Tuesday, May 17, 2011

Cleveland Half Marathon Race Report

Today is Tuesday. It is two days since my first 1/2 marathon ever. Today is has really hit me. I ran a 1/2 marathon. Me, someone who once weighed 306 pounds. Me, someone who was diagnosed with Crohn's Disease not that long ago. Me, someone who gained back 47 pounds of the 106 lost due to Crohn's. Someone who has decided she may have this disease, but this disease does not have her. I am so proud of myself. Thirteen point 1 miles. Who really does that? Well, now I can say me.

I chose to do the Cleveland Half Marathon because my brother, Jordan, and his awesome wife, Kelly live there. He was planning on originally doing the full marathon and I was going to drive out there to cheer him on with his wife and son, Hayden. Then one day when we were talking he said, "You know Melissa, there is a half marathon. You should sign up." Talked to my coach and before I knew what was happening I had signed up. Then I freaked out. Then I was excited and then freaked out again.

Leading up to the race I did everything that my great coach, Robert Mitera, told me to do and when race day finally approaced I felt prepared. In my long runs leading up to the race I tried different nutrition options, so when race day came my stomach would be ready. I mapped out where all the bathrooms were, so if my stomach issues did arise I was ready.

I drove to Cleveland the day before the race. Got there and met my bro, Kelly, and Hayden for dinner at Olive Garden.

This is me and Hayden waiting for our table. He was so excited to see me when I walked up to the restaurant. He just lit up and so did I.

I layed out all my race stuff for the next morning and headed to bed. I slept very well. I woke up around 430 because we had to be there before 6 to get Parking. The cool thing about riding in with my brother is that he has Media Parking at the baseball stadium where he works for mlb.com covering the Indians, so we had a great parking spot. We headed over to the Cleveland Browns stadium where they had bathrooms you could use and we checked gear there. It was cool to be inside the stadium.

After hitting the bathrooms we checked in our gear. Here I am and Jordan and I before the race and checking the camera. The note I wrote on the back of my team challenge jersey, so people would know that I had Crohn's and I was running the 1/2 marathon. I wanted people to know that no matter what they have going on in their life they can do whatever they put their mind to. I had lots of people tell me during the race that they appreciated the encouragement that my shirt gave them. I may be on a crazy journey in my life, but I feel part of that journey is being public with it and being able to touch as many people's lives in the process.

After checking our gear we headed to the starting line. This is where Jordan and I parted ways. He was originally going to run the full marathon, but due to a knee injury was only able to do a half. He headed up to the faster paced 1/2 marathoners and I headed back to around the 15:00 minute mile pace. I took time to stretch and deep breath as the nerves were getting to me. I deep breathed, focused, and then we were off.

In most of my training runs my miles were between 16:30-17:30 minute miles. The first few miles I did in under 16. I was very happy. I had started out a little bit too fast, so slowed my pace down a little to a pace I knew I could keep up. In practice I would run to the mile marker, walk a minute, then run to the next mile marker, walk a minute etc. I got to the first mile marker and then realized I didn't need to walk, smiled, kept running, made it to the next mile marker, and realized, again, that I didn't need to walk, smiled, kept going. Made to mile 4 and the only reason I stopped was I HAD to go to the bathroom. Was very happy with 4 miles with no walking.

My coach had broken the race up for me in this way, "Remember, Melissa this race is only 4 5k's and a victory lap." For those of you who don't know a 5k is 3.1 miles and a half marathon is 13.1 miles. So there were points when I was jogging and was just repeating that to the beat and when I would hit another 5k done. I would change my mantra to 3 5k's and a victory lap. There were a couple people struggling along the way and I would say, "Hey you only have 2 5k's left and a victory lap" and they would thank me. I've done a lot of 5k's, so it was a great way to break down the race.

As far as the weather was concerned leading up to the race the weather reports said 80% chance of thunderstorms. High of 60 low of 45. Race day it was 70% chance of rain. I believe the high was still supposed to be 60, but it never got that high. Right before the race started it was decent, a little chilly, but not bad, and just drizzling. Almost like a mister on you the whole time. I had on shorts, a dri tech shirt, and my TEAM CHALLNGE, jersey and a visor. Never needed my sunglasses. I had running tights at Jordan's house and decided that I wasn't going to wear them because I didn't want to overheat.

I was fine as far as my body temp until around mile 9. My legs just got this deep chill that I could not shake. My upper body and hands were fine. Usually it's my hands that are cold. It was just my legs. I had to just get them out of my mind. If I thought about it too much it became unbearable. Around mile 10, the cramping started. I was hydrated and staying right on track with my nutrition, so I am thinking it was just the cold that was affecting my legs, but since I am new at this I will talk to my coach and make any adjustments for my next race.

Mile 11 I had to stop and go to the bathroom. I knew I had to stop because it was the last bathroom before the finish line. As someone who is racing with Crohn's disease you have to be aware of where the bathrooms are at all times. I had mapped out the bathrooms before the race, so I would be prepared if anything happened on the race course. I was even aware of what restaurants are in the area, so if need be I could run into those as well.

I stopped, and really didn't want to because I was afraid of what my legs would do once I sat down and had to get back up. I am happy to say I was able to do my business and get going relatively well. That was my longest mile as far as time goes. It was just over 20 minutes, but I was able to get the next mile to just over 18. Once I got out of the bathroom and headed out I realized I was at the start of a VERRRRY long bridge.

During races I always act like a hunter out to get some prey. I will focus on someone in front of me until I pass them. I had been focused on two men and I was almost ready for the kill when I had to stop at the bathroom. I was very determined to pass them on the bridge. When I came out of the bathroom I could see them off in the distance and my mission became beat the old guy and the fat guy (before you say anything I know that is mean to describe them that way, so please don't say anything). When your legs are cramping and your cold you do whatever it takes to get er done.

I was chanting in my head to the beat of my feet, "Beat the old guy. Beat the fat guy" over and over. I was getting into a great rhythm. I started passing more and more people. A lot of people had to walk up the bridge, so I know I was close. I knew I only had about 2 1/2 miles left, so I just kicked it up a notch. It was windy, cold, and did a mention a very long bridge. My quads were killing me, but I knew I could beat the old guy and the fat guy. I passed the old guy before hitting the top of the bridge and there was the fat guy, towards the bottom. His red shorts taunting me the whole time. I kicked it up even more and knew I could take him. I took advantage of the downhill on the bridge and passed him at the bottom. As I passed him I said, "good job." He was doing a good job. We had encouraged each other all day. As I passed him he said, "Go get 'em."

I knew I was getting close to the finish line cause there were more spectators. I was pushing as hard as I could. People would cheer for me by name and I would just have to give them a thumbs up cause I couldn't talk. The finish line was in sight. I started giving it all I had, my legs were screaming at me, but I wouldn't listen. I was high-fiving people and then I heard this voice saying, "Here comes Melissa. Finishing strong. Melissa has Crohn's disease and she won't let that stop her from competing. Way to go Melissa." Then he said, "Hey Melissa Beat that guy." I look over there is a guy about 3 feet behind me. I pushed with all I had and beat him. Then I hear over the loud speaker, "Hey Melissa just chicked that guy." Here is a picture of me coming into the finish line and then me chicking that guy. :)

Jordan had finished his half marathon in 1:41 a Personal Record for him in a half marathon. He was able to go to gear check and get the camera to capture the pictures of me at the finish line. Thanks Jordan for getting those.

As soon as I crossed the finish line I got my medal and then my legs had had enough. I had to have help to the medical tent. They felt like they were ready to give out and then I felt a little light headed, so I wanted to go the tent to make sure I was ok. On the way to the tent I remember saying, " I want my brother. Where is he?" Like medical would know where he is. Then Jordan showed up. We went in there and I had the nicest doctor, Dr. Waters. He got me all bundled up to get me warm. Gave me ice, took my stats, which were all good. I had a banana, pretzels, and some water and then they wanted me to get up and walk around the medical tent. I couldn't even move my legs. It was crazy. It was if someone had poured cement in my legs. Once I got up and walking they felt much better.

Jordan picked up my stuff from gear check and was able to go and get the car and pick me up at the medical tent. We had a great ride home talking about the race and it made me feel better to know that Jordan, my fast brother, hated that bridge as much as I did. What's funny is he can see that bridge from work and he says that he has always thought it would be fun to run across it. Now he has and didn't think it was that fun. :)

Jordan and I did not get any pictures taken after the race, so we took them when we got back to his house. I am so proud of Jordan's PR and of course proud of myself for running 13.1 freaking miles. Wahooooo to both of us. Here we are after the race.

Kelly and Hayden did not make it to the race due to the horrible weather, but when we got home we were greeted with these awesome posters. Thanks so much Kelly. I love mine.

Here is my medal and my bib. The medal is really cool because the guitar actually spins around. I also am the proud new owner of a 13.1 magnet that was put on my car as soon as I finished the race. It's the little things in life that make me happy.

I know that I have come a long way in my journey, but I still have a lot more to learn and do before getting to my ultimate dream of doing an Ironman. Each step I take forward is getting me one step closer to my dream. One thing I learned during this race is that I can do anything I want to do. Crohn's is just something I have, I refuse to let Crohn's have me. I will continue to educate myself on my disease and help others along the way. No matter what your challenge is, there are ways to overcome them and do what you want to do.

I want to thank my wonderful husband Keith and my two amazing kids. There are lot of days I skip doing stuff with them to train and run races. They are so supportive and loving through this all. I love you all very much. I want to thank my brother Jordan and his wife Kelly for their constant support and encouragement. Thanks for housing me this past weekend and being part of my latest adventure. I want to thank my coach for sticking by me through all the ups and downs and helping me reach this current goal. I look forward to many years to come working together. I also want to thank all my friends and family that are there for me day in and day out. I could not do this as easily if it weren't for you all.


Toni said...

Way to go Melissa! Very cool medal, too :)

Shelley Moore said...

Fantastic race report, Melissa!!! And I really love your method of dividing up the race into 5Ks, LOL! I'm going to try that!

Pest control Portland said...

Wow, joining the ironman will be a dream come true for me. You have a great family and good luck to your future achievements:-)