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
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

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

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

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

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.

Race Report: Be The Match 5K

Official Results:
Time: 36:09
Pace: 11:38
Overall: 309/487
Division (F 30-39): 51/85
Gender: 156/278

Watch Results:
Time: 36:09 (! I am a master watch starter-stopper!)
Pace: 11:29
Distance: 3.14 mi
Heart Rate: 167

A: 36:00
B: 36:30

What I ate the night before: Chex Mix and pretzels
What I ate on race morning: 3/4 of a granola bar
What I carried with me: nothing

What I wore: Tech t-shirt, running capris, baseball cap
Gadgets: GPS watch, heart rate monitor

I drove down to the Twin Cities on Friday evening, and I wasn’t feeling so hot. I had had a taco salad for lunch that had made me feel overall kind of crummy, so I didn’t feel like eating much for dinner due to heartburn. I ate Chex Mix in the car on the way down, and some pretzels once I was at my friend’s house, but my stomach just felt like it was gnawing on itself.

I woke up at about 6:30 on Saturday morning and still felt crappy, probably because I hadn’t eaten enough the night before. It didn’t bode well for the race, but I got up and dressed and ready so I could head to my mother’s house, since we were car-pooling. We ended up getting going rather late, and I missed my nephew running in the tot trot. He came in like 2nd to last (he is 2.5 so it was somewhat of a mystery to him). That’s my boy! I did run from the car to the Lake Harriet bandshell to warm up (and also to tell the rest of the fam that my mom was coming with the race bibs), and I did eat a little bit before I ran, but I also left my water bottle in the car, so I didn’t fully integrate the changes I’d been planning.

I lined up with my mother’s cousin and her husband. I told them my plan was to line up toward the back so I didn’t get passed by a bunch of people, so we lined up between the 10:00 pacer and the walker signs. Unfortunately we lined up too soon, and WAY MORE PEOPLE lined up behind us, so my plan was foiled. My cousin’s husband ditched us right away because he is a speedy guy (he was 39th overall and 9th in his age group! Although he was disappointed in his time because he was a whole 7 seconds off his goal time), but my cousin was looking to run a similar pace to me. I think she is a little faster but was happy to hang back and chat with me. She was a great running companion as we gave each other little pep talks along the way, but then were also ok with silence at other times.

It was really humid out on Saturday, and much warmer than I was used to, and I still had a gaggy feeling in my throat (but my stomach wasn’t actually upset), so I was concerned about how the race would go. I was pushing a bit because my cousin was a little faster than me, and also because I wanted to get a good time. There were a couple small hills in the first mile or so, nothing I couldn’t handle. We hit the first mile in 11:15. I hung with my cousin for the first two miles (we hit the second in 11:41), and through the third I was kind of lagging a step or two behind, and then I told her to go on ahead of me. She checked back behind her once to see if I was OK, and I yelled at her “Go go go!” I kept her in my sights and tried to keep her from getting too far away. The final half mile or so was kind of sucky, as the race wasn’t an exact loop around Lake Harriet, there was a slight diversion around the parkway past the bird sanctuary to complete the distance, and that had a bit of a hill. The race did end on a downhill, which was nice, but for some reason I had no desire to kick it into high gear and race it in. I was passed by several people at the end, and only passed maybe one or two people, which made me mad at myself. I saw the clock at the finish from about the three mile mark (11:50 pace), and at first I thought it said 38:XX, which made me furious with myself. I had crossed the timing mat about 1:10 after the start, so if the clock had a 38 on it, it meant I hadn’t made my goals or even beat my time from April. As I got closer I realized the clock said 36:XX, which meant I had a chance to come in under my A Standard, and if I had been tougher, I would have used that as motivation to turn on the jets and run it on in. Of course, if I had been tougher, I would have hung on with my cousin, since she finished only 26 seconds ahead of me.

I missed my A Standard by 9 seconds. My legs and my lungs had 9 seconds in them, I know that. I need to really get smarter about my meals leading up to a race. Didn’t I just say I should avoid having Chipotle? Apparently I thought it would be safe to have a similar meal as long as it was for lunch, rather than dinner. Ugh.

I also should have taken a cup of water at the water station halfway through. Many 5Ks do not have water stations, so I shouldn’t have needed to, but it would have been nice to just cool me down a little and maybe calm my esophagus a little. I was too worried about it going down the wrong pipe while drinking on the run, and I didn’t want to slow down enough to drink it properly.

I am still pleased with the race result! I came in just shy of my A Standard goal, but I have no doubt that I will be able to beat that soon. My body felt fine after the race, and I met up with the cousins and grabbed some water and food. I ate a bit of a bagel and drank some water as we headed back in the opposite direction of the race to meet up with the rest of our family, as they were walking and had started after us. We probably tacked on another 0.5-0.7 miles walking. I walked with my mom and my great aunt and we chatted about how the race had gone for me, and about the course, and about how Lake Superior didn’t have a horrid dead fish smell every so often (I nearly gagged when I was nearing the end of the race and caught a whiff of dead fish.) I peeled off before the finish line since I’d already gone through, and then we took a family pic and headed home for some post-race brats and peanut butter bars.

Overall I had a great time with my family, set a new PR, raced through some nausea, and adapted decently to the heat despite my cooler training conditions. And I raised $276.66 for charity! I hope to smash THAT PR next May.

Minor Adjustments

For Saturday’s 5K, I’m probably not going to significantly change my approach to the race from what I did for the Fitger’s 5K, but I do think I have a few ways to improve.

I still plan on getting up early, but I am not going to run on an empty stomach this time. I’ll have either a bagel or a granola bar, and then have some snacks afterward. Since this race isn’t 2 miles from my house, and I’m not driving myself, I can’t just come and go whenever I want to. (I just asked my mom and she said she wanted to leave by 7:30 and now I’m depressed.) I’m also not going to eat Chipotle the night before, even though that wasn’t a problem. I’m also going to have a water bottle to sip on pre-race and have a few mints or something beforehand.

I don’t really know what to wear. The high for the day is like 79F, but of course it won’t be that warm at the start. Since it has been in the low 50s or 40s all week here, I won’t be accustomed to this heat! (Ha.) I will probably wear a long sleeved shirt and then make my mother hold it while I am running. This is very adult of me, I know.

The biggest change I plan on making is warming up beforehand. I’ll have plenty of time, since we have to get there so early in order to get a parking spot. I know I sort of laughed at people warming up last time, but I don’t plan on doing hill repeats or anything wacky. It took me awhile to connect the dots, but it dawned on me that if the first mile or so of my training runs is always one of the worst, I could prevent that in a race by warming up and getting the crummy mile out of my legs before the race starts. So, I plan on running a warmup mile (or less) at an aerobic pace.

Otherwise, I plan on racing the same way. I’ll line up at the back, try to keep from going out too fast, and save a little kick for the end. I’m feeling great and my legs felt speedy yesterday during my hill workout (the deer were back, but they left me alone this time), so I hope I can get a decent night’s sleep Friday night and tear up the pavement.