Monday, May 18, 2015

Surviving not Thriving at The Cleveland Marathon This Year

Marathon # 5 is in the books! This year the Cleveland weather threw a lot of craziness at us brave runners including pouring rain, serious humidity and some hot temps late into the race but overall the whole marathon weekend experience for me was awesome thanks to the support of my husband, friends, Challenge Family teammates and marathon ambassadors.

Friday Evening:

Cleve Marathon Ambassadors
This year I was lucky enough to be selected as one of the Official Cleveland Marathon Ambassadors. In addition to a free race entry and swag, I met the nicest group of people ever! I already had a couple of friends in the group but am happy to say that I made a bunch of new, amazing friends as well. I really can't say enough how much fun we had and the incredible amount of support that I received from this group! I look forward to following these folks as they go on to take on their next challenges. Friday our group was invited to the Marathon VIP Reception at the Hyatt Arcade. It was a first class event all around with excellent food, beverages and company! Special thanks to Jack Staph, owner of the Cleveland Marathon race for his generosity. A few of us ambassadors also attended the pre-race happy hour with Great Lakes Brewing at Flannery's Pub. I want to send a big shout out to Great Lakes for sponsoring the marathon this year. It was wonderful to have a local craft beer after my race!


Green screen fun at the Expo
Saturday my husband Steve and I had a relaxing morning including some practice golf at the Blackbrook Driving Range followed up with a short 25 minute shakeout run. It was a very humid, sweaty run so I had a feeling we would be battling some tough race conditions. After lunch we headed downtown to the Convention Center for the marathon expo. We met up with my friend Jillian there and after the expo headed over to Barrio for a prerace IPA and some amazing chips and guac! Steve and I made a conservative prerace dinner and had another prerace beer with a lot of water and turned in early to watch a funny movie before bed. I slept pretty well waking up once to use the bathroom and have a little Powerbar snack.

Race Day:

The alarm went off at 4:30 and we were up right away to get dressed, eat a hearty breakfast and head out by 5:20. We arrived at the Penton parking garage around 6am and by the time we got ready and met up with my friend Jillian and walked over to the start area it was 6:30. I was supposed to meet my ambassador group but Jillian and I both had to use the bathroom before the race so we headed off to search for the ladies room. We met back up with Steve and chatted with some friends a couple minutes before heading into our corrals for the start. I lined up with the 3:35 pace group with friends Jessica and my new friend Jen who came in from Charleston, SC for the race. As we were waiting for the start, it poured down rain for about 5 minutes before it died down. It was tough just standing there but the rain probably helped cool us down as it was a very humid morning!

We took off after a quick 10-sec countdown and the first few miles went by super fast as I chatted with friends and our pacer. Things went smooth with my nutrition and water from the start. I made sure to get water early on as I knew I would need it later in the run. I felt on track but really had to use the bathroom so I stopped at the porta-johns at mile 13. Unforunately I had to wait a bit and then after my stop for water the pace group was too far ahead of me to catch up. I decided to just try and pace myself around 3:35. My goal for the race was 3:35-3:38. My BQ time is 3:40 but it's usually necessary to have a cushion to get into the race.

I paced pretty well until before the turn around in Rocky River. I was super excited to see my husband pass and see that he was on pace for his BQ! The 3:40 group ended up passing me and I figured I could maybe get back on track so I pushed on. Somewhere around mile 18 or 19 it started pouring rain again. It was bitter sweet because it cooled me off but it was also soaking my clothes and feet. My shoes rubbed and I knew I was in trouble with blisters. I also started to labor a bit around mile 21 or 22 and the rain didn't make it easier. Then the sun came out full blast as we headed to the shoreway. I baked and baked some more and I got very nauseated and stopped to throw up. I wanted to quit but that wasn't an option. I wanted to PR but that was a long shot. So I ran and I puked and I walked. I was happy to see my friend Jillian on the course. With a hug and a sip of water from her as well as good news that Steve had a BQ race, I drudged on reluctantly. The last mile was bittersweet as I fought to try to at least run the same time as I had done last year for this race. My thoughts went to beer. I just want a beer and my husband! I was pretty elated to see the finish to say the least!

Post race with my hubby!
Unfortunately I was about a minute slower than last year with a 3:52:30. Not a time to celebrate but certainly an accomplishment for just surviving the day. Instead of celebrating right away I threw up several times. I ran into my friend Jen who had a rough day too and had actually pulled out of the race early (poor thing).

Finally after about 30-40 minutes of relaxing and icing my neck I was cooled off enough  to get a post finish picture with Steve and then walk over to the beer tent for my Great Lakes Burning River Pale Ale. Beer after a race that hard is amazing!

We walked to the parking garage and got cleaned up and changed into dry clothes before heading to the Winking Lizard to meet up with some of our Cleveland Tri Club friends and my friend Jillian. I enjoyed another beer and a burger and some great conversation. After heading home I was just hungry all day basically and ready for bed at 8:30! Aside from a throbbing toenail and a little overall fatigue, I feel good. I will take it easy for 2-3 days then ease back into my training. I have a duathlon and a couple tris approaching but I may try one more marathon in late June to see if I can BQ before the serious Half & Full Iron training starts this summer. But for now it's rest and recover!

Steve and CTC friends Jim, Frode, Dan & Jason post race!

Wednesday, May 13, 2015

Tips for Racing in the Heat this Summer

With the Cleveland Marathon forecast being a warm one again this year and having some aggressive time goals, I am going to do my best to run well in the heat. It will not be my first hot race or marathon. Many of the running races and triathlons that I do in the summer get hot. I wanted to share some tips that might help out some of my fellow racers in Cleveland this weekend as well as friends racing at Triple T and other places throughout the warm season.

Sodium Loading  - If you know that your race will be hot it might be a good idea for you to load up on sodium rich foods and even salt tabs within the 24-48 hour period leading into the race. This will encourage you to drink water and will also help you retain that water longer. For race days, I really like the Hammer Endurolites and the Salt Stick tabs. You can decide how many you will need based on your own personal sweat rate and preference. In general you should plan to have at least one of these an hour as the temperature rises past 65-70 degrees. If you prefer to drink your electrolytes, most races hand out Gatorade or something similar at the aid stations in addition to water. If you are using salt tabs just go with the water. You do not need both. Also, your gels or bars for in-race fuel will contain some electrolytes normally.

Hyper-Hydration - Drink more fluids than you think you need for several days leading into the race. Lots of water and electrolyte rich drinks like Coconut Water, Nuun, decaf herbal tea and of course plain old ice water! Beware of the coffee, soda, alcohol and black teas that have a dehydrating effect. For every cup of water, tea, alcohol that you take in, drink 2 cups of water to replenish.

Acclimate to the Heat if You Can - If it is warm outside try to get some runs or bikes in at those temperatures ahead of the race. If this is not possible you can try running or biking indoors with extra clothes on and cranking up the heat. You just want your body to have a sense for what's coming.

Eat a Cold Breakfast - avoid eating hot breakfast cereals and other foods that are harder to digest. Smoothies and cold cereal or an untoasted bagel or bread are cool options. Stick to cold fruits like watermelon, cantaloupe, etc.

Dress in as few layers as possible & Avoid Dark Colors, Cotton - This is not the time to wear your running tights and capris. Don't be shy. Show off those runners legs and don't be afraid to run in a sports bra ladies or shirtless for the guys. Try to avoid darker colors esp for tops and hats. And never ever wear cotton anything (not even socks)! And don't forget the sunscreen before the start!

Precooling - If your race is warm at the start or expected to get warm you may want to get your body temperature down before the race start. Plan to bring a small cooler with you filled with ice, you can use that ice to wet down some towels to wrap around your neck, head, back, etc. You can also eat the ice and have some ice cold water.

Reduce Your Warm Up - Along with precooling, consider reducing your warm up to a very short, light jog with some dynamic stretches. This will keep your heart rate down and save valuable energy for the race.

Start Slowly - Resist the urge to go out extra fast to put time in the bank. Starting easier and building into your first few miles will keep you relaxed and cool.

Hydrate Early and Often - Drink water at every aid station from the beginning - even if you just cruise through the aid stations to get a sip or two at each. How much liquid you should drink will vary person to person but in general you should try to get in a minimum of 6 oz every 20-25 minutes of the race.

Pour Water on Your Head & Upper Body - While you're running through the aid stations grab an extra water to dump on your head, face and shoulders. This will help cool you down. If you have a cooling towel, mat or sponge with you be sure to wet that with cold water often. Again this will help lower your core body temperature.

Pay Attention To Your Body - Even if you have lofty goals, your health must come first. If you feel sick and slowing down or taking a short walk/run break does not help, you may have to consider getting help. Heat exhaustion is serious business. If you feel bad, adjust your goals and push it harder on a better day.

Tuesday, May 12, 2015

Cleveland Marathon Race Week is Upon Us!

Wow, it's Cleveland Marathon race week! Needless to say I have a lot of excitement and emotions swirling around in my head and heart. After coming up a little short of my BQ goal in Toledo a few weeks ago I am anxious to give it another go. This will be race #7 for me this season. I don't think I have ever had such an intense race season this early in the year. It's been a good year already and I need to stop and appreciate that in itself. I am fortunate to be healthy this year and able to push myself to new achievements. Hopefully I can do that again this Sunday.

Five years ago I ran my first full marathon in Cleveland (my beloved hometown). Back then I hoped to finish but had a glimmer of hope for a BQ too. Needless to say I survived but was nowhere near a BQ! I never realized how hard it would be for me to achieve this goal. Five years later, I line up in my hometown again for marathon #5. Maybe this is the one where it will all come together for me. Toledo was close but maybe I am supposed to BQ at home. I guess that will make it even more special for me to know that it's going to happen as I run the shoreway back into downtown. 

No matter what happens this Sunday, I will put my heart and soul into my hometown race and give it everything that I can. I will walk (or hobble) away after the race knowing that I worked hard. I won't be stopped by the heat or anything else. It's me versus me, and I have a goal. Stay tuned to hear how it turns out!

For everyone racing in Cleveland this weekend - especially those brave souls taking on the full 26.2, I wish you luck. Stay strong and fight through the finish. 

Wednesday, May 6, 2015

The Cleveland Marathon is Rapidly Approaching

Marathon Recovery Week One:

It feels like just yesterday that I raced the Toledo Glass City Marathon and here we are only 10 days out from the Cleveland Marathon! Where does the time go?! I am happy to say that my recovery from Toledo is going very well. I took a couple of days off after just doing some light walking and stretching followed up by a swim day. My first recovery run was Thursday and it went decent. Friday I took it easy and did some more walking and a hike at North Chagrin with Steve that evening. Saturday Steve and I did a 25 mile bike ride followed by a 5 mile brick run (run was pretty hot). Sunday we rode 50 miles in the glorious sunshine.

Marathon Recovery Week Two:

Monday night we did a 10 mile run in the wicked humidity (that was a tough one). Yesterday I did a 2200m swim and a walk last night with the dog followed by some stretching. This morning I did a 6 mile run with 2 easy, 3 @ marathon pace and a cooldown mile followed by some stretching. I will be doing a second easy run of about 4 miles at lunch today. Tomorrow I will run 8 miles in the am before my morning meeting and then if my legs feel good I will do an hour easy on the bike in the evening. Friday I will swim 2000 meters in the am and do Bikram Yoga (Hot Yoga) in the evening. Saturday I will run 8 with some miles at marathon pace. Sunday I will ride 90 minutes.

Marathon Recovery Week Three Plan:

Monday I will run an easy 4 miles. Tuesday will be an easy 1200m swim, Wednesday and Thursday I will run 4 with .5 easy, 3 at marathon pace and .5 easy. Friday will be an off day with some stretching. Saturday will be an easy 3 mile shakeout run. Sunday will be go time!

My Cleveland Race Day Plan:

My plan as of now is to go out with the 3:35 pace group. My qualifying time is 3:40 but going with the 3:35 group gives me a little cushion as I really need about a 3:38 to be within the cutoff for Boston registration. At this point I am hoping for nice weather that is not too hot! I am eating and sleeping well and stretching often and staying focused and positive. Hopefully I will have a good day! Stay tuned for the race report!

Tuesday, April 28, 2015

Cleveland Marathon Giveaway Winner!

Thank you to everyone that entered the contest to win a free entry to the 2015 Cleveland Marathon race of their choice! All of you had really compelling reasons to want to run and I am inspired by all of you. At the end of the day I wish there could be more than one winner! The only way to decide and be fair was to randomly select a winner so all of your names were out into a hat and I asked my hubby to draw the name of the lucky winner.

Image from a past Cleveland Marathon race!
The selected name and winner of the contest is Krystol Chang! Congrats Krystol! She will be running the half marathon.  Krystol, I hope you have a wonderful experience running the Cleveland Half Marathon this year and can't wait to hear how your race goes! I will be in touch with details for how to register for your free race soon!

Monday, April 27, 2015

2015 Glass City Marathon Race Report

Yesterday I ran the Glass City Marathon in Toledo. This was my fourth full marathon and once again I am humbled by this distance. To push yourself as hard as you can for 26.2 miles is no easy feat - in fact it's one of the hardest things you can do in my opinion. It challenges you and it changes you. It is the ultimate test of physical fitness for runners and it is equally demanding mentally. It is easy to run well when you are feeling good. It's later in the race when you ache and feel sick to your stomach or extremely tired that you have to try like hell to keep it together! That is when the real race starts. When that little obnoxious voice in your head says "hey you, why don't you just walk a little?" Someday I will be strong enough to quiet that voice entirely...but for now I am working my hardest to ignore it as much as possible!

Prerace Smiles!
All in all I am happy with the whole experience in Toledo. We stayed in a Holiday Inn Express close to downtown in nearby Oregon. We met up with my friend Jillian (who also ran the full) the night before for dinner along with her husband and friend at Maumee Bay Brewing. The food, beer and atmosphere were outstanding.

Race morning I did a little warm up with my husband Steve then tried to stay warm in the convention center for as long as possible. I met up with Jillian at the start as we were both in the same Corral. There was a great crowd and a lot of excitement and it was nice to have Steve on the sidelines cheering! I was fortunate later in the race to have him pace me for some miles before the finish also.

Enjoying mile 3!
The course was flat, fast and scenic. The weather was ideal. The crowd support and volunteers were terrific. The post race food and beer were well above average. And I am happy with my performance. I pushed myself as hard as I could and came up a little short of my "A" goal, which was to BQ but I fought like hell on a tough second half to walk away with a personal best, which was my "B" goal. I am happy to walk away with a shiny new PR of 3:46:24, a five minute PR over my third marathon in Cleveland last spring. How can I whine or complain about forward momentum? I am truly fortunate and appreciative of my ability to love running and push myself to my own personal limits. At times I am smiling from ear to ear because I am excited and feel amazing and at other times I am fighting back tears of frustration and pain because that voice inside my head is telling me to back off the pace or to take a little break. I am getting better at telling that voice to let me be.

I love the marathon because it is you against yourself. I don't get caught up on where I land on the podium. Sure, I hope one day to place in my AG in a marathon, but for now I am excited to have cracked the top 25% of the women's field. It is a race that demands so much of you and a race where you must give everything you have to see results. I look forward to seeing how I will progress in this distance in the years to come.

post race celebrating with Jillian!
The race finish is pretty fast as there is some downhill heading to the stadium and then the actual finish is in the stadium so it's pretty cool. I managed to sprint some of the finish and I think it was just the excitement and energy of the moment. After the finish I quickly downed a water and then found Steve. I was excited to see how Jillian had done and she had PR'd as well as qualifying for Boston so she had a great race! We met up for a beer at the beer tent and I was happy that they had some craft beer at the finish so we celebrated with a Mission Pale Ale! I also ate some pizza, garlic bread and pasta as well as some cookies.

After changing into dry clothes, Steve and I made the short trek back to Mentor (about 2-1/2 hours) and stopped for snacks along the way. We went to dinner later at Winking Lizard to celebrate my new PR.

Since I'll be running the Cleveland Marathon in a few short weeks, I hope to celebrate again with another PR and maybe even that elusive BQ! For now I will be focused on recovery and cross training for tri season, which is just around the corner after Cleveland!

Special thanks to my husband Steve for the support all weekend and especially on race day! I also want to thank my family, friends and teammates for the encouragement and cheers leading up to the race. Finally thank you to my coach Chris and sponsors Challenge Family and Powerbar for everything they do to keep me going!

Prerace at the expo with my sweet husband Steve!

Thursday, April 23, 2015

Cleveland Marathon is Three Weeks Away - Enter to Win An Entry to The Race of Your Choice

I cannot believe it, but the Cleveland Marathon is three weeks from this Sunday! As I toe the line in Toledo, I will be trying to recover quickly to race strong in my hometown! If you have done this race before than you already will know the amazing energy that comes with this race. Cleveland people are very supportive of this race and line the streets to cheer on the runners!

Playhouse Square Chandelier!
The course was changed last year to incorporate much more of the westside and has changed again this year to make it even better as it now goes through Playhouse Square by the enormous new outdoor chandelier! I am looking forward to seeing this on my run along with the gorgeous views of our own Lake Erie and the Cleveland skyline!

The course is flat and fast and the weather is usually nice for the race. It has been a little warm once or twice so make sure you bring some salt tabs or electrolyte drink with you!

As an Official Cleveland Marathon Ambassador for 2015, I have a free entry to giveaway to the Cleveland Marathon race distance of your choice! You can use it for the 10K, Half Marathon or Marathon. All of the races are spectacular and sure to be fast and fun! To enter to win the entry, simply comment below on which race you want to do and why. A winner will be chosen early next week and announced here on my blog and social media channels by Monday afternoon! Goodluck!