Wednesday, May 3, 2017

Race Report: Canton Hall of Fame Marathon

Last week was weird and nice. I slept in. I ate a lot of carbs. I worried. I hydrated. And then it was time to leave for Canton.

Packet pick-up went relatively smoothly. I, like everyone else, parked illegally in a fire lane. No one seemed concerned. Just like there weren't signs directing us to appropriate parking, there weren't signs telling us where to enter the large school campus to find the expo. I wandered a bit with other people until we saw someone leaving with a bag, and they directed us in. Once inside things were easy.

I saw Shannon working at a race info table for a fall event. I got my bib and my teeny tiny women's race t-shirt. I had plans to room at a nearby hotel with two other women in my running group (although I'd never met them). Just as I was ready to leave I got a message that they were also at the expo. I met them and a friend of theirs, so we all went to the hotel, got checked in, and headed to dinner.

We tried an Italian place but, sadly, it was prom, so that was a no-go. We ended up at...wait for it...Cracker Barrel. Fun fact: the Cracker Barrel does not serve pasta. We loaded up on pancakes, french toast, and a few daring souls on meat, and called it a night. (Run group fail on the photo op)

I stayed up for a while with the girls in my room, watching TV and talking. Checking the weather one last time. Earlier in the week rain had been a huge concern. It looked like we'd clear from the rain, but that it would be in the upper 70's by the end of the race.

We did our Flat Momma (picture below) and headed to bed about 9:30.

We were all awake well before 5am Sunday. Our prep worked like a highly choreographed dance, even though we'd only just met. What great girls I got to room with! We were out by 5:30 and headed to the fairgrounds to park and board the bus to the start area.

Once at the start, we all did what runners do: used the port-a-potties. Stood around nervously. Saw people we knew. Peed again. Took a group picture.
MRTT Cleveland, Akron, even a few PGH I think. And a lot of people missed the photo op. It was so much fun meeting so many people I'd only known via Facebook.
When I lined up, another runner told me the start had been delayed 15 or 20 minutes due to an accident on the Interstate. I later learned this accident snarled the parking situation for at least several hundred runners. We anxiously waited. And then, we were off. I was sort of in disbelief that after all the training, it was finally really race day.

My shins cramped for about the first two miles, but the pace felt fine. I knew the first 4.5ish were pretty flat, so I just settled in an enjoyed it. I saw Shannon and her girls around mile 3 handing out water. This was unexpected. She wasn't signed up to man an aid station. Whoever was signed up didn't show, and since Shannon's awesome like that, she enlisted her tiny terrors and they got the job done.

Mile 1: 8:54
Mile 2: 8:49
Mile 3: 8:47

We passed the big hospital, a landmark I knew to look for, and started a gentle uphill. I'd memorized the altitude trends mile by mile. By mile 9 or so we were headed up Market, the bit I knew was the hardest stretch of the whole race. I'd planned for this. I lowered my pace a few seconds.

Mile 4: 8:48
Mile 5: 8:58
Mile 6: 8:50
Mile 7: 8:54
Mile 8: 8:44
Mile 9: 9:01

We wound through some neighborhoods and made a bunch of tuns and headed toward the half-marathon finish, near the start line. 
Mile 10: 9:14 (I think I paused for a water stop)
Mile 11: 8:58
Mile 12: 8:53
Mile 13: 9:06

Where I'd hoped to be about 1:54 at the half, I was something like 1:56. I could deal with that. It might be hard to pull off my PR, but I'd easily be under 4 hours and the PR still felt possible.

And then mile 14 happened. Or, it didn't happen. I'm really not sure. My legs felt fine. My cardio felt fine. And I knew, beyond a shadow of a doubt, that my fast miles were over. The forecast has said the heat would come on quickly, and it had. It was hot. It was humid. And that was it.

Mile 14: 9:15
Mile 15: 9:42

I saw Laurie at 15.5. She'd made me a sign and I LOVE HER FOR IT to get my PR. I saw it and just shook my head, and told her that had ended about a mile and a half earlier. Oh, how I wished that weren't true. 

So here's what I'll say for me in this scenario. I can't say I wasn't well-hydrated. I can't say I didn't have enough carbs, or that I wasn't prepared, or that I wasn't rested. In fact, I was really well prepared for this situation. A few faster people I knew ended up only slowing their races by 5-10 minutes, but I think they were the exceptions. For a while I kept mile times respectable by running slower and walking through water stations.

Mile 16: 9:49
Mile 17: 9:36
Mile 18: 10:33

And then I....well....let's just say it involved my asking a police officer not to arrest me. 
Mile 19: 15:54

After that, strictly owing to the amount of time I'd already been on the course and the heat, there were no points to be won. There was nothing that could be done to salvage a time I wanted. My goal became finishing without getting sick, and that meant more walking. Everyone was walking.

Mile 20: 11:04
Mile 21: 11:29
Mile 22: 11:37
Mile 23: 11:09

Somewhere around mile 24 I found Shannon again. I'd actually seen her once earlier, arguing with a man who was just determined a road wasn't open (it was) and nearly getting arrested for being belligerent about it. But anyway, mile 24, she'd been looking for me long enough that she'd set a time, and if I hadn't shown up by then she was calling the med tent to see if I'd checked in somewhere. I was fine, I was just slow. She had her girls in the double stroller and they jumped in with me. SO MANY PEOPLE asked if she'd done the whole race with the stroller. After a bit, someone would start to say something and we'd both just reply "no, she's just with me for a few miles!"

And let me say, thank God this woman had sunscreen in the stroller. The bit I put on my shoulders meant my shoulders were the only part of my upper body that didn't burn.
Mile 24: 12:23
Mile 25: 12:40
Mile 26: 11:50

Just before mile 26 we found my family. Shannon and her girls jumped out and I grabbed my older son to run me in. I always cry at the end of a marathon, but running down the straightaway holding his hand there was no keeping the emotions back.

Finish: 4:26:15.
This might be the only photo of either of my children ever to exist on this blog. I just love it so much.
Was race day what I wanted? No. It was not even my second fastest marathon. And that has to be ok. As a wise friend reminded me, the training and the race are separate events. There is no certainty in a marathon. It just means I'll chase that PR another day.