Race Report: Twin Cities Marathon (Solo)

That was an experience I don’t care to repeat.

Watch Results:
Time: 7:02:58
Pace: 15:12
Distance: 27.81 mi
Heart Rate: N/A

Goals:
A: 6:00
B: 6:30

Food:
What I ate the night before: solo deep dish pizza, slice of cheesy garlic bread
What I ate on race morning: cereal, energy bar
What I carried with me: water (2L), gels

Gear:
What I wore: t-shirt, shorts, trucker hat
Gadgets: GPS watch, fitness tracker, hydration pack

Discussion: Well. Nothing went as anticipated, which is to be expected when I do almost no planning.

I thought I could be footloose and fancy-free about this race since the stakes were low, but when I turned the lights off to go to sleep on Friday night, anxiety descended upon me just like it does during a regular race. I don’t know how much sleep I got, but it wasn’t much and it wasn’t restful. Since I was making my own schedule, I figured I could set my alarm for an hour or so later and eke out a little more sleep. Nope. I woke up before that alarm, despite being exhausted. Disappointing.

I hadn’t done much prepping the night before, and while there wasn’t much to do, I wish I’d spent that little extra time putting gels and supplies in my pack and writing out the race route, just to shave off a bit of time. I ate part of a bowl of cereal, until I couldn’t shovel any more food into my mouth, and during the drive to the race start, I ate an energy bar. This was definitely not enough food! I generally underfuel for races (not on purpose, I just haven’t figured out what works), but this was exceptionally bad. I wanted to have my usual bagels but I dawdled on Friday and the bagel place was already closed. Since I started running much later in the day than I would for a regular race, I wasn’t able to rely on residual fuel from my dinner the night before. I didn’t consider that either.

I was able to conveniently park directly at the corner of Portland and 6th, the start of the race. It’s funny because to me, the race “starts” in front of US Bank Stadium, because I’m all the way back in the third corral. Here I was in the first corral, all by myself! (Side note: because the run took so long and then I relaxed at home for awhile, I had to pay $16 to park. Not my worst parking mistake ever, but woof!)

I made it all of a block on 6th before I hit a traffic light. I did not anticipate the impact that all these traffic lights would have on my run. When I was doing my solo 50k, I made up my own route, so I could skip the busy streets and the traffic lights. The TCM route goes down major streets, and without the street closures I was often stuck waiting at lights or stop signs. There were a few times I had to veer off course a bit to find the actual crosswalk or traffic light to safely cross the street. I probably could have crossed against the light a few times, but I am a rule follower by nature and as the race wore on, I didn’t trust my legs to be able to quickly get out of the way of an unexpected car.

While the first few miles of the race were fairly faithful to the race course, things started to get complicated when I got the Lake of the Isles. I couldn’t always count on a sidewalk or trail to be close to the road, and often times the trail that was closer to the road was the bike path. I ended up running on the curb or on the grass for most of the sections around the lakes as well as along Minnehaha Parkway. I hate running in grass, and while the curbs were wide enough to run along, I felt too close to traffic and worried all it took was one wrong step and I’d fall right in front of a car. Once I got past Minnehaha Falls and onto West River Rd, I was able to use the running path (for the most part), which was fine in some ways but also annoying because I was constantly stepping onto the grass or into the bikeway to try to maintain social distance. I am curious how much of the extra mileage I added as a result of adapting to the course without the closed roads, and how much was a result of normal GPS errors (like the giant error at the beginning when going under the Government Center). When I ran the marathon in 2018, my watch read 26.76 miles, which would imply that I added an extra mile of running with the little detours and deviations. That does seem a bit extreme – although I did also add an extra little bit by not remembering where the race ended.

This was my first time using the navigation feature on my watch – I created the route on the MovesCount site, uploaded it to my watch, and then used navigation mode for the race. I ended up not needing it, as the only time I got “off course” was the turn off Lake Harriet onto Minnehaha Parkway, when I took the right side of the creek instead of the left side of the creek, and yet I was still within the tolerances of the program. It did once tell me that I was going off course, but that was when I was finding a safer way to cross Lyndale. It also told me when I was at the end of my course so I knew when to stop running. (Silly me, it was past the actual finish line, but oh well.) It did also drain the battery quite a bit so I don’t really intend to use it that much. My watch went from nearly fully charged (maybe? It does fluctuate quite rapidly, it’ll say 85% charged and then when I attach it to the charge, will change to 71% or something – not thrilled with Suunto lately and probably won’t buy another watch from them, more on that at another time) down to 20%, and for a watch that’s supposed to be for ultrarunners, I feel like it should last a bit longer.

The run itself was nothing special. I walked a lot, although I definitely forced myself to run at times when I wanted to walk, so I guess I did some work on my mental game. I wanted to quit about a thousand times, but I didn’t, so hooray! I was clearly not trained to run a marathon, especially not lugging 2 liters of water with me (and yes I needed that much, I had less than 500 mL left when I finished), though I had hoped to finish it faster. I’m not sure if all the stops for traffic were a help or a hindrance to me – did the pause to recover help me go faster later, or did the pauses just increase my fatigue by drawing out the run longer?

I guess somewhere in my mind I was hoping I’d run faster, that my untrained self would somehow still be able to keep up a decent pace. I ended up running the exact same pace (per my watch/GPS) as I did for my 50K in the spring, which is kind of interesting. I do miss having something to train for – I suppose I could have trained for this, but eh. I’m never going to be able to treat a virtual/solo run like a real race and give it that same effort, so putting in a tough training block seems like a waste.

Maybe I do miss racing. I’d like the chance to train for and run a regular old marathon, and see if I can knock down my PR, get under 5 hours, etc. It’s sometimes fun to do big challenges like this on my own, but when the world emerges from this pandemic and we can have big events again, I’m going to be shelling out the $$$ for races again.

Twin Cities Marathon (Solo) 2020 Goals

Tomorrow, provided I don’t wake up and chicken out, I’m running a solo Twin Cities Marathon. I was planning on doing it last week, the official weekend of the race, but I was feeling kinda crappy due to the colder weather and decided to wait.

I haven’t really done any marathon training and I’ll be running this effort unsupported, so I’m not expecting any miracles here. But I’m fully recovered from my FANS effort and I needed something new to focus on.

I didn’t sign up for the official virtual race, because it was $125, but I am running the race course (provided I don’t take a wrong turn). I’m going to drive myself to the start, park somewhere nearby, and then get my spouse to pick me up at the Capitol when I’ve finished. I’ll probably start around 10:00, which is great for me but also means it’ll consume my entire day. The key here is not farting around at starting at 11:30 or something.

I have to carry a bunch of stuff with me since this is an unsupported run and I’m super slow. I’ll be wearing my hydration pack, carrying gels, my cell phone, sunscreen, probably some money, and a mask, just in case I have to duck in somewhere to use a bathroom. (Are public bathrooms open? I guess I’ll find out.) I’ve done a self-supported long run before (my BTTT 50K back in May), but never a point-to-point one, so I’ll be like a pack mule comparatively speaking.

I don’t really have goals that I’ve been working toward, but I also don’t want to be out there forever, so I’d ideally like to finish in 6 hours. I ran TCM in 2018 in ~5:33, so I guess that would mean I’d be finishing at a pace about a minute slower than I did when I trained and ran the race supported (~13:43 vs 12:43). That’s probably a bit ambitious, but I did a heck of a lot of walking during that race thanks to a side stitch, and I also ran several of my FANS efforts at a faster pace than that. If I finish in less than 6:30 that will be acceptable.

The nice thing is if I fail for some reason, I can go out and try again next weekend, or I can just… not. And if I wake up a bit later than planned, I can just start slightly later. And if I go off course, it’ll just be a Twin Cities Ultramarathon. And if I totally bonk and end up walking it in, there won’t be any SAG wagon chasing me down. I like these low stakes endeavors!