Following a great first week of training for the Towpath Ten-Ten, I launched right into another busy week. Fortunately, this week was a bit more enjoyable than last week!

Some of the highlights of the past week were my brother’s graduation festivities. On Monday, he graduated from Bay High School. One of the most enjoyable aspects of the evening for me was thinking about how the common thread of running winds through our family and helps us understand each other.

When I walked in, I saw the following arrangement of cups on the counter:

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Some people may look at that and wonder what’s going on, but I looked at that and thought, “That’s so smart of him to set out his pop days in advance so that all of the carbonation is out of it by the time he needs to drink it for energy on race day.”

One of the graduation gifts that he received from my dad and stepmother was a Ninja blender. Some people might think, “Why would an 18 year old guy want a blender for his graduation gift?” I looked at it and thought, “Man, those two personal-sized blending cups are going to come in handy for running smoothies.”

He capped off the week by running the 4X400 at the Ohio State Track Championships in Columbus. Unfortunately, work commitments kept me in Cleveland, but you better believe that I was as nervous and as excited for him as I get for myself before a race! I was thrilled when I found out that his team finished 8th in the state, which meant that his team qualified as a medalist!

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My brother is the warrior second from the right!

On Sunday, we went to his graduation party. My stepmom did a great job of assembling a variety of collages depicting various important moments in my brother’s life over the years. Although I noted how much he had grown and changed over the years, I was particularly drawn to one picture of him running on the track alone in a snowstorm. (I wish I had taken a picture of it for inspiration!)

When I saw that, I thought about all of the long runs and training that he had invested over his four years of high school and how all of those runs helped him have such a great career in cross country and track. During his time in high school, his cross-country team qualified for the state meet when he was a sophomore and his team medaled at the state meet the past Friday—not too bad if you ask me!

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My brother won the 2012 West Shore Conference Championship for the 1 mile. At the meet, I watched him run and briefly thought, “That actually does look like fun. Maybe I should try it out sometime” but spent most of my time trying to think of how to get out of running a 5K together with my family. Little did I know what was ahead for my future!

After his graduation party, I headed home inspired and determined to knock out another great training run! I decided to do 8-9 miles and figured that inspiration and adrenaline will allow me to finish the 10th mile on Sunday.

I wanted to get at least one run in on the parts of the Towpath on which I had not previously run that are included on the Towpath Ten-Ten, so I parked my car at the CanalWay Visitors Center. Whomever designed the park in the manner in which it was designed is a genius, because the bridge across the waterway allowed me to get onto the latter part of the Towpath in no time at all!

Since my goal is to finish with a pace under 10 minutes\mile, I decided to push myself from the outset. I was feeling great and the first two miles passed very quickly. I saw someone with a Towpath Half Marathon shirt on during the first two miles and I reminded myself of how great that run went for me (I did the 5 miler) and told myself that this ten miler will be a great run if I focus as intensely for this race as I did for that race.

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Me and my friends Ramona and Eric after the Towpath 5 Miler in April! Here’s hoping that the Towpath Ten-Ten will go as well as that race.

By mile 3.5, I was beginning to feel the effects of my harder running and I started to think that the next 5.5 miles were going to be a long, hard slog. Shortly thereafter, I saw someone with a 2012 Towpath Marathon shirt on coming in the opposite direction. Seeing that shirt reminded me of my long-term goal for the 2012 race season and I told myself that all of the hard training that I was doing now will pay off on October 13th, just like all of the hard training that I did from February-May paid off during my half marathon.

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When I watched my friend Holly and my stepmom at the Towpath Marathon in October 2012, I told myself that I would be back as a runner in 2013…and I’m committed to doing whatever it takes to get there.

Of course, running across the white bridges was another adrenaline-producing exercise. It never gets old!

These bridges are the most enjoyable inclines ever! (photo obtained from predawnrunner.com)

These bridges are the most enjoyable inclines ever! (photo obtained from predawnrunner.com)

 

Because one side of the road contains an office park, the way down Canal Road isn’t exactly super scenic. I did find a bit of inspiration, though, as I looked on the other side of the street and  began to see places that I previously had never dreamed of reaching by foot, such as the Cinemark movie theatre, Quaker Steak and Lube, The Oak Barrel, and the kennel from which we adopted Butters.

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God is so good. I weigh at least 25 pounds less than I did on the day we brought Butters home and both he and I are in an overall better state of health!

I finally reached Old Rockside Road and went down it a bit to simulate what I’ll need to do on race day. After I turned around, I started to feel pretty good about how everything was going. Although I felt pretty exhausted, I knew I had a lot left in me and I was fairly confident that I could make it back home at a relatively fast pace.

The way home passed pretty quickly. I have found that breaking my runs up into familiar distances can help with the mental side of running. Once I crossed the bridges and passed Bacci Park, I knew that I was in good shape.

By now, the sun was setting and the Towpath looked absolutely spectacular in the sunset. I would have stopped to take a picture but I didn’t want to lose time or interrupt my pace. The weather had cooled down at this point and I felt like I was getting stronger and stronger as time went on. As I ran, I smelled something very good in the air that resembled incense. I thought that there was no way that someone was burning incense out there, but sure enough, I encountered a couple holding incense sticks in their hands about a quarter mile later. I hope they make return visits to the Towpath in the future, because the great smell really added a lot to the beautiful scenery and early evening air.

Around the 8 mile mark, I rounded the Lower 40 Trail and started to feel really exceptional. By now, the sun was almost totally set, and running in the woods in the dark was pretty exhilarating!

Toward the end of the Lower 40 Trail, I had about 0.4 miles left to go and I told myself that running for anything less than 9 miles would be a shame. I decided to run across the bridge back to the CanalWay Center and up the hill to finish out the 9 miles. Ending on a hill really pushed my legs to the limit, and I felt it for the rest of the evening. Pain fades away pretty fast, though, when you look down at your watch and see a time like this after a 9 mile run:

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9 miles in 83:33 – I’ll take it!

When I got home, Sheila had a delicious and healthy Greek pizza waiting for me!

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Even though getting up early on Sunday after attending an evening wedding reception on Saturday is going to be rough, I’m extremely excited for the Towpath Ten-Ten.

While I am thrilled about all of the new development in downtown Cleveland, I also think that developing areas in which Clevelanders can enjoy nature, bike, and run without the constant interruptions of cars and traffic lights is extremely important and vital to our future growth and development as a city. I’m excited to see my race fee support the development of the Towpath and the extension of the Towpath all the way to Lake Erie!