Blue Ridge Marathon Race Report

shirt and medal

“America’s Toughest Road Marathon” is in the books!  For me Blue Ridge Marathon was marathon #14.  And, while it was definitely my toughest, most challenging marathon (and with my worst time by 24 minutes), it was also the marathon where I felt the strongest.  It was one of those marathons that every runner dreams about having  – where the marathon stars align.

What’s the background? I’ve been plagued with left tibial stress fractures and stress reactions since shortly after Boston 2013.  Since then, I’ve felt recovered enough to run one marathon (Twin Cities 2014), but the stress fracture returned after that.  I decided on this marathon because I wanted to run a marathon that was something different – a challenge and one that would force me to approach the marathon differently and not think about speed and qualifying for Boston.  This definitely fit the bill.  With just under 7500 feet of elevation change and a climb up and down 3 mountains, survival, not a BQ, would be my focus.

How did I train?  I’m from Minnesota. We don’t have much in the way of hills near me.  Certainly nothing that would compare to the “hills” I’d be running up in Roanoke. Training with hills was even more complicated by the fact that I was training through a Minnesota winter.  Although we got lucky and didn’t have a super snowy winter, we did have some ultra cold, nasty windy days that all seemed to fall on Saturdays – long run day.  So in terms of hill training, I didn’t do much.  My hilliest training run was 17 miler with 1390 feet of elevation gain.  I followed a Pfitz 16 week training plan, so I did manage to get in three 20 milers.  I also did a lot more cycling (on the trainer and fat bike) than I normally do.  And, of course, I religiously did my core work (which I do regularly now because I’m convinced that is a big part of the reason that I have suffered so many stress fractures).  The “speed work” I did was pretty laughable – since I was just building back up after an injury my paces were so slow compared to my normal marathon speed paces.  But I didn’t really care – I was just SO happy to be healthy and training for a marathon.  So going in to Blue Ridge, I felt trained to cover the distance, but not trained for the hills/mountains.

What was my race plan? Run the entire marathon by feel.  Turn the garmin on timer and don’t look at the pace per miles or average pace.  Just run it so I never feel like I’m overexerting myself.  Walk when necessary to maintain this feeling. Enjoy the gorgeous scenery.  Enjoy the perks along the race (mimosas at mile 13; champagne on top of Peakwood – mountain #3). Take tons of photos. Stop and chat with my fans (my fiance Scott!

Mission accomplished!

How hilly was it? The photos don’t capture just how steep and long the hills actually were.  There were many parts where EVERYONE around me was walking.  It just didn’t make any sense to run up the steep inclines because they were so steep that power walking got you there at just about the same time (but saved a lot of energy). And the hills were just short little inclines.  They went on and on and on.  The three mountains were Roanoke Mountain, Mill Mountain and Peakwood. Even after we were done with the 3 mountains, there were rolling hills and a few REALLY steep ones. I ran up what I could – at a very slow pace – and power walked up what I couldn’t run. On the downhills, I ran controlled with short strides.  So many people were barrelling down the mountain on the downhills, super fast and with long, pounding strides.  By the end of the race, I was passing many of them (plus I bet their quads are wrecked today – I’m sore, but not crazy sore).

blue ridge elevation

How did it feel?  FABULOUS.  Seriously.  The whole marathon felt freaking awesome.  I have never felt so strong and amazing in any of my previous 13 marathons, or in any training run.  I felt great aerobically (the walking that I did during it, and the stopping to talk to Scott, take pictures and pee – I stopped 7 times just to pee – surely helped me feel great aerobically). Each time I saw Scott, he seemed amazed when I said that I was feeling great.  My “normal” marathon race execution is this: go out at BQ pace. Feel “ok” for 10 – 15 miles.  Blow up.  Feel like crap and then walk/jog/cry/swear the remaining miles.  This marathon was simply amazing – like a dream. In the back of my mind, I was wondering when I would fall apart and hit the wall.  It never happened.  Miles 23 – 24.5 I did start feeling tired, but I got a burst of energy at 24.5 and finished strong.  I actually picked the pace up and “sprinted” the last couple blocks to the finish line.  It was so crazy how good I felt during the entire race!

What were the stats?  4:51:26 (moving time was 4:44 – I stopped to chat, take pics and pee a lot!) I was 56th female and 9th in my age group.

How was Roanoke?  Lovely. Great restaurants, lots of good craft beer, friendly people, gorgeous scenery and tons to do for the outdoor lover and adventure seeker.  Scott and I arrived in Roanoke early so that he could participate in Roanoke’s inaugural hill week cycle camp for grown ups.  He loved it – he got tons of miles (and hills) in on his road bike to prep him for Leadville 100 mtb and met friendly, fun cyclists who made sure that we had a great time in Roanoke.

For me, Blue Ridge Marathon isn’t just a bucket list marathon.  I’ll be back to do it again!

 

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Phoenix Marathon 2013 Race Report

phoenix medal

Marathon #11 – Phoenix Marathon – March 2, 2013

Details:

  • 3:54:25
  • 132/632 females
  • 392/1301 OA

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Random Thoughts:

  • This was a great race.  Fabulous course – mostly downhill (two stretches that were significant uphill climb – gradual and sort of long).  Great organization at the starting line.  Fires and heated lamp things to stand around and keep warm. Fireworks during the national anthem. Some fun music along the course.  Decent crowd support throughout (though there were lots of stretches where there was no one watching).phoenix start
  • Weather was not the best for a 3+ hour marathoner.  It started at 6:30 a.m. and the temps were around 50 then.  But by the time I finished just before 10:30 it had to be about 70 degrees and full sun.  The last 4 miles were hot and miserable.  I think we got unlucky with the weather – normally looks like it’s a bit cooler this time of year.
  • Cons:  The course was not completely closed to traffic anywhere – so they had cops directing traffic at intersections and the cops were letting cars through when they shouldn’t have (I had to slow at one intersection when a cop let a big white truck with a trailer through – I literally yelled “What the F*&K??!?”).  Also – at one point just after I crossed an intersection, I heard a cop blow his whistle and yell “Runners, hold up”.  Are you fricking kidding me??  If the organizers are going to bill this as a Boston Qualifying race, they can NOT make runners stop at intersections!  Granted, this was pretty late in the course, but at that point I was still on track for a BQ, so I’m sure others around me were too and they might not have squeaked through the intersection like I did)
  • From the start I wasn’t feeling it.  I had hoped to run 7:55ish pace throughout.  Plan was to run the first miles slower – like 8:00+ pace and then just run what felt good and hope it ended up around a 3:30 marathon.  Maybe faster.  Maybe slower.  From the start I was “feeling” around 8:10ish.  Sometimes faster.  Sometimes slower.  But that felt right and manageable to me and I was not stressing about the fact that it wasn’t as fast as I ideally wanted.  I was just going with it and feeling good.  Started to slow down around mile 12, so that by mile 20 I was averaging 8:20ish.  But I still felt strong and ok.  Then things started to deteriorate.  In miles 20 and 21 I felt like I needed to stretch my right quad – so I stopped for 15 – 20 seconds and did that and those miles then were just over 9:00.  By that time I knew even requalifying for Boston was slipping.  Then at mile 22 there was a runner laying down on the sidewalk, with no one around him.  So I stopped to see if he needed help (he said he thought someone had called for help and was on the way) and I tried to get him to drink some of my Nuun but he declined.  Another 30ish seconds lost (which is ok – I think if it gets to the point where a finishing time is more important to me than stopping to see if someone is ok, I’ve lost focus).  So at that time I figured it was time to be smart and save myself for Boston.  So I walked/jogged/walked/jogged the last 4 miles.  They were hot.  And I kept needing to stretch my right leg.  I COULD HAVE tried to push through and speed up to 8:xx miles – but even doing that wouldn’t have gotten me a BQ or a PR.  So I figured the smart thing to do was not screw myself up for the race I’ve been trying for for 5 plus years – Boston.
  • So I know my lack of pushing through and my finishing result was probably disappointing to my coach, who I’m sure wanted me to kick ass in case he legitimately wants to get into coaching middle aged marathoners like me.  And really, letting him down is the only part about my race that I’m disappointed with.  Because as much as I didn’t like the finishing time – I truly was not disappointed with anything about what I did during the race.  I gave it all that I had for that day and I made a conscious decision not to be stupid and potentially ruin Boston when it became obvious to me that the stars weren’t aligning that day for a PR or BQ.  So I’m satisfied with marathon #11.
  • I had THE BEST spectator again!  Scott got up at 3:15 and made signs and plotted his spectating route.  He was at mile 10.5, 19 and the finish waving a bright pink sign around, cheering, taking photos and just being there.  And that helped so much!phoenix finish sign
  • My friend Mike kicked ass, with a 2 minute PR and 3rd place master.

SAD_6015

Post race festivities were awesome – beer and sun and pool, followed by beer and food with some other runners from MN who were there running the half.  All in all a great number 11!

Chicago Marathon 2012 Race Report

This was my most frustrating marathon to date, in terms of disappointment with my time and performance.  But it was my favorite marathon to date in terms of the course.  And it was Marathon Number 10.  TEN!  Who would have thought I’d ever run TEN marathons!?!?

The quick version:  4:01:54.  First Half:  FABULOUS feeling, on pace for 3:25.  Second Half: SUCKY feeling, issue with my right quad which made it feel like I was going to collapse when I ran, so I literally would walk 100m, jog 100m, repeat.

The F-Bombs:  Despite my No F-Bomb Marathon Strategy, I’m gonna estimate there were about 10.  Pretty impressive that I controlled myself and only let 10 F-Bombs go when really my whole race fell apart at mile 16 and it was seriously THE LONGEST 10 miles of my life.

Random Puking Issues:  From miles 7 – 10 I had something happen that I’ve never experienced in a marathon.  I almost puked.  Several times.  Not like nauseous overexertion puking.  Little random puking.  Like I would burp and puke would come up and I’d swallow it back down.  Gross, I know.  But I like documenting things. 🙂  Thankfully this only lasted about 3 miles.  Not sure what that was from.  I don’t think I over hydrated the day before.  I DID eat 1/2 a piece of chocolate cake for dessert the night before, but would that really cause random puking?  (I regularly eat WHOLE pieces of chocolate cake the night before training runs and that never affects me).

Random Meet Up:  I met the other blonde running blogging lawyer in a sea of runners ON the frickin race course!  How cool is that?  About mile 5.5 I look over and see a fast chick in a bright pink singlet, which I knew Mindi would be wearing, and sure enough it was her.  We chatted for a few minutes before she sped ahead and nailed her race with a 3:23!

What Went Right:  My pace from the start.  It felt easy.  Controlled.  Right where I wanted to be for my goal (I thought I could get 3:23 – 3:25).  My breathing was good.  My legs were feeling good.  I was pumped up.  I honestly thought I was going to have a break through time and a banner day.

What Went Wrong:  About mile 15 or 16, I started to have issues with my right quad.  It felt off and weird and like my leg was going to buckle.  I slowed to see if that would help.  But it persisted.  Walking felt ok.  Running felt not ok. 😦 So from mile 16 until the end, I literally walked 100m, jogged 100m.  Repeat.  Ugggggggggg.  My last 6 miles were 12 and 13 minute miles.  So so so frustrating.  At about mile 18 I seriously thought I was going to be a DNF.  But I put one foot in front of the other and just moved forward (even if walking). At mile 24 I started smiling again because I knew I’d at least finish.

The Crowds:  Holy crap were there ever a lot of people spectating.  A CRAZY amount.  In some places they were 5 and 6 deep.  And loud.  And fun. The best, most motivating crowd I’ve ever experienced in a race.

The Course:  Fabulous.  Generally very flat, with just a few inclines over bridges.  The “hill” at mile 26 isn’t as awful as some have blogged.  It just comes at a really bad time.  (But for me, when I was walking by then anyway, it wasn’t a big deal).  The course was an incredible “tour” of all the different parts of the city.  Very very cool!

Victory:  I finished marathon number 10!

The Clothes:  At least I looked fast and cute.

The Best Part of the Whole Race:  I had my own personal cheerleader.  So motivating to actually see my Number One Fan at FOUR different places along the course. 🙂

The saying on the yellow sign is courtesy of Coach MB from his inspirational email in advance of the marathon!  (Congrats to Coach MB on a fast 2:39 marathon in Chicago!)

The Rest:  The rest of the weekend can be summed up as follows:  pancakes, beer, wine and friends.

Wild Berry pancakes from Wildberry Cafe – so yummy!

Chocolate Chip pancakes from Nookies – Yum!

The Chicago runners from our training group (the rest ran Twin Cities) – such a great group of friends and runners!

Chicago Marathon 2012 was the best overall marathon weekend experience I’ve had so far.

Lesson Learned:  Even if I didn’t OWN the Chicago Marathon itself, I owned Chicago for sure.

Grandma’s Half Marathon weekend recap

I finally had a great race – where I pushed through the tough spots and didn’t give up, physically or mentally.   I LOVED how I raced yesterday!

For those of you who just like the numbers, the details:

Time

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Splits

11.9M 1:29:41
10M 1:15:32
10K 46:38
5K 23:18
Average Pace 7:34 per mile
Age Graded Percentage 68 percent
Overall Place 479 out of 6482
Sex Place 99 out of 3757 Females
Division Place 12 out of 416 Females in the F4044 Age Group

For those of you that like more, my thoughts about my race:

  • I hadn’t really RACED a half marathon in ages.  I’ve done many of them the past several years, but they always fall in the middle of marathon training or right after a marathon, so I usually end up doing them just as a hard training run or a fun run.  This time it was a goal race, of sorts, so I had fresh legs and a better focus.  Although even still, it was 8 weeks after Lansing Marathon, so after recovering for a few weeks from Lansing, my true “training” time for this half was only about 5 weeks.
  • I have been feeling really good about where I am at, physically and mentally, so I was hoping for a strong race.   My previous PR had been 1:40:33, although that’s deceptive because the course (Polar Dash HM) measured SO short (12.85 miles), so really my pace for that race would equate to a 1:42:30 (which still would have been a PR).
  • Most of you who have been following my races know that SOMETHING always seems to happen to derail my marathon and other race goals.  Wind (fucking Lansing).  Heat.  Rain.  Stomach issues. Leg cramps.  Blah. Blah. Blah.  What I have come to realize, is these are all just excuses.    Truth be told, the reason that I always blow up in my races is that I haven’t been mentally prepared, or willing, to deal with adverse circumstances and pain.  I decided recently that I was ready to change this.  I was ready to push through the discomfort (pain) and give it my all, no matter what the conditions.  A friend texted me the night before the race and said that he got better at running when he stopped being afraid of crashing.  That is exactly what I had been thinking about recently – about how my own fears were holding me back.  SO – I went into this race telling myself that I was NOT going to hold back this time – I was going to push through and leave it all out there.
  • Although I would have been content with 1:40, my real goal was 1:38.
  • It was warm.  I think maybe 60 at the start, 65 throughout (maybe, I haven’t seen temps), but it was full sun.  And it FELT hot.
  • I did zero warm up.  Probably not very smart, but there was no where to warm up.  Seriously.  It was crazy crowded at the start and they had a barricade up to keep us commoners back from the elites running the USA Half Marathon championships.  So there were basically 7000 people trapped in a 1/2 mile stretch of road.  So I just sat on the road, looking at Lake Superior and listening to my music, trying to get pumped up.
Looking at Lake Superior pre-race
  • Before the race I saw my friend (and financial planner!) Jeff.  We had talked about meeting near the 1:40 pacer because we both had similar goals.  I told him I was going to do my own thing, and run a 1:38.
  • It was crazy crowded and slow and frustrating for the first 1/2 mile.  For a good 1/2 mile I was at 8:15ish pace, weaving in and out of masses of people who were NOT 1:40 runners. (So I guess this was my warm up?).  Finally got through the crowd, but then needed to kick it in to get my first mile to be near where I wanted to be (I was aiming for 7:28ish miles).
  • After the first 2 miles I very briefly questioned whether I could keep up the pace for 11 more.  I knew negative thoughts, or thinking about how far I had to go, would bring me down, so I told myself just to think in small chunks.  So from that point forward I started looking at it as “get to the 5k at this pace”, then “get to the 10k at this pace”, then “get to mile 9 at this pace”, then I switched into “take it a mile at a time” mode.
  • It TOTALLY helped that I had made my 1:38 goal public.  Had I not done so, I think I would have backed off the pace and been content with a 1:40, since that still would have been a PR.  But having told The World (my 5 blog followers) that I was going to run a 1:38, I felt like I couldn’t back off.
  • It also helped me get through the race (and stay near my goal pace) to know that people were tracking me online.  As I approached each timing mat, I would think about needing to be at 7:28 pace and so I would pick it up in the 1/2 mile before the timing mat.
  • At one point – I think about mile 7 – it was starting to feel very hot and I was hurting.  It helped to tell myself “Could be worse; at least you aren’t face down at mile 70 of Bad Water”  (I had started reading Scott Jurek’s Eat and Run the night before and the first chapter opens with him telling about being face down at mile 70 of Bad Water, with 65 more miles to go.)
  • Just after Lemon Drop Hill (mile 9), I looked over and my friend Jeff was next to me.  He asked how it was going and if he could run with me and we could help eachother.  I said I was starting to get tired and grunted something at him. 🙂  So we ran together, not talking, but keeping eachother on pace.  He pulled a little bit ahead of me and it was JUST what I needed – trying to keep up with him was motivating and a welcome distraction.  I was starting to tire and wasn’t sure how much longer I’d be able to keep the pace up.
  • Then at mile 10 something happened.  I got like a second wind or something.  Not that I felt great, but I didn’t feel like I was struggling anymore.
  • The last two miles were great.  The crowd on Superior was so awesome.  They were loud and I felt like a rock star with all the cheering.  It TOTALLY energized me and made me kick it in.  Mile 12 ended up being 7:22 pace, but I know at one point I was at 7:05 pace for a good stretch.   Jeff was still running right in front of me and he was picking up speed too.
  • The last kick to the finish was great to actually have some gas left (6:50 pace).  I wanted to catch Jeff, but couldn’t.  He beat me by 8 seconds!
  • This race was a huge success for me, mentally and physically.  I left it all out there.  I overcame mental obstacles.  I pushed through even in the heat/sun.  I LOVED how I raced this.
  • Even though my 5k time and previous marathon times don’t “predict” that I could run a 1:38, I KNEW that I had it in me.  I felt trained and ready for that time.  Now having done this solid HM, I feel ready to start the training for Chicago and get after a speedier marathon time!

Jeff, me and Jeff’s buddies enjoying post race beers

For the numbers geeks, my splits:

  1. 7:45
  2. 7:39
  3. 7:11
  4. 7:28
  5. 7:35
  6. 7:21
  7. 7:34
  8. 7:43
  9. 7:36
  10.  7:35
  11. 7:34
  12. 7:30
  13. 7:36
  14. :41

Random thoughts about the rest of the weekend:

  • I will blog later this week about Adam Goucher and Tim Catalano’s talk and “Bridging the Gap” and “Being on the right side of the line between tough and stupid”.  Anyone else notice that my BFF’s commented on my blog again? 🙂
  • It was so fun to do the half marathon instead of the full and then be able to watch the marathon.  We watched it near the finish line and it was so inspiring to see people finish – the fasties AND the normal runners.  Loved it!  Todd from my running group ran it yesterday as his first marathon and rocked it with a 3:26:xx.
  • The partying last night was crazy. I’ll leave it at that since my mom and daughter read my blog.  If you want details, you’ll have to run with me and I’ll fill you in. 🙂

Kicking Off 2012 With a HM PR!

I ran the Polar Dash Half Marathon this morning, kicking off 2012 with a 4+ minute PR (sort of*).

Stats:

  • 1:40:33 (7:41 pace)
  • 8/191 female
  • 4/34 female 40 – 44 age group
  • 53/396 overall

I wasn’t sure what to expect for this race today, given the last minute snow storm and the crazy wind that we woke up to.  I almost didn’t bother to go to the race, when I let Norah out this morning and the wind nearly blew her away.  But, I didn’t have anything else planned and I figured that I needed to get my long run in, so I could always just run it slow.

My plan, in ideal conditions, was to get a 1:42:44, which would have been a 2 minute PR (7:50).  Coach had suggested taking the first 2 miles slow, at 8:00, and picking it up from there.  BUT, when it ended up being so crazy slippery (seemingly) and windy, Coach posted on my FB page before the race that I should forget about trying to PR and just slow down and play it safe.

AWESOME start to the race when during the national anthem a bald eagle circled overhead and then flew off into the distance.  Very cool!

Weather at the start was 27 degrees, with 20 – 25 mph winds, windchill about 11 degrees.

When gun sounded, I went out with the 1:45 pace group (8:01).  I still wasn’t sure what I’d end up doing – being conservative or racing it.  I decided to see what the road conditions were like.  Turns out they were just fine.  No real slippery spots.  Snow in some areas, which made me have to slow down unless I could find a dry track to run in.  But overall, the roads themselves were pretty clear.  So, I stayed with the 1:45 pacer through mile 3.  Then I decided to pick it up a bit and see what I could do.

About mile 4 I saw my internet, now real life, runner friend Shawn  running on the sidewalk towards all the runners.  I shouted out to him and he joined me.  Thank goodness!    He reminded me that he is THE BEST pacer.  Ask Lora.  He asked if I wanted company.  Yes, please!  I was feeling good and speeding up, but Shawn reeled me in and kept me around 7:50, telling me I could wait til the second loop to speed up.  Guarantee if I was running on my own I would have crashed and burned.  It was so nice to have Shawn telling stories and distracting me on the uphills, and reminding me to pick it up on the downhills.  He left me at about mile 7, telling me he’d pick me up again about mile 10.

When I was on my own, from miles 7 – 10, I just kept reminding myself to take it one mile at a time and to try to stay right at 7:50.  During these miles I felt like I was working, but not like I was really RACING.

When Shawn found me again, about mile 10, I was starting to get tired.  My breathing was labored and maintaining 7:50 pace seemed much harder.  It was great to have him there to distract me and push me on the uphill though.  He commented several times that I look at my garmin alot while I run.  MUST start ignoring that thing, relaxing and just focusing on running by feel.  Part of the reason I was looking at it so much at this point though was because I did think the course measurements were off.  When we passed the 11 mile mark and my garmin said 10.75, it actually motivated me to really keep with it, kick it in a bit and hang in there, because I knew that no matter what I’d PR and that there was a potential for a monster PR.

During the last mile Shawn told me to reel in the woman in front of me in Vibrams.  Done.  Passed her.  During the last 1/4 mile I found another gear and sprinted past another lady.  Woot!  It felt so good to have energy at the end and be able to actually sprint towards the finish line (instead of the normal limp/crying that I do in marathons at the finish!).  Last mile was at 7:35 pace.

Crossing the finish line and seeing 1:40:33 was an awesome feeling and bodes well for races in 2012!  (That time predicts a 3:29 marathon finish; even when i account for the short course, the prediction tables say 3:33 for a marathon finish.  This is SO inspiring considering we are literally only in week #1 of marathon training.  Woot!)

* Although I’m not one to talk negative and put myself down, in the interest of full disclosure on this blog, my time really wasn’t this good.  The course measured short.  12.85 miles, rather than 13.1.   Not sure what the deal was, but I don’t think it was just my garmin, because others on the shuttle on the way back also said they were short.  However, it WAS a certified course, so I’m going with this as my new HM PR (especially because I think in decent weather conditions, I could easily do this time).  Still, even with the course measuring short, I would have had a 2+ minute PR, so I am very happy!

******

Even better than having a great race was having wings and beer with some of the running group later in the day.  I love me some wings.   And some beer.  Mix in good conversation and good running friends and it was a great way to end the day!

And, for the record, I got in my PJ’s at 7:15 last night and 5:15 tonight.  🙂   My favorite part about winter and cold stormy weather is not feeling guilty about early jammie time!

Bring on the cold!

Well today I followed Adam’s advice and ate as many Christmas cookies as I wanted.  Ended up with 6 chocolate rolo ones (SO delicious!). Which isn’t all that many, except I didn’t do any running today, or ANY sort of exercise.  Complete rest day.  And I feel like a lazy slug!  I know rest days are important, but mentally i really needed a workout today.  But Toys For Tots and kid craziness interfered.

So, even though tomorrow will be our coldest morning of the year so far (-6 windchill when I run; Wheeeee!), I’ll be out there!  I NEED my run tomorrow.  And really, the cold doesn’t bug me as long as the footing is clear, which it should be.

Speaking of cold weather running, I just registered for the Polar Dash Half Marathon on New Year’s Day.  I’ll be by myself (i.e. it won’t be my turn to have the kids) New Years Eve and Day, so I figured I should plan something that I like.  Running 13 miles sounds like a great way to start 2012 to me!  Anyone else racing on New Years?

My 2012 race calendar is shaping up!  2 half marathons and 2 marathons on the schedule so far.  Fun stuff!

Women’s Half Marathon, Bloomington MN

2012 race calendar is shaping up!  Some of my imaginary internet friends, including Mindi, are doing the Bloomington Women’s Half Marathon, a new event that looks like it will be more fun than serious racing.  Has the potential for really crappy weather (i.e. WARM) on August 26th.  But also has the potential for lots of fun!  I’m gonna take a wild guess and say the race shirt will be PINK, which will be a definite perk.  And I will finally get to meet the other blond running lawyer in real life!  So, I officially signed up.  Who else is in?

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!

Illinois Marathon 4/30/10

Marathon number 4 is in the books!

The details:

Time: 3:59:28
Pace: 9:08
Avg HR: 172
Max HR: 188
Actual measurement by my garmin: 25.49
Overall: 465/1808
Div (F3539): 21/98
Sex: 90/635

Weather: about 65 at the start and 75 at the finish; humid; cloudy at the start, eventually full sun. Not good!

Although I didn’t meet my ultimate time goal, or even my secondary time goal (to PR), I did meet my non-time related goal which was to finish feeling decent about the race and decent physically and mentally. This was my best feeling marathon. So I’m happy about it.

Got to Champaign around noon on Friday and met Lora and Maria for the first time in real life. So fun! We hit the expo, had some lunch and then just kicked our feet up in our hotel rooms and relaxed until dinner. I limited myself to checking the weather forecast only about 10 different times. 🙂 They were predicting heat and wind, maybe even some rain. It was CRAZY windy all day Friday.


Me, Lora, Kate, Nettie, Maria after dinner pre-race eve

Friday evening we met a couple other kickrunners, Nettie and Kate and went to dinner with them and with Maria’s boyfriend Jason and his mom and her boyfriend. Yummy italian food which would have been even better if I could have ordered one of the rich, wine cream sauced dishes and had some more drinks. But I stuck with the basics and only had one beer. After not drinking even one beer the night before Grandma’s, and then doing shitty in the race, I decided to allow myself to have at least one drink and enjoy myself. Good call!

I got back to the room and started settling down about 9:00. Read til 9:45 and then turned out the lights. And then guess what happened? I fell asleep! Right away!! My normal pre-race sleep issues did not happen. Maybe it was the beer. Maybe it was my confident attitude about my training this time. Maybe it was the comfy bed and warm blankets in a room that I cranked the air down and made it nice and cool in. Whatever the difference was this time, it was fabulous! I did wake up ever 2 hours and peed, drank water and went back to sleep right away. (OK – I confess – I also checked the weather in the middle of the night – and was very happy to see the predicted 25 mph winds had died down to 14 mph).

Alarm went off at 4:00. Sweet! I basically got 6 hours of sleep! Good start to race day. Ate my oatmeal and had a cup of coffee, some water and some gatorade. About 6:20 I realized that I had forgotten to also eat the mini bagel and peanut butter that I had planned on. Darn! Wasn’t sure if I should just skip it, since race time was at 7:30, or if I needed the fuel. I opted to eat it. Previous races I hadn’t fueled enough before hand. Crossed my fingers that I wouldn’t have issues with eating it that close to race.

Met the girls in the lobby about 6:45 and we walked over to the start area (less than 1/2 a mile from our hotel).


Lora, Maria, Nettie and me before the race

We were all feeling good about things. The winds had calmed down. The weather wasn’t ideal, but it wasn’t horrible. There was cloud cover, so that was good. We were all ready for the day. Maria and I had plans to BQ. Lora had a plan that would have put her about 3:50. Nettie was running the half and hoping for a sub 2:00.

Little did we know the sun would come blasting out, the humidity would be a killer and the wind would completely disappear.

We lined up in the corrals and waited. Took a gel at 7:20, 10 minutes before start time. I hadn’t done this before, but knew that Jen and Baggs do it, and they are fast, so I figured maybe it’s the secret to being fast. I think it was a good thing to have done. I needed all the extra fuel/electrolytes/energy I could get. The race started 15 minutes late, because of some issue with the 5k that was run immediately before the marathon. A little irritating, since I felt like we needed to get going before the weather heated up.

The first 10k: 53:21 (8:35 pace)

We kept the first couple miles easy – under 8:45. Maria, Lora and I ran together, which was a good start and kept our pace in check. I commented that this pace felt harder than it should. Lora said her coach told her the first 5 miles would feel harder than it should because of going from zero to running at pace (no warm up). I felt like it was from the humidity.

At mile 2.25 we saw our friend Kate, who was biking around the course and cheering us on all day. It was a great boost to have her around the course. (And Jason and his parents at points later). Going to a marathon in a different state was new to me and I was thinking it would be hard not to have support out there who actually knew my name. So it was very welcome!

Just after mile 3 I picked up the pace. My plan had been first 3 miles 8:45ish. Next 10 miles 8:35ish. Next 10 miles 8:20ish. Last 3 miles whatever I could do, but under 9:00ish for sure. I felt a little bad pulling ahead of Maria and Lora without saying anything, but I sort of got sucked into the crowd and I figured they knew my plan and that I was there to run my own race. So off I went. I knew Maria planned to pick it up to a pace that was faster than mine, so I figured I would see her soon anyway.

I actually felt better when I picked up the pace a bit. I think mentally it helped. I knew the weather was going to be a huge factor later on, so I wanted to get on pace or even ahead from the start.

Saw a Boston Terriror along the side of the road at about mile 5. I yelled, “Hi little Boston” and took it as a sign that today was my Boston day. Nope.

10k – Mile 13.1: 1:53:28 (8:39 pace overall )

I continued feeling “ok”. Clicking by the miles. Not entirely on pace because of their length (measuring a bit long), but on pace when I look at lap pace itself. Feeling decent. Wondering when Maria will catch up to me. Taking in water from my handheld. Grabbing gatorade at most water stops. Stopping to refill my water bottle when it’s empty (having volunteers pour water in – which made me lose about 15 seconds at each stop). I ended up refilling it 4 times. Drinking more water at the stops when necessary. Gel every 5 miles, NUUN tablet in my water at miles 7 and 13.5.

We went in a prairie like area at mile 8 that was HOT. Full sun. Tall prairie grass. Two medical emergencies (runners collapsing on side – I think from heat). I tried to just stay relaxed and not let heat bug me yet.

The half marathoners split off from us at about 11 mile mark. I have to say I was happy that they left. It was crowded with them there. (There were 6500 of them).

13.1 – 20 mile 2:55:05 (8:45 pace overall )

Saw Jason and the parents at mile 13ish. Again, nice boost to have someone cheering for me. I felt pretty good, but wasn’t necessarily feeling like this was my BQ day. At mile 13 I started to loose energy. It was when “my plan” had been to pick up the pace to 8:20ish for 10 miles. That wasn’t happening. I just couldn’t do it. I thought I would still be ok if I could maintain around 8:35ish. Even that wasn’t happening though.

I had a few miles in here where the right foot issue felt like it was happening. So I stopped to tie my shoe a couple times. It felt better when I did that, but each time I lost at least 30 seconds. I knew BQ was slipping out of reach, but hoped to still come close. I even thought if I had a second wind, I could speed up and still make it. Nope.

Mile 20 – 26.2 (1:04:23 10:21 pace for the last 10k)

At mile 20 I looked at the garmin and knew a BQ was pretty impossible. The heat was really bad. So I decided to back off pace and save myself for Grandma’s. I let myself relax. I still had a few issues with the foot (which I wonder now if they are just in my head when I get tired??). I was feeling very tired, my form wasn’t the best. But I was moving forward and not walking and not hurt. The crowds were very nice – telling me I looked good.

Somewhere around here the 3:50 pace group (which only had 4 people in it!) passed me and the pacer said, “It’s 90% mental, gang”. Ummm, no. In this heat it’s physical! Briefly entertained trying to stay with them, but didn’t feel it happening and decided it wasn’t worth it to risk totally screwing my body up.

I saw Kate and then Jason’s parents at Mile 23. Gave them a shake of the head this time, to let them know it was now a sucky race.

Mile 24 I had stomach issues. Needed to find a portapotty IMMEDIATELY! Thank goodness one was around the corner. I was seriously in there with GI issues for like 2 minutes. Yuck! It was so hot in there that I thought I was going to pass out. Wouldn’t that have been horrible!?!

Oh – 2 times between mile 18 and the end, I felt like I was gonna puke after I took in gel or gatorade. I did little “puke burps” – but kept it down. Yuck!

Sometime around here someone shouted out that I was the 92nd female. Hmmm. That seemed weird to me that someone was counting. But I guess I picked it up a bit, because I ended up 90th female. It did feel good during the last mile to be passing people instead of being passed!

Mile 25 I see Nettie and hear her shouting my name. Up to this point I had stopped looking at my watch, because I didn’t want to know if I was near a PR, because I had decided to take it easy and not push myself so that I would be good for Grandma’s. So at 25 I looked and did see PR was out of reach. Still, I felt good, so picked it up the last mile to have a stronger finish (which is what I had wanted). I was soooo tired.

Rounding the final turn towards Memorial Stadium was cool. Crowds were great. Coming down the final stretch and into the stadium I looked at garmin and saw that I would have to totally kick it in and I could get under 4:00, so I did. Finished on the field at 3:59:28.

I was dizzy and tired, but happy to be done. I was looking around for Maria and Lora, because I thought they had probably passed me somewhere along the course while I was in the porta potty or water stops. Unfortunately, they didn’t have their days either and they finished a bit after me.


Me, Maria and Nettie – finished at last!

The gang after some post-race chow

It was great to have people to hang out with post race, even if it wasn’t the celebration that we had been hoping for! Not the race that I had hoped for either, but overall my best marathon experience to date.

Bring on Grandma’s!

Data: (pace) (avg HR)

1 – 8:38 (168)
2 – 8:45 (175)
3 – 8:37 (180)
4- 8:37 (182)
5 – 8:43 (186)
6 – 8:15 (185)
7 – 8:47 (185)
8 – 8:38 (183)
9 – 8:47 (181)
10-8:57 (180)
11-8:31 (178)
12 – 8:32 (176)
13-8:52 (174)
14-8:47 (175)
15-8:53 (173)
16-8:59 (171)
17-8:52 (172)
18-8:37 (173)
19 -8:52 (172)
20 -9:25 (169)
21&22 – 20:13 (164)
23-10:57 (160)
24-11:06 (152) (2 minute porta potty break!)
25-10:27 (155)
26-9:42 (155)
.2 – 1:51 (168) (8:08 pace)

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