Tuesday, October 9, 2007

Where are the clouds?

Medtronic Twin Cities Race Report

Where to begin? I will apologize from the get-go that this is going to be a long one!

I began training for Twin Cities after a less than stellar performance at Boston this spring. I decided to hit summer training hard so I upped the ante and trained using Pfitzinger’s 18/70 training program. Training went very well and I definitely pushed my body to its limits. I broke 70 mpw twice and averaged approximately 60 mpw for the main portion of training. I set new PRs in the mile, the 5K and the half marathon. I was ready to have a break out performance in the marathon too. I did a three week taper and went from “almost injured” to have fresh and strong legs come race day. Unfortunately, mother nature played a cruel joke on all of us hoping to run fast times in the Midwest on October 7. The weather was forecast to be 73 at the start with high humidity. The “good news” was that it was supposed to be cloudy/stormy so it was only supposed to move up to 78 degrees. Not ideal, but it could be a lot worse. Unfortunately, the forecast was not to be . . .

My husband and I drove to the Twin Cities on Saturday afternoon after dropping off our boys with Grandma and Grandpa. The drive was beautiful and relaxing. We got to the expo to pick up our chips. Ironically, with the bib numbers they also gave us a nice pair of cotton gloves. Just what we needed!! The evening was quiet and uneventful, but I couldn’t help but feel very angry at the whole situation. I felt great and the weather was just going to be terrible. I had trained for a 3:20-3:25 marathon and I had tune-up races pointing in that direction. However, given the weather, I decided to go out with the 3:30 group and hope to stay with them. Maybe even hit a PR (anything under 3:37).

I got a pretty decent night of sleep. The alarm went off at 5:00 am and I was up and ready to go. It was race day and I was pumped up!! My husband was running the 10 mile, so we got on the bus to the start at 6:30. We got to the metrodome and hit the porta-potties before going to the 10 mile start. I left John when he headed into his corral and started back toward the metrodome. As I was walking back, I was suddenly overcome with emotion. It was crazy. I was tearing up and just very thankful for being able to be there. I think I was so intensely angry – once I let it go I was just very emotional. I was so thankful for having strong legs, having the financial ability and emotional support from my family, being strong enough to be of the few in the 1st corral. It was overwhelming how emotional I felt. It was definitely not the typical state I am in before a race. I went to get into my corral and saw a volunteer with a black permanent marker. I asked her to write my name on my arm so I could garner some crowd support – I knew I’d need it today!

I then went into my corral. It was exciting getting into the mass of people and I quickly found the 3:30 pace group. There was a moment of silence for the victims of the Minneapolis bridge collapse and then the national anthem. I was teary eyed and very emotional – the people around me must have thought I was nuts!

The horn sounded and we were off. It was a crowded start, but we were able to hit pace very quickly. The wave start was effective despite reports to the contrary that I have read. The first couple of miles were fast (7:48, 7:30). We were closer to a 3:25 pace than 3:30, but it didn’t bother me at all. I trained to run fast and I felt great. I knew the odds were stacked against me, but I also know myself well enough. Going out slow would not make me happy. I was going to go for it and hope that the clouds would come out and maybe even give us a little rain. For a while I ran next to a marine who was carrying both the American Flag and the Marine Flag. It was cool.
Unfortunately, the clouds did not come. The sun was blazing and it felt very warm from the start. I hit the 5K at 24:19. Not bad. I felt great and I felt strong. I was also very thankful that I had decided to bring a water bottle with me full of accelerade. The water stations were very sparse at the beginning and I was thankful to have continuous fluids. The 10K was 48:58. Still on a nice pace and feeling good. The course was beautiful and lots of rolling hills. I hit 2 water stops and at both I dumped water all over myself. I ended up throwing off my water bottle at mile 7 b/c I needed to take a gel and get water. This was a mistake. I really should have refilled it b/c the aid stations on the course were too far apart. It ended up being a hard lesson.

But at the time, I was still feeling great. I slapped the hands of little kids and enjoyed all of the music on the course. There was a spectator around mile 8 yelling though a toy megaphone “come on runners, get your good times in now, its only going to be hotter next year!” It was funny and it was a nice time to have a laugh. I continued to cruise and hit the half at 1:44:10. Perfect. Still on pace for a sub 3:30. Unfortunately, I started having GI cramping just after that. It was becoming uncomfortable and I knew it was a direct result of the heat. I finally stopped at a port-a-potty at mile 15.5. It cost me a couple minutes and it was a futile stop. I did not have to go – I was just cramping up. Not fun. I tried to get back on pace, but it just wasn’t happening. It was at this time I had to make a choice of how to continue the race. One option was to drop out and to try to run Whistlestop next weekend. That didn’t seem smart though as I had already run 15.5 pretty hard and I did not have child care, etc. lined up. Nope, this was my race and I had to do with it what I could. I could try to gut it out and at least get a new Boston Qualifier. But I knew that would be very painful. So I decided to go for option 3, which was just to finish with a smile and enjoy the experience that is the marathon. I knew this would mean a crappy time at the end of the day, but I also knew I would finish happy and I would not beat myself up for an average time.

During the rest of the race, I saw a lot of the people from the 3:30 pace group around me and I felt bad that the wheels had fallen off for them too. I also ran/walked a fair bit with a woman who had a 3:15 pace band on. Man, it stinks to loose your fitness to this day. I felt so bad for her and it made me wonder how joplus was doing. Boy I hoped she was doing better than me. Around mile 17 or 18, I saw the 3:30 pace group leader. He had thrown off his balloons and apparently it had become every man for himself. That was discouraging to see the pacer couldn’t quite make it either. But it was a hard day for everyone.

I continued on and took in the scenery. The race course is beautiful and there were a lot of great spectators out there. There were some incredible houses and cathedrals along the way. I started getting cramps in my calves around mile 20. I tried to get in as many electrolytes as I could – and I guess it helped b/c they never got terrible. My goal was to run between each water stop, but they were so far apart that did not happen. I was really disappointed that the race directors did not add more water stops when they KNEW in advance it was going to be a hot one. Luckily some people were handing out full bottles of powerade and water so I started taking those to carry. Some people had hoses and sprinklers to spray us with and I loved jumping through them.

Just before mile 23, some frat boys were handing out beers. I ran past them, then said “what the hell” and doubled back to grab a cold one. A barefoot runner did the same and I lifted my cup to him and said “Cheers Man.” We enjoyed the toast and ran on. Of course I could only stomach a sip or 2, but it was fun.

One girl from the 3:30 pace group had “rat” written on the back of her shirt. I saw her many times during the race. Around mile 25, an older lady passed me when I was walking and the back of her shirt said “rat’s mom.” Awesome, I thought. I continued on and hit the top of the last hill and people were saying the finish was just ahead. I saw that 2 cranes were holding up a huge American flag on the bridge and decided to let it rip for the finish. Since I walked so much at the end, I felt great and went flying down the hill. There were a ton of spectators, so it was exhilarating. They were screaming at me because I was running so fast (Garmin clocked fastest speed at finish at 6:25 pace). I saw John and he was screaming at me. I felt like a superstar and hammed it up for the cameras. I then saw “rat’s mom” and decided I was not going to let her beat me. It was a photo finish, but I’m pretty sure I got her just before the first timing mat! It was fun. Final time: 3:53:27. Just a few seconds faster than my first marathon!

IMAGE: Not a hamburger, but a cheeseburger

I got through the finish and it was quite a sight. A man was on the ground screaming because his calves wouldn’t stop cramping. I so wished I could help. I took off my shoes because my toes hurt so bad. I was soaking wet from head to toe and I was incredibly hot. I went to get my checked bag, but they could not find it. Bummer as I really wanted the biofreeze in there for my legs. Miraculously John found me right away. We started walking away so we could find a cab back to the hotel. I started trying to tell him how emotional I felt at the start and I started sobbing when trying to explain it to him. Again, I was just filled with emotion. He looked at me like I was nuts – I am just not a cryer so I think I really took him by surprise. I told him I would tell him more later when I could speak. He told me that after he lined up for his race, a woman looked at him about 30 seconds before the start and said, “It is really hot.” Next thing you know, she passed out on him. She came to briefly to say, “I’m pregnant” and then went out again. Holy cow – the gun was about to go off and 3 corrals were about to come running through! So John and another guy protected her during the start, then took her to the side to the medics. Definitely got his adrenaline pumping!! He ended up doing well in his race AND he was a hero.

We continued looking for a cab to no avail, so finally we stopped at the fire station to use their phone. The firefighters told us they had called to assist 10 people that went down in the 10 miler alone. Wow. It sure was a hot one.

We got a cab and made it back to the hotel. The cab thermostat read 84 degrees. And now, of course, it was cloudy. I got cleaned up and told John I was disappointed that I did not get good marathon times this year, but I was very proud of my hard training. I then told him that I may not have great times, but my legs don’t lie. I made him take a picture of my legs and said “here is the proof.”

It was a good laugh and we left the Twin Cities smiling.

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