Sunday, October 11, 2009

The Tale of the Towpath

Hey, folks!

Here's my race report for the Towpath Half-Marathon (Sunday, October 11, 2009).

Let me first say that this was a beautiful weekend in Cleveland town. Both days were DRY, finally, for the first time in over a week! The sun came out both yesterday and today. The high temps were a little lower than would be considered my "dream" temperature (mid-hi 50s), BUT they are ideal for running.

As you know, this past week was a high-mileage and high-intensity week for me. After my three six-mile runs on Tuesday, Wednesday, and Thursday, I took Friday off completely (was gonna go to yoga at Inner Bliss, but had to wait for UPS to deliver a package...hinted at by Derek.. :)

(A gift for our first anniversary tomorrow! Love you, sweetheart!)

Anyway, I was then going to go to Studio 11 at 6 pm for a different yoga class...but fell asleep. D'oh. I chalked it up to needing extra rest (hadn't taken a full "off" day with no exercise in over a week).

Yesterday morning (Saturday), Claire and Rob picked me up -- he decided to run the 10K portion of this race -- and we went to get our bibs and goody bags. It was a really nice drive, scenic and quicker than I had expected to get down to Cuyahoga Valley National Park in Peninsula, OH.

View Larger Map

I was really excited to see a section of Ohio that I hadn't seen before (kinda like when Kristin visited). It's amazing just how much green land there is over here! I'm realizing that just because my immediate area doesn't have that much in terms of parks...the "Emerald Necklace" of Metroparks in and around Cleveland is a real find and worth scouting out.

Got back and I went to my first training session for work, during which time I was starting to feel a bit under the weather...chills, queasy. Hope this doesn't get worse! Turns out I just needed to eat something. Got a Dunkin' Donuts tea and a raisin bagel with cream cheese on the way home and all was well again. :)

So on to today and the race. Got up at 6 am, did my usual routine. I've been trying a few variations on different pre-long run and racing meals. This morning I had two pieces of whole-grain toast with White Chocolate Wonderful peanut butter (the best!) and slices of banana on top. I did not have coffee, finding it made me quite a fan of the port-o-potties (and boy, a story about that!) Claire and Rob got me at 6:45, and off we went. The start was at Brandywine Ski Resort and it was beautiful - but COLD. It was 37 degrees there compared to the 45 degrees in the city. Yikes! We dealt with it, though, and parked easily. Then of course, came the infamous wait for the bathrooms.

Online, they said they would have "plenty of bathrooms." Um, yeah. There were ten total port-o-potties for like 1,000 people (don't know the actual number of registrants, but the half was sold out!). The 10K runners also started at the same spot. So we were waiting and waiting..finally Claire and I did the unthinkable, and ran behind a building. It's ok, it was a "ladies only" zone (designated by...the ladies!). Poor Rob waited in line until like one minute before the start (it started late), and finally got in there. Whew, that was close.

Started off..with some hills. Now, when I went to the website, I checked the FAQ, where someone asked specifically about this:

Is the course flat?
YES. The course is VERY flat. There are no hills to speak of anywhere on the course.

Well, ok, there were no SKI SLOPES on the course, but....there were hills! I'm just sayin.' So I already knew not to anticipate a fast time like the River Run which was a really fast, mostly downhill course. This was a little discouraging to discover in mile one. However, mile one clocked in at 9:52. Hokay! Too fast!

I'm thinking about proper pacing, and I'm confused. I was planning on trying to run this race similarly to the last one, to see if I could beat it by a little bit. Because I did my last LONG run last weekend, I wanted to make this a solid speedwork effort to make it a bit more challenging. But I do know that marathon pace is going to be more like 11:30 ish pace for around a 5 hr and change goal (more on goals in another post). So I knew that 10:30 pace was going to be great because it will make MP feel easier on race day.

That being said, I was a lot more inconsistent this week with my pacing than last time, where it was like I was a robot and everything felt "right." This could be due to a few factors:

One, the course was very narrow, especially on the Towpath, and it wasn't as easy to "open your stride."
Two, the course was more turny and windy than the River Run, including a really awkward turnaround at mile 8, which slows you down.
Three, we were being passed the other way (toward us) by the 10K runners during the first half of the race coming in to the finish, and then on the way back, by the marathoners. So we really had to be on our toes - literally - and watch where we were going. It got a bit claustrophobic.

That being said, the course was beautiful, and the Towpath part itself was crushed limestone and was very very easy on the joints. (Of course, ironically enough, this would be the day that I got a bloody toe: not because of pressure or a nail falling off, but because when I trimmed my toenails last night, I guess I left a little sharp edge on one nail, which proceeded to cut into the adjacent toe...Ouch!! (this is Ouch #1)

Also? Remember NNORD (Nothing New on Race Day)? Didn't really think that applied to me because I have worn these particular pants numerous times before, including runs of 10 miles or more, so I didn't think there would be a problem with them...but DUH, I had never raced in them, and the intensity of running fast does weird things with clothes and...let's just say I experienced some VERY uncomfortable chafing and should have used more Body Glide. Ouch #2.

So anyway, that all being said (sorry for the disclaimers!), here are the splits:

Mile 1: 9:52
Mile 2: 10:50
Mile 3 and 4 together (there was no mile 3 marker! WTF?!?): 20:56
Mile 5: 10:09
Mile 6: 11:27
Mile 7: 10:38
Mile 8: 10:59
Mile 9 (where supposedly Derek was cheering but we were so focused we didn't see him!): 11:05
Mile 10: 11:45
Mile 11: 10:12
Mile 12: 10:55
Mile 13 plus .12 (again, no dang 13-mile marker!): 11:37

Finishing time: 2:20:30, or 10:43 pace. Not bad! Only 3 minutes (or 13 seconds/mile) longer than the River Run three weeks ago.

Also, dammit, I am at the end of my hard training! I'm tired! I'm sore! It's ok I didn't beat my time. And now I get to taper!

Went through the chute (thanks to Derek and Rob for cheering at the finish!), got my medal and an apple and water, and then we all got grossed out by the smell of kettle corn at the finishing tents that we left pretty abruptly and went to Tap House for brunch. YEEAAAH.

The third "Ouch?" Feeling that chafing in the shower (as well as my cut-up toe) caused me to seize up and keel over....and promptly get a bad upper ab cramp!!!! And I don't mean gastro issues...I mean a hard knot! Had to massage that one out!

More tales to come...Marathon Goals, Tapering Trials and Tribulations, and Dedications!

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