Monday, October 4, 2010

Twin Cities Marathon

Race morning arrived and we were all ready. I got up at 5am and after a little putting around went out for a walk-jog so I could feel the temperature and get a better feeling for the starting line. It was 40 degrees and there was a little bit of wind-- and it didn’t feel that cold. I was trying to decide what I would wear and opted for shorts alone; no half-tights or runderwear. I was fine with that decision afterwards too. At 5:25 they were just putting up the starting line. There had been a baseball game the day before I think so they couldn’t set up anything before, and we also started on a pretty main road so having it closed for the race stuff wouldn’t have been possible.
Nice fake "A" sticker
While back in the room stretching after a few minutes outside, I took my elite access badge from Charlie and fabricated a white sticker with the letter “A” on it, as that was what it said was required to enter the elite pre-race area. It turned out to be unnecessary. Charlie and I just walked in and were never asked to show credentials. 95% of the time, you can do whatever you want in life as long as you act like you’ve been there before and that you belong there now. Because of this, I was able to sit inside and relax to do some stretching and use the bathroom and whatever. I also go to put my bag directly onto the truck for checking purposes. Had I known that I might have brought some other things with me. More on that later.
The highlight of that room was definitely trying to use the handicap-family restroom before the race started. Charlie had told me that it existed rather than waiting in the line for the regular bathroom or going outside to find a port-o-potty. I opened the door to see a naked butt starting back at me. Whoever was in there hadn’t locked the door and was changing right in front of the door. I should have knocked probably, but I didn’t know that it was only a one-person bathroom either. After that the door locked and I waited patiently on the floor outside it stretching. Patience wore thin after about 10 minutes, and finally the door opened when the Elite coordinator started making announcements 20 minutes before the race at 7:40. Inside was a small, probably Eastern-European woman just sitting there on a chair putting on her shoes and rolling out her calves! She wasn’t even using the bathroom! I asked if she was finished and if I could come in to use it, and she ignored me sort of. So I asked again, trying to make direct eye contact, and she nodded her head but didn’t get up. So I just went in and sat down on the toilet! I guess she didn’t know I meant business, so she dragged her chair (that belonged in the bathroom) out the door in an attempt to keep the room to herself but not watch me go to the bathroom. I was pretty irritated with the whole thing, and so apparently were the people who had been in line behind me as they must’ve said something to her and she violently flung the chair back into the room and shut the door. We all exchanged quizzical looks when I walked out and I was haunted by the thought that I’d probably seen more of that woman than she saw of me when I first opened the door and saw her changing.
Now it was time to go! I put my bag in the elite truck, and started jogging around some more in the parking lot. The national anthem was sung, the wheelchair athletes started at 7:55, and they let us onto the course to do strides. I did a few and then got on the line behind most of the elite women with the Healeys. Then the gun went off.
The three of us tried to group up initially in the first 400 meters as boat loads of people sprinted past us. It wasn’t quite as overwhelming as in Chicago, where I was probably passed by 500 people in the first half-mile, only to pass back probably all of them over the next 20 miles. I don’t think too many people stayed in front of us for that long, but there were some quick starters from corral 1 that made their way around us. Chris ran around 10 meters ahead of me and Jon for a little while until Charlie passed us all. Within that first mile, there was a lot of motion between the four of us. Chris was always in front of me. Charlie went past me and Jon, causing Jon to move up with Charlie and leave me behind. Charlie caught Chris and then Chris and Jon went up ahead of Charlie. Meanwhile I’m just watching in the back of them, thinking about how silly it is to be going out so fast in the first mile, especially since Jon and Chris had expressed a serious interest in dropping out of the race. I went through the first mile behind all three of them with a group of three guys wearing red Nike jerseys that said “Fluffy Bunny” on it. Mile 1 was 5:52. I was happy with that, though I did feel like it was faster than that. I wasn’t concerned though. Jon and Chris kept moving ahead of Charlie, and I actually started to catch him too. There was a fairly significant downhill, a hard turn, and then another significant uphill to mile two, which I ran right behind Charlie in 5:45. I knew not to pass him though, and dropped back behind him going down another big hill through a neighborhood and next to a park. He caught and gapped Jon and Chris while I just kept my distance and wanted to be as relaxed as possible early. My legs were already fully aware that I was running a marathon, and my left IT band/knee weren’t loose yet.
Jon started looking back at me and I guess communicated to Chris that they should wait for me, and I caught them in a 5:57 for 17:34 at mile 3. From there we were almost together the whole way. Mile 4 was 5:36 and I encouraged them to relax. We were catching up to a group that was in front of us and included Charlie, and I wanted to be behind that group, rather than in front of it. Our 5th mile was 5:27. At that point I yelled some profanity at the two of them and hit the breaks. Jon took the opportunity to stop and use the restroom, which I tried to put some reigns on Chris. The 6th mile was considerably slower, and at 6:10 the only mile over six-minute pace for me until my demise. The three fluffy bunnies, a Team Nebraska guy, and a few others caught up to us after that slower mile and we made some conversation. They were shooting for 2:30 also, so we grouped up and worked together. Jon caught up to us a little after the 7th mile I believe, which was covered in 5:36, with a reasonable downhill in it. I took a Gu right before the 7th mile, and had a little trouble getting it down because it was so cold. I overheard Jon ask Chris if he was going to stop at 8. I didn’t hear Chris’s answer, but decided I’d given them enough crap about not dropping out the night before, and with the way that I was feeling, I’d better keep my mouth shut. The 8th mile was uphill I guess to make up for the downhill, and that was a slow 5:50. That would be the last slow mile for a while.
The fluffy bunnies, from LA, took turns alternating leads with the Healeys. I just tried to stay in with the group. We’d pick off people every once in a while, but we were a pretty solid group. I started doing some math after our 9th mile in 5:39 to figure out 2:30 pace would be 57 minutes through ten miles. Our 10th mile was 5:33 for 57:29. I was very happy with that. If 2:30 was going to happen, it was going to have to be a relatively even race, hopefully faster at the end. We started cruising along in the neighborhoods and the run was actually very enjoyable. It was nice in the sunlight, not too cold in the shade, and the scenery was nice. The road conditions were terrible though. Lots of potholes and cracks all over the place. I did my best to stay on even footing, because my legs were already starting to feel heavy. Understandable considering I never do any running under 6:30 pace, let alone under 5:50 pace. Leading up to the half-mark, we passed two women. They tried to stay with us briefly but to no avail. Our splits to the half were 5:35, 5:46, and 5:40. Jon actually told Chris to back off after the 11th mile, and the rest of the group was in agreement. One of the fluffy bunnies was a masters runner, so he was probably the ring-leader of the bunch. He was the only one who really spoke to us in the group-- the other two guys were all business.
I’m unclear as to where the half-marathon mark was. There was a sign that said 13 miles, then about 30 seconds after that was a big arch with a clock, then still after that was a chip mat that took splits. I believe the internet says that I went through the half in 1:15:21. I thought I’d gone through in 1:14:53. Either way, that’s the fastest I’ve gone through half-way before, and roughly 90 to 120 seconds faster than I ran in VA Beach over Labor Day. I was in relatively uncharted territory for myself, and feeling it. Yet we marched on. Miles 14-16 were 5:39, 5:36, 5:36. I started to get pretty excited about how well things were going, even though our group was starting to thin out and my legs weren’t feeling any better than they did earlier in the race. Chris swung wide from the group and wished me luck. I asked if he was going to stop and he said yes, so I gave him my gloves, thinking that he was actually going to stop running. I was finished with them and I thought that if he weren’t running the race, he might like some gloves. But as it turned out, he just ended up carrying them the rest of the way for me-- like a sherpa!
After he dropped back, we must have gone downhill again because we ran a 5:26 17th mile. I was not ready to get back into that territory yet, but most of the group was gone so I had to stick with it or run alone the rest of the way. I’m glad I didn’t drop back then because our 18th mile made up the difference with a 5:51. We were running through what seemed to be the University of Minnesota campus. I only think that because there seemed to be a lot of younger people out on the streets, sort of like running through BC at Boston. They were out there having a good time, playing music, drinking beer-- Probably a Sunday morning tailgate for most of them. It was pretty much just me, Jon and one fluffy bunny at this point as mile 19 was covered in 5:38. I started doing the math again and decided that I needed to be at 1:54 flat for 20 miles to still be on pace. Sure enough, mile 20 was 5:41 for 1:54:01. I was ecstatic, but we’d dropped the fluffy bunny and I was losing ground on Jon. I maintained some contact with him for another mile to 21, and he was looking back for me and saying things to me that I either couldn’t hear or couldn’t understand. But the wheels were falling off. 5:56 for the 21st mile was not a good sight, but I maintained my composure. I told myself “You can make up 14 seconds. You’ll be fine. Or even a 2:30:14 isn’t the worst thing ever.” I’d barely been running under two hours at that point, but then it happened.
6:38. Out of nowhere! I knew that there were hills in the middle-20’s, but I was still caught off guard. It was like I was walking up hill. I tried to take the tangents and shake out my arms and neck, but when I’d move my head, I’d get dizzy. I had been and continued to take fluids at each opportunity. After cresting the first big hill, I tried to regain my composure and go after the guys in front of me. Jon wasn’t out of sight, and I thought I could maybe get back to him, especially if he came back a little on his own. I did speed up, but it was negligible. I moved down to 6:27 and 6:26 for 23 and 24. Those were the hills. It gave me a little mental boost going 10 seconds faster, but it didn't last. I was fading, and I couldn't relax. I tried shaking out my arms and shoulders, but it would just make me dizzy. I feel like I was either running on the edge of the road or weaving all over it. I'd look ahead and try to find a tangent to take, but the road was infinite in front of me. I was crawling the last two miles in 6:46 and 6:47. I thought there would be some downhill, but I just couldn't find it. When I finally got to 26 and could see the finish line, I tried to kick again. But my legs cramped up to the point where I almost stopped. The crowd tried to get behind me at that point and cheer me through-- it was nice but I still only managed a 90 second last 0.2.


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