Monday, November 25, 2013

Cleveland Fall Classic Half Marathon Race Report


Official Chip Time: 1:58:04 (9:01 min/mile pace)
Half Marathon #14 and Race #65 (ish).

Okay, technically this is my second sub-2:00 half, but the other one took place many moons ago, and I have taken long (years) breaks from running since then, so it was kind of like it was another life.  That time was 1:58:49 (9:04 min/mile pace), scored at the Martian Half Marathon in April 2006.  My "current" PR from my current bout of running was 2:02:28 (9:21 pace), achieved at the Martian Half Marathon in April of this year (2013).  Yay Martian!  Love that race.  :)

Anyway, based on the above numbers, you might be able to guess what some of the "goal" times I might have had in mind to beat for this half marathon.  I would really call them milestones more than goals.  They are just random meaningful hurdles that would be cool to clear.
  • 2:03:54 : this was my time when I ran this same race--my 1st ever half!!-- in 2005
  • 2:02:28 : good for a "current" PR 
  • 2:00:00 : sub-2.  'Nuff said.  
  • 1:58:49 : good for an all-time PR! 
  • 1:57:40 : this would make 8:59 min/mile.  Sub-9 pace!!  
Really, I didn't have any expectations at all for this race, just hope and curiosity, since it was my first half marathon back from my IT band drama.  That said, I have been putting up good paces since I've been back, and set a new 10K PR just one week before this race, so I did think I had a shot at a PR if the stars aligned.

The stars did not align, but I got my PR anyway!

It started with the weather: temperature: 17-20 degrees (F) with 17-20 mph winds for a "feels like" temp of 5-7 degrees.  Generally I enjoy running in the cold, but the wind always throws me for a loop in terms of what to wear.  That morning I put on a long-sleeve tech tee (from a race), a fleece zip up, a light windbreaker, two pairs of tights, and a running skirt (to pin my bib to so I wouldn't have to worry about which layer of shirt to put it on).  I always only wear one pair of socks.  I wore my running mittens.  On my head, I put on a beanie, with a folded bandana over it (the bandana was in case I got hot, I could lose the beanie and still have something to keep the sweat out of my eyes).  I also wore a buff around my neck to block the wind on my neck and the lower part of my face.  After arriving at the race site I ended up removing one pair of tights in the car because I felt too constricted.  At mile one, I tossed the fleece on the side of the road.  The rest stayed in place.  I should have looked in the mirror before I left, because I realized at the end of the race that my head gear looked like a very colorful and random hijab!  Oh well.  I can't wait to show you the race photos.  You guys are gonna laugh.

The next wrench in my half marathon was the bathroom.  Because it was so cold, Michelle and I kind of waited until the last minute to exit the car and walk to the race site.  So did everybody else.  So the porta-potty line was really long and I ended up aborting the line-waiting as they called everyone over to line up at the start.  I thought about ducking behind a tree because I really did have to pee already, but with no leaves on the trees I decided against it.  If other people would have been out there I totally would have, but nobody was, so I decided to just run.  They actually started the race a couple minutes early, which was annoying.  It was nice, because it was cold waiting around, but some people were out warming up or in the bathroom and had planned for the start to be on time, not early!  Maybe the race organizer's watch was fast, because the 5K was a few minutes early too.  (Michelle ran the 5K).  Anyway, at the 1st water stop, just after mile 1, I realized that the urge to pee wasn't going to fade, so I decided to peel off and use the bathrooms there (running water, yay!).  I ended up with a #1 AND #2 pit stop.  On the clock.  I was pretty quick, but still.

I was really not feeling the race at all.  At mile 2 I still wasn't in a groove, so I decided to turn my music on early.  My plan was to run until about mile 4 without it, to make sure I didn't go out too fast, but I was struggling so much that I decided I better try to use it as a pick-me-up.  So I turned it on, to hear this: "BATTERY LOW".  Are you effing kidding me.  For one thing, I had left it charging (or thought I had) all night long.  For another thing, I had been working on finding new music for this stupid race for like two whole days!!  I was so mad.  I turned it back off to conserve battery for the end when I might need it more.  That lasted about a half mile, and I was like screw it, I need music now!! My rationalization was that Michelle was going to be joining me for the 2nd half of the race, after she ran her 5K, so I would need music less with her than I would by myself.

Mile 3.  Side cramp.  Really??  I RARELY get these anymore.  I think I might have actually laughed out loud at this point.  All the things going wrong were getting ridiculous.  I had no idea what kind of pace I was running (I intentionally did not wear a watch), but I was pretty sure this was going to be a poor time.  Probably not beating any of my "hurdles" that I outlined above.  Throughout the race, I also walked through every water stop.

Finally at mile 4 I started to feel normal.  My side cramp went away, and I was able to get into a groove and zone out a bit.  Thank god.  Despite all the issues I was having, I did feel like the race was going by really fast.  The miles just kept on ticking by.  I think part of the reason was that the course was out & back & out & back, so it was almost always almost time to turn around!  I actually really liked the course.  It was through a metro park, and I was always running head on into other runners on the other side of the road, which I find very motivating.  And the double out & back design broke the race nicely into quarters.  The wind also cooperated with the topography, I thought.  It felt to me that we had a tailwind on the outbound legs, which seemed more uphill, and a headwind on the inbound legs, which seemed more downhill.  This made it easier to keep the same pace at the same effort level.  That said, I just looked at the elevation profile and all that could have just been my imagination.  It doesn't necessarily look like one way was more up than the other.  It really did feel like that though!

As I looped through the start/finish line area to head out for my 2nd out&back, I kept my eyes peeled for Michelle.  She was supposed to hop in with me to help me get through the back half.  I didn't see her anywhere!  I was pretty sure we had somehow missed each other and I was really bummed.  I had just about lost all hope when I finally saw her on the side of the road.  I was never so happy!  We didn't really talk a lot (she wouldn't let me; said it was a waste of energy) but we ran side by side the rest of the way.  Michelle had her GPS watch on, but I wouldn't let her tell me my pace.  It really helped having her there with me.  I told her not to "pace" me, specifically, but to let me lead and just keep me company, and she was awesome!  Having her there helped a ton.  She is the one that got me into running in the first place in 2005, and I wanted her to be a proud running-mama!  :)  The whole back half was awesome.  Usually I get tired at mile 9, but I felt great.  It was only at mile 11.25 or so, when my ipod finally died, that I started to feel a little less awesome, but still, nothing like I usually feel at the end of a half.  If I had had music all the way to the end, I think I could have pulled a little more out in the last mile or so.  Especially this song, I am so loving this one:

"Timber" - Pitbull Ft. Ke$ha.  
Another thanks to Michelle for hooking me up with this song the night before the race.  I scrubbed my floors to it tonight, and listening to it right now makes me want to go out and run, even though my quads are completely shredded right now! 

Even without the music though, I passed people throughout the whole last mile, which is always a good feeling!  As I approached the finish line (from a ways back) I saw 1:57:xx ticking through on the clock and realized I was going to PR.  I was so thrilled!  I picked it up as much as I could and crossed the line with a clock time of 1:58:xx, I don't remember the exact number but I knew it was better than 1:58:49 and that didn't even count the chip/gun difference.  WAHOO!!!

Here are the official results: 

I ran a beautiful negative split!  9:05 average for the 1st half, 8:56 average for the 2nd half.  (The total average pace field got cut off at the end, it was 9:01).  

Because I didn't wear a watch I don't have mile-by-mile splits for the first half of the race, but I do have these from Michelle's watch after she joined me: 

Pretty pimp, if I do say so myself!  How do you like the steady pacing, especially though the middle there!?!  8:48, 8:48, 8:48.  Yeah baby. 
The finish food was really good.  This was a small race (capped at 1000 runners) so it wasn't very crowded.  I didn't have to wait at all.  They had amazing hot chocolate, hot pasta with sauce, cookies, and bananas.  I had a hot chocolate and a chocolate chip cookie (perhaps making up for my lack of chocolate due to the crowds at the chocolate run last week?!?) and they were both delicious.  We picked up Michelle's plaque, since she got 1st place in her age group in the 5K.  She is hilarious.  She said she was going to throw it away because she was mad that she was above 21 minutes.  Haha.  Runners are so silly.  I told her she wasn't allowed to throw it away; she has to hang it up on her wall along with the race photos the photographer got of the two of us together.  :)  

Until we get the official race photos, here are Michelle and I modeling the official race shirts and our schwag.  My medal is the finisher's medal for the half, she's holding her AG award from the 5k.  
I do really like the medal.  Here is a better view of it.  It kinda reminds of Canada.  And baseball.  But I like it anyway.  :)  

When I did this race in 2005 I don't think they gave medals.  If they did, I don't have it anymore.  

There are a lot of reasons why this PR was really a big one for me.  It's kind of cool that I was able to PR on my return to my 1st ever half marathon race and course.  Sentimental value and all.  :)  (Sorry for all the smileys.  This is a smiley kind of recap!!) Also, I have been chasing this PR FOREVER.  At least it feels that way!  It's also pretty pimp that I PR'ed my half marathon just 7 days after PR'ing my 10K.  AND neither of them really felt that challenging, meaning, I think both the 10K and half marathon times could go down again soon.  Finally, looking at my list of PRs at all distances, until this race, there was a stupid 2006 date on my half marathon PR.  Now, they are all current! 

While we're looking at that PR list, it's a good time to talk about my next priorities.  The things that stick out to me when I look at this are that the 9:01 pace is AWFULLY close to that sub-9 milestone.  So that's on the immediate to-do list.  Also, I would really really really like to ditch that double-digit pace on my full marathon.  I need a 9:59 pace there.  

That said, I'm considering doing the Santa Shuffle Half Marathon in Sandusky in December to go for the sub 9 pace on the half.  On the one hand, a lot went wrong at this race, and fixing even one of those could be enough to save 2 seconds per mile to meet that milestone.  On the other hand, having Michelle there the last half was probably even more valuable than I realize, and it's possible that without someone there with me I'll end up back in my "normal" 2:02-2:07 range.  Only one way to find out I guess! 

For the marathon, I'm considering either the Ann Arbor Marathon March 30th, or the Glass City Marathon in April, but leaning more toward Ann Arbor. I will most likely map out a training plan and start training for it, but not register until much closer to the race date, because I don't want to feel forced to do it if my knee flares up again.  Then it will be springtime and time to start focusing on triathlon again!  I'm really glad I'm a winter runner.  I've pretty much decided that winter will be my running race season, and summer will be my triathlon season.  Perfection.  :)  

Oh right, back to this race.  Michelle and I celebrated with brunch after the race.  (Okay, I celebrated, she complained about sucking so bad during her 1st place AG and 2nd overall female finish).

I guess that's about it!  I loved the race and would definitely do it again.  I am so happy to finally get my sub-2:00 and a shiny new half marathon PR.  It was a wonderful surprise after how terrible the first 4 miles of the race went for me!  Here's the obligatory updated medal rack shot (....or 3.)  :) 

Do you see it?
How about now?
Now???  ;)


  1. Nice PR! Bamn. Seems like it was just a few seconds ago your legs were torn apart. I was thinking of Ann Arbor's half too. It is the same day of the CF Gross Isle half.

    1. I wish they weren't the same day. I wouldn't mind doing the full at Ann Arbor and the half at Grosse Isle.

  2. Congrats! Sounds like you're gonna PR again soon!

    P.S. I'd probably be grumpy too if I was close to 1st and thought I ran poorly :p

    1. I know. If I were in you guys' shoes I probably would too. But I'm going to make fun of you (and her) anyway. :P

  3. Fantastic! Great job of hanging in there even when it seemed like things were off to a bad start. Nice rack!

  4. Congrats on the recent streak of PRs! It sounds like you're ready for an even bigger half PR if things all fall into place on race day.


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