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Category Archives: Cleveland Marathon

2011 Cleveland Marathon recap

This past Sunday, I finally got a monkey off my back. After failing to best my marathon PR from the 2007 Akron Marathon in my last 3 attempts, I was finally able to break through and set a new PR at the 2011 Cleveland Marathon, my 9th full marathon. And I didn’t just squeak past it by a few seconds. I shaved 5 minutes and 37 seconds off of it. Finishing around 3:40 had been my goal when I started training, but I’ll be honest that I was feeling very negative all week between knee pain I was feeling and the forecast for cold and storms.

My strategy for the race was pretty simple. Start with the 3:40 pace group and try to hang with them as long as possible. This proved to be quite a challenge, particularly at the beginning of the race since the starting area and first mile were very cramped and about a half mile in, the pace group found a seam and surged forward and I was stuck behind slower runners and struggling the get through. Happens with almost every race, yet I still get frustrated every time. I really wish every race would institute starting corrals based on pace, which helps (but doesn’t eliminate) this problem. Anyways, I was able to catch up by the one mile mark, but we had logged over a 9:30 mile, which was well off our needed pace of 8:23. My knee was aching the first few miles, but it finally calmed down and I fell into a nice rhythm.

This was my first time sticking with a pace group, and now I have no idea why I don’t do this every race. While I’m not one for interacting with other runners during a race, it was nice to be around a consistent group and eavesdrop on various conversations. And the 3:40 pace group leaders (there ended up being 3 of them), were awesome. They offered a lot of advice and encouragement during the race, and would often take turns dropping back to help pickup some of the group that was falling behind. They focused on the girls in the group, as 3:40 is a Boston Marathon qualifying time for them, but that was fine by me. I hit the halfway point at 1:50:23 (a little off since I had to stop and grab my own water cup off the table at the stop right before the mark), so I was right on pace, though I have always run the 2nd half of my marathons slower than the first half. Every single time.

I got nervous a few times after getting held up at water stops and then starting back up and seeing the pacers way ahead, but each time I was able to kick in a little bit and catch up. Also, after the halfway point when we were heading out east on Euclid and then Chester, there were a number of times when I really started to slip and fell maybe 50 yards back of the group, but I surprised myself by being able to claw my way back even each time. The pacers were hitting their marks perfectly. I think after the first mile, we were no further off the overall pace by more than 15-20 seconds. Heading towards the lake along MLK, we were approaching the dreaded 20 mile mark, which is usually when things start to fall apart. But I was pounding the energy gels, and I honestly wasn’t feeling too bad. I was starting to have some chaffing issues, but luckily I found the lone medical tent and got some Vaseline (really, just one medical tent along the whole course? Other races have them almost every water stop). Once we hit the lake, the long trek back downtown began. The last time I ran Cleveland, this was the worst part of the race as we were fighting a nasty headwind. But surprisingly it was not bad this year, at least when I was out there.

When we hit mile 24, our group was starting to disperse. I imagine a few people had already gone ahead, but it seemed like quite a few were starting to fall behind. The pace leaders were taking turns falling back to encourage people to keep up, and I decided that now was my time to kick it in. Usually I “hit the wall” well before this point, but I was still feeling relatively good, besides my knee which was starting to bug me. I pulled ahead of the pace leaders, and that was the last time I saw them (though I wasn’t going that much faster, so I could still hear them for some time, pushing the others). It seemed to take forever to get back downtown, and the last mile felt like a maze, dodging down side streets. Once I hit E.9th, and the crowds, and the downhill, it was on. I went as fast as my legs would allow me, knowing I had a good chance of coming in under 3:40. I hit 26, turned the corner and stared down that finish line. Apparently my wife was right there with her friends, screaming for me, but I was so zoned in that I didn’t notice. I hit the finish and stopped my watch, which read 3:39:20. Mission accomplished. Finally.

My Garmin watch was a little off on it’s distance, but it shows the last 3 miles of the race were my 3 fastest miles, and I was running almost a 7:00 pace that last .2 of the race. So the 2nd half of the race I finished in 1:48:57, which is 1 minute and 26 seconds faster than my first half. I had finally achieved the coveted “negative splits” in a race. I thought it was only a myth (at least for me).

Not sure what to credit for my breakthrough. There are a number of things that probably helped to contribute:
– New training plan with heart-rate monitoring
– Sticking with pace group from the beginning of race
– Lots of energy gels (six!) during the race
– Lots of carbs in the days before the race

Whatever it was, it worked. So I’ll probably incorporate all of these in the training for my next marathon (which is TBD). Usually after marathons I claim they are my last. And after running my best one, it’s very tempting to say it was my last. But it was marathon #9. Being able to say I’ve run 10, a nice round number, sounds a lot better. So I’ll probably be back at it at some point. Looking forward to some down time and some shorter summer races.

Here are my stats from the race:

Chip Time: 3:39:20
Division Place (M, 30-34): 80th of 249
Gender Place: 469th of 1632
Overall Place: 568th of 2636
Pace: 8:22.0
Split10K: 0:52:13
Half: 1:50:23
Split30K: 2:36:19

Cleveland Marathon: January training update

This month I began my training routine for the Cleveland Marathon, which is on May 15th, 2011. It will be my ninth marathon and my first since last May’s Pittsburgh Marathon. My running seems to have plateaued a few years back (my marathon PR was Akron in 2007), so I continue to try new things to finally get over that hump, if it’s even possible at this point. In addition to running, I have started to mix in some spinning and yoga. I am also changing up my training plan and going with one of the Coach Jenny plans on the Cleveland Marathon website. The big change is to run based on effort (mainly with the help of a heart rate monitor), which has led to me running a lot slower so far than I usually do on my easy and long runs. Also, other than the long run, the other runs are based on time and not distance, which is a change from what I’m used to.

At the beginning of the month, I purchased a new electronic training partner, a Garmin FR60. It is not a GPS device, since I do a lot of indoor running, but rather it is a foot pod that tracks distance, a heart rate monitor, and the watch to capture & display all of the data. After going through a number of Nike+ iPod kits over the past few years, I wanted to try something else, and something that included a HR monitor. I am pretty happy with it so far. It’s simple to wirelessly transfer my run data from my watch to my computer and automatically upload it. And I can manually add in runs to Garmin’s website for when I forget my watch (which has already happened once). The Garmin site with all the data is a lot better than the Nike+ website.

So for January, I logged a disappointing 80.62 miles. I say disappointing because I did not keep up with all of the scheduled runs on my plan, including one week (when I was off attending a software developers conference) when I ran just once. My longest run was 10 miles, which I just did yesterday. No problems with anything so far, besides getting in all of my runs and trying to be consistent with my cross training (spinning & yoga). It’s just been a little tough to stick with my slower pace. But hopefully I will start seeing some improvements, and I am looking forward to getting into some tempo runs which start in a couple weeks.

Marathon #6: A 26.2 mile tour of Cleveland

Today I woke up at 5am to the sound of pouring rain. Things didn’t improve much by the 7am start of the Cleveland Marathon, and the rain continued for most of the first hour or so of the race. It was my first time running Cleveland, and unfortunately the hometown race did little to impress me. The parking situation sucked, and luckily I was able to improvise and navigate some side streets and find a lot to park in. I then got to the starting area, and waited forever in line at the port-o-potties. Luckily the race started a few minutes late and I was able to squeeze into the masses for the actual race start.

The first 3-4 miles were pretty chaotic. It was very crowded and cramped, and as usual there were quite a few idiotic walkers that felt the need to start near the front of the pack so they could inconvenience thousands of runners who had to dodge them during the first few miles. At one point, we turned down some narrow side street that was incredibly poorly paved, and it was so tight that I felt like I was in Spain doing the running of the bulls. I missed the first water station because by the time I realized it was there, it was too crowded to move over to grab a drink. Things thinned out a bit once we got to the west bound Shoreway, though it made for an incredibly dull four miles since it was a spectator-free area. I hit the 10 KM mark at 52:30 and felt pretty good.

I made it to the halfway point, 13.1 miles, in 1:52:36, so I was on a 8:35/mi pace. At mile 14, as we headed out to the east side along Chester Avenue, the sun finally poked out and stayed out for most part. My pace was slowing at this point, but I still felt fairly good after downing some energy gel. The sun made things a bit warm, even though it was only in the low 50s, and I started to regret the long sleeve shirt I was wearing.

One part of the race I did enjoy, was running along MLK and passing through the Rockefeller Park and past the Cleveland Cultural Gardens, which is where Kristy & I had our engagement pictures taken a number of months ago. I passed the 30 KM mark at 2:40:33, and my average pace had slowed to 8:48/mi. We then made it up to Lake Erie, and started the 4+ mile run between the coast and I-90, another least favorite running spot of mine (which is also part of the Hermes Cleveland 10 Miler). After that, we passed the Rock Hall and Browns Stadium before looping around some downtown streets and hitting the finish line at St. Clair and E.12th. I finished in 3:54:29, for an average pace of 8:56/mi. I was happy with this, because I knew my training had not been great and my goal was just to get in under 4 hours. So now personal bests this time, but I actually felt good at the end of the race, which isn’t really something I’ve been able to say in the past.

Would I run Cleveland again? Probably not. I’d take Akron’s marathon, even with it’s hills, over it any day just because it was more enjoyable to me. As far as any future marathons, those are on hold for now. Getting married at the end of August, and taking a long honeymoon, has ruled out the chances of running one this fall. Plus I think I’m ready for a new challenge, which will probably be improving my “short game” and trying to best my times in shorter distance races. I’ve proven that I have the endurance, now I want to work on my speed before trying to tackle the marathon again.