Twin Cities Marathon 2014
I don’t even know where to begin with this recap. So let’s break it down.
We all have certain race day rituals. Mine include showering the morning of a race, and blow drying my hair (and yes, straightening my hair if time permits, which it did not). Feel free to make fun of me. It’s fine. I also ate breakfast, and Body Glided every square inch of skin. Susie was gracious enough to offer to drive myself, my running partner, Johnna, and Andrew to the start line. Susie showed off her impressive “I can get you closer to the start line” driving skills by parking maybe 100 metres from the start of the 10 miler race. After watching the 10 miler, catching Heather and Johnna run by, Ryan and I headed off to the marathon start line. I lined up with Jordan and Loren in Corral 3, just behind the 4:45 pacer. And soon enough…we were off!
I said goodbye to Jordan and Loren right at the start line. I planned to keep the 4:45 pace group within sights for the entire race. And then, 1 mile into the race, my plan was foiled. This fool, yes, this one right over here, forgot to double knot her shoes and the laces came undone. I could barely re-tie my shoes, my hands were shaking so bad from nerves. Fortunately, I didn’t really lose that much time, and a few minutes later my 4:45 group was back in sight. I got closer to the 4:45 group and stayed with them around Lake of the Isles and Lake Calhoun. The 4:45 group had an amazing leader named Marie who had the group counting dogs to pass the time. The crowd support was amazing for this first stretch! I ate my first pack of Honey Stingers @ Mile 4 - there was a couple near me who chuckled when I declared out loud “Snack Time!” I really do run for food.
These miles flew by so fast! I abandoned the 4:45 group near Lake Harriet (mile 6, I think), because they took a walk break up a hill. I had no intention of walking (it breaks up my rhythm too much), so I decided to build up a bit of a bank for the big hills later in the race. The crowd support was still amazing - cool drummers under a bridge, various bands, neighbourhood block parties. I ate another pack of Honey Stingers at mile 8. I was right where I wanted to be.
I saw my support crew (Andrew, Susie, and Melissa) just before Mile 9. I was supposed to pick up a pack of Honey Stingers from crew, but in my excitement, I simply pointed to my watch and yelled out “I fuckin’ got this.” It was probably a bit premature to be making statements that early in the race, but there was no better way to summarize how I was feeling. I just knew that I was going to get that 4:45. The amazing crowd support continued, and I saw the best dancing old man with a foam “You’re #1” hand. I saw my favourite marathon sign during this stretch: “I hear St. Paul is lovely this time of year” - in case you aren’t familiar with the course, the race starts in Minneapolis and ends in St. Paul. It made my heart smile a lot. I ate another pack of Honey Stingers and hit the half marathon point at 2:20:50, which is my second fastest half marathon time ever.
I was actually really surprised how good the crowd support was through this stretch. I remember a lot of desolate patches last year along the Mississippi without many spectators. I saw my support group around Miles 17/18, and I ate some more Honey Stingers. There was a guy handing out hot dogs at mile 18. Not really ideal marathoning food. I was back with the 4:45 group around mile 19, and I stayed with them over the Franklin Bridge and into St. Paul. I heard the pacer say she had banked a few minutes for the upcoming hills - just like I had done!! I saw Susie, Melissa, and Andrew right before the mile 21 marker and got more fuel. I was seriously so over Honey Stingers by this point, I just choked down this pack and wished I had one of those mile 18 hot dogs. And with that, we were at the hills!
Damn, those hills. It’s not that they are steep, it’s that they seem never ending. And when you are at the top, you are exhausted. And then you still have another 3 miles to go. This was definitely the hardest part of the race. I knew I could finish, but I needed to not give back too much time. I saw Sheila and Bob at Mile 23, with Ella. Sheila really scared the crap out of me as she ran out to give me Honey Stingers, but I was so happy to see familiar faces. Not too much further up, I saw Melissa and Johnna. I was really starting to hurt by this point and just wanted to be done. I wasn’t in a bad place mentally, per se, I just was tired. I saw Heather at Mile 25. I needed to see Heather at that moment. I was tired and pushing, but having her tell me how much I was killing the race motivated me to finish strong. I thought about how much she helped me last year. I saw Susie and Andrew with less than a mile to go, and I told Andrew I just wanted to be done. One of the amazing things about the race is when you round the corner on Summit, you can’t see the Cathedral, which marks the downhill finish to the State Capitol. It’s very sudden that the Cathedral appears, and then you can see the giant America flag hoisted up by the fire trucks, and further on, the finish line. I picked it up into high gear, and knew that I was going to hit my time goal. I was beaming as I ran down the chute, with fist pumping. 4:43:55. I did it! 1 hour, 16 minute, and 15 second PR!
A few things to note about this race:
- I ran the entire race, only slowing through water stations (up until the end of 2013, I was taking walk breaks, so this is pretty exciting!)
- I did not listen my iPod during the race. I thought about pulling it out around mile 24, when I was exhausted, but decided it would be too much work to do so.
- Considering the 4:45 pace group was up to 422 counted dogs around mile 21, I was surprised I only saw 1 Boston Terrier.
- The experience of running a 4:45 vs a 6:00 marathon is very different - the crowd support is more prevalent, and I was always around other runners. At times, especially around the lakes, the course almost seemed too crowded! It was strange!
- I heard a lot of different music on the course, but PTL, I only had to hear “Born to Run” once. That song ranks right up there with my love of “Roar”. Ick.
- My running partner, Ryan, ran his first marathon in 4:08 and change. So awesome!!
So What Made This Marathon a Success?
The work for this marathon didn’t start 18 weeks ago when my training plan started. The real work started the day after the marathon last year. I got serious about leaning up. I lost weight, I lifted weights, and I did a lot of core work. I weighed 23 pounds less this year at the marathon compared with last year. I always hated when people would say I could get faster at running by losing weight, mainly because it was true.
Using Hanson’s Marathon Method was also a defining factor in my marathon success. I used Hal Higdon plans in the past, with little success. Hanson’s laid everything out. Here’s what you do, how fast, how far. I’m good at following rules. I picked a realistic goal and stuck to it. I consistently hit my target pace for easy, long, tempo, strength, and speed runs. I missed only one 10 mile long run, and 2.5 miles of an easy 5 mile run. I did not alter the schedule, minus a couple of races in the early stages of the plan, and the last day of training (due to the Ultra Loony Challenge). Hanson’s not only made me a better runner, but it built mental fortitude. Running 6 days a week was hard work. There were many days when I didn’t want to, but I knew that I had to follow the plan exactly to get the results. Sometimes my legs just ached. I had blisters and chaffing. But I was never injured. And that meant that I could always run even if I didn’t feel like it. I honestly believe without this training plan, I wouldn’t have hit my time goal. I can’t recommend this plan enough. I really believe it elevates your running. If you are looking to PR, think about picking up the book (for the full or half). At the very least, it’s an interesting read. I’ll definitely be using the half plan for my spring half.
In case your wondering how much I improved over last year, here’s a mile by mile comparison of Twin Cities Marathon 2014 vs 2013:
This is the exact same course - one year later. My slowest mile this year, wasn’t even slower than my fastest mile last year. Also, look at my consistency - I used to be all over the place! I think I may need to run Twin Cities again next year, just to get a three year comparison. Of course, I’ll never have as epic of a PR ever again, but I can’t wait to see what I can accomplish down the road!
TCM 2015! Only 361 days away!!