A couple days ago a coworker asked “Is this your favorite weekend of the year?” She was referring to the Cleveland Marathon weekend and I was like “no not my favorite but probably close.” I lied, it’s totally one of my favorite weekends of the year. Every day from Friday-Sunday is just filled with so many fun activities. I’ve dreaded writing this recap because then it means it is really over.
After feeling quite nauseous for the Cleveland Marathon in 2015, I made some changes to how I fueled for the Cleveland Marathon this year. It involved a serious carb deplete but with a more normal carb load. I tend to get full fast and don’t digest food quickly enough so I spread my foods out throughout Friday and Saturday. But on race morning, I got up at 2am to eat half a turkey sandwich and powerade to make sure I had enough fuel and went back to bed.
My alarm went off at 4:10 which wasn’t too bad since we normally get up around 4:20-4:30. Finally it pays off to be an early bird. The plan was to leave by 5:10 so that gave me enough time to take the dogs out, get dressed, eat breakfast (peanut butter toast and half a cup of coffee) and do some warm up stretches.
Most marathons I wear shorts and a tank. However, Cleveland weather made it very difficult to decide what to wear this year. Not just what to wear to run but what to wear to the start. I stuck with my shorts and tank but added compression socks, sleeves and gloves to keep warm. I also had hand warmers and last minute decided to wear a hat because it was sleeting. Yes, sleeting in mid May.
This was by far the most nervous I have been for a marathon in a long time. I just needed this race to start so that I could start moving. Thankfully the time went by quickly and after the national anthem the race started. I was way back in the middle of corral B with the 3:35 pace group so it took us a while to get to cross the start line.
Once we crossed the start line, our pacer went straight to work. It was awesome because I just let him do his thing and maneuvered the crowds and kept us on pace. There was a lot of dodging to be had with walkers who somehow ended up in corral A and B and were being tripped over. Then there was a lot of dodging with the puddles and those weird groove things that the buses use downtown. I hated to waste time and energy dodging puddles but I wanted my feet to be dry as long as possible.
Mile 1=7:57. Mile 2=8:20. Mile 3=8:11. Mile 4=8:17
The first couple miles of the race are obviously crowded but there is a 10k, half and full all together for those miles. And by crowded it is not crazy shoulder to shoulder but it still a crowd running through the streets. I ignored my watch and let the pacer tell me whether we were on or off pace. Our pace was to be 8:12 per mile.
The one thing that could not be ignored was the weather. It was windy and hail by mile 2. I told myself there would be a break in the weather and I would be fine within the hour.
Mile 5= 8:12. Mile 6=8:13. Mile 7=8:04. Mile 8=8:22
Now the first couple miles of a marathon always feel great but its those miles after where I start to check in with myself. How do I feel? Good, the pace feel easy. Almost too easy. Does anything hurt? Yes, my hamstring around mile 8. How is my stomach, is it queasy? No feels pretty good but too nervous to take a gel (bad Jess).
I kept looking around and I was the only idiot in a tank. All the guys had on short sleeves or long sleeves. The girls all had on tights, capris or jackets. Mile 7-9 was on a street called Train Ave. It’s a very “Cleveland” type of street (if you know what I mean, wink wink) but I was happy to see some supporters out there with fun signs. That street is not easy to get to and the weather was just awful at this point.
Mile 9=8:19. Mile 10=8:12. Mile 11=8:17. Mile 12=8:17
I finally got to see Francesca and Bethany who came out to cheer. I thought the weather would have scared them away but there they were bundled up in winter coats in May and cheering! It was around mile 9 that I finally finished my first gel that I started around mile 8. The half marathoners broke off around mile 10.5 and that’s when the course really started to thin out. I also lost Dan at this point. He was running with my pace group and doing awesome. I couldn’t talk to him because I was in the zone but it was nice to have someone I knew with me.
Mile 11 I remember very very well because once we got on to Detroit it was like Mother Nature put a switch on. We were running straight into the wind and snow/sleet/hail that was coming down. That hail hitting my shoulders was quiet painful. I am so happy that I had a hat on to protect my face!
Mile 13=8:11. Mile 14=8:16. Mile 15=8:13. Mile 16=8:13
At the half marathon mark, we got a new pacer and the original pacer dropped out. This was their plan all along and I was aware but the first pacer was doing good, I didn’t want him to go! The second pacer did really well and jumped right into pace. It was like he runs that pace in his sleep and did it effortlessly.
I forgot to mention that very early on, I don’t know if the mile markers were off or if everyone’s watches were off because my watch would beep but the mile marker I couldn’t even see yet. However, I was feeling really good and wasn’t going to let that bother me.
Mile 17=8:27. Mile 18=8:06. Mile 19=7:55. Mile 20=7:58
Between mile 17 and 18, I finally got to see Ryan! He was pacing the 3:25 group. Mile 17 was into the wind but I was looking forward to turning around so that I could finally have the wind at my back. Now the whole race I kept telling myself I could pick it up at mile 20 0r 23, depending on how I felt. Lucky for me, my pacer started picking it up for me. Maybe a little too fast that late in the race though. I just told myself to keep holding on though and kept gluing myself to him. So much so that I kept bumping elbows with him during the race.
Mile 21=8:02. Mile 22=8:08. Mile 23=8:15. Mile 24=8:17.
Just before Mile 22, I lost my pace group. I just couldn’t hold on to that pace anymore and had to drop back. I was really hoping I would have a second wind and get back to them. However, I was happy with how well I stayed on my pace without them. Miles 22-24 are hard miles of any marathon. To hold onto your pace that late is a huge accomplishment and I was happy with it.
Mile 25=8:45. Mile 26=8:51
Everyone always complains about running the Shoreway. However, I really like the Shoreway. I love the views of the lake, the views of downtown and the fact that I am running on a road I never ever get to run on. The last 2 miles really fell off for me but not as bad as other marathons I have ran. But that whole picking it up at the end thing just wasn’t happening. There were these gusts off the lake that were borderline pushing me over. I am not even exaggerating. I was literally getting pushed.
I looked at my watch and doing the math, I knew I wasn’t going to BQ, which was sad. My training had went so well and a sub 3:35 was totally there. However, I ran a really good race, felt really good and still had a chance at a PR. A PR that I set back in 2009!
I could still see my pace group but they were way too far away for me to catch. I came off the ramp of the Shoreway and there was Dan, jumping and cheering. He was so pumped it made me pumped and got me out of my funk that I wasn’t going to BQ.
I picked it up to finish and passed as many runners as I could. Not that it really mattered but it kept me going and kept the pace up. I ended up crossing the line in 3:37:57. The best part about crossing the finish, was that I could see Ryan right away. He was jumping and pumping his fists that I PR’d. He was so happy for me.
Below is the time from my Garmin Connect and the distance I had for the race.
So what’s next?
Not gonna lie. I thought about signing up for another race immediately. Like that Bayshore marathon in 2 weeks. However, I decided I would hold off and start a full training plan all over again and do Erie in the fall.
As for Cleveland, I can’t wait to come back next year as the race turns 40 in 2017. Rain, wind, hail, sleet and snow couldn’t scare this girl away from the Most Cleveland Race Ever.
Special thanks to every one who came out to the race on Sunday. The weather was less than ideal and I was freezing while running so I can’t imagine how cold the volunteers and spectators were and they were still out there. Special thanks to the Cleveland Marathon staff who puts this race together every year. I get to see first hand how hard it is to shut down a city for a day but every year they make it work. Special thanks to Ryans parents, Francesca, Bethany and the Nush family who braved the elements to come out and cheer. Special thanks to the Cleveland Marathon Ambassadors who inspire me daily and finally special thanks to Ryan for dealing with my nerves but more importantly for being my biggest fan and pushing me to be my best.