Marathon One

ARAH on tape

Fail sauce on my chest sticker.

My cell phone rang just as I’d found Steve in the finish line area – about 40 minutes after I’d crossed the finish line. Dad was calling to congratulate me on my finish of the Medtronic Twin Cities Marathon, and ask me how I was feeling. He also asked if, at that point, I felt like I wanted to do a marathon again.

I told him to ask me again in a week. I was feeling pretty good, but throughout training for (and deciding to commit to) this race, it’s been the race recovery experience that had me worried.

I did have a good time doing my first marathon, and at that point (and today, as well) I was feeling like it was worth all the time, money, stress and Body Glide. Things went as well as I expected, and certainly way better than I feared.

I nailed my rough goal of 4:20, which beat my newbie “just finish” goal by an hour and 40 minutes, and missed my foolish dalliance with this idea: “damn, my training paces indicate that it’s possible that I could qualify for Boston.” If I were that arrogant. As if I didn’t have enough to think about already. I don’t even like the town of Boston, that much, and anyway I prefer running on trails. When I looked at my watch, more than 3 miles from the finish line, and saw that that my qualifying time (BQ) was about 5 minutes away (and thus impossible), I was immensely relieved. I’d been enjoying it but once that stressor was removed, I really started to enjoy it – and at that point I was pretty uncomfortable, too.

I loved it.

  • The hoots and hollers from all runners as we went under the HCMC tunnel, just after the start.
  • My husband rushing to find me at multiple mile markers along the course to cheer for me. He was surprised that I stopped to give him a hug!
  • The ukelele player.
  • All those human & canine spectators. It kept me going, and kept me smiling.
  • Oh yeah, the running part: maintaining, for the most part, a steady & challenging pace. Handling that sideache that started at mile 23.

Along the way

I went to the Expo the day before the race, to pick up my packet and maybe do a little shopping. I’d been to this event before, and enjoyed the festive, energetic atmosphere, sweet deals on running gear, and running talks. Maybe I’d run into a friend? This year, however, I was a nervous wreck there! So many things were running through my mind. I was a little nauseous, either from the frayed nerves or from the too-rich dessert I’d had the night before. I got the packet, snagged one freebie and said hello to a few people I knew, then headed home, on foot.

By the time the starting gun went off, I was so much calmer, which was surprising. Maybe at that point there were so few decisions to make, relatively speaking, that I just had to, well, run with it?

This was a good state to be in, because my plan to use my heart-rate readings as a guide for pace ran into a little complication: that morning I’d had success putting in my contacts… but I’d forgotten that I can’t read tiny text while wearing those contacts (I don’t wear them often: only on climbing excursions and some races). Well, I can read the number, but not if my arm is moving swiftly and I also have to navigate a sea of fellow runners. For the third race in 2 months, I’ve been forced to find my pace by feel (at the other 2, the GPS function of the watch wasn’t working, nor was the heart rate receiver). This has been my first running season with a GPS watch, so perhaps I needed to continue follow my body’s signals, not anything coming from a gleaming screen.

TCM training log

394+ miles: a long road.

Around mile 5 or so I discovered that I was near several of my Club Run teammates – all of whom I had reason to believe are faster marathon runners than I am. I got a little nervous that I’d started out too fast, but then left it at that. I bid a good race to them, and continued maintain my pace, pretty much until I’d arrived in Saint Paul, about 20 miles in. I also continued to allow people to pass me at least until the halfway mark, as advised by a few veteran TC Marathoners.

At miles 8, 9 and 11 I found Steve, Becky, Tara and other friends, cheering on the sidelines. I held back an unexpected sob after I hugged Steve. It was going well, but… well, this runs in the family. I was overcome with everything going on. Happy! I kept moving. This was my sole sob of the whole day, surprisingly!

I rolled my ankle in a pothole at around mile 18, but after walking around a tree on the boulevard and swearing a little, I got back on the course, on pace. Thank heavens for rubber (AKA sprained at least thrice, each) ankles, I suppose.

I approached the famous 20-mile marathon “wall” and was humored to find that there was a big inflatable stone wall (arch) over the course, erected by one of the local running clubs. Otherwise I didn’t really sense that mythical marathon “wall” of massively increased difficulty. Looking back at my splits, this is likely because I’d already started to slow my pace a little – as early as mile 13. Well, isn’t that interesting.

Around mile 22 or so was the aforementioned No-BQ moment. Sure, we were in the last few miles of this beast anyway, but if I’d have known that the race may have been even more fun, or at least a lot less stressful, had I never looked up what time I’d need to qualify, I’d have never done it. Bah! Can’t take the runner out of the runner.

Where things did start to get more difficult, though still manageable, was around mile 23. That was in the middle of some hill-climbing, and I’d wound up with a side stitch that stuck with me until the finish. I stopped to walk a few times in those last few miles, but just a few steps, maybe 10 or so, each time. At times I managed to ignore the side stitch, mainly when I’d encountered a friend on the sidelines, or later, Kristin –one of the aforementioned speedy Club Run women– who apparently was having a rougher day than expected on the course. She and I got running again together, and ran across the finish line together.

Newbie errors

Things that I will do differently on race day, should a “next time” happen:

    • No. Last-minute. Gear or clothing. Decisions! But, the watch thing didn’t ruin my day, for sure. The few times I was able to get a reading, it was 160ish, when according to the charts I should have kept it at 152.
    • I am curious to find out if I do start out slightly slower, I’ll be able to run a steady pace or even negative splits. That’s the theory… but part of me wonders if I just need to focus a little more after mile 13, now that I know I can handle the 26.2, and maintain a pace like the one I started with, on this race. Sideache, schmideache. I’d tried to get a half-marathon into my training this year, but the weather foiled those plans. Perhaps it would have given me a little more confidence at the longer distance.

ANZAC Bikkies: runner fuel that did not fit into my waist pack, but did fit into a Ragnar Relay van in August.

  • That’s about it. I was happy with my starting line arrival time (even though my toes froze), my clothing decisions, and my fueling and hydration. I had 2 servings of fluids at every stop, walking through the station, making sure one of the fluids was a Powerade, if I wasn’t trying to wash down a Clif Shot. Every 45 minutes or so, I had a Clif Shot or banana chunk.

Thank you!

Things went very well! I have so many people to thank, mostly for their patience with me these past 6+ months but also their expertise, technology, inspiration and … love. A marathon surfaced as a specific goal for me pretty recently (let’s say March this year) but it was this year’s version of “I must accomplish something physically difficult” and as such I attacked it with ferocious intention:

  • Steve! The best friend and husband ever. For encouraging me to run, but also to take sufficient rest from running and training.
  • My dad, for inspiring me to keep running, for expressing his professional reservations about marathon running, and his interest, nevertheless, in following my training.
  • My mom. Because she’s mom, and told me she’s proud of me for this accomplishment. I’m quite certain I got the drive and sensibility to pull this off from her.
  • My brother and sister-in-law, for also expressing their professional (or maybe just personal?) reservations about marathon running, but persisting in their support and helpful advice for my training.
  • My climbing buddies, of whom I’ve seen less lately: Josh, Julie, Mike, Gaby, Al, and Joe. Keeping a few gym climbs in my training plan helped keep me sane and probably healthy.
  • My trail running buddies, of whom I’ve also seen less lately: Chris, Marise, Joe, Carolyn, and likely a few others. Keeping a few trail runs in my plan helped keep me sane and probably healthy.
  • All my other running buddies who include the Loo Lovers Ragnar Team and Team Smellstrong. Relay races keep me loving running.
  • Rebecca. The day after the race, Steve and I determined that the idea to actually sign up for this marathon came from her.
  • Our vegetable garden and neighbors, for tolerating the neglect from me throughout this growing season. Ah well, there’s always next year!
  • My yoga students. The misfortune of our March – July hiatus from two of my regular classes gave me time to consider the race, and to start training. I am so glad they kept in touch and that they are coming to my new classes at Saint Paul Yoga Center!
  • Club Run Minneapolis, whose coaching efforts, training expertise and awesome team spirit provided structure and camaraderie for my training, from base-building all the way to a post-finish gathering. At times it was challenging to get over to Minneapolis for those group runs -aw hell, it was super challenging for me to run with a group!- but the smiles and support, as well as discipline it developed were key to my training.
    • The staff at Discover Strength. I added this component to my training in late July and while I won’t say that I felt physically stronger for it, I’ve stayed injury free, and adding this to my schedule allowed my running parts a little rest each week. Battling heavy weights with my own confidence was good mental training, as well. Who’d’ve thunk that my blood-curdling cries in the leg press would come to good, not evil?
    • Jes Post, for her amazing hands and massage therapy. We met up every 4-6 weeks to ease-my-achin’ whatever.
Tesla and moi

Fast – or at least stylish – as Tesla in my Mizunos, earlier in my training

  • The Twin Cities Amazons Rugby team. It’s been several years since I retired, and I don’t see my teammates very often. Nevertheless, my memories of certain moments with them gave me fire and fuel, at various points of my training and race: of the fun, the required grit, the real value of things we do. That mile 20 “wall” has nothing on a full season of Amazon competition. But I thought it might, and I had to find out.
  • Brooks, Mizuno & Saucony for the shoes I’ve run in, all spring and summer.
  • Bia Sport for the fancy new training watch that I got in the spring, via a KickStarter campaign contribution waayyyy back when I hiked down into the Grand Canyon with Steve, Mike and Laura in 2012. It’s been helpful to use in my training, and also affirming and fun to be a sort of late beta tester on (the Heart Rate number needs to be bigger, ahem).
  • Race staff and volunteers!
  • Friends I managed to spot along the course: Tracy, Jen, Rebecca, Sophie #sophiestyle, Nyla, Steve, Todd, Karla, Amy, Karen, Diane, Mark.
  • The ones I missed, at least the ones I know about: Dawn, Alane, Maggie, Thomas, Christy, Ratchet. And also the ones I didn’t know about, and all the encouraging strangers.

What is next?

Stay tuned. But I have already committed to a relay with Team Smellstrong: the Tuna Run, in North Carolina, in mid-October 2015!