Thursday, May 24, 2007

30th Annual Cleveland Marathon

Well, here goes my first blog post...

The weekend started off by picking up my friend, Terry, from the Cleveland Airport Friday evening. He's one of my old college buddies (sorry.. I mean young) and was flying in from Atlanta to run his 2nd marathon with me. After leaving the airport, Terry, my wife Tami, and I decided to stop by the Mad Cactus in Strongsville for some mexican food and a few margaritas. Luckily we weren't doing this the night before the race! The food was great as always and I would recommend this restaurant to anyone who likes authentic Southwestern cuisine.

Saturday morning Terry and I headed over to the Happy Days Visitor Center parking lot off of Rt. 303 for a short trail run to loosen up the day before the race. We then drove to downtown Cleveland to pick up our bib numbers and check out the free goodies at the convention center. It was a decent sized expo, but not anywhere near as big as it used to be. We talked to Vince, owner of Verical Runner in Hudson, at his booth for a bit and then left to enjoy a big plate of pasta with my family at Bruno's Ristorante. I had made reservations for this restaurant a couple days in advance and realized when we got there that I had made a good decision. Their website states that it is one of Cleveland's best kept secrets, and after eating their homemade lasagna I can personally tell you that this restaurant is a hidden gem. The food and service was top notch and we all left with full stomachs. If I run the Cleveland Marathon again next year I will definitely be back to this place!

Well, after eating we headed back to our hotel, the Crowne Plaza City Centre, which is located on the corner right next to the finish line. Very convenient.. I stayed here last year for the marathon. Probably the only hotel I know of that gives you a meditation CD, earplugs, pillow fragrance, and a sleep mask next to your bed! Oh, and their alarm clocks have nature sounds, so I was able to wake up to the sound of waves and seagulls... doesn't get any better than that huh?

In the morning Terry (far right), my wife, and I (center) met up with my parents, brother (far left), and sister (2nd from left) who also stayed at the same hotel. My brother and sister were running the half marathon together.

We walked down to the start line with about 5-10 minutes to spare and I could tell that it would be tough to work our way to the front of the start line since construction had the sidewalk on our left closed, forcing spectators to mingle some with the runners. Terry and I had previously talked about running with the 3:40 pace group since his best time prior to Cleveland was a 5+ hour finish at an extremely hot Pittsburgh marathon. I told him that I would help keep us on pace with my GPS watch. So, we moved up towards the start line as far as we could until the wall of runners stopped us from going any further and by the time the gun went off we were right around the 3:50 pace group. As we warmed up the first couple of miles I was surprised how many familiar faces I ran into. That's one of the nice features of having a local marathon.

Terry and I cruised through the first 10 miles or so right around a 3:40-3:45 pace. The weather was perfect (cloudy and upper 50's), except for a short rain shower early on. But that didn't last too long and actually felt pretty good as we started to sweat. As we neared the halfway point of the race I kept asking Terry how he felt and for the most part seemed to be doing pretty good. It wasn't until about 15 miles that I could tell he was beginning to struggle some with the pace. I told him to make sure to drink Powerade at the next water stop, even if he didn't feel like it, so that his body would get some much needed sugar and electrolytes.

As we turned left into a city park around mile 17 I told Terry to just focus on making it another couple miles to Lake Erie and then we would be making the final turn to head back to downtown. I knew what he was feeling at this point since I had experienced the same kind of pain a couple years ago when I ran with the 3:10 pace group for the first half of the race and then hit the wall around mile 16-17. As we reached the lake and headed west the wind was blowing right at us (as usual) so I tried to run in front of Terry most of the time to block him from the wind gusts. This is definitely the hardest part of the race because you are running into the wind and you can see the city skyscrapers from 6 miles away, but they never seem to get any closer!

Once we reached mile 23 Terry's legs were tightening up pretty good and he was really digging deep to continue on. I kept telling him that we only had another mile or two before we saw the light at the end of the tunnel and that we still had a sub 4 hour finish based on the pace we were moving at. As we headed into downtown for the last mile and a half there are a couple uphill grades that seem larger than they probably are, so I tried to plan our short walk breaks accordingly so that Terry would have enough energy to finish in under 4 hours. When we reached mile 25 I looked down at my watch and realized that we only had to run the last mile in around 11-12 minutes. Once we reached the final turn towards the finish with about a half mile to go I knew that we were going to break 4 hours. This gave Terry a boost and he even started to pick up the pace some with the finish line within sight. The announcer guy was telling the crowd to get into it and cheer for everyone. He then started counting down the seconds to the 4 hour mark even though we knew we had over a minute to spare based on our actual chip time.

As we crossed the finish line, I was extremely proud of my friend for staying tough to the end and being able to acheive his new personal best time in the marathon. It was then that I realized that even though this was my slowest marathon, it was one of my most memorable. Sometimes being able to help a fellow runner under tough circumstances can be just as fulfilling as running your own personal best...

After finishing the race we ate, drank, listened to the band and I ended up running into a few more local runners - my friend Mike Keller (with white hat) and some of his training partners.

After the marathon I learned that my brother and sister finished the half marathon in 1:35.24! Here's a couple pictures of them at the finish and afterwards...

(looking down on the finish area from the end of our hotel hallway)

After Terry and I stumbled back to the hotel to get a hot shower, we then decided that we had enough energy to climb up a few steps at Jacob's Field and watch the Indians play host to the Cincinnatti Reds. The Indians won 5-3 to finish off a great day!