Wednesday, October 7, 2009

Twin Cities Marathon - Race Report

Two years ago I watched some finishing footage of the Twin Cities Marathon...and for the first time, I thought "I can do that...I want to do that...I will do that one day" On Sunday, that day finally came.

My strategy was to start out slow. No, I mean really slow. Even slower than I had done my long runs. Why? Because I was afraid of going out to fast and ending with a crash & burn. I had spoken to the pacers at the Expo on Saturday and was told that they were all running even splits. (silly me, I assumed that meant that they would be running even splits...but more on that later) So, I decided to join the 5 hr pace group to get me started. If I felt good at the halfway point, I could bank some time along Minnehaha and the west side of the river before hitting the hard stuff on the east side and up Summit. (that was the plan anyway)

I spent the week before the race obsessing about what I was eating and how my legs were feeling. On Friday I finally felt like my legs were fresh and ready to go. We went to the Expo on Saturday where I got a handful of free samples and new pair of sunglasses that made me look fast (too bad it doesn't really work that way). I would have loved to look around more and maybe do some shopping since there seemed to be some good deals on clothes, but I didn't want to tire out my legs. We had lunch at Cossettas and dinner at Olive Garden - at both meals we could hear nearby tables talking about the upcoming race...and the OG is in the suburbs!

I actually got decent sleep the night before the race, although I woke up every hour from about 1 AM on...which turned out to be a good thing, since I mistakenly set the alarm clock for 4:40 PM!! So, a little after 5:00 I got out of bed/showered/dressed/gathered all my running crap/and headed out to downtown Minneapolis.

I parked a couple blocks from the Dome and as I walking found a $20 bill on the sidewalk - sign of good things to come? Let's hope. I got there, hit the bathrooms, and found my MN Running Wild team to hang out with before the start. It was great having them there, I am sure without them the nerves would have gotten to me.

Once in the corral I found the 5hr pace group and lined up just behind the balloons. I found another runner from the RW forums (well, he found me actually - thanks to my crazy striped arm warmers). Shortly after the race started we began to move toward the start line. I just made sure not to lose the balloons. Apparently it took 6 minutes to cross the start, although at the time I would not have guessed it.

It seemed like we were going awfully fast during the first mile, but for some reason I didn't believe my Garmin when it said we were close to a 10:00 mile (I thought we would be around 11:30). In hindsight, I should have believed both the Garmin and my body telling me that this was not the slow pace that I had planned. We finished out the first mile with an average pace of 10:06 and suddenly the pacer told everyone to move to the side and started walking!! OH, I get it now! They are doing a run/walk...that makes sense now. BUT, I don't want to do a run/walk...just a slow run. So, I continued to run ahead of the group and forced my speed to a slower pace. It is so hard to slow down when you have already gotten into a bit of a groove at a higher speed.

For the next 10 miles I managed to keep the pace between 10:30 - 11:00, and slowed down just a little more between there and mile 15 where I found my family. The trip there was great. The spectators and voluteers were amazing - better than any race I have ever been in (of course, this was the biggest race I have ever run). Running around the lakes was cool, since I have done that so many times in training. I ended up abandoning my vest at Lake of the Isles because it was getting too warm. (so, now I need to buy a new vest). Anyway, just after the 15 mile waterstop I finally saw my family...the kids had signs that said "Run" and "Mama" and apparently had been practicing cheering. It was all so sweet I wanted to stick around for a while longer, but had to move on. Unfortunately, as soon as I started running again my knee locked up on me. I could barely move it. I walked a little ways, stopped and stretched it out, tried to run a bit, stretched some more, more walking, built back up to a run, and finally about a half mile later it was moving normally again. I was so relieved - I thought for a moment there that I was going to have to drop out! But once it stopped hurting, it didn't start again.

I was able to hold a decent pace until I hit mile which point my pace started steadily dropping and I started walking more and more. I knew I was starting to struggle, and still had a few miles ahead of me, so I started walking the uphills to conserve my energy for the downhills & flats. I mean, I was practically running up the hills at a walking pace at this point anyway! This last 4 miles were harder than I had anticipated - but in a different way. I was at a point where I wasn't really feeling any pain, it was just difficult to make my legs keep moving - but I knew they wouldn't stop until I crossed that finish line.

Finally, I saw the Cathedral. I decided to continue walking to the top of the hill so that I could run it in from there. As I passed under the huge American flag across the road I saw my family cheering from the sidelines.

I did it, I did it! But really, crossing the finish line was somewhat anti-climatic. The sense of accomplishment was tied more to all the training that I had done, that I had actually stuck with the program, I didn't slack off, I pushed through the long runs, and just as the final leg of a long journey...I ran 26.2 miles. Don't get me wrong, it was a blast - one of the most exciting and difficult things that I have done - but it was just a piece of the overall marathon journey.

I have already started to think about what I will do differently for my next marathon (which I am thinking will probably be in 2011): 1) more than one 20 miler 2) slower long runs - for more time on my feet 3) more hill work 4) get faster - 5 hrs is a long time to be running 5) plan for a place to meet the family after the race (my cell phone wasn't getting a signal so I had to wander around looking for them).

For now though - I am planning to focus on more crosstraining (swimming & yoga?) and get some speedwork back into my week - I actually miss doing intervals! Oh, and I still want to try for a new PR in the 10K is the only distance that I haven't PRed this year (I haven't run one in 2009).


Race: Twin Cities Marathon
Date: Oct 4, 2009
Distance: Marathon
Official Time: 5:04:35
Average Pace: 11:38
Overall Place: 7311/8432
Place in Age Group: 521/629