Lucky Thirteen!

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Sunday was the running of the 31st Medtronic Twin Cities Marathon. It also happened to be my 32nd birthday and the 13th year in a row that I've shown up at the start line of this race. As I mentioned in my last post, I was excited to be able to run this race with my coworkers Laura and Tzivia.

My coworker Jared asked me the Friday before the race if I was nervous or if this was "old hat" by now. I answered honestly that the distance doesn't really scare me anymore. At this point in my life, I'm not going for marathon PRs. My goal out there was going to be to have fun, and I was hoping to see Laura to her first marathon finish.

After some tasty pasta on Saturday night, our alarm went off at 6 AM on Sunday. One of the things I love about doing a close race is that my race morning alarm clock was actually set later than my normal work week alarm. Steve, my brother Matt, his girlfriend Angela (who was running her FIRST marathon), my cousin Ben, my Aunt Nancy, and Steve's parents all caravanned to the start. We stopped to snap a pic of the racers before heading our separate ways:

Angela, me, and Ben trying to stay warm!
Tzivia, Laura, and I had planned to meet at a specific gate at the Metrodome. It was one that Tzivia's friends were also meeting at. Unfortunately, it also happened to be THE MAIN GATE THAT 11,999 OTHER MARATHONERS WERE ENTERING AND EXITING. It was a terrible place to meet, and after 25 minutes of searching for Tzivia and/or Laura, I realized that there was a good chance I wouldn't find either of them. I made my way out to the starting line. A little bit of dread started to set in. I realized that the race I was planning to run with a couple of really fun girls was maybe going to be a solo race. I really don't mind running alone, especially since I have a gift for making race friends, but that wasn't what I'd been mentally preparing for. At the back of my corral, I spotted Tzivia! She told me that she had been with Laura but Laura had gone back to look for me one more time. The corral was filling up fast, and Tzivia decided that she needed to get in line. "I can't be behind the 5 hour runners," she said. "You don't want to see how big of a mess I'll be if I have to start back there."

I waited. I waited some more. Dread was setting deeper and deeper in the pit of my stomach, and then I spotted Laura! I was so relieved that I nearly cried. This was going to be a great race after all. Laura and I got in line. We positioned ourselves off to the side. I had been so busy looking for my ladies that I never got to make one last trip to the porta potties, and I hoped this wouldn't come back to haunt me (it didn't).

Laura and me just after the start

We were pretty excited to get started!
 The start of the race FLEW by. I pointed out some of my favorite traditions - whooping under a tunnel in downtown, running by the Basilica while its bells were ringing for all of the runners, and seeing the lakes. We laughed and shared fun signs were reading, we talked, and we ran. Literally before I knew it, we were closing on mile 6, then mile 8. I was feeling good. The weather was still chilly at just over 30 degrees, but I was glad I'd decided on shorts, mittens, an ear band, a sleeveless top, and my Evotri bike jersey. We saw Laura's husband Jared at mile 11. He was biking bits of the course, and we'd see him countless more times before we crossed the finish line. I knew to look for my family at mile 15. When I saw them, my jaw dropped. My mom was there with the rest of our cheering section! She was able to take a few hours off of work to come watch the race.  What a fun surprise!

My mom holding up some extra Gu. Let it be known that
Mint Chocolate Gu is nectar of the Gods

She gave me a big birthday hug, I shot a smile to the rest of my family, and we were off again. I was so excited to see them all that I forgot that I was going to leave my mittens with them!

Mile 16 is always the hardest mile for me at a marathon. The pain has started to set in at that point, and 10 miles to go seems like an awfully long way.  This year was no exception. The crowd was AMAZING out there, just like it is every year. People have huge speaker systems to blast fun music, bands come out to play, families make fun signs to come and cheer, and neighbors have fun block parties. I tried to focus on all of the fun and a little less on any pain that was creeping up on me. I was wearing my SI brace, and though my sacrum was starting to ache, I found that tightening the brace every once in a while brought it back to manageable.

Soon we were at mile 20. "Only a 10K left!" I chirped to Laura. She smiled and agreed that we were going to do this. We weren't talking much any more. We were just focusing on the hills coming up, soaking in the sunshine, and pushing forward.

By the time we hit Summit Avenue, I was feeling good. Laura was starting to suggest that I go on ahead, but I didn't want to hear it. We were going to finish this together. We spotted a few supportive coworkers who had come out to cheer along with other friends as we made our way toward the Capitol. Though our time started slipping, I was thankful that my training was good. That 22 miler a couple of weeks ago made a HUGE difference in my physical and mental endurance. I focused on keeping my stride smooth and even. My legs were starting to ache, so I told myself to put them on autopilot and focus outside myself. I offered Laura encouragement, high-fived the little kids, and thanked the spectators for coming out.  I laughed at the signs and one guy's T-shirt that said, "Free kittens at the finish." The race was flying by, and I was soaking it in.

I looked for my family at mile 25.5. Henry and my sister Annie had joined them:

Henry sporting his new "old man" sweater

I was still smiling like a lunatic after all of those miles!
We crested the hill and ran down to the finish line. It's always such a beautiful sight with a huge American flag waving over our heads and the Capitol in the background. We crossed the finish line, high-fived, and hugged. We finished in 4:23:52 - a pretty average time for me, and one that I'm proud of since I felt great and have been trying so hard to find balance between work, being a wife and mom, and endurance sport.

I made my way back up the hill to find my family - medal around my neck, chocolate milk in hand, and a smile on my face. Running a beautiful marathon in your city is a great way to celebrate a birthday. The icing on my cake? Getting a giant birthday hug from this guy:

My splits, in case anyone is interested, were not fast, but here they are:
Mile 1: 10:01
Mile 2: 9:41
Mile 3: 10:09
Mile 4: 9:35
Mile 5: 9:36
Mile 6: 10:02
Mile 7: 10:13 (hit the split late)
Mile 8: 8:54
Mile 9 and 10: 19:30
Mile 11: 9:31
Mile 12: 9:38
Mile 13: 9:44
Mile 14: 10:21 (hit the split late)
Mile 15:  9:19
Mile 16: 10:11
Mile 17: 9:51
Mile 18: 10:14
Mile 19 and 20: 20:36
Mile 21: 10:18
Mile 22: 11:16
Mile 23: 11:11
Mile 24: 10:43
Mile 25: 10:22
Mile 26: 10:34
Mile 0.2: 2:05

Final Thoughts:

You couldn't have wiped the smile off my face at this race. It was just a great day to run.

Good thing Tzivia ditched us. On her very minimal training this year, she PR'd by several minutes even after stopping to talk to her family for a while. I think she finished in 3:50 something.

Angela ROCKED her first marathon. So proud of you, Angela!

I just love this race. I honestly don't know that I could have this much fun during another marathon. Yes, I'll likely do more more away from home in my future, but there' something so special about seeing familiar faces, running on your regular routes, sleeping in your own bed, and being able to have your family there with you. It makes me proud every year that people are coming from all over the world to see my beautiful city and the amazing people who live here.

Yes, my time leaves room for improvement - a minute/mile faster and I'll be back to my marathon PR, but considering I shaved 3 minutes/mile or so off of my 16 weeks postpartum time from last year, I'd say we're making progress.

Having a 16 month old to chase around at home does not leave time for being sore. He needs to be carried up and down the steps whether your legs protest or now. This "active recovery" meant that by day 2 post-race, I wasn't sore at all.

I should probably slow down on the post-marathon Swedish Fish, chocolate, and apple crisp. I still have a 50K in 3 weeks, and getting up and down those hills isn't going to be the least bit fun with an extra 10 pounds on my behind.

In 6 more years, I'll be able to say I've been doing this race half my life. I certainly hope to keep the streak up at least that long!

Race Week!

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Wow. I haven't written a "Race Week" post for so long. When I do, I try to keep them at the beginning of the week so I can plan and reflect.  Well, the days of planning and reflecting for races have gone the way of my pre-pregnancy boobs. On Sunday, I will toe the line at my 13th Twin Cities Marathon. It will be on my 32nd birthday. I've followed my training plan as best as I can while working more than full time and trying to be a good mama. I've put in my long runs, including a 22 miler two weeks ago, and I've been trying to get to the chiropractor whenever I feel my sacrum has shifted out of place. I've done some of my long runs well before dawn and well after dusk so that I could fit my training in with the rest of life. Thank God I live in a relatively safe area that allows for running after Henry's bedtime. I don't know when I would have fit the training in otherwise!

People kept asking me at work today whether I'm nervous. I can honestly say I haven't been. I was a little nervous early this week when our house got hit by a GI bug. Poor Henry was terribly sick on Tuesday, and though I had horrible nausea and couldn't eat, I think I lucked out and avoided most of that nastiness. I work right near the start line, so I have been seeing signs and barricades appear this week. It's fun and exciting to watch it all take shape. My usual strategy of not thinking too much about the race tends to serve me well, so that's what I've been trying to do. The weather looks to be PERFECT with a low of 40, a high of 57, some clouds, and no chance of rain. My coworkers Laura, Tzivia, and I decided to start out together. They are SO much fun, and it's Laura's first marathon. It's going to be a blast. By now, I know when to expect the pain. Given the fact that I haven't been putting in 50+ mile weeks, I know it will come, but I'm looking forward to spending a beautiful day with 2 cities I love, my family, and thousands of amazing spectators. I am excited to celebrate my health and the strong body God has given me. This won't be my fastest marathon. It won't be my slowest, but it may just be the most fun I've had over 26.2 miles.