Thursday, October 6, 2011

Twin Cities Medtronic Marathon Recap –2:46:38 - New PR!

My once a year marathon has come and gone and overall I am pleased with the result. How could I not be. I ran close to a four minute PR and was one of the first 100 runners to cross the finish line. Part of the enjoyment and decision to run the Twin Cities Marathon was knowing that I would have family and friends with me that weekend and on the course, since I grew up in Minnesota. True to my hope and expectations, my cheering section rivaled any out there on the course.

The race weekend started off with a couple of pleasant surprises when much to my surprise I ran into two of my cousins at the race expo whom I hadn’t seen in many years. First I spotted cousin Zach (which was easy as he towered over people with his 6’5’’ frame) and then I was spotted by cousin Tom. Zach was in town from Chicago and wasn’t running but was there to cheer on friends and family and Tom was running the 10 miler. To top it off, my whole family came to town to visit and cheer me on. On top of the good spirits of hanging out with my family, the weather was absolutely perfect for the entire weekend. I forgot how much I enjoyed the fall weather in Minnesota.

Race day started with few surprises as I got dropped off at the start by my brother-in-law Chris and I went through the usual pre-race rituals, like standing in the porta-potty line. Big marathons like Twin Cities are a funny thing for me because I really don’t even try to warm-up or even do any stretching beforehand. There just isn’t any room for us non-elites back in the corrals. So, I didn’t even bother to wiggle my way to the front of corral 1, instead, I used the first mile to warm up and let the fast starters get it out their system and get out of my way! Needless to say, my first mile of 6:33 was a bit off the target pace of 6:10 per mile, but it felt so slow as I settled into the target pace in the next few miles. In fact miles 2, 3, and 4 were the fastest of the day at 6:06, 6:03, and 6:04. However, that was the order of the day. I needed to get some quick miles in early as I knew I needed a time cushion heading into the hills of the last few miles. I probably wasn’t going to run negative splits this race and had to stay focused early on.

For this race I decided to wear a fuel belt with four 6-ounce bottles of raspberry flavored Gu Brew. I learned in the past that I did not get enough fuel and electrolytes from the aid stations and needed to bring my own and drink it all along the way. So, in spite of all the nasty things I have said in the past about folks strapping on their super hero belts, I had joined their unfashionable ranks. Not surprisingly, up at the front of the race where I was running nobody else was sporting such attire.

The race started more or less on time and we were off on the streets of downtown Minneapolis. While it was cool at the start, it wasn’t cold, but I still elected to start with gloves and arm sleeves. I was glad I did as we got blasted by a few wind tunnels that formed between the high rises in the first mile of the race. Right from the start and all the way to the finish there were spectators lining the course. At the start the race officials said there would be 300,000 people cheering us on the course. I’m guessing the number was even higher than that. It was really impressive and encouraging.

Rounding our way around the lakes in Minneapolis was actually pretty relaxing and I rolled through 5k and 10k more or less right on pace. In fact, based on a terrain adjusted pace chart, I was a little under at that point for a 2:42 finish. My left achilles tendon was already sore, but I knew it would be, otherwise, the legs felt great, my breathing was controlled and easy. Everything was going as planned.


Target Split

Actual Split


Projected Finish





















20 miles





24 miles










The second 10k was more of the same as the race began to thin out and the space between runners became a little greater. One neat thing about this race was that it was the USATF Masters Marathon Championships, so all the old farts (over 40) like me had age group numbers pinned to our backs as well as the normal race numbers on front. Personally, I liked being able to spot another masters runner ahead of me and try to reel them in or share a few words when passing or getting passed.

Heading into the halfway point, I was starting to feel a little more tired than I thought I would. Overall the legs felt loose and my breathing was not labored, but I my legs started to feel just a tad more flat than I was hoping for, since it was my strategy to really start to dig in when I reached the River Road on the Minneapolis side of the Mississippi River. Even with that flat feeling, I was still pretty much on pace and knew I had a big boost coming up in the 14th mile. Team Matt made up of my sisters, brothers-in-law and nieces and nephews, was going to be there in full force, and true to form, they made some noise. I spied their green shirts about a block away, and could hear their cheers, cow bells, and whackers a half a block away. Running by one’s own personal cheering team like that really motivated me and beyond putting a smile on my face (I could still smile at that point) it lit a little fire under me too. Although I slowed a little to a 6:17 mile pace in the 14th mile, in the next mile (with a small downhill to help) I sped up to 6:06 pace.

But then I really started to feel a little heavy in the legs. Crap. Up to about mile 16 I was still passing folks and only occasionally getting passed myself, but then that started to change. I tried to stay focused and thought about my ultra-marathon friends and how they talk about running though bad patches. Please, let this be a bad patch that I can run through. I knew I was lying to myself and that wasn’t going to happen, but I still did what I could to stay calm. One thing I did was focus on running the tangents along the River Road. It amazed me how much folks around me, folks I would describe as pretty fast and experienced racers, would run down the middle of the road. Not me, I’m cutting it as tight as I can. We have the whole road closed for us so let’s run it tight people!

By about 30k I was no longer on pace, but was still keeping it close to 6:20 pace; however, I knew I was not going to be finishing around 2:42 and would be lucky to hit 2:44. I still felt I could hang at close to this pace and nab a PR and I wanted to have a decent finish up Summit Avenue.

Crossing the Franklin Avenue Bridge and onto the St. Paul side of the river at 19 miles I literally felt myself lose a gear and at that point knew the second half of the race was going to look a lot different than the first half. I tried to keep my form smooth and light and keep moving forward but I was seriously starting to feel tired. Of course, I just ran a hard 20 miles and I should be tired, but I trained for this and was hoping and expecting to feel a bit fresher at this point. I was starting to feel like I was going backwards. People I passed earlier in the day were now coming by me looking strong and fast. Dang, that was supposed to be me looking strong and passing people at this point. Sigh.

As I fell off the pace after 19 miles my legs never tightened up, but they just had less and less pep. Also, I could feel the change in my face and sensed I was no longer as relaxed as I was earlier in the race. There were no smiles from me to the spectators as I trudged up the hill off of East River Road to Summit Avenue. I was moving into head down, grit the teeth territory counting off the miles to the finish and looking for anything to energize me.

I did catch a really nice compliment at mile 21 that wasn’t even shouted to me when I heard one spectator say to another “wow, that's a nice stride.” That made me feel happy since I sure didn't feel that good but I was trying to concentrate on holding my form together to propel me forward. Heading up Summit Avenue I looked ahead of me and saw nothing but hill. Of course, it really isn’t that steep, but it never really flattens out and at that point, any little hill looked like a big hill. I said to myself, “ give it a rest, you are from Ashland, you normally don’t even notice hills like these.”

Ticking off the miles I was looking forward to making it to mile 22, since Team Matt was planning to be waiting for me again. Right before I reached my posse, I caught and passed Wendy Terris from Milwaukie, Oregon, the only runner I recognized in the race. I said hello as I came by and kept on pushing. Then I came to Team Matt. Just like at mile 14, they really brought out a little more zip in my stride. I tossed my fuel belt and gloves to the team and focused on the runner in front of me. I’m not done, I still have some life left in me. Then just a block later I saw my cousin Tom, who came back after the finish of the ten miler, and his mom, my Aunt Mary Catherine , cheering their hearts out. I felt like a superstar!

At this point I stopped looking at my watch and just focused on running smoothly and trying to catch people in front of me. I knew I had one more big hill in mile 26 and then it was all downhill and I could stop. Once I got to that hill I actually attacked it, or at least I told myself I was attacking. I am sure that those watching couldn’t tell! Unfortunately, in almost the same instant I felt the twinge of a cramp in my left calf and right hamstring. I did my best to ignore them, I was so close to being done and wanted to finish hard down the hill to the finish line. Rounding the corner at the top of Summit Avenue and seeing the Capitol and the finish line a quarter of a mile ahead, I leaned into the downhill and dug in. Ahead I spied a poor victim to target. I can catch this guy, I’m a racer, racers finish hard. So I did, blowing by him in the last 30 meters. Sorry buddy, it may be a marathon, but it is still a race to me. I didn't see or hear them, but it was also comforting to know that my father and his partner Barbara, as well as the whole Team Matt contingent was cheering and waiting for me at the finish.

In the end, I finished in 2:46:38 for a PR by over 3 minutes. It wasn’t the time I had hoped or trained for and I still think I can run that target time, but I’ll take a nice PR as a concession prize. My other goals were to finish in the top 100 overall, which I did with a 96th place finish and to be in the top 10 of my age group. I just missed that goal with an 11th place finish in the men’s 40-44 age division.

I have decided that at this time the Twin Cities Marathon is my favorite marathon of the few (a whopping four) I have run so far and that is not because I ran a PR and I’m from Minnesota and biased. It was simply that well run, on a spectacular course with great spectators and great treatment of the runners. Maybe another will bump it from this pedestal some day, but I doubt it.

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