Tuesday, May 22, 2012

Staycation During Race Weekend ~ May 20, 2012

Wow. What a weekend! I’m really not even sure where to begin, but I guess it all starts with our two free nights at the Ritz Carlton Cleveland…

Ohio’s first casino opened its doors in Downtown Cleveland on Monday night at 9:30 pm. The excitement around the city has been pretty neat and everyone was eager to step inside those doors.

On Wednesday afternoon, I checked the casino Facebook page to see if there was anything new going on…to my surprise, they were offering rooms at the Ritz for Wednesday night at $19! Steve happily agreed and I booked us the room. Soon after I arrived home, I received a phone call from the Horseshoe Casino. There was a glitch in the system and they had overbooked. Oh well. I guess it just wasn’t meant to be…or was it?! If I was “willing to give up my mid-week stay” they were offering me two free nights whenever I wanted. Yes please!!!

We never stay downtown, but we like the idea of it. Over the past 10 years, the city has become so much more electric and we always enjoy being a part of it. It just seems silly to spend money on a hotel when we only live 10 minutes away. So, when we had the opportunity to stay at a hotel that’s usually $300-$400 per night, we pounced on it.

With the Cleveland Half Marathon approaching on Sunday morning, I thought that would be the most ideal scenario. I also knew through my own research that every hotel downtown was booked because of the race. Combined with it being opening weekend for the casino, I thought it would be a long shot, but figured I’d still ask…and that was it! They booked us for two free nights on Saturday and Sunday using the casino's room block. We were so excited for our staycation over race weekend…

Saturday morning came fast and we wanted to get started. By noon, we had dropped off our bags at the hotel and headed to Great Lakes Brewing Company for lunch. We enjoyed their local meat and cheese platter and an Edmund Fitzgerald Porter ice cream along with an Edmund Fitzgerald Porter!

Next, we parked our car in Steve’s work garage (another huge bonus for us downtown), checked into the hotel and then headed over to the casino for a few minutes. That night, we walked to East 4th Street for a drink at two of Cleveland’s hot spots, Lola and the rooftop patio at Greenhouse Tavern.

After a long day, we headed back to the hotel so we could both get some sleep before the nightmare I was to experience the following day. I had no idea that my 7th half marathon would be so excrutiating.

The race was set to begin at 7 am on Sunday morning so we made the short walk to Browns Stadium. One of the best things about the Cleveland race is that they open up the concourse at Browns Stadium so runners can use those restrooms instead of the dreaded port-o-potty’s. There is something to be said about being able to maintain your dignity at least until after the race starts! Once I found my pace group, Steve waved goodbye and I was on my way with 20,000 fellow runners.

I knew it would be a warm day, but only hoped it wouldn't reach the 70's until after I was finished. To put it in perspective, last year's race conditions were 45-50 and rainy. This year, they were closer to 75-80 and not a cloud in the sky!

Running along the shoreway during the first two miles was so crowded. I tried to stay along the outside of the road to avoid bumping elbows, but it wasn’t easy. By this time, the sun had fully risen and was starting to beat down.

Once we approached Edgewater, we were blessed with our first water stop and about 1 mile of shade. There were also sooooo many fans cheering us along the way. I knew it wasn’t long before I’d see me first group of fans at mile 4.5 :)

By this time, the temperature was about 75. Not good when I’m only 1/3 of the way through…

My mom, Rich, Molly, Sean, Alex and Steve were all there to cheer me on. (Note: I have a big smile on my face. This smile gets progressively less excited as the race continues.) I stopped quickly to say hello and let them know I was “SO HOT!” Some people can run in the heat. Some people can train in the heat. I can't do either and I don't claim to. I was just wishing I was on the beach somewhere and not running a half marathon.

We headed down Lake to Detroit to Ohio City. It was awful. Temperatures continued to climb and around 5-6 miles, it was getting seriously steamy outside. Plus, we were running into the sun. Operation Hose-Down-the-Runners was in full effect.

These people set up their own water stop around mile 7. It was a very nice welcome. They even had mimosas! No, I didn’t have one, but I happily and thankfully grabbed water.

With water stops every two miles, I grabbed 3-4 cups at a time. I tried to drink as much as I could, but after each mile, I was dehydrated again. As I approached the West Side Market, I had one thing on my mind…and it wasn’t about the beautiful meats, cheeses, fruits and vegetables at the market...I actually thought I was going to pee my pants! I had consumed so much water, but surprisingly wasn't sweating it all out. So, at mile 8 I did what every runner dreads. I stopped at the port-o-potty. By this time, I knew I wasn’t going to break any records and just sucked it up and waited. I was miserable and I just had to finish. 5.1 more miles.

There were signs everywhere! Reading them actually makes the time go by a little more quickly and brings a smile to my face. These were some good ones…

The Tremont neighborhood was next and they had some really great fans that helped push me through. I also knew that when I exited Tremont, I only had to run over the Lorain-Carnegie Bridge, past Progressive Field and The Q…then I’d be (almost) done!

Sean, Alex & Steve surprised me at around mile 9. They actually thought they missed me because I had slowed down so much. I was excited and suprised to see them...and once again, expressed my total agony.

I don't look too horrible here. It's actually a real smile too, not because I was having fun, but because I was excited to see them.

Little did I know that due to construction on the regular route, there was a HUGE hill added at the end of Tremont (mile 10). I honestly can’t even understand how they can add a hill of this size without warning. My mind was made up as soon as I looked at it…I was walking. And so did everyone else.

The Lorain-Carnegie Bridge was hot, but I knew I was almost done. Steve, Sean & Alex were up ahead and the finish was just after that. I couldn’t wait.

Steve, Sean & Alex were waiting for me again outside of the Hard Rock Cafe...MILE 11.5!!

 I just laughed when I saw this because a picture is worth a thousand words. Torture.

There was one more water stop before the finish and then this sign!! This is where those poor full marathoners break off from the course and run another 14 miles...For me, it means I have less than a mile to go! Woo hoo!

The final turn past the Rock Hall, Science Center and Browns Stadium!

Thank God I finished. Despite finishing a 1/2 hour SLOWER than I ran in New York, I know I earned this medal. It wasn't empowering and it wasn't fun. It was the most miserable run of my life.

After the race I was dehydrated and irritable. I needed food and water. Sean, Alex & Steve were there with drinks and snacks. You know I'm in bad shape when I DON'T EVEN REDEEM MY FREE BEER!

But I finished. And I have the picture to prove it.

 Steve and I after the race by the famous free stamp. It was a very looong walk back to the hotel.

We drove Sean & Alex home, then stopped in at Melt to share a celebratory sandwich (Pizza Roll Melt!) and lots and lots of water.

After nearly a three hour nap, we headed out to a happy hour dinner at Blue Point Grille, a restaurant consistently rated as one of Cleveland's Best.

Conicidentally, I ran into a friend and her husband during dinner. Earlier that day, she had run her first (and last) full marathon. I had been thinking about her all day...would she actually run that additional 13.1 miles? She did and she was miserable. Haha. We shared our stories of the day and it was refreshing to hear that I wasn't alone.

We happily conquered their happy hour and look forward to going back again soon. Our choices included vodka (Shannon) and gin (Steve) martini's, lobster rangoon, a giant cheese platter, shrimp cocktail and a lobster and shrimp roll with fries. Yes, it's a lot of food. Don't judge us :) Just like I earned that medal, I earned those calories! Steve's excuse?? He would never let me eat alone...He's such a great husband.

Everything was spectacular and by the time we were through, we were ready for bed. We had one more luxurious night of sleep, then we both walked to work in the morning...

Next up??? We leave Friday morning for our trek South where we'll make stops in Lake Norman, NC, Charlotte, NC, Winnsboro, SC, Columbia, SC and finally Myrtle Beach, SC...

We're looking forward to seeing friends and spending some time in the sun...and not running a half marathon.

Let our vacation season begin!