I've done three marathons now! This makes me sound hardcore...right??
Here is my race racap!
It was pretty cold at the starting line, and up until 15 minutes before the gun went off I wore flannel PJ pants over my capri tights. I started out wearing a long-sleeve top, team jersey, a thin jacket, and tube sock arm warmers, with two pairs of gloves and capri tights, as well as a running hat and a winter hat on top of that. So I had lots of layers to work with. I started well and focused on starting very conservatively. As far as how those first steps felt, which can be telling, I felt good and was looking forward to being out there!
6:00am before the race start. Note daughter who's been put through cowbell training.
I eased into the first miles around the lakes. I was surprised that I wasn't warming up a ton in my core--the air temp was just so cool. But I was still getting warmer in my extremities. Around Isles I tossed my outer mittens and when I got a lot warmer, my winter hat. Down to Calhoun and up to Harriet I felt loose and happy and enjoyed the crowds, though I was thinking that there were still a lot of miles to go. But I tried to stay in the moment as much as possible. I knew I'd have family cheering at mile 7.5 along Harriet, so it was nice to have that to look forward to. With the cold, though, even as early as mile 7 I was starting to notice that my calves (which weren't covered) were not loving the cold. I had flashbacks to my 2009 Twin Cities Marathon which was similarly chilly, when I started noticing those twinges around mile 12 and ultimately ended in lots of cramping in the last 7 miles of the race...a frustrating experience to be sure. So to keep this in check I kept telling myself not to go out too fast, and I slowed down my pace until it didn't bother me anymore. Actually, it was more along the lines of "Oh, hell no! This is not going to happen again because I'm smarter than that. Don't do anything in the first half that you won't be able to replicate in the second half."
My fuel was 5 chocolate gels in a flask that there thinned down with some water, and I had two backup gels in a belt. I started taking in sips of the flask starting around 45 minutes. To be honest the gels weren't sitting that well with me. My stomach was hurting a little but I just kept going. Through the parkway I kept focusing on running a sustainable pace...or whatever would fend off cramping. I really enjoyed all of the music on this part of the course! It's hard not to love "I'm sexy and I know it!" blaring from speakers along the parkway and the whole neighborhood dancing to it. With my mind otherwise on my calves I couldn't power up and down the rolling hills like I normally would and that was frustrating. But I actually started seeing people pulling off to the side of the road with cramping as early as mile 10 and heard myself saying "Let that be a cautionary tale," as Aesop's Fables as that sounds. So I continued around Nokomis to the halfway point of the race at a conservative pace and tried to keep myself loose, but it was hard in the cold. I didn't get how all of these people around me were down to their T-shirts and shorts already, if not from the race start, and here I was still super cold.
Around 13.1 miles I ran into Chuck, an old training partner from P2, aka "Diesel," who was running his 30th consecutive TCM. (Hence the nickname given to him by our then-coach.) I was actually so happy to run into him because he usually runs a very even pace and he wasn't looking to immediately drop anyone he might be running with, like me, so the moral support really helped. I tossed my arm warmers somewhere along Lake Nokomis as weather kept improving, but I was still cold and couldn't believe I was still needing my jacket. Diesel and I chatted a bit and ran together from mile 13 to about mile 20, past Minnehaha Falls, up West River Road (where Micah was cheering!), across Franklin Bridge, and down East River Road in St. Paul. On West River Road my stomach was still hurting a little and I'm pretty sure it was the gels, thought I've used this brand a lot and have never had issues. Diesel and I just kept running through the water stops together and I started taking Powerade instead of water at all the stops to keep on top of calories and electrolytes since I was pretty much done with the thought of consuming more of the chocolate gel that was bothering my stomach. And I needed to make sure I didn't bonk.
At mile 20 I finally felt warm enough to toss my jacket. At the water stop after mile 20 I grabbed two cups of Powerade and got those down, of course also getting some in my eye, but then couldn't find Diesel anywhere. I checked in front of me and then behind me about five times but I couldn't find him so I kept going. I looked him up after the race and it looks like he slowed down a fair amount and finished 13 minutes behind me. I certainly didn't feel like I was in a position to drop anyone I was running with, but I guess I did. At this point I was at the hill leading up to St. Thomas near mile 21 and strangely started feeling like I could pick up the pace. I got up the hill and got myself up onto Summit Ave. This is usually where the carnage starts, but I felt great. I focused on drawing energy from the crowd. The crowds on Summit are particularly encouraging, probably in response to the general look of the runners in the last miles. I went between feeling strong and then feeling odd pains in my feet and even some shin cramping. Not shinsplits--shin cramping. I guess there's a first time for everything. In response, I just kept downing Powerade and getting down one of my spare non-chocolate gels, and keeping myself moving forward at a reasonable pace.
For some reason, the part of the race that goes from St. Thomas up to Snelling Ave always seems so long to me. This proved true again, probably due in part to the fact that it's all a gradual uphill for 1.5 milkes, but I was more focused on how wonderful it felt to have only 3 miles left once I got to Snelling. The runners had thinned out and I remember thinking it was cool to be running in the dead center of the road with no one within a 20-foot radius of me for about 200 meters...I guess it was just one of those cool moments within a moment. Once I crossed Lexington Ave and started mile 24, Brian from my MN RED running group pulled up beside me. He wasn't in the race but someone on the team who had registered for the race ended up not running, so Brian used the race number to run intermittently with MN RED teammates...otherwise he would have been considered a race bandit. We ran for about a mile and I asked him to take my gel flask from me so I could be done with it. It's funny how the smallest things can make such a big difference. Without that to hold onto anymore I felt a whole different energy.
Brian dropped back to find other runners after determining that I was going to be just fine in the last two miles. I kept smiling at the crowd and saying "Thanks!" to random people, and even gave out one slightly awkward high-five to a stranger. It was so energizing to get encouragement from the crowds. If you're running and look a little too happy and at ease to be 24 miles into a marathon, the crowds seem to love that, and in turn the positive energy came back to me. With the intermittent shin and foot cramps was a little frustrated to be going back and forth between speed up some and then pulling back. Usually at this point if you're feeling good, you just want to go for it!
I got to the St. Paul Cathedral and waved to Steve Stenzel holding baby Henry in what I remember thinking was a very cute little baby sweater, and right after that I saw my MN RED teammates, and right after that, saw Micah and Zanna! Zanna definitely saw me. Then I powered through the last 0.2 miles and finished my third Twin Cities Marathon!
I feel a huge sense of accomplishment in finishing this marathon. It wasn't my fastest, not nearly. But I overcame and/or avoided a lot of things that could have stopped me in my tracks. I was stubborn and determined to enjoy the day, and kept my mind in check so I wouldn't go out too fast and make any regrettable moves. I'm a little bummed around the GI issues. A few weeks ago I finally came to the realization that I have a certain degree of lactose intolerance and I was really hoping that cutting out any and all dairy for the two days before the race would help. It certainly did, and while I did avoid some bad scenarios, I'm scratching my head over why the gels were still an issue.
But now I also feel a huge sense of relief in completing this marathon. I'm ready for some time to relax and cook fall food and just have more quality family time. I felt really proud to be completing my third marathon in front of my daughter and husband (as well as all of the rest of my wonderful family), and I hope someday Zanna will think it's pretty cool when I tell her about it.
Now to go see about that back rub a certain someone promised me....