Sunday, May 22, 2011

Race Report: Cleveland Marathon! (26.2 x2)

So... I'm back, and feeling somewhat cheerier than I was immediately after the race.  That means it's time for a RACE REPORT!  It's going to be another detailed one... partly because I want to remember it, partly because I wanna tell the story, and partly because I want to frankly describe my "Cleveland experience" for anyone considering running the Cleveland marathon.  If you wanna skip right to race day, scroll on down partway.  If you want to hear a recap only about the Cleveland marathon itself (the good, the bad, and the ugly) go all the way to the bottom.

Let me start by saying that this was the toughest thing I've ever done.  EVER.  I haven't entirely forgotten how hard that first marathon was either (and I just reread that race report to remind myself).  But this time the terrible weather, combined with having a time goal, and minus the holy-crap-i'm-superhuman-and-running-my-first-marathon adrenaline....cripes.  Here's a photo-spoiler of me finishing, although you already know that I did in fact make it (I'm in the pink):
No joyous smile this time. Anyhow, on to the report.

Race Week:  I might have over-tapered. I'm not sure.  The week of the race I only did two 3-mile runs.  And while last time I spent a lot of energy learning about and overthinking pacing strategy, this time I became semi-obsessed with doing carbloading with scientific precision.  I found this website that will calculate your carbloading needs, and I discovered that I needed 996 kcals of carbs consumed 12-36 hours before the race.  One gram of carbs = 4kcal, so if I did my maths right, you divide that number by 4 to convert kcals into grams of carbs.  So I needed to eat about 250 for my target performance (4:40 was my goal), and more if I hoped to run it faster and not have lack of fuel as a limiting factor.  So I made sure to eat that much on Friday, plus some.  

I thought it was an outlandishly high number and that it was going to be hard to meet that target, but I had about 200g consumed by about 3 in the afternoon and then I ate dinner on top of that.  My pre-race dinner consisted of a SAMMICH THAT HAD MASHED TATOES ON IT, from Melt in Cleveland.  (Yes, there is a sammich that has mashed potatoes on it.  Omg).  The photo doesn't do much for ya because my cell phone sucks, but trust me... it was amazing.  Thin-sliced seitan, vegan cheese, garlic mashed tatoes, on thick-sliced bread with dipping sauce and fries.  Go to Melt, you won't be sorry.

So, long story short, I rechanneled race-nerves into micromanaging my carb intake for the time leading up to the race, which probably didn't matter much in the long run but was kinda interesting in any case.. Since this was a travelin' race, I was also terrified of eating dairy without my knowledge while on the road, which would have made me pretty sick for race day (I'm lactose-intolerant since I've been vegan for quite awhile). But everything turned out all right.  

Day before race, and race expo:  My friend/running buddy Will was doing the Cleveland half with me and we rode together to Cleveland.  We left around 1 and got to the race expo around 330.  The expo was in Euclid, a part of Cleveland that (as far as we could tell) was some kind of abandoned post-industrial wasteland, unless we just took a particularly unattractive route into town.  The expo was in an old Kmart or something, and it was raining heavily, and the ceiling was leaking... while walking around inside, I'd find myself randomly getting dripped on and I'd look up to see some crappy tarp meant to catch rainwater that was clearly failing at its job.  There wasn't much to see at the expo (especially compared to the Columbus marathon expo, which I felt was especially well-done), and the swag was terrible:  we got a shirt (to their credit, I got a women-specific tech shirt), but the rest of the stuff in the bag was... a bundle of hair ties, some lady speed stick, some nu-skin, some "udder cream" (wtf?) and something called "anti-monkey-butt" (some kind of anti-chafing  Will got his bag first and came over to where I was standing in line for mine, holding his stick of women's deodorant and the hair ties with a "wtf?" look on his face.  We thought maybe they accidentally gave him a women's swag bag and he was supposed to get something different or something but... no.  That was the race swag for men too.  When he went back to double check and ask, I guess their response was, "Give it to a woman you know."  Let me point out here that the race fees for this race were, imho, exorbitant:  I paid $80 for the full and I think Will paid at least $65 or $70 for the half.  I felt terrible that he paid that much to come to Cleveland and run this race only to get a bunch of swag for women.  The race clearly isn't about the swag, but the swag is kind of like an exciting "free stuff" perk after you pay such a high fee to enter a race.  They have to know at least half of their registrants aren't going to want women's deodorant or hair ties, and it wouldn't have killed them to make a slight effort toward gender neutrality.  

This is the beginning of a long list of gripes (some minor, some major) that we had with the Cleveland marathon. Also at the expo we attempted to ask a couple of very basic questions--one at an information booth, and one at the table where we picked up our race bibs--and the volunteers were completely clueless.  The question we asked at the race bib table was ABOUT the race bib, and they STILL couldn't answer it.  I love race volunteers and everything they do, but someone in charge should have taken a little responsibility to educate the people representing the race about the race itself (annoying more on principle than anything else).

The weather was dreary and rainy... we swung by a Kroger to pick up some bananas, bagels, and PB for the morning, and then we went to Tommy's where I had a vegan milkshake.  Then Will and I parted ways and I went to meet up with my friend, E$, who was so kindly letting me stay with him and his family.

Race Day:  The race started at 7am, but we'd gotten emailed instructions to arrive downtown before 6am or the roads would be closed and we wouldn't be able to get to the starting area.  So, I got up at 445, got dressed while listening to it rain, and E$ dropped me off on a side street somewhere in downtown Cleveland where I met Will--and then Will and I went to find parking.  Parking was easy and completely free, and the starting area was inside Browns stadium.  We went into the stadium and were immediately able to find/use a restroom with no line at all (amazing for a race morning!)  Our opinion of the Cleveland marathon was starting to improve at this point... free, close parking and no problem with restrooms.  Win.  We had high hopes that maybe the expo sucked only because race day was going to be that much more awesome.  Here we are inside a deserted Browns stadium while we were waiting around and killing time.

So at this point it's about 630 and I have to start making commitments about what to wear for the race.  It was about 55-60 degrees and rainy.  I had on shorts and a tank top, but I couldn't decide whether to keep my jacket, sunglasses, and hat or not.  I hate running in a hat, and while I often wear one in the rain, I decided it wouldn't kill me to be hatless since I don't like them much in the first place and I didn't want an extra thing to carry.  So the hat went in the bag.  We had just decided I was going to go without the jacket when a gust of wind blew through Browns stadium and it started to feel really, really cold.  I made a (supremely wise) decision to keep the jacket, and I kept the sunglasses too, thinking sort of superstitiously that maybe I could bring the sun out with sheer force of will.  (right...)  We checked the rest of our stuff at the gear check, and then my friend Sam called.  He had driven all the way up to Cleveland overnight and was already there with his bike, to ride around on the course cheering me on.  This also meant he hadn't slept; he left Columbus at like 2:30 or 3:00 am and got to downtown Cleveland just when we did.  I knew he was planning to come up but I hadn't been expecting him until maybe mile 10 or 12 or something, later in the day, and here he was at the start.  After one last restroom break and a bunch of confusing phone talk about which gate we were near, I ran outside and saw Sam just as we were on our way to the starting line.  It was pretty much the best thing that could've happened to me pre-race, because I headed down to the starting line feeling positive and really lucky to have such supportive and awesome people around.

The starting line involved the typical starting-line chaos, but this time with mud.  We couldn't get up to the actual starting area through the people, so we were standing probably 30-40 feet back from the road, aligned with the 445ish pace sign.  The plan was to push forward toward the starting corrals once the people started moving.  But meanwhile we had to stand in what amounted to a squishy mud-pit... both of my shoes were a mess and my right foot was solidly wet before we even got into the starting area.  Here's a shot Sam took of the starting area; the actual "starting corral" was on the far side of that line of trees, and we were standing on the side of the trees closest to the camera, waiting.  When we finally got onto the street there were a bunch of spectators standing ON THE STREET IN THE STARTING AREA, which was annoying and explained why we couldn't get onto the pavement and out of the mud--I understand wanting to be supportive of your runner(s), but it seems like basic race courtesy to stay back and let runners get into the starting corral.  Rawr.
The gun went off and we didn't move for about 6 minutes... and then, we were on our way!

Miles 1-4 (splits: 11:49, 11:08, 11:04, 11:25):  These were the miles I knew I'd have to strategically hold back and I ran them about as slowly as I'd hoped (a little too slow).  The first mile was EXTRA slow, but the road was so crowded initially we were lucky to even be moving at that pace.  Also, the first mile had an uphill over an overpass.  For these early miles we seemed to be on a freeway or something... after the first quarter mile or so there were no longer any spectators.  There were a lot of10k runners who had accidentally started with us (they had yellow race bibs) and along this freeway course there was nowhere for them to jump off the course and turn around.  I kind of wonder what happened to these one girls who had accidentally ended up on the half marathon course... after a bit of time I turned to them and was like "Umm.. you know this is the half/full marathon and not the 10k right?" and they were like... "Yeah but we don't know what to do or where to go!  I guess we're doing a half..."  Hopefully they made it (another problem of the starting-line chaos... I couldn't believe how many 10kers had started with the half/full on the wrong course.  There was no clear direction and no signage unless you were within hearing range of the ONE announcement I heard about it). Just before we got to mile 4 we entered a residential area.  During these early miles I felt good, but kept getting a side stitch a little... it was misting a very light rain, but it was very humid.  I was initially grateful for the jacket but by the end of mile 3 it was apparent that I was going to have to take it off... the humidity was insane, and I felt way too hot. I know I was talking to Will during this part but I don't really remember anything we were talking about...except for the fact that there weren't enough port-a-potties for miles and we saw a girl run off the course and drop her pants in some long grass.

Miles 5-9:  (splits: 10:37, 10:43, 10:25, 10:27, 10:22)  At mile 5 I was ready to pick up the pace and I knew I had to average better than 10:52/mile if I wanted to finish in under 4:45.  I did most of my  long training runs at a 10:30 pace, and I felt equipped to handle that or slightly better, and my pacing strategy for this race basically amounted to "I'm going to hold back for the first 4-5 miles and then I'm going to run how I feel, and hopefully stay near 10:30 for as long as I can, hopefully until mile 17."  I took off my jacket around mile 5 and gave it to Sam when I saw him around mile 6.  After I shed the jacket, I felt immediately better and more refreshed.  It was WAY too humid, and still misting rain.  During this range of miles there was a chaotic couple of water stops where the volunteers were clueless.  I had to grab a cup off a table at one of them while volunteers were just standing around, and it was unclear at other stops where to get water and where to get powerade.  Even though I don't usually drink powerade, my plan if it was humid was to take something at every station, alternating powerade and water, but I kept ending up with more powerade than water.  In any case I felt really good during these miles... Will and I were joking around and the time was FLYING past--suddenly it was mile 9 and it was like we were just out for a usual weekend run in the misty rain.  I made myself take a gel around mile 8 even though I wasn't hungry and didn't want it....I was afraid of crashing later. In my first marathon I'd taken gels really early in the race and it seemed to help.  This photo was right around mile 9 when we saw Sam again, and right before I shed my sunglasses permanently (boo... no sun in sight).  

Miles 10, 11, 12 (splits: 10:09, 10:26, 10:19):  Still feeling really good during these miles.  At mile 12 I had to say goodbye to Will--the course split for the half marathoners.  Here we are going our separate ways... the Final Commitment to doing a full marathon (I'm the tiny person on the right in white and black):

There's always that feeling of "now this shit is getting real" at the turnoff point for the half marathoners.  

Mile 13, 14, 15 (splits: 9:37, 10:35, 10:40) It started to rain really hard just at this point, and I was talking to some really legit-looking runners who were running near me. I was cruising along on adrenaline and feeling great when I came to this huge intersection (the cross street was 5-6 lanes wide).  There was a bored-looking cop standing there and a car almost ran over me and a person ahead of me; I stopped a second because a second car was following it and then I got REALLY mad.  I just remember standing in front of the second car gesturing wildly and waving my arms and screaming at the top of my lungs "Go ahead and hit me, motherf*cker!!! Just go ahead!  Hit me!"  I was so mad and had so much adrenaline both from the race and from almost getting hit, and from the fact that a cop was standing right there doing NOTHING.  Then I took off running at top speed.  I heard one of the guys in the group I had been talking to behind me saying, "Wow, don't mess with THAT girl."  So I guess I was officially the complete lunatic on the course, and it was only destined to get worse from there in the lunacy department.  For the rest of mile 13 I was cruising along way too fast, through downtown Cleveland in a downpour.  I saw some guy on the sidelines wearing a "Team Frontrunner" shirt, and I yelled out "Yay Columbus!"  He turned and smiled and waved.  Something's been happening to me lately where whenever I'm on a huge adrenaline high I just start yelling while I'm running... it's kind of crazy and it's almost like I can't control it.  For the whole second half of the race I was yelling and probably driving people around me crazy.

During miles 13, 14, and 15, i got out my ipod (it was pocketed in a plastic bag until this point).  I rigged it so it was still inside the plastic bag but also clipped onto my shorts.  My friend David made me an amazing 5-hour-long "marathon mix"--a combination of new songs and old familiar ones, and a wide range of music--and I'd been waiting for just the right moment to bust out the tunes.  Not gonna lie, it contributed to the adrenaline and my good mood in spite of the torrential downpour during these miles.

Miles 16, 17, 18, 19 (splits: 11:02, 11:05, 11:47, 11:31)  This is where things started to get ugly. Miles 16, 17, and 18 were through some park-like area for the most part I think.  A lot of this part is a blur.  The park was really pretty and deserted (there were hardly any spectators anywhere on the second half, really--it was raining really hard).  Somewhere around mile 16 I started to feel terrible.  My lungs felt ok or whatever, but my legs were tired and I was getting cold.  I didn't want to take my jacket back from Sam because I was already soaked and it just seemed pointless. Also I noticed that my hands were incredibly swollen up.  My skin felt tight, and by the end of the race I had numbness in my fingertips from the swelling.  I don't know if it was some kind of electrolyte problem or what, so I switched to just taking powerade off the course instead of alternating with water.  Also, I looked for my electrolyte tabs only to find that I forgot to pack them in my race belt. But I kept moving along.  

Then somewhere around mile 17 or 18, the 4:45 pace group caught up to me.  In the first half I'd blown past both 5:00 and 4:45 so I knew, until this point, that I was on schedule for a really good finishing time.  I knew, mentally, that I just had to hold off the 4:45 group.  So when they showed up right next to me I couldn't believe it--somehow I thought that I had more of a lead on them, because I hadn't seen them for miles.  I hung with them awhile but my legs were killing me and I couldn't keep up.  They passed and this was when I really lost it.  I started crying like crazy (at least I kept running).  It was such an overwhelming feeling of complete loss of hope.  I knew I wouldn't be able to catch them again because of how I felt, and it was like I was out there dragging myself along, mile after rainy, cold, humid mile, just to run another 5+ hour marathon, even in spite of all of the hard work I put in doing speedwork, etc.  Talk about disappointing.  It was so hard to keep going after that.  I mean, talk about hitting a mental wall--EVERYTHING from that point forward was a struggle.  Sam started biking along next to me as I was plodding along.  I couldn't believe the pain in my legs started this early... in the Columbus marathon at least that part held off until mile 18.5 or so, and here I was starting to struggle at mile 16 and really suffering a lot by mile 18-19.  It seemed to hit me all at once.  Just at that moment, my ipod stopped working.  It was fully charged, and I'd only listened to it for a few miles (I had been pausing it now and then while I was talking to Sam).  And it was done.  I resignedly handed it over to Sam.  I think the humidity had gotten to it even though it was inside a plastic bag.  It has since resumed working, and it's done that before in humid weather.  Anyway, it died on me at the moment I needed it most.  It was kind of like the universe pointing out to me that I couldn't have a crutch--this race had to be all me.

Mile 20, 21, 22, 23 (splits: 12:54, 13:48, 12:24, 12:28)  4:45 passing me was destroying me.  Looking back, I feel like I could have tried to push myself harder during these 3 miles specifically if I could've held my mind together.  I was in a lot of pain physically and these miles were especially terrible ones because we were running along the lakefront with a freezing cold headwind and driving rain.  The colder I felt and the more my hands and feet hurt from swelling, the harder it was to get over the fact that I was also going to have a crappy finishing time.  I came upon this girl who was struggling; she was squatting down on the pavement and holding her knees.  I tried to pick her up and get her to keep going with me, and we ran together a bit, but she couldn't make it--she had surgery only 4 weeks previously on her knees.  I hope she was able to walk to the finish and not drop completely.  She seemed embarrassed and insisted I leave her behind, so I kept going.  Along the lake, not only was the wind brutal but I also had a bout with nausea--the waves were moving all over the place mostly on my right side, but for portions there was water visible down on the left (like underneath the path).  I was getting motion sickness, and the smell of dead fish was extremely strong.  If you know me you know that I find the smell of fish to be one of the grossest smells imaginable, so for quite awhile I was convinced that, between the waves moving and the fish smell, this was not going to end well.  During mile 21 I took a pee break (hence the terrible mile split), which marks the first time I've EVER stopped during a race to use a port-a-potty.  There was no line and I had already given up on a finishing time that didn't suck, so I took my opportunity.  Sam was at hand during most of these miles, biking just off the course.  I was doing a lot of bitching.  People really see me at my worst during a marathon.

Mile 24: 11:10.  Just as I got to the end of mile 23, I turned and the 5:00 pace group was right there.  Suddenly I knew it had to be my mission to keep those horrible bastards from passing me--that 5:00 pace group represented failure to me, because I swore I was NOT going to run another 5:00 marathon.  I'm sure they are/were all very nice people but mentally i was demonizing them and had to outrun them and all they represented.  My legs hurt so bad at this point, and I was whimpering like a baby, but I kicked up the pace.  I knew I only had to make it to the end of mile 24 and then I would meet Will again, who was going to run the last 2 miles with me.  I was just repeating to myself, "Just hold them off for a mile.  Just one mile.  Then Will will help you.  If you tell Will not to let you fail, he won't let you fail."  Sam was biking along on the sidewalk  keeping me going, just as he had for the past several miles.  My left knee was starting to hurt and I stumbled a couple of times, and the pace I was going, given how my legs felt, felt about how a 8:30 pace normally feels to me.  I was worried I might faceplant.  Finally I saw the mile 24 marker in the distance and Will was standing there.

Mile 25, 26 (splits: 10:56, 10:51):  Objectively speaking these splits aren't fast, at all, but like I said, it felt like I was cruising at a pace where I was completely out of control of my legs.  I had Will run on my left side in hopes that if I stumbled because of my left knee, he could catch me a little.  The pavement for most of the race was a complete mess of potholes, etc, but these 2 miles seemed far worse than the others--lumpy hole-patches everywhere, an uncovered water main, etc.  It was requiring all of my attention to not fall down.  Meanwhile that 5:00 pace group would NOT fall off, even though i was running as fast as I could.  They were right there, right at my heels.  Poor Will was just spouting off a stream of positivity and encouragement about how I was NOT going to let them catch me.  I was also thinking about how that group might not even be exactly on pace, so I might run my feet off for these last 3 miles trying to stay ahead of them and end up still running a 5+ hour marathon.  But I had to stay ahead of them.  Somewhere in mile 25 I turned to Will and started literally screaming about how I would never do this again.  I don't even remember everything I said... he said I was like, "MARK MY WORDS, I AM NEVER DOING THIS AGAIN!"  And I was yelling enough that some random guy started participating in the conversation.  I don't remember all of this very well.  Also I think a girl was running with us for awhile because she was listening to Will's encouragement--she told him she was pretending it was meant for her, but she didn't hang with us for long.  I know I kept yelling other things like "I FEEL TERRIBLE" and "I AM GOING TO DIE," too.  It was a really shameful showing on my part.  If/when I DO do this again, I have to have an advance plan to keep my rage/suffering more internal... I don't really have the right to make the race experience worse for others around me.  It's kind of embarrassing how outwardly and verbally effusive I got when I was falling to pieces.  

When we hit mile 26, Will jumped off the course to let me finish the last 0.2, and Sam biked down to the finish to take photos.  This was the longest 0.2 of my life.  When there was 0.2 to go, I couldn't even see the finish.  I kept telling myself it was like doing a 400m repeat, no big, just do it, it's not that long.  But it felt neverending.  During my first marathon, things got easier as soon as I hit mile 25.5 or so, because there were all of these crowds and all of this thrill at finishing a marathon.  But every inch of that last 0.2 was suffering.  When I finally crossed the finish line I just wanted to sit down, right there.  I was so exhausted.  As soon as I stopped running I started shivering uncontrollably and I couldn't stop.  The finishing corrals were SO LONG, it was like they were neverending.  I just wanted to SIT DOWN and instead I had to keep walking forever, a million steps, through this huge long corral.  Finally I came to the break in the fence and collapsed onto a curb.  Will came over with the news:  I finished in 4:59:03.

My first sub-5 hour marathon.  But not by much.
But I really earned this one.  

At this point a lady came over and started insisting that I go inside Browns stadium and into the bathroom where I could get warmer.  I was shivering so, so much.  I felt like I couldn't walk another step.  Sam and Will made me get up and I made it into Browns stadium where it was colder than it had been on the curb.  The wind was just TEARING through that place.  Sam tried to get me a mylar blanket but they didn't have them at the finish--rumor had it they gave them to all of the half marathoners and were even giving them to spectators, but their follow-up email insists they only had them available at the medical tents...but I think Sam had even asked at a medical tent and was turned away.  Finally Will got me one (I later found out that he found a random person who had one and asked them for it).  Pretty sure I've never, ever been that cold and shivery in my life.  The wind blasting through Browns stadium was completely insane.
They persuaded me to get up and limp into the gear check room where it would be warmer.  I got up and the first room we found was actually the massage room so we went in there to sit.  Will and I ended up getting massages because we were in that room for so long thawing out.  Here are some "happy photos" once I warmed up:
Me with Sam in our traditional "post-race photo with medals" shot.  Except he has no medal since he didn't run this one, so he's holding up nothing at all... haha.  

Me with Will-- he's holding his half marathon medal, but this guy did his longest run EVER since he ran those last 2 miles with me, too (15 miles total for him, plus walking 2 to get to the mile 24 sign to meet me).  Also, he's wearing the men's version of the Cleve Marathon shirt here.  I'll post a picture of mine tomorrow (it's Easter Egg

Here is my scary swollen hand.  You can't really tell from this picture how bad it is... at this point I still have no feeling in my fingertips aside from some weird tingling numbness.  (And yes, I am eating salt & vinegar chips... yummy).

So that was my Cleveland marathon experience... the hardest race I've ever done, in the worst race-day weather conditions I've ever run.  Unfortunately the race ended more with an anticlimatic "This was so stupid...why did I even do this, what was I thinking" rather than the ecstatic joy of my first marathon.  But I've felt happier about it looking back, and contrary to what I was screaming en route to the finish, I'll probably be doing this madness again.  The thing is, I feel like the 26.2 distance is still solidly beating me.  I want to get to a point where I know how to pace and know what I'm doing well enough that I can make it at least to mile 20-21 before it gets hard, and where I can finish stronger than I did in these two.  And, well, faster.  We will see.  

We froze in the rain on the way to the car (at least it was parked close!) and then went to Johnny Mangos, where I walked in in my mylar blanket and the whole place turned to stare.  Oops.  Then we drank like 300 cups of coffee and I ate the most delicious pad thai.  Then I went back to E$'s for the best shower I've ever felt, and curled up in bed to get warm until it was time to drive back to Columbus.

Then I left my running shoes at Will's and didn't retrieve them until it was time for our Thursday group run.  I didn't want to look at them until then, trust me.  Heh.

The weather though.  Wow.
So if you stuck with me this long, let me sum up some opinions on the Cleveland marathon, if you're considering this race.  First, if you're looking for an Ohio race to do, choose the Columbus Marathon.  With 5 halfs under my belt and now 2 fulls, I can compare/contrast races.  And the Columbus marathon is the most well-managed race ever.  The course is great, the spectators are great, the expo was fun, the shirts were nice, everything about it is under control and in order.  Cleveland, comparatively, was not good--at least in my opinion.  In fact I saw the Columbus race director and told him how great I think he does, now that I've had Cleveland to compare.

First, some good things about the Cleveland Marathon to give credit where credit is due:
  • Parking was easy as hell, and free.  We just drove right up and walked right in.
  • Starting at Browns stadium made the restroom nonsense a breeze.  There were plenty of restrooms.  
  • It is not their fault that the weather was terrible, and that as a result there were hardly any spectators and hardly any course entertainment as advertised.  I want to make it very clear that I'm not blaming them for the terrible weather and its side effects.  (But, you should know that if you do choose to run Cleveland, crappy weather and wind off the lake is a very real possibility).
  • Women-specific tech shirts (even if it's kinda ugly... I like races that have women's shirts that actually fit me)
  • The food I ate in Cleveland was fabulous.  Ok, that's nothing to do with the race, but the city itself was good for eatin'.  I went to Tommy's, Melt, and Johnny Mangos.
Things that weren't done well:
  • First and foremost the biggest problem was the lack of mylar blankets at the finish.  You can't have a marathon in 50 degree rainy windy weather and not have mylar blankets.  I don't even know what the hell they were thinking.  They've sent out some follow-up emails addressing complaints in which they said they didn't run out of blankets but instead had PLANNED it this way--planned it so that there were none available at the finish and you would have to go to a medical tent to ask for a blanket.  But I finished that race and was shivering badly enough that my friends said I should have had medical people on me immediately, and there were no damn mylar blankets.  In the follow-up email they said that gear check was close enough to the finish that they didn't need to supply blankets.  To that I have two responses:  1) If that's the case, TELL YOUR RUNNERS IN ADVANCE that there will be no mylar blankets, and tell them TO PACK GEAR AND CHECK IT.  I never check gear at a race.  Will checked his bag but it didn't have a change of clothes in it, and we didn't think about warm clothes for after the race.  For every race I've ever run, if it's cold you get a mylar blanket and then you go back to the car wrapped in it.  How on earth were we supposed to know there would be no mylar blankets and they were counting on us to check gear or else freeze to death? and 2) I want to reiterate that I paid $80 for the privilege of running this race, and for that price a stupid mylar blanket isn't too much to ask for.  If I pay a hefty race entry fee I expect those things will be taken care of.
  • Like I said, both of my friends were saying that I should've had medical attention and that at most races they are there looking at everyone finishing and taking care of you if you look like a mess.  No medical people were around at all when I finished.  No one checked on me.  I didn't see any medical tents.  And worse yet no one gave me a damn mylar blanket so I could stop shaking.  If there WERE medical people at the finish, they weren't making themselves obvious enough to your average semi-incoherent exhausted and frozen runner. The thing is, I wouldn't have wanted to be admitted/treated/anything anyhow... but it concerns me in general.  Like, what if something was worse and REALLY wrong with me?  Where WERE they?  How long would it have taken for someone to notice?
  • The open intersections during the second half.  Seriously, wtf?! I almost got hit at one with a cop at it, and I thought maybe it was just because I was a mid/back packer, but I talked to a guy Saturday who finished 15th and he said there were open intersections for him too--even ones without cops at all.
  • The finishing corral was LONG and there were bananas, sports drink, and water.  There may have also been small bags of chips but I didn't see them.  Most good races will at least have bagels or something more.  It seemed kind of like they cheaped out, but whatever.
  • Race swag = terrible, especially for guys; expo = not much to see.  The central part of the expo was a health screening by Rite Aid employees.  (Boy, I really want to learn that my blood pressure sucks and my heart might explode right before running a marathon....?  who wants to do that? we kept walking...)
  • volunteers at expo were uninformed, unable to answer basic questions... some of the water stops were complete chaos in the first half.  One of them had no powerade at all.
  • the women's shirts were easter egg pink, if you find that kind of thing off-putting.  People were complaining loudly about it at the expo.
  • starting line chaos (normal for most races actually, so whatever.  but the mud sucked).  I feel the worst for the million 10kers we saw who ended up running the wrong race.
  • The medal ribbons have a typo on them... they say 2010 on the logo.  I find this more slightly hilarious than anything, but some people online were raging about it... seriously though, how can you have that kind of an oversight?
  • Hilarious:  the first thing they addressed in their email about problems was : Q: Why were there fish on the bike path during the marathon?  A: They must have washed up when the wind picked up.  I didn't see any fish, but that is damn funny.
So a lot of that is kind of trivial and stupid, but again, if I'm paying $80 for a race, I feel like it ought to include some attention to my post-race health and comfort.  People on the marathon facebook page were complaining about this a lot, and others were acting like "oh don't be a baby, no one needs a mylar blanket... you're paying for a race not for the perks, so just run it and deal"... but I know how I felt when I crossed that finish line.  I would probably not run Cleveland again.  Especially given how good the Columbus Marathon is in October, and I've also heard good things about the Flying Pig in Cincinnati (also in May).  Given how many races there are to choose from, I AM going to make an effort to choose the races and spend my money on races that are not only a good race, but also good perks.  

Whew.  I am as exhausted from writing that race report as I am from running the marathon ;)  Hehe.  Will and Sam, if you have more details to add or clarify let me know, because everything happening from mile 15 on was kinda fuzzy as I tried to reconstruct it.  I lost track of what mile was what and where.

Saturday, May 21, 2011

Strangest post-run craving ever:

Turnips and radishes.  What??!

Seriously, I was like 5 miles into my run with my group this morning and all I could think about was how I had to stop at the store and get some radishes and turnips.  And I did, and I just ate an entire bunch of raw radishes and one raw turnip.  I got hummus to dip them in but frankly I didn't want it and ended up just eating them plain with salt.

Root vegetables? Hmm.

Monday, May 16, 2011

post-marathon malaise..

I wasn't going to post about this here, but I may as well stay honest about my training/running in my running blog, right?  And marathoning is a mental sport as much as it is a physical one, so I may as well share the downs as well as the ups.

That thing is happening again... that terrible post-race letdown that I got after the last marathon.  It doesn't happen like this with half marathons, weirdly.  But after the last full marathon I got really depressed, and I kind of forgot that happened, until I started feeling like that again today.  

Today was harder bc it's the first race recovery day I've spent alone, too.  Usually my friend Sam has a day off work or I have something to occupy myself.  Today all I did was lay on Sam's sofa watching dvr all day while he was at work (I came over here because I could tell this morning at my apartment that I was feeling depressy so I thought a new environment would be a good choice).  I have no energy and I just feel like laying around like a pathetic lump.  My body hurts and when I get up to do stuff I feel like I have no energy to even do simple stuff like make a bagel with PB or something.  Usually when I feel depressed I try to remedy it with a run, and guess what I can't do today?  Yeah.  

It's like there was all of this buildup and preparation and all of this training and a trip to Cleveland and everything else to get me to that single moment of running the race.  And now the race is over and I don't know what to do with myself.  There are lots of things that I need to do... even HAVE to do... but when I focus on those things they seem extra terrible and overwhelming and unpleasant.  It's like with the big running hole in my life now I can't cope with the other stuff that stresses me out.

Add to that the fact that I'm not super-happy with how the race went yesterday and well... yeah.  Earlier I felt like a complete failure, like a person who can't even set a goal and work toward it and achieve it successfully... which is a bit of an extreme overreaction to just not running the race I'd hoped, which was even due at least in part to weather conditions beyond my control.  I realize it's irrational and I ran a freaking marathon and I should feel better about it.  But feeling like a slug who just wants to lay on a couch isn't exactly helping those feelings go away either.
Mostly it's like a huge feeling of loss or vacancy or something.  Like... what now?  And do I really want to put all of this energy into training again and face failure again?  It took so much out of me.  This will be in the race report, but the first half of the race went so well... i passed the 5 hour pace group, I passed the 445 pace group, and built a decent little lead on them... I was on pace to finish in around 440.  Then when I got somewhere near mile 16 they caught up to me... I hung with them for as long as I could but I couldn't keep up when I was struggling so they moved off ahead, and I completely fell apart crying.  Really tough of me, eh?  So I'm running along crying (at least I kept running)... just feeling like I went through all of this training and stuff just to fail, all of this investment and I still just can't do it.  That moment of getting passed by 445 was basically the race-ruiner for me because I wasn't mentally tough enough to hold my shit together and keep running with a positive attitude.  I felt like giving up, and I'm not sure I pushed myself as hard as I could have for the next 3 miles or so.  I rallied at the end when the 5:00 pace group caught up to me because I was NOT going to let them pass me... for the final 3 miles I was running at a pace that felt far in excess of what I could handle, with them at my heels, just fighting and clawing to keep ahead of them so I could run a sub-5 race.   That was kind of a little mini-comeback and refusal to COMPLETELY fail... but I'm really pissed at myself for being so fragile and discouraged when 445 passed that I couldn't keep going as well for a few miles.  Between the crying and being so incredibly cold and wet from the rain and everything else, I just let myself get weak.  I still feel like I don't have a super-clear perspective on some of this, though.  Parts of the hard miles are a little foggy and blurred together as I reflect on them.  I felt TERRIBLE during miles 17-23 and I can't be sure ALL of it was mental and not hitting physical limitations too.  The two are just so tied together it's hard to separate them.

And during the race I was thinking about how I can't do races like this if it's going to give me more reasons to feel like a failure.  Running has always been a joy to me because it gives me something to feel good about even when the rest of life is unpredictable.  I don't want running to become a source of negativity.

I think I just spent a lot of energy yesterday, physically, mentally, and emotionally, so everything I'm feeling is just all confused.  I don't know.  

In any case, the marathon is over and I am exhausted and feeling vacant and empty like this thing I worked up to since January is now gone.  I forgot about how depressed I was after the last race... I think that time I was still on a marathon high for a few days before these mopey feelings set in, at least.  Recovery from Marathon #2 seems to have an accelerated timeline, both mentally and physically (since I'm not as sore or limping as much as I was last time).
It's still rainy and cold outside today/tonight and anytime I even contemplate the idea of going out there I can barely stand it.

Yes, there are new goals.  I'll probs be doing a half in just 3 weeks... I have mixed feelings because I don't think I'm at a point where I can run a sub-2:00 half yet so part of me is just kind of, what's the point.  But my half PR is 2:15 and I think I could solidly beat that now, maybe I could run a 2:07 or something.  I don't know.  I should be making new goals and focusing on them so I feel positive, but the lingering negative feelings from not performing how I wanted yesterday along with general tired malaise are making even that seem like too much to handle.
I'm done being whiny now (and if you think this is whiny, you should've seen the pathetic mess i was yesterday from miles 17-23ish...)

So yeah, delayed race report... working on it once I feel a bit less pathetic and mopey :\

Finished Cleveland Marathon!

Finished Cleveland Marathon.  Here's a little post-marathon flava:
This race was TOUGH.  Like cold, windy, rainy, humid, miserable, TOUGH.  But I finished it and took 11 minutes off my previous time.  Not quite the finishing time I was hoping for, but I cannot emphasize enough how difficult this one was--so much worse than my first marathon.  Race report soon!

Monday, May 9, 2011

The Amazing Chia Seed

I've had chia seeds in my fridge for awhile, after I had read about them being an endurance 'superfood' of sorts.  Believe it or not I still haven't read Born To Run, but I guess in that book the tribe eats chia gel to fuel their runs.

I put some chia seeds in a smoothie once but the resulting texture kind of creeped me out.  And they do interesting things to oatmeal (not really in a good way...or maybe I'm just not used to them).  And some sites suggest sprinkling them on food, and if you do that they're just these weirdly crunchy little things that get stuck in your teeth (bleh). So they've just been sitting in the fridge.  Then last night I came across a blog that mentioned these seeds keep 2-4 years without going rancid, and I realized mine are still good (only 6 months or so old).

Then I found this recipe.  Basically I wanted something chocolate that wouldn't be a pain to make... and this totally fits the bill. I mean, all you do is stir seeds into some water and almond milk with cocoa and agave, and wait 10 minutes.

2 Tbsp chia seeds
1/2c almond milk
1/2 Tbsp cocoa
1/4c water
1/2 Tbsp sweetener like agave
Stir together for a couple of minutes.  Refrigerate for 10 minutes, stir and eat!

It was a freaking amazing chocolate pudding--and believe me, it's been a long time since this vegan has had anything even remotely like a pudding.  It was delicious.  And check out these health stats, gathered from that same blog and one other website:

  • more fiber than bran
  • 3x more antioxidants than blueberries
  • 15x more magnesium than broccoli
  • 3x more iron than spinach
  • 2x the protein of any other seed or grain
  • 5x the calcium of milk, plus a trace mineral (boron) that helps move calcium into your bones
  • 2x the potassium of bananas
  • huge amounts of omega3 and omega 6 (essential fatty acids I should pay more attention to... other vegan sources include walnuts and flaxseed)
Also I just read about how it slows the absorption of carbohydrates in your stomach, which is why it's a good endurance food--it prolongs your available energy.

If I can sit around eating freaking CHOCOLATE PUDDING and getting all of those benefits?!?  Sign me up!  Why haven't I been eating this before?!

This is another pretty good site about chia seeds:  Read and learn, seriously.  Check out the recipes at the bottom, too!  All of them easy...all of them apparently awesome.

I've already tried 2 other recipes:  you can make a "chia fresca" drink just from mixing 1 Tbsp of seeds with 10oz water, 2Tbsp lemon or lime juice, and a drizzle of agave.  It's like an energy drink.  And I just made a chia "jello" by hydrating the seeds in black cherry juice and water.  It's damn good.  And for vegans, I mean... where else are we gonna get something this easy and this gel-like besides like.. pectin or agar flakes or something?  I'm going to be eating this stuff like it's going out of style.

Sunday, May 8, 2011

Yikes... rage.

Apparently the past 2 weeks of tapering, in conjunction with life stress, have made me just one big stewing brew of miserable rage just waiting to seethe out.  I had a really good 9 miler with training buddies last Saturday, and then didn't run much this week due mostly to tapering and a tiny bit due to laziness (as I said... I could've ran a few more miles than I did).  Then today I went out there and was feeling a little icky for the first half mile.  But then I started running like a superhero when I started completely losing it and yelling.  I knew I'd been stressed and upset, but wow... I didn't realize how upset, I guess.  I hadn't even planned to talk about any of the stuff that just started spilling out.  My poor training buddy/friend who was along with me patiently tolerated it while I went on really loud yelling rants about a couple of my exes.  One rant after another, complete with rage-filled gesticulating, in a continuous stream for 6 miles.  Once I was yelling I started running a lot better and feeling a lot better. People were looking at me because I was being so loud and somehow I didn't even care. So much for me being a relatively quiet, calm person.  And my poor running buddy just said a lot of  "Yeah, I understand. Yeah, it's ok, really.  Yeah, that is total crap."  Guy is a saint.  (W., if you're reading this, thanks for the therapy session :o)

I guess I just needed to vent some of the hate out of my life and get some stuff off my chest.  I can't even express how much better I felt after all of that.  Girl just needed a good yell, combined with a good run.

Finally, I feel like I can focus my energy.  I think I'll be ok for this marathon now.  If not, I'm sure I can find some lingering angst to draw upon to help propel myself along...haha.

Saturday, May 7, 2011

Cap City Half: Race Volunteering!

Just got home from volunteering at Cap City Half!  I got moved from doing a water stop to being a road marshal... which basically meant I got to wear a "race crew" sweatshirt and direct traffic.  And cheer for people of course!  Here's my hoodie (yay free hoodie!)

So basically all I had to do was make cars turn around and go back in the direction they came from--they couldn't continue going straight because they'd have to pass through the race twice.  As you might imagine, drivers were not keen on being told they had to turn around.  One guy cursed me out, and 2 others yelled at me.  It makes me mad how much ire drivers always have toward runners.  Like, which is more important lady, your need for a Starbucks fix NOW, or 14,000 runners participating in a city-endorsed event with official street closings?  Turn around and go north 4 blocks, park and walk 2 blocks.  Not that big of a deal.

Anyway it was really fun... I saw one person running it who I didn't know was a runner at all, and one of our Thursday group run regulars was a pacer, and then I saw a couple others from the running group.  Toward the end of the race it was fun to cheer for people... I feel for the back o'the packers after most of the crowd takes off and they're still out there gutting it out so I tried to have some energy.  After the sag wagon went by and the course was officially closed, there was this one guy on the sidewalk still trying to finish the race... I cheered him on a little and told him to keep going and he was all "Oh, I'm going, don't worry."  If I hadn't been carrying a chair with me I would've seen if he wanted some company and finished the rest with him to try to help him stay cheery and on the right streets... he only had like 3 miles to go.  I really wish I could've done that, or at least made the offer.  Blah.

Anyway overall it was a really great experience... hopefully i'll get a chance to volunteer for another big race soon!

Friday, May 6, 2011

Tapering...  Wow.

I feel like I'm losing fitness, badly.  I feel like I'm sitting around getting fat.  I feel lazy and like I'm going a little stir-crazy.  I know tapering is what you're supposed to do or whatever, but it's killing me.  And strangely, I probably could be running a little more than I am now, even, but also this part of me is just like "ehhh ... do I really wanna put on running clothes and take a second shower just to go run 4 miles? is it even worth it?"  It's harder to get motivated for short runs, yet ironically at the same time I'm all "omg I miss running!!! wtf do i do with myself??"  An odd quandry.

One more week of this.  Race is coming fast... I hope I'm ready!