(This blog is co-written from Ron and Susan's different perspectives)
The universe gave us clear skies on race day despite the forecasts for thunderstorms as late as 10 PM the night before. If you have an outdoor event planned in the near future and want to have a clear day, feel free to call us to keep the rain away :)
Kevin Gonzalez and I planned to race together since we've always seen him bolt out of the gate fast and then have his last 5K be painfully slow. The concept of negative splits had never crossed his mind so we fitted him with Susan's old Garmin 405 so he could better track his progress. As the air horn went off in the shadow of the Rock n Roll Hall of Fame I started calling out mile splits. This race was an education for Kevin, but also an incredibly proud event for me in quite a few ways.
I've always told people that Susan is a better walker than I am. She has better form and in the short distances, she's faster than I am, walking a 10:20 mile even a few years ago. She never seemed to push herself because in the back of her mind, she didn't want to risk injury. As usual at the start of the race, I kissed her, wished her a good race and told her I'd wait for her at the finish line no matter what the weather had in store for us that day.
Susan: Usually my races go exactly as I had trained. Today, however, was different in more ways than I could have ever imagined. I wasn't taking this race very seriously based on the number of desserts I sampled at the Horseshoe Casino buffet the night before. The forecast was for rain so I wore my oldest pair of running shoes that I planned to throw away at the end of this trip. I forgot to bring electrolytes with me and couldn't find any Nuun at the expo so I just put plain water in my bottle and did without. Nothing leading up to the start indicated that this was going to be a particularly good race day. But then it was time to head to the corrals tiptoeing between a few raindrops. Oh no, here comes the rain.... But it never materialized. I followed Ron and Kevin into the front of the corral and realized that I was going to get trampled once our wave started. We always start at the back if the corral - not today. I looked up and saw Kamika taking pictures of us on the sideline! Wait! Did he have a race bib on? What's he doing taking pictures of us when he should be lining up?! If we had been at the back if the corral we would have missed him and him us. We were already a step ahead having no idea what was in store for us next.
|Photo by Kamika Smith who has been flying all over the US for the last few months. He came in after a race in Plymouth Michigan the day before.|
Ron: Kevin had a great first 3 miles, knocking out a good 11:15min/mile pace even with a few slight hills. We agreed I'd lead so that he would be able to hold back, and we were helping each other call out the tangents to shave the distance down as much as possible. At the 3 mile mark, we were walking right on schedule at 34:41 at the 5K mark. It was a muggy start at 70 degrees and my shirt was soaked already. This was Kevin's element being the Florida native that he is.
Susan: Within the first mile, there already were more hills than I had expected. Apparently Western Cleveland is flat but we were on the Eastern side of Cleveland - not so flat. Ahead I saw a group if 3 women racewalkers. I was busy admiring their form (great arms, great turnover, great race etiquette walking only 2 abreast) and decided to follow them for a while. I quickly realized that my top walk pace was slightly slower than theirs and I was going to lose them if I didn't run to catch up. I hadn't run in training for quite a while but decided following these women was worth it. I hung back so as not to disturb them with all the "Congratulations!" comments I was getting on my 50th half marathon. But I kept jogging to catch them and didn't want to let them get too far ahead of me. I said to myself, "Susan, you're a veteran half marathoner. You know better than to let someone else set the pace for you." But what the heck. I decided to ride the tidal wave of supporters who were in awe of my 50 halves accomplishment while I was mesmerized by the trio in front of me. So be it if I burn myself out today. Let's just see how long I can hang with them using them as my butt magnets and I tried not to look at my GPS which would have told me that I was averaging 2+ min per mile faster than I had trained. Next thing I know, around mile 5 the trio of race walking ladies were catching up to Ron and Kevin which meant so was I! I'm not sure who was more surprised. Them or me!
Ron: Susan had picked up a group of three racewalkers from Cincinnati. The ladies had excellent turnover and were keeping a solid 11:10 - 11:15 pace for the first half. Susan was putting in some time jogging, but still holding her own during the walk intervals. We stayed within 20 yards of each other for the next 5K. Kevin dropped our pace to about 11:10 through 6 miles. I had thought about letting him go and see what he had left for the second half. The Cincinnati gals were matching us stride for stride so I decided to see how the group could work off each other. I have to say, something about having a good pace group really made it easy! We hit the 10K mark at 1:11:06.
Susan:There comes a point in every race where you know you're going to finish. Sometimes it's before you start and sometimes it's not until you actually see the finish line at the very end. Today, I realized around the 10k mark that not only was I going to finish, I was going to do it in record time. The continued adrenaline rush from my fellow racers who went as far as to take out their headphones to congratulate me on my 50th must have been the fuel I needed to keep going at this blistering pace.
(Ron) Miles 7 to 10 were still in the low 11's. Susan was right along side us the whole way. She mentioned some of the comments she was getting about her "Celebrating my 50th Half Marathon" sign on her back. Major swelling of pride. I was just beaming. We left one of the Cincinnati walkers behind us, but were still trailing two others. A few short, but good sized hills shot my heart rate into the mid 180's as Kevin telemarked his way to a 10 meter lead. Geez. I thought I walked hills well. The heat and grades were getting to us though. We finished the first 10 miles at 1:54:08.
Susan: At this point my trio was starting to slow down into the 12's. I made the conscious decision to catch up to Ron and Kevin up ahead. They were still holding their pace in the 11's and I was still going strong so why not use them to get me the rest of the way. We never planned for this and we weren't even sure what to make of the three if us being together. I could tell Ron was focused on Kevin and I quickly switched my focus to the lead Cincinnati gal who had broken away from the pack and was charging ahead.
Ron: The last three miles got mental pretty quickly. I was going through my checklist. Ate too much right before the race, didn't have enough water. Took the hills too fast to keep up with Kevin. Between shouting some form adjustments and telling Kevin to give it more, I'm surprised he didn't go into John Binghan's "Bite Me Zone" before we finished. We caught sight of Kamika Smith on the Carnegie bridge during one of the Polka DJ's songs. Coming down the last two turns, Susan passed us, looking annoyingly fresh.
Susan: The "run breaks" were paying off. Training with my new heart rate monitor with my Garmin GPS, I learned that my heart rate dropped when I was running at the same pace as walking. Therefore, I broke up muscle fatigue from walking with some light jogging until I caught up to the Cincinnati race walker in front of me. One of the ladies broke off from her girlfriends and charged ahead. I looked at Ron and he kindly said, "Go ahead and finish strong!" I took off after her but never caught her. At this point she was cruising in strong and I was jogging in at my only sub 11 min/mi of the race. I had no desire to finish ahead of her even if I could have caught her. After everything those Cincinnati Racewalkers did to help pace me, it was an honor to finish behind the leader of the pack.
Coming down the chute I saw John Bingham. I quickly turned around (dancing) so he could see my "Celebrating my 50th half marathon" sign on my back. In true Bingham style, he announced to the crowd that not only was I celebrating my 50th half marathon but that I had just started running a few months ago! Then he kept saying, "Where's Ron? Where's Ron?"
Ron: Kevin and I came down the chute following one of the Cincinnati walkers. Neither of us had much left so I felt great that we left it all out on the course. Near the finish, John Bingham congratulated Kevin on finishing his '422nd Rock n Roll race'. Those of us in the know like to bet on the number. John also let me know that Susan
finished about '20 minutes earlier.' I know she was ahead of us, but wanted to see where her final time was. Kevin and I matched finish times at 2:30:53.
Susan: This was a new experience. Normally Ron is the one waiting for me at the finish line. I did the only thing I could think to do. I pulled out my phone and started taking pictures of Ron and Kevin crossing the finish line. Kevin was striking up conversations with those around him. Ron was stopping to stretch to ward off near cramping. Susan was feeling great and amazed that the walk-run routine had worked as well as it did. 50 in the bag!
We made our way to the VIP tent that CGI was so gracious to extend to us in Cleveland. We waited for Kamika to come in so we could take the official "Rock n Roll Gypsy" pictures before going our separate ways.
|Ron, Beth Deloria-Austin, Sherry Ricker, Joe Harris, Jim Austin, Krissy Foley, Kevin Gonzalez, Michelle Johnson, David DeNeire with 50 Half Marathoner Susan|
Then it gets crazy.
The Inaugural Rock n Roll Cleveland Half Marathon had 5044 finishers (Median finish time of 2:19:43). There was also a Mini-Marathon that was not timed (or at least there are not results posted at this time). The course starts on Erieside and Rock n Roll Boulevard on the steps of the Rock n Roll Hall of Fame and crosses west over the Cuyahoga River as far as W 6th Street, taking a southern loop around Tremont Park before crossing back over the Carnegie Bridge. The last few miles head into downtown, ending at the Tower City Center in the plaza outside the Horseshoe Casino.
Weather (2013): 60 F and high humidity at the starting line, warming to 70. The thunderstorms held off and there was almost no rain to speak of on race day.
Race weekend activities: Minimal due to the rain threat, but the Rock n Roll Hall of Fame was a great few hours of history. Thanks RNR for the discounted tickets that helped us skip the line at the opening! Had the Indians not lost the wild card game, it may have been a lot more crowded near our hotel on Carnegie.
RNR Cleveland was our first race in Ohio, checking of our 16th state including Washington DC. This was Susan's 50th Half Marathon, her 61st event and her overall PR (2:30:05). Ron and Kevin finished at 2:30:52.