Another’s First

This post has been a long time coming. I’ve held off mainly because I wasn’t sure it would actually happen. (Then I forgot about posting it for a couple days. Whoops.)

Watching my mom discover her own love of running over the past two and a half years has been incredible. I love having someone to share this with. I must admit, I never expected that the marathon bug would infect her too.

Tomorrow morning, bright and early, my mom will start her own 26.2 mile journey at the same race that served as my first marathon too. There’s just something special about a hometown marathon. (I just wish they would distinguish the medals from the half marathoners’ but that’s a story for another post.)

Due to many scheduling conflicts, her training has been jumbled and less than perfect. (She’s in high demand! :D) Through all that, even when the prospects for getting in adequate preparation seemed dim, she would not let go of that marathon dream. She persevered. Call me a runner nerd but that made me beyond excited for her.

Here’s to Susan becoming part of the real 1%!


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Off-Season Week Two

Since I am not training for anything at the moment (shocker…I know) I debated what to call these workout round-ups. For now I’m sticking with “off-season.”

This week was “full” of easy runs and no structured workouts. I kind of enjoyed it. I didn’t enjoy it enough to keep it up. I’m ready to get back into some solid base-building and strength training.

Monday easy run
This run felt pretty good, especially since there was no foot issue. I did start to feel a bit fatigued at the end of the run but that’s to be expected with the marathon only a week in the rear-view mirror.

Tuesday stationary bike + NTC
stationary bike: It’s been a few weeks since I’ve been on the bike and I felt it. :) I did like the ride though. Hopefully I’ll be getting a lot more in the next few weeks.
NTC: It’s been even longer since I’ve done a full strength training workout. I’m surprised at how much I liked it. Hopefully this enthusiasm for strength training will continue. I knew it would make me sore but underestimated how much.

Wednesday easy run
My legs (glutes and hammys specifically) were pretty sore after Tuesday’s strength training. That made this run a bit of a slog but I actually enjoyed it.

Thursday stationary bike
Since I was still pretty sore following Tuesday’s strength training workout so I settled on an hour of easy riding instead. I’ve been battling an oncoming crummy feeling (most notably a super sore throat) so I took it easy.

Friday easy run
This was definitely the best run so far this week. I took it nice and easy. There was nothing extraordinarily good or bad about this run.

Saturday stationary bike + NTC
I totally meant to get in another ride and a bit of strength training. I kept forgetting things and then realized that I didn’t have to push myself to get this workout in.

Sunday rest
When you do it so much it doesn’t feel quite as “enjoyable.” :)

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Twin Cities Marathon Reflection and Plans

I just reread the recaps for my first half and full marathons and it’s amazing how far I’ve come. That made a good experience feel that much better.

First, I must say that I am absolutely thrilled with my finish, as I mentioned. That was my prime goal, finish on a positive note or in other words, run a good race.

Second, I have to refer back to my big PR goal post. It’s been a big year. With those 10 minutes I checked the last distance off the list. It’s not often that a runner is able to notch PRs at the 5k, 8k, 10k, hlaf marathon and marathon distances. I didn’t make my reach goals for the half or full but that’s why they’re called “reach” goals.

Now to what went right. I already mentioned this in my recap. I didn’t stress about time. It baffles my mind that not looking at the clock helped me run a faster time. I know that the added stress and increased effort (to meet that arbitrary pace goal) would have left me very few energy reserves to draw on in the final miles.

I also stuck with my fueling and (modified) hydration plan. I’ve mentioned in previous recaps that inadequate hydration probably kept me from a better time. Even though the weather was cooler (which helped me tremendously), I hydrated frequently before I started getting dehydration warming signs.

Looking ahead, there are several things that I can do to improve. My half marathon times have consistently predicted stronger marathon results than I’ve achieved.

First, I want to focus on the long (and longer midweek) runs. Looking back, I feel like I short-changed my long run training for various reasons.

Second, I need to focus my training. The cycle that ended with TCM on October 5th started way back in April when I started ramping up my workouts to prep for Y2Y. It was also too fragmented; I had a few too many goals. These goals weren’t bad. They just distracted my training. I may run a few races before Rome but just as training.

Third, I want to become fitter overall, not just in running. My knee scare taught me that I can’t neglect strength training and expect my body to hold up under high (for me) mileage training. I plan to take a legitimate off-season to work on improving single leg balance, hip strength, glute strength and etc. I’d also like to create a plan that I can incorporate daily even after marathon training begins again.

Fourth, in a similar vein, I want to work on cleaning up my diet. You get out of something that which you put into it. I put a lot of delicious but not super nutritious food into my body over the last several months. It may take a little more time than cooking a frozen pizza from Costco but I think the results will be worth it.

I’m putting this all out there for accountability purposes. I’ve said it. Now, I need to go do it. Next stop on the BQ journey? Rome!

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Twin Cities Marathon Race Review

As usual, I forgot to mention several things in my original recap. Plus, I enjoyed this race so much that I want to devote an entire post to a race review. (Originally, I had planned to reflect on my performance but the review got a bit wordy so I’m saving the reflection for another post.)

This past weekend was one of the best race experience I’ve ever had. Before I get to the rave part of the review, I have just one critique and it has to do with the website. The design could have been much more user friendly, specifically by listing the options for transportation to the start under race day and not at the bottom of the travel page under all the hotels. All the information was available but navigation was a bit tricky.

Now to the good stuff:

The Expo:
After two poorly designed expos (MCM and SF) TCM’s expo had it all. There was a discernible flow down each row that took attendees past all available vendors without too much crowding. The volunteers at the bib pick-up and athlete tracking tables were both competent and friendly. (That won’t be the last positive statement about the volunteers that you’ll see in this review.) Everything appeared to run smoothly. Additionally, the river front location was spectacular. You can’t beat a well-run expo in a gorgeous locale.

TCM provided plenty of options for runners to get to and from the start and finish in this point to point race. Additionally, the new Green Line light rail provides almost direct, cheap transportation to the start and finish lines for spectators.

I don’t know where the announcer was set up but the sound system worked like a charm. Even away from the actual start area I could hear the announcer clearly. He gave prompt updates on time and instructions on entering the corrals.

The Course
I loved it. The “Most Beautiful Urban Marathon” moniker is not hype. A huge reason that I wanted to have a positive finish was so that I could soak in all the beauty. From the very urban streets of Minneapolis to the suburban neighborhoods surrounding the lakes, everything gave off an appealing charm I’ve never seen anywhere else. Technically, this course offers plenty of PR opportunities. There are some hills but nothing significant, including Summit Drive which is more of a really long (mildly soul-crushing) incline than a hill.

These people deserve a separate shout out. I saw more spectators per mile than any other race I’ve ever run. Keep in mind, it was in the high 30s and low 40s that morning. People voluntarily came out to the course to cheer and support all the runners. The only portion that didn’t have spectators was part of the massive bridge heading into St. Paul. I’d be hard pressed to find friendlier people on the planet. Seriously.

Two words: Best. Ever.
From the volunteers at the expo to those handing out finishers’ shirts, they all had sincere smiles on their faces. They manned the water stops with such skill you’d think they’d been doing this for years. (Maybe they have!) It’s amazing how far a smile goes.

Post Race
Unfortunately, I had to return my rental car and get to the airport so I was unable to fully enjoy all that they offered. From what I saw, the “27th mile” moved runners efficiently through to get the medal, water, space blanket, chocolate milk and finishers’ shirt and out to meet family and friends.

I’ll close this entry with a hearty recommendation of the Twin Cities Marathon. If I didn’t want to run all the marathons in all the states (and etc), I’d be back every year if I could.


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Twin Cities Marathon Race Recap

Marathon: #6
State: #6
Minnesota Marathon: #1
Twin Cities Marathon: #1

I debated about a goal post. As I’ve mentioned a few times recently, I’ve been having mental issues with my knee which kept me from getting into my usual anticipatory race mood. It wasn’t until I got to the expo yesterday that I really started getting into it.

I wasn’t sure what my goal would be for this race. I finally decided on sub 3:45 so I could earn a qualifying time for Chicago and postponing a BQ attempt until Rome in the spring.

Then there’s the weather. I absolutely loved it and am glad I came prepared with a long sleeve shirt and throwaway gloves. I also purchased a hat at the expo which I probably would have been okay without but really appreciated through those early miles.

To the race itself…

Dad and I ended up at the start with plenty of time.

Race Day

(That throwaway sweatshirt has yet to be thrown away.)

I made one pit stop when I first arrived but I should have gone again after I got into the corral. Thankfully, that didn’t end up costing me too much time.

A few (very cold) minutes later, it was time to go.

Race Day

The goal for the first half was a 1:51 aka an 8:28 pace. I tried (and succeeded except for the pit stop near mile 9) to keep as close to this pace as I could.

I’ll say now, this was, hands down, the most gorgeous marathon I have ever run. It might just be the prettiest race, period, that I’ve every run. I loved the sections of downtown Minneapolis that we ran through. Since we stayed in St. Paul, this was my first look.

At this point in the race I felt good physically. Barely 6 miles into the race I started struggling mentally. Thankfully, this didn’t last too long. I wish I could remember what I struggled with but my memory is playing keep-away.

I do know that early on I started repeating the mantra “one step closer.” I don’t know why but this really helped.

When I got to halfway, I checked the Garmin and saw that I was just barely behind that 1:51, almost exactly on target. If I hadn’t had to make a pit stop, I would have hit the nail on the head.

I still struggled mentally. (I’m sure that longing thoughts of half marathons filled my head at this point.) I started thinking about changing my Garmin screen to the time and thus prevent myself from obsessing about my pace. The more I thought about it, the more I wanted to do it.

Around mile 14 I switched the screen and started running by perceived effort. This was so freeing. It kept me from obsessing about my pace and also helped this marathon pass faster than any of my previous 5. I gave myself mini goals of getting to the next water stop where I would walk through and guzzle water. I had planned on stopping at every other stop but decided against that. (I did stick with my fueling plan and ate 2 Gatorade chews every 4 miles.)

After that my splits varied widely (from 8:35 to 9:20) but I did not know any of these while I was running. That was both freeing and slightly depressing at the same time. Based solely on how I felt, I thought for sure that walking at each of the water stops was bringing me closer to barely squeaking out a PR or worse.

The things that kept me going were: “one step closer” and “make this a good finish.” In all my previous marathons I’ve felt horrible in the 20+ miles. I didn’t want that again. Today I passed under that 20 mile wall determined with every step to get one step closer to that strong finish.

The only thing standing in my way was the “infamous” Summit Drive hill. Looking back, I have to laugh. Compared to San Francisco or even Greenville, that hill was nothing. Don’t get me wrong. It still does not feel pleasant at all coming after mile 20 of a marathon but I conquered that thing. My legs hated me and marathoning but I conquered it.

After that hill only a 5k remained. I didn’t quite hate the marathon but I wasn’t exactly pleased with it either.

Between miles 23 and 24, I happened to overhear a spectator say something about “quarter after” to a runner ahead of me. I thought that might be either her projected finish time or the approximate actual time. If the latter was the case, I was doing better than I thought.

Then came the mile 24 water stop and the clock. I was doing better than I thought. That was such a motivator. Another motivation? “Shake it Off”. Say what you will about Taylor Swift, the idea of telling yourself to “shake it off” at mile 24 of a marathon is awesome. Shake off all the previous miles. Shake off your soreness and protesting legs. You’ve got this. I did just that. I shook my head and hands a bit, cleared my head and headed for the finish.

I could put one foot in front of the other until I reached the finish. After all, it was only 2.2 miles away.

After mile 25, I finally got excited about this thing. I could do it. I could PR. The only thing left to determine was by how much. With about .4 miles to go my music finished. I had enough for a 3:42 finish. Out came the headphones which got stuffed into my back pocket.

One last turn and I could see the finish, the beautiful downhill finish. Even though it felt great to conquer that insane incline right before the MCM finish, I’ll take an amazing downhill any day.

Would you believe that I somehow had enough for a “sprint” to the finish? I ran the last .5 (yes, I’m terrible at running tangents) at a 7:13 pace. Finally, an awesome finish. I’ve been waiting 6 marathons for this.

Race Day

(So, I still need to work on my arm swing…)

Final result?

Race Day

That is 1 second away from an exact 10 minute PR.

It may not be the sub 3:45 I had hoped for but I am more than thrilled with this result for the main reason that this was the best marathon I have run yet.

Since this post is already long enough, I’ll leave further thoughts to my reflection post. I’m off to walk the length of the airport terminal to keep from cramping up. (No more flights out on marathon day.)


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Twin Cities Marathon Week 9 Training Recap

As has been my reoccurring theme for the past few weeks, this week’s training didn’t go exactly as planned, mostly with my mental state. This “injury” has certainly taken me on a strange journey which includes my own klutziness. (see Tuesday)

So…here is how last week’s runs went down:

Monday easy run with fartleks
I felt pretty good (knee included) the whole time. The fartlek’s in the middle were tough but actually a lot of fun. Also, my pace for the cool down was 30 seconds faster per mile than the warm up, not on purpose of course.

Tuesday tempo intervals
There were all kinds of signs that I shouldn’t have cancelled my PT session so I could run, from drained electronics to a speed bump. After my first tempo interval I decided to head inside for no good reason. If only I hadn’t. :) I didn’t pay attention and a speed bump got the better of me. Before I could blink I was on the ground. I didn’t too much damage. I headed inside, cleaned myself up and finished the run including the tempo intervals. Now, however, I’m left with a goose egg like bruise on the front of my left hip, a bruise on the inside of my right knee and a couple scraped up elbows. I don’t know how I did it but the most damage I managed to do was the bruises. I’m very thankful.

Wednesday easy run
I almost didn’t run. I had a rough night’s sleep and my right calf was still tight so I decided to hit snooze a bunch of times. When I got ready to take a shower I decided to go for it. I actually felt really good through the run. My calf is still a bit tight so I’ll be working on that.

Thursday PT
This was a good appointment. She gave me some really tough exercises. I even bought a stability disk and resistance bands to work on my balance issues going forward.

Friday tempo run
This was an interesting run. 95% of it was awesome, everything functioned as it should. (My right calf was a wee bit tight at points but not bad.) I did my new normal-start outside, run most of the rest inside and then run back to my car. About 5 minutes before I finished a knee (don’t know which one) gave way. I had to grab the treadmill to right myself but by the next stride I was back up and running and finished no problem. Then when I was running back to my car it felt like something was wiggling/fluttering on the outside of my knee, weirdest feeling ever. Nothing hurt although my knee was a little sore after. Everything’s fine now, better than recently actually but it weirded me out.

Saturday short tempo
This was an interesting run. I look forward to running in the daylight next week. I think everything went well. I was able to maintain the goal pace fairly easily. However, I did feel that same weird fluttering around the outside of my kneecap that I felt Friday in the last 5 min. I wish I knew what it was. Other than that, this was a pretty good run.

Sunday rest
I’m on vacation. I took this day super easy and totally enjoyed it.

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Twin Cities Marathon Week 8 Training Recap

Mentally and physically this was a much better week. That’s always a good thing when heading into taper.

Monday easy run
This was a tough run mentally. I had a rough night’s sleep and thanks to the gradually shortening day, this run was all in the dark. I didn’t really struggle with my knee, thankfully, but didn’t really enjoy the run. I got it done though.

Tuesday PT
I wasn’t as impressed with the regular appointment. They were good exercises and I’m planning to incorporate them into my daily routine. I just don’t have enough money to keep going regularly.

Wednesday tempo intervals
The knee felt pretty great. I started outside but finished the intervals inside. (I’ve got to get over this motivation hump.) The first interval was super hard. Once I uploaded the data I discovered why. I was supposed to hit 7:20. I got to 6:55. Whoops. The second interval (inside) felt just a bit too easy. Then I noticed that I had forgotten to increase the elevation. “Problem” solved. Towards the last interval, the front of my right hip near the joint felt a bit odd but it went away. Hopefully soon my competitive mojo will return.

Thursday stationary bike
This was an okay ride for most of it. Around the 45 minute mark I had a weird pain in my left knee. (I mean, come on…really?) After a pause and adjustment on the bike, it went away and I finished. Whatever this is, I’m so over it.

Friday short, fast intervals
For the first time in a couple weeks everything felt completely normal. I like that. :) These short intervals were super hard as they should be obviously. 100m of recovery just did not feel like enough. I got through all of the intervals as prescribed, no extra breaks.

Saturday long run with fast finish
Several things worked against this run: work forcing an early treadmill run to fit it in, no working AC (creative fan use), and rough night’s sleep. I also don’t prefer our home treadmill because the lowest incline it goes to is 1.5. All that being said, I finished almost exactly as prescribed.

Sunday rest
This is very easy to do.

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