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.

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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.

Twin Cities Marathon Goals

Arrrrrrgh. Still sick. I hate everything. I ran to the race expo and back today, and it was basically a terrifying experience. Not the run, the run was fine. The expo was a nightmare. First, I actually took the long way around the Xcel Energy Center to get to the expo because when I was crossing Kellogg after going over the Wabasha Street Bridge, I saw a group of runners making their way over to the expo, looking official and even being videotaped by a guy. NO THANK YOU, I do not want to run by fast-looking people, I will take the long way around.

To get in to the expo, I had to go through a metal detector. Since I ran there, I had nothing on me but my phone, ID, and a credit card, so I went through easily, but ugh. I was feeling sweaty and a little fatigued thanks to my semi-stuffy head, and was quickly overwhelmed by the crowd. And I also felt like a total loser. Everyone there was thin! I mean, duh, this is a marathon. But I felt like a total outsider. Everyone there was also white, so I can imagine a person of color would feel even more like an outsider. I mean, I felt like I didn’t belong simply because I had curly hair. Also I had cat hair on my running tights and I had wiped my nose on the sleeve of my jacket about 7500 times on the run to the expo, so I was pretty much a complete goober. A water buffalo in a room of gazelles.

I picked up my bib and then I wandered around a little bit. I thought there might be cool stuff to look at but then realized I didn’t want to talk to anyone. It was really crowded and people were exhibiting an astounding lack of awareness of their surroundings, so I was ready to leave. This is NOT a good omen for the race. Sometimes in a trail race over an hour will pass without me seeing another person. I LOVE THAT. But I am here to try something new.

I am glad I picked up my packet today, rather than waiting until tomorrow. While it was a disaster zone already due to the expo AND the Lynyrd Skynyrd concert, tomorrow is the Wild’s home opener and there will be some kind of fan thing going on all afternoon in addition to the expo. The Skynyrd folks seemed a little puzzled about what was going on. I had a chat with one of the guys directing traffic and wished him well through the crazy weekend.

So, goals. I don’t really know what to do here. I have been all over the map with training. I didn’t do any “marathon pace” workouts successfully, thanks to the hot weather. I have cold-like stuff that may or may not be gone by race day. I’m going to Duluth and back on Saturday. I’m not exactly setting myself up for success. And I’ve never done this before. I’ve never run a race this long that is runnable the whole way. What is my body going to think about a marathon with no hiking? It’s gonna be so confused. And maybe it’s gonna be like “no.” I don’t know.

Even with all these unknowns, I’m sticking with my same A goal of sub-5. Now, that doesn’t mean that, come race day, I’m going to hold that pace even if it feels like misery from the get-go. I will do what I’m capable of on Sunday, not shoot for something I want regardless of ability. I decided months ago that I wanted to run a sub-5 marathon, and so I’m not going to back away from saying it out loud. If I don’t make it, I don’t. It’s okay to not make every running goal you set, and it’s okay to publicly fail. Or maybe it isn’t, for the gazelles of the world, what do I know?

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

Non-time related goals: stay out of the med tent, finish the race, walk as little as possible, and don’t become a meme.

Twin Cities Marathon Training: Week 12

Where did the time go?

Monday: 6.2 mi, treadmill (50 @ tempo)
Tuesday: 3.5 mi, treadmill
Wednesday: 3.3 mi, road
Thursday: rest
Friday: rest (volunteering)
Saturday: 26.2 mi, trail, Moose Mountain Marathon
Sunday: rest
Total: 39.2 mi

Huh, apparently it’s already Friday. I didn’t even notice, I’ve been fairly busy at work, which is great!

I took it easy last week after that last tempo run, but it wasn’t enough, as I started coming down with cold/allergy symptoms that ended up affecting my race. Massive bummer. I had originally been planning to do a final short run on Thursday, and possibly even a run on Sunday morning, but it wasn’t meant to be.

It seems like from here on out, I’ll be deviating significantly from the training plan I devised, as my next couple of weekends are kind of full, and I’m trying to avoid getting worn down. I’m not sure what my training will entail, but it’s unlikely to include any more long runs due to time constraints. I figure I can do more to harm my race than help it at this point!

Race Report: Moose Mountain Marathon 2018

Am I headed for the same brick wall
Is there anything I can do about anything at all?
Except go back to that corner in Manhattan
And dig deeper, dig deeper this time
Down beneath the impossible pain of our history
Beneath unknown bones
Beneath the bedrock of the mystery
Beneath the sewage systems and the path train
Beneath the cobblestones and the water mains
Beneath the traffic of friendships and street deals
Beneath the screeching of kamikaze cab wheels
Beneath everything I can think of to think about
Beneath it all, beneath all get out
Beneath the good and the kind and the stupid and the cruel
There’s a fire just waiting for fuel.

Ani Difranco

Official Results:
Time: 8:42:12 (18:43 slower than I ran this race in 2016)
Pace: 19:56
Placing:
Overall: 259/306
Gender: 113/152
AG (F 1-39): 51/56

Watch Results:
Time: 6:23:45
Pace: 20:14
Distance: 18.97 mi (clearly it died — at 6 hours? that’s BS)
Heart Rate: N/A

Goals:
A: 7:00
B: 7:20
C: 7:59:59

Food:
What I ate the night before: hummus and veggie sandwich, bagel and cream cheese, some cookies and goldfish crackers at volunteering
What I ate on race morning: bagel with cream cheese, also about half of another bagel
What I carried with me: 7 gel packets, water, water with electrolye tablet, spare electrolyte tablet. I ate a bunch of crap at the aid stations.

Gear:
What I wore: t-shirt, shorts, ball cap, buff (I took it off pretty early on)
Gadgets: GPS watch, fitness tracker, hydration pack

Discussion: This was obviously not the race I wanted to run.

Starting on Wednesday of this last week, I started feeling stuffy, like I generally do when the weather changes. That was frustrating, but I also knew I had similar feelings the night before Chippewa Moraine this year and I managed to avoid getting full-on bronchitis or whatever garbage I was getting several times a year for awhile. I didn’t worry, and while Thursday I felt fairly crummy, I woke up Friday feeling better enough that I figured I’d feel even better on Saturday. I was sneezing a lot so I took an allergy pill, and a couple generic non-meth-strength Sudafed on Friday evening.

I didn’t make a packing checklist this year! I am really surprised. Usually I am so nervous I put everything on it. I literally write things like “fill water pack” and “take off rings” on there and check them off! I even put write blogpost on my checklists, which is kind of sad. I didn’t make one for this race, though, and I didn’t forget anything! Not one single thing, except I thought I forgot to bring a zip close bag for my cell phone and it turned out I had one in my car and two in the bag I used for toting around running stuff when I drive to a training location. (Note: using this bag to store a lot of my running supplies might be one of the reasons why I didn’t forget anything.) I packed everything on Friday when I got up, too. Usually I’m such a freak about getting everything set the night before, so it was nice to see I’m starting to calm down and get in a routine.

The drive up was really frustrating. It took a really long time, thanks to some bad traffic to start with at Spaghetti Junction, then more traffic in Duluth, then a quick stop to buy bagels in Duluth, then finally an extremely long wait north of Two Harbors thanks to a very small section of road that was down to one lane and thus using a flag crew. I was actually 45 minutes late to volunteering! Fortunately it wasn’t that busy, probably because everyone else was stuck in traffic. I was supposed to function as a greeter but I decided my services were needed at the merch tables instead. I did greet a few people but they just asked where the bathroom was and I told them there were porta-potties out back and they were dissatisfied with that answer. Then it turned out they were hotel guests anyway so idk what the problem was. I was a much better merch seller than greeter, especially since I was decked out in several items for sale, from my own personal collection. I really enjoy volunteering at check-in/packet pick-up, because I like the people who are assigned to volunteer with me, and because I like talking to the other runners. Many of them are starting to become familiar faces and remember that I have tried to upsell them on gloves and headwraps in the past, and seem to not mind. It’s fun to chat with these folks, even though most of them don’t know my name, and I don’t know theirs, or I do but pretend that I don’t while secretly sort of fangirling because they are accomplished or otherwise in the “cool runners” crowd.

I felt really fatigued at packet pick-up, and even at the time I had an idea that it was not a good sign. I was hoping it would translate into actually being tired when I got back to my hotel room (narrator: it did not), but it was concerning. Constant interaction with people helped keep my mind off how I felt kind of warm and that I had that weird spacey feeling I get when my sinuses are a bit stuffed up but my nose is clear. I was staying at the lodge next door instead of at the event location, so I had to go check in. Unfortunately since Ski Hill Road is very dark, I got confused and drove around trying to find the check in. I had to call and ask where it was — and it turned out it was really easy to find. So that was embarrassing, but the woman at the front desk was so nice about it and we laughed together. Then I couldn’t find my room, and it turned out that it was around the back of the lodge. It had a nice view.

I got back to the room, laid out all my stuff, and lazed around until I decided it was time to try to go to sleep. I was checking race results constantly, looking for updates on how Neal Collick was faring in his attempt to break the men’s course record (success), on how my personal hero Mallory Richard was doing (she managed to overtake the previous women’s leader, finish 5th overall, and break the women’s course record, also set by her), and on how my friends were doing. (They were all doing well at the time.) I turned off the lights, turned on my white noise app, turned on a TV show I could easily ignore, and tried to quiet my mind by thinking about mundane things like multiplication tables. All the usual tricks. NONE of them worked. My heart rate was high, my brain was wired, and I could not get to sleep. OF COURSE. I wonder sometimes if volunteering gets me too amped up and if I should just spend a mellow evening relaxing, but I enjoy volunteering too much.

I probably did sleep for an hour or two, but it didn’t really feel like it. I was up at 6 am, getting dressed (it was already 51F so I opted not to take my rain shell and just went with my arm warmers, which I took off at the start), trying to stuff my face with as much food as possible even though I wasn’t very hungry, and doing all the normal race prep stuff. I was out the door by about 6:40, with a short walk to the race HQ to catch the bus. I took a steeper shortcut through the parking lot of my lodge to reach the road more directly, and I started sweating. Not a good sign, especially when it’s a sweat that comes from my head and my back instantaneously, and I can feel it. It’s the kind of sweat I get when I exert myself too much when I’ve got a head cold (or similar). I shrugged it off, thinking hey, it’s early, I’m barely awake, it’ll be fine. I was still sweating on the bus though (it was warm, but not that warm) so it worried me even more, but once I got to talking to my seatmate I started to feel better and took my mind off my possibly real, possibly imagined illness.

I caught up with some friends at the race start and then finally it was underway!

Start to Cramer Rd (0.8 mi, 12:39 elapsed, 15:48 pace): The race start attempts to spread folks out by running them along Cramer Road and then jumping on the Superior Hiking Trail before the trailhead. It doesn’t work that well but it could be worse! I am fairly surprised at this pace because at one point we were at a dead stop while we tried to funnel onto the trail. I felt fine at this point, the running was easy, there were tons of people cheering, and I rolled through the aid station and onto the main trail feeling confident.

Cramer Rd to Temperance (7.1 mi section/7.9 mi overall, 2:09:47 section/2:22:26 elapsed, 18:17 section/18:02 overall pace): At first I was trotting right along, probably farther toward the front of the pack than I should have been due to the funneling, but still keeping pace with folks. At first it felt easy, although for the first mile or so I was running behind a couple who were getting their quarter mile splits from some kind of app. I could not fathom why, especially since pretty much every app is inaccurate on the SHT. Every time they got a split, the man would say “we’re losing time” and try to hurry the woman along. I was very glad to let them get ahead of me; I’m pretty obsessive about my races, but I’ve never seen anyone micromanaging a trail race like that. It stressed me out.

Then running started to become labored. I felt like my chest was congested (and maybe it is, but only mildly), my nose was running nonstop, and my head felt fuzzy again. Plus, I was still sweating, and it still was “I don’t feel well” sweat, not running sweat. The first little climb was so hard. Even walking up it was hard. I started to let people pass by me by the bunches so that I could go my own pace, and after awhile I let myself slow to a walk. Even on the runnable sections, like along the Cross River. I was extremely frustrated. I was also concerned about my health. At Wild Duluth 50K, I dropped at the second aid station when I was experiencing more extreme versions of the same symptoms (the difference then, I was getting over a longer illness and still had a deep cough). I didn’t have momentary blackouts, but these climbs were relatively minor and I knew that I had big climbs to come in the next segment, and again at Moose/Mystery.

Here I was only a couple miles in and looking for reasons to quit. I thought oh, I can just stop at Temperance and volunteer. Or just sit in a chair for awhile until someone I know comes along crewing and I can hitch a ride. Or something. Then I started questioning what I was doing running. Who did I think I was, trying to run an ultra? Or a marathon? Or anything at all? I was a big wimp who wanted to quit when things went slightly wrong. I was someone who couldn’t even get through a fairly low-mileage training block without getting sick/worn out/whatever – how could I ever run something longer than a 50K?

Then I thought about my friend Jeff, who had been running the 100 mile race. He was kicking butt (based on Facebook updates and runner tracking) when I went to bed, but when I woke up I found out he’d dropped due to terrible stomach issues. I thought about how I was running 1/4 of the distance he was running, and that if he felt like I did, he’d still be running. I could pretty much guarantee that any 100 mile runner still on the course felt worse than I did, and they were continuing. It was time for me to figure out how to face adversity without giving up. So I decided to keep going. If I had to hike it in, I had to hike it in. There was plenty of time. (I guess I didn’t have a headlamp so I couldn’t have taken like 12 hours to finish.)

So I hiked. I let everyone pass me who needed to pass me. I gave up on my A and B goals, although I did manage to get into Temperance with my 8 hour pace intact.

Temperance to Sawbill (5.7 mi section/13.6 mi overall, 1:58:09 section/4:20:35 elapsed, 20:44 section/19:10 overall pace): I left Temperance with hands full of food. I thought since I’d been feeling hungry during the past section, I had better eat something substantial, so I grabbed a couple cookies, a handful of potato chips, and a pancake. I should have grabbed two pancakes, because within minutes of eating it, I felt way better. Like, I realized I felt like running again. Except I had slammed two cups of Coke and one cup of ginger ale and stuffed my face because I thought I was going to be hiking. So then I couldn’t run because I felt like a whale. I also forgot that right outside Temperance is a prime spot for photographers, so I ended up getting photographed stuffing my face while carrying my bite guard (it keeps me from clenching so hard when I’m running). So classy. I did end up actually running after I burped about 100 times. I ran over the bridge spanning the Temperance River and then continued running until I reached the start of the uphill section. For some reason I thought the big climbs started sooner, so I was hesitant to run past the first set of stairs set into the hillside. I kept waiting and waiting for Carlton Peak to come, and it didn’t. I did get passed by the 50 mile winner somewhere in here, and I was definitely passed by WAY more 50 mile runners than last time, but whatever. I didn’t count.

And then came Carlton Peak. It was fairly warm at this point, and the sun was out, and that section was exposed. So I started to cook. I didn’t know until I got back to the lodge, but I was sunburned, and it likely started there. Once I started the really steep section, I knew it was going to be bad. I let a lot of people go by me and tried to go at my own pace, but my own pace included stopping. A lot. Which isn’t like me, I usually want to push through and get up and over as quickly as I can. I don’t usually find stopping particularly helpful. But this time, I found stopping necessary. I felt really stupid, partially because I usually feel so smug about my ability to get up these tough, steep sections. It was definitely humbling. I did manage to fake it for a photographer (I didn’t forget about this prime hiding spot) but just past that spot, I didn’t just stop. I sat down. I FREAKING SAT DOWN ON THE TRAIL. I have never sat down during a race. I realize this is overly dramatic but I felt very dramatic in the moment. But I was so fatigued, and on top of that, I felt totally nauseated. And I knew there was more to come. So I sat, until someone else came along, and sat, seemed like she was also nauseated. I didn’t want to stick around and see if she was going to barf, so I kept going. And stopped a bunch more, and then when I finally reached the top, I walked it down. Slowly.  So slowly, even though it was runnable. I kept alternating between being at peace with my decision and becoming frustrated anew. I wasted a lot of energy being mad at myself.

I also forgot that after the descent from Carlton Peak, it’s uphill to the aid station. And the road crossing is not anywhere near the actual aid station. I mean, it is, but it feels interminably long, because once reaching the road crossing, I anticipated the aid station would be imminent. I took one year off from this race and apparently forgot everything about it. I drank some pop, ate some chips, took some cookies, and walked out.

Sawbill to Oberg (5.5 mi section/19.1 mi overall, 1:54:43 section/6:15:18 elapsed, 20:51 section/19:39 overall pace): This section is probably the “easiest” section in that it doesn’t have any brutal uphills like Carlton Peak or Moose Mountain, although Temperance might actually be easier due to the long descent. I knew there were a couple of climbs in this section (thanks to re-reading my race report the night before), and couldn’t tell where they were, so I conserved energy and hiked quite a bit of this section. I’m surprised, doing the math now (I’m not relying on GPS data, but on my lap button on my watch, to get the time between sections), that this section was actually slower than the previous section, considering the time I spent sitting on Carlton Peak. I am a very slow hiker.

I like this section and I was looking forward to running it. Even though there are serious uphills, they are pretty short and there aren’t as many roots and rocks in this section. It’s mostly shaded, and it’s just… nice. Plus it’s the shortest segment of the race! Now I feel like I have to run this race next year just to prove that this section is fun to run, even though I’ve been thinking of sticking to volunteering for the 2019 race.

Nothing notable happened during this section. I was just looking ahead to Oberg, knowing that if I could get past the last aid station, I’d have to finish. I was doing lots of dangerous Race Math and trying to figure out if I could finish under 9 hours and was worrying I could not get it done. I felt my E goal slipping through my fingers but I knew it was still possible. The big unknown would be the Moose.

I ran a bit once I was past the switchback climb. I forget that the sign that says “Oberg Parking Lot” is not anywhere near the parking lot, and there’s still like a mile or so to go. I ran into a group of people with a 100 mile runner – it turned out one was a pacer and the other 3 were volunteers sent to fetch him, as he had been feeling dizzy and lightheaded, but was fine and joking about it. We were met at some point by EMTs coming to check on him as well, but all was well, and he finished – I checked! I trotted in chatting with one of the volunteers, who has been coming up to the race for 12 years! Just before the Oberg aid station, we were greeted by Kurt of TCRC fame, and then the excitement of reaching the final aid station swept me up.

I forgot that I stopped at Oberg a little longer than I did at any of the other aid stations. I was chatting with Mike Borst a little, as he paced the winner for 20 or 30 miles through the night before coming back to help at the aid station. So maybe that contributed to my slightly slower pace during this section. Maybe not, I don’t know. Does it really matter? No.

Oberg to finish (7.1 mi section/26.2 mi overall, 2:26:54 section/8:42:12 elapsed, 20:41 section/19:56 overall pace): The Race Math continued. I had 2 hours and 45 minutes to finish the race in under 9 hours. I also had 2 hours and 8 minutes to finish the race under my previous time. So the dream of a course PR wasn’t dead yet, although I was realistic about its improbability. My watch died only 8 minutes after I left the aid station, so I had to rely on the time of day as my only gauge of progress.

After a short uphill, there’s a nice downhill all the way to Rollins Creek, and I ran it as best as I could. I actually felt pretty decent at this point, but knew I needed to save a lot for Moose and Mystery. I told myself once I was at the top of Mystery, I could run.

Even though I’ve run this section a quadrillion times, I forgot how long it takes for Moose Mountain to actually start. There’s a lot of preamble, relatively easy uphill that belies the undefined slope (aka vertical line) to come. I was ready to just get it over with so of course it took forever to come. Then it also took forever to go up. And again, I stopped. A lot. Last time I ran this race, I kept telling myself to keep moving whenever I felt like stopping. This year, stopping was a survival technique. Maybe I should try trekking poles next time. I hauled my way up, bent over at the knees to catch my breath, sometimes leaning on trees, possibly even sitting once more (my memory is sort of fuzzy but yeah, I think I sat). I thought my legs would be jelly at the top, but they were okay. I was so happy to get to the top and walked my way across. It feels like the top gets longer every time I run this stinking mountain. I knew the saddle was coming at some point and that seemed to have more short ascents than I thought. Of course I was probably moving 5 or 6 minutes/mile faster when I last ran this section… I finally reached the descent (and the sign that told me it was only 3.5 miles to Ski Hill Road!!!) and was temporarily relieved… until I realized how shot my knees were. I’d been stubbing toes, rolling ankles, and otherwise destroying my joints, even with mostly walking. So this steep downhill was pretty painful, as was the climb over a downed tree. For a person of average height, it might have been okay, but I could barely get one leg over it, and it was a feat of strength to get my second leg over. I had NO flexibility at that point. I practically rolled over the darn thing.

Once it flattened out a bit, I was able to run, until I reached what I thought was the start of Mystery Mountain. I even started my “99 Bottles of Beer on the Wall” mantra – only to realize I wasn’t there yet! I crossed the footbridge and started the song anew once I started the real ascent. My brain was so addled that I kept losing track of where I was in the song. It was strange – I didn’t find Mystery Mountain that hard. It felt mostly the same, maybe a bit slower, but I never felt like I needed to stop or barf or black out for a second or two. Miraculous!

For some reason, I remembered the rest of the trail very differently. Like… there were more uphills than I remembered. I thought it was all downhill. Why? It’s clearly not. But I always forget. And am always rudely reminded. I ran as much as I could, even though this section is full of rocks and my ankles were killing me. I can feel every one of those ankle rolls now. Ouch. My feet hurt a bit too – I had a couple minor blisters on each heel and on my big toes. So I felt that, too. But as I crashed down the hill, I just kept thinking about hearing the river. The Poplar River – the sweetest sound in the world to a Superior runner. Of course I thought I heard it like 5 or 6 times and it turned out to be the wind. Sigh.

I hit Ski Hill Road and couldn’t believe it. I was almost there. I was going to finish in under 9 hours. I was going to run right by my nice cozy lodge room. And I was going to run the last 1000m or so with my eyes stinging with sweat. Ugh. I had to dig my sweaty buff out of the back pocket of my shorts (ew ew ew ew ew) and wipe my eyes in order to keep them open. One final insult.

Ahead of me as I turned the corner to leave the road, I saw a familiar figure making her way to the finish line, with the unmistakable triumphant shuffle of a 100 mile finisher: my friend Stephanie. I met Stephanie for the first time at the finish line of the 2015 Superior race, when I handed her a buckle and finisher’s medal and gave her a hug because… I don’t know why. Because she seemed cool and happy and inspiring. So I started calling her my role model, and then we became friends. Like Facebook official and everything. I could hear the emcee calling her name and the loud cheers for her, and then heard my own name as I came “flying” through the chute. Ha. And we hugged, and I practically started crying. This awful race had a happy ending. The race director handed me the buckle to present to her, and handed her a race medal to present to me, and we hugged about 10 more times.

I made the rounds at the finish line, checking in with friends and with others who I recognized from the trail, ate my chili, and then decided to pack it in and walk back to the hotel. I didn’t feel great, but beyond an overwhelming sense of fatigue and likely dehydration and low blood sugar, I wasn’t in that bad of shape. Which makes sense since I hiked like 80% of the race, I guess. I peeled off my sweaty clothes, took a shower, drank some vanilla Coke, and bummed around the room. I considered going back to the finish line but… it seemed so hard and so far.

I dug deep for this race. I swallowed my pride, fought my instinct to quit, re-set my goals repeatedly, and vacillated between embracing the suffering and questioning whether I even belong in this race or deserve to call myself a trail runner. But maybe I was really showing a glimmer of what it’s going to take for me to finish a hundred miler someday soon. Maybe not this one… yet. I didn’t get the race I wanted, not by a longshot. I wanted to run a big PR, make a decision about running Surf the Murph, and finish triumphantly with plenty of energy to hang out at the finish line after and help out. Instead I might have gotten the race I needed. I had to forget about what I “could have” or “should have” been able to accomplish — it doesn’t matter how fast I ran the 25K in the spring, or how much I’ve improved since the last time I ran this race, or what I conjured up in my head that I could achieve. The only thing that mattered was what I could do that day. So I put one foot in front of the other as best I could, showed as much gratitude as I could muster for a beautiful day in the woods with friends and congenial strangers, and I’ll treasure the finisher’s medal probably even more than I would have if I’d made my A goal.

Fall Running Goals 2018

Getting this in before I start achieving/failing to achieve some of these goals.

  1. Distance personal best. I hope this happens at Surf the Murph, but I haven’t registered yet. I need to see how Superior goes before I sign up. There’s also the option of a timed race in ND.
  2. Marathon personal best. I’ve got two chances at this: Superior and Twin Cities. I would like to beat my current PB (7:22:17) at Superior (it would be a great predictor of success at Surf the Murph!), but if that doesn’t happen, I’ll get it at TCM or… I guess quit running.
  3. Moose Mountain Marathon course personal best. Considering I have run a 50K faster than I ran MMM last time, I think this is very achievable.
  4. Spend some time exploring St. Paul. This may or may not be achieved via running – maybe biking, or even walking? I need to check out more spots in my new city.

I think that’s probably enough.

I’ve written enough race goals posts that there’s not much new to discuss regarding Moose Mountain Marathon – it’s my second time on the course, it’ll be my third (?) marathon, and I still just want to have a good time, not barf, and live through the ordeal ready to compete (against myself) at TCM. So I’ll append my goals here rather than write a separate post.

A Standard: 7:00:00
B Standard: 7:20:00
C Standard: 7:59:59

I think 7 hours is a stretch, but I ran the spring 25K at a faster pace than that. I understand a 25K is not a marathon but I also know that I only have to go up Moose and Mystery Mountains one way. (I do have to go up Carlton Peak, but I actually don’t mind that too much.) I put it on the pace chart, so I’ll be aiming for it as long as it’s physically possible. I feel like total crap today so that’s pretty much right on cue for race week!

Twin Cities Marathon Training: Week 11

I rebounded!

Monday: 7.3 mi, treadmill
Tuesday: 6.3 mi, road (7xWabasha St Bridge)
Wednesday: rest
Thursday: 5.8 mi, paved trail (Lake Nokomis, 42 @ tempo)
Friday: 6.2 mi, road
Saturday: 7.5 mi, road (split into 2 runs)
Sunday: 8.6 mi, trail (Fort Snelling)
Total: 41.6 mi

I was determined to get in a decent week of running this past week, and I succeeded, I think. Obviously I didn’t do any long runs, but that’s fine. Monday I stuck to the treadmill because I was still not totally over my illness (I think I am now, or at least I hope so — the alternative is I have a silent infection slowly taking over my body — shudder). Tuesday I’d had enough and headed out on the roads for bridge repeats, which sucked as they always do. But I always feel so self-satisfied afterward, like I’ve really accomplished something. Which I have.

Wednesday I was planning on running and didn’t. I had a long day at work and didn’t get home til almost 6, so I decided to pack it in. It was worthwhile, my brain was pretty fried and I had a big meeting Thursday morning I wanted to be prepared for. I brought stuff to work on Thursday so I could go directly after work to Lake Nokomis. Well, actually I parked at my cousin’s house, ran from her place to Lake Nokomis, did 2 laps around, and then ran back. I did a tempo run, my first on the road in awhile, and it felt really really really freaking miserable and difficult. Possibly because there was a STRONG wind around the lake, and I was running right into it at times. And also because I hadn’t done one on the road in awhile. I ended the tempo segment at 42 minutes, right when I got to the spot where I turned off the path and onto the street again. I thought my training plan had called for a 50 minute tempo run and I was SO DONE, but it turned out it only called for 45 minutes, and I think I had 3 more minutes in me, had I known.

I thought I needed to rush back to my cousin’s house to meet my mom and my aunt, who were walking her dogs, but it turned out they were late arriving and so I ended up hanging out at the house for awhile, chatting with my mom, my aunt (visiting from Colorado on her way to Norway), my cousin, and her mom (who is my mom’s cousin, but I didn’t feel like writing out “second cousin” and “first cousin once removed” because who cares?) while holding my cousin’s squishy new baby. (I waited until I’d dried off a bit and washed my hands first, because I didn’t want to snuggle with a newborn while drenched in sweat and caked in salt.) So I guess I had time to get those last minutes of tempo in, but whatever.

Friday I ran starting at Indian Mounds Regional Park. I need to remember not to do that, because it starts off as a lot of downhill. That means it ends with a lot of uphill. It was pretty miserable. There’s a great view of the city at sunset from the park, which I was treated to as I cruised in for the last half mile or so. There were some gentlemen enjoying adult beverages when I started my run, and they were still there when I returned, and one of them complimented me for running for so long. I was in a good mood and generally I don’t mind exchanging a few words with a drunk stranger if they are nice and not aggressive, so I thanked him and said it was tough, then wished him a good evening.

Saturday I split my run into 2 runs, because I had a bunch of stuff to do. I ran about 4 miles around lunchtime and got absolutely scorched. It made me feel fairly miserable and faintly nauseated for several hours afterward, even after taking a shower (far too quick) and rehydrating. My husband and I drove over to my mom’s, had a mid-day meal with my family before my aunt left for her trip, and then we drove home to start our project for the weekend: painting the kitchen cupboards. Ugh. What a dumb idea. We took all the cabinets down, removed the hardware, and then I went for another run in the evening (about 3 miles) which was a lot less miserable.

Sunday I got up, went to Fort Snelling, and had an actual enjoyable run around Pike Island and then up the Minnesota River Valley Trail toward Minnehaha Falls (I’ll have to run there another time). It was significantly more enjoyable to run that area without feeling like I had to pee the whole time. It was warm but most of the trail was shaded. I felt pretty strong but also caught myself spacing out and running at a mindless pace. I’d look down and see like 15:45 pace on my watch. I do not understand how I can let myself get so much slower just by zoning out. It’s really annoying, because zoning out helps the miles go by. I need to figure out a better way to run by feel, because I thought I was cruising along at least 2 min/mi faster. Then I went home and finished prepping my kitchen and started painting, which about killed my poor legs.

Superior is this week, I can’t even believe it. Time for my mini-taper (and time to get more done around the house)!