I have struggled with how to write this blog for over a week! Putting into words what this race means to me, and the incredible sense of pride I have for both it and our amazing city is darn near impossible. But here is my best effort.
I usually have a very clear numeric goals going into a race, but for this race I knew things would be different. The weather was not expected to be great, the race has about 2500 feet of elevation change, and I had only been back to real training for four months. So my goal was somewhat ambiguous sounding, despite being very detailed in my head. My goal was to race the course to the best of my ability on the day, and to put myself in position to race over the last 5,000 meters, if there was someone to race (the last time I raced Akron in 2012, Recap Here, I lost the race during this portion).
I felt pretty calm going into race day. I knew what I could and what I could not control, and I focused on what I knew would be my strengths that morning. After a quick 10 min warm up, I changed into racing flats and headed to the start line. I hugged what felt like a thousand people and loved getting to see so many friends. The support was incredible. 7:00 A.M. sharp the gun went off. It was 65 degrees, with a high dew point, and 84% humidity. I am more a fan of 45 degrees and light drizzle for racing, so not my favorite. But it didn't feel too bad.
As we made our way to the first mile, Alana Hadley and I were side by side. We came through the mile in 6:04, and that felt very comfortable. My break down goals were to run the first 5 miles pretty comfortable, the next 5 a notch less comfortable, and the same from 10-15, and 15-20. "Don't work too hard, but don't be a baby", I reminded myself in the first few miles. I awkwardly had to pee quite bad, but thought it would go away. 31:30 brought us through 5 miles and heading back into downtown.
As we passed though downtown the crowds were amazing as always, and our first major hill coming back across the Y bridge was behind us. During mile 7 I couldn't handle needing to pee anymore so I took a quick pitt stop. I started running again, and told myself to slowly work back up to Alana by mile 10. Around mile 8.5 I caught back up to Alana, and slowly moved past her keeping my effort goal in mind. I came through 10 miles around 1:03:10--31:40 for this 5 mile portion.
I was headed back toward downtown one last time before heading into West Akron. The crowds were incredible and I couldn't help but smile. I had so much support on this day, and so many wonderful people wanting to see me accomplish my goal! I was having so much fun! But some pretty serious hills were coming up! This 5 mile portion would be the most challenging of them. I reminded myself of the goal to turn up the effort one notch, and keep pressing. I came through the half in 1:23:12, and at this point I still felt very very good. Well within myself. I put my head down and tapped out mile 14, up, up, up. I hit 15 miles in 1:35:51--32:41.
Since I had broken the race into 4x5 miles and then 3x2 miles in my head, I was now in my last 5 mile portion, but my stomach was starting to hurt. The mile 16 marker was way off so I had a wonky 5:49 split in there, followed by 7:51 for mile 17. In races past this would have threatened to derail me, but I didn't even give it a second thought. I came down Thurmont st. and ran along my old 2 mile loop, then got to run along my 1k loop down by Fairlawn Country Club. This was starting to get pretty hard, but I couldn't stop smiling. Anyone who has seen me race before would probably agree, I don't usually look happy during a race. Today I was having so much fun, and it was written all over my face. Heading up Wiltshire I started to feel pretty bad. I realized I needed a bathroom. I took a quick peek over my shoulder. Nothing. So I took a quick pit stop...again, at the old 20 mile marker. Then hopped right back in, and was back in the 6:20's, feeling MUCH better! I was through 20 miles in 2:10:23--34:32
I started to get excited, but there were a number of hilly miles ahead, I enjoyed miles 21, and 22. Mile 23 was tough with Garmin St. to manage up, and my left calf was starting to cramp. So I backed off just a hair on the hill. As every step took me closer and closer to Angel Falls Coffee shop I started to get excited. I had legs, and knew I could close well. Miles 25 and 26 would be the fastest and 3rd fastest on the day, running 5:52, and 6:04 respectively.
As I came down Main St. I saw the Treier/Harbert group and started to tear up a bit. But I told myself "no one wants to see you cry! Pull it together". I thanked my lead cyclist, and can canned my ass across that finish line! Threw in a happy dance, and promptly threw up on the race director's shoes! Oops! haha! 2:51:34, and the win by 10 minutes. The time was slow, but I felt I had run a smart race, and achieved my goals.
I can not thank everyone enough for the support! After a very rough start to 2016 with an injury going into the trials, coming back and running 2:51 on a tough course, was a very solid step forward on four months of training. I am excited, knowing that was a well controlled race, and know a sub 2:40 is not far out of reach. Thank you Akron Marathon for putting on an incredible event. Your hard work and dedication does not go unnoticed! Thank you Oiselle, for supporting me, and giving me a family of birds all over the world that make every step more fun, exciting, and worth the while. Thank you to Insidetracker for helping me to see the areas I can change to make me a stronger more efficient athlete. Thank you to my family for your consistent support and helping out with the kids and allowing me the time to chase goals like these. Thank you to the Treier family for your never-ending love and cheers, for a warm soak bath, and a cozy bed. Thank you Akron Family Restaurant for making me feel like a total celebrity the next morning. Thank you Maria and Alex for being EVERYWHERE on that course! Thank you Akron, and your amazing citizens for cheering and making the race so much fun! And finally, thank you Ryan, for putting up with me, and my training schedule on top of all life's other responsibilities. I love you all!