2015 Fargo Mini Half Marathon – Race Report

Pre-Race
After running the solid-but-slightly-short-of-spectacular Twin Cities Marathon two weeks ago, I knew that how fast I was able to run in this race would be completely dependant on how quickly I’d recovered. Last year, I didn’t race a fall marathon and I ran what I stil think is my best race ever (at least, so far). The year before, I ran this same race two weeks after the marathon and although I ran a PR and broke 1:30 for the first time ever, I felt a little dead in the legs the entire race. Two weeks ago (aka the week after the marathon), I ran extremely easy finishing the week with just 33 miles – my lowest weekly mileage in over a year. This week, it was pretty much back to normal. I did a fairly light workout on Thursday and my legs felt very good. I was cautiously optimistic that maybe my legs were going to be mostly recovered. I came into the race with an optimistic goal of running in the 1:23-1:24 range if my legs were feeling good. And if they weren’t, just put in a good hard effort and half fun.

We got to the race incredibly late. My wife was running this half marathon, as well, and we have extremely different ideas on when is the proper time to get to a race. I like to be at the venue about an hour before the start. Maybe more if it’s a big race. My wife likes to sleep in a little later and maybe get to the start… you know, before the race starts (for the record, we’ve missed that once).

I didn’t feel like pushing my agenda on her for the weekend, so I deferred to her timing. We didn’t get to the race until about 15 minutes before the start. I managed to sneak in a 5 minute warmup. Quickly snuck to the bathroom and, unbelievably, there was no line. I headed to the starting line, but unfortunately it was crowded. I tried to sneak as far forward as possibly, but I didn’t really feel like throwing elbows or upsetting everyone. Unfortunately, I was stuck BEHIND THE 2:10 PACE GROUP at the start!

Mile 1 – 6:17 – I went through the start of the race and people didn’t even start running yet! When I finally was able to get clear, I shot out to the far left and started flying by people. About a quarter mile into the race, I was able to kind of see the race play out ahead of me. I figured I was in about 30th place. The first place guy was 50 meters up on everybody from the gun. I recognized the next few runners as runners who were slightly better than me, but at least in the same ballpark. By the time I got to the mile, I think I had snuck into the top 10.

Mile 2 – 6:28 (12:44) – The first mile might have been a little quicker than I was hoping for, but it felt very controlled. As we got to the two mile, we started to pass runners to see two way traffic on the bikepath. For the most part, though, it was fun. Although the path was fairly tight, I got to watch the runners and high five my wife.

Mile 3 – 6:39 (19:31) – Passing more two way-traffic here. I’ve run enough races to know when I’m out of control early. That certainly wasn’t the case here. I got up to 6th and 7th place runners in this mile. Unfortunately, I looked down and saw my right shoelace flopping. Another reason I like getting to races early is to take care little things like this. I figured it made no sense to run 10 more miles with a shoelace untied so I stopped to tie it. The 6th and 7th place runners put about a 10 second gap on me. This probably would’ve been about 6:25-6:30 had I not tied my shoelace which was right where I was hoping to be. I noticed as I started again, though, that my legs felt very uncomfortable similar to when you try to “kick” at the end of the race and there was nothing there.

Mile 4 – 6:26 (25:57) – Another really fun mile. My heart rate is sitting around 175 which I know is a number I can maintain. I’m still chasing down the two runners that left me last mile when I tied my shoes. When I saw 25:57 for a cumulative time here, I knew I was slightly faster than 6:30 pace. But I had never saw my mile 3 split, so I was a little confused because I thought this would be a little quicker (of course, I wasn’t thinking about my shoelace mishap in the last mile).

Mile 5 – 6:37 (32:24) – I’m maintaining the same distance behind the two guys ahead of me, but I’m not gaining any ground. This was the first mile that I fully started to realize that my legs just weren’t there. Mentally, I was feeling really good. I wasn’t breathing heavy at all. But my legs just felt dead. I started to realize that I don’t think I’m going to be running a 1:23 today, but was thinking maybe I could hold on and get near my half marathon PR. I remember last year that I really was able to run the last mile fast, so as long as I was putting miles near 6:30, I’d have a shot at a PR.

Mile 6 – 6:44 (39:17) – Kind of a transition mile for me. Once I saw this split, I knew that I wasn’t going to be setting a PR. I knew that I was running strong, but it just wasn’t in the cards to run what I was hoping to run. In a lot of races I run, I come in with big goals and then at some point during the race, I have to come to terms with the fact that today isn’t that big breakthrough that I was hoping for.

Mile 7 – 6:42 (46:00) – I saw my mom and sister at this mile. I thought it was pretty cool that they drove over an hour to come cheer us on. Somewhere around this mile, I finally caught one of the guys that was ahead of me moving into 7th place. The next two guys were still in sight, but they’d gained on me a little in the last few miles.

Mile 8 – 6:40 (52:39) – My heartrate data is reflecting exactly what I’m feeling. With every mile, it’s dipping down a few beats per minute from 175 earlier in the race to the 170-172 range right now. Eventually, it even will get down to the 168-169 range for the last few miles of this race. I feel like I’m pushing, but my legs just won’t really move. I’m essentially running all by myself. As we near the turnaround, I start to feel good because the 2nd thru 5th place runners aren’t nearly as far ahead of me as I thought they might be. As I neared the turnaround, I saw the 6th place runner. He gave me a thumbs up – a universal sign signifying “good job” to your fellow runners. Strangely, it kind of sparked me. And I had kind of a internal revelation… my race was shot, but I could encourage others. This part of the course was an out-and-back on a bikepath, so I knew for the next three miles, I was going to see a ton of runners. I made a decision that I was going to spend those three miles just trying to encourage every runner I saw.

Mile 9 – 6:37 (56:16) – So, I went full-on “cross country coach” during this mile. Everyone that I went by got a “You guys are doing awesome!” or a “Way to go!” or a thumbs up. I tried to encourage everyone. While I was cheering, I kind of reflected on where I am as a runner. Because I’ve been the over-2-hour half marathoner. I’ve paced people for their first race. I’ve helped people try to meet a goal – whether it was sub-2 hrs or sub-1:45. I know that a lot of these runners, even if they are 5, 15, or even 45 minutes behind me, they are working their butts off. In many cases, they are even working harder than I am. I know that they are! Because I don’t even feel like I’m working all that hard… especially not for being at mile 9 of a half marathon. My legs just aren’t cooperating.

Mile 10 – 6:46 (1:06:03) – I’m continuing to cheer on every runner or every group that I go by and I’m having a blast! Having been a runner for 13 years now and helping to coach cross country for 11 or 12 (I’ve lost count), I’ve come to love the community of runners. Half of the reason I love running races is just to be around these runners who I often feel just exude positivity and goodness. The exception is often the people at the front of the pack. Many of them seem singularly focused on running fast. They don’t interact with other people in the race. I find they smile, wave, and cheer far less as a whole than back-of-the-packers. I’ve been guilty of this before, and I completely understand why. I’ve worked so incredibly hard to get to where I am. I’m not a naturally great runner, but I’ve developed the ability to be very committed to running every single day… no matter whether I feel like it or not! I’m very proud to be as far in the front as I am (which turns out to be 7th out of 557 people), but I decided and didn’t want to be the standoff-ish guy at the front who just runs by everyone else.

Mile 11 – 6:57 (1:12:59) – I’ve went by most of the half-marathoners by this point. As I get to the tail end of this mile, I start to run into the 10k-ers who are around mile 4 of their race. As positive as I have been about the two way traffic with the half marathoners, I’m not so excited to run into the 10k-ers. Now, we’ve got two way traffic and it appears the first crew I hit is running around 10:00/mile pace. Since the left half of the bikepath is taken up by runners running 10:30-11:00/mile pace, I’m forced to run a majority of this mile in the grass on the far right side of the bikepath which has me slightly annoyed. I’ve known for 40 minutes that my time was going to be fine, but not great. It just stinks to have to dodge and weave like Adrian Peterson just because I’m running so much faster than everyone else I’m coming up on.

Mile 12 – 6:50 (1:19:49) – More of the same. The problem is I can’t really run on the path. People are running two-and-three people wide. When someone is coming on the head-to-head, they will slide over. But as soon as that person passes, they often relax and swing out a little wider. Meaning in order to pass, I have to swing out even wider. I understand that space on the bikepath limits the options of what do for scheduling three different races, and it’s certainly not something that ruins the race for me, but it’s quite frustrating.

Mile 13 – 6:47 (1:26:36) – I know I’ve got a little left in the tank, but I’m not really digging too deeply. I’m excited for the race to be over and just want to make sure I keep it under 1:27.

Last bit – 0:19 – Finish time is officially 1:26:55. It’s a slower time than I was shooting for, but still something I’m proud of. My legs obviously aren’t anywhere close to fully recovered from my marathon two weeks ago, but that probably was the likely scenario. In an ideal world, I would’ve loved this race to be one week later. Even a month from now, I think I could potentially run the sub-1:24 I had been shooting for this year. Coaching cross country and basketball, having two little girls, and trying to be a good husband, though, I just have a hard time fitting as many races as I’d like to do into my busy schedule. My wife and I recently went through our schedule and we have 3 weekends from now thru the middle of March that we don’t have anything planned. THREE!?! Yikes. That’s even busy for us and we’re pretty used to being busy. For my running future, you can expect even more 4 or 5 AM long runs over the winter.

I haven’t even started to plan my racing schedule for next year. I do think my wife and I are planning on running a half marathon in April in Ireland. I’m sure I’ll run one of the Fargo races in May (leaning towards the marathon). Other than that, it’s basically a wrap for racing in 2015. Overall, it was a very good year. I PR-ed at every distance (5k, 8k, marathon) I ran this year with the exception of my favorite race – the half marathon. I ran numerous high-level workouts that I know I couldn’t have done a year ago. I trained through a busy coaching schedule, a newborn daughter that took 11 months to learn what “nighttime” meant all while (hopefully) being a good dad and husband. I’m extremely proud of what I accomplished this year, but I have much bigger goals for next year!

2015 Twin Cities Marathon Race Report

Preamble
I came into my spring marathon this year with easily the best training I’d ever done with a full year of really good training targeting this race. And then I got sick and ultimately failed in my attempt to qualify for Boston. Such is the life of a marathoner. It takes an incredible amount of training to get to the point where you want to be and then you are at someone else’s mercy.

In the past, this would’ve been massively disappointed. But as I’ve run more races, I’ve started to understand that you can’t just expect to toe a starting line and expect to PR every time out there just because you’ve been working hard. It just doesn’t happen that way.

My training for the Twin Cities Marathon has been solid, but I wouldn’t say it’s the best training cycle I’ve ever had. Summer is a somewhat hard time for me to train for a marathon. We are out at our family lake cabin every weekend which takes me away from the treadmill (aka – the “running with kids” machine). In the past, I’d be able to get up at 5 or 6 and rock out a few miles. My daughter would wake up and I’d take a 5-10 minute break to get her some breakfast and get a Disney movie to watch for a little bit while I finish my run. I’d open up the door and be able to watch her while I finish the last 15-60 minutes of my run. Plus my wife would be able to sleep in a bit. It was a win-win situation all around. But May thru September, we aren’t usually at home which makes that a little tougher. I was almost always good for 60 miles per week, but it wasn’t quite as organized or planned as I’d like. Believe it or not, nobody has made me any life-altering offers to allow me to train to run slower-than-sub-elite times while paying me current salary plus benefits. So, as it stands, waking up at 4:30 AM on a Wednesday to fit in workouts or long runs that get cancelled or cut shut due to being a dad is going to be the new “normal.”

Calm before the storm

Calm before the storm

Mile 1 – 6:49 – For some strange reason, my Strava race report shows me running a 6:10 first mile. I’m a flawed runner, but I’m not quite that stupid! Felt very comfortable even though the crowd was obviously pretty thick.

Mile 2 – 6:47 – The goal is just to sit between 6:45-6:52 for as long as possible and then hope the hills at mile 21-23 don’t completely destroy me. Trying to feel as efficient and economical as possible in this early part of the race. This was kind of a sneaky hilly mile.

Mile 3 – 6:48 – Got to see my family cheering for the first time. They get so into the Twin Cities Marathon every year! It *almost* makes up for the fact that the course is so hilly at the end of the race. I told them to go at the intersection of Douglas and Knox which is where former Viking Hall of Fame (and also former MN Supreme Court judge) Alan Page comes out every year and plays his tuba.

Former MN Viking Hall of Famer Alan Page playing his tuba for marathoners

Former MN Viking Hall of Famer Alan Page playing his tuba for marathoners

Mile 4 – 6:41 – We enter Lake of the Isles this mile which is one of the first of four races we run past. The leaves aren’t the normal yellows and oranges but the course is still beautiful. More importantly, I’m running right in the range of where I want to be (this is a slightly net downhill mile) and I’m feeling very fine.

Mile 5 – 6:51 – The crowd support during this mile is phenomenal around Lake Calhoun. I’m not paying attention to my heart rate, but it turns out that I was just cruising around between 168-172 bpm this entire race which is right around 90% of my HRM (189 is the highest I’ve witnessed while training).

Mile 6 – 6:54 – Another well supported mile along Lake Calhoun. I’m still feeling very strong. I’m running with a guy named Aaron who I run into at the local community center. This is his second marathon. I’m just excited to have someone of similar ability to run with. I ran the Dick Beardsley Half Marathon three weeks ago with him (until he took off with two miles left).

Mile 7 – 6:48 – At this point, the pack is starting to thin out a little bit. I got to see my family again on this mile which is always a slight boost. My cousin Alyssa was out there which just reminds me how long I’ve been chasing this Boston Qualifier. In 2005, I was running my third straight Twin Cities Marathon. My twin cousins Adam and Alyssa came with my family wearing shirts that said “Go Brent.” At the time, they were 6 years old. They’re now 16. And I’ve got a daughter who’s 5 years old who now is wearing the “GO” shirt. In 2005, I really thought I had a decent shot at qualifying for Boston. I ran a fast half marathon in May. I had a tough full at Grandma’s Marathon in the heat in June. Then, the day before the Twin Cities Marathon, I was in Duluth coaching our cross country team at the Swain Invitational. All three coaches were planning on running the marathon the next day. The head coach – Jeff Morris – spend all day racing around the course, not hydrating one bit, and eating crap food like hot dogs. The other two coaches – myself and his wife Kay – were a little more conservative running around the course, we were very conscious about hydrating, and eating carbs. Unfortunately, I ate a sandwich that I later found out was originally from our cross country camp in July and then frozen. After the meet, we went to Subway. I wasn’t feeling good and went to the bathroom. And I threw up for about the next 90 minutes. Finally, I felt good enough to crawl into the backseat of the car. About a half hour into the trip, Kay started feeling funky. So we’re both on the side of the interstate puking our guts (and four month old sandwiches) out. Anyway, I decided that if I was feeling good enough to run the marathon, I was just going to run it instead of racing it.

Feeling like a million bucks... but it's still early

Feeling like a million bucks… but it’s still early

Mile 8 – 6:46 – My mindset is great at this point. I always try to run a marathon with the mantra that the first 10 miles should be ridiculously easy. It doesn’t quite feel ridiculously easy, but on a scale of 1 to 10, it feels about like I’m working at about a 3 or so. Around this part of the Fargo marathon earlier this year, I was already feeling a little bit “off.”

Mile 9 – 6:44 – A “net” downhill mile that actually has the third or fourth biggest hill on the course. Not a monster like the one that is coming up at mile 21, but enough to make me notice. The legs have to work to go up the hill, but I try my best to really fly down the hills.

Mile 10 – 6:46 – I’m really taking in all of the fan support. After the race, my wife was asking me how much of this race you can see people cheering. I thought back and I literally don’t think there is a single mile that you can’t see any people cheering. It really helps you going through these “transition” miles. I kind of zone the crowd out at the end of the race, but I’m feeding off of them between miles 10-20.

Mile 11 – 6:52 – Saw my family one more time this mile. It’s so fun to see my daughter just light up when she sees me. I told my family it’s much easier for me to see them than it is for them to see me. Running wise, I’m feeling good, but I’m a little bit questioning whether or not I quite have sub-3 given I know what the last few miles have in store for me.

The best cheering squad in the state of Minnesota!

The best cheering squad in the state of Minnesota!

Mile 12 – 6:59 – I pop my third Gu for this mile. I used to use all fruity flavors like Strawberry and Raspberry. I don’t like taste or texture of any gels or gu I’ve taken in 13 years of running, so I decided to do something different this year – Russian Roulette gel flavors. I grabbed 6 gels (one every ~4 miles) of different flavors – Salted Caramel, Caramel Machiatto, Tri-Berry, Jet Blackberry, Mandarin Orange, and… Maple Bacon! I couldn’t think of anything that sounded more disgusting than having something that tasted like maple syrup or bacon during a marathon. So, of course, I came up with the idea of Russian Roulette gel packets. The theory behind this is you put your gel packets in you pockets (or in my case, my Flip Belt). When it comes time to eat a gel packet, you open it up and eat it without looking at the flavor. The only way this is any fun, of course, is if this has a disgusting flavor that you don’t want to get. Obviously, you want to get this one out of the way early in the race. But three packets in, I’ve had a salted caramel, caramel machiatto, and one of the fruit flavors.

Mile 13 – 6:49 – The last of our lakes that we go by is Nokomis. I go through the half at 1:28:57 which is EXACTLY what I was hoping for (goal was 1:29 for the first half). I’m feeling okay. Not great, but definitely still feeling positive. I know I’m going to give back a little time for the two mile hill at 21, but I’m thinking if I can maintain relatively well until the hell and then close the last 2 or 3 miles well, I’ve still got a shot at sub-3. At the very least, I’m feeling really confident about my chances to qualify for Boston which I think I realistically need to run at least a 3:07 which gives me a 3 minute cushion under my age-group qualifying time (3:10).

Mile 14 – 6:59 – This mile pretty much reflect exactly what is going on. It’s still a solid mile, but it’s slowed slightly and it feels like more work than the earlier miles.

Note for later... never, ever, EVER miss your child when giving out high fives!

Note for later… never, ever, EVER miss your child when giving out high fives!

Mile 15 – 6:45 – I think Aaron and I both saw the 6:59 split on the last mile and decided we’ve got to try to pick things up. The good news is that this is the point in my last marathon that I had my first major “uh oh” moment. I had a pretty major twinge that would later turn into full fledge “I can literally see my calf muscle cramping.” I’ve had some pretty major problem with cramping in the past and I’ve had some struggles in heat. A lot of things lead me to believe that I may be an excessively salty sweater. As a precaution, I tried Skratch Labs Hyper Hydration the night before and the morning of my race. I’ve used regular Skratch Labs before as a “replacement” for Gatorade and I absolutely love it. The Hyper Hydration product is essentially the same but with a BOATLOAD more salt. I know there is a ton of debate about what causes cramping and whether or not salt helps. I don’t even care. I just know I used it for this marathon and I didn’t have ANY cramping problems. So I am 100% going to continue using that product again for marathons and really key races and/or long runs.

Mile 16 – 6:53 – We are finally entering the running “running along the river” portion of the race. Again, I feel good about the mile split, but I know that I’m fighting for this a little more than I would want to be ideally.

Mile 17 – 6:55 – The last few miles, I’ve been keying off an older guy in a yellow shirt. He was wearing a “Masters” bib on his back that helped inform everyone behind him that you were getting beat by someone in his 50s. When the going gets tough, though, I like to find “old guys” (for a lack of a better term) because a lot of them are just like metronomes just hitting the same pace mile after mile. I made it my goal to keep him in sight as long as possible.

Mile 18 – 7:04 – Starting to feel it. I’m doubting I’ve got any more sub 7 minute miles in me at this point which means the sub-3 probably isn’t going to happen. I’m doing math in my head, though, and I like where I’m at. At the end of 18 miles, my cumulative time is 2:03:16. I’ve got 8 miles to go plus that pesky 0.2. I give myself a 1:45 for the 0.2 and I figure 7:30/mile for the remainder of the race gets me in right at 3:05 which is well under the 3:07:30 that would be enough to qualify from Boston (based on this year’s time). Of course, I don’t want to spend 18 months worrying about what the qualifying time cutoff is, so I want to get below 3:10 by as much as possible.

Mile 19 – 7:09 – I’m slowing down, but I’m viewing it as a mile that’s under 7:30 thus theortically “adding” to my “qualify for Boston” cushion. My friend Aaron is feeling good and he said he’s picking it up. I know I don’t have another gear right now. I wish him luck and he slowly takes off in front of me. I finally got the Maple Bacon flavored Gu in my gel packet Russian Roulette. Verdict: not good, but not awful.

Mile 20 – 7:09 – The good news… I can still see the guy in the yellow shirt ahead of me. I go through the “wall” in this mile. Still feeling okay. Not great, but I’ve definitely been worse. I didn’t run this race last year because my daughter Lille was due to be born within a few weeks of the marathon. I ran it two years ago and also 2003-2005. In my first ever marathon in 2003, I walked most of these miles. In 2004, I had my best race of my marathon career (3:26) and I still managed to slow about a minute/mile on these upcoming hills. In 2013, I had to start to walk on the next mile to help deal with cramps. It’s funny because reading my 2013 race report, I was so confident in my fitness because I had 1,700 miles for the year coming into this race. This year, I was coming into the race with 2,500 miles and I felt like I wasn’t 100% confident that I was as fit as I needed to be for this race. Funny how your mind works sometime, isn’t it?

Mile 21 – 7:28 – Having run the marathon 4 times before this one, though, I knew the story of my race was going to play out in the next two miles. For those of you who haven’t run the Twin Cities course before, let me give you a description of the cruel finish to this race. The first 21 miles are flat with some reasonable tolerable rolling hills. Just a shade after mile 21, you get the steepest hill on the course followed by two miles of steady incline. If this was in the first half of the race, it would barely be noticeable. In fact, just before mile 2, there is a hill with almost the same profile for about a half mile as this. I didn’t know there was a hill there until the fourth time I raced the course. The unfortunate part about this hill is the part of the race it resides on.

Mile 22 – 7:51 – Holy (insert the most unpleasant word you can think of here)… this is really tough. I can’t believe I kept this mile under 8 as it feels like I’m not even moving. I’m doing the best I can, but these hills feel like blows from Wladimir Klitschko.

Mile 23 – 7:53 – Pop my last gel. At this point, I’m full on staring into the ground with my headphones blaring completely ignoring the crowd cheers of “you’re almost there.” It feels like these hills are sucking out every ounce of energy out of my now-depleted body. I spot the mile 23 marker maybe a little over 200 yards away and I’m convinced that I’m going to do whatever it takes to get to this mile under 8 minutes. I start to push to get to the mile marker and am blown away when this mile autobeeps under 8 minutes.

Mile 24 – 7:38 – Made a huge tactical mistake that had nothing to do with my race or my race plan. I saw my family on this mile. At this point, I’m done with the hills and I know the math. I know that even 8:30/mi pace would likely be enough to hit my BQ. I see my family and I shout out “We’re going to Boston!” Unfortunately (and completely unbeknownst to me), I completely whiffed in my “attempt” to give my 5-year old daughter Quinn a high five. Whoops! Apparently, this led to quite a bit of consoling from my family after I went by. Sorry Quinn!

Mile 25 – 7:59 – I feel like garbage. I (apparently) ran by a bunch of people that were cheering for me and had no idea. The angry music is blaring and I’m just focused on getting to that finish line.

Mile 26 – 7:56 – I’m just waiting for “the turn.” I know when I hit the turn, it’s all downhill to the finish. Short of a crazy debilitating cramp or my defibrillator deciding to start firing off, I know that I’m going to Boston. At this point, I just want to make sure I have as much cushion as possible.

Last .2 – 1:37 – GPS actually had me at 0.24, but I was pretty proud that I closed the last quarter mile in 6:39 pace. I knew I was really close to an even number, so I tried to really push to get to that even figure. I didn’t quite do it, but I was pretty proud because I though 3:07 was going to be enough to get me into Boston. Barely, but I was fairly sure that I did it. Then, about two minutes after I finished. I looked down at my watch and saw the time said 3:06. HOLY CRAP! In my semi-delirious state, I’d done the math wrong and was a full minute ahead of what I thought I was! My offial finish time is 3:06:02 giving me a BQ +3:58 for 2017!


Watch me finish around 6:28 of this video

Final Thoughts – A lifetime goal is finally achieved! It was far from a perfect race, but having run 9 marathons now, I’m starting to think that a “perfect” marathon is maybe a once or twice in a lifetime occurance rather than something you can count on once or twice per season. You are depending on so incredibly many factors to go right – an uninterupted training cycle, good health, lack of work or family stressors along with 100 or more things that can go wrong. And then come race day, you are counting on the temperature, humidity, wind, and rain to all be on your side, as well.

Aaron & I - two BQs in one day!

Aaron & I – two BQs in one day!

I know that I faded and I faded somewhat hard in the last few miles. I was curious as to how bad it was, so I did a little digging in Strava. I found about 20 runners who ran within about 15 seconds/mile of my pace to compare how they ran miles 20-26. I found a few interesting things. Of those 20 runners, only one runner ran a faster split from 20-26 than their overall pace average. Another runner completely blew up running 20% slower over the past 6 miles than the rest of the race. The average runner slowed about 6.4 percent with 10 runners going slightly faster and 10 runners going slightly slower. My last 9% slower than my overall average was 14th out of 21 runners with similar times when I rank them by how much they slowed down.

All I wanted to do for a majority of those last 6 miles were stop and walk. And I didn’t. I ran 58 seconds slower over the last 6 miles than my previous marathon PR, but a little over 11 minutes faster than the last time I ran the Twin Cities Marathon. Comparing the last 6 miles of Fargo versus the last 6 miles at Twin Cities isn’t even a comparison. I could very easily argue that despite being slower than the Fargo, I actually finished a little better when comparing courses.

But unlike a lot of other marathons, I’m not going to spend a ton of time analyzing the results. I came here with a two-part goal. The first part was to run under 3. I knew that was a goal that was going to take stars aligning. The second part was to finally qualify for Boston. And I freaking did that!

It’s been a long, hard journey. In 2003, I started running to counter act the process of getting fat in college. I ran my first 5k and thought I was going to die. I ran my first 10k and thought I was going to die. I ran my first half marathon and actually thought it wasn’t that bad. And 8 months after I started running, I completed my first marathon in 4 hours, 59 minutes, and 55 seconds. It was both wonderful and unbelievably awful. But I was hooked. I was a marathon runner. The next year, I actually trained with a purpose and really dropped my times getting my half marathon time down to 1:34 and my full marathon down to 3:26. The seed was planted that if I worked really hard, eventually I could some day potentially have a shot of running 3:10:59 (aka a Boston Qualifier). I took a few years away from running. I had two children, helped coach a few state champion cross country/basketball teams, and made a movie before I decide to recommit myself to training really hard again. And I did it! I ran under 3:10:59. But unfortunately, Boston had since changed the qualification standards. But nearly 13 years after I started running as a means to not be fat, I officially ran almost 4 minutes under my Boston Qualifying standard (3:10) and, God willing, I’m going to run the 2017 Boston Marathon!

My number one fan Quinn (thankfully no longer upset about the missed high five!)

My number one fan Quinn (thankfully no longer upset about the missed high five!)

I wouldn’t be doing this right if I didn’t say a few thank yous. First off – thanks a ton to my supportive family. Long distance running, especially marathon training, is a beast of a time time commitment. My wife Sara has been very understanding and cooperative about random two and three hour runs on the weekends not to mention countless races and coaches commitments. Thank you Sara! I could never have done this without your support. My mom is always up to watch the kids for an extra half hour or hour so I can sneak a run in after work. Whenever I sign up for a marathon, nobody is more excited to come and cheer me on than my sister. I’m constantly inspired by the hard work being done by the cross country and basketball teams I help coach. Seeing you guys work hard encourages me to want to be better. My picture album on all of my social sites (Facebook, Instagram, Twitter) netted me more “likes” and “comments” of anything I’ve ever posted besides having a child. Thank you all for your kind words – I really appreciate it!

My super supportive family (minus Lille)

My super supportive family (minus Lille)

What’s Next
I’ve got a lot of coaching ahead of me over the next five and a half months. I’ll continue to train hard after a well-deserved short bender of eating unhealthy food and not really running much. I’m running my last half marathon of the year in a week and a half. If my legs recover well, I’ll hopefully be able to knock out a solid time. Other than that, I’m going to try to continue to wake up early and train my butt off in hopes of knocking out some more PRs next year.

My new sign is going up in our treadmill room!

My new sign is going up in our treadmill room!

2015 Dick Beardsley Half Marathon Race Report

Coming into 2015, one of the things I knew about this year is that my running was going to be a complete mystery. Besides everything in life I have going on (which is plenty), we were welcoming a new little girl into our family.

This year’s Dick Beardsley Half Marathon was the 10th time I’ve run the race. I don’t know that I’ve ever run this race and felt completely satisfied. I always enjoy the race, but the course is tough and the weather this time of year is a complete hit or miss. In 2003, in my second ever half marathon, my goal was to run under 2 hours. On a warm day, I failed by about 17 seconds. Up until last year, the fastest I’d ever run this race was in 1:40. Last year, we had a nice day and I managed to knock 11 seconds off my PR.

This year, I came into the race similar to last year with no real goal. On Friday, I made an estimated guess that I would run about 1:26:45 based on how much I’ve improved from last year in other race.


2014 vs 2015 Race Performance (VDOT)

2014 vs 2015 Race Performance (VDOT)


Pre Race – I did a longer warmup for this race (4 miles relatively easy). I timed my warmup so I could watch the start of the marathon 30 minutes before our race. This was first time the race has ever been a marathon. I strongly thought about running it to try to get a last minute Boston Qualifier, but I opted on waiting another year and doing the Twin Cities Marathon this year instead. The main factor was just the questionable weather. 50% of the time, you get nice weather, but there is a 50% chance you are going to see hot and humid temps. Last Saturday, for example, I ran a long run with our XC team and it was ridiculously hot and humid. Sometime when I get my BQ out of the way, though, I may do the marathon. I got my bathroom breaks out of the way with about 3 minutes to spare as I made my way towards the start line.

Mile 1 – 6:35 – While I was at the start line, I ran into a guy I recognize from the community center I run at during lunch every day. I didn’t even know his name (learned later that it’s Aaron), but he asked “What are you trying to run?” I said something around 1:27 or so, and he was like “I’ll run with you” which I was cool with. This was the 10th time I’d run this race, but this year the race had new management (the fine folks that run the Fargo Marathon) and they designed a slightly new course. The start and finish changed, but the biggest change was the course is essentially run backwards. My goal was to run the first few miles slower. The last few races I’ve run, I’ve run the first mile a little faster than goal pace and then run the second or third mile at a completely suicidal pace. I’ve joked that I need to put on lullaby music for the first 20 minutes of my run to slow me down.

Mile 2 – 6:39 – The goal is just to sit somewhere between 6:35-6:45/mile, so I’m feeling good about this mile. This pace feels ridiculously easy which is the goal this early into the race. I have no goal of PR-ing in the half this race. I just want to run a relatively fast time with a relatively hard effort just to give me confidence heading into the Twin Cities Marathon in three weeks.

mile 3 – 6:43 – Deceiving because this is the hilliest mile on the course. Strava’s “Grade Adjusted Pace” has this equal to a 6:36 which makes me feel good afterwards. Like I said, I’m striving for a strong, even effort.

Mile 4 – 6:36 – At this point, Aaron and I are basically by ourselves. A group of 5-8 runners is about 400-500 meters ahead of us and there is one guy that seems to be trying to latch onto the back of us, but it’s nice having someone to run with. Still feeling strong and comfortable. We see the leaders of the marathon during this mile (and for about the next two miles). They are basically running our same course backwards once and then finishing with the half marathon course.

Mile 5 – 6:35 – Again feeling really strong here. 6:35 pace feels like it’s no problem! I think I always feel my best in the fall because I do so much running with our XC team. When you start to run shorter repeats at sub-5 minute pace and 1k or 1 mile repeats in under 6 minute pace, 6:30 pace doesn’t feel quite as uncomfortable. One of the harder things for me to do as I’ve “grown” as a runner is getting out of my comfort zone and running hard repeats which I’ve done a lot of for the past 2-3 months.

Mile 6 – 6:38 – Some rolling hills this mile, but all is still well. For the rest of the year, I’ve been really feeling the heat around this mile. And subsequently, the last half of the race has been a bit of a death march. I’ve never been a good warm weather runner and I’ve been susceptible to a lot of calf cramping in the past. This is the first race I’ve tried Skratch Labs “Hyper Hydration” before the race. It’s basically a ton of salt and sugar with a touch of mango flavoring. I can’t do anything about the heat obviously, but I’m hoping this helps with cramping. I wanted to give it a try before the TC Marathon, so I wasn’t trying anything new on race day..

Mile 7 – 6:44 – I don’t know why we were a touch slow this mile, but I think we both saw the 6:44 at the end of this mile and decided to push a little bit more.

Mile 8 – 6:35 – This was the mile I was dreading the most. When the course was run the other way, this mile was a long, gradual uphill followed by a short, sharp downhill. Now, it’s a short, sharp uphill followed by a long, gradual downhill. We powered through the hill easier than I thought we would and then we really cruised on the downhill portion. We both missed what this actual mile split was, but I think we had been running so consistently that we knew we were fine.

Mile 9 – 6:28 – Apparently we really dropped the hammer this mile. This was actually a slightly uphill mile. It didn’t feel any quicker than the other miles, but I’m not complaining as I’ve only run one mile this fast this late in a race (I ran 6:27 in the last mile of my PR half marathon last year).

Mile 10 – 6:32 – For the first time in about 3-4 miles, we can see two people from the group ahead of us. We both have the attitude that we are going to catch them. A spectator tells us we are #11 and 12. I recognize the girl as a girl who I beat in an 8k earlier this year and then was beaten by at a half marathon in July. They are about a quarter mile ahead of us, but they’ve definitely fallen back a touch.

Mile 11 – 6:25 – Right before this mile, Aaron asks “do you want to try to drop down about 15 seconds per mile the last three miles and see what we have?” I’m completely game for this. Until it comes time to actually do it. He drops the hammer and I try to go with him, but I just am feeling like I can’t change gears. I’m definitely pushing here, but I’m having a hard time hanging out with Aaron who’s moved a few strides ahead of me.

Mile 12 – 6:38 – Aaron has now completely dropped me. I’m probably 20 meters behind him. He’s really closing the gap on the male runner and I can tell he’s going to pass him shortly. The girl has disappeared from view, though. I’m really trying to go, but I just feel like I’m stuck. I don’t feel like I’m at a “10” effort, but my legs are just feeling a little stuck in the sand.

Mile 13 – 6:32 – As I’m nearing the finish, I’m about 10-15 seconds behind Aaron, but I’m quickly closing the gap on the guy ahead of me. The right side of the road is 10k runners. I don’t really want to get into a foot race with this guy, so I decide to move to the far left of the road so when I eventually pass him, he might not notice and might be a little later in responding. Either way, I’ve got it in my mind that there is NO WAY I’m going to let this guy beat me.

Last 0.1 + extra GPS – 0:57 – Felt okay, but not wonderful about my kick. I knew a PR wasn’t in the cards which I think held me back a slight bit.

Finish – 1:26:37 – 1:11 off my half PR which I think was somewhat deceiving. I ran 2:39 faster this year than I did last year in the same race. I actually ran the last 5 miles of the race 3 seconds faster than the last 5 miles of my PR half marathon last fall. Last year, I said that I thought the Fargo Mini Marathon course was about 2-3 minutes faster than the Beardsley half course. Turns out, I ran about 4 minutes faster.

After this race, I’ve got a ton of confidence heading into the Twin Cities Marathon. Sub-3 seems like a good optimistic goal and a marathon PR seems like a good “B” goal. Now, I’ve got three weeks to master my taper and hope for good weather, good health, and good luck for the Twin Cities marathon.

The only downside about this race was about 6 hours after the race. I got a MONSTER migraine headache. I’ve got another one of these in April following a long run. I don’t know what it is, but it seems as if these might be related to hard running efforts. I haven’t had a ton of these, but it anyone has had any of these exercise-related headaches and knows what can cure them, I’d be very interested in knowing what you’ve done to help cure it.

Fargo Marathon 2015 – Race Report

Heading into the Fargo Marathon, I was feeling really optimistic about my chances to qualify for Boston. For those unacquainted with the Boston Marathon qualifying procedures, it means I had to run under 3:05 (or 7:03/mile) for the full 26.2 miles. In reality, I was hoping to run under 3:03 because the last few years, entry into the marathon has required runners to go anywhere from 1-2 minutes below their actual qualifying time.

I had a terrific training cycle averaging 71 mpw with only one real off week (due to the flu). I had really nailed my key workouts. I didn’t have any shorter races leading up to the marathon due to a combination of things (MN spring weather and busy life in general being the main culprits), but I was still confident in my fitness. I ran a 1:25 half marathon in October and was fairly confident that I had worked harder and was in as good or better shape than I was for that race.

We headed to the kid’s race on Thursday, as we have done the past three years, for our 4-year old daughter Quinn to run the kids race. And for the third consecutive year, she outkicked a parent at the finish line to claim victory.


A little chilled at the start line

A little chilled at the start line


Quinn out kicked her dad at the finish line... again

Quinn out kicked her dad at the finish line… again


My wife was planning on running the half marathon, so we had to do quite a bit of preparation before the race just to get our kids organized along with getting ourselves organized. We thought we were quite organized until Thursday when we got a little hiccup. Our youngest daughter Lille got the flu. The focused-on-the-race version of myself thought immediately ‘oh crap, I hope I don’t get this. I wonder if I should sleep in a different room.’ But since I’m a dad first and a runner 2nd, I recognized the importance of taking care of our little one who obviously wasn’t feeling the best. So I took off Friday morning to be with our little girl while my wife took off a half day Friday afternoon.

I half expected to start to feel like crap Friday night or Saturday morning, but I was feeling optimistic when I woke up on Saturday and felt fine. I got up extra early for my pre-race meal of a plain Liege waffle and a cup of coffee. The race day temperature was my favorite running weather. A touch on the cold side (high-30s at the start, high-40s at the finish). Everything pointed towards a great race.

My wife Sara and I before our big races

My wife Sara and I before our big races

We got to the Fargodome where the races were set for a staggered indoor start. My races started at 7:30 AM, a half an hour before the half marathon started. Right before the race, I was trying to get my LiveTrack going and couldn’t get my GPS watch to sync w/ my phone. I really like my GPS watch (Forerunner 220), but I get frustrated that I have to constantly fuss with it to get it to sync. This time, I had to uninstall/re-install my Garmin Connect app on my phone, re-sync my phone, and then I was able to make it work. Not world altering, but frustrating nonetheless. I barely had time to make a last minute bathroom break, get my headphones ready, and get my gels ready to go. I made my way towards the front of the start line. Last year, I finished 37th in this race, so I figured starting off just a few seconds off the start line was the right place for me.

Mile 1 – 7:04 – The highlight of this mile was a collective sigh the entire field made as we exited the Fargodome. It went from 70 degrees to 37 degrees in the matter of two seconds which was a little jolt to the system. I went out ultra conservative and was very happy with this mile.

Mile 2 – 6:41 – Wasn’t pushing at all this mile. Felt really comfortable. The goal for the race is just to hang out in the 6:40-6:50 range for as long as possible.

Mile 3 – 6:52 – We’re in North Fargo. This is probably the area of town that I’m the least familiar with, but there is great crowd support.

Mile 4 – 6:30 – I know this mile seems really fast, but it didn’t feel exceptionally fast. Looking back after the race, my HR isn’t exceptionally high. But knowing I can’t maintain 6:30 pace for a marathon, I decide to back off a little bit. A wise piece of advice I got years ago said when you are fit, the first 10 miles of a marathon should feel ridiculously easy.

Mile 5 – 6:41 – I’m right back in the range where I wanted to be. The race is definitely starting to string out for me. I was tempted to join a group of 5-7 runners about 10 seconds ahead of me just so I have someone to run with, but I decide I’m going to hang back and try to run my own race.

Mile 6 – 6:48 – It’s strange. My legs just aren’t feeling wonderful. I keep reminding myself of my Twin Cities Marathon in 2004 where I felt pretty crappy through 17 miles, but wound up running what felt like a pretty good time dropping over a half hour from my previous marathon 3-1/2 months earlier.

Mile 7 – 6:41 – Not feeling as easy as I would’ve hoped which is certainly frustrating. I know that I’m not running paces that I’m unaccustomed to running, but I’m definitely working WAY more than I want to. Last year on my way to running a 3:08 marathon, I just felt like I was cruising through the half. Running with the 3:05 pace group, I remember feeling confident that I was feeling better than most of the other in the group.

Mile 8 – 6:51 – Entered a bikepath on this segment. Made a conscious effort to back off just a touch and the time showed it.

Mile 9 – 6:45 – Another bikepath mile. Did find a couple of guys to run with this mile which was a welcome break from doing this solo.

Mile 10 – 6:50 – We headed into Minnesota for this mile. This was the “hilliest” mile of the course with a whopping 11 feet of elevation gain. We run about a block from a house I lived in during college when I first started running, so I’m very familiar with this part of the course.

Mile 11 – 6:45 – We head towards Minnesota State University – Moorhead where I went to school my freshman year. I had my music kind of timed to play a lot of the music we listed to my freshman year of college (Kid Rock from Woodstock 99 and Andrew WK!) I really enjoyed this new addition to the course as they had a ton of crowd support for this mile.

Mile 12 – 6:43 – Ran through Concordia College during this mile. I never went there, but I hung out there nearly every year my first two years of college as a big group of my friends went here. Again, really good crowd support. Towards the end of this mile, I saw my mom, sister, and two daughters who barely made it to see me. My daughter Quinn was holding a sign that said “Run Faster Daddy” which I thought was adorable.

Mile 13 – 7:01 – I had my first “what the hell?!?” moment when I saw the time on this mile. I didn’t feel at all like I was slowing down. I definitely felt like I was working, but I couldn’t believe the mile was so slow. I didn’t fret too terribly much because it wasn’t wildly out of the range I wanted to run, but I was just a little thrown back by it. Went through the half marathon in 1:29:46 which was basically exactly where I was hoping to be at this point.

Mile 14 – 6:52 – More running in Moorhead. We actually were running through on of my favorite spots to run in college for the first time, so I really was excited about this area.

Mile 15 – 7:03 – Had my first major “uh oh” moment of the race at this point. We did a turnaround towards the end of this mile. On this turnaround, I felt a familiar twinge. Calf cramps. In about half of my marathons, I’ve had some major cramping issues. In my fall 2013 marathon, I got a bad case of them. Last year, I took a salt tablet and seemed to avoid them. This time, I forgot to take the salt tablet although I wasn’t sure I believed it made a difference. But I was extremely nervous that I had over 11 miles left to go and I was already cramping. Surely, this was a bad sign.

Mile 16 – 7:24 – At his point, I knew my race was screwed. I couldn’t press on the gas any harder because if I did, I started cramping really bad. It didn’t feel like my pace had fallen off this bad, but it apparently had. In my mind, I’m thinking if I can just hold on to 7:15-7:20 pace, I might be able to sneak under 3:05.

Mile 17 – 7:21 – Saw my entire family again at this mile. They were cheering me on, but I doubt they knew how bad I was feeling. Besides the cramps, my legs just felt like they were in quick sand. I just couldn’t move!

Mile 18 – 7:19 – I do something I almost never do at this mile. I pop out my headphones because I feel like I need the crowd to finish this thing out. Plus the music I have picked out for this part of the race (increasingly intense) doesn’t match how my running is going (increasingly suckier).

Mile 19 – 7:32 – I feel like I’m giving effort, but every mile I see my split is increasingly more demoralizing. I think I let out an audible cuss after I saw this one. I’m battling, but it feels pretty bleak. Saw my family after this mile and told them “I’m dying!” My sister said she could tell my gait was completely off.

Mile 20 – 7:46 – Right towards the end of this mile, I get passed by the 3:05 pace group. Last year, there were about 7 (or so) left at this point. I was able to hang on until nearly 22 miles. It feels awful getting passed by this group although I’ve known for quite sometime that 3:05 wasn’t happening today.

Mile 21 – 8:34 – I’m just getting really pissed at this point. I feel like I’m doing no work from a cardio perspective, but my legs just aren’t cooperating. Taking a look at my HR after the marathon seems to match what I was feeling. My heart rate is actually going down each of the last 5 miles. Frustrating.

Mile 22 – 8:26 – Just frustrating… no other words. The cramping is awful and pretty much constant. I’m trying to “find” a gait that will allow me to run cramp free. Isn’t really happening. I feel like I’m just dragging my left leg along.

Mile 23 – 8:33 – Just want to finish at this point. I know my time isn’t anything I’m going to brag about. I just kind of have an attitude that I’m not going to let this race get the best of me. I’m not going to walk. I’m going to finish this to the best of my ability and chalk it up to just having a bad day.

Mile 24 – 9:05 – Probably my worst mile of cramping for the whole race. I ran by a group of my former HS XC runners who were cheering in the crowd and yelled out “Don’t run marathons! Marathons suck!” which I think they appreciated.


I feel way worse than I look here

I feel way worse than I look here


Mile 25 – 8:33 – Strangely, had a little less cramping this mile. Granted nearly every step hurt like hell, but at least it didn’t feel semi-debilitating like it had been in the past mile.

Mile 26 – 9:02 – Another crazy terrible mile. I got passed by a tiny Asian woman who was breathing so hard it sounds like she was about to give birth to a child. Always awesome when you get passed by someone who sounds just awful.

Last 0.2 – 3:15 – Due to GPS inaccuracy, this time is almost 0.4 miles. I’m pretty pleased just to be done. Despite the awful last half of the race, it’s still my 2nd best marathon time. And it’s not like it’s the worst race I’ve ever run.

Official Finish Time – 3:14:59

Funny that I just snuck under 3:15. Must’ve been that MONSTER kick that I unleashed at the finish. I *almost* passed a few of those 2:45-ish half marathon runners that were finishing around the same time.

In the end, I don’t know what to make of this race. I put in the training I thought I needed to run a BQ time. I felt like I had all of the necessary fight and commitment to run a BQ time, but a body that was unwilling or unable to cooperate. A day after the race, a lot of things started to make sense when I came down with what seemed to be the exact same strain of the flu that my youngest daughter had on Thursday. In my mind, it seems to make sense because it helps to explain the overall dead-leggy-ness (no way that’s a word) feeling I had the entire race. I’m a few hundred credits short of having a medical degree, but I’d have to think that having the flu virus incubating in your body while trying to run a marathon wouldn’t be ideal. But it still kind of leaves me in a state of flux. If completely healthy, was I in good enough shape for Boston? Had the race been the Saturday before or after, would I have felt like I had hoped I would feel? Is it worth trying to sneak in another marathon before the Boston deadline in early September?

Overall, I don’t know how to feel about my experience. I was really proud of my ability to make the best of a bad situation. I felt mentally pretty strong. Even when the race went south, I continued to push. It’s just like my body wouldn’t respond. I put in all of the training I felt like I needed, but today just wasn’t my day. Before the race, all of my friends and family were very supportive telling me that they thought I’d qualify for Boston. I was optimistic that I would as well, but I’ve run enough marathons to know running a PR at the marathon certainly isn’t something that happens just because it “should” happen.

hr

A look at my HR from the marathon reflects exactly what my cardio felt like during the race. I felt normal early early and then right around when it felt like my legs went out from under me, my heart rate kept dropping. My legs felt worse, but my cardio was getting easier and easier to the point where from a breathing and HR perspective, I didn’t even feel like I was running the last few miles (leg muscles, not so much so). So looking at things to change the BQ attempt race – I’ve definitely got to improve my overall strength. I think I need to incorporate more hill works like I have done in past long runs. I think I’ve learned that I probably need to pop a salt tab before the race. Staying away from the flu would help, but that doesn’t seem like something you can truly avoid. I may not have hit my goal, but I felt like my effort I gave was the best that I had on the day, so it’s hard to be incredibly disappointed.

The big winner on the day was my wife Sara. She runs the Fargo Half Marathon nearly every year. The only two years she’s missed have been the two years she’s been pregnant. Her training has been somewhat spotty due to our daughter Lille not yet understanding that nights are for sleeping. Despite all of that, she ran her second fastest half marathon time ever finishing in 2:03:46. She’s hoping that once life becomes a little more normal for us, she can make an attempt at running a sub-2 hr half. Either way, the family award for best performance of the day goes to her!


2015-05-09 11.17.02-1


strava
View my race on Stava

Fargo Marathon Pre-Race Thoughts

Looking back at my race logs, I think the upcoming Fargo Marathon is my 96th race I’ve run in my life. An overwhelming majority of those races are spectacularly underwhelming. While I have great stories about getting outkicked by a 60+ year old woman in Minnie Mouse ears and a tail in my first marathon and entering and winning a race that turned out to be a kids race (twice!), a lot of the races unfolded very similarly. I’ve probably written up race reports for around half of the races I’ve run in my life. Most of them follow a pretty simple template:

Coming in, I had a goal of running “(insert X for time). I felt great the first few miles. Then, (insert “hills/heat/lack of sleep/lack of training/going out to fast”) caught up with me. Blah blah blah. I was cooked the last few miles. I jogged it in in (insert X + 10-20%). I know I can run faster next time…

A funny thing happened in the past two years. I actually started running decent races (by my admittedly “hobby jogger” standards). Instead of every race being a disappointment, I actually surpassed my expectations! My last two major races (Fargo 2014 – 3:08 and Fargo Mini-Marathon – 1:25) were both times that I honestly thought I would never hit when I first started running.

I grew up a non-runner. More than that, though. I was adamant that I hated running. Once I caught the bug in 2003, I was hooked. It became my identity.

In 2008 and 2009, I was training really well and coming close to breaking a lifelong running goal of breaking 1:30 in the half marathon. Then my first daughter Quinn was bored, I started a new job, and I made a movie. I struggled finding time/motivation to exercise. By 2012, I was frustrated with the state of my fitness. Here I was helping coach one of the most successful small cross country programs in the nation and I’m getting dropped on runs by junior high kids. I made a commitment to try to be consistent. Instead of having an “all in” attitude towards training, I just decided that I wanted to commit to be consistent. Every week didn’t need to be the greatest ever, but as long as they weren’t bad weeks or non-running weeks, eventually I’d improve. In reality, what were my options? I wanted to improve my running and sort of prove to myself that I could be as good in my thirties as I was in my twenties. Plus, it’s not like I could just move to Kenya and commit my life to becoming a better runner. I’m sure most people can relate, but I’m a dad, a husband, a coach, an employee, and about 100 other things in addition to being a runner.

Having children has meant my schedule has had to change completely. Gone were the days of getting home from work, going for a run, making a little supper, and watching a movie or television show, and going to bed kind of whenever. Instead, my days involve my alarm going off at an ungodly early time (4:00 AM? 4:30 AM? 5:00 AM? Those used to be my bedtimes when I was in college), running anywhere from 5 to 15 miles before work, getting the kids off to daycare, going to work, squeezing in a quick few miles at lunch, coaching, and then the nighttime routine of dinner/bedtime/get ready for the next day. If we’re lucky, my wife and I will get a chance to throw on a tv show (that I will mostly likely fall asleep halfway through). Go to bed and wake up at midnight (and 3 AM-ish) because our youngest still hasn’t figured out nights are for sleeping. Rinse/repeat five times until we make it to the weekend.

It’s exhausting. Yet at the same time, I’m really proud of myself. It’d be easy to try to hold on to every minute I could get of sleep and give myself the excuse that I can train once Lille gets to an “easier” age. Instead of choosing the path of least resistance, though, I make myself get up when that miserable alarm clock interrupts my sleep. Every day. No excuses.

I’m not a naturally talented runner. My first marathon was nearly 5 hours. I’ve coached kids who’ve run a faster first ever 5k than I’ve been able to achieve in 12 years of running. I’ve worked really hard to consistently improve. In 2013, I ran a little over 2,000 miles. Last year, I ran a little over 3,000 miles with an average of 60 mpw in the 12 weeks leading up to the Fargo Marathon. This year, I’ve averaged 71 mpw for 15 weeks (not counting taper) heading into the marathon this weekend.

2014 - Red 2015 - Yellow

2014 mileage – Red
2015 mileage – Yellow

Almost all of my training is done on the treadmill. Part of this is out of necessity – my wife runs at 5 AM with a group of friends, so we figured it’d be nice if one parent was home and we didn’t leave our almost 5 year old and 7 month old to fend for themselves. We also live in MN and I just can’t do the running in the 20-below weather. I’ve also found it’s less time-consuming (no driving around putting out water, etc). I’ve also found it’s my one hour a day I can carve out for myself to do what I want. Listen to the music I want to listen to. Watch a steady diet of NBA basketball and English soccer. I’ve even figured out I can play video games on my easy days.

Coming into the race, I’m feeling fit and ready to go. My goal is to break 3 hours for the marathon. I really want to qualify for Boston which for my age group means I’d have to run a 3:05 (minus the qualifying cutoff time which should be around a minute). So let’s just say 3:03 to be safe.

I don’t know if I’m going to do it. If I’ve learned one thing about running, it’s you can say nothing for certain until you do it. I’m pretty confident of how the first 10-15 miles of the race will go. I’m hoping that I’m strong in the last few miles. I hope I have the strength to fight the last few miles when my body is screaming “SHUT IT DOWN!” I’m hoping that I’m fit enough that the fight comes as late as possible in the race. But if I don’t run well, I’m not going to go into a corner and cry for a week. I’ve put a lot into this race, but I know I’ve prepared as well as I possible could have. If come race day, it’s not there, there’s nothing I can do. When I’m coaching 9th grade basketball, I always preach to my kids that you can only control what you can control. You can’t control whether your shot is falling or not. You can’t control the referees. You CAN control your attitude and your effort. I’m trying to do the same thing with my running. I’m trying to take care of my hydration and nutrition these last few days, but I’m not sweating all of the small things that surround a big race.

I’m excited. I’ve got different race day clothes for every weather possibility. I’ve got my marathon playlist loaded on my phone and a backup iPod shuffle that will be in my pocket (I take my running with music extremely seriously!) I’m as ready as I’ll ever be. Now it’s time to patiently wait until 7:30 AM on Saturday to see if I’m able to knock out a goal that not-so-long-ago seemed insurmountable.

If you want to follow my race, click here on Saturday morning to follow my GPS “dot” around the race court. Click on the link that says “Live Track” in the top of the page. Or you can check out where I’ve passed official checkpoints (10k, half marathon, and 20 mi) here.

Fargo Mini Marathon 2014


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I have to admit that I was extremely excited for this race. 2013 was easily my best year I’ve ever had for training, but it only led to two PRs in my last two races of the year (3:24 in the marathon and 1:29 in the half). My goal in 2014 was to build on my great 2013. Coming into the year, I thought I’d be optimistic and set goals of 3:10 for the marathon (which I broke in May! and 1:27 in the half marathon. In 2013, I ran 6 half marathons. This year, one of my favorite races got cancelled (Fishhook Half Marathon) and I opted for the full marathon instead of the half at the Fargo Marathon. Scheduling conflicts also led me to swap out a fairly fast race for a trail half marathon. All of those reasons (excuses?) combined with a late Minnesota spring led to me just not having a lot of opportunities to go out and truly run at what I believed was my fitness level. Coming into this race, I truly thought running 1:27 give or take a little bit would be a great goal. Five weeks ago, I ran 1 1:29:13 half marathon and said I thought this course was 2:30 to 3:00 faster. The weather line up to be just about perfect (35-40 degrees with just a touch of wind).

Mile 1 – 6:23 – Unlike the Fargo marathon, I had no real plan on what pace to go out for the first mile in. In my last race, I felt like I was crawling in the first mile and I went out in 6:43. I was thinking I might be somewhere in the 6:30-6:40 range here as well. I used to have a horrendous habit of going out way above my fitness level (more like the fitness level I aspired to be at) and paid for it later in the race. To help combat that, I loaded my Spotify playlist with mellow songs. I listened to “Are You What You Want to Be” by Foster the People and “Stay Close” – a song that reminds me of my 4-year old daughter Quinn ever since I used it in a year-end video when she was 2. Last year, I finished 20th running 1:29:24, so I figured I’d start out in similar position. But from the gun, I found myself in about 10th place. 400 meters into the race, I could already tell the guy that was going to run away with the race. Following him as a group of 4 guys. Right behind them was myself in a group of about 6 including two women. The pace felt perfect and it was great thinking I’d have a pack to run with. I have to admit that I saw the mile split and thought “oh crap… did I go out too fast?” I decided to trust my fitness and the feedback my body was giving me.

Mile 2 – 6:16 – As this mile progressed, our pack of 6 started to dwindled. One by one, people were falling off. By the middle of this mile, there were three of us in the group. A girl, a guy with a rocking mullet, and myself. I still felt very comfortable. About half way through this mile, another runner caught up with our group from behind. I recognized him as he coached my friend (and Perham XC coach) Jeff Morris in college in North Carolina (he’s now at Valley City State). From the moment he caught our group, the pace started to pick up just the slightest bit. I knew that if I were to go run a 6:05, it could be suicidal, so I sadly maintained my pace and let them go. I have to admit I was shocked when I saw 6:16 for my split. I was equally parts excited (because it felt relatively comfortably) and nervous (because it seemed “too fast”). As a side note, I got lost as to which state I was in during this race. We crossed from North Dakota into Minnesota. Following along the Red River, North Dakota winds up being to the east and Minnesota to the west. Having grown up in a United States where it’s pretty universally accepted that ND is west of MN, this threw me for quite a loop for about a half mile. I was trying to figure out if we crossed the river back into ND and I just hadn’t noticed it.


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Mile 3 – 6:20 – Again was feeling really good, but it was strange to be by myself. The group ahead of me put about 50 meters on me. Taking a peek back and I couldn’t see anyone. I don’t know if I’ve ever been in a decent sized race like this and been completely by myself. I’m glad I took a look at the course map before the race because by the time I’d hit mile 4, I’d be running by myself to the point where I couldn’t even see the runners ahead of me making turns. I got to see my mom and daughter Quinn on this mile. I’ve always enjoyed seeing people I know during races, but I don’t think if anything can top the feeling of seeing how excited a 4-year old gets to see her daddy and give him a high five.

Mile 4 – 6:38 – I’m not sure why this mile was slow. I was hitting a slight headwind, but it wasn’t a gale force wind or anything. I felt okay and didn’t feel like I was slowing down. I was hoping this wasn’t like some races I’d had in the past where I went out a touch to quick and eventually slowed and started to hurt to the point where the last few miles were pitiful. Even though this mile was slow, I had a lot of confidence in my training and knew I had a boatload of strength from the miles and miles of training I put in. I put my head down convinced I wanted to see how close to 6:30 I could keep the rest of these miles.

Mile 5 – 6:39 – I was feeling a little down by the this mile split as well. Then I got to thinking (doing math is one of my favorite mid-race past-times). My last race was a 1:29 that averaged 6:48 per mile. The last two miles were 10 seconds per mile quicker than my pace in my last half. If I could hold on an run the rest of the race at 6:40 pace (which seemed reasonable at the time), I’d have a PR by nearly 3 minutes in the 1:26 range. Even if I could only manage 6:50 pace the rest of the race, I’d still PR by almost a minute and a half! The thought of a big PR continues to push me to keep grinding.

Mile 6 – 6:31 – A majority of this race is on a bike path that I first started running on during my last year of college. It’s one of my favorite running spots to this day. Near the end of this mile, we crossed from Fargo back into Moorhead. I saw my mom and daughter once again on this mile which was a bit of a boost. This mile actually had a lot of spectators as it crossed between two popular F/M parks (Lindenwood/Gooseberry). Since I was essentially all by myself (nobody within 2 blocks in front and behind me), I got a lot of attention from fans which was cool. When I saw the mile split, I got a big burst of confidence that I wasn’t falling off.

Mile 7 – 6:36 – I was getting a little nervous during this mile because I just didn’t know where I was going. The course was clearly marked, but it was off the bike path and onto the streets. Oh well… I never got lost. With every mile, I’m gaining confidence because I’m running fast and I’m really not feeling any fatigue. In the past, I’ll hit this part of the race and just know that the slowdown is coming eventually. I’m not feeling any of those feelings now which is fantastic.

Mile 8 – 6:30 – A confusing mile. You take a right, go about a block and do a 180 degree turn. Run a half mile, take a right, go about a half block and do another 180 degree turn. From this point on, almost the entire race was head to head traffic which was kind of fun. At the very least, it gave me something to look at it. I got a chance to see where I was in the race. As I expected, I was in 8th place. I was surprised to see the guy in 9th place behind me had closed the gap considerably on me.

Mile 9 – 6:36 – Spent most of this mile people-watching. I was trying to figure out what pace these people were going. I figured out they were right around the gigantic pack of masses that run around 2:00 for a half marathon. I spent this mile in somewhat of a reflection of how far I’ve come as a runner. When I first started getting into running, I ran 2:02 and a shade over 2:00 for my first half marathon. During my two year (2010-11) stint where I almost never ran, I ran a 2:01 half marathon. That literally was the best I had to offer at the time. Now, thanks to a commitment to being consistent every single week and training really, REALLY hard, I was miles ahead of people – likely some of whom have beat me in a race before!

Mile 10 – 6:30 – In 2008, I ran a 10 mile race. Similar to this year, I was in really good shape, but I just hadn’t had very many good weather running days to show it. In September of that year, I entered a little 10-mile race and ran a touch over 1:07 (6:42/mi pace) and was completely blown away. I had just been hoping to break 1:10. I’d always wanted to break that record because it was one of my better ones, but there just aren’t that many 10 mile races around. So, when I went through the 10 mile barrier in 1:04:52, it brought a smile to my face. Still feeling strong and I’m amazed at how little of the race is left! Saw

Mile 11 – 6:32 – Before the race, I had a strange thought cross my head. It took me almost 10 years to break 20 minutes in a 5k. Mostly because I didn’t like running anaerobically and didn’t enter 5ks very often (I’ve run way faster than 20 on my treadmill all the time… I think my best is 17:45 or somewhere around there). I’ve only ran 3 non-winter 5ks since 2010. Anyway, I just thought “how cool would it be to run a sub-20 last 5k of the race). I’d been running around 6:30 for the past few miles. If I ran the next two miles in 6:30, I’d only have to run like a 6:20 last mile to do it! Saw Quinn and my mom again this mile which, as usual, was huge emotionally. I got passed by a runner, but wasn’t feeling awful because it had more to do with him running strong than it was me falling off.

Mile 12 – 6:34 – Maybe the one disappointment in the race. As we got to two miles remaining in the race, we hit the 10k turnaround, so I started running into huge packs of runners that were running considerably slower than I was. It was frustrating. This part of the race was the bike path that was 8-10 feet wide. Not a big deal for people running the same pace, but I was running 2-3 minutes per mile faster than almost everyone I was passing. I had tried to pace off of the guy that had passed me, but it was difficult when I’d have to slow down even a little bit to try to pass a group of two or three runners. It wasn’t terrible, but it would be my sole complaint about the race this year. Given I had to pass so many 10k runners on the “going out” or “coming back” part of the race, I figured out after the race that I went by 275 runners in the last two miles of this race.

Mile 13 – 6:27 – I really wanted to push this mile. In my head, I thought if I could run a 6:15, I could break 1:25. Again, I just couldn’t get around all of the 10k runners. Some of them were walking up hills. I burned a lot of mentally energy just trying to figure out which direction I needed to go to dodge runners. I really wish I could’ve just focused on grinding the last few miles. That being said, I was pretty proud with how hard I’d pushed myself this race.

Last 0.1+ – 0:56 – By this point, I knew that sub-1:25 was out of the cards as I was about 15-20 seconds off from my mile split to the marked course mile splits. This last 0.1 turned out to be 0.15 according to the GPS. It wasn’t the dead sprint to the finish line that I hoped it would be, but mentally I’d given up at this point. Too much dodging and weaving. I’m just find comfortably cruising in knowing that I’ve just absolutely crushed my PR.

Finish Time – 1:25:25 – A new PR of 3 minutes and 48 seconds! Words probably don’t do justice to how excited I am about this. I’ve probably run over 100 races in my lifetime. Of those 100 races, 97 of them I went in thinking I could run (x) time. And my result was almost always (x) plus a few seconds/minutes. Even in races where I set a new PR, I came in knowing I was definitely in PR shape and probably was expecting better. I can only think of three times in my entire running life that I’ve gone out and totally smashed was I thought I was capable of doing. The first was the 10 mile race in 2008. The second was the marathon this past May. And this was the third. I could’ve run 1:27 flat and been 100% ecstatic with what I’d done. But to run nearly four minutes faster than I’d ever run this distance before was both shocking and exhilarating. I wound up taking 9th place overall and I was third in my age group.

This likely will be my last race of what has been a great 2014 (running and otherwise). According to my Garmin, I set en-route PRs at both the 8k, 10k, 15k and 10 mile during this race. If this is the last race of the year, I will have set a PR in the 5k, 8k, 10k, 15k, 10 mile, half marathon, and marathon this year. Before my last two races of last year, I’d gone 5 years without setting a single PR!

It gives me confidence that shooting for a BQ and possibly sub-3 hr marathon next year is a realistic goal. I’m not planning on training anymore in 2015 than I did in 2014. In fact, given my new circumstances in life – having a 3-1/2 week old daughter and now running while having 2 children vs having 1 child – I probably can’t commit to running next year the way that I did this year. Which is perfectly okay. I can commit to being consistent and trying to fit runs in when I can (hello once again 4 and 5 AM runs along with my daily lunch run). That’s all perfectly fine with me. I went to the movie “Gone Girl” with my wife last night (great first 90% of a movie with a pretty “meh” ending) and I was just talking about how happy I am with how life is unfolding. I’m very happy with my job. I’m happy with my marriage and especially with my kids. My running and my coaching is something that helps me to feel alive. I still have aspirations to achieve more and be better, but for now, I’m just soaking in the fact that I’ve worked incredibly hard and been incredibly consistent. My favorite thing about running is that no matter what, you can’t fake it. There are no shortcuts to getting better other than doing the right things – working hard, eating better, and trying to repeat that process every single day.

2014 Dick Beardsley Half Marathon Race Report

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After running a PR at the Fargo Marathon this year, I’ve been kind of running aimlessly. Sure – I’ve had a few races, but no real target race the way that the Twin Cities Marathon (and the pursuit of a sub-1:30 half marathon last summer) or trying to get a BQ and narrowly missing this year at the Fargo Marathon.

My training since May has been incredibly consistent, but overall, probably lacking focus. I’ve been what I would consider 80% diligent in doing the small things (eating relatively decent, hydrating, getting sleep, etc). I’ve done long runs, I’ve done speed work, and I’ve averaged 57 mpw for the 17 weeks since the full. But to be completely honest with myself, I’ve done a lot of running for the sake of building a big running base rather than focusing on a specific race. Up until race day, I wasn’t even 100% sure I’d be running this race as my wife is what the doctors call “super duper pregnant” and I wouldn’t have been surprised if we were making a trip to the hospital rather than the starting line last weekend. I was also dealing with a nasty cold from Monday through Friday that I thought was definitely going to affect me coming into the race. Thursday night (aka – the most important night of sleep before the race), I spent the evening running 8 miles around a hilly cross country course cheering on our XC team in 85 degree weather while not eating, definitely not hydrating, and getting home from the meet at midnight.

Coming into the race, I had no real time goal. Just run hard, hopefully PR and see what I’m capable of. In the past, I’ve come in with pretty specific time goals for the first few miles or what I was hoping to average for the run, etc. It felt strangely relaxing and strangely confusing to go into the race not having a plan, so to speak.

Mile 1 – 6:43 – Goal was to go out comfortably, but obviously not go crazy. In my head, I was thinking something in the 6:50 range. Had to almost slow myself down and wound up with a 6:40 which I felt really good about.

Mile 2- 6:29 – Whoa… was pretty pumped about this mile because it felt like I was way holding myself back. It’s probably the fastest mile I’ve run in a half marathon (I think) and it felt super easy.

Mile 3 – 6:42 – Again, felt really easy. In my head, I’m thinking that I can hold this pace through 10-ish miles fairly easily. Of course, my head forgot that miles 5-13 are all rolling hills while the first 4 are relatively flat.

Mile 4 – 6:43 – In a nice groove. Caught up with two runners and we’ve got a nice pack of 3. I feel like I’m not working too terribly hard, however I get the feeling I’m not quite as fit as they are.

Mile 5 – 6:42 – This is one of my favorite spots on the course. 11 out of the 13 miles are basically around a lake. We’re out in a residential area and we aren’t yet to some of the crappy rolling hills that are coming up.

Mile 6 – 6:43 – 5 out my first 6 miles are within 1 second split and I’m still not feeling like I’m working too terribly hard. It’s tough not to be pretty excited about how my race is going. At this point, I’m not thinking “PR” but I’m really thinking by how much!

Mile 7 – 6:41 – Maybe my first misstep. We had a massive downhill on this mile and I tend to run the downhills really fast compared to most others around me. I wound up putting a decent gap on the two guys I’d been running the past 4 (or so) miles with rather than just hold back and try to hang with them. I think I might’ve woke the sleeping giant a bit because they went by me maybe 200 meters past the end of the hill. But they didn’t go by me running the same speed we’d been running the whole race at. They went by me probably running 15 seconds per mile quicker than we’d been going. I was still in my groove, but I knew I probably couldn’t maintain what they were doing, so I sort of let them go. (Spoiler: they both negative split the race… I did not).

Mile 8 – 6:57 – Lots of small ups and downs are starting to get to me. Having let go of my “group” is starting to get to me. I still feel relatively alright, but it’s starting to strain a little more than I’d like to be with 5 miles left.

Mile 9 – 6:49 – Was proud that I was able to turn the tide around a little bit and running a faster mile. Didn’t feel particularly strong, but I was fighting fairly hard not to fall off.

Mile 10 – 6:51 – Got passed by a runner and then a second one on this mile which kind of made me mad. Didn’t realize that one of the guys was a relay runner (which later made me feel better).

Mile 11 – 6:58 – I am dying. My dreams of a monster PR are gone. In my head, though, I’m still thinking sneaking into the 1:28s is do-able, but it’s going to take an effort. There is nobody near me (closest guy is about 40 seconds ahead and I can’t see ANYONE behind me). Put the head down and grind.

Mile 12 – 6:50 – These miles aren’t getting any faster, but I suppose I can feel good that they aren’t getting any worse. By this point, I’m about 30 seconds “off” of course miles but I didn’t feel like manually adjusting the Garmin.

Mile 13 – 6:51 – Saw my family again on this mile for about the sixth time. It’s so awesome that my daughter (who’s 4) gets so excited to give high fives. It always gives me a little boost. They did a great job of going to all the right spots on the course and they were able to see me about 6 times which really helped. I’m pushing, but I’m dying.

Last 0.1 (plus another 0.1 for GPS inaccuracy) – 1:10 – Gave a good but not great kick. Tried to go a little more and felt my left calf starting to lock up (which is a problem I have quite frequently when trying to speed up at the end of races).

Official time – 1:29:13 – A new PR by a whopping 11 seconds. It’s amazing that I’ve run well over 2,000 miles since my PR last October to cut off less than 1 second per mile. But the total time doesn’t really tell the full story. This course is what I consider moderately difficult (I’m not going to compare it to some mountain trail half marathon or anything). The course I set my half marathon PR on (which I’m running in five weeks) might possibly be the fastest half marathon course in North America. I’d estimate the course is 2:30 to 3:00 faster on average given similar weather conditions. At the beginning of the year, I randomly made “sub-1:27” a goal that seemed achievable. Can I drop 2:14 seconds off my time in five weeks? I hate to be overly optimistic, but it seems like a very realistic goal to shoot for. The one thing that I’ve learned in the past 13 months – which has included 6 running PRs – is that you can never taking a PR for granted. I think in my mind, I’m occasionally guilty of building a PR race up as if it were a Hollywood movie. After the ideal taper, I’ll feel wonderful, and I’ll naturally just take a big chunk of time off my previous PR and feel like I’m on top of the world. The reality is usually much more gritty. It never feels easy and I have to fight my inner monologue which is screaming at me “…who cares about a PR, JUST SLOW DOWN!” PR’s are really, really tough which is why I celebrate each and every time I do it.

We’ve got a new member of our family coming within the next few weeks (or next few days… or next few hours… who knows!?!) and I can’t imagine my 2015 training will be better than 2015 has (I’ve heard rumors that these small individuals called “newborns” have some trouble sleeping). So my next 13 months might not be the time I set 6 more PRs. Or maybe it will. Either way, I’ve worked really hard and sacrificed a LOT to run 11 seconds faster than I did last year which is cause to celebrate.

After the race, my daughter did the kids race (maybe a half mile). Seeing her smiling ear-to-ear might be the one thing in this world that makes me the happiest, so I had to enclose this picture of her from the finish line after the race. This might be one of my favorite pictures of her ever!

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Sour Grapes Half Marathon – 2014 – Race Report

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Mile 1 – 6:34 – Coming into this race, I knew the course was slow. It seemed like everyone who I cross checked results seemed to run 5-10 minutes slower. So I came into this race thinking anything between 1:30-1:35 would be a great success. In all actuality, I came in thinking I didn’t care about my time. As long as I put a good effort out there, I’d feel good about it.

Mile 2 – 7:17 – The first mile was a touch quicker than I was hoping, but it was in the ballpark. This second mile was much hillier. I had one hill that really sucked all of the juice out of the legs. I was thinking my legs felt like what I like to call “end of the race” legs. Word to the wise – you don’t want to have the “end of the race” feel when you have 85% of the race left.

Mile 3 – 7:13 – A group of three guys took off. For the first two miles, I was in the second group of three guys. I knew by now that I had underestimated this course and gone out too hard. This was going to be a LONG half marathon.

Mile 4 – 7:40 – I’m feeling rough. You know it’s bad when by mile 4 I’m running the same pace I ran at mile 23 in a marathon 5 weeks earlier.

Mile 5 – 7:34 / Mile 6 – 7:43 – My though process for this mile. Another hill?!? Another turn?!?! More loose gravel. I wish I had someone to run with. Oh wait, I did until they all passed me. Am I going to look like a softie if just run the “half of a half” marathon (1 loop) and go home?

Mile 7 – 7:04 – This was a start of the second loop. This was the flattest mile on the course. It gave me a great amount of confidence to see that my time in the range that I’d be hoping to see. I’m improving the outlook on this race. Instead of being disappointed by my time, my body, and the unforgiving course, I’m starting to come to terms with the fact that I’m not going to run a great time, but let’s run hard and see what I can do.

Mile 8 – 7:52 – The worst hill on the course. Absolutely sucked everything out of my legs. Ouch…

Mile 9 – 6:24 – As an FYI, I hit my mile split on this mile. It wasn’t “truly” a 6:24 mile. I just wanted my mile splits to match where the miles were. I know my Garmin marks this course as 1/4 mile short, but when you go in and look at where it’s tracking, it’s obvious that due to the trees and all the turns that it just isn’t very accurate.

Mile 10 – 7:37 / Mile 11 – 7:36 – Feeling decent. I know my time sucks. I’m feeling good, though because there is one guy who has been 5-10 seconds behind me for 5-6 miles and he can’t seem to get me. I’ve now put another 10-15 seconds on him. I have a plan around 12.5 miles to drop the hammer around a turn if he’s still anywhere near me.

Mile 12 – 7:50 – A rough mile, but I’m feeling really good that I’m ALMOST done.

Mile 13 – 7:42 – Take a peek around 12.5 miles and I see the guy who used to be 5 seconds behind me. He’s probably about 25 seconds behind me. I throw down my last little “kick” – which, if I’m being completely honest with myself, was pretty weak. It’s enough to put enough distance where I know I’m not going to get passed.

Final Time – 1:36:04 – My initial reaction to this race was a big disappointment. My time was disappointing. The course was extremely difficult. The entire last 11-1/2 miles felt like I was digging really deep in the well. Giving myself a little bit of distance from the race, though, I’m able to view the race a little differently. I came into the race saying I had no real expectation, however, the reality was I certainly place a time expectation on myself. Not a specific time expectation (ie – I didn’t have a target finish time). However, when my mile splits started to slip out of a range that I considered “acceptable,” I started to get really negative. I shouldn’t have placed a time goal on myself. Honestly, I wished I wouldn’t have even wore a watch. Effort-wise, I was doing work. A lot. As in, this half marathon felt considerably tougher than the full marathon I just ran five weeks ago. My time stunk when I compare it with what I consider myself capable of running. I know the course was tough. The footing, turns, and hills all affected my overall time. But when I cross compare some results, all the sudden my time didn’t seem so bad either. Although I was frustrated much of this race, it was a unique race and it was a fun course. I would certainly do it again.

Fargo Marathon Race Report

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After an 8-year hiatus from running marathons, I made my semi-triumphant return to the distance at the Twin Cities Marathon last year. As in, the end result was a new personal best time of 3:24:36, but I ran an average of 9:07 for the last five miles. I went out a little aggressive and ran 17 really quick miles, 4 mediocre miles, and 5 miles that were basically a train wreck. The good news was that my 17 really good miles were good enough to carry me to a new PR by 2:05.

The Preparation
Immediately following TCM, my eyes turned towards Fargo as a next potential race. I’ve done the half marathon 7 times (out of the 9 previous times it had been run), but have never actually done the Fargo full. The course is flat with the potential to be very fast. However, the weather for Fargo in May can be like playing Russian roulette. You might see a humid 75 degree day or a cold/windy 33 degree day. Two weeks at TCM, I finally broke through a major time barrier (sub-1:30 half marathon) that I had been flirting with for 10 years (I ran a 1:32 at the first ever half-marathon in Fargo in 2005). Feeling super motivated, I finally pulled the trigger and I registered in late October. I started training like a madman. I switched my habits from being a “night” runner (I’d go run 8-10 miles most nights when my wife/daughter went to bed) to doing a majority of my runs early (some as early as 4:15 AM on work days!) during the week along with sneaking 30 minute runs over my lunch break. My training was going better than ever until…

The Injury
My calf started acting up while I was running on the treadmill. In a 60 minute run, my calf would kind of tightened up and locked up once or twice. The next few days, the frequency would increase. Eventually, it would get to the point where it would lock up 5 times in a mile. Having had very limited and pretty minor injuries given the amount of lifetime miles I’ve logged, this was my first time feeling something somewhat significant. I spent a significant time on Google and/or WebMD and determined that I had a calf strain (often referred to as a “calf heart attack”). Or it was possible that I had some sort of congenital calf disease that would eventually have to lead to amputation. Spending enough time on WebMD will do that to a person, though…

Comeback
For four weeks in December, I ran a total of 3.3 total miles. Over the next six weeks, I spent around 30 hours hanging out on the elliptical (bleh!) and the exercise bike (double bleh!). Eventually, I worked my way back to running. I started running around 10 minutes miles and very gradually increased my speed and distance until I felt like I was pretty much back to normal by the end of January.

Training Cycle
The injury cut a little bit into my planned training, but I was able to get back into the swing of things with plenty of time to get in a very solid training cycle. I have no doubt I’m more fit than last year. Since my last race in October, I’ve put in ~1,500 miles (in comparison, I put in 2,178 in all of 2013). I’ll have averaged 62 miles per week in the 12 weeks leading up to the race with a peak of 82 which is up slightly from my last marathon (60 mpw average with a peak of 70). In an ideal world, I would’ve ran a half marathon 2-4 weeks ago and I’d have a pretty accurate gauge of my fitness. It just didn’t work. Living in Minnesota, we’ve had a late spring. With a few weekends in April that were booked with various other things, the one local race that fit in the schedule being wildly overpriced, and tapering the last few weekends, I just couldn’t fit one in…

2014-training

For TCM, I loosely followed the Hanson’s Training program with a few added miles in the long run and scattered throughout the week. This time around, I changed my training to loosely follow the Pfitz 70 program. While there are some similarities, the midweek “medium” long run was definitely the biggest difference in the two programs. In 2004, I followed the Pfitz program religious and dropped my PR from 3:57 to 3:26.

The other major difference is I’m carrying significantly less weight. While I was on a running sabbatical, my wife started using the MyFitnessPal app on her iPhone. One of her friends had used it successfully to lose weight. At the time, I didn’t necessarily want to lose weight, but rather focus more on eating healthier foods. For me, tracking calories has been a game changer. I’ve never done it before, but I’ve logged all of my food and exercise for the past four and a half months. I don’t know exactly what weight I was when I ran Twin Cities last year, but I’d estimate I’m anywhere somewhere around 15 to 20 pounds down from last October. I certainly have noticed the effect on my running. I just feel like my legs have more pop.

Pre-Race
We went to bring my daughter Quinn to the kids race on Thursday night. It was her second year of running the half mile kids race. The weather looked hairy and we didn’t think we would be able to get her race in, but the rain held out. She had a blast and smiled the entire race! It’s fun to see her as excited about running as I am. I certainly wasn’t excited about running when I was a kid.


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My little half miler Quinn. Drop another five minutes and we're booking our trip to the 2036 Olympics. Watch out David Rudisha!

My little half miler Quinn. Drop another five minutes and we’re booking our trip to the 2036 Olympics. Watch out David Rudisha!


After the kid’s race, we headed to the expo. I didn’t purchase anything as I’m just not wild about paying “marathon expo” prices, but I took a walk around. The big advantage of going to the expo on Thursday is avoiding the madness of the crowds that come on Friday. I’d roughly estimate 80% of the ~19,000 race participants pick up their packets on Friday.

I didn’t change much in my diet pre-race. I try to make it a habit of not trying anything new coming up to race day. For the most part, the only changes was an increase in fluid the week of the race. The day before the race, I drank what I would call “quite a bit” of water and Gatorade. Based on my frequent stops in the bathroom to “de-hydrate,” I’m fairly sure I came into the race adequately hydrated. I ate exactly like I would nearly any Friday with the exception of making sure my meals were high in carbs (bagel for breakfast, pizza for lunch, pasta for supper). I also ate two energy bars at work during the day. That’s about it, though. I got all of my “race stuff” together (shoes, socks, shorts, singlet, race number, gels, GPS watch, headphones, FlipBelt, etc) laid out. I fell asleep watching a new Metallica movie “Through the Never” which was a hybrid of a concert film and an actual film at around 10:30 PM.

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Around 3:30 AM, my over-hydrated state required a quick bathroom break. I went and laid down for an hour, but I never went to sleep. Had this been one of my earlier marathons, I’d had worked myself into a tizzy worrying. One of the advantages of being somewhat of a veteran is I know I’m still quite capable of running perfectly fine even if I wake up earlier than I wanted to.

Around 4:45 AM, I got up, took a shower, and got dressed. I made my normal breakfast (Liege waffle) that I eat about five days a week. Only thing I skipped was the whipped cream and berries. I watched some more of the Metallica movie which helped take my mind off of the upcoming race. Another thing I’ve learned is obsessing over details of the race only detracts from the end result. You can drive yourself crazy if you are worried about whether you should go run a 7:05, 7:10, or 7:15 in the first mile doesn’t make it any easier to run that time. It just burns valuable “mental” energy that you most surely will need in the latter half of this race.

Around 6 AM, my wife got up and gave me a ride to the Moorhead Center Mall which is located about 3 blocks away from the start. With three races starting at the same time, they had three different athlete’s villages to help alleviate some of the spacing and traffic concerns. I got there around 6:15 AM, quick went to the bathroom and found a nice bench to sit on for an hour. I just kind chilled out, listened to a podcast, and was surfing the internet on my phone. I also made sure to slowly down my last drink (raspberry Skratch Labs – highly recommend over any other sports drinks!) and half a ClifBar. At 7:15, I dropped off my bag and made my way to the starting line.

Can you say "perfect"?

Can you say “perfect”?

I got to the back of the starting line and it was already starting to get crowded. For a moment, I thought it was going to be impossible to get up closer to the front. With a little bit of wiggling, elbow, and a few “excuse me’s”, I was able to get right up near the front of the pack. It seemed a little strange to be this far up, but I knew my time from Twin Cities would’ve put me in the top 100 of last year’s race.

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While I was starting at the start line, I saw a guy with the name Francesco on this bib and a 3:05 pace sign. I didn’t realize there was going to be a 3:05 pace group, so I thought I would just hang out near him and try to keep him in sight as long as possible. Popped a gel, finished off my last swallow of Skratch labs, and paid minimal attention to all of the last minute announcements. I was pretty pretty focused at this point.

Mile 1 – 7:08 – I didn’t really have an exact plan on how fast I wanted to go out. 7:03/mi was the average I was shooting for, but I was comfortable going a pace that felt really comfortable. I hung out near Francesco and his 3:05 sign for a majority of this mile (and realized there were another 30-40 people who were doing the same thing).

Mile 2 – 6:57 – Saw my family for the first time in this mile. I had quite the support crew cheering me on (enough that they actually needed two cars to transport everyone!) My mom and sister drove up from my hometown of Perham (about an hour away) that morning. My wife and her entire family (brother, sister-in-law, niece, and her parents) were there. And my daughter (almost 4 years old) was there on my brother-in-law’s shoulders to give high fives every time I saw them. It was fun to see her literally giddy as soon as she could see me.

Mile 3 – 6:57 – At the end of this mile is where the 10k turned off. There weren’t a ton of people that turned off, but then again, there weren’t a ton of people ahead of me, either. We started heading into a residential area of North Fargo. There were pockets of good fan support, but I was a little surprised by the rows and rows of houses with nobody out front. Sometimes, we’d run two blocks with maybe one family out in front of their house. If you had a marathon run right in front of your house (and you weren’t running), wouldn’t it be a perfect excuse to have a few people over? The fan support was by no means bad (I actually thought it was solid)… I just thought it was really strange that so many houses had nobody out.

Mile 4 – 7:02 – I pop my first gel – Strawberry ClifShot is the gel of choice for this marathon… plan is to take them a 4-8-12-16-20-23. This is the first marathon I haven’t carried them (using the little “litter leash” thingie) but rather stashed them in my FlipBelt. This is also the first marathon I’ve worn a belt. In the past, I’ve tried a few different belts or fanny packs while running, but the combination of bouncing, rubbing, adding weight, and just plain looking like a fanny pack has deterred me from using them. I started using one this winter to keep my cellphone which allowed me to use the Garmin LiveTrack. I used some Christmas money to purchase a new Forerunner 220 mainly because of the LiveTrack feature. I have a history of some heart problems (two cardiac arrests when I was 19 and 24… and yes, you did read that correctly). I have a defibrillator that would (hopefully) do it’s job should it need to, but it made me nervous last summer when I was getting up and going to run 18 miles by myself with nary a person having any clue where I was even planning to run. Using the LiveTrack feature, it automatically emails my mom, wife, and sister a link to where I am so that should something ever happen, they at least have a clue what desolate back road they can find me on. One added bonus is it allows me to share live updates with some message boards I post on (shoutout to the RW sub-1:30 and sub-3:10 message boards!) Around this point, I started to feel email buzzes every few minutes or so. I was pretty sure people were watching (and commenting) on my run which was really cool.

Mile 5 – 6:59 – Once again see my family on this mile which always gives you a little extra bounce to your step. I’m feeling fantastic at this point, but that shouldn’t be a surprise. While I didn’t know exactly what kind of shape I was in, I knew that my fitness was good enough that I was easily going to make it on pace through 15 (or so) miles. I’ve got my headphones on, but I have them on a pretty minimal volume. Loud enough that I can hear the music, but quite enough that I can make conversation with the people around me and hear the crowds. The spirits of the group around all seem to be pretty good. More than anything, it’s nice to just hang out and run and not have to worry about pace. I’m rarely checking my watch because Francesco shouts out splits along with how far ahead of pace were are every single mile. Somewhere along this mile, we all laughed when we saw a little kid holding a sign that said “My mommy runs marathons and all my daddy does is drink beer.”

Mile 6 – 7:03 – We reach the northern most point of the course of the route. We actually have a spot here where we jump on a bikepath for a bit. We run by a school which has maybe 100-150 fans cheering us on. As far as my body is concerned, we’re still all systems go. At this point in the Twin Cities Marathon last October, I already was feeling a slight twinge in my hamstring. I was running strong, but I was putting forth a little bit of effort to “hang” last October. Right now, this feels easy. I’m not sure who it was that said it, but someone from the sub-3:10 message board said the first 10 miles of a marathon should feel ridiculously easy.

Mile 7 – 6:57 – Saw my family another time. The night before the race, I took my brother-in-law and wife on a tour of the course. I gave them a few spots that I thought would be easy to watch so they could see me as many times as possible along with some advice on where to park and how to get to the next spot to avoid traffic. This certainly helped. Last year, I only saw my daughter once in the half marathon which was kind of disappointing.

Mile 8 – 7:00 – Another steady, solid mile. Another advantage of having a pace group leader is he would give us a heads up when water was coming up and what they had first (water or Powerade). We’re running back on the same road we were coming out on, so we actually can see some walkers and slower runners who were doing the 10k which is kind of fun.

Mile 9 – 6:59 – My favorite thing about this course so far. It is flat. Not relatively flat. Not kinda flat. Literally not a hill thus far. The biggest hills on this entire course are man made underpasses that go underneath major roads. If you are looking for a flat course, this course just screams PR course.

Mile 10 – 6:57 – Francesco is once again a rockstar hitting consistent mile after consistent mile while I’m burning literally no mental energy trying to say on pace. I’m getting a little annoyed at this point at some of the slower 10k runners. Our course overlaps with the about 5.2 through 5.8 miles of the 10k course during about mile 9.3 through 9.9 for us. The 10k runners are supposed to stay on the left side of the road and the marathon runners are supposed to hang in the right lane. It was very clearly marked, so I don’t blame the organizers of the Fargo Marathon. We didn’t have to do a lot of dodging and weaving, but more than a few people got some nasty “MOVE OVER!” comments from the 25 (or so) guys that were probably left in our group.
The average 10k finishing time was 1:11:52. We went through 10 miles in around 1:09:40. You can do that math and see that it was going to be a little crowded, but it wasn’t awful. It was nice when they turned off, though.

Mile 11 – 7:03 – At this point, the group is noticeably thinning. It’s kind of funny because someone will be right next to you one minute and a minute later, you look around and realize that they are gone. I don’t know how everyone else is feeling, but I am getting the feeling that among the group of guys left, I’m in good shape. I can see the “focused look” and less talking that comes in the middle part of a marathon starting to creep into them. In all honesty, though, I could care less about actually beating any of these guys or getting beaten by these guys. I just am hoping to hang as long as possible.

Mile 12 – 7:01 – Here’s what I wrote at mile 12 from the Twin Cities Marathon:

For the first time, there was a group of a few people that seemed like they were moving forward and it just didn’t feel like it’d be in my best long term interest of the race to go with them. I wasn’t really defeated, so to speak, but I was slightly deflated that some other people were stronger than me. That’s probably just an irrational thing I needed to not concern myself with, but when your goal is to run a fast time, anything that seems like it is going to deter from that is kind of deflating.

This time at mile 12, I’m thinking “I’m feeling strong” mixed in with thoughts of “Holy crap, I’m actually going to qualify for Boston.” See my family once again which is always a boost. This mile is one of the most fun miles of course as it takes you through an old, fun residential part of town.

Mile 13 – 7:02 – Another fine mile. With every mile that passes that I’m on pace and, more importantly, feeling good, I’m gaining confidence. I told my wife before the race that I knew I would be fine through 17 miles. My goal was to be on pace through 20 and see what I’ve got left. Right now, it’s feeling entirely possible.

Mile 14 – 7:05 – Went through the half in 1:31:54 which gives us a 36 second cushion. Francesco got us to about a 40 second cushion and then he said “now, we just maintain.” I was quite comfortable with that strategy. One thing I’m starting to notice is we are hitting a very slight headwind. The next two and a half miles are into the wind, but then we’ll get four and a half miles with the wind at our back.

Mile 15 – 7:02 – See my family one more time this mile. I’m entering that next zone where it’s not quite difficult, but it’s not quite as effortless as it once was.

Mile 16 – 7:03 – Never have been to this part of Fargo before, but it’s interesting. The road runs right along the river. On the left side (next to the river), all of the houses (some of which would be valued near a million dollars) are boarded up, tore down, or gone completely with only a big hole where a basement used to be. All of these houses were bought up due to massive flooding issues a few times in the past 10 years. I didn’t see the area pre-floods, but I’m sure it’s changed the dynamic of this neighborhood.

Mile 17 – 7:02 – We’ve now hit the turnaround point. I hadn’t realized it, but our group that was once 30-40 strong is down to less than 10. I’m hanging out right next to Francesco making small talk. As we turn around, I start to see some of the guys that used to be in our group. Some of them are still looking strong. Some of them have “that” look that every season marathoner can sympathize with.

I still have my music at a pretty low volume. For the past few miles, I’ve been thinking that when the going gets tough, I’m going to crank the volume of the music. I’m quite particular when creating marathon playlists. I went so far as to create an Excel spreadsheet with each song length so I could figure out which songs would hit where. I broke my music selections into five forty minute sections with songs that kind of fit the theme of each section.

0 minutes thru 40 minutes – “Warm Up”
40 minutes thru 80 minutes – “Wind Up”
80 minutes thru 120 minuets – “Focus”
120 minutes thru 160 minutes – “Intensity”
160 minutes+ – “Cuss words”

I’ve read stories about some people listening to David Grey or Coldplay or some other mellow music through a marathon. I can’t do that. I need to start slow and gradually increase. And at the end, I need music that screams at me a little bit. If you want to check it out, here’s my complete Fargo Marathon playlist.

One thing that I found funny. My PR coming into the race was 3:24. I set The Undertaker’s Theme Song to hit at 3:25 and I made it a mental goal to NOT hear Undertaker’s Theme Music!

Mile 18 – 6:59 – My last sub-7 mile of the race, but I’m still maintaining. Legs are feeling work, but certainly I’m not on the edge or anything like that. I’m starting to do some mental finish line math at this point. Boston is still the goal, but worth case scenario, I’m thinking if I run 8 minute miles from here on out, I’d run a 3:11 which, at one point, was the Boston Qualifier for my age and was a lifetime goal that seemed somewhat unachievable. Now, I’d have to mess up real bad NOT to do that. I’ve messed up marathons really badly in the last 8 miles, though. Still feeling strong.

Mile 19 – 7:05 – Here’s what I wrote at mile 19 at last year’s TCM

Mile 19 – 7:57 (2:17:04) – Was quite proud of this mile. Although my legs are starting to really hurt, I’m mentally forcing myself to push through. Saw my family once again. My sister ran along side me for like 200 meters and told me how great I was running and how fast I was running. I replied back “…well, it’s going to get a little slower from here.” I still had some push in me, but I knew what was going on.

Can’t help but feel great about this. I’m four minutes ahead of last year’s pace, still running almost a full minute faster per mile, and feeling much better. The word “Boston” keeps going through my head.

Mile 20 – 7:04 – Our group of 40 is down to five including myself. Coming into the race, my goal was to hit mile 20 on pace and see what I have for a finish. I still have no doubts that I can hang with these guys. Hold on!

Mile 21 – 7:10 – It’s crazy how “it” hits. Literally a half mile ago, I’m feeling confident. I’m debating how I’m going to try to convince my wife we need to arrange our trip to Boston while still making it to the wedding of a really good friend who’s getting married in Kansas City two days before the marathon. Suddenly, I feel a slight little jolt that feels like electricity in my right calf. Uh oh. Nothing big, but uh oh nonetheless. At the tail end of this mile, the group puts a couple seconds on me. I remember thinking “there goes Boston.” Somewhat depressing, but my legs are feeling the grind. I’m pushing, but my legs just aren’t responding.

Mile 22 – 7:09 – I was pretty proud of this mile. I felt like I suddenly was carrying an anvil, but I still was able to run a decent split. The group is now maybe 10 seconds ahead of me. I remember thinking that I’ve got a 40 second gap. If I only give away maybe 10 seconds per mile, I still have a chance at Boston. What the heck… get yourself close to that finish line and if you HAVE to run a 6:45, you know it’s physically possible.

Mile 23 – 7:49 – And just like that, there goes the BQ. My spirits are high, though. A sub-3:05 and punching a ticket to Boston was the goal, but it was like the “A” goal. Almost like every sports franchise who claims there goal is to win a championship at the start of the year. In all honesty, I didn’t think I was going to do it. I would’ve given myself maybe a 10% chance. I didn’t honestly think I was going to be this close, though. I’m proud because I’ve still got a fair amount of fight left in me. My legs just aren’t cooperating. I remember thinking that even if I totally blow up and run 10 minute miles for the last, I’d still be under 3:15 which would be a 9 minute PR. We run right next to my house I lived at in college, but I’m so exhausted at this point that I don’t even notice it.

Mile 24 – 8:06 – My legs aren’t really getting any worse, but they aren’t getting any better, either. I see my family for the last time. Their support during this race meant the world to me. Word’s can’t describe how proud of a dad I am and seeing my little daughter cheering her tail off every time she saw me was awesome!

Mile 25 – 7:50 – There is some crazy symbolism going on in my head. This part of the course is part of the first ever race I ran my last year in college. It was a 5k right near my house. I finished the 5k in 26 minutes with a break to “tie my shoes” (I was dying) and I actually contemplated stopping again to throw up on the side of the road. Now, here I am on the exact same streets at mile 25 of a marathon still throwing down a sub-8 minute mile. Incredible how far I’ve come. My pace group has disappeared in the distance and (as expected), I’m starting to get passed. I think only 3-4 people went by me in the last five miles, though, so I’m really not feeling too terrible.

Mile 26 – 7:56 – Here it is, the hike towards home. I’m pushing with everything I have which admittedly isn’t much at this point. The sub-3:05 is obviously long gone, but I know that I’m running a massive PR which keeps me motivated to keep pushing even though I don’t want to.

Last 0.2 – 1:47 – 3:08:16 (7:09/mi) – I was quite proud of my finish. I maybe could’ve kicked a little harder, but I was kind of soaking it all in (evident by “Angle 2” of my finisher video).

16 minute PRs are awesome!

16 minute PRs are awesome!

I did it. 3:08:16. A 7:12/mile average. That’s insane. I dropped 16 minutes and 20 seconds from last year’s Twin Cities Marathon. 1 hour, 51 minutes, 43 seconds from my first ever marathon. In-freaking-sane! I can’t help but smile when I think about it. I finished 41st overall (out of 1652 finishers), 37th male, and I only got beat by four girls (one passed me in the last mile, though… dang it!) In the paper the next day, I showed up at the 7th area finisher!

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I feel like I’ve been through so much in the past 15 months. I’ve totaled a car in a rollover on the way to work last February. On the last day of March, I was running on the treadmill when I got SMACKED with 10 “inappropriate” (meaning they weren’t medically necessary and my device was incorrectly reading my heart rate) from my defibrillator (I’ll let others explain how much that hurts). I spent a week in the hospital and got put onto a beta blocker for some reason (I’m no longer on it). I’ve been to the doctor because I was peeing blood. I’ve woken up before the sun rises countless times to get in long runs and workouts. I’ve had a month of no running due to calf problems. I run on my treadmill so much that I’ve CAUSED a stress fracture that has graduated to a full fledged break of my treadmill deck. I’ve eaten oranges, strawberries, and rice when all I want to eat is pizza, cookies, and Mountain Dew.

Analysis

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timing

elevation

Normally, this is where I pick my race apart (if I would’ve done this differently, I could’ve ran 1 minute faster or I think this hill cost me 5 seconds, etc.) I honestly can’t critique anything about this race. My half marathon splits were 1:31:54 and 1:36:22. While not the “perfect” even split or even a slight negative split, it’s hard for me to complain about. For the first time in my marathoning history (which dates back to 2003), I’m completely satisfied with both my effort and the result. In looking back, the only thing that I found very strange is that my legs somewhat gave out around mile 21 and my pace slowed, my heart rate actually dropped. It indicates to me that my strength was my limiter more so than my lungs.

What Next

I’d love to run another marathon this year. I’d doubt it’s in the cards because (drumroll please…) my wife is expecting in late September! This will be child number two in the Hanson household. We aren’t finding out whether it’s a boy or a girl when we go to our second ultrasound this week. Once again, we’re just hoping and praying for a healthy kid (and if we can get a child that sleeps 12 hours at a time out of the womb, we’ll take that, too!)

The due date pretty much takes most area fall marathons out of the equation for me – especially the Twin Cities Marathon. There is a slight possibility I could take a look at the new(ish) marathons in the middle of October which allow race day packet pickup (a big plus). More than likely, though, I’m just going to continue on the path I’ve been on right now (morning runs/workouts, lunchtime doubles, and a long run on the weekend) with the focus being shifted to short races – 5k through half marathon. Maybe I can hack a few minutes or seconds off a couple of those PRs, as well. Long term, I’d love to take a shot at running something like a 3:03 next time out with a long term goal of eventually going sub-3! In the short term, though, I’d love to take a stab at running an 18:xx 5k, breaking 40 in the 10k and seeing how close to sub-1:27 I could get in a half. I’m not able to do a lot of my favorite races this year due to being busy (Fergus Falls Half Marathon on June 7th), being cancelled (Fishhook Half Marathon – my FAVORITE race!), or because I’m not interested in missing the birth of a child (or being an absentee father a week later!)

Thanks to everyone who was following along with my race. If you offered some words of encouragement before the race or words of congratulations after the race, thanks as well. I feel incredibly luck to have so much support. I’ll be the first to admit I was super skeptical when I heard about the plan for this race, but Mark Knutson and the fine folks who organize the Fargo Marathon once again hit a homer with this race. Word on the street is the course will be changing once again next year (which will make it 8 different courses in 8 years!), but I have no doubt that come next May, they will have dotted their i’s and crossed their t’s once again. If you are looking for a crazy fast, flat course, do yourself a favor and check out the Fargo Marathon. I imagine I’ll be back next year.

The only thing on my agenda all week is to fix my treadmill and install a ceiling fan in my daughter’s new room (she’ll be moving to a “big bed” as a birthday present in a month, although she doesn’t know it yet). If you need me, I’ll be eating crappy foods and drinking pop all week. And then next week, back to the grind of taking another step closer towards qualifying for Boston.

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2013 Fargo Mini Marathon Race Report

A unique finishing medal

A unique finishing medal

As of two weeks ago, I had put in nearly 1,800 miles worth of training, run 8 races at various distances, and still hadn’t had a PR in over five years. After taking a little over 2 minutes off of my marathon PR at the Twin Cities Marathon, the 2013 Fargo Mini Marathon represented my last legitimate chance at taking down my #1 goal for the year – going under 1:30 for a half-marathon.

Coming into 2013, running a marathon wasn’t really even on my radar. I actually decided to do it after finding out a group of friends were running it at the Fargo Marathon this year. The number one goal has always been to go under 1:30. I was well on my way this spring before suffering and unfortunate training injury setback… I don’t even know what you would call it. I got zapped by my defibrillator 11 times while I was running on the treadmill, spent a week in the hospital and got put on a beta blocking drug that was basically like a “limiter” on my heart. It basically zapped me of almost all the fitness I had attained and I was only taken off the drug completely a few days before the Fargo Half Marathon. I had a goal of running 1:35-ish, but I struggled the last few miles and finished in 1:40. A few weeks later, I felt redeemed as I ran a 1:34 half marathon which was my fastest since 2008. I knew that if I continued progressing in my training, I would have a great shot at breaking 1:30 later in the summer. However, every race seemed to have a few problems that prevented me from getting a true crack at 1:29. I ran a half in July that was warm and quite hilly. My time (1:33) wasn’t bad all things considered. In August, I ran another half marathon that was (trend alert!) warm and quite hilly. I was disappointed that I’d finished 5 seconds off of my old PR, but my time (1:31) wasn’t bad all things considered. A month later, I was sure I was going to finally break thru. However, by mile two, I was already in oxygen debt due to unusually hot weather (and the hills weren’t even coming for a few more miles). I made the decision to essentially “shut it down” at mile 4 and just run my normal long run pace through the finish. I knew that given the flat course and likely good weather, this was going to be my last good shot at going under 1:30.

Last year, I somewhat re-committed to trying to getting back to optimal fitness. I ran probably the most miles I had run since my previous “quality” training sessions in 2007 and 2008. After a mediocre 1:43 half-marathon in May, I trained fairly well and was able to knock out a 1:36:53 in August followed by a 1:36:23 in September. Coming into my last race of 2012, I was really optimistic about my chances to break 1:30 (or at least get awful close to my PR of 1:31:06). Here is a little of what I wrote about last year’s race.

For the past 12 weeks, I’ve been targeting the Fargo Mini Marathon as a race I wanted to run fast. I really have been hoping to set a PR (currently 1:31:06), but I knew I wasn’t quite in as good of shape as I was when I ran my PR. When I ran my PR, I was in killer shape and ran what I felt like was a poor race. Coming into the race, my training over the last six weeks has been good, but not great. I’d been averaging around 40 mpw. I’ve been getting really good long runs consistently every weekend, but my speedwork wasn’t what I was hoping for. I also had a wedding that came up sort of late in the game, so I wound up spending 8 hours in the car the day before the race.

Coming into the 2013 version of the race, I had a completely different situation. Unlike last year, my training had been awesome. I had a base about of 18 consecutive weeks of 50-60 mpw, however, I was only 13 days removed from running a PR at the Twin Cities Marathon… the last few miles of which really did a job on my legs. Coming into the race, I was still feeling some random odd soreness in my left hamstring. Whereas last year, I was really hoping that the stars would align and I’d get to mile 10 with a chance of breaking 1:30, this year, I came into the race will a ton of confidence that going under 1:30 (and beyond) was well within my realistic capacity.

Mile 1 -7:15 – I came into last year’s race thinking I had an outside chance of breaking 1:30 for the first time. I totally blew it in the first mile by running a 6:28 first mile (which felt easy, but I knew would doom me later in the race). This year, I was running with my friend (and recent first-time Ironman finisher) Derek who was also hoping to go under 1:30 for the first time. Before the race, I jokingly told him if we ran a 6:28 first mile this year, he was fired as my personal pacer. He told me if we ran a 6:28 first mile, I’d be running it by myself. Earlier in the week, I came up with a race plan of going out in 6:55-ish and then settling into (hopefully) 6:40-6:45 pace after a few miles. A few guys in the RW Sub-1:30 forum persuaded me to go out a little slower. In hindsight, I’m glad that I did.

Mile 2 – 6:46 (14:01) – Felt very strong. Really gradually picked it up. Was hoping to see something under a 7:00 mile on this split because I didn’t want to put myself too far behind the 8-ball. Only one thing bugged me about this mile. After a pretty straight mile, we turned right into a residential neighborhood in South Fargo. We turned onto a bikepath that allowed no more than 2 or 3 people wide at any one point. The 5k started at 8:00 AM and our race along with the 10k together at 8:10 AM. Having 1,000 runners running on a 3-wide bikepath doesn’t work that early in the race. And I was way up front in comparison to the crowds of people who were running in the 8:00/mi to 10:00/mi range. The company that puts this race on is the same company that puts on the tremendous Fargo Marathon in May. They do a fantastic job with race organization, but I was a little bummed by this part of the course.

Mile 3 – 6:42 (20:44) – Feeling really good. I’m comfortable, but I’m definitely doing work. I don’t know why, but in my head, I’ve got the vision of a “PR caliber” run just feeling awesome while running really fast for like 10 miles and then starting to hurt, but willing myself through it for the last 5k. I know that has never been the reality. I don’t know why I can’t get that vision out of my head. Starting to feel like I’m working this early in the race is creating all kinds of doubts. Maybe I’m not recovered from the marathon? Maybe I’m not hydrated enough? Maybe my nutrition was off?

Mile 4 – 6:42 (27:27) – Sometimes when I’m having doubts in a race, the most reassuring thing in the world is a good mile split. It’s one thing to feel like you are kinda right on that edge and seeing the time you are hoping to hit versus feeling like you are on the edge and seeing a split that indicates you are falling off your pace.

Mile 5 – 7:07 (34:34) – Complaint number 2 and 3 about this race. A handful of these miles were wickedly inaccurate. I might have freaked out by the slow mile time had I not been running with my friend Derek who’s GPS watch had went off before I could even see the mile marker. Last complaint – I’m getting very frustrated by all of the tight turns on the course. Before the race, I counted over sixty 90 or 180 turns. It really messed with your stride. My friend Derek and I guessed it cost you 1-2 seconds per mile.

Mile 6 – 6:24 (40:59) – So, this mile was obviously short (likely about as short as the last mile was long). The average time of the two miles (6:45) is right on par with what I had been running. Unlike all the other half marathons where I’ve tried legitimately to break 1:30 this year (3), I actually had people to pace off of in this race. We were in a group of about 4 people that were really running strong. The guy that was directly ahead of us for about 7-8 miles was really fun to run with. He was obviously a bit fitter than we were as he kept joking around and barely looked like he was putting forth any effort. I was just trying to sit on him because he was keeping a really steady pace. As a group, we were just blowing by people. I would guess we passed 20-30 from the 4th mile on while only getting passed by a single runner (who we had passed a few miles earlier).

Mile 7 – 6:59 (47:58) – Again, had I been running by myself, I may have had a mini-freak out. Six miles to go, I’m on the edge and I’m falling off of pace. Again, I was really glad to be running with a friend who had a GPS. I probably should run with my GPS, but I have the Garmin 205 which is a few years old. It works perfectly well for training, but it just feels a little heavy for racing. I’d really like to update to the new 620 sometime soon. Anyone want to donate to the buy Brent a nicer GPS watch fund? Don’t take this as gospel, but I’m fairly sure it would be tax deductible…

Mile 8 – 6:28 (54:27) – I’m still feeling good that this late into the race I’m running strong although I’ve given up altogether trying to figure out what my individual mile splits are. I figure that the 8 mile mark has to be relatively close to 8 miles. 54:27 would put me about 30 seconds ahead of pace to break 1:30. I know that I’ve got to stay pushing fairly hard at this point, but it’s giving me some amount of confidence to know it’s certainly still attainable at this point.

Mile 9 – 6:33 (1:01:00) – For the last half of this mile, we got to run opposite the masses of runners who were right around mile 7 (~8:30-9:15). It was kind of nice as I got to see a bunch of people I know. If nothing else, it gave me a chance to break up the monotony of just kind of pushing by yourself. It was helpful running with my friend Derek, yet at the same time, neither one of us was talking very much as I think we were both to that point that we were right on the edge. I thought I’d see my wife here (last year she ran 2:00:56 and was hoping to break 2), but I never did. Upon seeing my 9 mile split, I was doing some math in my head. At 1:01, four 7 minute miles + a 40 second last 0.1 mile would put me under 1:30 by about 20 seconds. This was really reassuring at this point. At the 9 mile aid station, I tried to grab a “salt pill” in my pocket. In my marathon, I really suffered from some cramps and though it was possible this could help. I decided I’d “practice” using a salt pill in this race (I took one before the race as well) to see if it worked. Unfortunately, due to my cold hands and tired body, I couldn’t get the pill out of the little plastic bag I had put it in. Might need to practice with that a little more before my next marathon attempt…

Mile 10-11 – 14:01 (1:15:01) – Don’t know how I missed the 10 mile split here, but it was more of the same. The guy that we kind of had been pacing off of since about mile 3-4 put a little gap on us, but we still were managing to pass quite a few runners. It was deceiving to hit the 11 mile mark because you could see the finish line in the distance (it finished inside of a hockey arena that the Fargo hockey team plays at), but it wasn’t nearly as closed as it seemed it should be. The last 2.5 mile were almost entirely into a slight headwind which I could’ve done without. At the last water stop, I grabbed a water and skipped the gel in my pocket. I usually take two of them in a half marathon. I had one at mile 6 and had planned on taking one near 10. I still am not sure if they even help the half marathon distance or it’s just the placebo effect, but it always feels like I get a slightly second wind a few minutes after popping one. Here, though, my hands were so cold and my body was so tired that the prospect of trying to open it seemed to daunting. I just left it in my pocket, grabbed a Gatorade and kept pushing forward.

Mile 12 – 6:42 (1:21:44) – The night before the race, we were staying at a friend of my wife’s house. She told me one of her neighbors (female), who just had a kid like 4-5 months ago was running this race. She jokingly said I needed to beat her. I looked up her times and figured that we’d finish really close together. A few miles before this, I was telling my friend Derek I thought there was the girl my wife’s friend was talking about. There weren’t a ton of girls up near the front of the pack, so I guessed it must be her. I joked with my friend Derek, though, that this was a no win situation. If we get beat by her, we just got beat by a girl who had a kid a few months ago. And if we passed her, congratulations… you just passed a girl who had a kid a few months ago. Hope you feel good about yourself! Anyway, we did pass her and maybe 1-2 other people this mile. I was definitely hurting and was really hoping this mile would say something under 7 minutes. When it said 6:42, I knew that no matter what, I was about to go under 1:30. I wish I could say I had one of those moments that you see in a sports movie… like when Jon Favreau started clapping for Rudy or when Adrian and Rocky are screaming for each other at the end of the movie. In reality, though, I just really hurt and I wanted to be done soon.

Mile 13 – 7:02 (1:28:46) – This mile was somewhat disappointing. In my idealized version of how I would break 1:30, the end of the race would’ve been this strong finish… a kick unlike any kick I’d ever thrown in a half marathon before. At mile 12, I remember thinking that if we ran a 6:40, we’d actually have a reasonable shot at going sub-1:29. For whatever reason, we just couldn’t find it in us to pick up the pace this last mile. I’d say this is the only thing I was a little disappointed in myself in this race, but being just 13 days out from a marathon and being nearly two minutes under my previous PR, I’m going to (for once) mute my complains a little bit by saying who gives a crap if I ran a mediocre last mile… I’m under 1:30 pace for the first time in my life!

Last 0.1 – 0:38 – Again, not the strongest kick I’ve ever thrown, but man did it feel good to turn the corner and see 1:29 on that finish line clock. The race actually finishes by going down the service entrance of the Scheel’s Arena in Fargo and finishing right on the arena floor.

Final Time – 1:29:24 – a new PR by 1 minute and 42 seconds. I can’t tell you how good this feels. At the age of 23, I ran a 1:32:52 half marathon in the first ever Fargo Half Marathon. At the time, I was over the moon to PR. I’d only been running for just over 2 years and nearly every race at that point was a big PR. My PR had dropped from 2:02 (May ’03) to 2:00 (Sept ’03) to 1:42 (May ’04) to 1:34 (Sept ’04). Hitting 1:32, though, the goal switched from just hoping to run faster than I previously had run to running under 1:30. I don’t know why to me the number stuck out as such an important figure, but 10 minute increments seem to “color” how I felt about myself as a runner (and likewise, how I felt about others as a runner). A time in the one twenties just seemed fast. There weren’t a whole lot of people that could go out and run sub-seven minutes for 13.1 consecutive miles without putting in a whole lot of training.

And then, for whatever reason, my training kinda stopped. My priorities changed. I was spending a lot of time coaching and a lot of time with my new girlfriend (and eventual wife). I trained, but not nearly as hard. The results weren’t what I hoped for them to be. In late 2007 and 2008, I had a few good training cycles. I brought my half marathon times down to 1:31:07 and ran a 1:07 10-mile race that I was really proud of. Over the next 3 years, though, I just didn’t train consistently. I gained weight, had a kid, and made a movie. I would enter a few races here and there, but would go weeks or even months in between training runs. I remember about 2 or 3 years in a row entering the Fargo Half Marathon in May where it would legitimately be my very first run I had done of the year. Not surprisingly, I ran a lot of races that were much closer to my first ever half marathons than they were to what I was capable of running.

In February 2003, when I began running, a transformation occurred within me. Physically, running made me stronger, raised my endurance, and made me shed weight and look healthier. Mentally, though, is where I fell in love with running. Running gave me a new sense of confidence. It gave me structure and taught me about being committed to something when nobody was forcing you to be. Running made me set goals and also research what could be done to achieve those goals.

Fast forward to October of 2011. After about 3 years of being a non-runner, I decided I was sick of where I was at. Here I was a guy who was helping coach one of the most successful cross country teams in history of the state of Minnesota and I was struggling to run at even 75% of what I knew I was capable of. For the last three months of the year, ran about 30 mpw (mostly on the treadmill) while coaching basketball.

2012 was the year I fell back in love with running. My training for the first three months of the year was solid especially compared with previous four years. The next three months were fairly inconsistent, but I was able to maintain a little fitness and consistently running around 40 mpw for the last half of 2012. My half marathons in 2012 showed the gradual fitness and return to where I had once been. I made steady progress going from 1:43 (May ’12) to 1:36:53 (Aug ’12) to 1:36:23 (Sept ’12) to 1:34:53 (Oct ’12).

In 2013, I made three serious running goals (and one kind of joking one). I’ve taken enough bogus, corporate “goal setting” classes to know that a good goal needs to be specific, measurable, attainable, relevant and time-bound. When setting my goals, though, I had two of the three that were rather subjective.

My one objective goal (that I can thankfully now check off the list) was to run under 1:30. My two subjective goals were to “nail my workouts and long runs” and to make “every week is a good running week.” The HR director at my former place of employment likely would’ve rejected these goals because they weren’t measurable, but they absolutely worked for me. Instead of having a specific number to hit, I just had the goal of being consistent. When I set the goals, I would’ve said that 30-40 mpw every single week would’ve been a massively good achievement. I’ve blown passed that. I’m about two and a half weeks away from surpassing 2,000 miles run for the entire year! By making the goal to be consistent every single week, I was committing to becoming a better runner for the long term. In the past, I’ve made maybe four or five specific time goals. When I would only achieve one, two or maybe none of them, would that mean that I had a good year, a bad year, or something in-between? By focusing on the journey rather than the end results, I put the emphasis on doing the work with the hope that the results would take care of themselves instead of putting the focus on the results while hoping the work was enough.

My wife's friend Ali (who completed her first half marathon), my wife, and myself after the race

My wife’s friend Ali (who completed her first half marathon), my wife, and myself after the race

Twin Cities Marathon 2013 – Race Report

mary1

Training
Going a ways back, I began running in February of 2003. I ran my first 5k in March and had been bitten by the running bug. By May of that year, I ran my first half-marathon and signed up for a full marathon. I don’t think I ran more than 40 mpw for the whole training segment and struggled home, but proudly finished my first marathon at the Twin Cities Marathon in 2003 (in 4:59:55). A few weeks later, I ran a breakout race (a 15k under 8:00/mi pace – which for me, was a pretty big deal back then). At the time, I was a 22-year old single guy living in a rural Minnesota town in my parents basement. Without many preferable options, I proceeded to train my tail off for the next year focused on improving my running times. And I did. I ran 3:57 at Grandma’s Marathon in June of 2004 before having a fantastic race at the TCM 2004 dropping over 30 minutes from my PR to 3:26:41 (a PR which stood for 9 years). Since then, I’ve run some great races (a 1:07 10 miler and 1:31 half-marathon in 2008 stand out), but many more mediocre races and mediocre to non-existent training cycles. After the 2005 TCM, I stopped running marathons altogether. During that time, I got married, switched jobs, made a movie, had a child, coached cross country and basketball for 7 months out of the year, etc. A lot things that had taken me away from running, but I always felt as though something was missing. In October of 2011, I made it a goal to start getting back into running. I wanted to try to break 1:30 in a half-marathon. I managed to get 11 weeks of semi-consistent running in and started to run some some decent workouts and races (a 1:08 15k – 7:18/mi – was a 22 second PR and a surprising age group win). Training for the first 3 months of 2012 was pretty solid and then sporatic for the last 3 months. Once June/July kicked in, though, I started to pretty regularly knock out 30-40 mile weeks with maybe 3 “bad” weeks over the course of the entire last 6 months.

2013 has been my best training year that I can ever remember. During basketball season, I was consistently hitting 30-40 mpw usually running only 3-4 days per week. I’ve been above 50 mpw for 17 out of the last 18 weeks (only time I was under was during a taper/race week). I averaged about 60 mpw for the last 15 weeks before the marathon with a peak of 70 and 7 weeks at or above 60.

Pre-Race
Headed down to the Cities on Friday night after work/XC practice. Saturday morning, we woke up thinking the weather was going to be quite crappy (rain + cold), but it turned out the weatherman was only 50% correct (no rain). This would be a common theme throughout the weekend. We brought my 3-year old daughter down to the half mile race. This is the fifth (???) kids race that she has entered, but only the second she’s run with her dad. We ran from the finish line up a hill for a quarter of a mile and did a 180 degree turn towards the finish line. After finishing, my daughter was treated to all of the amenities afforded marathon finishers (t-shirt, medal, food, pictures, etc.) Twin Cities in Motion really does a great job making running a fun event for kids. Being a coach, some people think that I am going to “nudge” my daughter in the direction of sports that I like. Having coached, though, one thing I’ve learned is that motivation for kids has to be intrinsic and not external. I really enjoy the fact that she gets excited for kids races and always wants to go running with mom and dad. I think it’s a healthy life habit and I’m proud if I in any way contribute to her making healthy life choices in the future. After all, that’s your role as a parent, isn’t it?

After the race, my extended family took off for a baby shower and my wife & I raced over to the St. Paul Xcel Center for the race expo. Picked up my bib and managed to spend a minimal amount of money (I think I spent $8 on a pair of socks and a honey stinger waffle which HAS to be an all-time low for a race expo for me!) Much of the rest of the day consisted of heading to the Mall of America to pick up a new phone (I’m a proud iPhone 5s owner now!) before heading to Olive Garden to grab some carbs.

Over the course of the last week of the race, I have to give myself credit because I feel like I did a great job staying hydrated. It felt as though me and the boys room had become close personal friends by race morning.

Race morning
I was waking up about every 90 (or so) minutes to pee all night. I woke up having to pee at 4 AM and thought I might as well eat half of my breakfast (1/2 a bagel w/ peanut butter) and down a little blue Powerade before going back to bed for an hour. At 5 AM, I woke up again for good. Ate the other 1/2 bagel w/ peanut butter, and had another water. At 6:00, I ate a Honey Waffle Stinger (or whatever they are called). I had about 45 minutes to kill, so I just cruised the internet listening to the newest Drake album on my Kindle. I wanted to get up early to give my food a chance to digest and to get the process of “carbo-unloading” moving. Nothing worst than getting two miles into a run and figuring out you’ve gotta do a “job”, right?

My little sister gave me a ride to the Metrodome and dropped me off about two blocks away. The plan was to head into the Metrodome and get in line for the bathroom right away so that I’d have time to go to the bathroom and get in line again. As I’m walking to the Metrodome, I notice a construction zone with an outhouse. Thinking nobody would mind, I snuck in and used that without waiting in line. Headed to the Metrodome to get in line (which I know normally takes about 30-45 minutes) to use the bathroom one last time. The line went a little quicker than I though. Headed to the new starting line which is moved up a couple blocks (due to Metrodome construction) than the old starting line.

Mile 1 – 7:18 – Funny story. I purchased a temporary tattoo to wear for mile splits for a 3:10 marathon. I took the time to adjust the paces (go out a little slow, allow for a little slowing during hills and last few miles). Went to put on the temporary tattoo this morning and instead of putting it on my forearm, I accidentally adhered it to the plastic backing that you are supposed to peel off. Oops! The plan was go out in 7:30-ish pace for the first two miles and eventually ease into ~7:10 pace until mile 21. This mile was probably a touch quicker than I would’ve liked, but I was running quite relaxed, so I wasn’t concerned.

Mile 2 – 7:13 (14:32) – There seemed to be a few more hills in this mile than I remembered in the past. No use in pushing up them, though, so I just maintained an even, relaxed effort.

Mile 3 – 6:59 (21:32) – Coming into this race, I kinda had a hunch that this would be the first time I’d ever run a sub-7 mile during a marathon. Feeling really good. My mind was occupied trying to pick my family out of the crowd. I told them to hang out on the left side of the road somewhere, but I never found them. I just assumed they got a little late start (which happens when you’ve got six people to cart around – including one 3-year old). I missed Alan Page (MN Vikings legend who always plays his tuba during this mile), though.

Mile 4 – 7:03 (28:35) – The first of the miles around the lakes. Although I live 3 hours away, anytime I make it down to the Cities (which is quite a bit), I try to see if I can work it out to go for a run around the Chain of Lakes. The next four miles are a great combination of lots of spectators plus beautiful sights (lakes + leaves changing colors). I’m feeling really strong. I’m noticing that the company I’m around seems to a much more serious runners (and 90-95% men from 25-55) than I typically have been in my past marathons.

Mile 5 – 7:08 (35:43) – Still feeling strong. The only thing that has me bothered is this little twinge I’ve got in my left hamstring. It didn’t hurt at all, but it was just this little strange soreness that I noticed almost right away from the start of the race. I assumed it would go away, but it’s still just kind of lingering.

Mile 6 – 7:01 (42:44) – At this point, I felt like I was running great. It seemed like there were a group of guys that were moving forward and a group of guys that were moving backwards a bit. I felt like I was hanging with the guys that were slowly, but surely swallowing up runners ahead of me. Nothing better than feeling like you are stronger than other people in the race at this point, right?

Mile 7 – 6:52 (49:37) – This would be my fastest mile of the marathon. I think I threw in about a 5 second surge in this mile because the packs were starting to thin out. I wanted to make sure I had people to run with, so I was trying to catch the group ahead of me. Again, feeling real confident. Briefly saw my family for the first time during this mile. I gave my daughter a high five on her Cinderella tambourine. This is the first full marathon I’ve run since having a child and it really gives you a jolt of energy every time I’d see her.

Mile 8 – 6:55 (56:32) – At this point, I’m way ahead of 7:15 avg pace (+1:28). I hadn’t planned on running so strong through this point, but I was feeling really great. At this point, I periodically start to see the balloons of the 3:05 pace group (Boston Qualifier!) ahead of me. I don’t think that’s going to be quite reachable, but in my mind, I’m starting to do math. I know that I’m going to slow down a touch during the hills and last few miles, but I’m confident that today is a good day and I’m going to run a great time.

Mile 9 – 6:59 (1:03:32) – One of the few miles where the crowd is a little sparse. I feel like I’m settling into a good pace, although I certainly can tell that I’m running. It’s not the “easy relaxed” pace that it was at the beginning. I mentally tell myself that it’s okay that I feel like I’m doing a little more work. Coming into the race, I plan that the first 10 (or so) miles are going to feel pretty good. The next 5 (or so) feel like a pretty good steady state run (a little fatigue in your legs, but overall you’re okay). The next 5 (or so) are definitely hard work and the last 10k is just… well, survival. Having not run a marathon in 8 years, though, I just kind of made it a goal to not mentally focus on the finish (as in, “…oh my gosh, I have 17 miles left I’m already feeling a little fatigued”) but instead to focus on just pushing another mile and seeing how many miles I can make at a decent pace. As in, making a goal of keeping the miles in the 7-7:30 range thru like 17. It seems to help because it seems like a goal that is achievable.

Mile 10 – 6:55 (1:10:27) – I always seem to get lost on the course on this mile. I know the first 5-6 miles and the last 10 miles really well, I just don’t know where I’m at. I’m thinking “is this the mile we turn right or is it the next mile?” Still feeling really good and I’m starting to do the finishing line math (7:28 pace through the finish – which seems very doable – brings me in under 3:10!).

mary2

Mile 11 – 7:02 (1:17:30) – Saw my family once again. It was a lot of fun. I think I stopped to give my daughter a kiss. It was really neat to see the excitement on her face when she realized she saw her daddy!

Mile 12 – 7:10 (1:24:40) – For the first time, there was a group of a few people that seemed like they were moving forward and it just didn’t feel like it’d be in my best long term interest of the race to go with them. I wasn’t really defeated, so to speak, but I was slightly deflated that some other people were stronger than me. That’s probably just an irrational thing I needed to not concern myself with, but when your goal is to run a fast time, anything that seems like it is going to deter from that is kind of deflating.

mary3

Mile 13 – 7:09 (1:31:49) – Popped my third gel of the run. I had six Raspberry Cliff Shots simply because it’s the most tolerable on my stomach. I don’t particularly love the texture of gels (flavor is fine), but I trained exclusively with the “Razz” flavor, so that’s what I rolled with. Was planning on taking them around 4-8-12-16-20-23. It wound up being off of that by a mile or so (depending on where water was), but I wasn’t too worried about that. Saw my family once again this mile which, once again, was awesome.

Mile 14 – 7:27 (1:39:16) – Went through the half in 1:32:xx which I felt good about. I was hoping to go through somewhere between 1:33-1:35, so I was maybe a minute quicker than I was hoping, but altogether I’m happy with the first half of the race. After seeing my family, I put the headphones on. I train almost exclusively in headphones, but I really enjoy the fan support during race day. At this point, though, I needed a little second burst that the headphones seem to give me. Ironically, when I was reading my 2004 Race Report, I realized I did the exact same thing this year as I did in 2004 (put headphones on after seeing my family because I was feeling a little crappy).

Mile 15 – 7:10 (1:46:27) – I can definitely tell that I’m transitioning into that next “stage” of the race and I know that I’m going to slow down a touch, but in my mind, I’m thinking if I can keep it in the 7:20-7:30 range until the hills, I can be very proud of myself.

mary4

Mile 16 – 7:29 (1:53:57) – I’m still okay with this. Doing the mental math, I’m thinking if I can maintain 8:00/pace or under for the past 10 miles (which, again, seems doable, I’ll come in around 3:13 or so.

Mile 17 – 7:25 (2:01:22) – I keep telling myself that every mile I can run close to 7:30 at this point buys me a little cushion towards the end. The goal is just to keep running decent miles and not have that complete fall off mile before I hit the hills. I’m well aware that I’m starting to hurt a little more than I’d like to, but I’m just trying to break the race into small chunks. Up until now, it felt like the mile markers were appearing quicker than I expected them. I’m now starting to wonder “where is that next stupid mile…”

Mile 18 – 7:44 (2:09:07) – I’m not sure why, but this section of the course always seems a touch lacking for spectators. It’s a really pretty section of the course. Physically, I’m working really hard with the goal of keeping it under 8.

Mile 19 – 7:57 (2:17:04) – Was quite proud of this mile. Although my legs are starting to really hurt, I’m mentally forcing myself to push through. Saw my family once again. My sister ran along side me for like 200 meters and told me how great I was running and how fast I was running. I replied back “…well, it’s going to get a little slower from here.” I still had some push in me, but I knew what was going on.

Mile 20 – 7:46 (2:24:50) – My proudest mile of the race possibly? I’m really hurting at this point. My little twinge that I felt in my left hamstring in the early miles is growing into something a little more prominent. On the flip side, I’m also developing a nice little muscular “surprise” in my right quadricep, my right hip, and my right calf.

elevation

Mile 21 – 8:25 (2:33:16) – This mile is where the TCM course turns into a bit of a nightmare. About 5 weeks ago, I did a 22 mile long run on this course (11 mile out-and-back from the finish line) to get reacquainted with these hills. On that run, I hit the miles from 16-19 and barely slowed. It gave me all of the confidence in the world that I would be able to charge these hills come race day. As much as I’m mentally trying to go as much as I can, my legs aren’t responding. The short steep hills at the start of this miles have awaken the parasite demons that had taken ahold of my hammys and quad. I’m pushing, but this is all I’ve got.

Mile 22 – 8:58 (2:42:15) – What a nightmare. At this point, I had to walk for the first time. The cramps had turned into randomly shooting pains that felt like I had shards of glass right underneath my skin. I was holding off of walking as long as I could, but at a certain point, I had to give in. Plus, I actually figured out if I would do a 1:00-1:30 run followed by a 30 second walk, I was actually moving faster than if I just tried to grin and bear it.

Mile 23 – 9:28 (2:51:43) – A little more walking this mile, but I’m still running more than I’m walking. I ran into one of my former cross country runners from Perham – Phillip Nelson. We are taking turns passing each other while we are each doing the run/walk while fighting our cramps. I’m getting mad at myself because my brain isn’t functioning at 100% anymore and I can’t remember if the hills end right when you hit 23 or 24.

Mile 24 – 10:24 (3:02:08) – At this point, every time goal has gone away except for one. I want to break my 3:26:41 PR. Earlier this summer, I ran a half-marathon with hopes of breaking 1:30. I got a little “lost” in what my pace was (I thought I was a minute ahead of what I really was). About 11-12 miles into the race, I became somewhat disengaged because I realized I wasn’t going to break 1:30. I wound up running 1:31:10 which is 3 seconds off of my all-time half marathon PR. I was really disappointed by myself because I didn’t salvage a race that didn’t go ideally into at least a PR which I easily could have. I wasn’t going to let that happen again.

Mile 25 – 10:47 (3:12:56) – My saddest moment of the race. I was doing my 1:00 run, 30 second walk. I started running again and a spectator looked at me with puppy dog eyes that were almost trying to say “good for you” like I was some sort of hero for deciding to try to run again. I was kinda sad because it wasn’t like I was consciously making the decision to “try” again after giving up (which it seems like some people are when they are walking near the end of races). I was just trying to manage my cramping situation. I had a ton of fight in me… my body just wasn’t responding. In the situation, it felt like taking these short little breaks were the only way to avoid a complete muscle seizure of a hammy or quad (which, at this point, seemed entirely like a possibility).

Mile 26 – 9:57 (3:22:53) – Finally some freaking downhill! I had fears that my 10:24 and 10:27 miles were going to turn into a 12:xx mile this time which would put my PR in jeopardy. I was gritting my teeth through much of this mile when I remembered what I always tell XC runners who are looking tough in the latter stages of a race. Relax your face! My body was working as hard as I can ever recall working at this point in the race, but gritting my teeth and clenching my fists wasn’t going to help me run any faster. That simple piece of advice seemed to work as I ran almost a minute faster than the last mile! As I started coming down the hill where the finish line was visible, all I could think of was the Boston Marathon and how messed up it was that those two jerks had the audacity to ruin what is the celebration of months (and sometimes a lifetime!) of hard work between friends, relatives and complete strangers. There is no more powerful feeling than finishing a marathon. It really bothered me to think that after all of the hard work, suffering, and comradeship enjoyed between the runners and spectators that someone would take that away from them.

Last 0.2 – 1:42 – Here’s an indication of how turned off my brain was in this race. I could see the finish line and I was wondering how far (time was) I was away. Even though, may I remind you that I ran an 800 meter out and back (400 out, 400 back) with my three year old daughter on this exact spot YESTERDAY. I managed to finish out this last bit of the race with no walking. I couldn’t help but feel terrible for a guy who was cramped up and not moving with less than 50 meters left in the race. I was tempted to say “screw my PR” and go help him get to the finish. Maybe I should’ve done it. Had he not been on the opposite side of the course, I think I may have.

Finish – 3:24:36 – First things first – a NEW PR by 2:05! In the past, I’ve been guilty of not celebrating a PR simply because I felt like I didn’t run quite as well as I would’ve liked to. Yesterday, I certainly didn’t finish the race in the way I had planned. With 8 years away from the marathon, I think I have forgotten that feeling of having nothing left that (inevitably) you feel at the end of a marathon. I was reminded that in a big way yesterday. I hurt more than I can recall ever hurting in a marathon, but I never felt like I gave up the fighting spirit. I was very determined to get across the line even though there were portions of the race (mile 22-23, especially) that I just didn’t know if it was possible. I am enjoying the PR, though. It wasn’t what I wanted, but you never know when you are going to set your lifetime PR. When I ran 3:26 in 2004, I was sure it was inevitable that I would be running at the Boston Marathon in no time. I had no idea that it would take me 8 years to drop just a touch over two minutes from that time.

Other positives I take out of the race. Although it wasn’t the 3:10-3:15 I was hoping for and I didn’t even managed to sneak into the 3:19:xx range (which just seems so much faster than even 3:20:01), I managed to run a respectable time with a horrible last five miles! It makes me optimistic that if I can put the last few miles together (big if!), I have a faster time (and maybe someday even a BQ time) in me. Should I ran the last 5 miles as fast as I ran the last 5 miles in 2004, I would’ve finished in 3:18:50. That’s not even factor in any improvement. Just simply doing what I have done in the last 5 miles of a race before (which certainly seems achievable).

Over the next few days, I’m going to try to enjoy a little downtime. I’m sore, so I’m going to take a couple days off of running. Maybe Wednesday I’ll come back with a really slow, short recovery run. I have no intention of doing anything of any quality or distance for 7-10 days. In two weeks, I’m going to see if my legs are recovered another to take another crack at a sub-1:30 half marathon. That will basically rap up my 2013 racing. I’m going to take a few days to come up with a plan for next year, but I would like to try to consistently run during basketball season (which will probably mean a lot of 4:30-5:00 AM alarm clocks as to not take away from time with my family). The last time I was running on a similar level to where my fitness is at right now (2008), I just sorta stopped running and it didn’t take long for everything to just go away.

I’ve got to take a step back and evaluate what went wrong. I’m not sure if I went out a touch too fast or didn’t quite have a good balance of carbs or electrolytes. I felt like my body failed me more than my mind. The cramps were the biggest contributing factor to me not running the time I would’ve wanted to, so that’s something I might try to address in training. I think the next go around, I’m going to switch up my training a little bit. I don’t necessarily think I need to run a ton more miles. I may look back at switching to the Pfitz plan rather than the Hanson’s plan I loosely followed (minus the long runs) this go round. I also need to look at maybe some salt tabs or something that will help alleviate cramping for the next go around. I feel like at this time next year, should everything go well, I may have a shot at running a BQ (3:05). I want to make sure that I put myself in the best possible position from a nutrition and hydration standpoint.

I don’t want to drain the batteries, but I am enjoying running more than I ever have in my life. Just six months ago, I was just getting out of the hospital for getting 11 (!!!) inappropriate shocks from my defibrillator (long story, but I have a defibrillator because I had a cardiac arrest in 2001) and getting put on a beta-blocker (Sotalol) that made it nearly impossible for me to run (Over the course of a few weeks, I went from easily running 10 miles at 6:30 pace on the treadmill to struggling to run 8:00 pace while completely fresh). After a miserable month on the drug that made running impossible and made me fall asleep while eating supper or watching tv (around 6-7 PM at night), the doctor agreed to let me go off the drug. I feel lucky to be alive, healthy, and be able to enjoy a hobby that I love while my family that I adore is able to be there to support me.

Special thanks to the Perham XC team which inspires me daily through their collective hard work. Being around them every day makes you want to strive for greatness (even if greatness for some of us isn’t measured using the same measuring stick as that of an elite runner).

Also, big thanks to my family. It isn’t always easy to schedule a 16-22 mile run in every weekend, but my wife is a true sport. As much as I hate waking up at 5:30 AM (in 2004, I’d start runs whenever I woke up rather than having some sort of schedule), it was great to be married to someone who enables you to continue to achieve your dreams. It’s not just running. The combination of running and coaching 6-7 months out of the years means there are a lot of times, I’m unavailable. I hope that I am able to give back to her as much as she gives to me. I truly feel blessed.

Lastly, I wanted to say a special thank you to the guys hanging out over on the sub-1:30 and sub-3:10 forums on Runners World. I am checking it constantly during my lunch break. Outside of cross country, I do 90% of my running on my own, but it truly makes me feel a part of a training group. It was really cool to check the message boards and see that a bunch of guys went out of their way to follow my race yesterday and truly felt like they had a vested interest in me doing well. I think part of my resurgence as a runner is due to feeling like I belong and feeling responsible to post my miles every single week. It’d be kind of embarrassing to come on a running message board and say “I haven’t run in the last 12 days” or something like that. Thanks for keeping me accountable and more than that, thanks for all of the support, advice and encouragement along the way.

cert-finish

Twin Cities Marathon Preview

TC_Marathon

The last time I ran the Twin Cities Marathon, I was running my third consecutive Twin Cities Marathon. The first race was unique for both the incredible achievement of finishing my first marathon along with the incredible amount of suffering I endured over the last four miles to get there. I barely snuck under the five hour barrier with a 4:59:55. The following year, I really stepped up my training both in volume and intensity. I was able to drop to what remains my marathon PR of 3:26. The following year, I was hoping to run a similar time. However, the day before the meet, I went to a cross country meet, ate some deli sandwiches (that, unbeknownst to me were unfrozen from cross country summer camp in July!!!) and spent the next few hours throwing up. I finished the marathon the following day, but I decided to jog it with friends rather than race for time.

And then, 7 Twin Cities Marathon’s passed. I didn’t run for various reasons. For the past 27 months, though, I’ve been relatively consistent with my training and decided it was time once again to put my hat in the ring. I’ve put in an incredible 18 weeks of training (maybe the best training cycle I’ve ever done). One of the things I love about running and specifically marathon training is you can’t fake it. If you run a good race, it’s because you put in the training. And whether I have a good race or not, I’ve put in a lot of work (to the tune of over 1,700 miles thus far in 2013 and an average of 60.8 miles per week for the 18 weeks leading up to this.) Trying to be a good employee, husband, dad, and coach during while doing all that running is sometimes tough work. Over the course of the 18 weeks, I rarely slept past 5:30 AM on weekend days when I had a long run. On days I didn’t, I was often up by 7 AM to get up with my daughter (since my wife was waking up with her on days I was running long). I did multiple workouts on the treadmill – sometimes as many as 11-12 miles – before work meaning I was waking up at 4:30 AM. No fun, but in order to put myself in a position to run as fast as I was hoping to run, it was necessary.

Thus far, all of the training hasn’t led to any race PRs this year. I’ve run my 2nd, 4th, and 6th fastest half marathon’s I’ve ever run (and I came within 3 seconds of setting a new half marathon PR). Hopefully, Sunday will be my first PR of 2013.

For those of you who haven’t run (or watched) the Twin Cities Marathon before, it quite simply lives up to the moniker of the Most Beautiful Urban Marathon! The combination of downtown Minneapolis, the chain of lakes, the fall colors, running alongside the Mississippi River, historic Summit Avenue in St. Paul along with the beautiful finish in front of the state capitol along with the thousands upon thousands of cheering spectators makes for something fun and unique to see every single mile. The hardest part of the course for most runners is miles 21-24 which is consists of a big hill followed by close to two miles of false flat (looks flat but you are really going up a steady gradual uphill) on Summit Avenue. A month ago, I did a 22 mile run on the last 11 miles of the course (out and back) to get a good feel of the hills since it’s been 8 years since I’ve last run the course. The run went fantastic. I averaged 7:54/mi barely slowing for the hills. I felt incredibly strong like I had much more left in the tank. More than any other run, that run gave me confidence that I’m capable of running a fast marathon this weekend.

If you want to follow my race, you can click on this link on Sunday. My bib number is 1528 and my name is (obviously) Brent Hanson. Alternatively, you can sign up here to receive text message updates on my times.