A little over a week ago on April 23, I ran the Lake Health Running Series 20 Mile Drop. I freaking love this race for a few reasons.
1. It’s the perfect training run for the Rite Aid Cleveland Marathon, and it’s not that expensive of a race at all. Even with signing up later, it was $65 with a discount code.
2. It’s challenging! Don’t let the Drop part of the name fool you; the course has some hills and elevation changes to keep your legs guessing.
3. And last but most certainly not least, this race goes through my hometown neighborhood in Painesville, so my family is able to cheer me on right near their house. I also get all nostalgic running through my hometown.
Race day conditions were sooooo much better than last year when Mother Nature dropped a snowstorm the day before the race and graced us with bone-chilling temps. I got my usual escort to the starting line (Thanks, Dad! You’re awesome!), made one last bathroom stop, and walked to the start. I was happy when I saw a few peeps I knew (what’s up, Rachel and Sara?!) and chatted for just a bit before we were off and running.
The plan I told everyone was this would just be a training run for CLE, and I wasn’t going to push the pace. That in fact is a lie; I just didn’t want to hear the bitching. I wanted to see how well I could do this year with running it well last year (2:53 and change). The first mile was done before I knew it, but it was too fast to be sustainable (just a hair over 8:00). Time to back off because I still had 19 miles to go. Around miles 1.5-2.5, there was a significant climb, but thankfully, I didn’t feel tired or winded after. This shocked me because I keep feeling as though I was not as well training or running as well as I did last year. Small victory, even though it was early in the race.
Around mile 4ish, I hung with a group of three ladies and chatted a bit. It’s always nice to have someone to talk with during these long runs because it breaks the mile monotony. The one lady and I pressed ahead, and she was pretty awesome. I didn’t catch her name, but she was a 40-something, elementary school gym teacher in Kirtland. And she was killing it! For the next 4 or so miles, we hung together and talked. I wasn’t paying attention to my watch, but when I finally did, I told her to leave me in the dust because I was way under my planned pace and didn’t want to burn out halfway through the race.
Miles 10-14 were a blur because I started to get really antsy. I knew my parents would be waiting for me around mile 14, and I was just like, “Holy crap, just get there already!” When I came out of the bike path into the neighborhood, my mom and dad were there smiling and cheering me on. I was starting to feel a little fatigued at this point, so it boosted my spirits. The best part of the whole race happened when my dad, who is not a runner, hopped in to run with me. All the feels!
Although I felt myself getting tired after mile 15, I kept moving forward, and my pace was great and consistent. This changed as soon as I hit the damn flag for mile 17. Muscle cramps in both calves and a cramp in my left foot stopped me in my tracks. I had to stop and stretch, walk, and then get back to running. This would be the recurring theme for the last three miles, and I know I stopped at least 5 times. I felt defeated and wanted to cry, but I told myself I better get my shit together and finish this race. My parents got to see me in this sad state when I hit mile 18, and after talking with them after the race, they said they wanted to stop and help me.
I was so happy when I reached mile 19 knowing I was so close to that finish line. I wanted to be able to run the entire last mile, but I had to stretch out one last cramp around 19.5. One-half mile to go! You can do this! When I hit the last turn, I regained focus and made my way through the muddy grass to the finish. 2:56:34. It wasn’t the race I necessarily wanted being that it was 3 minutes slower than last year, but I know I spent more than 3 minutes taking care of my legs on the course. All things considered, I did pretty damn well, and it was good enough for second place in my age group! WOOHOO! I could get used to this placing thing. Thanks, Lake Health Running Series, for yet another great year. I’m already looking forward to 2018!