Tuesday, April 8, 2014

Will Run my PR for Chocolate

It's no secret that I am in love with the City of Detroit. I am also in love with running. Combining the two things means I'm likely to have an amazing day. Last weekend I ran the inaugural Cocoa Classic Half Marathon in Downtown Detroit, and it was amazing. It's one of the most fun races I've run in a really long time. In my 14th half marathon I also finally broke the two-hour mark. It's been the bane of my running existence ever since I set my half marathon PR of 2:02 in 2012. 

I will start with probably the only negative thing to mention about the Cocoa Classic - packet pick-up. It was terrible. First off it was in Birmingham which, for those of you playing at home, is not downtown Detroit. It was inconvenient to get there, and pick-up was outside on a sidewalk. I also had to deal with two kids fighting over who wanted to give me my swag (a hoodie and a knit hat which are great). I have about zero tolerance for teenagers in general. I want to get my stuff and go. I also had a few questions that the teenagers shockingly couldn't answer. I will admit packet pick-up made me wary about what the race would entail. Thankfully it was not indicative of the rest of the race.

On Saturday morning we headed to downtown Detroit early. It didn't have a ton of participants, and it was actually quite nice. It was the first time ever before a half marathon that I didn't have to wait in line for a bathroom. It was amazing (those of you who have stood in line at a porta potty for 15 minutes or more feel me). It was still dark when we arrived, and the morning light around the gorgeous buildings in one of my favorite cities was inspiring. I felt motivated by the city and knew it would be a great run.

The course started at the intersection of Fort and First Streets. I have this really bad habit of feeling great at the beginning and running way faster than the pacer. Then, inevitably, the two-hour pacer passes me around mile ten, and I miss my goal again. On this beautiful morning I decided that I would stay with the pace group no matter what. It was hard because I felt like I could've gone way faster at first, but I pulled back and stuck with the plan.

At the start
We ran along the beautiful Detroit riverfront and down Jefferson Avenue to Belle Isle Park. Belle Isle is a gorgeous island on the Detroit River that is now being leased by the State of Michigan to be a state park. It's a beautiful, nearly thousand-acre gem in downtown. The sun was shining, and the park was stunning. The last time I ran through Belle Isle was miles 19-22 of the Detroit Marathon in 2010, and I can say emphatically that it wasn't nearly as enjoyable. The challenge with Belle Isle is its isolation, and there were very few spectators on the course (the same was true with the Detroit Marathon). Regardless the scenery was worth it. 

The course headed back through the lovely Lafayette Park neighborhood. Our two-hour pacing pack grew smaller as we headed toward the finish. The lack of spectators on the course made the ones we did see even more important. The two awesome gentlemen at mile 11 water stop were loud and cheering, and it pushed me even harder.  As we ran down the last stretch of Lafayette Blvd within about a half a mile to the finish, my awesome pacer asked how I was doing. I was breathing hard, and my legs were screaming, but I knew I was going to reach my goal. I rounded the corner onto Third Street and broke into a sprint. I was smiling and also trying not to cry because I knew I had done it. I crossed the line and turned around to give the pacer a huge hug. Who knew the 14th time would be the charm? It felt amazing. I ran my last half marathon (and fastest of 2013) in 2:09:38. My half marathon PR in the 2012 Lansing Marathon was 2:02:04. I ran this one in 1:58:59, more than three minutes faster.

Sprinting focused to the finish

Nearly dancing with excitement across the line

I was elated as I took my medal (take note on the medal Papa John's 10-miler). I hugged my husband and high-fived the rest of my cheering section before heading to the recovery area for chocolate treats (including hot cocoa in a great reusable cup with the race logo). Downtown Detroit was alive with people and energy, and it helped propel me to my fastest half marathon ever.

Following the race we headed to The Hudson Cafe for brunch with a group of friends. I had the best huevos rancheros I've had north of Texas. If you understand my snobbery for Mexican food north of the Lone Star State you will realize what a compliment this is. It was delicious and perfect refueling for a long run. Then we headed to see a friend's new house in Detroit's incomparable Indian Village neighborhood. It was a perfect morning.

I am so glad that I broke my PR in this particular race. Detroit is a city with endless possibility. Each time I go there I'm inspired by the amazing things happening. I was getting tired of running half marathons with this mental block at the two-hour mark. The energy in Detroit is exhilarating, and it helped me push in a way I haven't before. I love running, but part of the joy of running is experiencing places in a unique way. Thank you, Detroit, for the inspiration you give me as someone who loves cities, and thank you for your infectious enthusiasm that helped carry me to a new level in my running.  I look forward to the continuation of our scorching love affair.

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