You'd be paying more for parking than at the IX Center.  Please keep in mind the situation the marathon directors have before complaining about something as petty as $8 dollar parking.  

I woke up Sunday morning fresh and was ready to go.  My training and race preparation had gone flawlessly.  Probably one of the dumbest things I did was still run in my all black run outfit.  I agonized over the decision all weekend.  I knew the black would be hot, but I didn't want to break the "nothing new on raceday" rule.  Even though it was forecasted to be hot.  I was sticking to my goal of breaking under the 4 hour mark and if it got too hot.  I would try an PR under my best time of 4:37.  

When I arrived at the start line.  I was quickly able to find my friends and posed for these pictures.  Big thanks again this year to the Cleveland Browns for allowing us access to the stadium.  

I made my way to the corral about 15 minutes prior to the start.  They lengthened the starting area this year and it seemed to help a lot.  I bumped into a few more friends at the start and it was nice visiting with them prior to the start.  As the clock struck 7 and the start began.  You could already feel it getting warmer.  

The first 5K

I made the first climb up 3rd street and a quick right up the shore way bridge.  The runners were much better this year and I only bumped into a few people who were already walking.  I was able to establish my early goal pace of 9:00 through the first few miles.  As I approached the first water stop, worry began to set in.  My legs felt like lead and it felt like my feet were striking the ground harder than they should.  Hoping it was just taper rust I forged on. 

Through the 10K

Winding around some flat roads, I arrived at the 10K point.  At this point you could see the effects of the new corral system.  The roads were crowded, but not to the point where you were blocked by any runners.  The crowds were great and people were lined on both sides of the road.  I didn't pay much attention to them as my full attention was on my pace, heat and legs of lead.  I was through the first 10K at 57:57 with a pace of 9:20.  I was a little off on time from my goal pace as took it easy through the water stops.  My plan was that the extra fluid would pay off later in the race.  

Through mile 13.1

From the 10K mark through the half way point, the wheels began to fall off.  We made our way through the westside including Tremont, Ohio City, and made our way back downtown.  The temps were still rising and it was probably in the mid 70's at this point.  Mile 9.8 is where I first noticed a course change.  It was a steep decline followed by a steep incline at mile 10.  The hill itself wasn't anything that I would describe as a killer.  It was just well placed for hurt and with the heat, it felt like a mountain.  I was due for a GU so I walked the first half and took in my GU.  At this point I started to realize I didn't have the legs for sub 4 hours and began to calculate out what I needed to do to achieve a PR.

After the hill I made it to the mile 11 water stop.  I slowed down and as I grabbed my water.  I looked down and began to feel dizzy.  I nearly fell over.  Quickly recovering, I went to into panic.  Did I almost pass out?  What is wrong?  What the hell is going on?  I'm at mile 11 this can't be happening!!!!  My mind began to race.  I made my way up the bridge back to town and you could begin to see the casualties of the race as the bridge was littered with firetrucks and ambulances.  

I made my way back to town realizing I was in for a long day.  I started harboring thoughts of dropping out.  I could save my legs and quickly register for a marathon next week in Buffalo or later in Canton.  I decided to just finish what I started and devised a run/walk plan.  I did see fellow marathon blogger and good friend Jessica Bagwell at mile 12.  I made it to the halfway point in 2:07, which was 12 minutes off my goal pace. 

Halfway through 20

As I approached East 9th Street I began to feel worse.  My cramps were getting more frequent and I was still fighting bouts of dizziness.  It was an odd time for me as I had never been faced with this decision before.   Should I stop?  Can I run/walk this out?  My heart rate is at 185 and I have not seen it below 160 since mile 5.  Can I die from this?  These were all things that were all running through my head.  I honestly wanted to quit.  It was when I reached Euclid, that I decided to go for it.  My reward? A death march done Euclid to the MLK.  The temps at this point had to be well into the 80's.  I couldn't run more than a 1/4 mile before I cramped up.  I ran into Matt who is a Ironman and TNT coach for this event.  He walked with me for a bit at mile 14 and provided me with the inspiration I needed to keep going.  The death march continued done Euclid as there was no shade and I was frying in the sun.  My cramps continued to get worse and my walks got longer.  My feet began to swell really bad and felt like they were about to burst out of my shoes.  Once I reached the MLK, there was more shade and I was able to run a little more.

Still fighting cramps and dizziness I continued on.  I was taking on massive amounts of water and power ade at every stop.  I couldn't keep hydrated as my mouth was completely dry minutes later.  I began to worry if I was going to make it.  I began to struggle to keep my emotions in check and was fighting back tears.  I couldn't believe all my hard work training was for nothing.  The heat and miles were breaking me down.  I found myself questioning what I did to deserve this.

Mile 20 through 25

I made a left and hit the bike path.  Hoping the breeze off the lake would help, I tried to run it.  I made it half way and boom, cramps.  This time the wouldn't go away.  I could barely walk.  Somehow I forged on.  As I climbed off the path into the road portion.  I heard the race had gone from yellow to red.  At this point I just wanted to try and finish without suffering a heat stroke.  Even if it meant walking the remaining 4 miles.  I ran into Matt Oravec again at mile 24.  A special thanks to him for walking with me and sharing some of your salt tabs and water.  I helped a ton.  At this point of the race the heat index was at 100.  I don't even want to know what the road temp was.  I am sure it was something sticky on the road, but it could literally hear the bottoms of my shoes sticking to the ground.  If I didn't know any better.  I would have thought they were melting to the ground.

Coming towards the end, the volunteers were counting down the blocks to the next water stop.  It was nice as it helped gauge your effort.  I had been waiting all day to reach the mile 25 water stop.  The water stop at mile 25 was the Autism stop created by Christian Heller and his wife Kelly.  Also waiting for me were my good friends Jill and Rikki.  I know they didn't believe me, but seeing everyone at mile 25 is the ONLY reason I continued.  They work so hard in their efforts that day and with their work with Autism.  Their inspiration kept me going.  I was so happy to seem them that I immediately began to fight back the tears when I saw the Go BEAL signs.  Some quick hugs and a chugging of a Summer Shandy and I was on my way again.

Christian aka Richard Simmons at the mile 25 water stop.

The finish.

The motivation and hopefully the beer I got at mile 25 gave me the energy to jog out the last mile.  I was so thankful to see the Galleria and I made the right turn and down the hill I went.  I reached the finish line and it was very emotional.  I was happy to survive without injury, but I was also sad.  You could hear ambulance sirens constantly for the past 2 hours and I felt bad for all those who didn't make it.  I also struggled with disappointment and shame.  I invested 143 hours this year into training and it was all ripped away by my cramps.  I do hope someday I look back at this as more of an accomplishment in the fact that I fought through a mountain of adversity versus the disappointment of not reaching a goal.

Thank you again to all the Rite Aid Cleveland Marathon staff and all the volunteers.  No event is perfect for everyone, but keep in mind that they are trying to give over 20,000 runners a perfect experience and they do a great job.  I would recommend this race to anyone.

I also want to thank everyone for their support through my training and via this blog.  You guys have been a great help and I greatly appreciate it.

My favorite post race tradition.

All black Nike Running cookies from Kristy Hill


Holly said...

Each race report I read it's like we were all in the journey together because I experienced many of the same feelings and frustrations. You chugged along and completed the race. That's what counts in this one. There will be other races along the journey!

Didn't know you always wear the same outfit. Will have to look for the man in black next time. :)

inspirunning said...

You did awesome Beal. It was a rough day out there and a very humbling experience. I understand you feel like all the time spent training and you didn't have your desired race... but I really think it will make you a stronger racer and the next seem "easy" if that's possible. Congrats on pushing through it, it was definitely worth it! Be proud!

inspirunning said...

also...I thought they did a great job w/ the medical help as well, everyone I saw in bad shape was getting attended to. I thought the back half should have had water every mile though. That would be my only suggestion for them next year if it's a hot day. But I appreciated all the volunteers out there doing the best they could with a tough situation.

Anonymous said...

Congrats for getting through that in less than ideal conditions. I still can't believe how hot it's been in the midwest this early in the year. You are a champion!

pengo said...

Awesome, dude. Congratulations!

David H. said...

Congrats on getting through the crazy heat yesterday. It was kind of surreal how quickly it got hot, but the medical teams and other runners were very quick to respond in the few cases I saw.

Anna said...

Congrats Beal on finishing "a race through hell." I have so much admiration for all of you who were able to run the full. Even the half was tough for me and I wanted to quit at one point. I feel like all use runners who survived this race are part of this unique fraternity because we fought through the heat, physical and mental struggles, and roller coaster of emotions.
Even though it wasn't the race you wanted, you've become such a better an stronger runner through your training. I know your next full you will reach your goal of sub-4. :)

Bill said...

You are a true inspiration! Fighting through adversity, pain, physical and mental anguish to finish yesterday are amazing feats. Your training wasn't wasted one bit. You'd never have been able to get through without it. Plus, think of all that you accomplished during these past few months leading up to the race. The pounds lost, the miles you ran and rode, the swims ... dude, you all around killed it. Celebrate the entire process. Don't look at one day and feel like you failed. Because, you won. In so many, many ways, you won!

Alicia at Poise in Parma said...

This is a very well though out race recap, so major props for taking us through every step of those 26 miles. I give you all the credit in the world for making the decision to continue on. We all know most would have chosen the easier route, but you fought the touch fight. Sure the number on the clock wasn't what you were hoping for, but you sure as heck earned that medal. Nice work Beal!

Anonymous said...

I was with you at about mile 12. I wondered how a guy could go on with the black outfit but now I know how you continued on after reading your story. I was very disappointed with my time and I wondered if I could have done better but your story helps me understand that the heat can really take a toll on someone and it's more important to know that the effort is what's important not the PR.

Rapunzel41 said...

I am not a runner so I do not know the difficulty of undertaking something as foreign to me as 26.2 miles( I make it 4.5 on the elliptical and think i am a god.) The fact that you pushed through and completed it makes you a ROCK STAR. Be Proud. I am proud of you.

SlimKatie @ Runs for Cookies said...

I am so glad to read this! Not glad that you had a hard time, but glad I wasn't the only one. This was my first marathon, and it was awful--I trained in great temps all winter, and wasn't used to the heat. I finished 30 minutes slower than I had planned, and was feeling disappointed about it. But anyway, congrats on sticking it out--you described the heat much better than I did on my race report! ;)

Jen Small said...

way to stay tough, fight thru and cross that finish line. every report is that it was brutal..

Matty O said...

Wow, I think you put into words what I had seen on EVERYONE's faces that day.

I won't lie, if I saw my HR above 180bpm during a race that was anything longer than 5k... I would have bailed. That is INTENSE buddy.

Glad you pushed through. The time goal was not achieved, but you accomplished something that day that not many people will ever experience. A true character builder out there.

You have a wonderful base right now, I think if you really wanted that PR, Canton could be the day for it.

I was glad you wore all Black so I could pick you out easily :) I suck at finding people during races haha. But don't do that again! ha!

Great work man. Don't ever look down on the race time since you put all the hours in training and you lost all that weight. It's about the journey, not the race.

Anonymous said...

I had no idea you were feeling dizzy early on. I knew it was hot and I know it affects you more than others. So proud with how you held up and still finished this race. I know it was not easy and being in the heat for a race is not much fun.

Fizzgig said...

Great job! It was a hard one for sure, the heat and the blazing sun did nothing to help!

Most people were in bed while the rest of us were sweating it out on the race course! That' says a lot!

Anonymous said...

This was my first marathon, so I have no point of comparison. But I struggled through the same areas you did. I finished about 30 - 40 minutes slower than I had hoped, but I guess the fact that I ran the whole thing (minus one stop to stretch cramping calves and three less-than-100 yard walks)should be a point of pride. I think everyone - from the most elite runner to someone like me - had to adjust their expectations. Great job!!!

Anonymous said...

you did great! it was really hot out there--the sun was brutal. I know its tough given all the time invested in training, but imagine how much worse it would've been like if you hadn't trained well. You finished and given the conditions, that is a huge accomplishment.

G Spalding said...

This could have been my story. The sun and heat were brutal. I started walking at the 15-mile mark and did not feel guilty as I watched numerous ambulances zip by. I ran this race in 2009 and had to wear gloves the first 4-5 miles. This race was more than one hour slower than 2009. After reading these posts, I've made up my mind to return in 2013 and give it another try. GCS

Mollyberries said...

BEAL! You are SO TOUGH! I love this race recap. You captured the emotions of a tough race so well. This reminds me so much of when I ran Chicago in 2007. It was literally hell on earth, but it made me SO much stronger and left me wanting to come back for more. Rest up and celebrate your victory in the finish! Excited to see where you go next!

John S. said...

You are so correct about Euclid. It WAS a death march. That stretch of 3 miles beat me down to a pulp.

Robert Salmon said...

Hi Matt. I'm glad I came across your blog. I ran Cleveland's '12 marathon too and finished in 5:08. I saw you along the way many times. I was a short red-headed dude wearing all gray. I know we passed each other numerous times. I have the EXACT same story as you. All my training runs were in the 9 - 9:30 pace including a 22 miler in 3:25. I was so excited to have my 1st marathon be around 4 or 4:15... and then came the heat. Cramping, fighting back tears from frustration, seeing friends and family to keep me going. Well here we are in December... and I'm doing it all over again.

You and I are going to hit our goals. The weather is going to cooperate!!!! Good luck and I'll be following your blog.