Monday, May 16, 2011

2011 Cleveland Half Marathon ~ May 15, 2011

For many years, the Cleveland marathon ran through Lakewood and other Westside suburbs. I was one of the cute little kids (yes, I was adorable) that high-fived the runners as they ran past me and I was always overly excited when I saw someone I recognized. While in elementary school, my mom, Sean and I worked the marathon for $20 apiece…Sean and I used it as our spending money for our summer trips to Cedar Point. Can you imagine how much fried cheese-on-a-stick you can buy with $20?! I know, overwhelming. We worked the water tables and I was always the littlest of the water handlers. Runners would grab the cup out of my timid hand and it would spill all over me :) I guess I wasn't cut out for the cup-holding business. Oops.

Although the half marathon has only been popular on the race scene for the past five years, its distance is the reason running has become so popular, particularly with women and former marathoners. It’s still a challenging distance, but not as grueling as a 26.2 mile marathon and not as routine as a 6.2 mile 10K. Having to balance work, family, training and injuries, there is only a certain percentage of the population that has the time, motivation and injury-free body to train for a marathon. For example, there is an older guy that runs with me at the YMCA. He ran the Boston Marathon on April 18th and then ran Cleveland on May 15th...and finished first in his age group (65-69) with a time of 3:58:42. That is extraordinary and not in my realm of thinking. Contrary, training for 13.1 miles takes motivation, careful planning and a lot less time, while the recovery and risk for injury is incomparable. This is more my style :)

It was only two years ago that I ran my first competitive race as an adult and it was the Cleveland 10K on May 17, 2009. I signed up so I had motivation to run other than for its overall fitness value. I struggled through the 6.2 miles, but knew I enjoyed running and wanted to do more of it. I didn’t have speed, but I had endurance…I wanted to run farther. I ran the Akron half marathon, then Myrtle Beach and Columbus. I endured a stress fracture in my hip just before the 2010 Cleveland half marathon, but bounced back for a handful of 5K’s, a 5-miler and the 2011 Myrtle Beach half marathon. It was finally time to run the race I grew up watching, working and admiring.

With a start time of 7 am, we were up at 5:30 and out the door by 6:00. With so many streets closed, we had to park several blocks away and arrived at Browns Stadium just before the start.

Thousands of spectators (including Steve) were crowded around the muddy grass near the stadium and cheered as the race began. With so many people corralling into the street, it took over seven minutes for me to cross the starting line.

As I ran through the streets of Cleveland on Sunday, I looked around and marveled at the 1,000’s of people that stood outside in the rain and cold to cheer on their family, friends and complete strangers. No sporting event, concert or festival can make you feel as tight of a connection with Cleveland as running the marathon or half-marathon. There were even organized cheer parties throughout the course.

As you run the streets and see people cheering for you, you can’t help but forget the pain and just smile. I made sure to high-five every little kid (and a few adults) that were there to cheer on the 20,000 runners. I gently grabbed the cup out of the smallest water handler and always said thank you. It’s my hope that when these kids grow up, they’ll want to run this race just like I did.

Overheating and leg exhaustion are what hold me back from running longer distances. My heart and lungs are champions! With degrees in the 50’s and a slight drizzle, the weather was perfect and overheating wasn’t an option. My legs on the other hand, were just slow. I finished in 2:31:18, which isn’t my best or my worst time. Once I started, I just couldn’t get my legs to move any faster! I never considered stopping and just kept plodding along and smiling at my surroundings. As always, my husband (and #1 fan) was there to cheer me on. I found (and high-fived) him at the start, mile 5, mile 9 and the finish. While I’m “just running” he is navigating his way around the closed streets, trying to get there before me. Let’s just say, he was a little stressed and never even had a chance to sit in the chair or break into the cooler that he had packed earlier that day.

What the city of Cleveland has to do to have a completely closed course is remarkable. The number of volunteers, race officials, police and city workers that it takes to put on this race is awesome and I truly appreciate and respect what they do so that I can simply run a race. Cleveland had over 19,000 race participants (in comparison, Myrtle Beach had 8,000) and the course was really fun and flat with the last ½ mile downhill…Hallelujah!

Of all the races I have run, this was without a doubt my favorite. Amazingly, it was a race run in my own backyard. There wasn’t a long drive, hotel stay, pre-race or post-race dinner out. It was me running 13.1 miles through the streets that I have grown to love in a city that I adore.

After the race, I had a snack and redeemed my free beer (of course). Steve had packed me some extra clothes, socks and shoes because although the weather was fine to run in, it was not fine to stand in! Not only was it cold and rainy, but the finish was next the the lake and the winds had picked up! A cold beer only made me slightly hypothermic :)

We met my mom and Rich for a celebratory mimosa, then Steve and I went home for a much needed nap. We capped the night off with a congratulatory chicken enchilada dinner, which was simply delicious.

Overall, it was a very good day.

Sunday, May 8, 2011

Daniel's First Communion

This past Sunday, my nephew (and Godson) Daniel had his First Communion. He is so cute and we were happy to be there to celebrate. We met most of the family at church, then all headed to Tracy's house for a party. Despite Daniel's insistence that the "party was going to go all night long" we were home by five and exhausted after an eventful weekend.

It was also Mother's Day and my mom was happy to have four of her five kids present. It was a gorgeous day!

Mom's 65th Birthday!

On May 9th, my mom will celebrate her 65th birthday. In honor of her big day, we hosted a Mexican fiesta at our house with Sean and Alex. Complete with sombreros, maracas, homemade guacamole, salsa, enchiladas, rice, beans, margarita mousse, pomegranate margaritas, white sangria, Corona, Dos Equis and cafe Mexicano, we definitely made the most of the Mexican theme.

The menu for the evening

The table scape

Group photo

We played some Dance Central and my mom and Rich were (not surprisingly) really good! I guess Lady Gaga brings out the dancer in all of us!

Birthday Girl

Happy Birthday Mom!

2011 Run for the Border Race

Last year on Cinco de Mayo, my friend Amy called me with a frantic phone call. She asked “Shannon, why are there people running around downtown with sombreros, maracas, and race numbers? I want in!” Since I follow the local race scene pretty closely, she knew I was the right person to call. I told her it was the Run for the Border race that occurs on Cinco de Mayo every year. Enough said. In 2011, we would be participating in this race.

Run for the Border was a 3 to 3.5 mile race with no set course. Every runner was on a two-person team and at 5:00 pm, we were given a list of checkpoints. Then we were to determine the quickest route to each checkpoint and at 6:30, the race began with teams starting every 10 seconds. Each team was given a green card that had to be stamped as we reached each checkpoint. Partners had to run together and pass each checkpoint as a team.

As we geared up for the race, we learned there may be some alcohol involved. In an effort to “train” for the event, we scheduled a practice run a few weeks prior…that also included a few cocktails. Ironically, our training route was very similar to the actual run. From our practice run, we learned: 1.) Shannon runs better on liquor 2.) Amy runs better on beer. This already put us ahead of the pack! In addition, we both work downtown and Amy lives downtown, so we know street locations very well. We determined our team name as Dos Borrachas and Amy had T-shirts made. We were ready for race day!

We arrived at the starting line at 5 pm and picked up our list of checkpoints. The race committee conveniently arranged the starting line at a sponsored bar known as the Blind Pig. Based on our research, I ordered myself a margarita and Amy ordered a Corona. We were off to a good start. We strategically planned our route and waited for the race to begin. Our fan club arrived just in time and then we were off!

To our surprise, our first checkpoint was at the starting line! We had to go through a bouncy house. This is when things started to get a little ugly…

We jumped in and navigated through the first part of the obstacle course then approached the climbing wall. If you have ever watched young kids play in a bouncy house, just imagine adults doing the same thing 10X. The boys were pushing the girls, the boys weren’t listening to directions, the girls were getting mad, etc…
You catch my drift.

Amy and I eventually reached the top of the wall and made our way…head first…down the slide. Unlike the kid-version of the bouncy house, at the end of the slide, we found asphalt. Yes, asphalt. No fun plastic balls, no padding, not even grass! Amy described me as flying down the slide and ending up with all but my toe on the asphalt. I have the scraped knees and hands to prove it. I can say the race committee did not think this one through very well.

Already annoyed, Amy and I made our way to our first checkpoint, Channel 3 News. It was a little over a mile, but straight down Lakeside. Within the first ½ mile, Amy sprained her ankle. Yep. This same girl had broken the same foot a few months ago and has sprained it countless times. Her ankle swelled quickly, but she pushed through.

At our first checkpoint, we received a sombrero and had our picture taken with a cactus.

Next, we headed another mile to Zocalo where we were served a margarita shot. It wasn’t as bad as we expected, and we were out of there fast!

You can see Amy on the right in the picture below...

Across the street was our third checkpoint, the Harry Buffalo. We received a pair of maracas and then ran our last mile back to the Blind Pig.

At the finish, we redeemed our free beer and waited for Steve to get out of work. He met us around 7:30, when we returned to the Harry Buffalo for dinner.

When we walked into the Harry Buffalo, there were still some straggling teams who were picking up their maracas. They thought we were another team behind them and raced out the door…we had actually finished nearly 90 minutes prior. They were a little disappointed when we told them the race was over. I guess they decided to stop at a few extra checkpoints!

Cinco de Mayo 2011 was a memorable one and I completed my first drink and run race. There were over 1,100 runners (561 teams) and while some of them were quite serious, many more were doing it for fun…I guess you can say we were somewhere in the middle :) We finished 150th out of 561 teams with a time of 30:46:46. We ran well and we had fun. Mission accomplished. Salud!