Sunday, April 21, 2013

Cleveland 2011 Part 2

Part 1

Welcome to the continuation of my trip to the past, covering one of my first races and first half marathon.  Now, where were we?

Ah yes!  I left the bib pick up area with my race shirt, bib, and a goodie bag.  I don't run races for the SWAG but this bag was for a woman.  I'm sure of it.  Inside was a thin elastic workout headband and women's antiperspirant.  The only other item I remember was a Reese cup.

Aimee, Savannah, and me made our way to the expo booths, our youngest, Addison, was in my wife at this time.  The expo was not nearly as exciting as I thought it would be.  This would be a recurring theme in my race life.  Unless you have money to buy equipment the expo is close to useless.  Yeah.  I said it!  There were some highlights though.  My wife and I won a minute rice spatula and a small measuring tool (which I still use to this day).

We live an hour away from Cleveland, so driving to the expo took longer than us being in the expo.  Back home we went.  That night I took a picture of my bib.  This would turn into a routine for all my big races, and some of the smaller ones.

Ohhh.. Bibby!

Saturday morning I woke up and headed to drill.  I don't remember much of this day so I won't dwell on it.  That may be because I try to wipe some of these weekends out of my brain completely.  I did not pass my PT test.  I did not tank the test because of the race coming the next morning.  My run portion was much slower than normal though.  If you don't know anything about the Army PT test than I will let you know that if you fail one of the three assessments (push ups, sit ups, and run) you fail the whole thing.  While I don't remember how I did on the two first events of the morning I would put money on it being the push up event that I failed.  You see, my arms are long and have no visible muscles.


The company was on a local school's track for the run portion of the test.  While making my laps I noticed my team leader giving me a look.  THE look.  The "what the heck are you doing?" look.  Later he approached me about my test failure and brought up how slow I was running.  He was right.  I'm not the fastest of runners (even going a little slower on the test wasn't far away from my pace at the time).  Most of the day is a blur to me so let's get to the good stuff.  Race day!!

It was an early chilly morning.  Driving up route 77 to the Cleve is a familiar route to me.  It reminds me of trips as a kid to go and see my family, who all call Cleveland home.  This morning it was a bit different.  There was anticipation and nervousness flowing through me as I drove.  Aimee was more than likely sleeping.  The highway was barren, which is usually the case pre-sun up on a Sunday morning.

The race would start next to a bitter sweet place for me, Cleveland Browns Stadium.  I say bitter sweet because I'm a Cleveland fan, no need for any further explanation.

We ended up getting there extremely early.  "First people there" early.  "The starting line/finish line/ or anything for that matter" early.  People started trickling into the stadium.  Aimee and I found a good spot to pop a squat and waited for the race to start.

You may notice in the picture above that I am wearing the race shirt FOR the race.  What. A. Noob.


While we were sitting there it was interesting watching and listening to people.  There was a couple minimalist foot shaped shoe enthusiasts next to us going over all the benefits of being a minimalist runner, which I think is their mating call.  All of the people stretching and race prepping is interesting to me.  My lack of race prep should have alarmed me (in the following years my pre run prep eventually vanished.  I don't even stretch anymore.  I'm not saying that as me being tough or cool, if anything I should probably start again....)

It was time to head to the starting line.  I kissed my wife, prayed with her, and found my place in the crowd.  Full disclosure: I cried a little bit during the Star Spangled Banner. Something about that song always gets to me.  That is a whole 'nother post topic in and of itself.

The Cavs on court guy Ahmad was there to pump the crowd up and gosh darnit does he know how to get people psyched up.  It was time to run!

There was no strategy for the race.  My eyes were set on finishing.  Leading up to race day I did not run a single double digit run and it was my first big race.  A mile in we were heading up onto an expressway and someone fell in my proximity.  It happened so fast and I didn't go to help.  In hindsight I wish I would have, because A. it's the nice thing to do and B. I still think about that person falling from time to time and how I should have helped.  Hopefully there isn't a next time for that but if there is the race time doesn't matter.  Help each other out!

The race route was predominantly in the surrounding Cleveland neighborhoods.  The race forecast was in the 50s with light rain but this didn't stop people from cheering in their yards, and on the course itself.

I chugged along pretty good for over half the race.  At mile 8 I stopped to use the restroom.  This would prove to be my demise because when I got back onto the course my body wasn't having it, which is a shame because the second half was the best half.  In the second half I passed Sokolowski's restaurant.  My grandpa and dad would take me there multiple times.  It's a cafeteria style restaurant serving the best central-eastern European food you can find in the states.  Pierogis the size of your head.  Maybe not my head, but someone's...  It was in front of Sokolowski's that I stopped and removed the wrap from my ankle.  It had started digging into my foot again, so I took the shin pain over the cutting pain.

The course took me up the Carnegie bridge, which comes out right in front of Jacobs Field and the Q.  Here are some pics for your viewing pleasure:

Carnegie Bridge

The view when you get off the bridge.  Beautiful.  Just beautiful...
I love the city of Cleveland.  Ahhhh....

The remaining few miles would serpentine through downtown.  At this point it was a combination of running and fast walking.  My shin was in a good amount of pain.  The more denser the crowds, the more I would run.  Call it peer pressure, I guess.  At this point I wanted the race to be done.  It was also the place where energy came back to me.  I turned a corner I heard an all too familiar drumming.  If you have been to a Cleveland Indians game you know the drumming.

John Adams sets himself up at the last turn of the race, where it is much needed.  Once I turned I saw the finish.  Off I went.  WARNING: Picture of me running ahead...

Still with me?  I can explain how I felt reaching the finish or show more pictures but I think this video sums it up best...

I was done.  Pooped if you will.  Once I hit the finish line I did just that, finished.  I didn't run through or anything.  I then proceeded to chug chocolate milk with reckless abandon.

As you all know this was not my last race.  If you're an endurance runner you know that within an hour after finishing a race you're either A. done with running forever or B. itching to scope out your next race.

My Cleveland experience was great in some ways, and not so great in others.  With less than a month till the next installment of the Cleveland Experience, I am ready to go.  While my memories of my first half marathon will never go away, I am hoping this time around is even more memorable.

Thanks for reading...

Do you have any fond memories from your first race?

Saturday, April 20, 2013

Cleveland 2011 Part 1

With the Cleveland Half Marathon coming up, and the attention that the marathon sport has had over the past week, I have been reflecting on the past.  Come along with me as I take you on a trip.  A trip that is my first half marathon.

The Cleveland Half Marathon was my first solo race.  It was also a race where I raised money for Active:Water.  It was also a race that I trained for almost completely on a treadmill.  I can say that this is because I lived on a busy street but really it was fear of running outdoors.  The treadmill was safe, plus I could watch TV!

A month before I would do my first official race, a 5k with my good friend from work.  It was her first race too.  She kept telling me before the race that I'd be ahead of her and I didn't have to run with her, but I'll take running with a friend at a slightly lower pace than running by myself.  

There's a picture of us finishing but it must not be on digital format...  You get the idea.  We had a good time!
A few weeks before the big race I received an email from my military unit.  Our one day drill weekend turned into a two day drill weekend, with one of those days being the day of the race.  I did not panic.  I called my team leader and explained the situation and waited for him to bring it up the chain.  A day later I received a call telling me I couldn't miss drill for the race.  The reason I couldn't miss the day was because I did not pass my physical training test (PT test).  (Side note: for years up until my relationship with running I was out of shape and overweight.  Hence not passing my PT test.)  This is when panic set it.  It slipped me into a mild depression for a few hours.  My sentence had been read and I was going to miss the big race.  I wouldn't be refunded my entry fee.  I would also let down everyone who had donated to my race.  Maybe it was the running I had been doing but I decided to stand up for myself, which used to be a rarity.  I organized my case and eventually got it up to the highest ranking sergeant in the company.  I noticed that the people I've run across in my past life as a military service member are not that flexible.  Especially with a dead beat PT test failure like myself.  Well, when God has a mission for you a stubborn Army unit can't get in the way.  They allowed me to skip Sunday to run the race but I was still required to go Saturday (although I had given proof that the race offered no race day packet pickup, he ASSURED me that they had race day pick up (they didn't)).  I was fine with this.  We could go to the expo Friday.  Army and relaxing Saturday.  Race on Sunday!  

On that drill Saturday we were going to have a PT test.  Knowing that this was looming I incorporated push ups and sit ups into my work outs.  One night while doing sit ups something happened.  My feet were under my wife's hands.  She switched from her hands to her knees (because holding someone's knees in sit ups SUCKS).  I did a sit up and the added pressure on my feet caused me to pull something in my foot/shin area.  Ouchies.  To aid this I purchased a sleeve for my ankle/foot/shin area.

A couple weeks before the race I had a 10 mile run on the training plan.  I had been warned about the difference of running on the treadmill and on the road.  With this warning fresh in my mind, I decided to test out my sea legs and run outside.  I had no idea what I was getting myself into...  It was a beautiful rainy (monsoony) early May day in Ohio.  It would be a 5 mile out and back.  I was equipped with a rain jacket, Ipod, and water bottle.  Less than a mile in I took out the music because rain and headphones staying in your ears do not mix.  Less than 3 miles in I was walking up the hills.  I turned my run around at mile 3 and ditched my rain jacket because I layered up too much.  There was no way to get back to my car except by running or walking.  I decided on the latter, minus my ankle sleeve because it was digging into my skin.  Following this training session (I still can't bring myself to call it a "run") my confidence was pretty low.  **See above about God having a mission for me.  A crappy session wasn't going to stop the race from happening**

It was finally race weekend.  We went to Cleveland on Friday to pick up the race packet and go to my first race expo!  My inner race noob came out when I walked up to my last name area and the kind volunteer asked for my bib number... (the following conversation may not be verbatim... it's been 2 years)

Me: "Bib number?"
Volunteer: "What is your race bib number?"
Me: *blank stare*
Volunteer: "You don't have your bib number?  You have to go over to the computer to verify your registration and get your bib number."
Me: *looks over to computers*
Volunteer: "What is your last name?  I will look it up for you." *pulls out cell phone* 

Well.  That was embarrassing...  Thank you race volunteer for saving me the time of waiting in line to find out my bib number.  I wouldn't be surprised if drool started coming out of my mouth.

Wow.  I didn't realize it would be this long of a post.  I'm going to split it into two parts.  In my next part I will go over my one day Army weekend and race day.

Thanks for reading!

Part 2

Tuesday, April 16, 2013


Since 3 p.m. yesterday a lot has been said.  Thoughts and prayers have been extended.  I've seen links to many different news articles, blogs, and social media statuses supporting those in pain from the horrible events at the Boston marathon.  I do not have anything groundbreaking to say about it.  The story gripped me, as I'm sure it has done to you.  I'm merely using this platform to get some thoughts off my chest.

When I got home from work, an hour after the blast, I sat with my wife and watched the coverage while our girls played in another room.  After a while my wife looked at me and said very calmly "this one hit close to home".  We knew people at the race. One person finished a little over a half hour before the blast, a local runner in the community finished five minutes before the explosion.  What she meant by it hitting so close was her being one of those people in the crowd.  I've done a couple big city races and she has been there at the finish line.  Hearing this from her scared me.  Throughout the coverage of the day I hadn't once thought about my safety as a runner.  Hearing that an innocent loving family member could be hurt would rock me even more than myself being hurt.

There is not a part of me that can understand what the families who have lost loved ones have been going through.  Frankly, I'm not going to try.  I'm going to continue in praying and join in with the millions of others covering these families with the Lord's comforting touch.

The running community is strong.  Much stronger than whoever put on this heinous attack.  Tonight I'm thankful for being in this community.  In the past 24 hours I've been emotional both for the lost and for the love shining out of people.

Watching videos of people in the blast radius tearing down barricades and performing life saving medical treatment still amazes me.  In times of horror and fear people come together.  I wish it didn't come to moments like this for all of us to join and work together.

If you get a chance, please join in with your local running community and run in remembrance.  I don't know about you but I won't let fear scare me from doing something I love.  If you can't run with your community just get out and run.  Put away the watch and the ipod and run.

Saturday, April 13, 2013

My First Triathlon

Hello all!  Welcome to a historic post.  Today I completed my first triathlon.  (This post will have no race time information as the results have not been posted)

In previous posts I mentioned that my wife would be accompanying me on this historic day.  Not only to provide moral support, but to also take pictures (she is a great photographer).  Well... Plans changed.  Here's a brief rundown on how it went (in terms of who is going to the race):

Bryce, his wife, their daughter. Me, my wife, and my girls.
Bryce, his wife, their daughter, his parents.  Me, my wife, and my girls.
Bryce, his wife, their daughter, his parents.  Me.  I didn't feel it was fair to Aimee to keep tabs on both of the girls while I raced.
Bryce, his wife, their daughter, his parents.  Me, my wife, and my girls.  She decided she really wanted to be there and it wouldn't be as bad with Bryce's wife, Debbie, and his daughter.

Then the forecast came out:

Of course the race is Saturday.
This is when people started dropping like flies..

Bryce, his Dad.  Me, my wife, and my girls.  At this point the Costello's are still standing firm on coming to the race.
Bryce.  Me.  And then there were two...

So.  Because of the actions that transpired above there are zero pictures from the race.  Sorry...

Friday night I packed up all my stuff and double checked I had everything.  I'm not the most thorough of people when it comes to planning, but this was a different scenario all together.  I checked, and double checked, all my equipment.  I brought multiple pairs of clothing and both of my pairs of swimming goggles.  Nothing was going to get in my way of having a good race.  In past posts I talked about working on mental strength this year, and this race would prove to be a success of both mental and physical training.

With our race being an hour away I woke up at 5 am.  Sounds brutal, but compared to all the mornings of going to the pool and running this was actually sleeping in.  Having packed everything the night before I didn't have much to do.

Locked, loaded, and ready to go

I got dressed, patted down my hair, and waited.  Bryce was actually on time, and after a quick stop to adjust the bikes on the bike rack, we were on our way.  Most of the bigger races I've done have been at least an hour away.  I don't know what it is about the distance, but adding a road trip feeling makes the race a little more special to me.  Almost like I'm investing more into it so I'll appreciate it more.  This race was for a good cause.  It was going towards mission trips for a Christian ministry on campus.  Plus it also happened to be one of the earliest races on the schedule (I'm a tad bit impatient).

After a bass bumping hour of listening to the new Andy Mineo album we arrived at the beautiful Ashland University campus.  I say that without an ounce of sarcasm.  It's a great campus.  Nestled in a historic neighborhood of old beautiful homes.  We parked the toaster and made our way to the registration table.. kinda.  We had no idea where we were going.  We made our way into the rec center pool area where we asked a lifeguard where the registration table was located.  He pointed us in the right direction, kinda, and we made our way to the table.  During this journey, someone else, and someone else's son, had tagged along with us in our quest.  We were one hobbit away from a LOTR trilogy.  At last we had our ankle bracelet timers, wrist bands, and SWAG.  Unfortunately they did not have race bibs for this one.  I say unfortunately because I have accumulated quite the collection of race bibs (as you can tell from the top of my blog page).  Now all we had to do was wait on direction for what to do next.

Because of the cold temperatures they allowed us to have our towels and clothes inside the rec center.  With the wind it was in the low 30s.  The only bad thing about this is it would effect our final swim time.  There were mats strategically set up at the beginning of the race before jumping in the pool, and book ending the transition area outside.  All the time spent inside changing would add to the swim.  This fact did not bother me since I wasn't banking on having a great swim time regardless of where I could change.  It did wonders for my T1 time though!

The way the swim worked was they had 8, 25 meter lanes.  The faster swimmers upfront and the slowest in the back.  Every quarter pool length, of the first lane, another swimmer would enter.  We had to swim up and down a lane and then go under the floating barrier to the next lane and do it again.  This would be repeated 8 times.  I was ok with this method.  I started one or two people from the back.  Not necessarily because I'm the slowest, but so I didn't feel pressured or get surrounded.  Bryce started directly in front of me.  While we waited for our races to start I struck up conversation with some fellow first timers.  I could smell their fear.  Not of me, of course, but of the race.  I wasn't nervous or afraid.  When asked by a co-worker how I felt about the race I told her I was ready to go.  Confident.  Ready to push myself.

The race started when I jumped in the pool.  The Canton Nat is deep but this plunge into the pool was ridiculous.  It was set up for diving depth.  A few seconds in I still wasn't at the bottom.  Feeling a little panicked I pushed off the wall and started my swim halfway down the pool.  All I thought on the first lap was "Holy crap I'm doing a triathlon!"  I did not pass anyone in the pool.  I was passed once by someone who came to the race late.  The only negative about my swim was a lone wolf deciding to backstroke down the middle of the lanes.  My strategy of starting in the back to alleviate pressure didn't necessarily work, but it ended up helping me.  I didn't want to be the last one out of the pool so I kept a close eye on the person behind me, and kept a nice steady pace.  I noticed I was also keeping the same pace as people who started a couple lanes before me.

I got out of the pool and headed to my clothes.  Because of the cold temps I had to put on long legged running tights, a new pair of shorts, compression top, running shirt, and a running jacket.  I got everything on but the running jacket and made my way to the bike, while putting on my jacket.  I was the second or third to last person to leave the pool.  When I made my way to the bikes I got some motivation from the people working the race.  I'm not trying to be a negative Nancy but the motivation felt more like "aww.. look at you trying to race!".  Whatevs.  It's biking time.

Helmet on.  Gloves on.  Swig of Gatorade.  Let's do this!

Hopping on my bike I felt good.  The worst part of the race was over and I feel like the bike is my strongest leg of the race.  Within the first quarter mile I passed a couple people.  I was able to get my bearing pretty quick.  My strategy for the bike was simple: Reel 'em in!  I cast my line out to whatever cyclist was in front of me and starting pulling them closer.  At one point I came up next to one of the guys I talked to in the swimming line, a fellow newbie.

Me: "How're you feeling?"
Him: "Horrible!"
Me: "You've got this!"

Off I went.

The course was a 12 mile out and back.  It was down some hilly rural roads (try saying rural roads ten times fast).  I don't know what it was but I was being extra friendly.  I was warning people I was about to pass.  Thanking police officers and volunteers.  Even talking to the people I was passing.  No one seemed to eager to strike up a conversation though.  While I don't have an exact total, I would say I was able to pass 12-15 people on the bike portion.  It gave me a big morale boost going into my first tri run.

T2 has nothing big to report.  I took off my helmet, stretched for a minute, and started running.  This is a luxury since I do not have clip in pedals/shoes.

Within the first quarter mile I felt my calf muscles twitching.  My first instinct was to stop, but I fought it.  It was a tough fight.  Leading up to race day this was my sole fear (get it?).  My two bike/run brick days were met with cramping muscles.  By a half mile in my legs worked out the kinks and the twitching went away.  I was able to pass a couple people here and there, and be passed myself in the last mile.  I didn't see the guy coming up till the turn around in the middle of the campus.  I fought it off as long as I could but it was inevitable.  When he passed I said to him "aw man, you caught up!".  He ignored me and kept going.  As I came to the last turn Bryce was there waiting for me.  I was met with him yelling at me to push it through the finish.  I responded, like normal, "I hate you", and proceeded to sprint to/through the finish.

They even gave out medals!  Nice way to remember my first tri.

While the race only had 73 people entered, it still had a big race feel.  Big inflatable finish line.  Great timing system.  I also say this because the announcer said my name as I crossed.  After the race Bryce would inform me that the announcer would follow my name up with "representing the Chicago marathon!".  I was wearing my CHI running jacket.  Knowing that he said this made me feel like a turd.

That in a nutshell is my first triathlon.  Overall I give the day an A.  First race in a new sport went off without any major hitch.  It was a little cold but I ran my race, my way.  I met a lot of cool people and was able to spend some good quality time with the ole training partner.  Next tri will hopefully be May 25th, with an open swim.  For now I will now focus on next month's Cleveland half marathon!

Sorry there were no pictures.  I'm really breaking the basic blogging rules by not giving people stuff to look at.  Reading is too difficult!