Monday, April 14, 2008

Glass City Marathon Race Report

It is customary on RunningAHEAD (RA), the website that I began logging my running on about this time last year and running forum community of runners from all over the world, to write up a race report once one has finished a race, of any distance or size or perceived importance to oneself. It was the run reports of folks like (user-names) BadDawg, Bonkin, Zoom-Zoom, PowerofQ, SHoltsman and the stories of running triumphs, like those of JLynnBob and TrishieRunner, and tragedies, like Kooky2003, and personal transformations from potato chip eating couch potato to leaner and race running machines like Zoomy, PowerofQ, JustMarion, and so, so, many others, that inspired me to set a marathon goal, train for, and complete it.


In October of last year, I determined to do just that and selected the Glass City Marathon, in Toledo, Ohio on 04/13/2008 as my first marathon goal and that I would run this marathon in honor of my 35 year old cousin, Cassy, who has severe cerebral palsy and has never been able to take a step in her life. I chose this race for three reasons: 1. It is virtually in my backyard, so I was fairly certain that I would have some great personal fan support which I knew I would need and, would not have to travel. 2. It is a small race in terms of the number of runners, and, 3. It is not a well-supported fan race so, though I thought I would have good fan support, the race would be more about me and the marathon, if that makes sense.

I chose the Hal Higdon Intermediate II marathon training plan as for my training plan as it seemed to suit my present conditioning and needs for this race. I wasn't wanting to make this really technical from a training aspect and this plan just seemed to sensibly build mileage, strategically toughening you up at its peak of 50 miles per week 3 times during the course of the 18 week plan.
As many of you know, I began experiencing excruciating right lower leg pain in the inside aspect of my shin about 3 inches above the inside of my ankle following Week 11 of my training plan, my first 50 mile week. The pain I would relate to feeling like someone had struck me full-force in the leg with a sledge-hammer without shattering my leg. I took a week off, and rested, iced, elevated, and ibuprofened to see if I was able to get back at it. It worked to the extent that I was able to pick up my training runs, but I knew that I would have to be very conservative in the balance of my training for the remaining 6 weeks of training prior to the race. I cut out some of the longer runs and basically just did what I could without aggravating my leg too much so that I could continue training. With lots of babying, ice, ibuprofen (I know, Trent, not good for me), and prayer, I was able to get myself to the starting line.
I had the cool pleasure of meeting up with JakeKnight (aka Eric), a fellow RA user, who came up from Nashville to run the race as well. I first met up with him and his fiance, Kelly, with my wife, Tammy, at the running "expo", if one can call a few tables with some stuff and some t-shirts an expo, in Toledo on Saturday afternoon.Tammy and my "shoe lady", Liz, from Dave's Running Shop, who has been just wonderful in working with us on getting proper shoes, was also at the expo manning a table for the shop and would be running the second half of the marathon on race day as part of a two-person team.
Eric and I planned on meeting in the lobby of the host hotel the next morning on race day to head to the start line. Tammy and I went home and went out to dinner Saturday night with our friends, Frank and Dianna Johnston. We drove! If you've read my blog you know that we drove down to Florida with the Johnstons who had issues with their van on 2 separate occasions. I had sesame seared ahi tuna with a wasabi and soy sauce, with a salad, baked potato, and mixed vegies for dinner that night. I had loaded up with some fettucini Friday night. We soaked in the Johnston's hot tub for about a half hour before heading home for the night and I got my stuff together and laid out for the morning.
I didn't get to bed till about 11:30, but was soon fast asleep and slept well for the remainder of the night and woke up with the alarm at 5:30 race morning. I was really never nervous pre-race. I got coffee going and took a quick shower to wake and refresh myself, and had a bowl of plain oatmeal with honey and a banana along with a few sips of my coffee and a glass of water. Tammy got our girls up, both of whom had friends stay the night that would be going with us to the race to cheer me on, and we all loaded up and went to pick up one more of Lindsey's friends for the drive to downtown Toledo. Chelsea, my oldest was driving her and her friend over to Dianna Johnston's who was meeting us downtown. This is from left to right, Maggie, Emily, Lindsey, and Brandon, all part of my cheering posse for the day. They were awesome!
Tammy and I in the lobby and also Eric and I before heading out to the starting line.
Eric and I headed out to the starting line about 7:50 for the 8:00 start. I met up with friends, Leo and Vicki, out at the starting line. It was bitterly cold and windy, but there was no precipitation at this point.
My family and friends circled up and my daughter, Lindsey, prayed for me for the race. I was about in tears. The National Anthem was sang, Eric and I moved up closer to the starting line and the gun went off. Eric took off having told me if I came across him later on the course dying to just leave him. I was off and trying to just keep the reigns pulled in so I didn't go out too fast. I was actually looking to settle in to a 9:45 to 10:00 pace early on in the race, and if I felt good much later, try and pick up my pace.
We headed west out of downtown along the north side of the Maumee River and then made a left to head up over the High-Level Bridge, pictured above. I was just trying to soak everything in and keep from running too fast this first mile. I came upon a pair of girls running together up the bridge and asked if they were with the 2:40 pace group, cause the 2:30 pace group was too fast for me. They laughed. It was quite windy, I later learned the winds were 20 - 25 mph and it began snowing as we made our way up and over the bridge. I ended up running over the bridge with someone I knew from our church, Marianne, who was running the first leg of the 5 person relay. We parted at mile 2 when she stopped for a water break and I sipped as I ran through the water stop.
I was now on the south side of the river heading west through the city of Rossford toward Perrysburg. The next several miles were pretty uneventful. The wind and icy snow was coming from my right rear so, it really wasn't bothersome during most of the first half of the race at all. I took some more water at mile 4 and sometime between mile 4 and 6 my right lower leg started hurting me progressively more. Normally, on my longer runs in the past, the pain would start out badly and would actually subside to more tolerable levels the further into my runs. This would not be the case this day. I came upon Leo and Vicki around the 5 mile relay exchange mark and they were cheering me on and encouraging me. My posse, now all loaded up in Dianna's van with the addition of my oldest daughter, Chelsea, and her friend, Amelia, caught up with my around mile 6. If you look at the girls' signs, each would yell what was on them, "Go!", "Dad!", "Exclamation Point!". They were a riot!
The posse van pulled up alongside of me shortly after and Tammy was telling me I looked great and was doing great and asked how I was doing and I told her ominously that my leg was already beginning to hurt. I told her that I was on about a 9:30 pace though and felt good otherwise. They continued on ahead and I ran on taking in the scenery of the homes along the river and the whacked fisherman in their boats on the river in the driving snow.
The posse caught up with me again at mile 8 and this was about the last time that I would see them until around mile 16 or 17. I was still maintaining about a 9:40 average pace and felt good other than my right leg, which hurt, but was holding its own for the time being. I saw Leo and Vicki again around mile 10 in Perrysburg, just before making a sweeping right hand turn to head north up the Conant Street bridge and back across to the north side of the Maumee River. They asked me how I was doing and I replied that I was feeling a bit fatigued and that my leg was hurting me. They cheered me on and I began heading across the bridge. As soon as I headed north onto the bridge, the wind driven icy-snow was pelting me from the right front. The winds got worse the further toward the middle of the bridge I got and the bridge was a long, slow, uphill grade.

I was pretty sapped by the time I got back across to the north side of the river and made an immediate left turn on the first sidestreet, then west a couple blocks, north one, and then west again heading down a residential street that turns into the entrance to Sidecut Metro Park in Maumee, Ohio. I was pretty tired from the bridge and the exposure and grasping in my head for something to pick me up knowing that I wasn't even half way through the race. A guy on his bike on the sidewalk to my left yelled out my name. I looked up and, after a second, realized it was Phil Mishka, another fellow runner from RA! He got the next pic of me about mile 11.5 and then rode alongside of me for about a mile and a quarter as we chit-chatted. It totally took my mind off of how I had been feeling and I was rejuvenated heading further into Sidecut Metro Park for the about 2.5 mile out and back portion of the race. Phil was a God-send at this part of the race!
The out and back was a very difficult section of the race mentally as it was pretty much on your own. There was a water station at mile 12.5 on the way out and I had pretty much hit all of the aid stations along the way to that point and would continue to do so until the very end of the race. The wind and snow were not too bothersome at this point since I was heading west again. I got to the the half point, 13.1 miles and the man calling out the split times there said I was at 2:05:00 for my half. I was quite happy with that news and continued on to the turn-around at mile 14.5 trying simply to maintain my pace. As soon as I made the turn-around, the wind and icy-snow blasted me directly in the face. This is what we would all face for the remainder of the race from mile 14.5 on.
There was an aid station just after the turn-around and I took some Gatorade. I chatted with a woman for about a half mile while along this stretch trying to preoccupy myself with something other than the miserable conditions we were running in and how progressively sorer my leg was becoming. I thought about Cassy and the fact that I was running this because I could, and she could not. I thought about all my friends, family, and blogging and RA running friends that were thinking about and praying for me, and I tried to maintain my pace into the driving wind. I got to the aid station at mile 16 still remarkably maintaining around a 9:30 pace and saw a couple of Chelsea's XC teamates and their mom, Kate, Erinn, and Mrs. Calhoun, manning the aid station there and cheering for me. It was good to see some familiar faces and to have them cheering me on! After all, I've been doing it for them for years now!
Finally, I was coming up the hill that took me out of Sidecut Metro Park! It seemed like I was down in there forever! I was now back in the city of Maumee and now heading up Dudley Road toward River Road around mile 17 to head back into downtown Toledo. My leg was really starting to hurt me and I lost a lot of wind in my sails from my journey into and out of Sidecut, but I was still maintaining a 9:45 pace. Phil got this next photo of me as well and, I barely even remember him taking it, although I must have known he was because I was faking it and, giving him a thumbs up. Hehe.
Somewhere around mile 16 - 17 the snow changed to a cold, wind driven rain which we were running directly into. My posse, which had now grown to include the Gamble family van - Kim, Wayne, Brandon, Emily, and Racel, along with Kallie Johnston - were around mile 17.5 cheering their heads off for me. It was definitely a lift and they were so awesome, but my leg pain was beginning to unravel me physically. Wayne ran alongside of me for a bit and was telling me how awesome I was doing, that I was on a 9:40 race pace, and that I was looking strong and great.
At mile 18, my right leg became excruciatingly painful. It felt as though with every foot strike, whether heel or forefoot (an RA joke), that someone was whacking me as hard as they could with a sledgehammer. I was still able to run, but was now favoring my right leg severely. Mile 18 I was able to muster a 9:43 pace. Mile 19 I had declined to a 9:55 pace. Both Leo and Vicki and the Gamble van passed me here and asked if there was anything they could do. I asked if I could borrow a pair of legs. Notta. I was pretty well delirious with pain at this point. The Johnston van posse had headed up the road and were apparently on their way to the finish about the time I got to mile 20. Gambles were riding alongside me and somewhere into mile 20, my right hamstring seized fully in cramp and I stopped dead in my tracks. Wayne and Kim asked if I was alright and I told them I had a major cramp in my right hamstring. I was lightly stretching it out and shaking it out to get the cramping to stop and it subsided.



I walked on, for the first time in the race, to make sure that it didn't cramp up right away again, knowing that my ability to run the rest of the race through was done. My head was racing thinking of what I could do, of reading someone's Columbus Marathon report that this happened to as well in the latter stages of the race and not being able to do anything about it. Gambles must have called the Johnston posse van, because they had turned around and come back and were at an intersection ahead of me when Tammy got out of the ran and ran up the sidewalk to me. There was such a look of concern on her face for me that it overwhelmed me. She was nearly in tears telling me I was gonna be fine, that I could do this, that I would finish. I began jogging again hobbled by my right leg pain and the cramp and she jogged along with me on my right telling me how proud she was of me. I was in tears and looked over at her and just said, "I love you soooo much." She cried and again, encouraged me and told me how proud she was of me.


She asked if I was going to be ok and I said I would be fine. She said they were going to go on ahead to the finish and that she'd see me at the finish. I said, "Ok, I'll see you at the finish." The Johnston van posse headed off to the finish and I continued on as best I could with Gambles next to me. They drove on up ahead a bit and Leo and Vicki pulled up by me. Vicki asked if there was anything they could do and I again jokingly asked for a fresh paid of unbroken legs. They laughed. My fleece gloved hands were soaked and frozen to the bone as were my feet and Leo said he had a pair of Gortex mittens in the car and Vicki said she also had a pair of Gortex gloves and asked if I would like them. I was all over that! Vicki swapped me the gloves and immediately my hands felt better which made me feel slightly better as well. They went on ahead.


The next few miles were mostly walking with some lame joggin, in a literal sense due to the pain in my right leg, until I would have another cramp, which were now playing no favorites and gladly moved to my left leg as well to "balance things out" and "keep things fair" with my right leg. Friend, Tim Dawes, had now shown up on the course and was cheering me along as well. Fellow firefighter and friend, Matt Menchaca, and his wife, Amy, were also along this horrible stretch of race to encourage me onward. Gambles kept with me as well. I did the best I could to jog when I could.


It was the darkest period/stretch of running that I have ever been through. I was still more than 4 miles out and thought about bagging the race at this point and hopping in Gamble's van and taking a DNF for the race. I was hurting so very badly and just wanted to get out of the weather and warmed. I thought about Cassy. I thought about the miles and miles I had run over the winter in snow and ice and wind and rain and sleet. I thought about all the people that were pulling for and praying for me, many of you who are reading this right now. I determined not to quit. I had come too far and this race was not just for me, but for Cassy, my family who have put up with all my training and complaining, and all of you as well that came alongside of me to support me and encourage me in this endeavor. I plodded on remembering a saying related to me in my mens' group from church a few years ago... "forward is forward." It made a great deal of sense to me at that point.


Gambles left me at just under 4 miles to go stating they were heading to the finish. I continued on entirely on my own alternating walking as fast as I could and jogging when I felt my body would hold up to it. Race participants in front of and behind me were doing the same... just doing what they could at that moment to press on to the finish. At one of the next major intersections, there was a cop tying one of the runner's shoes because he was either too sore to bend over and do it himself, or his hands were too cold that he could not do it for himself. I got inside mile 24 I think and was feeling quite lonely and desperate to be done and out of the weather. That is when I looked up and saw Phil on his bike at an upcoming intersection!

I was stunned and overjoyed! He ended up rolling along on his bike next to me as I either (mostly) walked or jogged chatting about our running, our families, our work, our injuries, our goals. Before I knew it he was telling me I was coming to the sidewalk to make a right onto which would lead down to the riverside sidewalk to make a left onto and down toward the finish. We headed down the sidewalk toward the river, he said Tammy was up ahead at the corner of where the sidewalks meet. I was so delirious, I didn't really even realize who was there. Phil said that he was going to leave me now with my family and friends and I thanked him as he departed toward the finish on his bike. He was most certainly an angel on two wheels for me that day in addition to all of my other friends and family that were out there.


I met Tammy at the corner of the sidewalks, I think she asked me if I was ok, I think I said that I was and was ready to jog in. I had about a quarter of a mile left to the finish. She began jogging with me and as we got up the riverwalk a ways, my whole posse out along the race course that day joined with me telling me I could do it, they were so proud of me, handing me a "This Runs for You Cassy" sign and, as I turned the last corner heading away from the river toward the finish chute, I could hear the race announcer saying, "and here comes first time marathoner, Rick Velich, 41, from Temperance and, this run's for you, Cassy!"


I made a right turn up the walk and jogged into the finish chute in around 4:38:00. The race volunteers tore off my race bib info, gave me my medals and a mylar blanket, and I came out of the chute to the congratulatory hugs of my family and friends, and my new friend, Eric, who had graciously hung around after finishing his own race nearly an hour earlier. I think he was still hypothermic as was I after finishing my first marathon. Eric and my friends encouraged me to get inside the hotel and get some food in me, which I gladly did because it was warm and dry and I was exhausted and couldn't stop my uncontrollable shivering. I was now a marathoner. It was a very good day.

Edited 04/15/08 (Happy Tax Filing Deadline Day everyone!) to add the link to my running log notes and race splits times here for anyone interested in seeing the crash and burn finish "on paper". :)

The official race results are also here on this link.

25 comments:

Mar said...

Congrats, Rick. What a terrific race report! The pics are fantastic, too.
What a wonderful accomplishment. I'm sure you're well proud of yourself.

Take care and let us know how that leg is doing!

Rick said...

Thanks, Mar! My inspirational friend. ;-)

I go to the doc tomorrow. We'll see from there.

Mishka said...

Rick,

Nice job again out there, buddy. You said you were hurting, but I had no idea how much. You definitely didn't let on just how tough it was. You have a lot to be proud of. You'll always have this. Good luck on a speedy recovery with that leg.

Joni said...

AWESOME job, Rick!!! I think when I read these race reports from now on, I'm going to grab a box of Kleenex! :o) This one had me in tears too! Just knowing all of the hard work and determination that it took for your training, especially through this MI winter, and all the hours spent on the roads alone is enough to appreciate your accomplishment. But then pair it up with the weather at the race and the problems you faced, it's remarkable.

I was really touched by all of the support you received, especially your wife running up to you when the pain started taking over, encouraging you to go on. And Mishka, the "angel on two wheels". You wrote what I thought! Funny how he appeared at just the right times.

I know that Cassy is proud of you. I hope that she finds strength in you as you found strength in her!

CONGRATULATIONS friend!! You, along with all the others from RA, are such an inspiration. I hope your leg will be alright; let us know how it goes at the dr's.

~Joni~

Mike Fox said...

Rick - All I can say is WOW. What a way to tough it out through the pain and the weather. Unbelievable!

It was great to see so many supporters were there to cheer you on and get you over the finish line. You made all of them proud.

Rest up - and heal up completely so you can run another one in the future :-)

Jim Lange said...

Amazing!

I so wish I could have been there!

Thanks so much for sharing the detais you did. The part about Tammy showing concern and encouragement and running with you brought tears to my eyes! Too cool! But tell Tammy she is making me look like a fool in the office with watery eyes.

I'm very proud of you Ricky! I love you bro!

Jim

Sara said...

Wow! I am so incredibly proud of you right now. That was a seriously tough race, Rick. The weather conditions alone, not to mention the severe leg pain and cramping. I even got a cold chill just looking at you and JK at the start line and how cold it looked! What a great race report! Reading this I felt like I was right there next to you.

I cannot believe you were able to run through that kind of pain...talk about HTFU!! You have been so dedicated and determined in your training. I have been so inspired!

I am so happy for you that you could finish this race in honor of Cassy. You should be so incredibly proud of your accomplishment and determination. Congratulations on becoming a MARATHONER!!!

Kirsten said...

Beautiful...way to HTFU! We're all so proud of you. And now you truly are a marathoner--with official race report and all!

:)

Marcus said...

Great job Rick. Way to hang in there.

Anonymous said...

So proud of you Ricky Joe...stop making us cry!
tami sue

jtj3 said...

Rick I love the last line of your post..."It was a very good day." Gee, ya THINK??? :-D

Congrats again--very nice work, and way to stick with it. Your report was great, and so was your race!

Anonymous said...

Rick,
I'm all teared up reading your report. It sounds like you faced almost every type of obstacle you could possibly imagine and overcame them all. I'm so proud of your race, especially because the thoughts you shared of Cassy and others overcoming challenges really helped get me through my own first marathon. You're a very strong person, and obviously a well-loved one with the size of that cheering squad who was willing to be out there all day for you in those conditions. Thanks for sharing the report, take care of the leg and again, amazing run.

Shaunna

Anonymous said...

Just read your race report - you made me cry again!! We are soo proud of you, Rick!!
Love ya - Mom

Alan said...

Way to go Rick!!! And what a great support crew you had out there. So much love and support- that's awesome.
And you my friend, are awesome. Great job.

Ernie B said...

BY ALL ACCOUNTS YOU WON! GTG

Rick said...

Thank you everyone for the kind comments. This would not have been possible without the encouragement of most of you. Thank you.

Anonymous said...

Way to go Rick! Reading your race report, I was pulling for you every step of the way and even cried along with you at the end. It's so cool you had so much family and friends' support running along side of you. Congrats.
Karen T.

Sherry said...

Oh wow, Rick! After reading your race report I feel like I just ran the entire thing with you... all of the ups and downs, the cold, your pain... your perseverance! I'm thoroughly "wowed" and so very happy for you! I got chills when I got to the part where the announcer proclaimed, "This Run's for you, Cassy!" How awesome is that???

Enjoy your recovery time... and take GOOD care of your leg. I hope that it's nothing too serious.

PS- To my newbie running eyes, your splits were excellent! :o)

Jennifer said...

you are AMAZING! Congrats again and again. An incredible first marathon...thank you so much for being so inpsiring and encouraging. Well done!

Pa Pa Putz said...

You know I not a man of many words (that's why I married mom) but your posting yesterday was quite moving. I know we felt a lot of your pain waiting at the finish line for you. You are truely an insperation to all. You have so much faith, hope and love and it show on Sunday. I am truely proud you are my son.
Love, Dad.............

Rick said...

Thanks, Dad. That means a great deal to me coming from my hero. I love you too!

Mom on the Run said...

I meant to write a couple of days ago. Your race report was awesome and so inspiring. Great job all around.

How has your first week as a marathoner gone? How is the leg?

Anonymous said...

Rick, jlynnbob from RA here. I'll add my congrats to you, a marathoner. Awesome job of capturing the spirit of such an undertaking for others to share, be inspired by, etc. My experiences have prepared me for the tears from reading your report, but not for the comments from your dad. Thanks to the whole family for that...

I am honored to receive mention in your report.

Rest well,

jlynnbob

Zachrich Family said...

Rick,

Congratulations on your accomplishment!

Bob Z.

BadDawg said...

What can I say other than "you failed miserably?" I originally rated your RunningAHEAD report an 11 on a scale of 1 to 10 but I'm afraid I have to downgrade your score to 10.99999999. You failed miserably to convey the miserably miserable misery on the course. Ships have been lost at sea in better conditions.

It's a good thing that Jake's Flying Monkey experience qualifies him as a misery expert, otherwise your internet fans would never know the true extent of your amazing effort. We all owe Quasimodo a tremendous debt of gratitude for painting such a vivid picture of miserably miserable misery.

You've gone beyond inspiring people to be better runners, you inspire people to be better people. You da man.