Went back to the Twin Cities Marathon for hopefully a bit of revenge on the course. Last year included torrential rains, high winds and cold temps. Fortunately, this year’s forecast was looking nearly perfect .. 45 to 53 degrees F., cloudy, and low winds.

My announced A goal was sub 2:40 which was based partly on my training and partly on some optimistic (wishful?) thinking that if everything aligned I could cross that major milestone. Some runners don’t like to announce a time goal thinking perhaps it might jinx their chances but I take a different view. Telling friends my A goal helps me visualize that result and makes me want to do everything possible to achieve it. It ratchets up the pressure but in a good way.

Like last year this was the USATF Master Marathon Championship which comes with some very nice perks. I attended the pre-race interviews with the elite and master elite runners, then a VIP reception and socialized with the other invited runners. I got a light massage on Saturday, took a bus tour of the course and stocked up on food and snacks in the Hospitality Suite. I also charmed my way into getting my ‘elite’ bottle placed on a table at mile 15. I don’t like the Poweraid course drink and not having to deal with water stops is my preferred modus operandi.

This year I stayed with Justin at his Aunt’s place in St. Paul and having a comfortable home to stay in, share race strategy and eat copious quantities of Pumpkin bread was just what I needed.

On Saturday morning, Justin and I ran over to the local track and ran 800 at mile pace and finished with 100 meters at all out sprint. This is from the Australian Carb load technique which probably wasn’t necessary since I did my usual deplete/load cycle but it was great to get the legs moving really fast and feel the lungs burn a bit before shutting it down. That evening met up with a group of runners from the running club/forum for a great Italian dinner. I think we polished off about 10 baskets of bread and enough pasta to feed a small army.

Pre-race included hanging out in the elite staging area (church basement near the starting line), meeting up with some other master runners and relaxing before the start. This year was the USA Woman’s Marathon Championship so there was a much high percentage of woman runners than last year (they alternate the Mens and Womans Championship each year with New York).

At 7:45 or so we filed out to the start line to do some warm-ups before the 8:00 am start. Temps felt warmer than last year but there was a slight breeze and decided to keep the beanie cap and gloves but no arm warmers. Right before the start I looked around and waved to Justin at the front of Corral 1 and he worked his way forward to be lined up just behind me. The horn sounded and after about 20 yards Justin passed me on the left side which was as close as we got for the rest of the race.

Hard to get reading on pace in mile 1 because the tall buildings mess with the GPS but just tried to avoid the rough pavement and keep the pace in check.

Mile splits are Garmin and the kilometer and half splits are from the official mats

Mile 1 – 5:54 –151HR (this is a little off since the mile clock read around 6:02)

Mile 2 – 6:04 –158HR Passed the Cathedral with the bells ringing non-stop which is a really cool touch

Mile 3- 6:11 –158HR This has a half mile hill and just tried not to charge up it too fast. Another 50-54AG runner (we had age bibs on our backs which were required for the championship) started talking to me. William from Tennessee and he was looking to go around 2:40. He told me that Tom Dever, the fastest half marathoner in the US (in our AG) last year with a 1:12, had a 2:34 goal today and he was out front. We continued to run together until mile 6 when I picked up the pace a bit.

5K – 18:43 (20 seconds faster than goal pace)

Mile 4 – 6:02 – 155HR – My HR started to come down which was a good sign that I was running more relaxed. The course is almost constant turns in this area as we went around the first of 4 lakes and I was very aware of looking for the tangents and running the straight line as much as possible. It must have paid off since my Garmin distance this year was 26.34 and last year it was 26.42

Mile 5 – 6:01 – 155HR – On to the second lake.

Mile 6 – 5:58 – 156HR – Took my first gel

10K – 37:3 (13 seconds faster than goal pace)

Mile 7 – 5:59 – 156HR – All these miles felt really good. I knew I was running a few seconds faster than planned on each mile which caused me a little concern except my HR was lower than my target of 158-160. Passing by the third lake now.

Mile 8 – 6:00 – 156HR – I kept moving from one group to the next, easing forward and passing runners when I could.

Mile 9 – 6:00 – 157HR – A little uphill during mile 9 but like many small hills on the course, when it went up it would give back with a corresponding downhill right away.

Mile 10 – 5:58 – 155HR The course clock was around 1:00:20 for the 10 miles point. I remember thinking this was some of the fastest/least effort running I have ever done. One of my overarching goals when I returned to marathon training 3 years ago was to recapture the feeling of running relatively fast but at the same time have it feel effortless. With nothing hurting on my body, with my breathing being light and easy, with the low temps and light breeze keeping any sweat under control, with the pace clicking along around 6 minutes a mile I was having one of those special moments in running when it all just comes together.

Mile 11 – 5:57 – 156 HR

Mile 12 – 6:04 – 154HR – This included the long straightaway over lake #4. Second gel.

Mile 13 – 6:03 – 155HR – Still the HR staying very low for the pace. I started to notice the wind more now as we turned in a more northerly direction.

Half split – 1:18:56 (51 seconds faster than goal pace)

Mile 14 – 6:07 – 157HR – This mile included a slight rise for almost the whole way and a few very tight turns.

Mile 15 – 6:02 – 156HR – some nice drums beats near one underpass.

Mile 16 – 6:04 – 156HR – I remember thinking around here that the honeymoon was over and that I had to concentrate a little more and add a little more to hold the pace. There was also more of a headwind as we ran along the Mississippi river.

Mile 17 – 6:08 – 157HR – feeling the stride getting a little clunky for the first time. I reminded myself to focus on my form and get the legs back to a quicker turnover and smooth motion which seemed to help some.

Mile 18 – 6:17 – 155HR – This is when I felt my legs tightened up a little and it was hard to hold goal pace. Of course I knew that this was too soon for this to happen but I stayed optimistic. It was only a rough patch, it was only a glitch and things would get better (or would they?) I noticed others slowing down too and this was not good. I had to find some runners ahead to keep the pace with.

30K split – 1:53:12 (11 seconds faster than goal pace)

Mile 19 – 6:17 – 155HR – Still struggling to get back to goal pace and the hills were coming up. Time to buckle down and dig deep.

Mile 20 – 6:13 – 154HR – Better .. Caught up with a few people and we started passing the ones hitting the wall. Third gel.

Mile 20 split – 2:01:50 (12 seconds slower than goal pace)

Mile 21 – 6:18 – 155HR – First significant hill of the final hills. About 10 seconds slower than I wanted to run this mile but I continued to work hard to hold on.

Mile 22 – 6:30 – 158HR – Tried to push harder on this hill and just about hit my goal pace of 6:29

Mile 23 – 6:30 – 157HR- Last of the hills. I was really looking forward to getting to mile 23.4 and catch a little downhill action. My legs were complaining but thought about staying in the moment and not letting up.

Mile 24 – 6:13 – 157HR – Still a little uphill in this mile and then finally some downhill. My legs really hurt now but knew this is where I could try to gain back some time.

Mile 25 – 6:17 – 157HR – Top speed was just not there, couldn’t gain back any time but I did try to stem the bleeding. I consciously thought about pushing as hard as I could because after the race I didn’t want to have any regrets.

Mile 26 – 6:15 – 159HR – Finally spotted the Cathedral spire through the trees and knew the finish was coming up. Bells were clanging or was that my head?!?

Mile 26.2 – 5:51 – 162 – Passed a few runners near the end and gave it all on the last downhill. My legs were shot but I pumped my arms and tried to sprint for the line. After crossing I slowed down and felt very weak but somehow continued to walk it off. Circled the finishing chute for a bit and talked to a runner in my AG, a Polish guy who ended up finishing about 20 seconds behind me.

Final gun time – 2:41:20 (:19 chip)

A 2:15 PR over my Boston ’09 time

Division place – 2 out of 467 (50-54) – (first place ran a 2:41:04 and he was about 3:50 ahead of me at the 20 mile split)

Overall 75 out of 8432

Age Grade performance: 87.23% (7th Place AG %)

I hear Justin’s mom and sister calling for me from the sidelines. I go over and ask how Justin did. 2:31:xx wow .. a 7 minute PR .. I’m impressed and really happy for him.

Post script: I’m really pleased with the PR but of course I could have done better. The marathon is high wire act with little room for error and I went out just a tad too fast for my fitness to seal the deal. At the same time I didn’t fall apart too bad which I attribute to some good training and just getting tough when it counted. I surprised myself by running at a pace that just a few months ago I wouldn’t have attempted. Next time ….

Actually for now I think I’ll recover well and work on a cycle of speed and shorter distance racing.