Tuesday, October 6, 2009

Twin Cities Marathon

Sunday I completed my second marathon ever, another stepping stone in the ironman journey.

I arrived in the twin cities Saturday night and did the whole expo / packet pick up thing. I managed to sleep okay at the hotel even with some rowdy neighbors. Ate a couple of clif bars in the morning and walked to the metrodome. It was chilly and they were letting us inside the dome to warm up so that was handy. Soon enough it was getting close to race time so I dropped off my sweats bag and headed to the race start. I got to start in corral 1 and that was not nearly as packed with people so that was nice. With a race this long I was going to warm up in the first few miles. No sense making this any longer than it was going to be.

So I'm at the starting line of my second ever marathon and I couldn't be happier. I'm injury free, training was near perfect the last 7 weeks, and the weather is as good as you could ask for on race day. Excited may be an understatement.

A little pre-race hoopla and then there's the gun and we're off. Starting in the front corral was a bonus. Things spaced out very quickly and I settled into my own pace fairly early. Okay, quick check. Does this feel too hard? Nope. How's the breathing? Under control. Alrighty then. Let's run.

I was wearing my Garmin but I told myself to ignore it. I didn't want to get too caught up with what pace I was running. I just wanted to run and as long as things felt easy and I wasn't getting carried away with an absurd effort I was just going to run. It seemed like a simple approach. Did it hurt me later on? Maybe. Who knows.

Crowd support at the race was amazing. Hardly a block went by without someone out there cheering for all of the runners. That alone made it easy to keep going. I smiled, waved, high-fived when appropriate. Random spectators calling you out by bib number and telling you good job never gets old.

I hit the 5k mark at 21:36. A little fast. Tone it down a shade, mmmkay. I tried. Hit the 10k at 43:18. Holy shnikies that's a PR (yeah, I haven't run a stand alone 10k in awhile). So that toning down thing, were you listening? I think so. This is feeling effortless right now, let me enjoy it while I can okay.

Those miles flew by early on. I was enjoying myself, soaking in the atmosphere, loving the crowds. Spent a mile behind some excellent pace booty. Mmm, baby blue shorts. It was a good day to be running. Sadly though, I had to leave her behind. I started taking in nutrition at mile 5. Popped a gu and then had one every 4 miles from then on. Water at the aid stations and I was good to go.

When the halfway point hit I happy not to be having dreadful thoughts of having to run another one of those. I saw my time (1:31:46) and was ecstatic, but kind of scared at the same time. Ecstatic because I was on pace to go under 3:11:00 and fulfill my semi-delusional goal of BQing. Scared because I was only 3 seconds off my half mary PR. Way too fast my friend. Tone it down or you are going to crash and burn!

I dialed it back a notch. Really, I did this time. The next few miles went by and slowly but surely I began to notice more people passing me. I began to sneak a few peeks at the watch and saw the pace was dropping too much. That and the effort level was rising. Oh, and pain increasing in the left hammy and right calf. The wheels weren't falling off yet, but I definitely felt a few lugnuts loosen up and go tumbling away.

The fan support continued to be amazing. I wish I could remember all of the great people and cool signs. I liked the one that said "toenails are overrated." Then there were the people dressed as nuns (or maybe they were real nuns) with the one sign that said "run like hell" and another that I couldn't make out. I flashed them the devil hooks and stuck out my tongue. Yeah, could be going to hell here.

Where am I? Mile 19. Ugh, too soon to be falling apart. Suck it up. Hey, I recognize those blue shorts passing me. I tried my best to stay behind her, trust me, but couldn't. I reached the giant inflatable wall at mile 20. Yup, I'm definitely hitting the wall. Nicely placed symbolic balloon fixture. I managed to keep running until the mile 22 aid station, where I stopped to walk and take in some powerade to help with the cramping. I stopped again at the next aid station, but this time had a much tougher time getting going again. Move feet. Feet? Are you listening? Come on. We are running startingggggggg.........now! No? Okay a few more steps. How bout now?.........now?........ok, now! Dammit, get moving!

Eventually I mustered up the energy to get moving again and as punishment I told myself that was the last walk break I was allowed. Miraculously I stuck to my guns and ran the last few miles in. At least it was a pretty good imitation of a run. It felt so disjointed and painful at that point. I was pretty sure that it wasn't pretty.

Soon enough, I had the finish line in my sights. I realized I was going to be really close to 3:20:00 so I started running harder the last half mile or so. The mileage was off on the garmin so I really had no idea how much further it was. When we started the final downhill I was flying past people like they were standing still. I guess there was a little juice left in the ol legs and it was coming at a very painful cost with each stride. In my mind I kept alternating the words "ow" and "3:20" until I pounded across the finish line.

Woohoo! I'm done! Did I go under 3:20? I don't care, get me one of those heat blankets and some food!

I am envious of those people that can go out and run an evenly paced marathon. I am hoping that as I continue to lay on the mileage year after year that becomes a reality. Seriously though, I went out at a pace that would have gotten me a BQ and I couldn't hold it. Simple as that. Am I disappointed? A little. But this was another valuable learning experience and a heck of a confidence booster. Boston is in my future in the next few years, I am sure of it. This was an awesome, awesome race. I would highly recommend this marathon and if I ever plan on repeating one, this would be high up on the list. Missed my BQ, but you know what? I don't care. It was a huge 22 minute PR!


  1. Awesome job Neal! You'll run in Boston soon, I am sure of that.

  2. GREAT JOB!!! 22 minute PR... That's insane! ;-)