Thursday, February 5

FCF is off to the races!

In addition to covering the professional and occasionally collegiate athletics happening in and around Cleveland and Ohio, some of the members of Forest City Fanatics also participate actively in local racing events. JHH completed a marathon a couple of years ago; Nick and Andy are both avid runners and triathletes (in addition to Andy's myriad of other sporting endeavors), and I've only met Figgs like three times and have no idea what he does for fitness.

As I was running around Cleveland during a recent snowy evening, I was excited by thinking of the opportunites the local 2009 race calendar affords, so I thought I'd offer a simultaneous look back at a productive year of racing as well as a look ahead to warmer, happier times. I've provided links to race home pages throughout, as well as to articles I've written about select races and results from ones I've completed. My name is Andy Francis, if you're looking to verify any of my past finishes.

An organization here in Cleveland called Hermes organizes a number of quality events for denizens of Northeast Ohio; in addition to hosting frequent road races, they also oversee the local Corporate Challenge (Andy's heroics from last year are described here, here, and here) and a Sports and Social Club.

Anyway, their 2009 race season kicks off on February 7 with the Tackle the Tower event, where participants head downtown to climb the 37 floors (646 stairs) of the Tower at Erieview. A prior engagement is keeping me out of this event, though it seems like a fun, creative way to hold a race when there's a ton of snow and ice on the ground..

One of Hermes' major events, and the place where I expect to start my 2009 campaign, is the Hermes 10 Miler, held on April 25 and taking place right along the lake. Their tagline is "run like a god," which I fully intend to do except for the fact that I will actually exist. I consider myself a middle-distance runner; anywhere from 10K to half-marathon is my sweet spot. I don't do enough speedwork to perform great at shorter distances, and anything above a half-marathon I'm just trying to finish. Speaking of which, 10 miles should slot nicely into my training schedule this year because of the...

Rite Aid Cleveland Marathon. That's right, Nick and Andy are stepping up to the plate and tackling the full 26.2 this year on May 17. I ran the race in 2005 and finished it in 4:07:43 and found it to be a great experience. Now it's time to prove that my finish was no fluke. Nick will be looking to join the illustrious ranks of Andy and JHH as marathon finishers as well. Considering the fact that my apartment basically borders the Start/Finish line (pre-race announcements woke me up last year and reminded me that I needed to go downstairs to volunteer), we'll have a great location from which to depart for the big race. I'm fully confident that only an injury can keep me from the finish line in the 2009 race. Bring it on, Cleveland!

Prior to that, if I get really ambitious (read: foolish) there's the option of taking on the Cincinnati Flying Pig Marathon, to be held on May 3. It's bigger and goofier than Cleveland, but I'm not sure I'm up for two marathons in three weeks. We'll just have to see.

After that, my calendar is suspiciously quiet for a while. I realized that last year I didn't participate in my first race until early August, although I went on to finish seven before the year ended. This year I'll have to search out events to break up the training monotony during the summer. One possibility is the First Town Days 5K, held in my hometown of New Philadelphia, OH. I've completed four of these races, I think, each taking place the Saturday of 4th of July weekend in scenic Tuscora Park. Here I should point out that I'm bent on defeating my now almost-10-year-old 5K personal record (PR) of 21:50, which is totally lame, was set in my first ever race, and is really annoying me. However, the FTD race isn't an optimal time to best my mark, because the course is hilly and I inevitably end up entering it with some degree of a hangover. If someone has a nice flat 5K on a non-party weekend in mind, I'm all ears.

Next up on the calendar is my first scheduled triathlon of the season, the Pittsburgh Triathlon and Adventure Race, held July 29, in my second hometown of Pittsburgh, PA. Triathlon season typically starts later in the year, at least in the Midwest, so as to give the water a chance to warm up. Last year was my first season triathloning, and I did three, all at the sprint distance (approximately 750 m swimming, 20 km biking, and 5 km running). This year I plan to execute my first Olympic (aka International) tri in Pittsburgh; this length is simply double all the sprint distances. After spending all my triathlons so far swimming in Lake Erie, it will be interesting to test the waters of the Allegheny River.

After making my 2009 triathlon debut in the Steel City, it's time to come home to C-town for the big one, the Super Bowl of my racing calendar, the event that keeps me motivated to run in the cold and lift weights while I'm bored: The Cleveland Triathlon. Held August 2 in the North Coast Harbor, Cleveland Memorial Shoreway, and streets of downtown, this is the marquee event of the year as far as I'm concerned. Nick and I both entered our first tris last year in Cleveland and each notched 2nd place finishes in our age groups.. I don't necessarily expect to take the top spot this year - I'm really not that good - but I definitely can knock down my time from last year. I'm excited just thinking about the Cleveland Tri. Hopefully we do a better job of reading the race instructions this year so we can avoid pre-race scrambling.

Following last year's effort, I also entered the Lorain Triathlon and posted a decent effort. For some bizarre reason, the whole week before the race, I had this pain in my side, like one of those sidesplitters you get when you try to run too far after eating a lot. Really, really weird and not fun. It was on the decline when I did the race, but still annoying. Independent of those medical woes, I may or may not enter Lorain this year.

Next up is the Presque Isle Triathlon, held in Nick's residence of Erie, PA. Nick and I both completed this last year, despite some dismal conditions. First off, on our way out the door we discovered that Nick's bike had an irreparable flat, so we scrambled to find a replacement cycle and ended up showing up late. Luckily, a hurricane was apparently hitting Erie at the time, so I got to park in a big pool of mud and we got to stand on the beach freezing until they put us in the water...then dragged us back out to count and tossed us back in. Other than that it was great. Tough field, though - I felt good about my race, plus it had proportionally less swimming and more running (my best event) than standard distances, but somehow I couldn't do any better than 97th. Wow. PI is a maybe for me in 2009.

A few weeks later, we have my big 10K weekend. Last year I entered a crack squad from work in the Road Runner Akron Marathon on Saturday (my leg, the third, was 10K of the total), drove to Pittsburgh, and the next day finished my sixth career Great Race, a name which I find entirely apt for my favorite road race.

Akron has garnered popularity and a lot of good press over the past few years, and deservedly so: nice course, good weather, very well-organized, neat finish. In this, my second Akron relay (I led off with a 10K in 2006) I took my 5-man team (Project Exodus) into battle, and we earned 30th place out of 853 all-dude teams. The effort was spearheaded by my own 44:01 in leg 2, by far my PR for the 10K distance. Score! After the race, your bib entitles you to three free beers, and, this is important so pay attention, you can have all three at once. Score! So, expecting my team to finish shortly, I grabbed my three, grabbed a field box seat in Canal Park, and watched really fast marathoners and really slow half-marathoners cross the finish line. I'd like to maybe do half or all of Akron on September 26, but at the same time I like my relay team, so maybe I'll see if I can get anonther 10K slot. Wait, I'm the captain, I can have whatever slot I want. Score!

Then I sobered up and jetted to Pittsburgh for the Great Race the very next day. This was my first-ever 10K way back in 2000, where I lived along the course and my drunk (at 9:15 am) roommates made me stop for a beer before I could advance. Good times. Like Akron, the weather for the Great Race is just right, and Pittsburgh is a fun downhill course that takes me by a lot of places I remember fondly from my nine-year stint in the 'Burgh. Nick and I both participated, despite a questionable evening prior to the race filled with beer, Nintendo, and not much sleep. Undaunted by either that particular training regimen or my effort at Akron, I handily set my course record, kicking out a 44:37 that fell just short of the previous day's mark. Nick and I then proceeded to watch the Browns with our old friends at the Pittsburgh Browns Backers and enjoyed a rare Cleveland win. Nice. Let's hope things work out this well on September 27 this year.

Emboldened by my 10K success and looking for a new challenge, I entered the Towpath Marathon, held along the towpath in the greater Cleveland area. This was a lot more rural than the races I usually do, and I really enjoyed running on a trail through the forest. I entered the Half Marathon distance despite a serious lack of long-distance training, and absolutely destroyed my PR, posting a 1:39:44. I rank this as the best race of my career. Consider that I ran at an average 7:37 mile pace and that my previous half-marathon in 2005 was a 1:53:57, or 8:42 per mile. Hell, I don't always even break a 7:37 pace on a 5K! OK, I usually do, but I've never gotten it under 7:00. I'd definitely like to return to the Towpath on October 11, either for 13.1 or 26.2.

I wrapped up my 2008 campaign at the Pigskin Classic, a football-themed race held in downtown Cleveland the day of the OSU-michigan "game." I put up a pedestrian 22:23, but ended up with a boss OSU shirt and had plenty of time later to enjoy watching the Buckeyes pound michigan once again.

Overall, a really fun and productive 2008 racing season, and I'm definitely looking forward to more action in 2009. If you're an FCF reader and run in the area, feel free to check us out or make some suggestions as to possible races.

1 comment:

Milkey said...

Nick and I both entered our first tris last year in Cleveland

I entered my first tri sophomore year in college.

I finished and think both girls did, but guess they could have been faking.