October 7, 2013 by Amy B
For those who are used to really detailed race recaps, I apologize in advance. This probably won’t be one of them. I tend to piece these together when I have free time in between diaper changes and the other demands of life.
Why don’t we get all the timing details out of the way to start?
Garmin reported this:
And when I finished, after an unexpected emotional outburst/wave of nausea, I looked like this:
Let’s back up. Morning wakeup call was early but not a big deal. I knew getting up at 4:30am this summer to run would be worth something. Didn’t sleep great (sick baby coughing in my face all night) but wasn’t worried. I’d gotten a fair amount of sleep on Friday night, which is where it matters in my book.
Since I’m still sort of breastfeeding Aaron, I wanted to drain before the race. Last year I developed a raging case of mastitis post-marathon and seriously thought I was dying. I had no intention of repeating that this year. Then this happened:
Breast pump totally crapped out. Not sure what’s going on with it. It’s not a huge deal – I rarely pump anymore – but two hours before my marathon? You’re killing me, Avent.
The race starts at the Metrodome in Minneapolis, home of the Minnesota Vikings. They’re building a new stadium soon, so we figured we should get a picture inside in case we don’t make it back for a game.
One of the awesome parts of this race are the indoor bathrooms. Runners pretty much have the run of the stadium so there’s never a huge line or long wait for a toilet, at least for women. For men, with only two stalls in each bathroom, it’s a different story. I always pity the fools who are standing in the port-a-john lines outside, because seriously, why would you choose that nastiness over a warm, indoor toilet? I know. Beats me, too.
We were in Corral 3 this year, which was new for us; we are usually in Corral 2. I think the third was added in the last couple years.
I didn’t love it. While I normally don’t care about this sort of thing, we had to wait about ten minutes to even see the start, and since I was gunning for a 4:30 time, I was having a tough time navigating through a sea of 5 hour plus runners. It resulted in me running the early miles faster than I’d planned, just because I was trying to find open running space.
The first 10K felt pretty great. I kept glancing at Garmin and knew I was running faster than originally planned. I’d told myself to stay around 10:30 for the first third. Yeah, didn’t happen. But I felt great! I told myself that I had been running faster than this in training, so perhaps I was just underestimating what I could really do. I kept it up. I figured I might need the extra time at the end.
Whether this was a mistake or not, I will never know. But the middle of the race was kind of a disaster.
When we hit the 10 mile mark, I wasn’t feeling awful but was definitely starting to fade. My plan of just slowly chewing on chews for the entire race instead of ingesting large quantities at once seemed to be working, but I hadn’t walked through an aid station. I was filling up my handheld bottle every couple of stops – just grabbing two cups of water, dumping them in and not stopping – and didn’t actually walk through an aid station until the halfway point. I did notice that after taking that walking break at 13, I felt a little better, but not much. I told myself I should feel better at this point and started to question my fueling strategy.
Mile 14-17 sucked big time. It’s a particularly long stretch of the course that isn’t a favorite, and the miles seemed endless. I actually didn’t glance down at Garmin much during this stretch. I really had to attempt to zone out and pull out the mantras. I knew that I just needed to keep moving forward and not pay attention to all of the people passing me, even though I was thinking, why the fuck are all these people passing me?
The only thing that kind of saved me for the next few miles was thinking, hey, last year you had to stop and walk at this point, so anything you run past 17.5 is pretty kick ass! Then after 20 it became, well, now you’ve run farther than you did all summer.
Even though it pained me to stop, I had to take a pee break between 20-21. There wasn’t a line and so it only took a few minutes. It’s possible I could have made it to the finish without stopping, but the relief on my bladder was helpful in maintaining the very little focus I had going.
Normally, when I only have four miles to go in a run, I’m pretty positive. I had a very tough time staying focused on the goal. My knee was killing me and I couldn’t bend it. Oh yeah, I’d slipped and fallen the night before on the hardwood floor and banged it up. Yes, the night before I had to run 26.2 miles. My hips weren’t feeling so hot, and my shoulders? It felt like someone had strapped 20 lbs to them. It probably did not help that we’d slept for two nights on what I’m convinced is the worst bed in the history of beds, which lives in Chuck’s guest room.
I knew at 23 that I wasn’t going to meet my 4:30 goal. The pace group was long gone (not that I was really running with them since the dude was chugging along at a much faster pace) and Garmin, which I’d programmed to let me know how far ahead/behind I was on my goal pace, was pretty bluntly telling me it was out of reach. That was kind of a mental blow, but when I did the math in my head, it seemed my C goal of a marathon PR was still possibly within reach. I say “possibly” because I wasn’t really sure. There were a few walk breaks to pull chews out of my pocket, and by this time I was grabbing a little powerade and walking through aid stations. I figured if it was going to wreak havoc on my system, I’d have to take that chance. I downed half a honey stinger gel at 24 and hoped it would give me that extra push at the end.
Mile 24 was rough. I was able to plod along, but I knew I wasn’t going very fast. At one point, possibly with two left to go, I knew a PR was possible if I just didn’t stop to walk. I thought of my dad’s text message he’d sent, telling me to run a few miles hard for him. So I dedicated the last two to him. When I saw the Mile 25 marker, I knew I was going to make it, but didn’t get really excited until I saw the Cathedral.
(It was so tempting to pull the phone out at this point to take a photo but I knew it was going to be close to make it in under 4:45.)
When I got to the Cathedral, right before the 26 mile marker, I picked up my pace, and it was too early. And I knew this! This is my 7th TCM. I know that even though you think you’re almost done, the stretch in from the Cathedral is still considerable, and you’ll burn out quickly. And I almost did, at least for a minute.
When I had the last .2 to go, I kicked in everything I could muster. I was weaving in and out of people, passing them like crazy. I probably blew a few photo opps, which I kind of feel badly about now, but dammit, I wasn’t going to miss out on this chance to PR.
And I didn’t.
I had to sit for a few minutes after walking through the finishing chute. I’d never barfed post-race but was pretty sure it was going to happen this time. It didn’t. I drank some chicken broth (best tasting thing ever after running for almost five hours in cold weather) and hobbled over to grab my gear bag and technical shirt. This took awhile. I changed out of my wet shirt(s), threw on my hoodie and sat by the jumbotron, where they were showing people crossing the finish line.
I also enjoyed a Picky Bar while I waited. Best decision to throw that in my check-in bag, if I do say so myself.
Scott crossed in just under 5:30, which wasn’t too shabby for putting in almost no training all summer.
By this time I wasn’t feeling so bad and was actually able to walk to the car on my own, which has not been the case in past years.
So the course? Twin Cities is well-staffed with volunteers and awesome spectators. There is rarely a spot on the course without someone cheering you on. It’s also fairly flat, and though the elevation map looks a little intimidating, it only rises about 200 ft from 20-24. That’s not a lot, folks. It’s so gradual you barely notice it.
I will always love this race. I plan to keep on running it as long as I’m able, though there are times I question whether I’m built to be a marathoner. This time, those questions arose right around the halfway point when I thought, goddammit, I should feel a helluva lot better than I do right now.
We’ll see if my marathon amnesia kicks in soon enough for me to sign up for another one. In the meantime, I’m going to set the goal of finally getting down to my desired weight (this means losing about 15 pounds of fat and packing on some muscle) and continuing to run over the winter, maybe even working in some real speed workouts and strength training sessions.
Thanks to Team /var/run for the sweet hydration bevs.
Picky Bars for making running food that doesn’t make me doubled over in abdominal pain.
And to my family, who puts up with my stupid “run all summer” schedules, ridiculous wake up times, early bed times, and general marathoner craziness. Also, for liking me whether I punish myself for 26.2 miles or not. I’m hanging up my marathon shoes for now.
Or at least until 2014 registration opens next year.