Friday, May 22, 2015

Cleveland Marathon - Part 2 Race Day

Hello my Lovelies and Gents,

I am happy to report that I did not have insomnia the night before the race. I was actually able to sleep. Hooray! I needed it. My brother's alarm went off 15 minutes before mine was set to go off. I even fell back asleep in between. I didn't even hit snooze when mine went of. It was Game Day!

I got my quick shower and got dressed in the bathroom. I almost forgot to put my body glide on my thighs. The last thing I needed was chafing. My outfit for the day included running tights (capris on a normal sized runner, but floods on me) to keep my legs warm and a hat in case it rained. We tried to be as quiet as possible so we wouldn't wake up the nephews.

Brother and I took as much stuff to the cars as possible. Too much information is about to be revealed. In the elevator I said I needed to use the bathroom in the lobby before we left since I still hadn't gone number 2. It was critical that I did that before we left. No way in heck was it going to happen in a porta-potty. Success! I was a happy girl. Let's go to Cleveland!

It's always fun driving in the dark to get to a race. It's even more fun when you are stuck in traffic in downtown Cleveland before 6am.

We were able to find a parking spot a few blocks from the start line. It took a little while to get situated before we headed over. No matter how many races I do, I still can't pin my bibs on evenly. haha.

In the car ride there we were listening to 90's on 9. One of the last songs we heard was Suzanne Vega's "Tom's Diner" It has one of those catchy lines that you can't get out of your head. Da Da Da Da   Da Da   Da Da   Da Da   Da   Da   Da   Da   Da   Da Not exactly what I want to happen on race morning.  I wanted to scream.

We started following all of the spandex towards the start line We got to walk right along the outside of Progressive Field, home of the Indians. Y'all know how much I love baseball. We had to take some pictures. Brother had mentioned that previous races were on days of home games and runners would pack the stands after the race. So wish they were home, but alas they were not.


As we got closer to the start line we could see large lines. They were for the porta potties. No thank you! So we kept going. Soon we were standing by the corrals. Brother had loaned me his old GPS watch to see if I liked it so it set it for me.

We had about 30 minutes before the race started and we were looking around. The Marathon bibs were blue. The Half Marathon bibs were red. The 10K bibs were green. We were commenting on how few Blue we were seeing. There were 20,000+ runners registered for all of the events. We felt like bib snobs. I was proud of myself and yet jealous of the 10K bibs.

Brother decided to go use the facilities and I waited by myself....and that's when the rain started. At first it was just sprinkles, but then we got a few minutes of heavy downpour. A bunch of us were standing on the steps of an entrance to Progressive Field. There was an official picture taken, but I haven't seen it posted yet. I even found a fellow Run for Autism runner.

I was prepared for the rain with my clothes, but I also had Ziploc bags to keep my phone in my race belt. I was wearing two belts: race belt to hold my phone, chap stick, gels, and id/cash and my fuel belt that held my two bottles of water/Gatorade. I was Terrified of dehydrating. I even carried a water bottle in my hand.

I was also getting a little anxious that I wouldn't see Brother until the finish line. Luckily I spotted his short shorts minutes before we were to start. We hugged and said we would see each other at the end.

We were all bunched up at the start. We were inching towards the front and someone started joking behind me "I can hold this pace for the rest of the race. I like it!" lol. Before we got all of the way to the front I noticed several firefighters dressed in full gear with blue bibs. Amazing. I couldn't even fathom how hot they were going to be, but I guess they are used to that.

So the race started and I went to hit start on the gps watch and it had reset. I had no idea how to program it. Crap. Luckily I got my ipod started.

It was hard to maneuver around people in the beginning. It worked in my favor as it kept me from outpacing myself early. But, I did notice someone on the outside of the group wearing a LeBron James jersey dribbling a basket ball with one hand and juggling in the other. Come on!  It's mile one and he passed me...although had I moved to the outside I think I would have had a couple miles before he passed.

I mentioned yesterday that my knee was tight and it remained tight. My first 3 miles made me want to cry. I didn't think I would finish. Luckily I felt nothing by the time I was past mile 3, although I can't be certain because I never saw the flag, the pressure on the knee went away. Hooray!

My race plan was completely off. I had to improvise. The rain and the changing road affected me. I don't run on Concrete and we went over a bunch of concrete bridges. I also don't run around water stops since I slid on a discarded cup in a previous race. The roads were also not quite even and littered with patchwork and potholes. I was running a Fartlek race. Basically, I would see a spot ahead and say I would run until that marker and then slow down. I was keeping a pretty good pace.

There were many differences between my first Marathon and this one. Besides the weather, the biggest difference to me was the number of people I was around. At the Rehoboth marathon the split between the half and the full was at mile 3. I knew then that I was going to be at the back of the pack after mile 3. It was a very lonely run. I could see people ahead of me and a few behind me, but we were no longer with the large pack. In Cleveland I wanted to really take advantage of it. I was going to be with a bunch of people for the first 9 miles. There would be no slacking. I would use them to keep me moving.

Mile 5 was on a pretty busy street. That meant public bathrooms. haha. I saw a bunch of people coming out of McDonalds. I was pretty excited because that's around the time I was finally able to get my chapstick out. OMG my lips were dry.

It was around then that we passed a homeless gentleman in a doorway. My heart sank. I had a $20 on me for emergencies and if I had anything smaller I would have given it to him. I still had 20 miles to go and I needed to hold on to it.

The humidity was unbearable and I wasn't sure if I would make it to the finish line. I had my inhaler in my belt and I thought I was going to need it.

I was happy with my pace around mile 8. Although I was still not sure what I would do. The heat was awful. I looked around at the paces around me and they were slowing down. I felt sure I could get to mile 13, but I still wasn't sure I could get to 26. When I got to the split at mile 9 it was painful. Just about everyone was heading to the right along the half marathon route. Hardly anyone was heading left. But, I had come this far so I was going to keep going.

Two things happened at that point. The first is that a woman who I had been keeping pace with also split to the left. She was a rockstar in a tutu. Clearly we would become buddies. The second is that there were moving vehicles on that portion of the race. WHAT???  It's a closed course. We stayed to the side as we headed up a hill (I wanted to kill someone at that point) and practically got run over by a lady who pulled over to yell at us. At first we thought she was with the race, but it turns out that she was just really annoyed that she couldn't get out to her appointment. She also yelled at the cop at the intersection for a while. Real nice lady.

My new friend Tricia and I got to talking. This was her first Full Marathon. She was used to running Half Marathons and she was doing it with six friends who were behind us.

It started raining again right before we hit mile marker 10. Thank goodness I waterproofed my sneakers. Miles 10-13 were some of the poorer miles. The areas were not well kept and the roads were in bad shape, but we still saw plenty of spectators who were cheering us on. That warmed my heart. It was especially nice because Ms. Tricia and I both mentioned that neither of us were from the area and that there were so many turns on the course that we had no idea where we were. We couldn't tell you if downtown Cleveland was behind us, next to us, or in front of us.

During that time we met up with a couple of other ladies. We pushed ourselves to run as much as we could, especially down hills...which immediately turned into up hills.

The back half of the course was through a very nice neighborhood. And as we got closer to that halfway mark there were some cars in the opposite lane from us. The people were supportive and honking for us. We joked and stuck our thumbs out like we were hitch hiking.

Pretty soon we saw the 13 mile marker followed by the 13.1 halfway marker. Oh the joy and the terror. We were halfway, but it was just getting hotter.

Just past the 13 mile marker we started seeing the other Marathoners heading back towards us. Oh that was a sight for sore eyes. We cheered them on and they cheered us right back. That's why I love races. No matter what you are going through physically and emotionally, you are all there to support each other.

Mentally it was a good thing and a bad thing. The support was awesome, but we also saw lots and lots of people struggling. They are so far ahead of us and they are struggling.

I was starting to look for my brother and I heard my name. Although it was a woman's voice. I had become FB friends with another marathoner from the Rehoboth race who was running it. That's the bonus for being in the back. Everyone sees you. haha. I heard my name and it was Ms. Courtney. She's fast!

In a little bit I saw my brother coming. Ms. Tricia needed to stretch her calves and I was in a frenzy to grab my phone so that I could take a picture. I barely got it, but I got it. I also got a hug. We both expressed our displeasure with the humidity and how it was affecting our running.

He had just crossed the 20 mile marker and we were about to cross the 15 mile marker. Immediately I realized that we only had 2.5 miles until the turn around and we could head back towards downtown.

At this point I would like to personally thank every person who had a hose. Oh we went under every single one of them. Sometimes we circled back for another run through them.

Ms. Tricia and I got excited when I would call out that we were coming up on a new mile marker or a water stop. She was so funny. She called me Coach and would keep asking what mile we were on. She asked if my clients were like her and constantly forgetting set numbers and exercises. I laughed and told her that it happens in every session.

I am so very thankful for her. We vowed to get to that finish line together and I made it my mission to get her there. Once I had a job to do I was good. I kept thinking how much I was missing Aunt Kathy. She did a great job pacing me and keeping my mind off of the last 8 miles during my first marathon. So I became Ms. Tricia's Aunt Kathy. I would tell her our pace was dropping and we needed to pick it up.

Soon we came upon the 30K mark on the other side. There was a brief moment where we just wanted to turn around and head back. NO!  That's cheating.  Besides, we had a water, hose, and gel stop coming up.

We came to rely on our gels and could really feel ourselves pick up after we had them. I had brought some, but they were passing out a brand I had never heard of: Boom! I LOVED them!  I had some Apple Cinnamon and some Banana Peach. They were great and not heavy in my mouth. Towards the end we were grabbing a couple and stuffing them in our belts (and down my bra).

As we approached the turnaround it was glorious. There was a music spot that was blasting footloose. I moved. I was dancing and running. It was amazing. Then we saw some people who told us that the red and white flags ahead were our turn around. Hooray!  We could see them. There was a hose and water stop before it.

At the water stop we saw a woman being helped on the sidewalk. At the turnaround we passed a gentleman that was limping and almost looked like he was foaming at the mouth, but I think it was just spit in his beard. I wanted to help, but a policeman came up and was talking to him. The policemen thanked us and told us to keep going, he would help. And yes, we crossed the road to go back under that hose on the way back.

We were on our way back on mile 18 when we saw a bunch of ladies coming up mile 17. They were Ms. Tricia's friends and they weren't alone. The Sag wagon was right behind them. That meant as long as we held pace we were fine.

We didn't talk as much as we had the previous 5 miles, but we were there and supported each other. My mind kept screaming "PULL OVER AND QUIT", but I couldn't do that. There was no physical reason to stop except for exhaustion. Ms. Tricia and I discussed the difference between discomfort and pain.

"How are you Ms. Tricia?"
"I'm hurting"
"Discomfort or pain?"
"Discomfort Let's keep going!"

I got super excited when I saw mile marker 21. My rule was that if I got to 20 I would not give up and crawl to the finish line if I had to. 21 was a very good feeling. And then I opened my mouth to tell Ms. Tricia that it was coming. And I swallowed something. I have no idea if it was a bug or a leaf or what, but it got stuck in my throat and I was coughing for a full mile. I had a panic that I couldn't finish.

Two things happened at that point. My brother had suggested sucking on mints for dry throats so I had a couple in my fuel belt. I popped one in. And we were passing the Medic tent. I made the mistake of looking over and seeing a young man laying on a cot with both legs elevated and ice on his knees and ankles.

We made it a point to thank every police officer that was blocking traffic. They were friendly and very supportive.

Then a bad thing happened on mile 22. Four miles to go and we were asked to move on to the sidewalk. They were going to start opening up the roads. This was heart breaking. We could still finish, but the sidewalk was a mixture of concrete and slate. Not ideal for my knees. Plus, we couldn't see as far ahead of us. We couldn't see the upcoming flags and directional signs.

We were only like that for about a mile thankfully (the longest mile ever). But, we also came up behind another gentleman who was struggling. We asked if he needed anything. He said no, but his feet were killing him. We made sure that the police ahead of us knew to look for him. We also saw the radio communication van who checked to make sure we were good. We were.

When we got to mile 23 the van was trailing a guy about a quarter of a mile behind us. This is so not good for the brain. Starting to panic. We felt like we could make it, but got terrified that we were getting so close and could get pulled.

And then I felt the pain. I had felt some blisters forming on my heels. A stupid rock got in my shoe. It felt like a knife was slicing through my heel. I had to pull over and take off my shoe. NOOOOOO!  I didn't want to lose the momentum, but I couldn't handle the pain either. I told Ms. Tricia to keep going and I would catch up. I refused to look behind me.

Somehow I managed to catch up and soon we were approaching another guy in pain. I asked if he was okay or needed anything. He assured me he was fine. We were coming up on another water stop and the van was behind us so I kept going.

With 2 miles to go we came across a dude in a grass skirt. It looked like there was a bar that was playing music and celebrating the day. He hopped the barrier and came over to us we were at the end. He stayed with us for a little bit. They were blasting the Rocky theme song. I wanted to hustle and move faster, but I just couldn't.

We're going to call foul on the "Flattest course" because the last 3 miles were all hills. BRUTAL. We were on the expressway that heads out of Cleveland. It was a little surreal. We could finally see the skyline of Cleveland and there we were walking on elevated expressway. My brother called that stretch the Walking Dead Stretch. hahaha. It was so true. People walking like the walking dead over these concrete roads with only the skyline of the city in the distance.

And speaking of people, we were noticing that suddenly there were many more people in front of us. Either we sped up or lots of people were slowing down. Either way, we felt good. And then the van drove by us carrying Ms. Tricia's friends. They cheered us on, but damn that didn't feel good.

We got to mile marker 25. God Save the Queen!  Only we added some expletives. Really not her biggest fan at that moment. 1.2 more miles to go!

And then it happened. The van came upon us. The guy told us that the race ended 10 minutes before. They couldn't legally make us get in the van, but they couldn't keep the road closed much longer. It was beyond their control. There were still people in front of us. We had half a mile to go. Could we possibly finish and not get a medal? More importantly, what if the markings were down? Where the hell were we supposed to go? We were furious. But, we were undeterred. We were going to finish. Ms. Tricia checked her watch, and we were only 2 minutes over the official cutoff. How could they have closed 10 minutes before?

We somehow made it to mile 26. I heard my name and saw Ms. Theresa waving and screaming. She came out to hug me and I literally lost it. I had held it together all of that time and I started to choke up. She came with me and offered to run in her flip flops. I couldn't do it. Only .2 miles to go and I couldn't pick it up. And then at .1 I saw my brother and the nephews and I bolted. I saw that finish line. There were medals!  We were going to FINISH! I have no idea where it came from, but I dug so deep and sprinted like I was running the 100 meter dash. We Finished!

I wanted to severely hurt the man who scared us so much. That was the worse 10 minutes ever. To think that we got so far for nothing just about killed us.

We managed to overtake a Great-Grandmom at the last moment. I finished ahead of 2 people before they took down the finish line banner. When we checked the times I actually finished ahead of 10 people!  WOO WOO! And 450 people who registered never crossed the finish line...although I'm not sure how many of them even started.

There were high fives and hugs all around. We had closed the gap on the two ladies that we were chasing the whole time and finished right behind them. We hugged. I can't believe we did it. It was literally the most physically draining day I have ever had. Crossing that finish line made every minute worth it! Ladies and Gentlemen I have finished 2 marathons in less than 6 months. HOLY CRAP!

They were putting things away, but a lady came over and offered us extra water bottles and bananas. YES PLEASE. We took several. I saw some crates with chocolate milk and wanted one SO bad, but I didn't know how long they were sitting in the sun.

Before we left we still needed to head to the Run for Autism tent. Amazingly I could still walk pretty well. A big Thank You to Ms. Katie who waited for me and still had lots of snacks...including Chocolate milk!  WOO WOO!  I had two. I also had a couple maple cookies that were the most amazing thing ever. I had a mini bagel with peanut butter, but my belly was really messed up. I wanted to throw up, but I held it all in. We sat for a little while and let Nephew run around while I elevated and iced my knee. I was also very happy to take off my shoes. Ahhh...

There was another Run for Autism Marathoner who finished just before me. We got to talking about our favorite parts and least favorite parts of the course. And we all agreed that we would rather have had rain all day than the humidity. This seemed to surprise everyone else. We couldn't stay too long because I was stiffening up and we still had a drive home. The good news is that I got to load up on extra food and drinks. I got to take one of the new cherry red bulls. It was good. I wish I had taken the rest of the maple cookies though.

I think the funniest part of the day was walking the 3 blocks to the car. Ms. Theresa looked like she was sprinting while pushing both nephews in the stroller compared to Brother and me. lol. We were a mess.

If you would have told me 5 years ago that one day my brother and I would finish a marathon together I would have laughed in your face. I mean I would have passed out from laughing so hard. My journey has been so amazing. I can't wait to see what comes next! Well okay, only 7 months until Marathon #3

Good Night Cleveland!

Have a Blessed Evening

****Please note****

If you feel like you are alone on your journey and you just need some encouragement I am here for you! Shoot me an email and I will do my best to check in on you or give you the words of support you need several times a week. The journey is so much easier if you have support. 
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