Monday, May 16, 2011

2011 Rite Aid Cleveland Marathon

Before I get to the race itself, a note about chemicals. Ad for a chemical company: 'without chemicals, life itself would be impossible.' My chemical of choice when it comes to running is called caffeine. It generally takes a cup or two of coffee, sometimes just tea, to get me out the door for a morning run. I'll also ingest something of the sort for races. I believe that aside from the obvious effect of waking me up, it benefits running in other ways as well: enhanced awareness, lower perception of pain, etc. Before a big race such as Cleveland, I'll often go a few days without caffeine so that the effect will be greater on race day.

That said, I'm usually pretty careful about not taking too much. I don't want to be too dependent on this, or any other chemical. But for the 2011 Cleveland Marathon, I think I took more than I ever have in one day:

-two cups of green tea early in the morning before I left (I had to wake up before driving to Connie's.)
-a no-doz type pill (200 mg) a bit before the start since I wouldn't be able to get coffee.
-3/4 of a bottle of 5-Hour Energy that they handed out before the start.
-another bottle of 5-Hour Energy that I had stashed in my shorts pocket after about an hour of running.
-4 energy gels that were laced with caffeine, taken during the race.
-a cup of coffee after the race (in the Key Marriott Fitness Center where we got to change and take showers).

The effect on the race? I'll get to that. But the effect on me? I was shaking like crazy well into the night, and almost didn't sleep at all. This must be what speed is like. (I had previously thought that caffeine's effects last 4-6 hours regardless of how much one ingested. I no longer believe this.)

The day was foggy, misty and cool. In other words, perfect. My plan was to begin with the 3:20 pace group and to try to pick it up in the end. I'd be happy with anything under 3:20 on this day, since I haven't been putting in the speedwork or shorter races like I did last year when I did 3:13. I'm also a few pounds north of last year's weight. I would've liked to run with Ladd and Connie, but I felt they would be just a bit faster, and I wanted to be more conservative.

Naturally all those plans went out the window as soon as the gun went off. After lining up by Browns Stadium with Ladd, Connie and Bob, I saw only Bob after the start, and I stuck with him for the first 5-6 miles. This was not smart on my part. Bob was running conservatively and wisely; I was not. You'd think after 90-some marathons and gobs of ultras and other stuff, that I'd know better.

I ran alone when I finally wised up enough to just let Bob go. After only a couple more miles, who should catch up with me, but Ladd, of all people. I had assumed right along that he was way up there, and that perhaps Bob would catch him. But no, Ladd was running smart. I decided, still fairly unwisely, to now stay with Ladd as the course took us from the very nice west side neighborhoods back into downtown. We said a fond farewell to the half-marathoners, and began heading east, past Playhouse Square, and eventually out towards University Circle.

The Cleveland Marathon course seems to change almost every year, and 2011 was no exception. Whereas we still go west for the first half, and east for the second half, those loops themselves were almost backwards from last year. I don't have a complaint about this, but it would be nice if they could settle on one course or another.

It was at University Circle, mile 17 or 18, where I lost Ladd. I was slowing just a bit, and he was still very steady. I could only hope that he'd be able to maintain his pace for a personal best. My favorite part of the course, MLK Blvd., through Rockefeller Park, came next. I was doing everything I could to try to maintain my pace, but I think I was slowing still a little more. Jim caught me and we chatted a bit before he went on after a personal best. With all these potential personal bests around me, you'd think... Oh never mind.

We hit mile 20 just as we got up to the lake at Gordon Park. I decided, after all that caffeine, that it was now or never. I'd run a pretty decent 20 miles (in 2:29, give or take), and a 45-minute final 10k would bring me in at a time similar to last year's.

I was surprised that we only stayed near the lake for a mile or so before making several turns. Mile 20 wasn't bad, but I slowed some more for the next few. With a mile and a half to go, I pushed as hard as I could to try to stay under 3:17. I don't know why that number is significant, but it seemed like it was at the time. The finish in front of Browns Stadium (the start had been in back) was pretty cool. I was going full tilt, and probably making all kinds of strange faces from the effort.

I made it in 3:16:xx - just barely under my 3:17 goal, and well under the original 3:20 goal. I could finally relax my face!

After I got my medal, I said hello and congrats to Bob, Ladd, Jim, and some other folks. It was a good day for a lot of us. Within a minute or so, we heard the announcer say, "Here comes Connie Gardner from Medina, Ohio. Congratulations, Connie, you are a *Marathoner*!" I don't think he knew who she was, but we sure gave her some $h!t about being a *Marathoner*!

I didn't know how I did in my age group. I was encouraged to not see too many geezers who looked to be my age, anywhere nearby at the finish. I later learned that I was first in that geezer division. That's a first for me at Cleveland (or any other medium/large marathon for that matter).

I suppose I'd have to say that chemicals do mostly work. And I can't wait till my next chance to abuse them.

1 comment:

Barefoot Johnny O said...

Excellent race. Congratulations on your first!

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