Tuesday, May 23, 2017

2017 Cleveland Half Marathon Race Report

My most recent pacing gig was on Sunday at the Cleveland Marathon, where I paced the 3:00 group for the half marathon. This was my first time running this race, but probably not my last. I had a great time and would be interested in pacing again next year, and/or running the full marathon.

Medal selfie

I drove up to Cleveland on Saturday afternoon and checked into the Hilton, which was walking distance to everything I needed in downtown Cleveland. The Hilton was connected to the Convention Center where the race expo was held, so I went there first to collect my race packet and pacer gear. After a quick tour of the expo, I headed a few blocks away to taste some local brews at Masthead Brewing Company. I enjoyed the beer (good stuff) and wanted to try their pizza, but I saved my appetite. As a pacer, I got a free ticket to the marathon's official pasta dinner held at the Hyatt. I sat with fellow pacers Tom, Kim and Chase. Then we all went back to the Hilton for pre-race pacer party.

Panoramic view from hotel room
Seen on the sidewalk on my walk to the brewery
Pace team leader Kara did a great job with the beer exchange/milk & cookies party. Several members of the large pace team showed up to socialize before the race. Some ate cookies, others drank beer. We were encouraged to bring a six-pack from our home city to trade, and not necessarily drink it all at the party.

Kara speaking at the pacer party

Pacers at the party

On race morning my roommate Heather and I woke up at 5:00 AM. We had to meet the other pacers at the starting line between 6:00-6:15 AM for a photo. The forecast had been for storms, but it was dry on our walk to the start, though quite windy. In the start corrals we had some sun, so we were hoping that it would stay dry, at least for the half marathon. The start was alongside the "Q" (Quicken Loans Arena), where the Cleveland Cavaliers play. I was the last official pacer at the 3:00 half, with no counterparts doing the 6:00 marathon. I seeded myself behind the other pace teams, which put me starting in the walkers corral. Unfortunately, that meant that I'd be dodging walkers for quite a while. I took several pre-race pics since I wouldn't be able to take them during the race as a pacer.

Pre-race with pacers getting ready
Pre-race with Chase
Pre-race with Kara, our fearless pace team leader
Pre-race with Heather
The direction we ran at the start
Pre-race with Karen before her full marathon

I crossed the starting mat about eight minutes after gun time. The pack was pretty crowded, especially with walkers. I began my 2.5 minute run/1 minute walk intervals from the beginning. I had several half marathon runners and some 10K runners with me. We settled into a consistent pace. The first few miles were in the downtown area and we ran past or close to landmarks such as the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame and FirstEnergy Stadium where the Cleveland Browns play. We had a couple short hills early on, and then a big one on Columbus Road, which included a bridge over the river. This was a tough hill for my runners, so I switched to a strategy of running 30 seconds, walking 30 seconds, repeat. They needed to walk more, but I couldn't afford to walk the entire hill or I'd be way behind pace. Most of my crew made it up the hill just fine, but then they were zapped and I lost a few of them. And shortly thereafter, the 10K runners split off. The hill did put me a little behind on pace, but not much, so it was possible to regain the loss gradually over the second half of the race.

Here I am starting out, bright yellow shirt on the left

In the second half I picked up some new runners, and we were passing a lot of other runners who had started too fast and then slowed down. The weather was still good, or at least it felt good to me. We went from partial sun to overcast, and there was some humidity, of course, but not that I really noticed running at my pace. The full marathoners split off just before Mile 11, and that's about when the rain came. At first, it was just a light sprinkle. We had one last bridge in the final half mile of the race, but it wasn't as long as the hill on Columbus. The rain picked up a little more, but it wasn't very heavy. My sole survivor in the 3:00 pace group was Julie, a first-timer who did a great job sticking with me the entire race. I told her that if she had the energy, she should feel free to have a good finish, and she did. Julie pulled ahead of me on the hill, ran faster down it, and probably finished about a minute before me. I had to slow down because I had gained my lost time back, and then some. I walked it in to the finish.

Kara captured this pic of my finish

Kara was there waiting for me to turn in my pacing sign. Julie was there too, and I gave her a big hug and congratulated her on her first half marathon finish. The rain picked up a little more as I collected my medal and post race refreshments. There were bottles of water, cups of Powerade, bananas, cereal bars, pretzels and chocolate milk. More important to me was the beer garden, so I headed over there to get my post-race beer from Great Lakes; there were three to choose from. There were also Bloody Marys with Tito's vodka. The sky opened up and it started pouring as I grabbed my beer. I took shelter under an awning in the beer garden.

Beer and medal pic while taking cover under the Tito's Vodka trailer awning 

After the rain lightened up I decided to head back to the hotel to shower and check out. I said goodbye to my roommate Heather and then headed out to meet up with Karen at Willoughby Brewing Company. Karen ran the marathon and got rained on for 10 miles. We half marathoners lucked out.

This was a good race. Well-organized, good course, nice swag, and great community support. On the half marathon course there were at least two unofficial water stations, several spectators handing out food, and one big unofficial beer station, though someone said there were at least two. Most official aid stations had both water and Powerade. One aid station on the half marathon course had Honey Stinger gels.

As a pacer, this was a good race to run. Kara took care of everything for us. Great pre-race communications, fun pre-race party, and she took lots of great pics. The Cleveland Marathon and Hyland Software did a great job sponsoring us. We got the usual pacer shirt, and also hats and calf compression sleeves. There were pace wrist bands for us and for our runners. The pace signs had nice handles that were easy to hold. We were invited to the pasta party, and out-of-towners got to stay at the Hilton. Locals got parking passes. Absolutely nothing was overlooked in making this a hassle-free and fun experience for the pacers. Thank you, Cleveland Marathon, and thank you Kara Kelly!

Thursday, May 11, 2017

Cinco de Mayo 5K on a Rainy Day

Last Friday was Cinco de Mayo and I celebrated by running the low-key Cinco de Mayo 5K here in Columbus. The race was run on the Scioto Greenway Trail, a multi-use, paved bike and running path along the Scioto River. It started and finished near Woodlands Backyard, a bar I had never been to, and had a little trouble finding because it was set back off the street behind a gas station. Good thing I gave myself plenty of time to get there and find parking.

The participant shirt and finisher pint glass

We picked up our packets inside and runners hung out there while waiting for the race to start. It was raining outside, so we wanted to stay dry as long as possible. Finally, it was time to walk to the trail. The course was an out and back, first upriver, and then returning downriver on the trail. It's a good thing it was a small race, because the trail would have been too crowded with many more runners and walkers. I seeded myself in the middle of the pack and set out at a decent pace. I really didn't have a time goal, but I wanted to have a decent race, and get inside from the chilly rain.

At the start

I passed several people in the first mile even though I was doing run/walk intervals. I have turned into a big believer of scheduled walk breaks. Since I've become more consistent in using them, I've been able to run faster on the run intervals and improve my overall mile pace. There were a couple other runners that I played leapfrog with, but otherwise, I was mostly on my own and few people passed me. A glance at my watch at Mile 2 told me that I was very close to having a sub-30 5K. I wouldn't PR, but I could have my fastest 5K in years. Unfortunately, the hills on the way back slowed me down a little bit. I finished in under 31 minutes. My PR is within reach though, and I think I'll be able to break it this summer or early fall with a little more speed training.

I took one photo while on a walk break; this runner and I kept passing each other
The course

After the race we were each given a Cinco de Mayo 5K pint glass and a drink ticket for a Miller Lite back at the bar. I was cold and wet drinking my Miller Lite. Part of me wanted to stick around and have a second, better, beer. But the cold part of me decided to go home so I could shower and get into warm, dry clothes.

Cinco de Mayo celebratory beer

This race, though not a new record, affirmed that my recent speed work and better quality training are paying off. I am getting faster. I will be able to earn some PRs later this year. Even the cold, rainy weather couldn't but a damper on those thoughts.

Tuesday, May 9, 2017

2017 Pro Football Hall of Fame Half Marathon Race Report

I registered for the Pro Football Hall of Fame Marathon months ago when they had a special rate of $26.20. Several friends did the same. This is one of Ohio's relatively new marathons, and I thought it would be fun since I'd never been to Canton.

Time to hang another medal on the racks; this one was shaped like an NFL ticket

The day before the race I ran the Capital City Quarter Marathon in Columbus (blog here). After that race, I went home, got some food and a shower and prepared for my drive to Canton, just over a two hour drive away. I went straight to the race expo and picked up packets for myself and Abbi. I had some time to wait for Jody to arrive so we could check into the hotel that she booked. I spent this time at the Canton Brewing Company. I ordered a beer flight and some pretzel sticks with beer cheese dip (really good). Later, we had a small gathering of Marathon Maniacs and Half Fanatics for a pre-race dinner. Abbi drove up from Louisville with her Airstream trailer and her son Kai.

I liked the beer and the food at Canton Brewing Company
Pre-race dinner at the brewery

The forecast for this race was originally thunderstorms, but the storm moved through Ohio sooner than expected and the new forecast was for sun and heat. Everyone was hoping for cooler temperatures, but that wasn't going to happen. Jody and I left the hotel separately, as I had pre-paid for VIP parking within walking distance of the start and finish area. She was going to park at the fairgrounds and take the shuttle with most of the other runners. I got to the start area before Jody and Abbi and found other Maniacs for a pre-race photo. Apparently there were multiple photo ops and they all had slightly different groupings of Maniacs and Half Fanatics.

One grouping of Marathon Maniacs and Half Fanatics

I wasn't feeling great before the race started. I'd had a migraine for most of the previous day and it wasn't completely gone on race morning. On top of that, my tummy wasn't feeling well. I was not sure I'd do well in the heat. But I was going to start the race and see what happened.

Pre-race with Drew 
Pre-race with Sid and Letty
Pre-race with Jody and Abbi

We set out for loop one of the two-loop course. The first loop went sort of counter-clockwise and would be the only loop for the half marathoners. The full marathoners would turn around and do their second loop clockwise. I liked this approach. Even though the course was on the same roads both loops, the views would be slightly different, and you'd get to see other runners passing by in the opposite lanes.

I enjoyed most of the course. We went through some interesting neighborhoods and parks, and past the McKinley Presidential Library. Several runners took time out to run up and down the steps to the library. I kept going after taking a quick photo.

The McKinley library

My goal for the race wasn't terribly ambitious. I wanted to do a 5:30 marathon, and on a cooler day when I wasn't feeling sick, I think I would have made it. As it was, I started feeling worse by Mile 6. I had some goosebumps and chills, which is never a good sign on a hot day. I was adequately hydrated and fueled, so I don't know what was wrong. I'm sure my head and tummy troubles didn't help. I decided that if those feelings kept up, I would turn in after the first loop. It didn't matter if I didn't get an official finish. It was more important to listen to my body.

As best I could, I enjoyed the remaining miles. I was too hot though, and I spent more time walking than I wanted to. When the faster marathoners started coming by on their second loop, I enjoyed seeing my friends, giving high-fives and encouragement. Abbi was kicking butt (and in fact earned a new PR at this race). I also saw Aaron, Drew, Jody and Letty, to name a few.

This must have been taken toward the end when I was walking a lot

I was so relieved to stop at the half. Before taking a medal, I explained that I had dropped from the full marathon. They said there were plenty of extra half marathon medals and it was OK for me to take one. And in fact, the race organizers decided to ease up on the time limit because they didn't want runners overdoing it in the heat. It got up to 86F degrees before everyone finished. That's hot. They were very understanding about runners dropping from the full to the half marathon. When I checked my results, they had already moved me into the half marathon category without my asking. I already had multiple marathon and half marathon finishes in Ohio, and I wasn't working on a PR race, so it didn't matter to me how they managed the results. I give them credit for taking care of the runners.

At the finish I also collected my finisher fleece blanket - not that we needed it on that day! Then I ran into Half Fanatic Jonathan from the previous night's dinner, and Deanna from my running club. Jonathan and I hung out for a while and grabbed some post race eats while we waited for others to finish. He was waiting on Randy, who was going slowly pacing a runner who was having a bad day. I had promised Abbi and Jody that I'd wait until they finished.

Finish pic with Deanna

I made my way back to the finish line in order to see several friends finish the full marathon: Jen, Drew, and Abbi with her new PR. Abbi had to leave before Jody finished. Jody and I waited a while for Letty to finish before heading out.

Jody finishing
Letty finishing

This was a nice race, but I think they could have done more things to deal with the heat. I know the forecast was originally for lower temps with rain, but a contingency plan could have been in place to supply ice at the aid stations, and maybe wet sponges and hoses for keeping cool. Otherwise, the race was well managed. Perks included admission to the Pro Football Hall of Fame on either Saturday or Sunday of race weekend. However, I didn't go. Maybe next time.

Friday, May 5, 2017

2017 Capital City Quarter Marathon Race Report

On Saturday I ran the Capital City Quarter Marathon at home in Columbus, Ohio. This event also has a half marathon, which I ran last year (blog post here) and a 5K. I chose to run the quarter marathon for a couple reasons: first, it would be a new distance for me, and second, I was scheduled to run a marathon the following day, so I thought I'd take it easy.

Quarter Marathon success!

The race expo was held at a much smaller venue than last year. It was in the Brewery District, where parking was a challenge. I went to the expo on Thursday evening because part of the Short North Running Club's route was just a couple blocks away. I would adjust the route in order to run to the expo and then back to the club's start/finish location Pin Mechanical. It was a good run through downtown Columbus. I arrived at the expo out of breath and sweaty and quickly grabbed my bib and shirt, only to find out that I couldn't get the drawstring backpack that I was expecting. They didn't run out of bags, but the stock of them was misplaced, or locked up and the person with the key wasn't around. I begged the Fleet Feet booth for a plastic bag just to have something to carry my race kit while I ran the two miles back to my car near Pin Mechanical. This was a minor inconvenience (I was able to get my bag on race morning). I can't say I liked the smaller, harder to get to expo, and other friends said that it was very crowded at peak times. The shirt was a cotton blend shirt which I didn't like as well as last year's nice tech tee.

Race morning  came early on Saturday. My primary running club (Columbus Westside Running Club (CWRC)) had a tent at the festival area at Columbus Commons, so we got our own private gear check and a place to gather before and after the race. We met up early and got some pre-race pics. We had club members registered for all three distances.

The stage in Columbus Commons before the race; note the weather radar on the right screen
Columbus Westside Running Club tent
Columbus Westside Running Club runners and walkers pre-race
The weather forecast called for thunderstorms, and it sprinkled a little bit before the start, but it was dry as we headed to our corrals. I had a time goal for this race, unlike my other recent races where the goal was simply to finish. I'm working on getting faster to earn some PRs later this year, and some of my shorter training runs have gone faster than expected. So I set a goal for this quarter marathon. It was going to be a PR no matter what, because it was my first time running this distance. My goal was achievable, but only if I stuck with my planned run/walk intervals and pushed myself a little.

Start corral 
I thought these pace signs should have had the advertisement a little smaller and the pace time a lot larger!

This race hosted the USATF half marathon championships, so we had to wait for the elite runners to set off before the regular corrals were released one by one. I was in corral E, in the middle of the pack. We headed north on Front Street, half and quarter marathoners together (the 5K started later).

I did a great job pacing myself and felt good. My effort was not easy, but it was doable. I maintained consistency with my walk breaks, never walking more except at aid stations. I even skipped or shortened some of the walk breaks on downhill segments. I didn't stop and take any pictures, so I'm sure that also helped with my pacing. The quarter marathon course split from the half marathon in Victorian Village and then met up with the half marathoners again in the Short North. The route was a nice tour of the central and downtown areas. We quarter marathoners missed out on Ohio State campus and German Village, but that was OK since I'd run that route last year.

Late in my race it started raining lightly, but not enough to cause any issues. I felt good the entire way and was excited to be running the home stretch up High Street. Looking at my watch, I knew I would beat my time goal. In fact, I beat it by more than two minutes!

I got my medal, which was smaller than last year's medal (and classier, I think). I grabbed some post-race food and a photo and then made my way back to the festival area. This race gives each runner a ticket for a Coors Light, a Patrón Margarita, and a sparkling wine. That's a lot of drinks for one runner after running just 6.55 miles. I was driving home, so I would only have one drink. I chose the margarita and then headed back to the CWRC tent. It was now raining a little more steadily, so we huddled under the tent and shared stories of finishing our races. The 5K runners were all in, the quarter marathoners were trickling in, and the very fastest of our half marathoners came in.

With my Patrón margarita, a much better option than the Coors Light 

While hanging out in the tent, race officials announced that severe weather was imminent and they were shutting down the party, as well as rerouting the half marathoners to the quarter marathon course. It was raining steady, but we hadn't seen thunder and lightning yet, so some of us wondered if this was overreacting. Club members who were shortened on the half marathon course started showing up and we stood around discussing the decision and the weather. Runners who had a time goal in the half marathon weren't able to meet their goal because of the reroute. This included most of the half marathon runners, even the fairly fast ones. I felt bad for them.

CWRC members after the race; I've earned my club shirt but have not yet taken delivery; hope to wear it at a local race soon!

After finishing my margarita I needed to leave because I had to travel for another race the following day. As I pulled out of the parking garage, the real storm began, complete with heavier rain, thunder and lightning. I was on the interstate with very little visibility, and there was flash flooding. I chose to take an early exit and drive on side streets where traffic would be lighter, or at least I could pull over if I needed to. Sullivant Avenue was flooded along the curb, so I drove in the middle. And then the road was so heavily flooded; it looked like 10 inches of water blocking the road. I saw some drivers continue, but there was no way I was driving through that. I chose a less-flooded parallel road and took that for a few miles. When I finally got home, my street was flooded too. The sidewalk was completely under water.

What a crazy morning! I can't believe how well I did in beating my goal time. This bodes well for my upcoming training and PR attempts. I believe the race officials made the right decision in calling the race, but I still feel bad for all those runners who didn't get to finish. I would still recommend this race. It's well-organized and a great tour of Columbus, no matter which distance you run.

Wednesday, May 3, 2017

I'm a Full Member of the Marathon Globetrotters!

I met my first running goal of 2017. I ran marathons in two new countries (Italy and France), for a total of 10 country marathon finishes. This earned me full membership in the Marathon Globetrotters, with voting privileges. I've been working on this since 2014 when the club was new and my marathon friend David encouraged me to add some Caribbean island marathons to my calendar to get to provisional membership in the club (5 countries). I earned that status at the club's first annual reunion in Nassau, Bahamas.

My 10 marathon country medals in chronological order

It was a fun goal for me, as I love traveling to new places to run marathons, and I love visiting new countries. The Marathon Globetrotters supports both of these passions, and puts me in touch with like-minded runners from around the world. Here's a recap of my Marathon Globetrotters journey, with links to my individual race reports in case you want to learn more:

Country 1: United States
Marathon: 2005 Mardi Gras Marathon - New Orleans, Louisiana
Summary: Even my first marathon was a destination marathon. I ran through a charity program with a  structured training plan and weekly group long runs. I never would have set out to run a marathon without a group, and I found that I enjoyed running. I raised thousands of dollars for the National AIDS Marathon Training Program (which is no longer in existence). I also found that I could run a marathon, even though it was slow and I had to fight through some injuries. And New Orleans was quite a place to celebrate finishing a first marathon!

Country 2: Ireland
Marathon: 2005 Dublin Marathon - Dublin
Summary: My second ever marathon was also my second marathon country. I trained again with the National AIDS Marathon Training Program and raised thousands more for the charity. Dublin was a fun marathon, and I was no longer a beginner and no longer injured, so I took more than an hour off of my previous time for a new marathon PR. My training partners and I took a road trip around Ireland after the race. Tons of fun!

Country 3: Scotland
Marathon: 2014 Loch Ness Marathon - Inverness
Summary: It took a while for me to get out there for my third country marathon as I was busy running around the US. Scot and I traveled to Scotland to run the marathon, visit friends, and explore the country of his childhood. This was a tough marathon with lots of hills, but it was beautiful, and I loved running in Scotland.

Country 4: Cayman Islands
Marathon: 2014 Cayman Islands Marathon - George Town, Grand Cayman
Summary: This was the first marathon I ran after deciding to go for Marathon Globetrotters membership. I didn't know many runners there except David, but I really enjoyed this marathon. In spite of the oppressive heat, I thought it was scenic, well managed, and the spectators and volunteers were awesome.

Country 5: Bahamas
Marathon: 2015 Marathon Bahamas - Nassau
Summary: This was the first annual meeting and reunion of the Marathon Globetrotters, and I qualified for my provisional membership at this event. I traveled with friends Rachael and Abbi and saw lots of other running friends there. This was another hot, hot, hot race, but most of it ran along the ocean, so that was some relief.

In Marathon Globetrotters gear at Maratona di Roma

Country 6: Germany
Marathon: 2015 Berlin Marathon - Berlin
Summary: This was my second of the World Marathon Majors and my first international back-to-back marathons. Scot and I made a 10 day holiday of this trip by running Germany on one weekend and Jersey on the following weekend. I liked the marathon a lot. It's a fast course, but I wasn't trained for fast, so I just took it all in. The finish, running through the Brandenburg Gate, was iconic. The funny thing? They serve non-alcoholic beer to runners after the race. In Germany. During Oktoberfest. Go figure!

Country 7: Jersey
Marathon: 2015 Jersey Marathon - St. Helier
Summary: This is the English Channel Island of Jersey, not the US state of New Jersey! While it's part of the British Commonwealth, it has political independence, and counts as a country by Marathon Globetrotters standards. This was the club's second annual meeting and reunion. After Germany the previous week, we spent some time in England and then flew over to Jersey for the marathon. It was a smaller event, but very nice. Pretty scenery and wonderful post-race party where they had good food (beet burgers for the vegetarians) and beer or cider. I enjoyed seeing many of my friends at this race.

Country 8: Canada
Marathon: 2016 Ottawa Marathon - Ottawa
Summary: It's hard to believe it took me this long to run a marathon in Canada. This was a good one. I traveled with Scot and met our friend Angela in Ottawa. It is such a pretty city with historical buildings and beautiful public spaces. The marathon was on a hot weekend and, unfortunately, the race officials had to call the race early and re-route some of the back-of-the-pack runners. Fortunately, all three of us were able to finish the full course. This race has a weekend full of races of varying distances, so there is something for everyone. I highly recommend it.

Country 9: Italy
Marathon: 2017 Maratona di Roma - Rome
Summary: This was the start of my second international back-to-back marathon adventure. Although I knew a few people running Rome, this was a solo adventure for me. Having been to Rome before, I felt very comfortable there. I thoroughly enjoyed my marathon, starting and finishing near the Coliseum, and running past classic Roman landmarks. Even though there were thunderstorms and it rained for much of the marathon, I had fun and enjoyed meeting a new friend, Diane.

Country 10: France
Marathon: 2017 Marathon de Paris - Paris
Summary: After Rome, I spent a few days in Belgium and then met up with friends Abbi and Kristen in Paris. We drank lots of wine and ate lots of croissants and baguettes (they really are better over there). This is one of the largest marathons in the world, but it was very well executed. It got hot during the race, and my time was a little slower than in Rome, but I enjoyed most parts of this race. And...I knew that a solid finish would earn me full membership in the Marathon Globetrotters.

My One Flag (10 countries) certificate

Not all of my international marathon attempts went so well. I had two marathon DNFs (did not finish) before I finally earned my ten countries. There was the 2016 Tokyo Marathon in which I was sick and going slow. I thought I had time to take it easy, but I misunderstood how the time limits worked and was pulled from the course near mile 18. That was heartbreaking because I could have done better and finished the race if I had only been better informed. Then there was the 2016 Mexico City Marathon in which I was also sick (this time the probable cause was the altitude). In Mexico I chose to start the marathon even though I knew I wouldn't be able to finish that day. I wanted to feel part of it, so I ran the first 5K, dropping out when I reached my hotel on the course. That time it was my choice to drop, and it was the right one, but knowing that doesn't make me less sad for this missed opportunity. Now, I'm training harder and taking better care of myself so I can prevent issues like those in Tokyo and Mexico City.

So, that's the story of how I became first a provisional member of the Marathon Globetrotters, and finally a full, voting member. I have to acknowledge that I'm very lucky to have had these opportunities. I'm also humble because I know runners who have finished marathons in eight, nine and ten times as many countries! I have a while to go to get to the 2nd Flag level (20 countries) of Marathon Globetrotters, and it's possible that I'll never get there. But one thing is certain: I will continue to plan marathon adventures in new countries as long as I am physically and financially able...and I will enjoy every step of the journey.

Tuesday, April 25, 2017

Pacing the 2017 Martian Half Marathon

When my friend Ruth said that the Martian Half Marathon would be her come-back race after a break from the distance running circuit, I decided to join her. It was a bonus that I was able to join the pace team as the 3:00 pacer. I had heard good things about this race in Dearborn, Michigan, and it was only a 3.5 hour drive for me.

Yes, I wore that hat during the race

I drove up to Michigan on Friday afternoon and went straight to Ruth's house. Then we drove to the expo. It was a smallish expo with a lot of booths representing other local races. There was some gear for sale too. After the expo we went for dinner with Ruth's daughter Sarah at the Michigan Beer Company. They had great food and we could order flights of various Michigan brews.

Selfie with Ruth and an alien at the expo; they had inflatable aliens everywhere 
The expo 

The next morning we needed to leave Ruth's place at 7:20 AM. It was nice that we didn't need to get up super early. The Martian Marathon started at 7:15, but the half marathon didn't start until 8:45. And in between those two start times, there was a 5K and a 10K race. Some people did a challenge by running both the 5K and the half marathon in the same morning.

I picked up my pace sign and then Ruth and I found some Half Fanatics. We got a group photo with the Half Fanatics that we saw. The weather was slightly cool and sunny. It was going to be a perfect day for running a half marathon.

Pacer Sandy, ready to go!
Just some of the Half Fanatics at the race; I also saw several Marathon Maniacs who were running the full marathon

Several runners found me in the corral and expressed interest in running with the 3:00 pace group. I explained that I'd be doing intervals of 2.5 minutes running and 1 minute walking. Everyone seemed to be on board with this and they liked the fact that there would be walk breaks. We started the race going up a short but steep hill. It would have been a really tough hill at the end of the race, but it wasn't so bad early on. Then we wound our way through some of the neighborhoods in Dearborn. These were some very lovely areas with nice houses and manicured lawns. There weren't a lot of spectators, but that was OK.

In between neighborhood segments, the course did an out & back on Hines Drive, a long but flat road where we could see full marathoners and other half marathoners on the other side of the road. There was also a group giving out M&Ms, and we passed them three times. This is also the location of the only on-course photo I took because I just loved this spectator's flying saucer costume. I couldn't stop and take too many pics, as I was pacing. And I had a core group women who ran the whole way with me, which was great. Even when they got a little bit ahead of me, I continued to call out the run/walk intervals and they stuck with the plan.

Best costume just might to go this spectator wearing a flying saucer

Toward the end of Haines Drive, there were some guys giving out Bud Light. It was at about mile 10 and getting slightly warmer outside (not hot though), so one of my runners and I partook. And then we began running on a nice bike trail in a wooded area for a couple miles. I loved this part of the course. It was twisty and turny, but very peaceful and pretty. When we emerged from the park we had less than a mile to go. I was a little ahead of time, so I slowed my pace in these last couple miles, and saw most of my runners go ahead of me. I had encouraged them to keep up their pace and even to speed up for a strong finish if they felt up to it. I think a few of them did.

At the finish with two of the ladies who ran in my pace group

The finish area was nice. There were picnic tables in a  grassy area, and a playground for kids. The post-race food was hummus and pita, bananas and cookies. I sat and ate my hummus and pita while talking with one of the ladies who ran with me. Then I decided to go back and find Ruth on the course. Her last few miles were slow walking because she developed multiple blisters on her feet, but she completed her come-back race! Once she had a few bites to eat, we walked to the nearby Dearborn Brewing and had some good beer. The brewery was offering $2 drafts for the runners, and the restaurant next door delivered $2 appetizers of hummus & pita and bruschetta; both were very good.

Dearborn Brewing's Cream Ale was delicious  
Ruth and I display our glow-in-the-dark medals; I still need to see it glow

This was a nice race and I'd be happy to run it again. The course was nice and pleasant, even if there were few spectators. The swag was good. I really like the t-shirt and the alien medal glows in the dark. Aid stations were spaced appropriately and most had both water and Gatorade (a couple had only water). We also got Gu twice along the course, which is pretty good for a half marathon. The volunteers were all great. Several runners dressed in costumes fitting the Martian theme, or in alien patterned running skirts (like Ruth did) or t-shirts. I pinned a plush alien refrigerator magnet on my hat and wore a pacer shirt. If you're looking for a big city race, this one isn't for you, but if you want to do a very well-managed medium sized race that features the neighborhoods and parks in Dearborn, I highly recommend Martian.

I closed out my visit to the Detroit area by heading over to my Aunt Lorainne's house to spend some time with her and my cousin Virginia. I hadn't seen them in a while and I wasn't going to miss this opportunity when I was so close. Lorianne is my grandma's sister, and one of the few remaining links I have to my grandma. We caught up for a while and I enjoyed meeting the cats Riley and Smokey. And then I began my drive back to Columbus.