26.32 mi, 3:35:23, 8:11 avg, Elev gain 378 feet, HR 157 bpm
The Towpath Marathon in Cleveland, OH (actually just outside of Cleveland) was a fun race, well organized and this year was blessed with perfect weather. I didn't quite make my goals and how I ran the race was a little different than how I had hoped, but overall I will call this race a success and will cherish the memories of the good things. I had hoped to run a nice steady race with paces just slightly faster than 8:00 so I could break 3:30, and anything faster than that would be icing on the cake. The last several marathons I've struggled to maintain a goal pace past 17 miles. I was focused this time on trying to run steady, push the pace a little less during the early miles so I could at least get to 20 or 21, and then dig deep to persevere through the last 5 or 6 miles.
Miles 1 and 2: (8:28, 8:39)
Race started at 7:00 am, hints of light but the sun not up yet for another 25 minutes or so. Jessica saw me off at the starting line. I chatted with a few people waiting for the race to start. Legs felt pretty decent heading out. Had done a short, few minute warm up so I wouldn't start out completely cold.
We started out near the Canal Way visitor center, initially heading in the opposite direction of where we were going so we could do a small loop. The road to the visitor center is at the bottom of a small downhill (so about 70 feet elevation gain the first mile). We reached the road where the park entrance is, then headed down 49th street leading to a section of road that was closed - a little bit chopped up but pretty runnable (like running on a gravel road), then we headed downhill back into the park (110 feet downhill the second mile).
Miles 3-10 (the good miles): 7:46, 7:46, 7:53, 7:42, 7:45, 7:53, 7:51, 7:59
We ran north to our turnaround point, 4.75 miles into the race. Approaching the northern turnaround were a couple small hills. Next, headed south for about 6 miles to the southern turnaround point (about mile 10.5). On the way to the southern turnaround were two suspension bridges which were advertised as 30 feet high, but seemed a little less than that (but it was enough to slow me down a little bit).
Miles 11: (8:15)
I would not start my struggle at mile 17 this time like I was afraid of, unfortunately, this time around I struggled at mile 11! This worried me a bit - not even half way through.
After making the turnaround at the southern point, my slowing pace seemed to make a small bounce back, and mile 11 which was looking like it might be an 8:30, turned into 8:15. Picked up momentum so I could get back under 8:00 pace for the next three miles. Sometime around this point I finally took off my hat. Probably should have done that sooner. Morning started out in low 40's, sun was up now, temp maybe about 50 degrees but I was heating up, still dressed for low 40's waiting for the race to start with hat, short sleeve shirt and arm warmers.
Miles 12-14: (7:44, 7:58, 7:53)
So, missed sub-8:00 on mile 11, made it ok for miles 12, 13, and 14.
Looked at my overall time at 13.1 miles where they had a sign, time was 1:45:05. Upon reaching mile 14 which was slightly under 8:00, that put me right around 3:30 pace.
Miles 15-20: (8:15, 8:06, 8:26, 8:24, 8:18, 8:24)
I didn't want to blow up but didn't want to slow down too much, so I just did the best I could. Settled into a new, slightly slower than 8:00 pace, with miles 15-20 between 8:06 and 8:24
Continued north to the northern turnaround point, then back south again. But it wasn't a straight shot back yet. Did one smaller loop where we turned left, heading north again, but not going all the way up to the northernmost point, turning south again, and then having a straight shot back.
Miles 21: (8:44)
Mile 21 was the slowest.
It was after the smaller loop, at the junction where I'd take a right and head south for the last time I saw Jessica waiting for me where she cheered me on a snapped a few pictures. She had been there just before this last loop but was too far away for me to see.
Miles 22-26.2: (8:27, 8:33, 8:34, 8:34, 8:18, (last 0.2) 7:47 pace)
And then miles 22-26.2, a little bit faster as I felt the pull of the finish line.
Making that last turn south, my legs were tired but not exhausted, my mind was in a pretty good place, I was on my way home. Also, little did I know, I was being followed by a 55 year old woman. Keeping my pace steady through those last miles helped her out (she thanked me after the race) and my small pick up for the last 1.2 miles kept me safe from getting passed by her. The last two bridge crossings felt much easier compared to the first time.
Jessica was waiting for me at the finish line, helped me hobble around until my legs were back. I chatted a little bit with Connie - the woman who had been following me in. She was the masters winner, had just run a marathon last weekend, and the weekend before that ran a 12 hour race.
My time was good enough for second place age group (first place age group was 3:25. first place overall was 2:39. I think the toughest age group was M 35-39 who were all under 3:00:00).
Compared to previous years, the course this year was a little bit different. Due to permit issues, they didn't actually run on the usual section of tow path, but instead ran on paths in the Ohio & Erie Canal Reservation (state park).
So, once again, slowed down more than I wanted to, but held it together at the new, slower pace. When I did slow down, decided I'd use this opportunity for a training run. I've always kind of hated that statement in the past, but today I used it more positively to try and push as best I can with hopes that the next time, the new slower pace (if there is one) will be a little bit faster.
This was slower than my last marathon, but I think my base fitness might be a little bit better this time around, so I'm going to build on it and try again after recovery and some training. My slowest mile this marathon was faster than my slowest mile during the last marathon. Last time I had two miles slower than 9:00. So, the range of paces was tighter this time around.