With my race strategy in hand, race day came fast. A late start time (8AM) meant sleeping in race morning. 5:45AM alarms for a race day are a glorious experience and must be savored. Squirrels, though, got the best of Kevin apparently as I woke up to a 4:15AM text asking for bagels. Sorry, bud. Sleeping for another 90 minutes. Okay 100 minutes.
The 6 of us staying at the same hotel left at 6:15 for the chilly (read: below freezing) half-mile walk to the Metrodome. On the way, a group of OTC Elite runners (no Galen Rupp, sadly) jogged quickly past on their warm up, with a chippy Kevin chirping them and their beautiful warm up gear. Put a Granato in a new sport and (s)he‘ll still act like a hockey player.
While the warmth of the Metrodome was appreciated, it turns out that football stadiums are subideal race start locations since the men’s bathrooms only have 1 stall each. Half an hour, a cup of coffee, and 6 people in front of me later, I took care of every runner’s prerace ritual and got back to the group to put on my race gear:
- green CEP compression socks (first race in compression. Loved it.)
- Adidas Adios 2 with yankz laces (first marathon with yankz)
- Saucony inferno 3″ split shorts
- Cellmates on the Run singlet
- Louis Garneau arm warmers
- Headsweats hat
- Garmin FR210 (first race with a Garmin. Feel stupid for not doing this earlier.)
- TCM headband (throwaway and in my possession for <24 hours)
- Free gloves (throwaway)
- Sweatshirt (throwaway)
- 4x Powerbar gels (perfect consistency for cold weather)
- 4x SaltStick caps plus (salt+caffeine)
Checked the rest of my gear and off to the start with HRD, Jenny, and CT (the other four hit up the portopotties). HRD went off to Corral 2, so I hung with CT and Jenny until 5 minutes to go. Wished them luck and found Scott, Kris, and Kevin near the front. Kris and Scott moved back with a minute or so left. Just Kevin and me, surrounded by an impressive number of master’s runners. And then the gun.
I set off to run 6:25, 6:20ish then settle into a 6:15 and hold on for dear life. I somehow end up in front of Kevin and find him on my shoulder at the half mile-ish. “Any idea how fast we’re going?” “Nope, no clue.” Off to a great start.
From step 1, my left calf felt tweaked. It’s something I’ve dealt with all year after trying to run too fast too quickly while undertrained in February (lesson learned). I knew I could run through it on the track, but wasn’t sure how it would progress through a marathon. Whatever. Hit the 1-mile mark at 6:25. Bingo.
Mile 2 has a kick uphill with a right turn. At the turn, I see Kev is leading the pack I’m in. Our pack slinkies through the next mile until we start our wind through the lakes district (miles 3-8ish), when the pack settled into ~50m-long, single-file line led by Kevin, caboosed by me. Would have made a really cool picture.
Now this is where the recap jumps the TMI line…
By mile 7, I know my “prerace ritual” was not full evac. I’ve never stopped in a race for, uh, stomach issues (like some people have). But with 19 miles of running ahead and gels being stuffed in my mouth? A poop stop had to happen at some point. Kevin was still hanging between 50 and 100m in front of me and miles were ticking past pretty quickly. I decided to hold off until at least the half-marathon mark to stop. Hopefully with no accidents.
Mile 10 brought a problem that I typically only have well past 20 miles. There’s no good way to describe the issue except it feels like my sock bunches up beneath the ball of my right foot, but upon post race inspection, my socks are fine. It’s a mild discomfort and throws me off balance a little bit (physically, not mentally). [If this happens to you, you know what it is, and/or you know how to solve it, PLEASE PLEASE PLEASE tell me in the comments!] Between this happening way earlier than usual and the calf pain moving up to my hamstring (and later radiating down to my ankle), my bathroom break was starting to look quite enticing. But Kevin was still right there. Gotta crush the next 5K. Then I can (re-)evacuate.
Finally the 13.1 mark. 1:22:30. Exactly where I wanted to be. Next port-o-potty bank was at the 14 mile mark. I can totally make that. No accidents for this guy!
90 seconds in the honey bucket and I felt renewed. I was pretty pissed about my ~8 minute 14th mile and accidentally took my aggression out on the course with a 5:56 15th mile. Stupid move, Matt.
After my poop break and subsequent sub-6 minute mile, I had a nice 4 miles through beautiful parks amidst fall colors (something I desperately miss in San Diego), a flock of what seemed like hundreds of fake lawn flamingos (really weird), and, most importantly, through amazing spectators. The spectators on course for Twin Cities were fantastic. They were spread through the entire course (a breath of fresh air after running Chicago so many times) and seemed like they really wanted to be there to watch everyone run. So thank you citizens of Minneapolis and St. Paul: you guys rock.
A quick aside: my Garmin was on lap time for the race, only showing me the current mile time and pace, so I had no idea where I stood with respect to my marathon PR (2:48:20). I had never raced like this before and was pretty nervous about it pre-race. My worries were put to rest when not once in my first 20 miles did I think about my PR or banking/making up time. My singular focus was on making the mile I was running a quality mile. You can make whatever cliched life-metaphor about this revelation for yourself. All I’ll say is that I highly recommend racing on lap time. To call it freeing is an understatement. Plus you get invaluable data about your race. Go buy a Garmin. Seriously. I’ll write a post about which one sometime soon.
Over the Mississippi River and to the 20 mile mark, where, for the first time, I considered elapsed time. 2:08:02. 40 minutes to run a 10K for my PR. I was shocked to be within range of my PR, especially with my aforementioned bathroom break. A 40-minute 10K is 6:26 pace. I was running a bit slower than that (6:31 pace for miles 19 and 20) and the course kicks uphill for miles 21-23. Oh yeah, and my right foot/left calf combo really started to grind me down. Spirits weren’t high for a PR, but just being close to PR-ing while undertrained was a major confidence boost.
The last 10K of the race was uneventful. I slowed down significantly (mile 23 was over a 7 minute mile). At mile 25, I switched my watch to elapsed time. 2:41:58. 6 minutes 22 seconds for a PR. And it’s downhill. Fuck it, let’s see what I have.
I could see an American flag over the race course at the bottom of the hill, assuming that was the finishing line. I went hard at the flag, hitting it at 2:48 low. That would be a PR. If that was the finish line. Nope, the finish line is another 600m or so ahead. Shaking my head, I jogged it in for a respectable 2:49:30. (In retrospect, 6:22 for 1.2 miles is sub-5:20 pace, so it wasn’t going to happen.)
As I walked towards Kevin in the finishing chute, I did some quick math. 70 seconds off my PR. 90 second bathroom break. Wait a second. I was a goddamn poop away from a PR. Bahhhhh shit happens, I guess. (Had to, sorry.) My thoughts were confirmed by my Garmin:
So that was that. Kevin and I waited for Kristen to finish then headed to grab our stuff and wait for the rest of the group. One-by-one, they all came in smiling and/or crying. PRs for everyone (except me):
Kevin: 2:38 (4 minute PR, 1:22 first half, 1:16 second half)
Kristen: 2:50 (75 second PR)
Scott: 2:58 (8 minute PR)
Jenny: 3:17 (15 minute PR)
Tim: 3:22 (24 minute PR)
Chanthana: 3:38 (5 minute PR)
Hillary: 3:49 (1 hour 23 minute PR?!?! Biggest PR I’ve ever heard of)**
Pretty amazing to be running with such a stellar group. Click their names to read their race reports. No PR for me, but I did end up with a solid story instead. And the knowledge that my sub-2:50 marathon last year was not a fluke. Though I know that a halfway decent training cycle can push me to a 2:42 and I’m more than motivated to reach that goal, I have to put that on hold for a year. 2013 is Ironman time.
A BIG thanks to: the Twin Cities organizers for a perfectly run race (great alternative to Chicago. Run this race!), the incredible volunteers braving cold weather, the spectators on the course, and those 7 other runners with me who, in 36 hours, inspired me to forgot the first 9 months of 2012 and run fast. You managed to turn a bad year into a good one.
**Editor’s note: I didn’t harp on this enough in my original post, so I’m going to do it now. Hillary ran 83 minutes faster than she had ever run 26.2 miles before. 83 minutes. That’s the amount of everyone else’s PRs combined. Plus almost 30 more minutes. That’s over 25% faster than she used to run. I’ve never heard of a PR even approaching that in running. I can’t even really comprehend what that feels like, but I do know that’s the sort of thing that can happen when you put in 3 months of consistent hard work. As a coach, it’s amazing to watch someone start to realize they’re capable of what you’ve known they can do since Day 1. Couldn’t be prouder. Not to mention it makes me look like a killer coach, even though I had very little to do with it. On that note, feel free to e-mail me if you too want to PR by some non-sensical amount. I should make an infomerical.