Tuesday, May 19, 2009

Thoughts on Cleveland and Goals

Now that I’ve had a couple of days to reflect on my race at Cleveland I thought I’d include some post race thoughts and set some goals going forward. Going into the year I had three goals, and they fall in this order: 1. complete the Mohican 100 Mile Trail Run, 2. qualify for the Boston Marathon, 3. break 18 minutes in a 5k. I admit that I stole these goals from Kevin Martin who shared his 2008 goals with me during a run in the Cuyahoga Valley. Although the goals may be contradictory in many ways (all these races require very different training) I thought that I would feel good about myself as a complete runner if I could accomplish all three goals. The most important goal is definitely Mohican and my thinking was if I really get in shape for Mohican than a 3:10 marathon would be no problem. I’m not going to say that Sunday’s run was easy, but with no speed-work since March and more of a focus on over-distance runs I was not training specifically for Cleveland.
A few thoughts about the Cleveland Marathon and 10k… Maybe it’s just me but the race atmosphere and turnout were a big downer for me. When I was a kid I used to come out and cheer my dad on in the marathon or the 10k and I thought the Cleveland Marathon and 10k was the most important and biggest race in the whole world (remember I was very young and didn’t realize there were other crazy people like my dad who actually ran races). When I was old enough to run the race myself, starting in 5th or 6th grade, the whole “Cleveland Experience” blew me away. Here I was toeing the line with 10,000 other runners, some of which were the top runners in the world. There were world records being set on a regular basis and it was such a thrill to just be in the company of runners like Khalid Khannoucchi and other top international stars. In my high school years I was always happy when I could take a weekend off from track and go run a 10k with my dad and my brother. My brother and I even did quite well a couple years, breaking 35 and 36 minutes respectively and bringing home some hardware. I dreamed of someday running the marathon myself and Sunday's run was very special to me.
I remember overhearing that registration was way up this year, but I expected way more. Maybe my memory is failing me but I remember a much bigger turnout in the 90’s. Not that the 10k course back then was the most scenic route (this was before the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame and the new Browns Stadium) but for Gods sake at least we did more than loop around North and South Marginal! If I had run the 10k this year I think I would have asked for my money back. There’s something to be said for flat and fast but come on, how about a course where you can actually have a little crowd support!!! I can’t speak to the atmosphere of the marathon course in the 90’s because I never ran it, but with the exception of W. 6th, Lakewood, and the Finish there was 0 crowd support (and no, PA speakers every mile does not count). Let’s encourage some neighborhood parties and maybe run through some neighborhoods that people aren’t afraid to come out and cheer in. If we went all the way out to MLK Ave why not loop around University Circle and return downtown via Euclid? At least it’s all been repaved and it’s not as sketchy as St. Clair. I’m sure we’d get some crowd support going by the Clinic. It seemed like people on St. Clair were irritated to have the marathon running through their neighborhood. Cars at intersections were yelling at police to let them through the intersection instead of yelling support towards the runners. Coming through mile 23 Connie Gardner nearly got ran over by a white pick-up who had total disregard for her safety. Oncoming traffic was a problem all day, usually people are respectful of the runners, but not on the east side. It was disappointing.
With that being said Cleveland has an awesome local running community. It seemed like all the runners knew each other and that’s a credit to all the great clubs and local running stores who promote running in the area. The problem is that Cleveland is no longer attracting the out of towners or elite for the race like it used to…the “Cleveland Experience” isn’t what it used to be.
Alright I’ll get off my soapbox and get back to my goals. Mohican is only a few weeks away now and I have to pack a ton of miles in the next 2 ½ weeks and most importantly stay healthy. I’m really looking forward to the upcoming training weekends at Mohican. This weekend includes three days of running, covering all sections of the course, which totals 60 miles. Next weekend will be the 24 hour test, where a group of us plan to walk the course and just get used to being on our feet for that amount of time. After that the taper and then the race…it will be here before I know it. Just finishing Mohican is going to be a huge challenge. I’ve been averaging about 40 miles a week, which is nowhere near the 80-100 that most people seem to be running. These next few weeks will be the highest mileage weeks I’ve ever done so I have to be very careful not to over-do it. If I’m going to finish Mohican I will have to run a very smart, conservative race…unlike my 50k run.
My fall goals really hinge on the outcome at Mohican. If I survive Mohican in one piece, with a buckle, I’ll probably turn my attention back to the marathon and get serious about speed-work. I would like to get back into the kind of shape I was in years ago, which would put me under 1:20 for a ½ and 2:50 for a marathon. I know that’s a huge leap from the 3:09 I just ran at Cleveland, but I truly believe that if I dedicate myself to getting out on the track and doing some 400’s and ladder workouts that I can get my speed back. I’m taller, stronger, and more determined than ever (if you knew the 5’0” 95lb me in high school you would understand) and I should be able to easily eclipse my times from my teens. If I dedicate myself to this type of training a sub 18 minute 5k should be no problem…in fact a sub 17 5k is a real possibility. We’ll have to wait and see.
If I don’t complete Mohican but have a good experience I’ll probably look towards Burning River 100 or North Coast 24 for another attempt at an ultra. Better not get too far ahead of myself though…onwards and upwards to Mohican!

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