Let me start at the beginning, though. On Friday night we got the last minute stuff taken care of, you know like boarding Bernie, packing (some of that happened Saturday morning too, it's typical), eating some more carbs, etc. Saturday we woke up, ran our last 2 miles of our training, finished packing and drove to Cleveland.
We got to the Expo sometime in the afternoon and picked up our stuff. We walked around a bit and I finally bought some Body Glide (it helped a lot on race day). We left after a little while and went to our hotel to check in and relax before dinner. We went to dinner at Pizzazz, not in downtown Cleveland, and it was great!
Of course I had to wear my "race" rundies!
We ended the night with epsom salt baths and some more relaxing before going to bed. We had set the alarm for 4:45am and I actually slept pretty well, except when some party people were making noise in the room next to ours.
The morning of the race, we woke up pretty easily and got ready. We checked the weather and it was already 65 degrees outside so I didn't need my throw away shirt.
We had to check out of our hotel before the race (but they were nice and let us use the fitness area's showers after the race) and then we walked the .5 miles to the start at the Cleveland Browns Stadium.
Yep, still dark outside
Runners were already hanging around and we decided to sit in the seats of the stadium for a little while. We then went to the bathrooms, yay for no port-a-potties, and while in line some girls asked me to take their photo. I guess one of them was nervous, it was her first 10K, and I said, "by the time you realize what you are doing, it will be over". One of her friends asked which distance I was running and after I said the full she told her friend, "she's running quadruple what you are and she's trying to comfort you!"
We then went down to the start area, although there were only three seeded corrals the start wasn't too bad and what I expected it to be like from doing Rock 'n' Roll Chicago and Around the Bay. You basically just shuffle to the start line and starting running right before you cross the line. Mike and I went to our respective areas and then we were off and running the marathon.
Making my way to the start of my second marathon
I crossed the start line approximately 6 minutes after the start and I held myself back. There was a slight incline at the beginning, I truly can't call anything on this course a hill, but it wasn't too bad. Since the marathon and the half marathon runners do the first part together the course was a bit crowded but nothing I haven't experienced before.
I felt like there weren't many marathoners because I was surrounded by a sea of red bibs, the half had red and the full had blue bibs.
I took the first couple of miles easy, and told myself to slow down a few times. I was entertained by some of the people near me: a guy running with a boom box, people in super man costumes, people complaining about the "hills", a guy's shirt that said, "one day your life will flash before your eyes, make sure it's worth watching", etc.
I crossed the 10K mat, and thought about my family and friends that I was updating, in 1:01:11 at 9:51 pace.
The first half of the marathon was perfect weather, not too hot, cloudy and there was a nice breeze. We also had amazing crowd support. Around 8-9 miles I saw a group of people signing songs and I signed "applause" to them as I ran by. It was also at this point that a girl running near me said, "I wish we knew what mile we were at" and I told her that she was at 9.4 miles.
Around mile 10 my right hip started to bother me, so I took the time to thank people who have supported me in this journey. I actually had to tell myself to slow down during these miles because while I was thinking of them, I sped up.
At about mile 12, we were crossing over the highway and I saw a girl sitting on the sidelines who was overheated. It was still cloudy at this point, but the clouds were thinning out. I also knew that soon the half marathoners were going to head toward the finish, and I was going to have to keep on going.
We rounded a few corners and the signs for the half marathon and marathon had us going in different directions, they headed back to the stadium to finish their race and we headed out for the second part of the course. As we parted ways I immediately noticed how few marathoners there were compared to half marathoners.
I crossed the half marathon point in 2:09:24 at 9:53 pace. I had held pretty consistent paces up to this point, although my watch probably jumped a little bit during the end of the first half because my watch said I did 26.4 miles which ended up being frustrating later on.
This is when the "second" race began. Almost as soon as I split with the half marathoners the clouds disappeared and the sun was there to stay. I slowed a little bit, but I wasn't worried yet. However, at mile 15 I had my one moment of doubt that I would finish the race when I almost threw up when I was trying to open my third (and final) energy gel.
My hands were so sweaty that I had to open my energy gels with my teeth, and for some reason this didn't sit well with me at this point. I was really hot and I ended up getting the gel all over my hands so I had to stop for a second. I wasn't thinking clearly and I didn't know what I should do with the energy gel. Then reason stepped in and I wiped it on my shorts, I took very little of this energy gel because I couldn't stomach it.
I got to the water stop, which was right ahead and took some water and dumped some on myself to cool down. I got myself going again and actually continued running without walking through mile 18.
Not sure where exactly this was, but second half for sure
At some point between miles 16-18, runners ran in both directions and I saw some of the faster marathoners. This section of the race was really hot and on open road without any shade. This woman ran up to me and said, "what were we thinking?" and fist bumped me as she went on by (we played tag a lot during the last part of the marathon and I later heard her tell someone else she hadn't run a marathon in 15 years!!).
A spectator at this point was yelling, "power!" and then "power to the runners!" as we ran by her. All I was thinking about at this point was whether I would beat my time at Around the Bay 30K, which would be the next distance to update my friends and family. I had started walking a little bit but I pushed to the 30K.
I crossed the mat in 3:11:26 at 10:17 pace, only 16 seconds slower than my ATB time.
Right before the 30K mark, I had been passed by the 4:25 pace group which was slightly sad since I know I can run that time.
Miles 19-20ish brought some relief because there was some shade in the park we were running through. Right before an overpass type bridge there was a guy on the sidelines holding a sign, I don't know what it said but it caused a guy in front of me to yell, "one and done!" The guy holding the sign said, "well at least you can say you did it". I laughed to myself because I wondered if the guy would change his mind after he crossed the finish line and want to do another marathon.
My pace had slowed a bit and I started to do some math in my head, I'm not sure why but for some reason I used 20 minute miles as the worst case scenario (it never got to that my slowest mile was 13:44). It wasn't until around 23-24 miles that I knew I would get sub-5.
Since I ditched my last energy gel, I did start taking Powerade at the last few water stops. I knew it wasn't as many calories but it was better than nothing and replacing some of my lost electrolytes.
I thought about something someone said, not to be a wuss in the second half, and I tried to push myself. I also knew that in the heat I had to be careful, we haven't trained much in the heat yet and I don't tolerate it well.
I forget when it was but on one of the roads we had a little "turn around", basically we just ran around a cone and headed back down the road. At this point we were running back to downtown Cleveland.
I had been walking a bit, but I tried to run further each time. I was still doing math, somewhat accurately, and figured if I could keep up what I was doing I would finish around 4:45. I passed some of the same spectators we had seen the first time we were on the road and kept on running.
I had been dumping water on myself and running through the spray hoses and I was completely soaked, but it definitely helped!
As I neared 25 miles, I went through the last water stop. Right after that I ran by a car that had Macklemore's "Can't Hold Us" playing. The guy told me I looked strong and I could see the corner that you had to round to head back to the stadium in the distance. I walked briefly one more time and then ran to the corner.
At this point there were more spectators so I knew I wouldn't walk again, and I let them carry me to the finish. I heard people cheering, saw runners with medals and heard "The Harlem Shake" being played. This pumped me up and I kept passing people to the finish.
Focused on that finish line
I turned the corner, and I was constantly looking for Mike on the sidelines, and saw the finish line. I pushed it as best I could and then crossed the finish line of my second marathon!
Happier finish than the first time
At the finish line, smiling AND floating!
I had accomplished my two goals: to PR and to get my sub-5 hour marathon! My official finish time was 4:46:58 at 10:57 pace.
Marathoner x 2
As I got my medal, some water and had my photo taken, I still hadn't seen Mike. I was getting nervous, not because I thought he hadn't finished but I just wanted to see him, and then there he was with a medal around his neck!
I found out that about a half an hour before I finished the race, that Mike had finally gotten his redemption. He became a marathoner and ran a strong race with a finishing time of 4:18:55 at 9:53 pace. The second half was tougher for him, as it was for all of us, but he pushed through and finished!
Out on the course
Around mile 20
Realization of what he just accomplished
After going over to hug him, I had to walk a little more to get out. A photographer asked if I wanted my photo taken at the official finisher photo area and Mike wanted to come back in to get his photo taken with me. This was the one aspect of the race that frustrated me. They wouldn't let Mike back in because he had already left the area, and although I understand it was for security reasons I was really upset we couldn't get a photo at the finish together (we didn't have supporters with us and didn't bring our phones or camera to the race start).
After sitting in the shade for a while, we made our walk back to the hotel. We had to stop one time to sit down in the shade on the way, but we made it eventually. We showered, drove to Erie to stop to eat and then drove the rest of the way home.
I love my new medal
Welcome to the club, Mike!
I am extremely proud of us and how we handled this second marathon. The first half was perfect and I know we could have both run faster if the conditions had stayed the same. We will definitely continue to improve and since we are already registered for the MDI Marathon in October, this wasn't close to being our last marathon.
Thank to everyone who supported us, cheered us on and believed in us!