Jun 9, 2009

Cleveland Half Marathon 2009

It seems like ever since I started racing, time doesn't make much sense anymore. Every single workout is timed. Everything is quantified; every workout has a number, a goal. It has changed my perception of time. As workouts come and go, days seem shorter. Time almost seems conquerable. Even in an instance of complete pain and agony, I can tell myself to “hold on, time will pass.” Being able to manipulate time in your head is a great tool for any endurance athlete. Whatever justification one needs, time will pass. Time has passed so fast in the last couple of years. It was two years ago, this June, that I did my first triathlon in Columbus. Even more surprising, I only started running six months before that. I still feel new to this sport, but my successes, as small as they may be, say otherwise. I have been progressing since I started in this sport. Some people told me that my ability, my progression, would taper off and stop. But, that hasn’t been the case yet. After a few weeks of running I did my first half marathon in 1:33:00. That race was my starting point. There was no training, no taper, no experience, just natural running. A year later, I returned to the same race, the River Run, and ran a 1:24:25. I had been training through the summer and had started to develop as a runner. As my body developed, I started to progress. Six months later, I ran the Cleveland Half Marathon in preparation for triathlon season. I went 1:21:23, 4 minutes faster than my PR, in the middle of a tough training week. I was progressing. One year later, I toed the line in Cleveland again. Under the same circumstances, I ran a 1:17:21 on tired legs, a PR by 4 minutes. So as I reflect on this race, I can only wonder how much faster I will get. Will I run 1:13:30 next year? Under 1:10:00 the following? Maybe not, but I never thought I would progress this far… Only time, as fast or as slow as it passes, will tell.

My training and racing has been much different since Jim LaMastra began coaching me. He is trying to get me to focus more on the big races and let the small races slide by. Because I am a very competitive person, this has been hard for me to do. But, I trust him completely and know that he will get me ready for the BIG races this season. With that being said, I toed the line in Cleveland on very, very tired legs. This race was the culmination of two of my hardest weeks of training in 2009. I knew that I wouldn’t have my best race in me, but I was excited to run fast and see where my legs would take me.

There was no anxiety before this race. I felt loose and ready to run hard. After pushing through 5,000 people to get to the starting line, I said a few hellos and positioned myself toward the front. The gun went off and some kid immediately started pushing it. I really didn’t want to go out in 5:20, so I sat back and let a few people go. The first 3 miles were a little fast, but I felt strong and I wanted to stick with the main pack. Three runners had gotten away from our group, but we still ran about 6 deep. As we cruised over the bridge into Ohio City, the group strung out. I thought it would be wise to concentrate on pacing off one of the runners. This would have been smart, if he wouldn’t have been dropped from the group. As we entered Ohio City, the other runner and myself had dropped from the group, but they were still in sight. Instead of putting my efforts into bridging the gap, I decided to stay back and run my own race. I knew my legs weren’t ready for those kinds of race tactics. We ran towards Lakewood at a smooth pace, around 5:45 per mile. We went through the 10k mark in 36 flat. I still felt strong, but I really wanted to get away from this guy and start chasing down the leaders. Every time I surged, he’d answer. I had been breaking the wind for 30 minutes now and I needed someone else to help. At mile 7.5, a marathoner came by running really well (I believe he ended up top 5). I used his pace to apply some needed pressure. The marathoner ran away from me eventually, but I started to pull away from the guy I had been pacing with. In the last few miles, we had slipped into a pace that was closer to 5:55. However, with a small surge, I was able to get away and started running closer to 5:45 pace. At mile 9, I turned onto the freeway and immediately started to feel the result of two hard weeks of training. Aerobically, I felt fine, but I felt like my arms and legs weighed 100 pounds each. My pace didn’t slow too much, but I lost that kick in my stride. I received a small boost when I saw my family, but I knew I had to get tough if I was going to finish strong. When crossing back into downtown Cleveland, I had about 2 miles to go. I was sitting in 4th position and could see a podium spot up ahead. At that time, another runner approached me from behind. Perfect timing. I dropped back and used him to break the wind, which was really strong at this point. The last 2 miles of hills had really beaten me up. We were now running much slower into the wind. Even though the pace had dropped, the intensity was still very high. We were approaching the last mile of the race. As we ran off the freeway, our pace started dropping dramatically. As we ran down a slight downhill, our pace went from 6:10 per mile to 5:30 per mile. He started to pull away from me. As we ripped through downtown, I realized that a podium was too far out of reach. Even though we were close, the wind had really zapped me; I was suffering a little at this point. I was still only about 10 seconds down will a quarter mile to go, but I couldn’t get myself to push for 4th place. I became content with my race. I backed off a touch and cruised in, enjoying the last quarter mile. I could have really gone for it, killing myself in the process. But, this race wasn’t that important to me. I was happy with what I had just accomplished. I ran a 1:17:21 half marathon, a PR by 4 minutes. I know that I have faster times in me, but for training through a half marathon, I was pretty content. I ended up taking 5th Overall. Hopefully, I will continue to increase my fitness and have some really good races later in the season. Congrats to all of the Fleet Feet guys who ran well, especially Christian who ran a very strong marathon. Also, congrats to Aussie, Durno, Bryan Prack, Ryan Marr and every other Cleveland Area Triathlete.

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