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.
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.
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!).
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.
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.
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.
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.