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Tuesday, October 11, 2016

Twin Cities Marathon race recap

The big question going into this race was: would all my hot and sweaty summer miles pay off? 

I flew in Saturday afternoon and picked my packet up on the way to my brother's house. Visiting him and his family was a major reason for running this race, but I'll share trip details later: the race recap will be long enough! Packet pick-up was as smooth as can be. I had pasta and chicken for early dinner the night before, with an evening piece of toast and a midnight Cliff bar. 

Sunday morning I woke up to weather much colder than when I had packed. Instead of the 50's and 60's predicted, it was 37F! I was in a quandary about what to wear; I'd only packed shorts and a singlet, but my sister in law offered to let me borrow tights. I ended up going with my original outfit rather than risk chafing in something new. I ate my oatmeal and my brother drove me to the race. I got to the start around 7 am and, wrapped in a trash bag, waited for the 8 am start. It was the easiest start ever: impeccably organized with an apparent 1:1 ratio of port-a-potties to people (no lines!). I dropped my bag and opted to keep my hat on. It was race swag, and if I had to throw it away it was no big deal, as I rarely wear winter hats in NOLA! 

This was as long as the lines got, and that's only because no one wanted to go to the further-away lines!

I got into the first corral and was about 45 seconds off the gun. I was freezing when we started, but the crowds of runners kept me shielded from the wind. Unfortunately, right away I ran into a problem: my Garmin lost its mind. Maybe it was the early tunnel we ran through, but my pace was showing as 6:40! Then it beeped way early - like 0.75 - for mile one. I was annoyed: it would be off the whole race now. We were a big crowd at this point, and I was taking it easy. My race plan was to run "race pace" at the start, faster on the flattish middle, then add a good extra minute per mile for the three mile hill at the end. But not knowing my average pace was a pain. Finally I started keeping an eye on lap pace instead. Miles 1-3:6:44, 7:24, 7:06. Except that was not actually 3 miles at all! 

I was right behind the 3:15 pace group at the start, and stayed behind them for awhile, especially as the course narrowed. During mile 6 I got annoyed: this watch beeping way early was the worst! So I slowed down and reconfigured my Garmin to manual lap. Mile 6 reflects the adjustment. Miles 4, 5, and 6: 7:15, 7:07, 8:25. , the course was just beautiful. It winds around lakes and the trees were turning - stunning course! I warmed up enough to take off my hat (and I realized later that I had major hat hair the whole time). I stuck it in my singlet, where it stayed for the duration of the race. At this point I had bottled up against the 3:15 pace group. They're a big, wide group, and I was doing math in my head: I could beat 3:15. I was struggling to get around them, but it was well-nigh impossible. Miles 7, 8, 9 and 10 (starting to forget to hit lap!): 7:13,7:07,14:19. 
Finally I scooted around the 3:15 group! I wondered briefly if they'd come catch me later. Hopefully not! The first half of this race is way easier than the second, and I was running by feel. My average pace meant nothing, and even the lap pace isn't very reliable on this Garmin until you actually complete the lap, but it felt like race pace to me. My slow miles were the uphills or more winding roads. Miles 11-13: 7:04,7:15,7:11.

I'd started taking gels earlier in this race than usual. Hanson's has this calorie calculator that indicated I'd need five gels, not my usual four, so I started taking half-gels all the way back at mile 6. I brought a mix of Huma and Gu. I was also taking Powerade - just a sip - at nearly every station. Maybe it helped my caloric intake, but I don't think my stomach loves this plan! It was definitely upset for the majority of the race. Miles 14,15,16: 7:20,7:02,7:06.

I knew that mile 17 would be mentally and physically hard for me. My longest long run had been 16 miles, and sure enough, I kind of sort of gave up a little after I hit that point. I slowed down, but I didn't need to, and the next three miles were rather wasted. I turned my music on, but the crowds are so large and loud for this race that I honestly couldn't even hear it. The course support is incredible. Miles 17, 18, 19: 7:16,7:14,7:17.

Then I realized that I didn't feel that bad. I was tired, sure. And the hills were killing my legs, since I don't run hills and they were late, on already-exhausted muscles. But I remembered that Hanson talks a lot about running on tired legs, so I tried to tough it out. When I hit mile 20, we were heading over a bridge, and I remember seeing a 7:16 and thinking, "I'll definitely be under 3:15. Even if I run 8 minute miles all the way."
Mile 20: 7:16. 
This wasn't fun.

Uh. Then the REAL hills started. Straight uphill for three miles. My pace quickly climbed, as well! Luckily, along this hill I saw Lisa: she came out to spectate and it was a huge lift to see her, especially since I was running a race in a far-away city. Plus, looking out for her gave me a boost for most of the race! Really, though, the long hill was tough for me. My muscles were screaming. But somehow, I was passing people! By mile 23, I had slowed to a crawl, and some people were catching up to me, but I still stayed steady. Miles 21, 22, 23: 7:24,7:48,7:52. 

Three miles to go, and some blessed downhill! But I couldn't speed up. My legs and feet hurt so badly that the downhill was jarringly painful. I don't think I hit the wall, but the stumbling, limping mile 24 came close. Then, the course levels out (with the exception of one short, steep uphill), and then tips sharply downhill. Miles 24 and 25/26 (I missed hitting lap): 

I could see the finish and tried to take advantage of the downhill, running 6:13 pace for last .2. 
3:12:02 - just missed squeaking under 3:12! 

Considering the hills, I finished this pretty strong. I hit the half in 1:35:04, running a 2-minute positive split - not terrible considering the elevation profile. I kind of had hoped to pull out some miraculously fast time, but I hit my goal of between 3:10 and 3:15, and I enjoyed most of the race. I also feel like it's possible to keep improving, although races like these remind me how very far away I am from my years-old PR. But I'm happy with what I can do today. More on my thoughts about Hanson's marathon method later! 


  1. Great race!! Looking forward to your thoughts on Hanson's!!

  2. I have been looking forward to reading your race report. I am glad that you enjoyed the views on the course - it really is such a beautiful route. But it's soooooo hard. Those hills in miles 20-23 are just brutal, especially the long climb during mile 21. I think that the fact that you ran a 3:12 on a tough course is very impressive. Who knows what you could have done on a flatter course? You looked great when we saw you around mile 23-24!

    Congrats on running a super strong race!!!

  3. Yea! Congratulations! That course sounds really great, and how nice to combine family time with a race.

  4. Fantastic race, especially with that brutal hill at the end! I'm curious to hear more on your thoughts about Hanson. Congrats!!

  5. Great job! I remember you saying awhile back that you might never run again. I am so glad you didn't give up! I see your talent and love reading your blog!

  6. Did you get to wait inside prior to the start? I remember that from my year, but maybe it was just exceptionally cold that year? I don't remember the hill at the end (21ish?) being that bad, but a couple hundred feet is always tough at that stage of the game. Dallas is relatively flat but you've definitely got it flatter, so I'm sure it was tough -- and running it at your pace would have been unimaginable for me! You totally killed it! Nice job!!!!

    1. Thank you - I am impressed you breezed right through those hills! We didn't get to wait inside, probably because there was a Vikings game at noon. But the entrance to the parking garage was kind of heated, so we all crouched in there.

  7. Congratulations on a great race! Sorry that it was not your best race but you did a good job on a tough day with those temperatures (and also being sick awhile before the race). Your half time was great, too. Glad you enjoyed the race and I hope you have a good recovery, too.

  8. Wow Grace Wow!
    Congratulations on a well executed race. That hill does not look like fun at the end of a marathon. Did you end up eating all 5 gels?

    1. Actually, no! I was using water stops to time my gels, and the stops are more frequent at the end of the race and I got confused. I didn't realize until today, as I was putting my things away and counted the gels I brought home, that I actually only did 4 gels after all.

  9. Wow, great race! I've had this one on my radar for a while, but it is such a busy race weekend everywhere, not sure I'll ever make it out.

  10. Nice race ! Way to battle through the Garmin aggravation and the hills. Great job on the hills especially considering your training grounds. Looking forward to your Hanson thoughts. Enjoy the recovery !

  11. Congrats on a great race! I was tracking you which didn't work too well - just got a finish time, and it said 3:18, so I'm glad you actually ran faster! Those hills at 20-23 are brutal - congrats on getting through those.

    Excited to hear your thoughts on Hansons!

  12. Yeah, that tracker didn't work so well - it just popped up for mile 18, then gave the wrong finishing time! David was like, uh, it hasn't even been 3 hours and 18 minutes since the start of the race yet...

  13. Congrats on a great race! I'd say it was a success, considering all that you're coming back from, plus some tough conditions! Sounds like a good trip, too - glad your family is well :)