"It's a little self indulgent..." - My mom
"After I read a sentence, I get mad at myself for caring what you're doing." -Karl Dusen

Friday, June 8, 2012

The Cleveland Marathon is Decadent and Depraved

I did my usual Bolling for seven miles Wednesday (April 25) morning, but then decided against going to BCC for track work, opting instead for an 11 mile route on the W&OD to Vienna, then a loop back through neighborhoods. I wasn't feeling too great, though.

I took Thursday off of work to go up and watch the Penn Relays, so I took my time in the morning running out to McLean High School to do 4k,3k,2k, 2x1k, but early on I wasn't feeling great. I did some drills and ran back home. It was a late night, and I got about 3.5 hours of sleep on a shockingly comfortable couch.

Friday, I walked to work and before I went in I got a tired eight miles, out to the FDR fields and back. That evening I ran an Idylwood+ for another five, and slept like crazy after.

The next morning, I was up at 6 and out the door at 6:40. I planned to run 12 miles before the Jaguar 5k to get myself nice and tired, then race the 5k and cool down home. My first mile was just over 7:00, but I caught up in the next two, hitting three miles in 19:00. Three more miles in 18:30, by which point I was on Cottage and just rolling, having never run that direction before, it was cool to see everything from the other side. The next three miles were 18:05, but apparently when I remapped the course to include a few missed turns, it was more than three miles. I slowed down a little, with the intention of actually trying to run fast at the race, but when I got to the vestigial bridge over the beltway, I couldn't resist a few surges,and I kept of kept that going through Fairview Park. I thought better of my plan to cut it very close to the 5k start, since I was picking up my packet, so I cut a mile off the loop. I eased up as I headed down Route 50 and showed up at Falls Church High School for the Jaguar 5k, having averaged 6:13 for the 11 miles.

Everything I had read indicated the race started at 8, but when I picked up my number, it became apparent the race was a half hour later. I jogged around trying to stay loose and keep my heart rate up, but my brilliant plan to be "nice and tired" at the start to simulate the latter stages of the half marathon was beaching like a whale. Eventually the 5k start rolled around.

The gun went off and with it, a flock of floppy-haired teens out for yucks in the race's first stretch. I got around them by the first turn, then caught the last one, who actually looked like he could be kind of dangerous, right as we got out of the parking lot. I cruised through the neighborhoods, pushing a little more than I would have liked, but not interested in having any of the kids catch me. The first mile was mostly downhill, but I was shocked to come through at 5:01, I was expecting something more in the 4:40 range, considering my effort and the course.  I had nothing to worry about from the teens chasing me- I didn't hear any footsteps or cheers behind me. The second mile was heavily uphill as I turned onto Camp Alger Avenue, I saw the same old man out walking that I had seen two weeks before. I slowed a bit to say hi, then got back to business to split a lackluster 5:25 in the second mile.The third mile was more uphill and battling through the crowds of runners still in the first mile, but when I turned onto Holly Hill I found out the roads were not closed to traffic after all, because I had cars on either side of me as I turned onto Marc. I claimed the middle of the road after the turn and let the drivers deal with me until I got back to the school grounds popped up a hill and ran 300 on the track to finish in 16:30. I was pleased that after the long, pretty hard warmup and the unexpected wait, I was able to average a little faster than my goal half pace, but I still would have liked to have been faster.

As much as I love the CCT to Lake Accotink, it always tires me out a lot more than a mostly-flat trail should, and Sunday was no different. Gone, though, were the sunset clouds of gnats who pestered Karl and me the last time I was there. I took it easy and averaged 6:50s throughout, though as usual I was ridiculously thirsty in the last four miles.

Monday was a trip to Tenleytown to look at a house then a late run to McLean High School for some quarters. 69, 69, 67, 69, 68, 67, 67, 67, 69, 70, 70, 67. Then a cooldown for 13. Tuesday was another house but an earlier return home and, I believe, a Pimmit-Idylwood, though I'm not positive. Wednesday I struggled through the humidity to do some 1200s with Karl, Diddy and Syd Barrett, but I got pretty dizzy after a while and dropped out in favor of a few laps with Murph.

The next day I did five miles, probably an Idylwood+. That was when my back started to hurt, a different part than last time, I think I took the afternoon off to recover, or something. Friday morning I started a New Virginia Manor, but cut it after one loop, it was just too humid.

Saturday morning I was back in Pittsburgh and had plans for a nice long workout at 5:20 pace- 400 on the track, 1k on the oval, a mile on the track, 2k on the oval, 2 miles on the track, 4k on the oval, then 4k on the track. I was doing just fine until the youth soccer teams starts swarming the field inside the track while I was in the middle of my two mile. With kids running into lane one after soccer balls and parents not seeming to care where they stood, I was fed up. I tried to do the 4ks on the oval, the humidity was really getting to me by that point, and the temperature was climbing, so I opted for a long cooldown. It was really humid, I felt awful and wondered if I should even bother with Cleveland--two weeks later in a volatile month. The recent, very favorable temperatures on race day, however, convinced me to stick with the plan.

Sunday, I ran around and watched the Pittsburgh Marathon and Half, a total of 18 miles. My back was not a  problem while I was running. Monday I did another fartlek on the W&OD, my back wasn't even an issue. Tuesday I took off. Wendesday back to BCC for 5xmile- 5:30, 5:20, 5:10, 5:00, 4:49. Our pacer was slow at 800 for the last (2:28+) so I took the second half a little harder- 69 and 70. I didn't feel my back at all. The next morning I did a Slade Run at 6:35 pace, with some intestinal problems in mile 6 and 7. Friday was off to let my back rest.

Saturday was a run up to McLean High School for 2x20, but I got out fast- 5:08 for the first and second miles. I managed to ease up later on, but dodged a lot of lane-one walkers. I decided to just go for 4 mile, and averaged 5:15 pace feeling easy. Again, no pain. Afterward, though, was another issue.

Sunday I went out to Alexandria to run with Dave O'Hara and Murph on the Mt. Vernon Trail. The back pain was constant, though I could run through it. I was seriously regretting putting $93 into the Cleveland Half at this point.

I took Monday off to rest the back. Tuesday evening I headed off to do a NVM, but the back wasn't cooperating. I made it a mile and turned around and went home. The next morning I successfully ran an Idylwood+ in the morning, then up to McLean in the evening for 5:13, 5:18, 5:13 and back. No 30 miles on my 30th birthday.

Thursday morning I went out to do a NVM, but stopped after one loop. Friday morning I took off, and in the afternoon, I headed up to Pittsburgh with Dickson and Beth, with Drea and Paul in their car. After stopping at the Country Club Mall in Cumberland, I drove the rest of the way to the JBI, choosing one of my favorite routes -- through the Laurel Highlands and the Mon Valley. That two hour chunk was nothing short of amazing, even as I was driving right into the setting sun.

My back and hip were still troubling me Saturday morning, so I skipped my pre-race jog around Chatham Village in fantastic weather. That would have been a good day for the race, aside from my discomfort.

After the drive to Cleveland and a stop at the miserable IX Expo Center to pick up our bibs, after paying $8 to park, we got some dinner and we all settled into the bizarrely-designed rooms at the Comfort Inn Suites near Cleveland State that lacked a wall between the shower and the living room. After a long night of sleep the night before at home, I was prepared for general discomfort on the foldout bed which didn't really conduct body heat too readily.

In the morning, we took a cab ride with two delightful ladies from Charleston, WV, driven by a temperamental cabbie who "enjoyed the hell out of being fat" and congregated at a place where every out-of-town team feels like a winner- Cleveland Browns Stadium. It was warm- in the 60s, and after our warmup, sweat was running all over my head and torso. It was going to be rough. Thanks to seven or so Aleve, I couldn't feel my back or hip. At least something was going right.

The start was up a slight hill, evidently they have those in Cleveland, they also have a number of delays for the race start that never were clear to me. It looked like an awfully pale field, if you know what I mean.

I lagged at the start, as is my tendency. After weaving through the hoi polloi, I was within reach of the leaders, and none of them looked to be going too fast. I was in the front within 30 seconds and cruised along with the pack until we hit the first turn. I took it aggressively, keeping my pace consistent, but everyone else slowed. I figured it was time to go for it- nobody else was going to be taking the half seriously, with its lack of prize money, so I shouldn't concern myself with the early-race jockeying among marathoners from Lorian, Ashtabula and Streetsboro.
So, I ran ahead and nobody else came with me. I hit the first mile in 5:28, and I was surprised it was that slow, though the hill certainly was a factor. There wasn't a sliver of shade on the shoreway along Lake Erie. All I could hear were my own steps, and I thought maybe I could run away with this thing. That thought was reinforced when I hit the second mile in 5:05. I couldn't feel my hip, maybe it was better, maybe my stride was doing its job, maybe the borderline overdose of anti-inflammatories was doing its job. Maybe any of my multitude of relatives in Cleveland would see the race on the television before they took their Sunday morning trips to Marc's, the May Company, Malley's Candies or the Crawford Auto Museum and say "oh my, that's Charlie."

I kept cranking, marveling at the amount of sun-- there was nothing stopping that mother today. After a mile in 5:15, I started to feel the muscles around my shins tighten up and my forefoot striking was coming to an end. A few seconds later, I heard a bicycle, then a lot of breathing. Then I saw the shadows, not-so-elongated by the sun behind me, of a pack of skinny dudes. Suddenly, I was surrounded by east africans and one white dude. There was the pack of marathoners shooting for the sub 2:20 bonus. I hadn't seen a single member of this pack on the starting line. They rushed past me, no surprise, since my fourth mile was 5:41-- not where I needed to be, to put it lightly.
Now it was time for me to figure out what kind of race it was going to be. Would I try to regain that pace the pack was setting, or fight for whatever position I had in the half marathon, ambiguous as it was? That fantasy about leading the race crashed faster than Kellen Winslow, Jr on a motorcycle.

I tried to get back on my forefeet to chase that pack, and my legs cramped immediately. Looks like I was going to be forced to the latter. I managed to maintain by pace for the next mile. 5:41 for a 27:12 five mile split as we weaved through a shady neighborhood. That was kind of nice, though I lost a few positions there. As I turned eastward on Detroit Avenue and finished a 5:43 mile, I was running directly at the sun. I passed the 10k park in 34:01, well behind where I hoped to be at that point. I took two cups at each water stop and doused myself to try to keep my head together. It helped for about 15 seconds, which made a difference in my 5:30 seventh mile and 5:34 eighth. I don't remember much of nine, in 5:35, but 10 was an adventure. A downhill of which I failed to take advantage in my chase of a pack of three, complicated by a few loose cars on the course that I dodged on my way back up the hill. At the top, I was cooked, and it showed in my 5:47 split for a 55:23 10 mile. At least in my Philly half I was under 55 at 10--this was troubling. Maybe I could gut it out.


Back into the sun on Carnegie, over the bridge, those now-creepy statues and another 5:47 for a real kick in the pills. The last two miles offered a little shady relief, though I was losing the capacity to judge my distance traveled. I got a little better in mile 12- 5:38, but soon after the marathoners split off and I saw the one chance for redeeming this race fade away when one guy continued straight toward the half marathon finish. Victory now beyond my reach, I focused on finishing, merging streams of 10k runners.
"What the hell??" I said.
I really had enough by this point, and even the otherwise-welcome downhill didn't do anything for me, I finished up, with a 6:24 last 1.1--miserable, really, and came to a rapid stop when I crossed the line. I had no idea there was a fellow four seconds behind me. I also had no idea in which place I had finished. Some handler tried to scoop me away, but I escaped to watch Drea and Beth finish. My first thought was that one of my left toes must be bleeding like hell. The pains and aches I had been deferring for 73 minutes all called in their debts at the same time, and I lurched around with a degenerative limp. It got really f%$@#ing hot out there, and the marathoners all suffered. I'm sure the winner didn't want to sneak in at 2:19:59.

1:13:13. Not what I was hoping to run. Part of me was thrilled that I was even able to run 13 miles at 5:35 pace, after the discomfort and downright pain I had felt in the weeks prior. The fact that it was a sweaty mess didn't help things, and should have made me happier with being able to hang on, but all of these add up to the fact that I didn't get the job done. I didn't win the race or improve my best time, which remains from a hilly race I ran with a cold- granted, in perfect conditions.

Despite my feelings of failure in terms of the race, the trip itself was fantastic. On the way home, I nailed the Breezewood trifecta of KFC, Dairy Queen and Taco Bell. The KFC was nothing short of divine.

Back in Virginia, I took a full week off. The bender I had planned became a Tuesday evening and a Saturday night where I stretched the limits of a full liver and an empty stomach. It was a miserable week and I'm not sure if not running made it worse or prevented it from sinking lower.

Then Molz and I headed up to Winchester on Memorial Day to run the Loudoun Street Mile with Witty and Billzzz. The drive was pleasant. The race did not bode well. It was warm, I hadn't run in a week, and I was ill prepared to race a mile, but what the hell? Molz and I warmed up and I realized a few minutes in that there would be no miracles. I was drenched after 15 minutes. My back, which was miraculously comfortable  starting Monday morning, started acting up as we jogged to the start. I saw Tim Schuler, the maniac master, down from Chambersburg. The heat was overwhelming me, but as I would find out minutes later when the race started, it was the least of my worries.

My habitual slow starts off the line was deadly here. I was immediately left behind and rushed down the hill to catch the huge pack. At the bottom, though, I felt the exertion catch up to me and I felt, for the first time in my running career, like I might not live to see the finish. My lungs has to have been run clean through with a sword, there was no other explanation for what I was feeling. Except maybe the 63 second 400 split...

The next 400 was up a hill in the sun. I stopped even pretending I was racing and jogged it. 79.99. Not quite 80. I thought of Lauder's 4:52 last year at this race and wondered if I had the wherewithal to match it at this point. I charged down the hill. No I didn't. I meandered a bit. 74. We hit the flat-to-uphill last stretch on the pedestrian mall and I started to fight for my position again, but that didn't last too long. I started hemorrhaging places and managed to struggled in at 4:51.8 for 25th place. I just managed to squeek by what a fellow who trained much less than I did ran on a much hotter day the year before. Great job, Chaz.
I'd rather be a half a second slower than look like an idiot

The next day I went out to Burke Lake with Fun Liz. The sky was dark, in advance of a rainstorm, and the humidity was raging. I ran off around the lake and was feeling pretty good for a while, splitting 6:00 miles for a little over 18 minutes. The clouds of gnats were a pain, but I was moving again, and without pain. Then suddenly everything caught up with me- the heat, humidity, and I stopped. I grabbed my knees as I struggled to breathe, and watched the bicyclists I passed with such ease cruise by me. Soon Liz caught me, and I ran with her for about a minute until I had to take another break. My decline was swift, but decisive. I jogged in and finished 35 minutes of running right before the storm started.

Wednesday after work I gave running another shot- an Idylwood+. Five miles in 33:30. Thursday evening a Seaton, for six miles at 6:40 pace. Friday was a nice day to take off. Saturday morning I rose and just started running and played it by ear. 6:30 average for this loop, with a few stops at garage sales.

I had planned to run very early Sunday morning, taking advantage of the phenomenal June weather. Back after the George Washington Parkway race, I had a crazy thought that I would keep my options open for a spring marathon after Cleveland. I settled on the God's Country Marathon in Coudersport, Pa. It was a small race, a point-to-point course between two towns, and I'd be able to register the day of the race, giving me flexibility to strike if the weather was good. I figured why the hell not? If I am feeling good after Cleveland, and the weather wouldn't be too oppressive, I might as well just see what I could do. As it turned out, the weather was great, but I was not. AJ Kelly ended up winning in 2:42, which would have been a nice time to run, especially if we had kept each other company on a pretty lonely course. So, I designed a 26.2 mile course through McLean, Great Falls and Falls Church and I would give it a shot.

When I didn't want to do that when the alarm went of at 4, I slept in and decided to do it after I watched the episode of Mad Men I missed the week before. That eventually meant a 9:30 start. It was warmer than had I started at 4:30, but not terrible. I ran the first two miles carrying a quart of gatorade, which I hid in a tree two miles in. After I got that out of my hand, my form straightened out.

I navigated the new neighborhood past Daleview with more ease this time than in March, but I struggled on the Belleview hills. My thirst was starting to hit me when I got to Georgetown Pike. Luckily I was coming up to a point where I could turn back toward where I stashed my Gatorade. I can't remember the name of the subdivision I entered, but it was clear it didn't consider itself a thoroughfare. The map I consulted, however, begged to differ. It was hilly, and I was starting to labor, but I could keep going. I wound around until what I thought to be the logical turn. Eventually I hit a cul de sac I hadn't expected. Maybe I turned early. I headed the opposite way and found the same situation. Back from whence I came, I saw an imposing-looking gatehouse blocking what looked like a driveway. I decided to just go back and turn on Swinks Mill, a long uphill that really didn't do it for me. Back over the beltway and up Balls Hill Road. I stopped a few times in the last few miles, not sure what it would take to make me comfortable again running, but I knew the answer was going to be fluid of some sort. Salt was caking my once-flexible shorts turning them into a chamois-like consistency. I finally got back to the Gatorade bottle and went to town. After that, there would be no more running. I ended up running this. I walked home the last two miles, pretty tired out and still thirsty.

Monday evening I ran with the DC Capital Striders and bumped into Teddy Winschel, a total of nine miles, then did six the next evening with Elyse's gang of fun runners. I took Wednesday, National Running Day, off. Thursday night I did what be my last Slade Run, averaging 6:22 pace for 13.25 miles. Toward the end, I actually got chilly. What a gift this first part of June has given runners in DC. Friday morning I woke up to 56 degrees and hopped out of bed for a morning run, but found that my elusive hip/back pain had returned. I meandered six miles around part of the Bolling loop, but never settled in.

Saturday morning I ran a sleep-deprived eight miles on the towpath with Karl, Jake, Diddy, Dix, Murph and Bitz. Sunday I planned to a variety of the Irvin long run, but within a mile I could tell the heat would be too much, I switched to a Double Pimmit, but that proved to be too hot, too. I made it seven miles.

I'm still figuring out my fall schedule vis-a-via cross country races, but I will give the half another shot in late October, which should fit well, at the Charlottesville Fall Classic. That will also give me a chance, after the race to tour south-central Virginia in its most enjoyable month.

For now, nothing but base, most runs will be less than an hour for my own sake. The heat is here and it's time for me to get used to it. A few weeks of my northern Virginia farewell tour, then it's onto the big city and the Tenleytown Running Endeavour.

1 comment:

  1. And now... I feel like an ass :) I believe I congratulated you on your half.

    Since we're at different levels in our running, it's just pretty hard for me to process what's a good time or bad for you. So I go by placings.

    On a different note, that Comfort Inn room is truly bizarre.