I did it. Ran 10 miles yesterday in 1:43:47 in what can loosely be described as less-than-ideal conditions.
Cold temps, rain/snow mix and driving winds were not enough to keep hundreds of insane runners from the first-ever Hermes Cleveland 10-Miler. The consensus among those huddled for warmth inside the House of Blues was that you couldn’t wear the T-shirt (a Coolmax tech shirt with the words “Run Like a God” on the back) if you didn’t complete the race.
And so, Lisa and I and many friends and neighbors we knew, braved the elements. I was among many experienced distance runners, most of whom had at least run a half-marathon, if not a whole marathon. My longest race was five miles. But I had trained and so I was not going to let the opportunity pass me by.
On Saturday night, the boys and I went to Dick’s Sporting Goods because I realized what I needed was a waterproof outer layer. So I picked up an extraordinarily lightweight North Face jacket that I hoped would at least keep my upper body dry.
It worked, for a while.
We assembled at Prospect and E. 4th Street to await the start. Lisa and I set out to keep our pace of 10-minute miles. At the first split, near E. 36th Street we were at 10:01. Pretty good, we congratulated ourselves. But the turn down Carnegie Avenue had us heading straight into the wind.
I had an ear band on to protect my ears from the cold. I left the baseball hat at home because I was sure it would blow off. I should have brought it because the bits of snow, ice and rain were pelting my face to the point where I couldn’t see. I kept my head down and just concentrated on the rhythm of my breathing and the sound of my feet splashing through the puddles.
Lisa and I were both dreading the Lorain-Carnegie Bridge. It’s a slow uphill grade, high above the flats, exposing everyone to the whipping winds. We marveled at the poor guy ahead of us whose wind pants had the effect of a parachute, causing him added resistance. By mile three, the crazy guy in the running shorts had legs the color of beets. I’m sure that’s what mine also looked like under my running tights.
Heading north down W. 25th Street was no prize, but we took advantage of a slowdown in the wind and managed to make up some time so that by mile five we were at 49:43. While running up the Detroit-Superior Bridge I jinxed myself. I told Lisa that, all things considered, I was feeling pretty great. Cardio was good, pacing was good, legs felt strong. Then on the downhill across the bridge, I felt a shooting pain on the outside of my left knee. “Oooh,” I winced.
We ran down W. 3rd and by the time we emerged from under the West Shoreway to the area behind the Browns’ Stadium we were practically running in place. The wind gusts were so strong it felt as if we were on a treadmill. A lanky guy in front of us threw his arms out and screamed into the wind in a failed attempt to tame it.
Winding our way around the Northcoast Harbor, we found ourselves on a long stretch of North Marginal Road in front of Burke Lakefront Airport. There was a turnaround up ahead, but it seemed to be miles away. By this time, both my knees were screaming in pain. I looked down at my legs, which we beginning to feel like lead, and saw water just dripping from my running tights.
My shoes felt like sponges, wringing out water with each step I took. We were nearing the end, I was digging down deep—and struggling mentally—to find the motivation and inspiration to finish. Then Lisa said to me: “Remember how Dan said you couldn’t do this?” Of course, he didn't mean that literally. He only meant that he worried about my getting injured or being in any pain, which of course I was.
But the thought of him and my boys gave me the inspiration I needed to keep running. And so did Lisa. She talked to me, making suggestions for changing my stride to reduce the impact on my knees. And, knowing my running routes, she would put the remainder of the race in perspective: “You’re at Huntington Beach, on your way back home.”
We climbed up E. 9th Street to Lakeside and were greeted with a penalizing wind tunnel that nearly knocked me to the ground. We linked arms momentarily, trying to urge each other on, but then realized we needed both arms to battle the oncoming wind.
Once we hit W. 6th Street, the wind wasn’t as bad, but I was becoming convinced I’d never be able to walk again. A woman we passed, who was saturated from head to toe in her wind pants and shirt, said, “This is the hardest thing I’ve ever done and I’ve had children!”
We laughed in agreement and continued on to W. Prospect. And then, coming down Prospect to Ontario, we spotted the truck with the giant clock on top. The finish line! Somehow, Lisa and I found it within in us to kick in a bit to the finish. Once we stopped, we saw a friend who had just finished ahead of us and there were high-fives all around. Lisa and I hugged, incredulous that we made it through the storm.
I grabbed a banana from the box and found my hands were so cold I was unable to peel it. My knees were throbbing and it hurt worse to walk than to run. Lisa said she felt her knee swelling. And then we began to shiver, I mean uncontrollably, like that shiver you get when you’re in transition during labor and no amount of heated blankets from the nursery seems to help.
There wasn’t a dry spot on us. We squished in our shoes, though ironically my feet were not cold or sore. There was a party with bands and food inside the House of Blues, but we looked at each other and said, “Let’s get home!”
I had the heater blasting in my car and couldn’t feel my fingers for most of the drive home. Even though I was parked in the garage, the walk from my car to the door was excruciating. Danny was on the phone when I walked in. The look on his face said I must not have looked very good.
“Oh my God, Wen,” he mouthed. My entire body was trembling violently with cold. Mikey kept saying, “Are you okay, Mom?” I laughed and said yes, but that I was very cold and needed a hot shower.
When I bent down to untie my shoes, water streamed out of my waterproof jacket and pooled on the kitchen floor. Every layer was completely saturated. Patrick picked up one my socks and it was literally dripping with water.
But I made it. It was quite an accomplishment. Had the weather conditions been better, I’d have felt terrific. Spent most of yesterday wrapped in a blanket, with my space heater blaring. This morning, I was able to get out of bed unassisted. I feel pretty good and am proud of myself for finishing. It would have been easy to wake up yesterday and say, “No thanks.” Once I commit to something, I need to see it through, no matter how painful. And last night, as we went to bed, Danny said: "I'm so proud of you." Knowing I had his support meant everything.
I’ll enjoy a few days rest from running and then will resume my training. Our next race is the River Run Half Marathon on Sept. 11. I'm pretty sure we won't be battling snow then.