What the H-E-Double Hockey Sticks Have I Gotten Myself Into??

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So, about this 50K... Like I said in my last post, I waited to officially sign up for this race until I knew how well the groin would hold up. Training on hilly trails sounded like the last thing I should be doing, so I didn't really hit them until I felt good after TCM. Two weeks ago, I bought my new shiny blue trail shoes and hit up some single track by our house.

Yesterday I used my day off to check out the Murphy Henrehan park reserve, where the race will be held on the 31st. The plan was to do the 15.6 mile loop and tack on a couple of other jaunts to add a few miles. I brought the map with me. Thank God I did.

The race is offering four different distances - a 25K, a marathon, a 50K, and a 50 mile. All of the races incorporate the 15.6 mile loop, but the marathon and 50 mile tack on a little extra. I'll be doing 2 loops.

The loop is described as rolling hills for the first 6 miles with rocks and roots, flat and runnable for the next 6 miles, single track for 0.5 miles around mile 12 and then back to rolling hills. Since this is all new territory for me, I really had no idea what to expect. Turns out that "rolling hills" are some serious grade changes that I've really never experienced before. I'm sure these pale in comparison to some trail races out there, but yikes! I'm going to have to take it REALLY easy for those first few miles, both for footing's sake and to preserve some energy. I really didn't' know what "very runnable" meant in reference to the 6-12 mile mark, but it turns out that this is a good description. There are significantly fewer rocks and roots, and it's relatively flat. By the time I got to this part, I was already getting tired. It was cooling off, and I had put my long sleeves back on. I was starting to wonder if I'd ever get back to my car! On the way back, I was walking off and on and feeling a little disoriented. I wondered if it was the cold air, me being tired, or the fact that so much of the terrain looks the same. By the time I hit my car, I was more tired and sore than I anticipated I'd be. Today my thighs feel like they're going to fall off.

A couple of things to ponder:

* On my run, I met Les, the race director. He was the first person I'd seen in nearly 2 hours, so I was a bit startled at first. He asked if I was racing next weekend then introduced himself. Small world!

* I emailed a new friend to ask a few more questions about running a race this distance. It's great to know a few people who have done this distance (and much further) before. The race website says that they will have "the usual ultra foods" I wondered what that meant. Guy replied, "Foods are water, electrolyte drink,Coke, Sprite, ginger ale, Hammer gels or similar, fruit, cookies, cakes,brownies, pb&j sammies, candies (gummi bears, m&ms, etc), and my personal favorite, canned boiled potatoes that you dip in a dish of coarse salt. (try it!) The volunteers are almost always fellow runners, so you'll also see specialty treats like homemade jerky, banana bread, grilled cheese sandwiches,and in the summer; fresh strawberries on ice!!!" Holy cow you may not be able to peel me away from the aid stations!

* I did get lost a few times out there. Well technically, I wasn't lost. I had just taken the wrong turn. I ended up backtracking plenty of times. When Guy emailed me, he told me, "You'll be surprised how stupid you become after running through the woods for a few hours." OK. This makes me feel a little better both on the lost front and the slightly disoriented front.

If nothing else, this should be quite an adventure!

Twin Cities Marathon Race Report

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Better late than never seems to be my recurring theme here. Looks like the last time I posted around here was over a month ago. Yeesh! My tenth Twin Cities Marathon has come and gone, and this year did not disappoint!

There was much more preparation involved this year because in addition to Borsch and I doing the marathon, 10 of our family members were doing the 10 mile. Many of them were staying at our place, and most of them were eating here for their pre-race and post-race meals. The weeks leading up to the race were a flurry of emails about sleeping assignments, food assignments, and changing guest lists. My family kept commenting on how excited they were that the race would be over soon. I was starting to wonder whether encouraging them all to sign up was such a good idea.

Steve, my brother Matt and I went down to the expo the day before the race. It was a flurry of activity, and we stopped to talk to several friends we saw down there. Mark and Kris were doing the 10 mile, Alli and Ryan were doing the marathon, and my coworker Julie was doing the 10 miler. I managed to get out of the expo without totally draining our bank account. I found a super cute pair of 26.2 undies for my bud Maddy's batchelorette party that was that evening. We stopped by the costume place to pick up the farm animal costumes before we drove home.

I spent the afternoon cleaning and getting some of the food ready. After most of it was ready and some of the guests were arriving, I scurried off to make an appearance at Maddy's party. I'm not so sure it was a good idea. I spent my time at home worrying whether I'd make her party on time, and I spent my time with the girls worrying whether Steve was managing OK with my family at my place. I left Maddy's just before 8 and got home a frazzled mess worried that I'd messed up on both accounts. I shouldn't have been. Maddy was glad I stopped by for a couple of hours, and my family was all fine (Steve is AWESOME!). We got all 14 people through our one working bathroom in a reasonable amount of time, and Steve and I turned our lights off at 10:30.

I didn't sleep all that well the night before the race, which is a little unusual for me. I dreamt about it most of the night. Steve got up before our 5:30 alarm clock went off. Turns out I wasn't the only one not sleeping well. It didn't take long for our house to be a flutter with race morning activity! My aunt Jen was dreading her 10 miler. She compared her feeling of dread waking up to the way she felt before going into brain surgery a couple of years ago. Other relatives chimed in that they were ready to get it over with. I was really feeling bad for having pushed them to sign up. The marathon didn't start till 8, but we left the house early so we'd have time to spare for the 7 am 10 mile start time. Borsch and I said goodbye to them all and went back into the Metrodome to warm up. There was a chill in the air, but I knew I'd warm up as soon as we started running, so I was just wearing my shorts, a sleeveless shirt, a long-sleeved shirt, and a garbage bag to keep me warm. I sent all of my warm clothes with my mom to have at the finish. Borsch and I did a bit of stretching before making one last stop at the potties. I didn't get to see him again before the start (turns out the guys line was SUPER long, and they waited 15 minutes before hijacking the women's bathroom).

By the time I got outside, the chute was full. I saw Jenny, Guy, and Kim lined up. They had a huge bucket of candy ready for the kids along the course. Too fun! We wished each other good luck, and I snuck up a little further in line. I had been gunning for a sub 4 hour race all summer long, but the injury and a couple of really terrible training runs had left me doubtful whether this was possible or smart. I had hoped for some last minute long runs to re-evaluate the plan, but then my buddy xt4 sent me a come back to Earth email reminding me that what I really needed with an injury was rest. I thought about it for a few days and realized that he was right. I changed my time goal to closer to 4:10 (around 9:30s) knowing that if the groin really acted up, I'd be lucky just to finish. When the gun went off, I was well behind the 5 hour pacers. I kept it super easy for the first few miles.

Mile 1: 9:39. I heated up quickly. I knew I would. The garbage bag came off.

Mile 2: 9:10. Still feeling good. I smiled as I ran by the Basilica with its bells ringing. The long sleeves came off too.

Mile 3: 10:59 hit the lap late, got boxed behind some people at the water stop

Mile 4: 8:43 laughing and joking with the other runners

Mile 5: 8:57
Mile 6: 10:33 - looked over at the lake and marveled at the beauty of this race
Mile 7: 8:32
Mile8: 9:38 -gave my long sleeved shirt to a coworker. I was plenty warm!
Mile 9: 9:21
Mile 10: 9:25
Mile 11: 9:15 - still feeling good. This is the point where the wheels came off in my last 20 miler...
Mile 12: 9:24
Mile 13: 9:32
Mile 14: 12:03- had to make a planned stop at the porta potty. In 10 years, this was the first race where I had to run with a ziplocked tampon tucked into the waistband of my shorts. It cost me nearly 2.5 minutes but was totally unavoidable.

Mile 15: 9:14
Mile 16: 9:36 - I felt so strong. I was starting to hurt, but I remember hitting the mile marker and thinking, "This is how a marathon is supposed to feel!" Right around this time, I found my coworker Tzivia. We run about the same pace, and I was so excited to see her. We were both feeling great and commented how the miles had been flying by.

Mile 17: 9:45
Mile 18: 9:24 - I was feeling a little low on fuel but had run out of everything I'd brought. I took advantage of the orange slices and bananas spectators had brought for us.

Mile 19: 9:33
Mile 20: 9:31 - grabbed a couple of Gu packets from the Gu stop (the only one on the course)
Mile 21: 9:23 - saw Maddy and Luke. Maddy was upright after her night of debauchery! I was so surprised to see her, and I gave her a huge hug

Mile 22: 9:59 - up one of the last big hills on Summit.
Mile 23: 9:23
Mile 24: 9:02 - Tzivia and I were picking up the pace. I was feeling good but didn't know if I could hold onto that for 2 more miles. I told her to go on ahead without me. It actually worked out great because she looked for my family at the Cathedral and told them I was right behind her.

Mile 25: 9:41 - I knew I wouldn't break 4:10 but was RUNNING and feeling great
Mile 26: 9:49 - I high-fived my whole family as I ran by them
Last 0.2: 1:54 - I went as fast as I could but didn't have much in the reserves at that point.

Total finishing time: 4:11:38 - my second fastest marathon ever. My PR is 3:58. Someday I'll get there again.

Final thoughts:

1. My family had a blast. I needn't have worried. They all did better than they expected and are talking about "next time."

2. I've been doing this long enough to know what works. After my 20 miler, I went back to my old shoes. I'm back in the stability ones I've been wearing for years and will save the neutral ones Endurance House recommended for shorter runs. I wore my typical 45 degree outfit (shorts) despite my body telling me I should have dressed warmer. I was hot and sweating out there in no time. I brought Nuun along cut into 6ths. I dissolved it into my cups of water. Sometimes I chewed it first (it's not pleasant). It helps my stomach so much that I had to bring it along, and when I was impatient, I chewed it with a mouthful of water. It absoluely worked.

3. Could I have gone a bit faster and come closer to breaking 4? Likely. But there are some things that you can't change, like necessary bathroom breaks. I could have walked through fewer aid stations. I could have shut up while running with Tzivia. I could have put my head down and gutted it out, but I likely would have blown up, felt miserable, and not have been able to break 4 anyway. Eleven minutes is a long time, even for a marathon. I had SUCH a fun time out there. I hugged my friends. I high-fived my family. I welcomed newcomers to the race. I thanked the spectators and volunteers, and for me, that's what running the Twin Cities Marathon is all about.

4. The groin was sore but held up just fine. I think I'm finally on the mend. I wanted to see how it did before making any decisions, but I think I'm in the clear. I've been eyeing this one local race since this spring but couldn't really decide till I knew where my body was. This week I did it. I officially signed up for the Surf the Murph 50K on Halloween. I've never run a long trail race before. I went out to test the trails last weekend and will be going out again tomorrow. I'm not sure I know what I've gotten myself into, but maybe that's for the better...