Twin Cities Marathon 2009 Race Report

It seems like all my marathon race reports start off with, “Not the 3:40 something I was hoping for . . .” Same goes for this one.

The quick details:

bib number: F566
age: 38
gender: F
location: Minnetrista, MN
overall place: 2705 out of 8429
division place: 132 out of 543
gender place: 749 out of 3558
time: 3:57:49
pace: 9:02
chip time: 3:56:49
5k: 25:34
10k: 51:19
half: 1:48:57
30k: 2:37:13
20 mile: 2:49:50

There are lots of reasons that I should be happy about this race:

* It’s almost a 19 minute improvement over my previous best attempt.

* I didn’t have any issues with my right foot, or with the hurty feet (PF?) issue.

* I felt aerobically strong. Heart rate was good (better than previous marathons). I never felt like the pace was too challenging. I felt like I could sustain it, aerobically, through 26.2 miles.

* I did have fun for the first 19 miles this time – saw the scenery, enjoyed the crowds, etc.

But the reasons that I’m not happy about the race are the things that are sticking with me right now:

* I didn’t reach my goal time of 3:45:59.

* Both my calves cramped up at mile 19-20ish and continued to be cramped up for the balance of the race – and I can’t figure out why it happened.

* I didn’t have fun the last 7 miles of the race. I walked and stopped a ton. I didn’t finish strong.

* I was having very negative thoughts from mile 20 – 26.2. I was mad at my calves. I was mad at myself. I wanted to quit.

I know that each race is a learning experience. So the first thing I need to do is write this report so that I can remember what happened each mile and see if I can figure out what went wrong. I will also look back over the past few weeks of training and see if I can figure anything out – stay tuned for an exciting blog entry about that at some point.


Woke up at 4:00, about 15 minutes before alarm was to go off, so I just got up. I did not have a good night sleeping. I could not fall asleep. Tried to go to bed at 9:30 and didn’t fall asleep until almost 1:00. Between 1:00 and 4:00, I woke up every 45 minutes and it took me about 10 minutes each time to fall back asleep. So I got less than 3 hours sleep. I have always been SUPER awful about sleeping before big events. When I was a kid I couldn’t fall asleep before the first night of school, or on Christmas Eve. As an adult, I can’t fall asleep the night before vacations, big trials or important court hearings, and races. I can’t shut my mind off. I am so anxious for the event that I can’t sleep. It’s a problem that I don’t know how to deal with. I try to read a book to distract myself and get tired, but the second I lay in bed I start thinking about the event again. When I was laying there at midnight and still hadn’t fallen asleep, I started to get mad at myself, thinking “Great – you are going to ruin this BQ attempt because you are so frickin anal that you can’t relax and get sleep – all those weeks of training ruined because you can’t sleep”. When I got up at 4:00 though, I didn’t feel horrible or tired. I actually felt sort of rested (versus at Grandma’s this summer – when I only got 2 hours of sleep and it was in a strange hotel, I felt tired and horrible). Anyway, this is an issue I need to get figured out.

Ryan and the kids dropped me off at the Dome at about 6:50. Stretched, tried to relax and went to the bathroom 3 times! Got into corral 1 about 7:45 and lined up next to the 3:40 pacer. The people that were around him looked different than at Grandma’s or at TCM last year (in corral 2). There were way more men than women.

Temperature was about 42 degrees, partly cloudy and a slight wind. I was wearing a short sleeve top and my arm warmers. It felt good at the start, but in less than 2 miles my arm warmers were rolled down and I was too warm with them (though by the end of the race I was chilled and would have pulled them back up if I had thought to do it).

Miles 1 – 8:

I was in the 3:40 pace group, behind the pacer. It was crowded and there was a lot of jockeying to keep up with him and to avoid running into people. Lots of elbowing and wasting energy. It was hard to spot my family spectating because I was in the middle of a big crowd and had to pay more attention to running in front of me than to looking at the spectators/scenery. The other thing that was really irritating was a bunch of orange cone things that were right in the middle of the course. They were these tall orange cone like things that the City of Mpls has in there for some reason and they can’t be removed. They went on for the first couple of miles. The pacer was running just to the right of them and the crowd around him was so big that you didn’t see the cones until you were right up on them. People kept running into them and dodging around (and into other runners) to avoid them. Lots of wasted energy. The pacer was going a bit faster than pace (8:23) and had told the group by the 1/2 he would have about 50 seconds banked and by the 20 mile mark about 1 1/2 minutes banked. Sounded good to me, since I figured that I would fade a bit the last 6 miles anyway. The faster pace felt fine aerobically and physically, so all was good.

Saw Ryan and the kids at mile 4.75 and just past mile 8. They yelled out to me, or I would have missed them. Seeing their smiles and hearing their cheers was a big boost.

Miles 9 – 15:

Just before mile 9 I ended up ahead of the 3:40 pace group. They had slowed down at a water stop and I had my handheld full of water (I had taken cups from a previous water stop and filled it), so I kept going and figured they would catch up. I ended up staying just ahead of them for miles 9 – 15 because it felt SO much better not to be in the middle of the crowd and jockeying for position. I knew they were right behind me because I could hear the spectators cheering, “Go 3:40 runners”. So I wasn’t worried about going to fast. I was able to enjoy the scenery and look at the spectators, while still maintaining pace. I felt great. I kept telling myself, “Wow – this feels great. Don’t get crazy and go fast. Stay just ahead of the 3:40 group. You’re going to do this.” There was one point (I think over the bridge at Nokomis) where the wind hit and I was by myself and thought it would actually have been better to be in the pack so they could break up the wind, but it wasn’t horrible.

I missed seeing Ryan and the kids at 12 miles. They saw me after I passed and had been looking for me behind the 3:40 pacer, so I took them by surprise and they couldn’t shout out in time. I saw some work peeps here though and got huge cheers from them (one of them is running MCM in 2 weeks and planning 3:40 pace as well).

Mile 15 – 18:

The 3:40 pace group caught back up with me when I slowed down at a water stop to refill my bottle (It worked well for me to undo the top, grab a water cup and dump it in, grab another and dump it in and repeat 3 or 4 times; I could have stopped and had volunteer refill, like I have done previously, but I didn’t like the idea of coming to a complete stop because I was worried that I wouldn’t be able to restart). More jockeying in the group and I was a little irritated by that. But still, I knew it was better to have the pacer do the thinking for me than to rely on my watch and keep looking down at it. Oh – that reminds me – when I hit the lap button at mile 8 garmin said “Lap Data almost full; Delete older lap history” or something like that. Momentary freak out for me, but then at mile 9 it still recorded my split and it continued to do it for the balance of race. Anyone know how many laps it can record once it gives that warning? Good reminder to me to clear out old history more frequently! Plus, since I had the pacer and had a 3:45 pace band on, I wasn’t worried.

I saw Ryan and the kids at mile 17. I was still on pace, with the 3:40 group, but was a little less fresh than earlier. He asked how I was doing and I remember saying “eh” because I didn’t really know how I was doing. I remember feeling happy that I was still with the group, on pace and not having any foot issues, but I also remember thinking that I still had almost 10 miles to go, so I wasn’t super happy.

At one point in here I thought maybe the right foot issue was starting, so I stopped and did a quick tightening of the shoe lace and felt better. I think I was just imagining it. Stopping for 15 seconds to re-tie the shoe probably helped me mentally more than physically, because then I didn’t worry about the right foot for the rest of the race.

Mile 19-20:

Both of my calves started cramping up. I wasn’t sure what was going on, so I decided to slow a bit and see if that would help. The 3:40 group sailed on ahead of me and I was disappointed, but not devastated because I thought I was still ok and knew that I could still run with the other 3:40 pace group that was in corral 2 and still BQ. Slowing didn’t help. My calves were still cramping. The 2nd 3:40 pace group went flying by me (wow – he seemed to be going really fast!) I tried not to panic and just keep going. I knew there was a timing mat and clock at mile 20, so I pushed on because I wanted to see where I was at mile 20 so I could compare it to the 3:45 pace band that I had on. The clock said 2:51:xx. I knew I started about a minute after the gun and for BQ pace band said I should be at 2:51:37, so I still felt like it was a possibility. I needed to stop and stretch the legs and try to stop the cramping, so I stopped right after the 20 mile mat and stretched them out on the curb and against a tree.

Right after I got going again, I saw 2 of my Girls 10 group friends (Amy and Susie) and their kids. They knew I needed to be with the 2nd 3:40 group to BQ, so they were shouting that I was still in it, that the 3:40 groups were just ahead of me, and that I was still on track. Very encouraging to see them. But the cramping continued and I stopped again during mile 20 to stretch. I still thought I could salvage things if the cramping would stop.

Miles 21 – 25:

The cramping continued. I knew a BQ wasn’t going to happen. I was pissed. I was stopping several times each mile to stretch my calves and my IT bands (both started hurting about mile 22). I was thinking negative thoughts. I was thinking how stupid it was to run a marathon. I was thinking, “What’s the point?” I wanted to quit. Like literally walk off the race course and quit, which surprised me because even though my first 2 marathons sucked because of injuries and the weather, and I certainly wanted to be done, I didn’t want to quit in them. I wanted to quit this time.

The hill from mile 21 – 23 sucked. I tried to go into it with a positive attitude and think, “if you can tackle this hill, you can finish strong. You can do it.” But it sucked. I was swearing to myself (but out loud) and thinking, “you have got to be f’ing kidding me; what a horrible place to put a hill.”

The crowd at the St. Thomas turn wasn’t as loud and irritating to me this year as it was last year. There was a guy running in front of me that was waving his arms trying to get the crowd pumped up and the crowd would react and go nuts for him. It actually made me laugh out loud and energized me a bit and made me kick it in. (Which is a good thing because it turns out that Channel 11 news got footage of him and I’m right behind him “running like the wind” according to a couple people that have contacted me to tell me they saw me on the news).

Mile 22 I saw Amy and Susie again. I gave them a distressed look and Susie jumped in and ran with me for a couple minutes, patting my back, asking what was going on, telling me this was a good pace that I was going at (about 10:00!) and that I could finish at that pace and still have a strong time. Susie has run marathons (pre-kids) and qualified for Boston, so it was encouraging to have her there. But I felt like crap and didn’t think I could even maintain that pace because I knew I would have to keep stopping to deal with my legs.

I had to stop to stretch the calves and IT bands, because I felt like I was going to collapse if I didn’t. And when I stretched it would feel a little better. But then every time I started back up running, I would get a pain shooting through my lower back and feel like I was going to collapse because of that. So I would walk for a few paces, then start jogging. Then stop and stretch. Repeat. Again and again.

Mile 24 I saw blogger Matt and gave him a distressed look and shake of the head because I wasn’t at my goal time anymore. He was encouraging me to keep with it, shouting that I was well under a sub 4 and to keep going. I didn’t have confidence that I could even do that, I was stopping so much and things were feeling worse by the minute. I walked and stopped a lot mile 24 and right after mile 25 marker because I wanted to compose myself for my family and cheering section at mile 25.2.

Mile 25.2

I could see the bright pink signs and my family lined up way down the block. It energized me and I started waving and smiling. I felt like crap and was disappointed, but it’s hard not to smile when there are so many of them and when they have so darn many bright pink signs! 3 of my aunts were in from California for the week, 2 of my local aunts/uncles were there, Ryan and the kids and Meg’s friend Maddie were there, my sister and niece (happy 15th birthday Tara!) were there, my parents were there, my parents friends and neighbors were there. That’s at least 15 people that were lined up in a row, holding bright pink signs, holding their hands out for me to slap and taking pictures. Very cool. I slapped the kids hands and continued on my way.

Mile 25.2 – 26.2

At the mile 25 clock I saw that I needed to run the last segment in less than 15 minutes, and I would be sub-4. I thought it was possible, but still wasn’t convinced. I was energized from seeing the family, but hurting. The downhill made me feel like my legs were going to buckle and I as going to collapse. I had to stop twice and stretch my calves. So many people were flying by me the last 1/2 a mile, it was disappointing not to finish strong. But I kept telling myself to just keep moving forward and not to walk anymore. I had one little burst of energy at the end when I saw that I would, indeed, be under 4 hours. When I crossed the mat I put my arms up instead of immediately stopping garmin, thinking I could maybe get a decent finish photo out of this race! We’ll see.

After the race I was not feeling good. I was freezing cold, off balance and a bit delirious. Ryan was calling me on my cell to try to meet me and he later told me that I told him I was on the downtown side of the road, walking towards the capital. Ooops – I meant I was NOT on the downtown side of John Ireland and that big thing I was walking towards was the Cathedral, not the Capital. 🙂

Walked back to the condo and sat outside watching the rest of the runners. Saw my friend Shelly finish sub-5 and saw my brother’s friend Melissa.


Had my normal pre-race oatmeal, 1/2 a glass of water, 1 cup of coffee and this time I also did a 1/2 of an english muffin with peanut butter. I added the english muffin because I thought maybe the 150 calories from oatmeal wasn’t enough nourishment. I think this food strategy was better this time. But I wonder if the water strategy wasn’t enough (I usually do one big pint glass; this time I did 1/2 of one because I didn’t want to stop at the porta potty on the course. I wonder if I didn’t have enough fluid in me??)

I had gels at mile 5, 10.5, 16 and 20. I took a sip of powerade sometime between 20 – 23. I think I drank 3 of my handhelds of water and sipped out of cups a couple times. I weighed myself post race and was down to 119 (normally 121, though I didn’t weigh myself pre-race because we don’t have a scale at home). So maybe I wasn’t drinking enough?

My splits:

1-8:45 (167) (176) But this mile was long, 1.08, so it was 8:07 pace
2-8:03 (175) (181)
3-8:18 (180) (184)
4-8:06 (182) (186)
5-7:45 (183) (187)
6-8:45 (182) (185) long mile again, so 8:12 pace
7-8:36 (181) (187) long mile again, 8:12 pace
8-7:50 (180) (183) short mile, 8:12 pace
9- 8:27(179) (183)
10-8:21 (176) (181)
11-8:21 (176) (181)
12-8:36 (176) (180)little bit long, 8:22 pace
13-8:33 (175) (179)same, 8:24 pace
14-8:33 (175) (180)same, 8:24 pace
15-8:13 (176) (178)
16-8:26 (176) (179)
17-8:54 (173) (177)
18-9:01 (171) (174)
19 and 20- 9:03 average (168) (172) forgot to hit lap button; calf cramping started
21- 9:18 (166) (172) stopped a couple times, slowed, cramping of calves
22-10:17 (166) (172) all kinds of stopping, walking for rest of miles
23-11:33 (155) (163)
24-11:59 (146) (155)
25-11:20 (151) (165)
26-10:18 (157) (166) a bit faster to try to salvage sub-4 hour
.2 – 2:06 (162) (164) (8:47 pace for last segment)

After the race was over and Ryan and I were walking back to the condo I told him I was never running another marathon again. Today I’m thinking about when I’ll do the next one and what I’ll do differently.

Click on slide show for more photos:

Twin Cities Marathon 2009

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