Monday, October 6, 2008

26.2 in 3:34:48

The End!  After ten months of training and racing my innagural season is complete and it couldn't have ended on a better result.  First, I must thank everyone who ran with me, encouraged me and put up with me during my training.  Second, I must thank everyone who came out to watch my races - especially the people who came out yesterday and stood in the pouring rain and cold.  I wouldn't feel this good without all of you.

So, the race.  Wow! There is so much to recall and so much that I have already forgotten.  

We got to the fricking start late.  We were still sliding up the chute to the first corral with about 90 seconds left.  My favorite was the people who were pushing through to get to the start faster.  I mean really, we are all going to the same place and the clock doesn't start until you cross the line anyway.  C and I got separated dropping off our bags.  I didn't know if she was ahead of me or behind me.  After the start, I scanned like crazy and found a nice open area where I could be seen.  I'll tell you what, it is good to be in the first corral - a lot fewer people and it opens up really quick.  Needless to say, C caught me from behind in the first mile.  

It was crazy fun to run through the closed off streets of downtown Minneapolis.   Mile 1 was there in no time, as was mile 2.  We started looking for L around this time, but could not find her.  I wanted to hand off my arm warmers (which were a stellar idea, I must say), but had to carry them until we saw my family. I had to pee at the start and was still feeling it now, but I decided to hold it, I would need that liquid later and it would reabsorb wouldn't it?  It was about this time that the rain started.  

It was light at first, refreshing, and not too irritating around Lake of the Isles, but then it really kicked in.  On the west side of Lake Calhoun it really started to come down and that, combined with the wind blowing across the cool lake made for a miserable few miles.  It was at this point I saw "the girls" and my fam.  They are all incredible troopers for hanging tough in really crappy weather.  C and I were clicking along comfortably, joking about people splashing us and jokingly asking for towels.  Having my name on my shirt was so fun and funny.  It's great to hear my name called out.  One woman surprised me and I turned back to wave at her like we were best friends or something.  I had a smile on my face for a lot of the race because people kept calling out my name. 

Fast forward to halfway - we came across in about 1:44.  We were smoking right along and feeling good, but of course the race is only starting at this point.  We figured we were on pace to hit our goal of 3:30, assuming, as I told C, "we don't do anything stupid." A lot of the second half of the race is kind of a blur.  Every mile I got past 13 I would tell C how much better it was than Grandma's.  We were taking fluids regularly, eating our gels and generally having a fun comfortable race.  

Around mile 16 or 17 I just couldn't hold it anymore.  I was starting feel a cramp from clenching, so I made a dash to the port-a-potty.  We decided C would keep going at the same pace and I would just have to catch up.  I figured I lost about a quarter mile to C by the time I got out of the can.  (Note to self: Pee early in the race, it is a lot easier to catch up with more distance.)  I pushed the pace and figured if she held her pace and I sped up I could catch her with at least a few miles left before the finish.  I did get some good luck - the course at this point was fairly flat or with a very slight uphill and kind of winding, so I could see pretty far ahead.  I thought I could see her shirt and white visor ahead but it was hard to be certain, so I just kept pushing.  My next break came at the point where we climb up to the bridge.  There is a 90-degree left turn onto the entrance ramp and I got a clear shot of her and I was gaining.  I caught up on the River Road, hammering uphill.  It took about three miles.  I think we were happy to see each other.  I just hoped that I hadn't wasted too much trying to catch up.  The only thing I really wanted to make sure of was that I didn't have to run up Summit Ave. by myself.  

And then there we were.  Making the turn onto Summit.  We had run this together a few weeks ago and it didn't seem too bad then.  To be honest, it didn't seem too bad yesterday either.  Don't get me wrong, it was painful, but I think that is more due to where it is in the race. You are past the 20 mile mark and if you aren't feeling the miles, you aren't running hard enough.  Really, the most daunting part of this stretch is that it is so straight and monotonous and the crowds are spread wide on either side.  Some tool-job came up behind me asking if we could see the Cathedral (No! It was one of the five other churches on Summit that precede the Cathedral.)  I chose to ignore him and he fell back.

Saw the whole gang again and it really helped.  I still had great energy, was still running and was able to high-five the kids.  All of the sudden, there is C's husband, M, running with us.  I was thoroughly confused.  Had he finished and gotten back to run the last few miles with us?  Wow, that is hardcore.  (Turns out he had a rough race and was hanging with our friends waiting for us to come by.)  

My legs were really getting heavy at this point.  I reminded myself that they certainly felt better than they did at Grandma's, where the pain made me walk, and I had run up steeper hills later in races when I had already been racing for four hours, like the Door County Half Ironman.  This wasn't so bad.  It worked.

Pushing hard up the last hill to the turn to the Cathedral I started to get a stitch under my ribcage on the right side.  I realized I was breathing from the top of my lungs so I eased up a bit and concentrated on belly breathing and really pushing my navel out.  Mission accomplished, stitch gone.  And then my vision was upon me.  

Since our last 20 miler that finished at the finish line, I had been rehearsing in my head what my finish would be like.  It is quite possibly an ideal finish.  You make a gradual turn that brings you by the Cathedral at the top of the hill, the highest point on the course, and then you are looking down at the State Capital.  The finish is downhill, across a highway overpass and then a straight shot to the line.  I ran it exactly as I wanted to.  As soon as I made that turn at the Cathedral I freewheeled down the hill and let my momentum carry me across the overpass.  The stretch from the overpass to the finish is longer than it seems.  The stitch came back a little, but at this point it didn't matter.  Finish line and done!

C was right behind me.  I had a personal record by 28 minutes.  C had a personal record by about 10 minutes.  There were hugs and smiles all around.  What a great way to end the season.  Next year - who knows?  3:30? 3:20 and Boston?  It certainly bodes well.

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