Twin Cities Marathon Recap

Take two: My browser just crashed before I could save my 1000-word recap.

Wow! What an experience! My first ever marathon on a beautiful course with the most amazing crowd support. And a race that went as perfectly as I could have hoped.

Marathon resultsMy main goal going into this race was not to hit the wall and have a miserable time. The plan was to go out slowly and keep even splits and maybe speed up in the second half. I did have a time goal – which is not recommended for newbies like me. But it was a very loose goal and I wasn’t going to beat myself up if I was falling behind. I wanted to feel comfortable for the first 18 miles and the goal was to run by feel. I did pick up a 3.45 pace band at the expo but only started to look at it at the halfway point where I was 2 minutes behind target pace but was pretty sure I would finish sub 4 hours. I actually only hit the goal mile splits at mile 26! I wanted to enjoy the race but also to get the most out of my 18 weeks training and get a race time that I could be proud of. For my first full distance I decided to be conservative and it definitely paid off (hello – almost 3 minute negative split!).

Now to the race details. Race day started at 5.30 AM with a breakfast of toast and a little bit of water (I ate half a granola bar at 7 AM). I was feeling surprisingly relaxed – maybe because I hadn’t put too much pressure on myself and I would have J running the entire course with me. We left at 6.15 AM and parked in downtown Minneapolis about two blocks from the race start.

The weather was a little cooler than I had expected –  38 F at the start with a high of about 50 F for the day. The morning was pretty sunny and I wore shorts with a long sleeve shirt plus some running gloves that I kept on for the whole race. My fingers and toes were a little numb for the first couple of miles but after that I felt fine. We dropped our sweat bags at 7.45 AM and headed to our corral. We placed ourselves between the 3.35 and 3.45 pacers and waited for the start. We crossed the line at 8.02 AM and headed towards downtown.

I had expected to feel pretty emotional at the end of the race, but it was actually at the start where I got a lump in my throat. Being surrounded by 8000 runners and ready to see where my 18 weeks of training would get me – I was already on a high.

The first couple of miles were through downtown Minneapolis and some of the nearby suburbs. We went out slower than goal pace and were just trying to take it all in. There were a couple of smallish hills and plenty of spectators lining the route. I felt sluggish for these first couple of miles and was a little worried that I was going to have a bad day. Then I remembered that it usually takes me 3-4 miles to warm up on my long runs and I just tried to relax and talked to J about all of the cool things that we were seeing on the route.

Mile 1: 8.48

Mile 2: 8.54

Mile 3: 8.29

After mile 3 we headed towards the parkway that runs around some of the lakes.

Twin Cities courseThey don’t call this the most scenic urban marathon for nothing. Most of the race had views of the lakes and the parks that surround them. There were also beautiful houses (we made a game of finding our dream house as we ran) and people out biking and running on the trails. It was so scenic – although these roads are normally for one way traffic and at some points turned a little narrow which made it a little difficult to pass people.

And the crowds! Holy crap! They were amazing. There were people out in their front yards blasting music, holding up some pretty funny signs, offering plenty of free high fives, fruit, popcorn, beer. We ran under a balloon arch, by drum bands, brass bands, a guy playing bagpipes, a guy playing a piano. Everything you could imagine. It was immensely humbling that people would give up their Sunday morning to watch people run 26.2 miles. It felt like we were running through a whole bunch of block parties. Being my first marathon, I have nothing to compare it to but it’s hard to imagine better spectators.

I’ve read a couple of race reports that say the first half of the marathon always goes by really fast, and as hard as it sounds it’s definitely true. The first half was pretty flat and maybe a little downhill. I was feeling good – just a little tight in my hip flexors – but overall very comfortable.

Mile 4: 8.36

Mile 5: 8.36

Mile 6: 8.39

Mile 7: 8.43

Mile 8: 8.31

Mile 9: 8.37

Mile 10: 8.23

Mile 11: 8.22

Mile 12: 8.25

Mile 13: 8.28

We went through 13.1 miles in 1.53.46. I knew that we would be crossing the bridge into St Paul at mile 19 so we kept a steady pace and tried to take everything in.

Mile 14: 8.36

Mile 15: 8.26

Mile 16: 8.28

Mile 17: 8.33

Mile 18: 8.28

Mile 19: 8.28

Mile 18 was the first place that I started to feel tired. On my long runs I had started to tired as early as mile 14 so I felt confident that we were going at a pace that we could keep until the finish line.

If you look at the elevation profile for this race, there is a monster hill from mile 20-23. I made a deal with myself that I would push through this hill and then hold on for the last three miles (which are downhill). Luckily for me, all of my hilly training runs around Salt Lake paid off, and to me this section was largely a non-event hill wise. Sure there was one short, steep section but overall it was fine. If you did any hill training you would be totally fine for this section.

Mile 20: 8.20

Mile 21: 8.13

Mile 22: 8.32

Mile 23: 8.30

Mile 24 is where things stared getting tough. My legs were tired. I knew that if I dug deep I could keep my pace for two more miles. And that’s the game I played with myself – you can run two miles, 1.5 miles, one more mile. Just before mile 26 we turned a corner and suddenly saw the Capitol building and the finish line. I looked at my watch and saw that I had two minutes to finish under 3.45 – so I went for it.

Mile 24: 8.20

Mile 25: 8.26

Mile 26: 8.18

Second half in 1.50.51 and a finish time of 3.44.37 (average pace 8.35 min/mile).

I think what helped during those last few miles was a familiarity with being uncomfortable. I had done long runs on tired legs, tempo runs where I had to really push to finish, trail races where I had to run up and then up so more. My training really got my used to reading my body and knowing the difference between real pain and when I was tired but could still keep going.

Once we were done I ate everything in sight – chocolate milk, fruit cup, chicken and veggie broth, chips, and clif bars. We then picked up our sweats and tried to stay warm (they give you a foil blanket when you get your medal). I also got a massage (would recommend) before picking up a finishers shirt and heading to the beer garden for a celebratory can of Summit beer.

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My calves and quads were not happy and are still sore today but I can live with some muscle pain after such a great race. I couldn’t have asked for a better debut. I surprised myself by actually ENJOYING it way more than I thought was possible. I’ve even signed up for my next full in May 2015. This may be the start of a major marathon addiction!

Automatic PRs!

On Saturday I ran my first ever 5K race. Automatic PR baby – 23.33!

The race is part of a series of trail races aimed at getting people into trail running. The course wasn’t technical – mostly old jeep roads with only the smallest section of single track. But a couple of things make it tougher than your regular 5K. First of all, Park City is at an elevation of 6700ft – which is about 2000ft  higher than Salt Lake City. And let me tell you that the difference will really kick your butt. Secondly, trail races mean one thing – hills, hills and, uh, more hills.

My legs were feeling heavy – not helped by going out way too fast (7.05 first mile). Looking at my Garmin elevation data – it doesn’t seem look that bad but I felt that the second mile was non-stop uphill (7.45). I hung in for the third mile – getting passed by two high school girls in the last quarter mile (7.31). I was so glad to be done – 5Ks are no joke.

The race itself was awesome. Race-day packet pickup which took about two minutes. Instead of a race shirt – you get a pint glass. Plenty of Nuun, water, bagels and bananas at the finish. Plus, an awesome raffle (with an extra ticket if you carpool). The only downer is that there is no chip timing, but there were only about 280 people in the race so that it’s not too big of a deal.

So my 5K PR is now 23.33 (although I measured it as 3.18 miles). 8th woman and 1st in my age group. Age group winners get to pick a prize from the raffle table. I opted for a compression foot sleeve (basically a toeless sock) to help with the minor foot pain I’ve been having recently. And you know – the more compression the better, right? Next up is a 10K around the same trails on July 12th.

The rest of Saturday was spent brunching, shopping and figuring out what to do with all the greens from our CSA.

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On weekends, I like to have a cocktail when I’m prepping dinner. This time – mojito. I used our CSA radishes and turnips to make a salad (tomatoes, red onion, cilantro and lemon juic

e), and dill to make a potato salad.

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J and I then biked 1.5 mile to our local microbrewery to taste some new brews.

Sunday was a 8.2 miles long run (8.40 min/mile) and I was not feeling it at all. The race on Saturday was tough and although I met my goal (sub-24), I felt a little disappointed with how tired I was feeling – which is totally stupid. I mean, I ran a half marathon last weekend and am probably not fully recovered. I need to stop putting such high expectations on myself. By the time Sunday rolled around it was a struggle to get out of the door. I did not want to run. Not – I couldn’t run. Physically, I felt pretty good but my brain just wasn’t cooperating. But I did it – and with pretty even split times. It’s in the books now – time to move on.

I also got my yoga groove back on. I haven’t been to a class for a while. Food tendonitis made it a little painful and then I just wasn’t psyched to go to a class. But I was suddenly itching to go – and was so glad I did. It felt so good. I am definitely back on the yoga train.

Sunday cocktail in my race glass!

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And then a little Asian inspired grilling – BBQ pork chops, mango slaw and stir-fried mustard greens (not my favorite).

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Today was an early morning session on the elliptical (4.3 miles) and finished with an after-work yoga class. A coworker is going on vacation and has offered passes to a yoga class at the University gym. I tried it tonight and it was pretty good (and free!). More like yoga-robics but fun. I can feel a big difference between my two knees but lunges are pain-free and I want to strengthen them back up.

Anyone else race this weekend? Anyone else finding it hard to find their running mojo?

 

 

Race Recap: Utah Valley half marathon

Half marathon number 3 is in the books! And I’m pretty sure it was my strongest one yet.

But first,  hats off to J who got a 18 min PR and qualified for Boston in his third marathon finishing sub 3.05. I hung around after I finished the half and waited anxiously as the clock hit 3 hours. At 3.03 I saw him hitting the finishing strait and started shouting like a crazy person (all of which went totally unnoticed by him). All that training finally paid off! I was so happy for him. And so proud!

Our day began a little after 2 AM. I think I got about 5ish hours of sleep but actually woke up feeling pretty rested. I ate a piece of toast smothered in Trader Joe’s cookie butter and we hit the road around 3 AM to head to Provo. We first dropped off John in downtown Provo so he could catch the bus to the start of the marathon. I parked in a nearby shopping mall and caught the bus up to the half marathon start.

I got there at 4.30 AM. It was dark, but not too cold. Now just had to kill 1.5 hours before the race start. They had plenty of portapotties, fire pits and even had some music playing. The sun started to crest the mountains and it was almost time to go.

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The first 8 miles of the race run down Provo canyon. This is pretty scenic and you even pass a pretty waterfall at about mile 4. But the one half of the four lane road remains open and cars are speeding (pretty loudly) up and down the canyon for the whole race. This might not bother some people but it kinda took away from the beauty of the canyon. Last year, I ran Ogden half marathon which is a simile race – downhill through a scenic canyon. But for Ogden, the entire road was closed and it was a million times more serene and enjoyable to run.

I managed to keep a reasonable first mile pace but I have to say that the first four miles seemed to go so SLOWLY. I was a little worried that I would just have a terrible race. This further hit home when I say the hill at miles 2-3. They advertise this race as a fast downhill run. Well, it’s true that it is net downhill but I still recorded 447 ft of elevation gain through the race. Including this LONG uphill mile. (Note: Ogden is completely hill-free).

After mile 8 it was completely downhill or flat. This was good for my legs but seeing the finish line from 2 miles out is a little soul-crushing for me. Why is it not getting any closer? Ughh!

One major bad point for me was the ‘closed-ness’ of the course. The main advantage of a race is that you don’t have to check for cars or stop at traffic lights. You just need to concentrate on running. At two separate sections, there were cars trying to cross the race course but no police officer to control traffic. I was a little concerned that they would try to squeeze in. This happened to J towards the end of the race – and he actually had to stop cos some dumbass in a car couldn’t wait 10 seconds to cross the road!

Another downer was the lack of crowd support. This was to be expected in the canyon. But even once we hit the residential are there was almost nobody around. In fact the only crowds were near the finish – and this was a pretty small group. Come on Provo – support your runners!

On Thursday I posted about my race goals. So, how did I do?

Negative splits: Nailed it! First half – 51 mins Second half – 49.35 mins. In fact, my last mile was the fastest of the race!

Have fun: The race was just OK (see reasons above) but it went pretty smoothly. I don’t think I would run it again.

Remember the marathon: Plenty of stretching as a warm-up and a cool-down. I even managed a 1.95 mile cool down run as I waited for J to finish. At the finish line they has a massage tent – and both J and I had a free 15 minute leg massage. It was the first time I’ve ever done this at a race but it felt awesome! In general, I felt so much better after this race compared to my half last month. Way less sore and I could even manage stairs for the rest of the weekend. My knee felt a little stiff for a couple of miles during the run but by Sunday I was feeling good – just a little quad and calf pain.

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View at the end of my cool down mile.

Back to marathon training on Tuesday!

Time: I wasn’t sure how I would fare in this race. I didn’t really go all out but I still managed a 1.40.35, 124th overall, 43rd female and 10th in my age group. After you leave the finish area, you can get a receipt of your time printed right then and there. Pretty cool!

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I ended up being a little under 2 minutes over my half PR and a lot faster than I had been anticipating, but the course was designed for faster times.

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The finish!

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Extra Creamies! Do they have these at every race? They are so good!

The rest of the weekend was spent relaxing, eating and drinking beer!

Day 50 – 25th Annual Leprechaun Lope Race Recap

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Happy St Patrick’s Day! Or Paddy’s Day. Never St Patty’s Day. Official Irish person rule.

I started my day with a 4.58 mile recovery run – at about 9.14 min/mile pace. After my race on Saturday and skiing yesterday my quads were not super happy. Looks like I’ll be spending this evening with my foam roller.

March total: 60.24 miles/96.9 KM

So my first race recap! I wanted to sign up for a race before my half marathon to get an idea of where I’m at. I have been injured on and off from August thru December 2013 and am currently nursing a mild case of runner’s knee. I have been able to follow the mileage portion of my half marathon training plan but until the last week or so have not been doing any kind of speed work so had no real idea of what my race paces might be.

This was only my 3rd ever 10 K. My first one was back when I lived in Scotland in 2007. J was training for his first marathon and wanted to run the Great Edinburgh 10 K to get some race experience. On a whim – and with no real training beyond 2 five mile runs – I decided I would run too. Now, if you’ve ever visited Edinburgh you will know that it is a pretty hilly city and the 10 K race covered the hilly sections around Holyrood and up into the old town to finish. Somehow I finished in 61.xx minutes and ran the whole way. But I distinctly remembered not being able to walk for about 2 days afterwards.

Last summer I did a local 10 K trail race and had a completely opposite experience. Pushed myself but really enjoyed it and set a new PR of 49.28, taking a whopping 12 minutes of my time.

This race was a road race so I was confident I could set a new PR until looked more closely at the race course and saw that there was about 500 ft elevation gain in the first half. Luckily, it was an out and back so I was hoping that I could make up time in the second half.

My plan was to stick to 8 min/mile for the first two miles and then hope I could stay close to 8.30 min/mile for mile 3. After that it would all be downhill and I wanted to get as close to 7.00 min/miles as possible.

I woke up at 6 AM to fuel up. Half a white bagel with some Trader Joe’s cookie butter spread and a lemon and lime Nuun.

My friend “I” was also running and picked me up a little after 7.30 AM. The race was meant to start at 8.30 AM so we spent 45 mins chatting in her warm car before heading up to the pretty windy and chilly (42F) start area.

The race was pretty small and the start was designated by the blue chip mats. At 8.30 AM we were off. I had snuck up towards the start and off we went. Miles 1 and 2 went pretty much to plan. Mile 3 is where it got hard. Lots of elevation. I knew that the turnaround was a little after 3 miles so I was waiting to see the leaders start to come down the canyon and at least know that I wouldn’t have to run uphill forever. At the turnaround I counted 3 women ahead of me. But I knew that there was not much chance of me catching any of them.

Now the downhill fun began! In my 2014 goals section I mentioned that I wanted to break a 7 min/mile this year. Last year the closest I got was 7.07. I nearly did a mini jump when I saw mile 4 was 6.56 min. Holy hell! I had never run that fast before. Sure I was being helped by a steady downhill gradient but still. I was even more shocked when miles 5 and 6 were both 6.36 min. PR for sure.

It was also nice coming down the canyon and seeing all of the runners heading up. I saw my friend “I” who confirmed I was in 4th place. I also had a couple of people cheer me on which was really nice and made me smile.

The only downside of the race came in the last mile. There was also a 5K race on and we shared the last mile so it was pretty congested and I had to weave around a lot of walkers, kids and people walking 3,4, and 5 abreast. It wasn’t too bad and I didn’t knock anyone over but it wasn’t ideal. I crossed the line with an official time of 46.39 mins.

I had run the last 3 miles with two guys – one of whom I accidentally left hanging on a high five after the finish line. Oops! Sorry! I saw and congratulated the other guy a little later.

Once I finished I added 2 slow miles as a cool down to get my total for the day to 8.17 miles. I even got some more congratulations from some army dudes out for their weekly run!

I waited for “I” to finish and got a receipt printout of my time and position. 20th overall and first in my age group (31-40). Great days racing! And has made me pretty confident that I can get a good time in my half marathon. Plus absolutely no knee issues for the entire race.

Finally, a reminder that Ireland isn’t all Guinness and leprechauns but is an amazingly beautiful and special place.

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