Twin Cities Marathon 2011 Race Report: PR & BQ!

Twin Cities Marathon 2011 was marathon #8 for me and my 4th time running Twin Cities.  I love that I FINALLY don’t have to start a race report off with “Once again, this wasn’t the race that I was hoping for”.  This WAS the race that I was hoping for.  My performance, both in terms of time and in terms of laying it all out there, left me with a big grin on my face and a very satisfied feeling!

The details:

  • 3:42:19!  (8:30 pace)
  • 7 minutes 21 second PR!
  • 393 out of 3675 females
  • 1674 out of 8530 overall
  • 47 of 509 females age 40-44
Now settle in, grab yourself your favorite beverage and a snack, and get ready for the long-winded scoop on how the day went down.  Or click “mark as read” in your reader and move on to another blog!

My training:

My training was completely different this time around.  For my previous 7 marathons I had followed a plan (low heart rate, Daniels, or Pfitz; with varying peak mileage) and I trained completely on my own – as in 100% of my runs were by myself.  This time I trained with a group of fabulous, speedy runners from Chanhassen Life Time Fitness and had an incredibly motivating, inspirational and knowledgeable coach, Coach MB.  I am 100% convinced that the training I had for this marathon is why I had such a fabulous race.

My race strategy:

My goal was around a 3:37, which would mean about an 8:11 pace (since TCM always measures long for me, about 26.55).  I had planned on about 8:20 pace to 10k, 8:10 pace to the HM point, 8:05 pace til mile 20, hanging on for the hills through 23, then kicking it in sub-8:00 to get me to 3:37.  Obviously based on my time, things didn’t go as planned, but ended up good anyway!

Pre-race:

Those of you who have been following my blog for awhile know that I have major sleep issues, which usually leave me tossing and turning the night before a race.  I get SO excited and/or worked up about the race that my mind won’t shut off.  Well, this time I took an epsom bath and started reading a book about 7:30 p.m. and by 8:30 I was SO tired that I decided to try going to sleep. I fell asleep instantly!  Woke up every couple of hours, but was able to fall right back asleep.  Alarm went off at 4:00 a.m. and was SO happy to feel rested and have had 7 1/2 hours of sleep (which is about 1 1/2 hours more than I normally get a night!).  The first words out of my mouth (to Norah, my dog) when the alarm went off were “RACE DAY!  Today is the day, Norah!”

From the moment I woke up I really felt like it was my day.  I didn’t just hope it was going to be a good day, I knew it would be!

Probably TMI for you, but by race start time I had gone to the bathroom at least a dozen times and made sure that I was completely good to go and wouldn’t need to stop to pee or with GI issues.  This was huge for me because in many of my previous marathons I develop GI issues and NEED a porta potty ASAP.  I felt like I would have no GI worries.

Although my training group and my Girls 10 group (who were all running the TC 10 Mile) were all meeting beforehand, I decided to just do my own thing, which included hanging out in the Dome Mall of America Field and relaxing, numerous bathroom breaks and some light stretching.  No warm up.  I was going out slow enough in my early miles that I didn’t think any sort of warm up was necessary.

Race Start:

I was in corral 2 because I forgot to submit my time for corral 1 in time.  I was a little bummed about this, but made my way right up to the front of corral 2, so all was good.  The only bummer about it is then when you cross the finish line the time on the clock is way off from your actual time, which screws up photos and just doesn’t look as cool.  I did like that for most of the race I was passing people, instead of being passed like I was when I was in corral 1 in previous years.

The weather felt cold, but it was actually on the warmer side for preferred marathon start.  It was about 45 and a tiny bit windy.  I did opt for arm warmers with my tank, and throw away gloves, so that I’d be more comfortable in the early miles.  It was supposed to heat up to about low/mid 60’s by race end (it got hotter, about 71/72 at race end), so I planned on just rolling them down or throwing them to my family.

My Song of the Day:  Black Eyed Peas I’ve Got a Feeling.  They played it in the corral and I heard it at least 1/2 a dozen times along the course.  I would change the words in my mind and sing “Today’s the day. . .  I’ve got a feeling today’s gonna be a good good day.”  And it WAS!  It pumped me up every time I heard this song along the course!
Miles 1-3.1 (25:29 elapsed time)  (8:12 pace avg) (8:25, 8:14, 8:21)

Started off a little faster than I wanted to be.  I had to make a conscious effort to slow myself down.  I felt good.  I was taking in the crowd, gave a shout out to Justice Alan Page playing his tuba at mile 2.75, and was high-fiving little kids when I went by.

The miles were measuring a bit long, so when I would hit my lap button at the marker, it would register actual time slower than the pace I was actually going.  I figured it would all balance out in the end, so I wasn’t worried.

Mile 4 – 6.2 (51:09 elapsed time) (8:14 pace avg) (8:10; 8:12; 8:10)

Even though my plan had been to hold an 8:20 pace through 10k, I decided to alter my strategy and pick it up.  My rationale:  I was feeling good and it was going to rapidly warm up so I wanted to bang out some faster miles than planned because I figured the hills and heat would slow me down and my original strategy to go faster in the later miles wouldn’t work.  Good call, I think.

I was still loving the crowd, smiling, enjoying the day.  I was very relaxed and just going with the flow.

Mile 7 – 13.1 (1:48:17 elapsed time) (8:16 avg pace) (7:59; 8:17; 8:15; 8:26; 8:16; 8:18; 8:22)

More of the same.  Relaxed.  Enjoying the crowd.  Loving some of the signs (“If Bachman can run, so can you”;  “Behind every great runner is an even better family!” “26.2 because 26.3 is crazy”).  Having fun with the little kids. Fueling according to plan.

About mile 12 I started to feel like my breathing was harder than it should be.  I started wondering whether I should back off the pace a bit.  I did decide to back off a bit and then almost immediately saw Kelli H., one of the girls I was training with who had a very similar time goal as mine, but she started in corral 1.  I ran with her for a minute, but she was picking up the speed because she was off pace a bit, so I decided just to keep her in sight for awhile (which made me maintain pace/speed up, instead of backing off like I thought I would).  It was VERY motivational to see a familiar face while running.  It made me reflect on just how awesome my training group was, how I wanted to hang in there so I could make them proud, and how lucky I was to have found such a great group of runners and friends.

Mile 14-15 (8:46; 8:09)

Miles 14 and 15 were hard for me.  I was starting to get tired and lose concentration.  I worried a bit that it was feeling harder than it should and that I had SO far to go still.  I tried not to think of the miles I had in front of me, but it was hard.  I thought of my friend Jen, who hasn’t been able to run in 5 1/2 months and how is recovering from a painful hip surgery.  I thought about running for her, because she would give anything to be out there racing hard.  I tried to mentally focus because I know Jen is able to do that in tough conditions.

I knew that my mom was planning on coming to mile 15, so I kept concentrating on that.  I told myself to stay strong til I saw her at mile 15, then reassess.  It was GREAT to see her and a bright pink runnin-from-the-law sign at about mile 15.25.   After I saw her I got a new little burst of energy/motivation!  Thanks mom!

Mile 16 – 20 (2:46:57 elapsed time) (8:20 pace) (8:30; 8:31; 8:40; 8:42)

I knew I was slower than my original plan on these miles, and they felt harder than I wanted them to, but I wasn’t worried.  I wasn’t thinking ahead to needing to make up time or anything like that.  I was just taking each mile as they came and working hard at staying focused, relaxed and just moving forward.  Usually this part of the marathon is the slowest for me and it seems like it takes FOREVER.  This time it went by fairly fast.  Thanks, in part, due to the entertainment of Rupert, the Dude In The Suit.

Did anyone see him?  HILARIOUS!  Dude wore a black business suit and tie, a sweatband in his hair, and his running shoes.  He had “Rupert.  Dudeinthesuit” in white lettering on his back.  The crowd LOVED him and he loved the crowd.  He hammed it up every step of the way, pumping up the crowd, responding to their comments, stopping and dancing when we would go by bands, etc.  He took my mind off of the work I was putting in. Eventually I went ahead of him (he finished 4:30:xx, so he must have totally hammed it up on Summit).

Somewhere along here was the only time I got really irritated during the whole marathon (though I didn’t let out an F bomb!).  There was a lady with a sign that said, “1 in every 100 runners poops their pants.  R U that 1?”  Now I’m sure she just thought she was funny, but it pissed me off because it made me think about the GI issues that I normally have in marathons.  And I worried, for a second, that thinking about the issues would make them come true.  So I quickly pushed it out of my mind, but was briefly irritated.  (I saw her again at mile 22 and was briefly irritated again).  Dumb sign!

Just before the 20 mile timing mat (actually before every timing mat), I gave it a little burst of speed because I thought of all my blog readers, friends and family who were tracking me and I wanted to have my time be better for them!  So thank you for tracking me!

Right at mile 20 I saw one of my Girls 10 friends, Sue, who had run the 10 mile.  She ran with me for about 1/10th of a mile and encouraged me to stay strong.  SO great to see her. Right after that I saw my aunt/godmother Kate.  Again, a much needed boost at a time when I needed it.  I do remember crossing the 20 mile mat and thinking “Wow.  I’m not exhausted.  I haven’t hit a wall.  I’m ok.  I can do this.”

Mile 21-24 (3:22:46 elapsed time) (8:41; 9:06; 8:46; 8:40)

This is the hilly part of the course.  What a horrible time for it to come.  It’s not terribly steep, but it hurts because of the time it comes in the race and because it is so long and gradual.  I literally took each step and each mile at a time.  Just kept telling myself to move forward, stay strong and relaxed, shorten my step, etc.  I reminded myself that we had trained on these very hills in much hotter conditions and that I could do it.  I was pleased with my results!

It was getting much warmer and the sun was getting to me(full sun all day, unless we ran in the shaded spots, which I tried to do and which might account for the course measuring long).  After the race when I changed I noticed sun burn in the pattern of my tank!

LOVE rounding the St. Thomas corner and turning on to Summit.  So beautiful, so filled with fall colors and so full of wonderful, enthusiastic spectators!

Fall colors on Summit Ave.

Around mile 23 I was looking for Shep’s parents, but never saw them.  I did think about Shep and it DID power me through some parts of the marathon.  I thought about his mom and how she would probably give anything to be in my position, where her greatest challenge was feeling tired and sore and having to run 26.2 miles.  I thought about what a cute face and positive/innocent attitude Shep has with his cancer and treatment.  And I told myself that if Shep and his family can deal with the things they are dealing with, that I could certainly bust out a few more miles.

Right around mile 23 I also saw my training buddy, Kelly H. again.  I saw her stop and walk and stretch.  I shouted out to her “C’mon Kelly, you’ve got this” as I went by her.  I SO wanted her to catch up to me and run with me, because I didn’t want her to be struggling, which I knew she must be.  Part of me thought I should stop and run with her and encourage her, because that’s what we all did in training runs.  But, coach had also talked with us about the race being individual and I knew that if I slowed I might not ever speed back up, so I just went ahead.  Even though she was off the time that she wanted, she ended up with an 8 minute PR!

Mile 24 felt SO hard.  I wanted to be going sub-8 but just didn’t have it in me.  I was hot and ready to be done.  I didn’t look at my overall running time, so didn’t know what I was on pace for.  I just gave it everything I had and told myself that was all I could do.  People were seeing my name on my bib (in stickers) and shouting “go cindi” and it really really helped me move forward!

Mile 25 – finish (9:03; 8:38; 2:01 – 8:55 pace at end)

This is always my hardest, and best, part of Twin Cities.  I’m tired.  And emotional.  My parents have a condo at about mile 25.25 of the course, on the right hand side of Summit just before the big obnoxious Vikings blow up thing.

Vikings blow up – my parents condo is right before this at mile 25

Passing the mile 25 marker is always THE BEST because I know that my cheering section will be there and that then it is (literally) all downhill from there.  They put up AN OBNOXIOUS (in a good way!) amount of signs for me, starting about 1 block from their actual condo.

So I see the bright pink signs and start waving from a distance.  And I see my dad with his camera taking pictures.

And I see my mom waving and Meghan and her friend with their hands out ready for me to slap them, and my sister and niece cheering.

Meg & friend Jane waiting for me to come by

I love it!  So motivating and encouraging!  And it gives me the energy I need to get that last mile done!

I saw the Cathedral and wanted to give it a final speedy burst of energy.

I have to say that the one thing that disappointed me during the race itself was that I wasn’t able to give it the finishing kick that I wanted to.   My last .2 miles was at 8:55 pace.  I noticeably slowed down.  Something felt off on my right thigh on the downhill, like it was going to buckle.  So I slowed.  I think me and downhills do NOT mix, this is how I felt the entire Evil Mile 17 Downhill at Little Rock Marathon in March.  But, I did look at garmin and knew I’d have a monster PR and a BQ that would all but guarantee me a spot for 2013, so I was happy even without a fast finishing kick.

Post race:

And what a great ending to a perfect race when I saw two of my training buddies (who are running races later this month) volunteering at the finish, so I got to be congratulated by them and wrapped in blankets and handed powerade from them.  So fun!

Fueling:

My fueling was perfect.  Gu 15 minutes before race and at miles 4.5, 9, 13 (shot blocks), 17.5 and 22.  I carried my handheld and filled it up at 3 or 4 water stops, with a Nuun tablet 3 times.  Took powerade at about every other stop and drank a few sips of it.  I felt like I was properly fueled and had enough energy throughout.

Now, for the part you’ve all been waiting for:

F-Bombs:  ZERO!

Tears:  ZERO! 

I really really loved this whole training cycle and this whole race!

Meg took this picture crooked.  Bad sweaty race hair!

Meg and me post race with my signs!

Seriously, must work on having cuter race hair.

Team Shep supporters (my dad and me)!

SO happy that I finally had a race that I was happy with, a PR and a BQ.  Very worth all the hard work, sacrifices and effort.  And, yes, I’m already looking for a spring marathon!

Finsher!  Marathon #8 in the books!

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Top 10 Tips Before Marathon Go-Time!

After running 7 marathons I feel like I’m finally in a position to offer some advice!  So here are my Top 10 Tips Before Marathon Go Time:

  1. Delete some of your garmin history (go to History-Running-Delete on the 305) so that you don’t get the message “Memory Full” (or something to that effect) during the marathon and freak out.  Been there, done that.
  2. Lay EVERYTHING out the day before the race.  Not the night before, the DAY before, so that you can go to the store and buy something if you are missing it.  Race day outfit, shoes, gels, water bottle, etc.
  3. Plan on wearing a throw away outfit over your race clothes on race morning – shirt, sweats, garbage bag, whatever – so that you can keep warm before the race and then toss it when you are in the corral.  This is the time to get rid of the ugly too-big race shirts that you’ve collected from previous races!
  4. Know where your friends/family/supporters will be on the marathon course and what they will be wearing so that you can spot them.  It helps IMMENSELY to know where they will be so that you have something to look forward to and get you through the miles, especially the later miles.
  5. Have your mantra in mind.  Something simple and powerful and meaningful to you.  Maybe even write it on the back of your hand. Be prepared to say it to power yourself through the tough spots.  I wear a dog-tag like necklace that says “Make Today Count“.  I reach up and feel  it many times during the marathon and it really helps me focus!
  6. Be prepared for the weather, but don’t obsess over the weather.  You can’t control or change it, so no use checking it 7000 times and worrying about it.  Just check it the day before hand, plan accordingly (adjust your pace strategy for heat; wear a garbage bag to keep dry before the start if it’s raining, etc.)
  7. A few days before race day, review your training log and look at all the miles, cross training, hills, intervals, long runs, races, etc. that you’ve done.  You are ready!  Be proud and confident that you are trained and can do it!
  8. Plan something low key and stress free the day before the marathon.  The expo is always fun and motivating, but I think it’s better to do the expo two days before the marathon if you have the option, so that you don’t wear yourself out walking around (and spending money!)
  9. Have a time goal and a non-time goal in mind.  I like to do this so that even if I don’t make my time goal, I have a chance at still being “successful” if I’ve met my non-time goal.  (i.e. pass 10 people in the last mile; high-five cute kids, etc.)
  10. Relax.  Smile.  Have fun.  The marathon is the icing on the cake.  Enjoy it!

Anyone else have good ones?

Grandma’s Marathon 2011 Race Report

Finisher’s Shirt and Medal – 35 years of Grandma’s

The other swag because it was 35th year – we got a free water bottle and AWESOME backpack thingy with zipper pouch

The Details:

  • Chip Time:  4:14:42
  • Avg Pace: 9:44
  • OA place:  3387 out of 6333
  • Female:  1098 out of 2678
  • Age group (F35-39): 181 out of 389

The details you know you are really curious about:

  • F-bombs: 5  (surprising, given my time)
  • Tears:  yes, at the finish line

My Goals:

  • As you know, my time goals were ambitious.  I wanted between 3:40 – 3:49:40.  I was trained for it and really thought it was do-able.  I was mentally and physically ready.   Result:  Fail!
  • My other goal was to have fun.  Result:  Mostly achieved.  I actually did have fun until mile 25.  From mile 25 – the finish was the worst mile I’ve ever raced.

The day before the race:  Full report of Grandma’s pre-race festivities here.

Night before the race:

  • I was reading and getting very sleepy and ready to turn out the light (and think I would have fallen asleep good), but then about 8:30 p.m. the fire alarm went off in the hotel.  And it was LOUD!  And it wasn’t stopping.  Ugggg.  So I did what anyone looking for a BQ would do in that situation, I grabbed my purse, garmin, my running shoes and my race number (already pinned to my shirt!) and headed out the door.  If the hotel was going to burn down, I still planned on making it to the starting line.   Turns out it was a false alarm – some little kid thought it would be funny to pull the fire alarm.  Of course the alarm continued SHRIEKING for a good 10 minutes til the fire department could come and give an all-clear.

Yes, that is my stuffed bear, Bear, crammed in my purse.  He goes everywhere with me and I wasn’t about to let him burn.

  • When I got back to the room after the false fire alarm, it was about 8:45.  My heart was racing and my ears were ringing.  But, through the ringing of my ears I could hear the people in the room right next to me starting to party.  There was a woman with the most irritating shriek and laugh ever.  So I did what anyone hoping to BQ the next morning would do.  I called the front desk with a noise complaint.  At 9:00 p.m.  🙂  When I told my brother this the next day he asked, “Did they ask you if you were 70 years old, calling in with a noise complaint at 9:00 p.m.?!?”   Well, it worked, the front desk called them and they immediately quieted down.
  • I finally settled down and fell asleep about 10:45 and woke up before my alarm even went off at 3:45 a.m.  (Woke up about every hour from excitement and to pee, but was able to fall right back asleep each time).  This was MUCH better than the first time I ran Grandma’s where I literally got about 2 hours of sleep.

Race Day:

It was raining when I woke up and the radar looked like it would continue raining right through the beginning of the race.  I wasn’t super worried about it though.  I had a feeling it would clear up and end up ok.  My biggest concern had been staying dry before the race, so that I gave myself a fighting chance.   I ended up doing a couple of things which for racing in the rain which were definitely smart and which are tips I would strongly recommend to anyone racing a marathon when rain is predicted before the start:

  1. I wore an old pair of running shoes to the starting line.  This ended up being really smart because on the walk over to where the train was, I had to walk through a couple huge puddles and my feet were soaked.
  2. I threw an extra pair of dry running socks in with my race shoes.
  3. I brought a mini umbrella with and used it on my walk over to the train (and would have used it at the starting line if I needed to and then ditched it).
  4. I brought a big black plastic garbage bag with, which I ended up using at the starting line after I had already peeled off and discarded my old ugly sweats.  I had seen lots of people do this at other raced and figured I’d give it a try.  WOW – I was really surprised how warm it kept me.  I think if I hadn’t done that my muscles would have tightened up.

Grandma’s is somewhat unique in that you have to take a bus or train to the start line.  Last time I did Grandma’s I took the bus and it was ok (a little yellow school bus), but you end up getting to the start with a good hour to go and there is NO tent or shelter whatsoever to stand around in at the start line.  This year my hotel was closer to DECC, which is where the train leaves from, so I took the train.  WOW!  That was really the way to go.  It was comfy, there were bathrooms and it moved pretty slow, so we literally got there with only 1/2 hour til the start time.  You could have stayed on the train longer if you wanted too, but I ended up getting off just because I’m anal and wanted to make sure I got to the start without having to hurry.

On the train I sat across from a guy from New Mexico who was racing with his daughter, trying to support her as she tried for the Olympic B Qualifying time.  I looked her up later and she made it, with room to spare (and he crossed the finish line with her).  Good for her!

The Race:

The weather ended up being great.  About 50 degrees at the start, dropped to about 48 at finish.   Tailwind of about 10mph, I think.  Overcast the whole day.  It didn’t rain during the entire race.  Ideal running weather.

My plan had been to take the first couple miles slow, at 8:40 pace, and then drop down gradually, so that I’d be at 8:34 pace at 10k mark, 8:23 pace by HM mark, 8:15 pace by 20 miles, then hang on for 8:23 finish.

Miles 1 – 5: 

  • Plan was working.  I started out slow the first mile and felt ok.  Dropped my pace like I had planned on the next miles.  By breathing felt a little bit labored and it felt a little humid to me though.  When I look at the heart rate numbers, I do think it was a bit humid in the early miles because my HR was higher for a slower pace.
  • The 3:40 pacer went by me about 1/2 mile in and I was VERY glad that I wasn’t with him.  He was cruising and it wasn’t long before they were way in front of me and I never saw them again.   I had planned on starting slower though, so I wasn’t freaked out or worried at all.
  • Splits: 8:42, 8:31, 8:22, 8:26, 8:26

Miles 6 – 11:

  • Things continued to go ok.  If anything I felt like I was going a bit faster than I had planned, so I was forcing myself to slow down.  Though, if I’m being completely honest, the pace FELT harder than it should have (certainly harder than that pace felt in my medium effort training runs) and I’m not sure I would have been able to sustain it for 26.2.  It didn’t FEEL like it was my day to meet my goals (even before my injuries/issues).
  • I would occasionally think negative thoughts (just after the 5 mile mark I thought about having 21 more miles to go and feeling like that was impossible;  I also started thinking about how I wished it felt easer, and “shouldn’t this feel easier?”).  Each time I had a negative thought I forced myself to push them aside and think of something else.  I used the mantra thing alot – chanting to myself “I am fit.  I am strong.  I am fast.”
  • At one point when I was feeling a bit discouraged with how long I still had to go, I reached to my neck to feel my new Sporty Girl necklace, which I had custom made with MY mantra on it  (“Make Today Count“).  Ugggg.  It wasn’t there.  I had forgot to put it on, even though I laid it out.  I found myself feeling for my necklace several times during the race and even though it wasn’t there, I would think about making today count and I would get a little extra burst of energy.  (Note:  i couldn’t find it anywhere in the hotel room later, but Meghan found it for me.  Yeah!).
  • Overall I was happy, because I was still on pace for a decent race, though I honestly felt like 3:40 would not be happening today.
  • Splits: 8:33, 8:32, 8:32, 8:39, 8:22, 8:36.

Mile 12:

  • Something happened during mile 12 to my right inside thigh/groin area.  Same place it felt tweaked during Little Rock.  I tried to ignore it and hoped it was my imagination.  It wasn’t.   I slowed my pace a little, hoping it would go away if I eased up on the pace.  It didn’t.
  • Split: 8:42

Mile 13 – 18:

  • The issue with my upper right thigh/groin didn’t go away (and wouldn’t for the rest of the race).  After I crossed the HM mat I stopped for 10 – 15 seconds and stretched it and it felt SO MUCH BETTER to do that.  It was still there, but after I would stretch it I would be able to run for about another mile without it bugging me (but at a slower pace).
  • So my new plan became to focus on having fun, letting myself stop when I needed to in order to stretch it so I could keep going, and to just take in the day.
  • I stopped about every 1.5 miles and stretched.
  • I took in the spectators at the few places that they were along this stretch.
  • Even though my pace was much slower than I would need in order to meet my A, B or C time goal, I was really honestly ok with that.
  • I felt relieved that the issue that I was having didn’t seem to be an “injury” and that I knew I could finish the race and have a decent day.
  • Splits:  9:03, 8:53, 9:09, 9:09, 9:25, 9:45

Mile 19 – 25:

  • I knew my family would be at mile 19 and it was SO GREAT to see the happy faces of my parents, Meg, Carter and Meghan’s friend Kallie.  The last split that they had seen of mine on the  email tracking was the HM split, so they thought I was on track.  I think they were surprised to see me stop and talk with them, instead of waving and running by.  I told them about my leg issue and that I just needed to stop and stretch and it wouldn’t be my day.    LOVED the boost of energy I got from seeing them.
  • The miles did get harder and slower, and I was stopping at least once during every mile to stretch the right thigh.  But I was still ok with it.  I was still having fun.
  • I finally saw the troll display that I somehow managed to miss in previous years I’d run the full or half.  (Found this link to the troll picture and some other really fabulous shots by this professional photographer, Derek Montgomery).  Very cool!
  • I high-fived little kids, drunk college guys, and even a rhubarb (weird, I know).
  • Lemon Drop hill felt harder than it should have, because it really is just a tiny hill.  I’m pretty sure that was where I let out my first F-bomb, which really wasn’t bad that it took me until mile 22 for that to happen.
  • I saw The Family (plus my brother!) again by Pizza Luce around mile 24.5.  Another fun boost of energy.
  • Splits:  10:00, 10:24, 11:11 (bathroom break), 11:41, 11:02, 11:58, 12:12
  • Still not the race I wanted time-wise, but I was having fun.

Mile 25 – Mile 26.2 (otherwise known as the longest/worst 1.2 miles of my life!):

  • I knew my family they whip down Lake Street and watch me on the bridge as I came to the end of Mile 25, so I planned on finishing through the rest of the race strong.   Nope.
  • Right at the start of mile 25 something started hurting on the outside edge of my right knee.  Ugggg.  My IT band.  It would hurt while I ran, so I would stop and walk and it would be fine.  But I didn’t want to be walking, this was a marathon RACE, so I would try to run again and it would hurt.  Really bad.  And my right thigh still needed stretching.  So the whole last mile became a series of:  try running, knee kills, stop, stretch thigh, rub knee, walk a second, get pissed that I was walking, try running, knee kills.  Repeat. Over and over and over.  The “running” I was doing at the end was shuffling.  It was embarrassing.  And irritating.  And frustrating.  And maddening.  I had been ok with my slow pace when I knew it was something I could deal with that wasn’t a real injury, but this knee thing HURT and I know from previous experience that with the IT band injury I will be out from running for a good couple of weeks, and that made me mad.  Ugggg.
  • I was getting passed by SO many people.  It felt like everyone around me had so much energy and was just flying by me.  It was so frustrating not to be able to move at more than a shuffle.  I seriously questioned whether I would even be able to get to the finish line.
  • Just before the bridge I saw my cousin and his little kids (whose mom Carey ran a kick ass first marathon, feeling great and never experiencing pain!).  I mustered up enough energy to veer over to them and give them high fives.
  • In the last .2 miles, I was moving so slow that I kept seeing my family pop up everywhere.  Seriously, like 5 different times they were able to run along and work their way up to the fence and yell encouragement.  That’s how slow I was moving.
  • The last 1.20 miles took me 18:18 seconds!  And, thanks to technology the results told me that in the last 1.2 miles I passed ZERO people and I was passed by 348 people!!!
  • I cried when I crossed the finish line.  Not happy tears this time, angry tears.
  • Ugggggg!
  • Split:  18:18

But, I finished.  I have another medal and finishers shirt.  Marathon #7 is in the books.

We bumped into my cousin-in-law, Carey, after the race and I was SO HAPPY to hear that she finished and finished strong.  She said she felt great and kept waiting for the pain that everyone talked about to start happening, and it never did.  Yipee!

Me and Carey

After every single marathon I’ve done, I’ve sworn that I would never run another one again.  But within hours of finishing, I was starting to think about when my next one will be.  It’s been 30 hours since I crossed the finish line of Grandma’s and I have NOT started planning for the next one this time.

Uggggg: 4:14:xx

The quick story: Done with #7. So frustrating to have good training cycle and not-so-good race. Right where I wanted to be at 8:30 pace through mile 11. Then just before mile 12 a cramping/tweak issue of my right quad (I have to look at my race report from Little Rock – I’m pretty sure it’s the same issue). The cramping continued and I had to stop every mile and stretch it, which I was ok with. Stopped and talked to my family at mile 19. My miles were slow, with me stopping to stretch it but I was still ok with what I knew wouldn’t be my ideal race. BUT then during mile 25 something really really sucky happened to my right knee (I believe IT band) and I literally couldn’t run. I shuffled and walked and stopped and swore. Repeat. The last 1.2 miles took me like 18 minutes. I literally had to keep stopping and walking and standing still during the entire last .2 miles, in front of the gazillion spectators. Uggggg.

Detailed report later.

Ready to Roll!

I’m ready to roll.

It’s been a great training cycle.  The best yet.  The most quality and the most miles.  But, more importantly, the most fun for me.  I can honestly say that out of the 71 runs that I’ve done in this training cycle, I only felt like skipping maybe one or two.  Virtually every time I turned off the alarm and laced up my shoes, I did it with a smile on my face.  I wanted to get out there and run.  I loved the sense of accomplishment that I got each week when my miles went up, my paces came down and things just started to click.

As you know, I followed the Advanced Marathon Grandma’s Training Program that was put together by the Grandma’s organizers.  It was perfect for me.  Just right on the mileage (72 peak miles).  With lots and lots of quality workouts.

Weekly mileage (and long run) for Grandma’s Training:

  1. 50.1 miles (18 long; 9:35)
  2. 56.1 miles (16 long; 9:05)
  3. 51.6 miles  (HM race; 8:24)
  4. 65.6 miles (20 miles; 8:59)
  5. 68.7 miles (18 miles; 9:04)
  6. 62.5 miles (22 miles; 9:11)
  7. 65.7 miles (16 miles; 8:52)
  8. 41.3 miles (10.6 miles; 9:07)
  9. 72.3 miles (20 miles; 9:14)
  10. 52.9 miles (15 miles; 8:50)
  11. 36 miles (9 miles)
  12. (Will be 8 miles before RACE DAY!)

Other highlights:

  • Tempo pace went from 8:05ish pace during week #1 of training down to 7:45ish pace during week #11.
  • Hills, hills and more hills!  This training plan did hill repeats during earlier weeks of the plan.  I also did most of my long runs on hilly routes (Baker and Carver).  This should help tons with Lemon Drop Hill (which actually isn’t all it’s hyped up to be; I barely noticed it last time I did Grandma’s and that was without hill training!)
  • Intervals!  Lots of fun interval workouts each week, with a big variety.  Ranging from 200m all the way up to mile repeats.  I think my least favorite (but probably the best for me) was the 6x1600m intervals.  Followed closely by the 12x400m intervals, which seemed to last FOREVER!  And how come it always seemed to be crappy weather on interval day?
  • Having 3 or 4 quality workouts a week (hills or intervals; tempo; medium effort – which usually ended up being marathon pace; and long run).  This kept the training super interesting for me.  It also has made me feel like I’ve improved a ton.
  • My paces on ALL my runs have come down.  Tempo 7:40 – 7:50, depending on length of run.  Easy runs are now usually 8:50 – 9:05.  Medium effort runs are usually 8:25 -8:35.  Long runs usually 8:55 – 9:15.   Most importantly things just FEEL easier.
  • My core is stronger from the pilates I’ve consistently done this time around (2 – 4 times a week).  Though I still eat too many sweets, so those six-pack abs remain hidden under layers of s’mores and cake.  Sounds dorky, but I do think I could notice the strength of my core during the later miles of my long runs and hard workouts.

My mental game:

My mental game has hurt me in previous marathons.  I my earlier marathons I didn’t have the confidence to go fast and far.  In more than one marathon I’ve completely fallen apart, mentally, when my pace faltered (and I fell back from pace groups, or got passed by pace groups).  I have also let weather interfere and derail me, mentally, from what I know I could do.

This time around I have been working on my mental game too.  And I’m happy to report that I am in a MUCH better place, mentally, than I was with previous marathons.  For all 6 of my previous marathons my feeling in the weeks leading up to the marathon was a combination of excitement, nervousness and dread.  I really just felt like I wanted to get the race itself over with.  This time around I’m just excited.  I am looking forward to getting out there on race day because I’m excited to see what I can do and how I feel doing it.  It’s hard to explain, but I have the sense that because my conditioning and training has been SO much better, there is not only the potential for a faster time, but also for a better overall experience.

What have I done to improve my mental game?

Read a bunch.  I read a book called Boston Marathon or Bust, that is supposedly this step by step plan to ensure a BQ.  I didn’t follow it to a T, but I incorporated some of the mental stuff.  Like visualizing yourself on race day from the starting line to the finish line, including the pain and how you’d deal with it, etc.  According to the book, you are supposed to visualize this twice a day.  I didn’t come close to doing it that much (I tried to do it at bedtime and most of the time I’d fall asleep by mile 10!), but I did it often enough.  The other technique that the author swears by is mantras while running, to get you through hard times.  I did this alot during my runs, when I would get bored or they were hard.  My chant/mantra was just a series of “I am strong.  I am fast.  I am fit.”  Over and over.  I don’t think it changed my attitude about myself, but I think it worked to get me up tough hills or through boring spots in a super long run.  I think it will be helpful during the marathon to repeat it over and over when I’m in pain and want to slow down or quit.  I also read Kara Goucher’s new book and, while I found alot of it to be simplistic, there were some good take-aways that I think have improved my mental game and overall attitude about training and racing.  I also think my mental game has improved because I’m physically in better shape, which gives me more confidence to meet my goals.

Obviously I hope that this kick-ass training cycle translates into a kick-ass marathon too, in terms of both clock time and fun times!  My body and mind are definitely ready for Saturday.

Out of the mouths of babes

Conversation with my 11 year old son today (he started it, we weren’t talking about running before this):

Son:  Remember when you used to have to train for a 5k?

Me:  Yes.  5k used to be a long way for me.  I had to walk 3 times in my first 5k race.  Now I don’t have to walk at all in a 5k.

Son:  Well you have to walk in a marathon.

Me:  Only sometimes, if I get hurt or sometimes through a waterstop while I’m drinking.

Son:  You could run a whole marathon without walking?

Me:  That’s the idea.  I know I can run 3 1/2 hours  without walking, because I’ve done it in training runs.

Son:  Well that’s just jogging, not running.

Me:  No.  It’s running.  It’s at a pace faster than what you or dad or Meg could race a 5k.

Son:  How come you always do good in training runs and you screw up in marathons?

Out of the mouths of babes!

It’s a good question though.  One that I know most runners wonder about.  We have FABULOUS training runs and cycles and then race day comes and BAM another screw up.  Why is that?  My answer to Carter was that marathons are different because when you are racing them your whole pace is much faster than training paces and the race itself is much longer than the training runs.  It’s the faster pace and the extra 6 miles that do most people in.  Looking back at my previous 6 marathons, I’ve figured out what has screwed me up, other than just the overall faster pace and longer distance.

For me, my marathons have been screwed up because of:

  • Weather conditions, obviously.  Heat.  Cold/Rain.  Humidity.  I’ve had them all and they all screwed up my races.
  • Injuries.  Pulled quads.  IT bands.  Phantom injuries.  Leg cramps.  It’s hard to achieve a race goal when these things happen.  (For me, I think some of them – the cramps – were due to improper hydration, which I’ve now figured out how to do).
  • Going out too fast.  This is a big one for me.  When I look back at my paces in the early miles, I really think if I had stayed at a more controlled pace for the level of training I was at and for my goal, things may have turned out better in some of the marathons I’ve run.
  • Being too ambitious with my goals.  I look back at my first marathon and even my second, where I was trying to BQ (3:45 at the time) and when I look through my log and blog and examine the training I was doing, I don’t think I was really in shape for that kind of race.

What other reasons have you guys (my 5 readers!) experienced as being the reason for your marathon “screw ups”?

And, as I was talking to my son about this and thinking about it later, I thought about that even though to me (and many of you) our marathons are screw ups, it is really frickin amazing, if you think about it, to be able to RUN for 3 or 4 HOURS without stopping.  If you had told me 5 years ago that I would be able to do that, I wouldn’t have believed it.

Top 10 Marathons To-Do List: Big Sur

Marathon #1 on Cindi’s To-Do List* is Big Sur International Marathon.

I was THIS close to signing up for Big Sur this year instead of Little Rock.  But it was more expensive than I wanted to do this year and I didn’t like the timing as much (it’s May 1st this year).  But I seriously looked into it and considered it.  Big Sur is definitely on my current Top 10 To-Do List.

I know what you are thinking.  But, Cindi, after your disaster at Little Rock you swore off hills and said you’d never run a hilly marathon.  Isn’t Big Sur hilly?

Yes, it’s super hilly.  Killer hills.  Like 2 mile long up hill sections.

But when someone like Bart Yasso comments “If we were told that we could run only one marathon in our lifetime, Big Sur would have to be it”, you have to seriously pause and look hard at it.  And when you look at the website and read all the comments on marathonguide.com, you start to realize just how incredible this marathon looks.  So the pain from the hills seems like it would be worth it. It looks so incredibly beautiful.  It looks like an experience, not just a marathon.

I will definitely run this one in the next couple of years.  But, given the hilliness of it, I TRULY will just run it for a fun, low-pressure marathon experience.  (Does that exist?!?).  I want to really be in a position where STOPPING during a marathon to take a picture and enjoy the scenery doesn’t freak me out.  I want to run it when I’m not concerned about pace or results.   Which means I have to get this crazy BQ thing out of my system first.  Or maybe do it as part of the Boston to Big Sur challenge?!

Anyone run Big Sur?  Or have it on your marathon radar?

* These aren’t in any particular order.  They are just 10 marathons that are on my to-do-in-the-not-to-distant-future list.

Tears and F-Bombs (Little Rock Marathon Race Report)

4:08:56.  Not my worst time, but my most disappointing marathon, for sure.  I’ve been trying to digest what happened and analyze why I feel so crappy about it.  I think it boils down to me having SUCH high expectations/goals for this one, and then being SO far off the mark with my finishing time.   I’ve had high expectations before, and come up waaaaay short (even worse than this one), but this time it was different because  in my opinion, based on my training, those expecations/goals weren’t just a hope – they were really realistic.  I know that I can run sub 3:40.  So what happened this time?

My goal was sub 3:40 (8:23 pace).  Because it was supposed to be hilly through mile 17, my plan was to be at pace or slower through mile 17, to go slow down mile 17 (because I’d been warned the hill could kill you), then to pick it up on an out and back from mile 18 – 24, then to just hang on til the end.

The weather was just about perfect.  37 degrees at the start, about 45 when we finished.

Mile 1 – 6.2 (52:42; 8:29 pace)

I started out just behind the 3:40 pacer.  I wasn’t planning on staying with her, because in my experience they always go too fast and my plan was to go slower than pace for the first mile or more.  She took off way to fast.  So did the 3:45 pacer, who I ended up running behind for awhile, but then even he was going faster than 3:45 pace.  I wanted to stick with my plan, do my own thing.  And I was really happy with how I did.  I felt controlled.  I kept reminding myself to have patience.  Slow down.  Stick with the plan.  It felt easy.  And good.  And I was happy.  I noticed a slight hill at mile 5, but so far so good with the “hills” that I had heard about.

Splits: 8:31, 8:27, 8:12, 8:18, 8:55 (slight hill; measured long), 10:08 (for 1.2 miles, missed the 6 mile sign; 8:28 pace).

Perfect.  I was right where I wanted to be and feeling great.

Mile 6.2 – 13.1 (1:51:42;  8:32 pace)

I did notice the hills in this chunk.  Slowed my pace a bit on the hills, but then made up for them for the most part on the slight downhills.  They definitely weren’t horrible, like I had imagined them.  In fact, I would say they were noticeable, but not bad at all.  I talked to some people afterwards who thought there were horrible.  I guess my training paid off.  Again, my focus in this section was on controlling myself and not going too fast.  Being smart and saving it for later.

Signs I liked:  “Winning!”    “Embrace The Suck”

There was lots of great course entertainment.  Little bands.  One man singing acts.  Lots of spectators.  Little  kids holding out there hands for high fives.  I took it all in and was having fun.

Even though I slowed down here, I had planned on doing that because I knew there were hills, so I wasn’t worried.  Still feeling good.

The mile markers were small and very hard to see.  I missed a bunch of them, so I would end up just pushing the lap button after I’d gone so far that I knew I must have missed it.

Splits: 6:31 (for .78 miles, because I had missed #6; 8:28 pace), 8:28, 9:15 (for 1.1 miles, 8:28 pace), 7:56 (for .92 miles; 8:39 pace), 8:41, 8:51, 9:05

Mile 13.1 – 20.4   (3:02:56; 8:58 pace)

In the earlier miles, 13 – 16.5, I was still a little slower than pace because of the hills (the “evil uphill” that everyone talks about is a slow steady uphill from about mile 15 – 16.5).  But I wasn’t worried about it because my plan was to speed up after 17.  Ha.

The long, steep series of down hills at about mile 16.5 – 17.5 killed me.  Something tweaked in my right upper thigh/groin area during this time (it had felt off on an earlier small downhill and then really flared during mile 17).  Even though I backed off and ran the downhill slow and relaxed (I was chanting “relax, Cindi; relax, take it slow and easy; relax”), it didn’t work.  Something tweaked and I felt like my leg was going to buckle and I’d collapse.

After that, I kept trying to pick up the pace, because the course was relatively flat, but I’d look down at my garmin and see that I was at like a 9:45 pace.  WTF?  I could not move my legs faster.  And i kept feeling like they would buckle on the small downhills that remained, so I ended up walking down the remaining downhills (and crying and dropping F-bombs)

I was sooooo mentally discouraged from about mile 18 through the end of the race.  I was really mad that my goal had been in reach and it was not going to happen.  I was emotional (nice timing for that-time-of-the-month to arrive the afternoon before the race; grrrrrrrr).  Every single mile from 21 on, I cried.  At first it just a few tears, which I tried to brush back.  But by mile 24, there were times when i literally had tears streaming down my face and I was sobbing.  WTF?  And the F-Bomb count?  Off the charts.

Splits: 8:25, 9:46 (missed marker, so long; 8:46 pace), 8:32, 8:50, 9:15 (this was after mile 17, the evil downhill), 9:14 (this was when I was supposed to be tearing it up and going 8:10 or faster), 9:45,

Mile 20.4 – 26.2  (4;08:45; 9:31 pace)

At mile 23 one of the kickrunners, bob, who was running the race and planning on a 4 hour marathon caught up with me and realized I was having a bad day.  He tried to be helpful and say, “We have 32 minutes to cover 3 miles, I’ll help pull you in. C’mon”.  After about 1 minute of trying to go a 10:00 pace with him, I told him it wasn’t happening and to go ahead.

I hated having my name on my bib.  Little Rock puts it on there automatically (in the future I would ask them to NOT put anything – to leave it blank; Can you do that?  Or i’d bring tape and cover it up).  From mile 18 on, when I was feeling so low about myself and the day I was having, I would hear people shouting “Go Cindi” and it would make me mad or sad or embarrassed.  I hated the day I was having and I just wanted to be anonymous and blend in to the crowd, but that stupid name on my bib wouldn’t let me.  There was one dude at the top of mile 25 (where there is a hill) that must have been affiliated with the race (or an over-zealous fan) because he had a loud microphone set up and he was reading everyone’s bib names and commenting and (he thought) encouraging them.  I could hear him from far away, yelling people’s names.  The whole way up the hill I was thinking “please just leave me alone”, but sure enough when I approach him, he had the loud “C’mon Cindi you can do it.  Smile Cindi, it won’t hurt you.”  I was so irritated and angry right then.  And embarrassed.  Ugggg.

At mile 25.5 of the race they have a lipstick stand, where you can take lipstick to look pretty for the finish line photo.  I was going so slow at this point that I didn’t even need to stop “running” for them to shove a tube of lipgloss into my hand.  Great.  Free lipgloss.  Maybe the shiny lipgloss will distract from the tears that were streaming down my face and the scowl on my face in the photo.

Splits:  9:59, 10:51, 11:40, 12:32, 16:04 (missed marker, so 1.25 miles; 13:03 pace), 9:58 (only .75 miles, so 12:58 pace), 2:52 (11:58 pace for the final .2 miles; SOOOOOO frustrating and embarrassing).

Crossed the finish line and got that “World’s Biggest Medal” (which is obnoxiously huge and which already broke – they have a spinny middle part that is shaped like a world and it broke out in my bag on the way home).

The details: 4:08:56 (9:31 pace); OA 561/1812; F3539 Division  35/114; Females:  154/735

So that’s the race.  In terms of goals, a complete bust.  But, on the bright side, I finished another marathon.  And I learned something:  I really do not like downhills.  And they don’t like me (which is why I also am questioning the whole Boston thing, since there is so much downhill at the start).  I will try to avoid downhill races in the future.

The post race party was a blast.  They have it at 4:00, which is nice because it gives you time to clean up.  And they had tons of free food and drink (4 hours of free beer!).

In the last miles of the race I was telling myself, “I’m done.  This is ridiculous.  I really am NOT running anymore marathons.”  Guess what I started flipping through last night on the couch?  Daniels’ Running Formula – plotting out a schedule for Grandma’s.  🙂

I’m back!

Just got back from Little Rock.  4:08:56.  Almost 30 minutes slower than what I wanted to do, and what I know I could do.  Disappointing, for sure.  I’ll put together a race report soon.    I brainstormed possible titles for the race report on the plane ride home and came up with:

“Tears and F-Bombs”

“I Really DON’T Want to Run Boston Anymore”

“Downhills Suck”

“Failure or Victory?”

Stay tuned!  Now I need to go play with the puppy and the kids.

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