Race & Conditions
- Race: Glass City Marathon
- Location: Toledo, OH, Start and Finish at The University of Toledo
- Date: Sunday, April 23rd, 2017
- Start: 7 am
- Weather: 36°F (2°C) at Start. Rising Throughout. 60°F (15°C) at Finish.
- Participants: Nearly 8,000 Runners across all events
There is a first for everything
The Glass City Marathon had been noticeable in the past I live fairly close to the mid-course park that features prominently. I’ve lived in Toledo for 16 years now and this is where running took root in me, so I feel it was appropriate for my first to be the Glass City Marathon. I signed up for when I started this blog and my quest to run 2017 miles this year. There were some major set-backs in February and March, but I made it to race day. I felt my condition was good to give 26.2 miles a try.
- < 4:30:00 Finish
- Quick Recovery to handle work event
- 3:59:59 or Better Finish
- ~9:00 min/mi steady pace
My training was less than ideal in the last couple months. Due to injury and illness I lost around 6 weeks of effort. I still managed a hard ramp up and a later than planned long run of 21 miles leading up to the race. Still, I managed to feel pretty confident in my abilities and was absolutely ecstatic after that long run, which surprised me. Bolstered against any doubts, made a plan for race week and day. I went over my practical preparations in this post.
To give a little bit of the setting, where I work I occasionally run events, some late at night, that require a lot of standing, walking, and general running around to do things. Sometimes the scheduling of those events are outside our control as they are unified on an international schedule. Of course, on race weekend I would have a series of 5 big events with the race right in the middle on Sunday morning.
I tried to manage my caffeine, eating, and workload going through Friday and Saturday to improve my immediate condition for the race. Ultimately, I got lucky in a kind of horrible way: our Saturday evening event cancelled. That is a very unusual thing to happen, and sadly means less revenue than expected too. However, this allowed me an extra 3 hours of sleep and to wake up a half hour earlier on race day! The universe is strange and provides. I took it as a sign and a gift. I was going to do this.
I have spent hours looking over and running parts of the marathon course in the weeks leading up to it. The University of Toledo, where it would start and end was a place I spent many years at and hold two degrees to prove it. I am very familiar with the campus and neighborhoods the course utilized. My other half volunteered to help out in the beer tent for the shift that started and ended while I would be on the road. We arrived and parked with plenty of time to walk across campus to the starting zone.
A massive sea of people spread out around the starting area. As time got closer, everyone moved into the corrals, where I selected corral c, which is for an expected finish of under 4:30:00. My biggest goal was to finish at any cost, even if I had to claw my way across finish with my legs slung over my shoulders.
My second goal was to finish with dignity in under four and a half hours. Starting area was buzzed by the Mercy Health helicopter 3 times in flyover, which was pretty fun, and then right on time at 7:02 am, the race started.
I was hyped. I wonder if my little flourishes and big grin ate at my precious energy reserves, but I feel most alive when faced with a challenge that feels at the edge of my abilities. So, I probably acted the fool, but no one including myself cared.
Miles 1 – 4
In my excitement, I was pretty thoroughly ignoring the cold. The temperature was a bit lower than I expected in the days leading up the event. Once everyone got moving, I slowly started to notice exactly how cold my fingers were getting.
The race had provided an app, RaceJoy for tracking uses to both racers and spectators. I had it pulled up on my phone alone with my Itunes playlist and left it stowed in my long-run bag behind my back. Unfortunately, when I knew I had passed the three mile mark and the phone wasn’t telling me anything, I went to pull it out and look at it.
Each finger reported no tactile sensation as I fumbled behind my back with the pack. Regardless, with a bit of mid-stride shifting I got the phone into the grasp of my meat icicles and managed to tweak the setting to start proper tracking. When I crossed the 4 mile marker, the phone reported that I was right on track for my 9 min/mi pace, and it was good.
As the crowd started to spread out and segment a little, we got into the thick of the Ottawa Hills neighborhood of Toledo. There were a lot of spectators clustered about at the turns and in scattered driveways as we ran past some of the more expensive and impressive houses in the metro area. The streets where extremely well secured from vehicle traffic and wide open for jockeying position.
Somewhere in this leg I would fall in behind a blonde woman with bib 960. She and I seemed to have a pretty evenly matched pace and we would occasionally swap positions around a turn only to have her pop back ahead of me a few stride a moment later. 960, if you are reading this, you are awesome! I really felt locked in following your heels. We moved through the next 10 miles this way.
I was taking in the crowds and the funny signs and really just enjoying myself through this part, and I knew it couldn’t stay so easy, but I felt like I had hit that limitless pace. Finally, after the first gel-aided water station I saw a couple of the friends I had cajoled to come cheer me on. Scott and Danny, regulars at work, were in the park near a turn where two trails split and we all three went nuts.
“That’s my peeps!” I yelled and gestured wildly.
They were wearing the bright blue t-shirts I had made up with this site’s logo on them and where posing and yelling and I couldn’t be happier. They gave me a great burst of energy that I carried on through the halfway mark
Exiting the park, we entered the first segment on the University-Parks Trail. This was where I had done most of my training and comfortable to me. Running from the center of the trail and out the short end, it turned back into a road race at King Road and we were on the shoulder of what is usually some respectably busy streets. The 13 mile mark was right before a major intersection and the near side was crowded with spectators. This was the place another friend of mine had said he would be at to cheer me on.
After a couple minutes of scanning as I ran, I saw the bright blue shirt and the yelling began again!
John is a much quieter person and he politely waved and cheered me on, but I wanted people to know that he was awesome for being there and I appreciated it immensely. I wonder how many beer tent stories there were at the end of the day about these moments of a runner cheering on the crowd like a madman. Ah, well. I got a great belt of energy out of it that carried me through the next park.
At this point the Half Marathon runners had peeled off and were heading towards their own finish. I saw a ton of relay runners, as you could tell from their blue bibs, but not many red bib marathon runners and even fewer yellow bib first timers like myself. I stayed heavy on the heels of 960 as we rounded into and around the small lake Olander Park and entered the most challenging area.
Corey Road leads us back into the huge Wildwood Park, but not until we navigate the wavy hills of the footpath to get there. I knew this area could sap a lot of energy, but I was still keeping right on pace according to my phone feedback and I felt good.
We poured down the last hill and entered what I consider the far side of the park. Something about coming out of the hills tripped a trigger. As I approached the bridge that connects the two ends of the park, I saw Scott again who crossed the bridge to cheer me on again. There was no yelling from me this time. He waved and cheered.
All I could mutter out was a “Oh, I feel it now. I feel it”.
Mile 20 was a slight down hill on the bridge but then took the one uphill I regularly run at the park to pass through an earlier aid station on the way back to the University-Parks Trail and the finish. That hill broke my stride.
I had been waylaid during the winter months with an IT Band injury, so when BOTH my knees lit up like a fresh brand was pushed into their sides, I blanched. Suddenly I was hobbling instead of running and hustled with a limp through the water stop and onto the final leg of the race.
I walked one whole mile with that limp, terrified that I had not only recurred the right leg injury but also injured my left leg the same. As I contemplated my options and deciding what I must do, I saw one lone family in the middle of an otherwise empty quarter mile. They smiled and a little girl held up one of the many green plastic cups full of water they had handy.
I had hit every aid station up to that point, and there were so many, but this act of kindness compelled me. I was thirsty and suddenly miserable. Hobbling over, the parents approved, I gently stopped, took down the half cup of water, and handed off the empty plastic to the mother. “Thank you so much!” I huffed as politely as I could and with deep genuine gratitude. Never have I tasted sweeter water, and it had nothing to do with the flavor.
I began a broken trot and after a few hundred feet it became a steady plod. Slow, likely messy, but the pain pushed down and I could move again.
Miles 24.2 – 26.2
These may have been the hardest of the race as I refused to let myself ease up again. I was moving again and I would be damned if I was going to walk over the finish. There was a flag on the course just a bit before the end of the trail that marked only 2 miles to go.
Somehow, with the path the course took, one mile of that ran over campus roads and back-end parking lots where there was nearly no one to cheer on the runners. That was the mental challenge, to keep moving so close to the end, but so spent and in pain, while there were no eyes. I had long lost sight of 960 when I started walking and I was certain her and many others who passed me had finished.
I gritted down and ripped out my earphones at this point and heard everyone in the distance. Few other runners were in the cones and tape set-up to guide us in this no man’s land. And finally, I turned the corner.
I saw the after party in full swing and tons of people with medals and mugs cheering on those of us following behind them from the iron rails that had replaced the cones and tape in this final stretch. I rallied and smiled.
Entering the stadium, I heard everyone at the edges cheering in one cacophonous and glorious voice. I usually finish my races with a final hard kick at the end, sprinting at the finish line. This time all I could do was lengthen my stride and mutter ‘Yes, yes, yes, I made it” to myself as I flowed towards the 50 yard line of the Glass Bowl Stadium.
Results and Aftermath
- Chip time: 04:22:54
- Pace: 10:02 min/mile
- 4.3 Miles
- 6.7 Miles
- 9.4 Miles
- 12.9 Miles
- 16 Miles
- 20.9 Miles
- Overall: 695 of 1,070
- Overall Male: 452 of 638
- Male 35-39: 66 of 84
There were no more checkpoints after the 21 mile mark it seems, but that is when I ran into trouble. The dreams of closing sub-4 hours on my first marathon didn’t manifest. Still, I finished as strong as I could muster. Looking back at the results I am damned proud of what I did put up. That performance up to mile 21 was more than adequate for a first time amateur runner’s attempt. Even with the 10 minute overall pace I ended up with is respectable.
After the race was over, there was a TON of food and support, including two beer tickets with my bib, but I wasn’t feeling it. I downed my recovery shake as soon as I was reminded of its existence and only could munch a few pretzels, a bite of pasta and a bite of pizza before it became too much for me.
I would have loved to recover there a bit longer and mill about, but I had a job to get to. The festivities for me were over with a walk half-way across campus to the car. My other half was concerned about my ability to drive, but once I sat in a proper seat my legs agreed to do the task of driving without problem.
I wore my medal for the rest of the day. Nearly a pound of metal, I was too proud of the giant thing to let it go. Luckily part of the job that day involved a lot of pizza for customers and staff, so I ate hearty once my stomach came off strike.
Right now, two days after, I am super eager to go out and start piling miles up. But, I’m trying to be good and give myself time to rest. I may go out tomorrow, Wednesday, for a light slow jog. My eagerness is only matched by my concern that I may have revived that IT Band injury. Time will tell.
The Glass City Marathon was amazing. I wish I would have had a little more time to write about it. Like the Expo on Saturday and the funny signs in the crowds. This pass though, time was not on my side. I haven’t decided on whether I will do next year’s Glass City Marathon. I have already signed up for one in fall.
If you want to see a bunch of pictures of the loot I got check out the Facebook Page. I’ll post them up soon, including two finisher t-shirts, the giant medal, mug, and my ‘Mover’ team/fan shirt.