Idle Feet

I’m really bored and unfocused with my running lately. The days are shortening, and the weather is getting colder. Over the weekend it was so cold! In the low 20s/high teens (F, of course. What I wouldn’t give for some 20 C weather…) I just got back from Duluth and instead of running on one of my favorite trails, I ran on the hotel treadmill. I guess I didn’t look at the weather closely enough, and packed clothes that might be acceptable for a run in near-freezing temps, but not 15 degrees colder and windy. Whoops.

In order to try to bring some excitement back into my running, I went out and spent a bunch of money on races. Ugh.

I’m probably going to race 2 more times in 2018, we’ll see. I signed up for the Mustache Run half marathon in 2 weeks. I’m not really training for it, just hoping to capitalize on my residual training from the Twin Cities Marathon (that was only a month ago??). I’m also well-rested from lower mileage and additional rest days. I think it’ll be fun, as long as the weather isn’t awful. I saw a very early forecast and it called for light rain in the morning. No thank you. Obviously anything would be a half marathon PR, as my current one (3:51:24) is from the Harder n Hell Half in 2015.

I hate road races – they’re so freaking expensive! Although I think I could have saved some money by signing up sooner. It was like $80 though! I had better get a gold-plated finisher’s medal.

I also signed up for Zumbro 50, which cost $90 – much better cost per mile than the Mustache Run. (Although I’ll also have travel and lodging costs so that is misleading.) Last year, I waited too long to sign up and it filled. I was somewhat bummed but also wasn’t sure I was ready to run it, and I’m also really glad I didn’t sign up because it ended up being terribly snowy, and I would not have been prepared for that. Now I know that I’m capable of it. I ran 42 miles in 13 hours at FANS, for crying out loud. I keep having to remind myself of that when I get scared of these 50 milers. Not only did I complete 42 miles in 13 hours, but a lot of that was walking/limping due to my poor foot.

Speaking of FANS, I also signed up for the 24 hour race again. I can’t help it – I love this race so much. I keep having disappointing results there, but I keep coming back for more. This coming year, I think things will be better. I’m planning to set up my tent with friends this time, so I’ll have a fun camp and that will mean my husband/my dad won’t be sitting by my tent alone while crewing me, bored out of their minds. FANS doesn’t fill and the price increase isn’t until April, but I signed up anyway. I guess that’s less money I have to worry about paying later?

The only downside right now is that Zumbro is the same weekend as the Frozen Four in Buffalo. Obviously I have no idea if I’ll be there or not, but the Bulldogs are having a great season! I’ll cross that bridge when I come to it, I guess.

Now all that’s left is to get back into the groove of winter running. I’m not really excited about it, and it feels like I barely had any decent running weather at all in 2018 (it seems like it went from cold to blazing hot and back to cold), but I also know that this current cold snap is making it feel a little more difficult. Once it’s back to more normal temps next week, of course my crappy attitude will magically dissipate!

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When the Music’s Over

Not training for anything is really boring.

I am still running here and there. I’m still trying to ensure that I reach my goal of beating last year’s mileage, and since I didn’t finish up October’s mileage in one fell swoop with Surf the Murph, I’m focusing on that while still trying to give myself a break. 7 more miles over the next 3 days! I can do that.

I am really at peace with my decision to skip Surf the Murph. It looked like an incredibly fun event, but I am pretty sure I wasn’t in the shape to do it. On the day of the race, once I finally got some sleep, I headed out for an 11 mile run around Fort Snelling, and realized my legs were still pretty heavy and overall I was lacking energy. It confirmed I’d made the right choice, especially because Monday I had to spend the day traveling.

I made the choice to leave all my running gear at home while I was on my work trip, partially because work travel wears me out, and partially because I didn’t have much room in my suitcase due to all the safety gear I bring with me. Monday was a fairly long day – I worked from home for awhile, running a couple miles on the treadmill before heading to the airport. I flew to St. Louis, then drove 3 hours to a city relatively near my construction project site. Lest you think that my sleeping problems are limited to running, I also had trouble sleeping Monday night.

Tuesday I spent the day at the construction site (as well as a quick visit to another site of an in-development project), and I was pretty wiped out by the end of the day. The banks of both sites were fairly steep and I had to do quite a bit of “hiking,” so I was doubly glad I had not done the race, and by the end of the day I was so tired I think I went to sleep at 10 PM. Which for me is absurdly early. Wednesday I spent the morning at the construction site and then drove/flew back home, so I didn’t work out when I got home. I actually spent like 20 minutes going out of my way at the airport to get a coffee after I got off the plane. My bag was the only one on the carousel when I finally got there, but I had only had terrible hotel coffee for the past couple days and it was not feeding the addiction.

I ran at lunch Thursday and Friday, which leaves my evenings free, but doesn’t make for a lot of mileage. And then Saturday (my birthday!) I didn’t end up running. I had planned on canvassing for my friend who is running for city council, then running, then watching some hockey — then I learned the hockey game was in the late afternoon, not the evening, and… I just didn’t really care that much about getting a run in. Again, not training, so there’s not much to motivate me.

Today I wasn’t going to run, either. I went to a rally of sorts in support of trans/enby/gender expansive people, had a late lunch at Mickey’s Diner with a friend, and then was going to run a few dull treadmill miles. I saw the temp was in the high 50s F and changed my mind – how many more times would I be able to run in weather that nice? I wasn’t going to waste it. So I ran 7 miles at Battle Creek (getting a twinge in my calf in the first few minutes of the run – I hope it wasn’t something bad…) and enjoyed the gorgeous weather.

I think I’m going to race one last big one this year – the Moustache Run half marathon on Nov 24 – and then start training for next spring. I had a good first half of Twin Cities marathon and would like to see what I could do if I didn’t have 13.1 more miles to go at that point. I also should probably find a 5K to run, but those are a dime a dozen. I get bored if I’m not planning or strategizing – apparently I don’t get enough of that at work.

DNS: Surf the Murph

Oh, look. Another race I didn’t start.

I decided at about 1 am, when I was still wide awake, that I would not start the race. I am so incredibly sick of running races on 1 or 2 hours of sleep, but I don’t know how to fix it. I went to bed at about 8:30 last night, and tried to relax. But that same anxiety gripped me and my heart rate was way too high and I could not get my mind to turn off. It doesn’t help that in addition to worrying about the race, I’ve had a lot to worry about at work as well. So, knowing that I had to get up at about 2 or 2:15 AM in order to get ready for the start, I decided at about 1:05 that I would not be running the race.

I feel pretty defeated that once again, I’m sidelined or slowed by a lack of sleep. It doesn’t seem to ever get any better.

The more I thought about it (because I couldn’t fall back asleep after I decided not to run — I probably didn’t fall asleep until 3:00), the more I realized that this was an overall stupid idea. I signed up for this race impulsively – I was thinking about doing it and then signed up for certain when I was in a funk after having a bad race at Superior. My mileage has been fairly low (below 40 miles/week) for this whole training cycle, and I’ve been sick off and on thanks to the changing weather. I haven’t done any long runs (besides Twin Cities Marathon), I haven’t done any night running (and I’d be starting and ending in the dark), I haven’t done any practice with trekking poles (which I planned to use), and I didn’t do nearly enough logistics planning (I was planning to drive myself home after the race – probably not safe). I wasn’t ready for this race and I really need to stop pretending I’m one of those Type Z runners who can sign up for a race on a whim and just waltz their way onto the course.

I feel pretty embarrassed that I’m not running this race, but embarrassment is not a reason to run a race I’m ill-prepared for in countless ways. I’m disappointed about the opportunity costs of entering this race – I missed out on a hockey weekend in Duluth, I missed out on options to run several shorter races like Wild Duluth, or the new Loppet Loppet race, or even a shorter distance at Surf the Murph. I feel guilty that I’m wasting money on races I don’t run.

I need to remind myself that I ran 2 marathons in a month’s time, and that’s kind of a lot for people who aren’t, like, Killian Jornet. And I am not him. I need to focus on enjoying running again, staying healthy, avoiding burnout, and celebrating the successes I’ve had. I’m going to head out for a shorter run today instead, and try to shake off any lingering feelings of frustration or disappointment in myself. I run for enjoyment, and I need to keep that in the forefront of my mind during setbacks or screw-ups. I run with a smile — even when I’m smiling to suppress my gag reflex.

Surf the Murph 50 Goals

Oh man this race. I am basically not ready for it. That’s all I’ve got to say. It’s 6 PM and the race starts at 4 AM. I’ve sort of gotten my stuff together but I just… I don’t know. I’ve gone the entire two weeks since the Twin Cities Marathon ignoring what’s coming. Of course this is of my own making but whatever.

I’m hoping to get a few hours of sleep, but I don’t know. This is probably completely crazy. I have no idea what I’m in for. Although that’s somewhat ridiculous to say, considering 4 months ago I ran 42 miles. This is only 8 more. I’m just scared, mostly scared that I don’t have the toughness to get it done. It’ll be fine.

A Standard: 14:00
B Standard: 15:00
C Standard: 15:45

Let’s see what happens.

Race Report: Run4Britt 5K

I put this race on my calendar several weeks ago, once I found out about it. The race was organized in honor of the memory of a friend of one of my best friends, so I was signing up for support and solidarity regardless of when this race was. Never mind that it fell between a marathon and a 50 mile race for me, I was in.

This morning, I woke up and could see before I even got out of bed that it was snowing.

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Beautiful day for a 5K. Proud to run in memory of Brittany.

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I also had a stuffy head – I’m still trying to fight off cold-like symptoms. Still, nothing was going to keep me away. I told myself I would just treat it as an easy run. I’ve been doing short treadmill runs since Wednesday to keep my legs active for Surf the Murph, keeping them very easy and gentle, so I figured I could run a a nice gentle pace.

The race was put on by Girls on the Run, and was untimed, low-key, and inclusive while still being well-organized. I figured since the race was untimed, I wouldn’t be tempted to run faster. Hehe, silly me.

The run started at Coffman Union, on the U of M Twin Cities campus. I parked in a nearby ramp and then headed to check-in. It was so nice to have a spot indoors to wait pre-race, especially since it was still in the 30s and precipitating. The snow/rain mix did stop before the race, thank goodness. I met up with a group of friends and we hung out until the start.

Before the run started, a woman from the local Girls on the Run chapter spoke about Brittany, and then one of her best friends, who was instrumental in organizing the run, gave a very touching speech.

The course was two loops around campus: across the pedestrian bridge, a small loop around the interior of the west bank campus, back across the pedestrian bridge, and then another loop around Walter Library and back down Northrop Mall to the Coffman Union again. The course didn’t cross any roads, but wasn’t closed to pedestrians or bikes, so there were a few people to dodge around. It wasn’t that crowded so it was easy to get around people, and again, I wasn’t aiming for a PR.

That doesn’t mean I wasn’t running “fast,” compared to what I should have been running. I just took off and realized that I was running a comfortably hard pace — not a PR pace, but way, way too fast for my planned leisurely training run. So I figured what the heck, just go for it, run what feels okay. I mean, it didn’t feel great, but I also didn’t feel like I was going to keel over or barf.

I finished in 29:41, unofficially of course. I find this somewhat hilarious. Here I am trying to hold back, not running full steam, one week out from a marathon, and running a sub-30 5K. Last year I was struggling to run times in the 31-minute range. Sometimes it doesn’t feel like I’m making progress, and some days I can look at little things like this and say hey, maybe I am improving.

I had a great time at the event – wonderful people, GREAT post-race food including coffee, and extremely professional volunteers and organizers. I don’t know if this will be an annual race or if it was a one time event to honor Britt, but either way, it was special.

Post-Mortem: Twin Cities Marathon

Hey! That race was really fun! And I’m already recruiting colleagues to be on a corporate team next year!

tcmfinish

Look how freaking happy I am here! The finish of this race is actually amazing. Round the corner, see the cathedral, and see the gentle downhill to the finish. Maybe it’s too small to see how much I’m enjoying myself but I am! Thank you, magical endocannabinoids! I sure know how to pull it together for the finish of a race.

Thoughts/lessons learned/etc:

Road marathons are so easy! Hahahahah, not really true. They’re hard in a different way. But there’s something to be said for not being on my feet as long, even if I am putting in a faster effort. I didn’t have to plan ahead for something like Moose Mountain. I could mostly get into a rhythm. I never had to worry that I was out in the middle of nowhere and if I did try to push through something, that I would be in an unsafe situation if I got more injured/sick/whatever.

There’s a huge advantage to running on familiar terrain. I’m glad this was my first road marathon, because I’d run or driven on probably 90% of the course. I knew what was coming, or at least had a good general idea where I was. It was also an emotional boost to run through the chain of lakes and think of other fun times I’ve had with my friends, or to cross from Minneapolis into St. Paul, my city of residence. I got chills and thrills when I ran by the Basilica and the church bells were pealing.

It would have totally sucked if it had been sunny. I tried to pare down what I carried, so I didn’t carry any sunscreen. I brought some in my drop bag and applied it while on the light rail, but that didn’t last 7 hours. I was very fortunate I didn’t get sunburned.

Speaking of carrying stuff, my problems started once I tossed my water bottle. I know snobby runners like to make fun of marathoners who wear hydration vests or carry water bottles, but those people can go to hell. When I was able to sip water, I was in much better shape. Once I had to drink at aid stations, I was overdoing it. I should have either refilled that bottle, or I should have brought the small flask that came with my vest. Then I wouldn’t have gotten that stupid side stitch issue.

Maybe next time, I’ll try to pace it more evenly. I mean, duh. I had a 30 minute positive split. But I also didn’t have much of a race plan, and I sort of enjoyed going out too hard, even though I knew that I was screwing over my second half self. I wanted to see what I could do. I wonder how things would have gone if I hadn’t consumed too much water. I’d probably have shaved maybe 5 minutes off my time. Nothing drastic – I’m sure I’d still have been reduced to a walk.

I am terrible at following a training plan, but I still liked having one. The first month or so, I was kicking butt. However, the heat made the marathon pace workouts hard to do — I had to resort to marathon “effort.” And even then I was just guessing at what pace should be marathon pace, anyway. Then work, travel, and illness started to chip away at the training plan, and I was running whatever I could muster the strength and mental energy to run. Still, I liked having various planned workouts, like hill repeats or tempos.

I’m used to being self-sufficient at races, but it was nice to have the logistics taken care of. Free light rail right to the start! Extremely efficient drop bag check-in! Never a doubt whether I was on course. Water and Gatorade every mile (or so). EMTs everywhere. Entertainment and crowd support through almost every yard of the course. Someone to literally wrap me in the space blanket at the end! Immediate results, and a quick turnaround on videos and pictures. It was all very luxurious, and I was glad I was able to relinquish control and take advantage of some of the services and logistics support the race offers. I still threw my cups in the garbage, even if there were plenty of volunteers raking them up.

It was too crowded for my taste. I run alone almost all the time. I run alone at trail races, too. I went through periods where I was tired of seeing people, and hearing them. The expo and the start were both overwhelmingly crowded to me. I’m not agoraphobic by any means, but when I’m running, I feel uncomfortable around so many people, especially if I’m standing around alone. I hate accidentally being in the background of people’s selfies. And I hate, hate, hate, hate, hate hearing people chatter on in conversation during races.

Trail running is better, but I’m absolutely going to run more road marathons! I want to chase down a sub-5 marathon. I want to keep participating in this race, since it’s so convenient. I’m hoping to incorporate road marathons (and half marathons) into ultra training blocks as supported long runs. And maybe… maybe someday I’ll do Grandma’s.

Race Report: Twin Cities Marathon

I made every first time marathoner “mistake” possible, and it all turned out great in the end.

Official Results:
Time: 5:32:55
Pace: 12:43
Placing:
Overall: 6635/7161
Gender: 2882/3188
AG (F 35-39): 438/492

Watch Results:
Time: 5:33:02
Pace: 12:26
Distance: 26.77 mi (the start in downtown Minneapolis really messed things up)
Heart Rate: N/A

Goals:
A: 4:59:59
B: 5:15
C: 5:30

Food:
What I ate the night before: salmon, baked potato, broccoli, roll, birthday cake (BAD IDEA) for dinner, bagel and cream cheese before bed
What I ate on race morning: 1.5 bagels with cream cheese
What I carried with me: 6 gel packets (I ate 4), water bottle that I threw away

Gear:
What I wore: t-shirt, shorts, ball cap, arm warmers
Gadgets: GPS watch, fitness tracker, hydration vest without the bladder

Discussion:
The splits kind of tell the story. But they also really don’t.
5K: 35:22, section pace 11:23, overall pace 11:23
10K: 1:11:11 (!!), section pace 11:32, overall pace 11:29
Half: 2:32:08, section pace 11:46, overall pace 11:37
30K: 3:47:06, section pace 13:32, overall pace 12:13
21 mi: 4:21:09, section pace 14:26, overall pace 12:26
24 mi: 5:03:12, section pace 14:02, overall pace 12:38
Finish: 5:32:55, section pace 13:31, overall pace 12:43

This reads like a textbook rookie marathon, doesn’t it? And ultimately, it is. But I don’t really mind.

Let’s go back to the night before the race. I went up to Duluth for the day, to celebrate my Gramps’s 92nd birthday and to see the men’s hockey team raise their championship banner. I figure I never sleep before races anyway, so what’s the difference if I get home at 12:30 am or if I’m in bed by 9 pm? I was correct, btw. And at least I had some fun.

One of my “rookie mistakes” was eating something “new” the night before a race. That “new” thing was very rich birthday cake, which ended up going right through me. The problem was corrected with a couple doses of Pepto, but it made me really nervous for the next day. One of my goals was to not become a meme, and this was threatening that goal.

We got home from Duluth at about 12:15, and then I ate a bagel and went to bed. I’d already set out all my stuff before we headed up north, so I didn’t have to do much. I still tossed and turned and barely slept, and of course considered not starting, considered changing up my plan and driving to the start… all kinds of things. Then I reminded myself that I want to run 100 miles someday and running tired now is going to help me out then. So I got up at 5:30 and got ready.

I headed out the door at about 6:20 and realized I wasn’t 100% sure where I was going. I was planning to park at the Union Depot and take the light rail, since it was free and parking was cheap. I knew where I was going but not the best route to get there. I realized I’d forgotten my personal phone and only had my work phone with me (an iPhone), and neither of my navigation apps were working. I made it nonetheless, but the streets of St. Paul can be a bit confusing at times so I always worry I’m going to end up at a dead end or blocked from where I need to go or something. I walked up with two other women from a nearby suburb, which was good because I didn’t realize the light rail station wasn’t actually where I thought it was.

Taking the light rail was really slick! I’ll definitely do this in the future. It dropped me off basically at the start. When I got off the light rail, I was shivering for some reason. I mean, it was a bit cold, in the 40s, but I hadn’t been shivering when I was walking to the station. I guess it was excitement? I was wearing a jacket to keep me a bit warmer, and was sad to put it in my drop bag. I guess I could have worn clothes to donate, but it wasn’t cold enough for that. I put my Body Glide stick, sunscreen, gloves (2018 TCM giveaway), and jacket in the drop bag and dropped it off at about 7:40. Then I went over to my corral and ate as much of the bagel I could stand, and took sips of water from the disposable bottle I’d brought with. I looked around for my colleague, who was running this as his first marathon, but I didn’t find him. I did find a couple of trail runners I know, Anthony and Jacqueline, and talking to them helped pass the time and helped me feel less alone. They had done the race before and helped explain how things would go – how they spaced out the corrals and such.

When the race started, I ended up crossing the starting line just ahead of the 5:30 pacer. I wanted to get away from him and keep him behind me the whole time (spoiler: I did not), and in fact I was hoping to start farther ahead of him so I could have a little buffer, but things got jumbled up. Also I should have started behind him if I wanted a buffer, but I guess I didn’t think about that. I was still holding my bagel and water bottle when the race started, and there weren’t any garbage cans along the route, so I had to hang on to them (I stuffed the bagel in my vest). It ended up being nice to have a handheld throwaway water bottle, but I ditched the bagel as soon as I hit the first aid station. Er, water stop. Whatever they call them in road running.

I ran probably faster than I should have in the first half, which is obvious from the splits, but I didn’t really know how much I should have slowed down. I know that I put my A goal as sub-5, but I promise I wasn’t gunning for that from the start. I knew it wasn’t likely, but it was the goal I was looking for when I started training, so I put it down for transparency. I thought 5:15-5:20 was a nice stretch goal if everything went well and that 5:30 was probably pretty achievable. I wasn’t really sure about my splits because my GPS was off from the start. My watch had me hit 5K at about 34 minutes, so it had my pace below 11 minutes. I knew that wasn’t right, but I didn’t know how far off it was and how much to slow down.

Also, I kind of wanted to see what it feels like to push the pace. I didn’t know if I was running too hard or not. The first few miles felt maybe a little bit labored, but that was likely because I hadn’t done a warm-up. Maybe I should have? People were doing all kinds of stretches and drills and whatever to warm up. Maybe I’d have benefited from a half mile or so to get my legs warm. But then there’s so much standing around in the corrals anyway so who knows?

One of the greatest things about the course was that I had unknowingly run probably 90% of it at some point this year. The beginning portion, I hadn’t run, but had actually walked part of during a march against family separation earlier this year. We ran down Hennepin, past my former school (MCTC), and past the Basilica, where the church bells were pealing. That was so freaking cool. What was less cool was the hill that accompanied it once we were past Loring Park. I ran it because it wasn’t that bad, but it was longer than I expected. The course wraps around the west sides of Lake of the Isles and Bde Maka Ska, and then there’s another small but annoying hill to climb just after the 10K mark before heading around the east side of Lake Harriet. I’m familiar with that section due to the Be the Match 5K, although this race runs in the opposite direction.

I was able to bypass the water stops for the first several miles since I was carrying my bottle. I almost wonder if it would have been better for me to stop and refill it at a few select aid stations so that I could have balanced my water intake a little better. I can’t remember when I ditched my water bottle, probably around mile 7 or 8? I had my first gel at mile 4, and it was much easier to eat a gel with sips of water than to eat it right before the water stop and then chug down some water, or to grab some water and walk through the aid station trying to finish before I passed the final garbage can. I know that they have volunteers to rake up cups and stuff, but I just can’t bring myself to throw stuff on the ground. I did ONCE, when I tried eating a gel while walking through a water stop, and I felt so guilty. The phalanx of volunteers at each aid station was so uplifting and enthusiastic – how could I not use the garbage cans? (I know this is STANDARD for marathons, throwing cups on the ground, but it feels weird to me.)

I started to slow down once I ditched the water bottle, to try to reel myself in. I was determined to run (besides quick walk breaks at the water stops) until the half marathon mark. Miles 8-11 were new territory to me, but they went by rather quickly, and then I was at Lake Nokomis, which I vaguely understood to be the halfway point (and the last lake). There was a cold headwind along Lake Nokomis that made it sort of unpleasant, but I chugged along. I was pretty excited to reach the half in 2:32 – that makes me want to race a half marathon! That pace was faster than my “first” 5K back in 2015! So that’s something small to be proud of.

It was shortly after this point that I started to feel really full. I was drinking way too much at water stops, I realized, and not sweating enough of it out. I mean, I was sweating, but since it was cool and windy, my body was cooling itself efficiently enough without profusely sweating. I wished I had had some mints or something to stave off the feeling of thirst, because I wasn’t really thirsty. This full stomach situation led to the threat of side stitches, and that really slowed me down. It really sucked. I’m not used to running without water readily available, and obviously overdid it. (I will say it felt so good to be running without a hydration pack!) I was really frustrated, but the walking also felt soooo goooood. I probably walked too much, but I also know that preventing an actual side stitch from occurring was key.

The one thing that kept me from losing my mind during those middle miles was knowing my friend and role model Stephanie was at the mile 17 water stop. I was actually counting down the miles! “Okay, 4 miles to Steph… 3 miles…” It was a nice way to break down this long section, when half the race is gone but there’s still soooo much left… including a hill. I had run the Minnehaha Parkway path before, but not the road, so it didn’t feel quite the same. I don’t really remember much from this section. I saw Stephanie right away at the stop, and we hugged and took a pic together before I moved along.

I was trying to space out my walk breaks so that I wasn’t walking right before a hill or something. I wanted to be sure I could walk the hills and run as much of the flats as I could. My plan from about mile 15 to mile 25 was to run until my side started hurting again, and then walk. Sometimes that plan didn’t work out and I would walk before I needed to (which in the case of a hill, was okay, but in the case of just me being lazy, wasn’t okay), but it was good enough to keep me going in the final miles.

Crossing the river kind of sucked, but I ran the bridge as well as I could, even though there was a cold cold wind blowing and I was really exposed up there. The two water stops right after the bridge (Medtronic and ALARC) are two of the liveliest, I’d say — especially the ALARC section, since they’re all runners, too. I was anxious because I knew the hills were coming, and I couldn’t remember how steep they were. It’s kind of silly I worried about the hills because my pace from mi 21-24 was actually faster than my pace over the previous section! So I guess the hills weren’t that bad. And really, they weren’t. I mean, I’ve climbed Moose Mountain. This was nothing, though it sucked in the moment. The most annoying thing about the hill was the little child that stood directly in my path while I was trying to go up it. I yelled “EXCUSE ME” really loud when it was clear that he wouldn’t be moving out of the way before I got there, and his father finally moved him out of the way. I do not need to be dodging little kids when I’ve been running for 3+ hours. Then at the turn onto Summit, three people passed me – two were spectators running alongside a marathoner – and the two spectators basically cut me off after running around me. I snapped “please don’t cut me off” at them and they didn’t apologize, just made a stupid joke about how one of them had actually run the whole way in jeans. GET OUT OF MY WAY.

At mile 22 (I think), I saw my friends John, Cheri, Chrissy, and Lyric, and it totally perked me up, just like Stephanie had at mile 17, and my friends Dan and Samantha, who I saw three times, although I don’t recall when (well, once was at the finish). It was exactly what I needed for the final 4.2 miles, especially because shortly after that, I had a bit of a deflating moment when the 5:30 pacer passed me and I knew that it was out of reach. I think he passed me somewhere around mile 23, and I thought about latching on to him and following, but I knew with the looming side stitch, I couldn’t keep a steady pace. So I continued my plan of running when I could and walking when I couldn’t. There was at least one more little hill on Summit, which sucked, but I just kept going. I think at mile 23 I finally drank a cup of Gatorade. I hadn’t been sure of what it would do to my stomach, but I had decided not to have my final gel because I felt decently fueled, and I had bypassed a few water stops to try to lessen the pressure on my stomach (it worked). The Gatorade went down fine, so that was a bit of a missed opportunity for some extra fuel and some electrolytes, which would have helped prevent me from getting so full. My fingers were puffy, another indication my fluids were out of balance. Whoops.

I thought maybe I could run from mile 24 to the finish, but I did have to mix in a few walking breaks, especially because of that little hill, but I did manage to run at least… I don’t know, the last half mile or so, maybe more. My watch seems to indicate my last walking break was about 0.78 miles from the finish, and I think most of the GPS errors had been worked out by that point. When I came around the corner by the cathedral, I was grinning. I’d been smiling for most of the race, because I find it helps my mental attitude, and also because smiling supposedly suppresses the gag reflex (according to Sara on CSI), but I was beaming as I ran down to the finish. My legs felt pretty darn good, and I felt super strong. And also high on endorphins, I’m sure. At that point, I knew I was going to finish under the goal I’d set for myself in the last couple miles – I’d decided 5:30 was out of reach but I knew 5:35 was possible. And I was right, as I came in 2 minutes ahead of it!

I got my medal, foil blanket, drinks, potato chips, and finishers’ shirt, then wound my way through the maze at the finish to get my drop bag. I wanted to take off my arm warmers, wet with sweat and snot, and put on my jacket. I attempted to sit on the curb and realized that my legs weren’t interested in doing that, so I stayed standing while I swapped out my gear. I also put on the gloves I’d gotten from the expo, glad I’d thrown them in there at the last minute. Then I realized I didn’t have a plan to get back to my car. I called my husband and asked him to pick me up, but said I’d call him back once I found a good spot. I started walking toward the Depot, and realized I would rather walk all the way back to my car than think about where to go to get picked up. My brain was a little foggy. I also didn’t really know where I could go and sit down, and I wasn’t sure how cold I’d get if I did sit down to wait. So I walked the mile and a half to my car. I think that ended up being a good idea, because I feel great today. My back hurts more than anything else, and of course my knees and hips are a bit creaky, but I can navigate the stairs fine and I have a normal stride. Probably because I’m used to marathons taking 2-3 hours longer and being hillier.

I thought this race was fun, but I don’t know if I like road marathons that much. It did feel neat to be done in 5.5 hours instead of 8.5, but there were so many people! And so many of them were annoying! Okay not that many, but one guy was riding around blowing a plastic whistle, and that was obnoxious. And other people were having conversations I wasn’t interested in. And two other women were doing a run/walk strategy, which is FINE, except that one of them kept announcing out loud when they would walk and when they would run, and that got old. And of course there was That One Person who was cajoling a couple of other participants who were walking — “Come on, let’s finish this! Let’s do this! Let’s run!” — why do people do this? Ugh. And just a lot of other little things. I didn’t want to give high fives (and I don’t know why anyone would want one, I’d blown my nose on my hand like 5000000000000 times). Sometimes I just wanted to be alone, and I wanted it to be quiet (although I did enjoy the live music along the way! and the speakers blasting fun songs, too). It did get much, much quieter toward the end. Fewer people were out along the streets to watch the stragglers, and runners had withdrawn into themselves, trying to find the mental and physical strength to finish. Those were almost my favorite miles – hushed and determined.

I’m still probably going to sign up for this race next year, although I don’t think I’ll make it a goal race with a specific training plan. Or maybe I will, just to see what I can do with a real marathon training cycle, since this one went off the rails. Now I’ve got a baseline result and something to beat, instead of stabbing in the dark at a goal based on “pace predictors” online and just winging it. It is a joy to run through so many familiar places – the chain of lakes, Summit Ave, downtown Minneapolis, the Basilica and the Cathedral. When I crossed the border from Minneapolis to St. Paul, I felt a little thrill inside.

Time to stop daydreaming about crushing next year’s TCM, and worry about finishing Surf the Murph. Gulp.