Monday, November 8, 2010

2010 Twin Cities Marathon (USATF Men's Marathon Championship) Race Report

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2010 Twin Cities Marathon (USATF Men's Marathon Championship) Race Report

Woke up just before 5AM.  I made some tea and immediately ate my pre-race PB&J to make sure it got in the gut.  Prepped the gear and was out the door of the LivInn Suites with Matt and Britt in tow at 0620.  Stopped at SuperAmerica so Matt could get a Gatorade, then drove to the start area.  I parked the car across the street from the First Covenant Church -- the elite runner staging area -- and bid farewell to both Britt and Matt. 

The basement of the church was a great place to stay warm and relaxed: chilled out with Reneau and Hooley, along with Josh Moen and Chris Lundstrom -- I think I was slowest of the 5 by about 20 minutes!  Just after 7AM I snuck out solo for a light warm-up. 

The weather was INCREDIBLE: classic, beautiful Midwest fall morning, that I miss so much.  40 degrees, crisp and clear.  I jogged down to the river and along the parkway to the Central Ave Bridge, bid hello to the Hennepin Ave Bridge, then back.  Once back, I put on my race gear and shoes, then packed up my gear onto the transport truck.  Just outside the church was a parking lot where the elites -- men and women, open and masters -- were buzzing around, striding every which way like a colony of bees trapped in a glass jar.  I got in one last swig of Powerade, ditched a few mLs of pee, and then -- after the wheelers started, with just minutes 'til gun time-- the start line was opened for us.  I got "the shivers", big time, on that first stride -- with a crowd 3-4 deep cheering loudly. 

MILE 1-6
After a few strides and a Sign of the Cross ("Oh, NOW you come around!  He's not FOOLED!"), we were OFF down 6th St past the Dome, heading toward Hennepin Ave.  Stride felt good early -- it damn well better -- as we strode down the rough pavement.

Getting comfortable in a marathon is so difficult because everyone feels different, and everyone (not in the lead pack) is running a different race plan.  As such, I never know what pace I'm running -- it could've been 5:20 or it could've been 5:50.  Without a GPS watch, there's no way of knowing.  Nevertheless, I felt very relaxed at the first mile, and was pleasantly surprised to see a 5:37-change first mile. 

About this time, I was rolled up by the top two women -- both African.  I hung in with them as we wound our way down Hennepin and south on Lyndale.  Just before the two mile, Jim Parejko rolled up beside me (Menomonie HS 2003; Wisconsin-La Crosse 2007).  We exchanged greetings and I watched as he slid past me, up the hill.  Mile two split was another 5:30....OK, I guess -- I felt fine.   But not exactly comfortable; as such, I hung back.

Turning off Lyndale, the course dumps into a neighborhood. Thick crowds, including my cousin Matt and his wife, Megan. It was great to see them, and to hear Matt's loud "choppers" clapping! 

From 2, onward I tried to get comfortable but I could not.  No matter how big the race, I'm always getting GAPPED.  It happened again: there was a nice pack of guys 25m ahead, then me all alone.  As such, it was hard to find a relaxing rhythm in a group, and I found myself trying to reel them in. 

Moreover, splits were ALL OVER THE BOARD.  Talking to others after the fact, they were clearly mis-marked.  I'd run a 5:30, then a 5:50, then a sub 5:20, then nearly 6:00!  WTF!  What resulted was a subtle but significant inconsistency in effort: speeding up, slowing down.  It sucked.  The road surface in these neighborhoods north of the lakes -- and around Lake of the Isles/Calhoun -- were also sucked -- a lot of potholes and cracks to dodge. 

The "East Lakes" went by pretty fast, despite the disjointed splits.  Before I knew it, were were at 10K.  Ran it in just a shade under 35:00. 


Miles 7-13.1
After seeing Matt an Meg-o again and hearing some unexpected boisterous cheering from Hoff on the east edge of Lake Harriet, the course turned due east onto Minnehaha Parkway, for the "long, lonely run of loneliness" across South Minneapolis towards the Mississippi.  I tried some more to settle in, but I forgot how ROLLING the course gets along this stretch.  From Calhoun to mile 8 there was a string of single runners among me; on Minnehaha, they dispersed.  On this stretch it was me, the eventual 3rd place women (who faded after the 8th or 9th mile) and one other guy. 

As we negotiated the rollers, he pulled even and spent enough breathe to ask, "What pace are you shooting for?" 

This seemed to be an odd, if not obtrusive, question for this point in the race.  Wouldn't our current pace be an indicator?  Despite this -- and despite my fading confidence in my race goal -- I responded with, "sub 2:30".

He immediately faded back.  Guess that wasn't his goal!

After 8 miles, things started to go downhill -- not the course, just my leg feel and energy.  Moreover, I began to get some gut-rot -- too much salt, likely. Gut-rot always make my legs feel worse, as well.  By 9 or 10 it felt like I was at 17 or 18...and I felt like I had to "go".  Not good. 

I was also running alone -- my "guy" and my "girl" had dropped off, and the next runner was 100-200m up.  So it was just me, rolling along the meandering Minnehaha towards Nokomis.  I was not in good spirits. 

However, once at 11, I got a much-needed uplift seeing the "road crew" -- which included Monnnnty/Megan, Hoff, and Haus.  Definitely key.  About 100m later, on the other side of the street, I saw Britt.  I was thinking about her quite a bit (probably more than I should have for a competitive championship), since she was navigating the Cities and the race course solo, when a whole mess of "my crew" was right nearby.  While running by, I "suggested" she "find my friends back there".  Hmmm...didn't really work. 

After 11, I tried some "negative-positive self-talk" to snap out of my self-pity thoughts, which was effective.  But it did nothing to quell my desire to DEUCE.  As I rounded Nokomis, I was to the point where I was scoping out trees to squat beneath when I hit the halfway mark. 

I split a 1:14 and change, but it meant NOTHING to me, because I was running mid to high 5:40s and feeling "crappy".  Moreover, I was already feeling both quad and calf soreness.  Not great. 

5:48 (1:14:xx HALF SPLIT)

Miles 13.1-20
However, I caught a break when the deuce urge subsided near the end of Nokomis.  There, I got another pick-up from the road crew, who I'm sure were surprised to hear me say: "Hey, find my girlfriend!  She's...short...and had blonde hair". 

OK?  :|

I took another half-sleeve of Clif Bloks, which by that time might as well have been throat plungers.  I could feel myself slow trying to chew and swallow those damn things.  I rolled along back on Minnehaha -- alone -- approaching the Ole Miss. 

By the time I got on River Road in Minneapolis, I felt BAD.  Not just, "not great", but BAD.  I saw Monnnnty and his choppers a-choppin' at 15 or 16 and felt bad, knowing I looked and felt like shit, and that I might be in big trouble.  I tried to put on "my best stride" as I rolled past. 

I was waiting for the other shoe to drop -- for the pace to bottom out like it did back in 2005...but it didn't.  In fact, I was buoyed by a [now abberent] 5:34 split for the 17th mile, which was a huge lift: "I might be feeling like shit but I'm still motoring!  KEEP IT GOING!"  Right about this time a crew of guys caught up to me and I actually stayed with them for the length of River Road.

After 17, I would not see the 5:30s again for the rest of the day.  Or, as it turned out, the 5:40s.  At 18 I took my "salty bread" fuel -- the piece of bread + butter I prepared, that included a dissolved "S-Cap" and an "Endurolyte" capsule.  Talk about tough to swallow -- a large piece of WHEAT BREAD -- I'm certain this is why I split a 6:06 for the 18th (that and, once again TCM, a poorly marked split!)

The "hill" going under Lake St was terrible, yet...seemingly, those ~2 miles to Franklin seemed to go by fast.  I climbed pretty good up onto Franklin and saw "some dude" cheering for me on the bridge.  Took my hypoglycemic brain a few seconds to figure out it was Behrs.  I rolled over Franklin and on River Blvd.  I was really trying to stay positive -- a lot of aloud self-talk about form and toughness, which helped those irritating "Minneapolis Miles" pass by on the East side. 


Miles 21-26.2
Shortly before 21 miles, rolling up and down the rollers into St Paul City limits, I ran into some serious trouble: a NASTY L diaphragm/abdominal cramp -- what I worried would happen since the bike trip.  I thought it was gonna stop me in my tracks (like it did just yards away, during the '04 Human Race).  I kept pushing up the hill (the uphill being a disguised blessing, preventing the tissue from being over-stretched) and at the next aid station I slowed enough to take THREE fluid cups.  And within minutes of the posture adjust and fuel, I was "OK" again. 

But that didn't help the legs much.  No pop.  Nothing left.  I would split a woeful 6:23 for the 22nd mile up that hill.

I passed 21, on my way up "the hill" approaching St Thomas.  I remember back in 2003, when I floated up this hill, whimsically passing guys.  I felt more than seven years older this time around.  I thought to "pull" but it helped very little.  I did get a nice boost from the full road-crew (and some rando in some sort of rodent pelt!) at the corner of Cretin and River Blvd.  I don't think they realized how SLOW I was running, or they wouldn't have been as excited.

I turned onto Cretin and began to "Long Lonely Climb of Loneliness" up Summit Avenue.  Again in 2003, this was a time of great excitement: the legs felt solid and I felt strong and competitive.  In 2010 I was trashed and flat -- it was survival mode.

I took one last gel right before 23 (at Snelling) and continue to take fluid, passing only on the final stop.  It wasn't cramp -- just dead-leg.  Over the last 3 miles into Saint Paul, I was passed by one guy and I passed a different guy.  Not terrible, considering I was struggling to maintain 6:00 pace. 

Over those remaining miles, I just focused on the mechanics to get me home.  "PULL", I said to myself, without enthusiasm or urgency -- thus were the last few miles of a poorly-executed marathon race.

The descent to The Capitol was, nonetheless, exciting.  It felt GREAT to be done, and I knew my friends and family were there.  AND I knew, barring disaster just steps from the finish, that I gutted out an "OK" race -- without either blowing up or giving up. 

With no significant gear-shift, I pulled along the John Ireland Bridge to the finish, in a lackluster but SOLID 2:32:46. 50th place male (overall female DID beat me).

--- 2:32:46

Post-race:  I went hands-on-knees mode, but was otherwise fine.  Finish line staff, bless their souls, always think you're having cardiac arrest.  I was escorted by the arm to the elite tent under high alert due to my duress.  Once there (and convincing said staff that this was a typical presentation of a gassed marathoner), I was released to my own supervision.  I entered the small tent and looked around for my stuff.  Ahead of me on a table was Reneau getting stretched and massaged.  We chatted, then I promptly laid prone on the ground -- no longer interested in being on my feet. 

Family filtered in and out; it was great to have those Elite passes for them to enter while I could lay around and relax!  After a quick massage/stretch, I chatted with several more people in the tent -- including Sean Hartnett, who had that day became a Grandpa for the first time! 

Once I gimped outside I reunited with the whole "Road Crew" -- friends and family.  It was awesome!  That's what ultimately made that an overall TERRIFIC day -- having friends and family there. 

Notable: My roommate Matt, running his first marathon (and only 4th organized road race), clocked a 2:57.  Impressive indeed and worthy of celebration as well!

Pacing: C-.  TERRIBLE.  I will take majority blame, but c'mon TCM -- the mile marks were simply AWFUL early.  I asked every runner I could about their splits the first 10 and they were all over the board.  I could never relax or settle in, and I paid for it. 

Mechanics: C+.  The stride did not feel good -- and the SIGNIFICANT calf and quad trash tells me that my pawback mechanism was greatly lacking.  However, bonus points for those mechanics keeping the wheels on (at least) over the last 10K.  NOT GOOD: SEVERE sideglide L trunk noted (in pictures, videos) over the last 10K, at least.  This undoubtedly is the cause for the R ab cramp, as well as a myriad of other things.

Hydration/Fueling/Electrolytes: B-.  A- for keeping a good schedule and preventing a "bonk" or cramp episode.  Deductions for lost time due to swallowing -- I slowed significantly each time I took something.  Also points off for having gut-rot midway.

Mental Toughness: B-. My head was not where it should've been.  I NEVER got comfortable, my mind was elsewhere early, and I was negative early.  However, I had moments of toughness and perseverence...and I didn't F-ING drop out. 

1. I need to correct that sideglide L -- that's likely the cause for any/all back pain I have with running, definitely caused the cramp, and is probably resulting in significant power loss in my R leg.
2.  I need to get back to leg weights.  I had very little quad or calf soreness with regular (2x/week) weight training.  Trashed quad/calves were pace-limiting today.
3.  I need a GPS watch.  I'm tired of horrible mile markers.  I can no longer trust major (even championship) marathon courses to have CONSISTENT (let alone accurate) mile markers.
4.  I need to abstain from "jumping the gun" on salt.  Nasty gut rot is not a whole lot better than leg ache/cramping. 
5.  I need to continue to work on hip strength/mobility and the pawback mechanism.  When I lose it, not only do I slow, but I trash out my legs.  Double edged sword.

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