Monday, June 1, 2009

And That, Is That

(Settle in - this is a long one.)

What else can I say? The inaugural Minneapolis Marathon is complete. Everything did not go according to plan. MS and LF did not get their Boston qualifying time, but it was not for lack of a valiant effort. I did my job, but it was just not in the cards on Sunday. 

The day was beautiful, clear skies and about 55 degrees at the start, about 77 and sunny at the finish. We got to the start in time to use the biff and mill around a little bit. We ran into a bunch of friends, some we knew would be running and others who were a surprise. Everyone seemed to be feeling good - I know I was. (LF had a 99 degree temp the night before, but was feeling better when she woke up.)

What can you say about a marathon? If you have done one (or even half of one) you know there is a lot of running. If you haven't done one - there is a lot of running. I will try to make this interesting by embellishing mildly interesting events, exaggerating other events and flat out lying when I need to fill space. The night before I reviewed my notes to myself from my successful Twin Cities Marathon. Drink a liter and half of Accelerade orange with caffeine - check. Clif Builder Bar (substituted a large bowl of oatmeal instead - I had started doing this weeks before) - check. Pee early in the race - check - that was mildly humorous.

The course is kind of quirky (read: fucked up) but it worked to my advantage. About two miles in we pass a long line of port-a-potties (I didn't have to pee then) then we make a loop and pass them again at about mile five. We have to cross the historic Stone Arch Bridge over the Mississippi coming up to mile five and I told "the ladies" I had to pee and would book it over the bridge, pee, and then meet them at the port-a-potties. So there I am running too fast, too early in the race (from other people's perspectives, not mine really) so I could pee. I find an open door, step in and am doing my business when I hear, "Todd Olson (that is my name) we are running by the port-a-potties!" I reply, "I hear ya!" Then I hear from next door, "You better pee fast!" To which I reply, "Don't talk, you're making it crawl back up!" Followed by peels of laughter. I finish up, tuck back in (too much detail, but worth it, hold on) grab a quick squirt of sanitizer and step out the door. Wait a minute. Something doesn't feel quite right. Uh, yeah - mis-tucked. My junk is hanging out the leg of my short liner (not out in the open, thank god.) So, now I am running and trying to stuff my stuff back in its home as demurely as possible. I was laughing at myself as I was catching up to "the ladies." (I don't know why I keep putting that in quotes, but it seems to work.) By the time everything was said and done, I was only about 100 yards behind. Catching up was no work. Getting myself dressed apparently was.

The marathon and half marathon start from the same starting line and run the same course until the half makes a turn around and the marathon continues on. It was fun to see the lead half-marathoners come tearing by. That first gal was "fit"! After the turn it was considerably less crowded. We clipped along right on or slightly under pace. It seemed everyone was feeling good. I was being honest about the pace and keeping everyone informed. 

We're tooling along this little parkway, enjoying the cool, sunny weather and the shade of the oak trees when just ahead of us we hear a rustle up in the branches. Then "WHUMP!" All of a sudden a squirrel falls about 12 feet out of a tree and lands right next to LF. We jump and look over and the damn thing gets up and runs off. Weird. We continued to run.

About 12 miles in we run into Fort Snelling State Park. We had our families positioned at this point because we make a loop through the park and double back. Seeing the families was great. They were really excited. We got into the park and started having difficulties. 

Fairly soon after getting into the park, we have to go down an incredibly steep hill. We had run it a couple of times so knew what to expect. The agreement was to get down the hill safely and then regroup. We seemed to have a difficult time regrouping and getting back on pace after that. Shortly after the hill we were running on dirt path for about a mile and a half. (See, steep downhill to dirt path = fucked up course.) At this point we started losing seconds, rather consistently. The course out of the park takes us on a straight, paved trail that has an incline for about a mile and a half. I was holding the pace - that was my job, but "the ladies" were falling further back. I was having an internal battle with myself - do I hold the pace and lose touch with them but come in on the time we wanted or do I drop back and try to encourage, cajole or berate them into picking it up to get back on pace? I got the crowd involved (we had our names on our shirts) and had some spectators tell them to pick it up. I kept getting further and further ahead. Things were not going right and there was not a lot I could do. We came out of the park and saw our families again.

At this point I stopped. I talked to my family and my mom and sister while I waited for them to catch up. I felt like I couldn't give up on the goal and I needed to try to stay with "the ladies" and be encouraging. (Needless to say, I am not encouraging.) We were losing huge chunks of time and walking through water stops. I was getting frustrated. I know we trained right and I know everyone was fit enough to hold the pace. I was frustrated by all the stuff I didn't know and couldn't control. I WAS NOT frustrated with MS or LF - they were working HARD. 

Mile 20 came and went. I knew we were too far off pace to make the BQ. I didn't want to pull the plug though. Mile 21 came and I could see the 3:50 pacer coming up behind us. Mile 22 and the 3:50 pacer had passed us. Insert fork - it was done. LF called it. We agreed that I could be cut loose and LF and MS would run it in on their own.

I picked up the pace. I was frustrated, disappointed and a little sad, but I thought I would make a dash for it. "It" being something close to 3:45. Four miles. I passed the 3:50 pacer shortly after leaving "the ladies." I was doing pretty well, holding a quick pace and a nice quick turnover, but then the hills arrived. We had run down these hills at the beginning of the race and had run training runs on them, but they really started to take their toll. I think the hills combined with my flagging enthusiasm due to missing our goal took my heart out of it. I walked through the last few water stops and just put it on cruise control. The 3:50 pacer passed me again. This time I didn't really care. I worked the hills as best I could on tired legs and low motivation and trotted into the finish. 3:52 and change. Nothing at all to be disappointed in, but I was a little. 

I was fricking tired. My legs were dead. I grabbed a bottle of water found some shade on the grass and laid down. It felt SOOOOOO good. I snagged my family as they were walking by. I heard LF come in about six minutes after me and MS another two after her. All under 4:00. All improvements from last spring's marathon. 

My brain is really a messy place. Trust me, you never want to visit there, but I will give you a little peek behind the steel blast doors. The self-centered, selfish, overly competitive part of my brain was pissed. It was telling me that I could have easily been under the time we were shooting for. But the real me intervened. I did not run this race entirely for me. I ran it for "the ladies." I did what I could and I did a good job. And so did they. Lying in the grass I realized that I love to run marathons. I was buzzing from the endorphins even as my quads were stiffening up. I was still buzzing this afternoon even as I was hobbling down the stairs. I am so glad I ran this one with LF and MS. I would be more than willing to take another shot at a BQ anytime they feel like they want to. Maybe not this course -- you let me know.

MS summed it up best on her blog, "Marathons are funny. Marathons are hard." I couldn't agree more.

A big thanks to everyone who came out to watch and cheer us on. Especially my wife and kids - who still really have no idea why I like to do this crazy shit - and my mom and sister. Thanks to everyone in the blogosphere, as well. It's fun to have people I have never met face to face pulling for me - it's fun to pull for those people, too. Let my tri season begin!


Maggs said...

I don't know, I just think Marathons are hard. There's nothing funny about 'em.

Mary said...

Todd, thanks for all your hard work on Sunday! Yet another learning experience.

NJ said...

I'm not sure about marathons being funny, but your account of this one sure is! Glad to see you can keep your humor despite a finish that wasn't what was anticipated. You'll each learn something from this and move on to the next one! Way to go, Todd!

Tasha the Triathlon Goddess said...

Nice report - but now, time to get back to the REAL racing, i.e triathlons. Or donut eating. I forget which.

D said...

I stand behind my original view on marathons: they're stupid. And I'm still not impressed that Maggs has signed me up for Honolulu. Way to break my "never going to run a marathon" pact I had with myself. (hopefully we'll pull a Maggs and quit at mile 10 and go horseback riding, or pull a Rach and just stop at her house at mile 16).

Sorry the marathon kinda sucked balls. I promise you "ladies", Boston is WAY more fun as a spectator haha.

Court said...

Nice job! Finishing a marathon is ALWAYS a huge accomplishment. Looking forward to watching you tear up the tri courses now...

Charisa said...

Marathons are frickin hard. I have now run 20 of them and they might not seem hard from reading my last blog post, but they are hard! Harder than an IM in my book. Your bathroom and squirrel incidents were pretty awesome! Nice work out there - it is very hard to pace someone.