This was my first time in Cleveland, and there, you will often hear the phrase "the Cleveland Experience." I am sure it is some kind of marketing that was made up for the city, and I have to tell you, I am leaving with Cleveland experience stories. I could make this a 2 part blog, but I will refrain from that and do my best to summarize for you. One of my favorite parts of doing the travel is getting to have new experiences with new people, running at new events, and recapturing my thoughts to remember for the days to come.
The story of the weekend was the race. As is typical when I get to travel to other marathons, I took the advantage of running the event (the half marathon, of course.) I have been training for this particular event since March. I changed my eating habits slightly and I have been going to the TRX class as part of my training schedule. For this race, I didn't aim for a PR, but I was aiming for 2:32 minutes. I wanted to feel improvement from my last run in March, and I am working diligently towards being a better runner, and this event was a baseline for me to gauge how that was going.
I packed for this travel on Tuesday (left on Thursday) and did my packing based off the weather forecast at that point in time. In the time frame of our arrival to Cleveland, the weather forecast changed every day. I had to buy clothes while I was there in order to be properly dressed for running on Sunday. Even then, I could have done with a little bit more attire, but I made do.
Thursday and Friday were mostly beautiful days. Saturday it turned colder, with more rain. And by Sunday... May 16.... the forecast told us snow, sleet, hail and rain were in line for the day. Who could ever have guessed that for May! This would be one for the books, that's for sure.
My co-worker was going to walk the 10K, and I run the half. We met to walk to the start line and made our way a few blocks. We were both surprised that it wasn't as cold as we had anticipated.
We wanted to check out the start line area before we made our way into our corral, and as we neared the start area, I felt someone pinch me. I turned around and my FAMILY was there! They surprised me, drove 3 hours (leaving at 3:30 am) and showed up at the start line to see me. I was so surprised and so happy, it made my day! They were not prepared for the cold of Cleveland either.
The race began on time, and off we went! I said goodbye to Jeanette and took off at my race pace. The first mile was dry. And then the sleet started. And then little balls of hail. Tiny enough to not leave bruises, but big enough to sting the skin. This carried on through all the miles. I will not bore you with mile to mile details, but I will tell you by Mile 5, there was no more dodging puddles, the feet were soaked. The hail and rain and sleet and snow mixture got harder, while the temperatures were colder. The wind came and went throughout the miles, being stronger in some places. By mile 6, I put my glasses in my pocket- I could not see through them and nothing was left dry on me to wipe them off. By mile 9, I could not feel my hands or my right arm. I was soaked and absolutely freezing. I just kept moving. when I thought about walking, I did not. 1. Because I was making good time and I wanted to maintain that. and 2. Because I was honestly afraid if I began to walk that I would freeze. So, I plugged away. At mile 11, with frozen hands, I looked at them. They felt like they were bent into place! I blew warm breath on them, trying to make the blood flow. I gave up and just kept moving.
Mile 12 was a bridge. I was numb. Literally. I understand that sounds exaggeratory, but I promise you, I was numb. I wanted to walk, but I had gone that far without yet stopping, so I pushed through it. I maintained fairly well. The wind was wicked on that bridge. The first half of that mile was tough, but as I pushed through it, the end of the bridge gave me a little more "umph" to my step. I could see the finish line... and I was pushing it. I felt good, aside from being frozen and numb. I looked for my family for a moment, but at that time, the sleet and snow were falling so hard, I couldn't see anyway, so I focused on my finish and I felt amazing about my time! I was so happy with it. I finished ahead of the 2:32 and was almost at a PR (one minute off). I wasn't aiming for one, so I didn't mind missing it. I was super happy with my finish time, especially because of the weather conditions! Who could have seen that happening in MAY!?! It had to be record bad weather for their event.
My family was there, waiting for me, shivering and doing their best to stay warm. I was so happy they came; I know their experience of standing around had to be fairly miserable. I could not feel my hands to call my coworker and tell her where to meet me. (Michael pulled his phone out and did it for me.) I was shivering and my body did not know what was happening. I have never been more grateful for a heat sheet at a race finish. I could not even stop to take the finish line food- I needed to keep moving. My family hugged me, drove me to my hotel and said goodbye- they were going to make their way back home.
I literally stood in the shower for 40 minutes, trying to warm up. I was freezing, but at the same time, I was happy and would not trade that race experience for anything.
You never know what weather you will get in a race. This was for sure a first for me (and I hope a last), and I most certainly would not have predicted snow and hail and sleet in May. If I didn't have these pictures to prove it, you wouldn't believe me. So, while I am not a huge fan of some of these, I am sharing them nonetheless, because they were part of my Cleveland experience.
A few more notes about my Cleveland experience. While I could write more about it, I will do a bullet point for you (with pictures).
- We attended a dress up party. I didn't know anyone, but by the end of the evening, I did, and I enjoyed that experience. I enjoy people and I enjoy learning. And I got to do both through the evening. I had fun dressing up, which I never do to this extent. It's not my typical scene, but a change of scenery is always nice once in a while.
- We chose a "Best of Ohio" restaurant to eat in, and we decided it was wisely placed on the list. It overlooked the lake. We had good conversation and a beautiful view.
- I met a really cool person named Star. Star and her husband direct another race in Ohio. She does motivational speaking. I learned a lot about her story and her career, and she left me with some wise words in one of our conversations. Advice that will sit with me for a lifetime. Advice that deserves its own blog and perhaps will most likely find its way to one soon. She said that in one of her motivational speeches, she tells her audience the 3 words a person (or runner) should never use : "Only. But. and Slow." As we talked more about that, it resonated in my heart, because I use those words far too often, and they put me down. She had wisdom behind this. She inspired me and encouraged me. And she will stick with me for a lifetime, whether she knows it or not.
- Greeting cards are my favorite. If you know me, you know how much I enjoy giving cards out. American Greetings was one of the sponsors of this event. They gave cards away, and I was elated to get cards that were motivational about running to take with me to write to friends in the future. They also had a giant greeting card in the lobby area, and yes... I had to take my photo with it. (My gracious coworkers always put up with my photo habits.... it's part of documenting for my memories, as cheesy as it may seem.) They also had a place for you to take your own photo and it be sent to you. Well, we did this. And I am going to share this, but I need to give you the story behind it, because we are holding signs up in the picture.
Prior to Star's and my conversation, a runner came to our table talking to us. Long story short, he saw I was running the event and asked me about it. He asked my projected finish time. When I told him, he didn't even hesitate to say "Oh! I pace the slow runners!" I was a little speechless for a moment. He was implying my time was slow and proceeded to talk on to me about that. (one more reason Star's talk with me was meaningful) Anyway, it became the joke of the weekend, that I pace the slow runners.
Needless to say, while the weekend held many different events- from high heels to sneakers and sunshine to snow- my Cleveland experience was one for the books. But one I would not trade.