Saturday, October 4, 2014

Akron Half Marathon Race Recap

2014 has definitely been a year of firsts for me when it comes to running.  First time running over 1000 miles in a year.  First marathon.  First winter of snow-running.  And last weekend, it was the first time I've ran a race for someone else.  I did the "Run for the Health of It" 5K last month, and while I certainly didn't race it, I ran it for fun.  The Akron Half Marathon was totally different.  

Back in the spring, my running pal Jen mentioned that a friend was running in the Akron Marathon for ALS awareness.  She thought it'd be a fun race to do together. I of course agreed--after all, half marathons ARE fun!  At that time, we both knew we'd be racing in the Columbus Marathon just three weeks later, but I had done the Xenia half marathon 3 weeks prior to Glass City, so I knew I could treat it as a training run just as I had with Xenia.

As the race day approached, Jen and I both went back and forth with how we wanted to run this race.  Should I run it like the first half of my marathon, getting in some race-pace miles?  Should Jen push herself to a PR?   Should we just take it easy?  Our decision was made about two weeks before the race.  We got an e-mail from the Trample ALS team leader, Adam Bracken.  He mentioned that if anyone wanted to run with him and his wife as they pushed Adam's father Steve (who has ALS), that we'd be welcome to.  Immediately, Jen and I knew exactly what we were going to do.  This race wasn't going to be for us, it would be for Steve and for ALS awareness.   

Just like she did about 5 months ago, Jen picked me up at my house shortly after lunch for our trek up north. Such a different ride, though... last time, I was a ball of nerves, hydrating enough to have to make two pit stops on the way to our hotel.  This time, we laughed and munched on the delicious Dove chocolates and Cool Ranch Doritos that Jen had surprised me with.  (She knows me way too well LOL!)  Of course, the trip was over before we knew it, and we arrived at the awesome Hilton Fairlawn.  It was just a teeny step up from the "outside door" Days Inn that I had booked for Glass City ;)  We stowed our things in our room and headed over to the race expo.  It was a decent-sized expo, with lots to look at and buy (but no awesome deals).  I did get some Hippie Sweat bands (just like my Bondi Bands), but that was it. The best part of the expo was at the end.  There was a chiropractor selling his pain-relief cream.  Jen mentioned to him that I'd been suffering from tendinitis in my right calf, and consequently had a sore left ankle.  He offered to do an adjustment.  I was wary, but he seemed to know what he was talking about, so I went ahead and let him work on me.  I was elated when he was done and I had zero ankle pain!  I couldn't believe that two little pops would make it that much better.  My calf was still a little sore, but I knew that would warm up once the race started the next day.  After we picked up our race t-shirts, we headed to the Charity Village area and found the Trample ALS table, where we got the shirts we'd be wearing the next morning.  This made us even more excited for what we would be doing during the race!


By then we were both ready for dinner. We had noticed a Bravo (Italian restaurant) right by our hotel, and decided it would be the perfect pre-race dinner locale.  And it was.  YUM!!!  Jen had her wine and I had my Peach Bellini, and we both gorged ourselves on delicious bread and yummy pasta dishes.  

Malbec for Jen, Bellini for me :)

I so enjoyed the time that we spent just chatting and laughing... I don't get to do that too often, just hang out with a friend and eat and enjoy myself without the interruption of kids!  


Once we were finished, we headed back to the hotel to chill for a bit before bed.  I ran into Jen's' friend Jennifer at the ice machine (unbeknownst to me, that is... we chatted but didn't realize who the other was LOL), and she came over to our room and we all talked and watched Dirty Dancing.  Such a great movie!  Lights out at 10:00, and I was able to easily fall asleep and get a great night's rest. 

Deliciously soft bed and tons of pillows!

We were up bright and early at around 4:30 AM so that we could get ready, eat our bagels and peanut butter (what else? LOL), and catch the shuttle bus at 5:25 AM.  We'd decided to take advantage of the free shuttle service, and we were so glad we did, as it made everything much less stressful as far as parking goes. At 6:00 AM we met up with the Trample ALS team and took some group pictures. We finally got to meet Steve, Adam, Kim, and the rest of the runners who were dedicating miles to this amazing cause.  Jennifer, Jen and I camped out in the nearby College of Business building, taking numerous bathroom breaks and just chilling.  Jen found a woman running in memory of her sister, who recently died of ovarian cancer.  This is another cause near and dear to Jen's heart (note the blue streak in her hair from her recent 5K for ovarian cancer!)--and look at the awesome bracelets she gave Jen to wear! 

Fellow Flower that I gave Jen ("Fierce. Beauty. Strength.")
Teal blue for ovarian cancer awareness

At around 6:45 we headed out to the starting line. We weren't able to actually start with Steve's team, as they were starting at the front of the A corral with the wheelchair racers, one minute before the actual start.  We figured we'd quickly catch up, as they were planning on a 10:30/mile pace.  

Ready in the corral!

The race started, and the first mile was almost entirely downhill.  I was upset that almost immediately my ankle (which up until that point had felt great) started to hurt.  As we sped through the course, holding a pace somewhere in the low 9's, I tried to stay focused on running and not what was going on with my body.   Truth be told, I was scared. I was supposed to run 26.2 miles in 3 weeks, and I could barely handle the pain just a few miles into this half marathon.  Luckily I had Jen by my side and a mission: to find the Trample ALS team!  

After 3 very hilly miles of running at a pretty strong pace (we were in the high 8's/low 9's for the entire first 5K), Jen and I were ready to throw in the towel. We asked a spectator if they'd seen the Trample ALS pushchair team, and they told us the team was about 5 minutes ahead of us.  We were so confused... we should've caught them by then, unless they were really going fast!  Finally, right around mile 4, we at last caught sight of the maroon shirts.  They'd just taken a restroom break, which is why we were able to catch them.  It was such a fun reunion, even though we'd just met everyone only an hour earlier!  Jen and I were relieved to slow down a bit.  Adam explained to us that their goal of 10:30/mile included rest stops for bathroom and stretch breaks for his father.... ahhh, it finally made sense to us why we hadn't caught them for the first 4 miles!

Jen and the team!

The next 5 miles absolutely sped by.  We talked, I complained, it was wonderful :)  After a short break at around mile 9, Jen and I were asked if we wanted to take a turn pushing Steve's chair. We were elated... what a special gift!   We were so proud to be taking part in this amazing race with these amazing people.  

Truly, the best race moment ever...

At mile 11, the course split for the half and full, so we sadly had to leave our teammates (who were running the full).  Jen and I turned off and headed towards the finish.  I tried to soak in every last minute of this race... I was in pain, but I didn't want it to end.  

Mid-race selfie!

We ran into the Akron football stadium to finish the race, claim our medals, and get our post-race food.  The charity runners got to chill in a special area after the race.  

Post-race happiness

After some photo-taking and chatting with other Trample ALS members, we found the shuttle pick-up and headed back to our hotel.  We had lunch at an awesome hamburger joint before heading back home to Columbus.

Nom nom nom...

My takeaway from this race: it's not always about racing, or PRs, or feeling great while you are running.  It's about doing something for someone else... Jen and I both agreed that the mile or so that we pushed Steve was the easiest mile of the race. It was like once our hands were on the chair handles, we were flying.  It made me think about Hunter, and how very much I would love to get him a chair like this, to fly with my own son.  I get teary-eyed just thinking about it.  This race... it was so much more than a race.  It was a moment that I will never, ever forget.  I'm so grateful that I had the chance to participate with the Trample ALS team. 

Right now, I'm going through my own personal health issues.  I have *something* wrong with my ankle.  I've been resting and icing, and my doctor is worried I have a stress fracture.  I am still hopeful that I will be able to run in the marathon in two weeks.  If I can, I will be dedicating a mile on my "grace band" to Steve and the amazing Trample ALS runners.  If I end up not being able to race, you'd better believe that the next marathon I do will have that dedication mile in there!  Meanwhile, I'm taking this advice from my Dove Chocolate wrapper to heart... 

#taper #rest #horseisinthestable

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