I Owe You a Lot of Race Reports

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So, we certainly have some catching up to do. Last time I checked in, I had done a number on my ankle and was calling it quits for a while to let that bugger recover. Well, suffice it to say that the ankle has mostly recovered (though it still hurts a bit kicking in the pool now over 6 months later). Also suffice it to say that working full time, chasing around a toddler, and marathon training have not meant lots of extra time to sit down and blog, though 6 months in between posts is obnoxious. We're stuck in the house right now since Henry has contracted hand, foot, and mouth disease just in time for us to miss our vacation, and I thought blogging may help to ease my feelings of going stir crazy.

I ended up running on my ankle once or twice before doing the Fast Before the Feast 10K on Thanksgiving Day. I've done 5Ks on Thanksgiving in the past - The Turkey Trot sponsored by Lifetime and the Giving Thanks 5K sponsored by Charities Challenge. Though I really like to be able to get out and celebrate my health with my family, I don't love 5Ks, especially crowded ones (I don't think I'll do the Turkey Trot with 7000 of my closest friends again soon). On Thanksgiving, I want to earn my turkey, so when the opportunity came up for Steve and me to run the Fast Before the Feast 10K, we jumped on it. The distance was great - far enough to feel like we got in a good workout, short enough to make it to Aunt Lisa's house for lunch, and a perfect distance to push myself and suffer a little bit. Plus they were collecting donations for the food shelf and managed to amass over 6 TONS of food! Having only run once since the ankle sprain, I had no idea where my pace would be, especially since I'd never run a non-pregnant 10K. I settled into a comfortably fast pace, though, and managed to average 8:15s for the race for a total time of 51:14. This was good enough for 6/25 women and 34/178 overall. Of course I made a friend out there. Steve and I always joke that I can't do a race without making a friend, and this time it was Rachel who just happens to read Steve's blog. Thanks for the push, Rachel! If you ever get a chance to do a race put on by Tri Fitness WBL, do it. Jason puts on fun, well-organized events.

I really took it easy in November and December, but by January, I had decided that it was time to sign up for the Minneapolis Marathon. I had been eyeing it for the past few years, but it had never worked out with my work schedule. this year it didn't fall on my weekend to work, so I signed up! After running Grandma's a few years ago, I swore off spring marathons, but I decided to give this one a try. It wouldn't involve a ton of travel, I now know that they plow River Road trails after snowstorms, and I somehow managed to convince my coworker Laura to sign up, too (she ran Twin Cities with me last fall).

April brought with it our annual Evotri training camp, and as was expected, it was hilarious, exhausting, humbling, and confidence building. The hills down in Chattanooga are nothing like I can find around here The folks at Quintana Roo and Hub Endurance were so welcoming, and just like last year, our personal chauffeur on the bike could have kicked our butts but instead hung back to chat with us, push us up their versions of rollers (they were big hills by my standards), and teach us about their local race scene. I was SPENT by the end of it, but my endurance was so much better than last year (credit the marathon training?) that I was still up for a run after our long ride.

In May, I kicked off multisport season with the Cinco Du Mayo Duathlon. My rides in Tennessee had given me confidence that I would be fine on the long course, so that's what I signed up for (plus then I could just replace my 15 mile long run for the week with the race).  The long course was a 5K, a 20 mile ride, and another 5K run. This spring has been and continues to be miserable for us weather-wise, and May 4th was no exception. It was cold and raining hard on our drive out to Stillwater, but miraculously, it stopped just before the race start. The temp was around 35 degrees at the start - perfect running weather for me but a little chilly on the bike. I knew my transitions wouldn't be stellar. For the first run, I took out at a maintainable fast pace for me and was surprised to look down and see that I was running just over 8 min miles for the first 10K. This time, I made a friend in Coleen on the first run. By the time she and I hit T1, we were really pushing each other and running stride for stride. Total time for the first run was  24:25. T1 took me forever, mostly because I had to take off my socks (I bike sockless), add an extra shirt, gloves, and pants over my bike shorts. Plus, everything was hard to get into because it was all wet! The bike course out there was HILLY, and for some reason, my top 4 gears decided not to show up. Biking without my granny gear on hills does not make me happy or fast. My bike was making all sorts of scary noises, and I said a prayer each time I shifted. I finished the 20 mile bike in 1:10:15. I joked that I had more wardrobe changes in this race than an Oscar host, but I'm a hot bodied runner and never would have survived my second 5K in all of those clothes. I easily lost 2 places in my long transitions - T2 was 2:00. Colleen and I had leap frogged throughout the bike, but because of my long T2, I was chasing her down on the run. She had a bit more left in her tank, though. I finished the second run in 24:58 which gave me a 2:04:13 overall - 6th out of 38 women. We were so lucky.The rain held off during the race, and Henry had fun at my sister Steph's house with Jon and his cousin Evie. This event was also put on by Tri Fitness WBL. Many of the volunteers wore sombreros, and they served tacos at the finish line. It was a blast!

A month later, on June 2, Laura and I headed to the start of the Minneapolis Marathon together. We parked in downtown and took the shuttle from The Depot to the start in Theo Wirth Park. Given Team Ortho's somewhat rocky history of busing people, we got there with plenty of time to spare, and I think we avoided the rush. Unfortunately, that meant that we were SUPER early to the start line - about an hour.  I had feared that the fact that I'd been training in unseasonably cold weather all spring meant that race day would be 85 degrees as it has been in years past. Fortunately for us, the day aligned with the rest of our spring and was a bit on the cool side - around 50 degrees at the start with temps eventually warming into the high 60s. This meant some chattering teeth while waiting around at the start line (I didn't bring a drop bag, and our house was out of my favorite pre-race trick - big black garbage bags). They lined the marathoners and half marathoners up together, and at 6:30, the start horn sounded. I figured we'd run right around 10 minute miles as that's what we'd been doing in training, but we actually started out a little faster than that. Not "oh crap, we're toast because we're not pacing ourselves properly" fast, just "our legs are fresh and it's great weather" fast. Laura and I talked with each other and with the other runners throughout the course. It really was beautiful. It started in Theo Wirth, headed north and east, and then pulled us in over the Stone Arch Bridge, past the Mill City Ruins, and down along the river. I did get a little sick of hearing, "You're almost there!" at around mile 12. We had realized by then that most of the runners (around 2500 of them) were doing the half, and only around 700 brave souls were doing the full marathon.

After we passed the turnoff where the half marathoners finished the last 1-2 blocks, River Road became pretty sparse. I am so used to the number of runners and spectators at Twin Cities Marathon that I'm just plain spoiled. If I hadn't brought a friend to run with, there's a good chance I would have been lonely out there. We did manage to make a third friend - Kate was from Omaha and had come up to do her first marathon. Congrats, Kate! The last 13 miles were an out and back, which I actually liked. I enjoyed seeing the other runners who were headed into their finishes and being able to cheer them on as we met them.

We continued along River Road, through Minnehaha Park, and nearly to Fort Snelling before turning around. The fact that Laura and I have mostly been running on River Road and the scarcity of spectators left us both wondering if we were on just another training run where we were running on the road instead of the trails! A definite positive was that Steve and Henry, who came down to cheer near the Lake Street Bridge, got to see us twice - at around mile 15 and mile 23.5, and I didn't have to worry when Henry screamed, "Mama!!!" and came running to hug me on the course. There weren't enough people for him to get in the way. That big hug left a smile on my face for miles. We finished together in 4:24:48, a time that included 2 bathroom stops, for an average of 10:07. I need to look them all up and write them down, but I think that's a very average marathon for me. Laura would comment later that she was voting me Miss Congeniality of the marathon because I was always thanking or encouraging someone out there, but that's the way I've learned to get out of my own head and ignore the pain.

Some final thoughts on this marathon:

1. This was number 15 for me! I'm heading into territory I never thought I'd be in when I was training for my first marathon.

2. Overall, this was a well-organized fun race. Packet pickup Saturday could have been smoother, but in general, the info was timely, the bus option to the start worked really well, they had Cliff Shots on the course, water stops were appropriately stocked, and the volunteers were knowledgeable. The one beef I had is that sometimes they'd put the water first at the aid stations and sometimes they'd put the electrolyte drink first. It should have been consistent. Or I should have been paying better attention...

3. This was a really pretty course. We had beautiful weather (including a great breeze), lots of options for shade while running, and the start was early enough to account for rising temps. We didn't pass The Lakes, but we did get to see several of the highlights of Minneapolis.

4. Would I recommend this race? Absolutely. Would I recommend it as someone's first marathon? I'm not sure. It would definitely be easier for a cheering section to show up on multiple places on the course, and it would be easier for said cheering section to spot their runner out there, but it didn't have the hype or magic of Twin Cities Marathon. There were no huge block parties, bands, and big speaker setups, but this race is only in its 5th year. You can't really compare 700 runners to 11,000 runners on a course. Minneapolis was still fun. It was just smaller and more low-key. I would recommend bringing or finding a friend out there to run with. I would definitely do this one over Grandma's again. There's just something nice about being able to sleep in your own bed the night before a race, parking in your parking spot for work, and knowing the course really well. The course was prettier and better shaded. I ran Grandma's on a hot year, and it felt like hot asphalt and no shade for 23 miles. There's a HUGE party at the finish at Grandma's, and it's on a Saturday night, but by the time I had finished that year, I was just ready for a nap. They did offer free beer at the end for finishers.

5. This is very girly of me, but the finisher shirts for Minneapolis were AWESOME - super cute, fit well, and very comfortable. The pictures didn't do them justice. I've been wearing mine every time it's clean, and sometimes when it isn't.

6. I am still loving the FIRST marathon training program. It has fit so well into my tri training, and I'll have more to say about that with my next race report - Trinona. I promise it won't take me 6 months. :)



Glad you're back, Pharmie! Nice race report. I so want to run the Minnesota Marathon now. I love small races. The less people, the better.
P.S. Hope Henry feels better soon