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RUN: Race report: 13.1 Minneapolis

Monday, August 22, 2011

This was a very successful race in terms of accomplishing the stratefies I laid out. I didn't burn up the track but I ended with a huge smile on my face!

My sister and I got there about 45 minutes before the race. I remember last year feeling really late so I back up the time some. Since we knew there was one "real bathroom" near the start, we stopped there before heading to the start line. But then...sister refused to use the porta-potties at the start line and we ended up walking back and forth again just 10 minutes prior to start. I tried to prevent the psychological reaction to that but knew if I needed a bio on the course, it would be good practice for the marathon.

We lined up somewhere between the 10:40 pace and 11:20 pace - my goal was to be between 10 and 11 minutes during the race to simulate marathon conditions. When the gun sounded, I insisted on walking up to the line - no need to run too far! - and sister and I ran together until the first block of buildings came up on St. Anthony Main. She pulled aside to move back into a slower pace and I kept going. I did manage to tweak my bad inner right ankle on the bricks - thanks historical preservation - but continued to move forward with the pack.

During the first mile, the pacer I was trailing seemed to be trying to make up time - I was all the way down into 9 minutes. I kept reminding myself to go slow. The advantage of having run this course backwards and forwards (literally) is that it was very easy to plan where I would float easily up hills or take tangents. For the first time, I did a really good job of not allowing people to pull me faster at any point in time - I was in control of whether I overtook someone or not.

Coming into mile 2, I realized I, in fact, needed a bio break. Water/Gatorade and pit stops were spaced about 2 miles apart. Unfortunately, the line was quite deep so I decided to push on to 4 miles. I did pretty well focusing through those miles until the Stone Arch Bridge where the next water stop/ bio break opportunity was. The line was pretty short, 1 per "cube", so I decided to wait there. I couldn't believe how long it took the dudes to get through! By the time I got in and out, the pack was gone and only we slower types were left. In a way, it was kind of relaxing! I floated up the hill outside the Guthrie and reassured a couple of women that at least we got to run down the hardest hills in the course and not back up them!

One of my nemesis hills on West River Parkway is right after the flats - a long, gradual hill that has a little kick at the end. I started cycling through my favorite mantras - "pony in the coal mine", "don't spend any money on the hill", "tiny baby Barbie steps" - and tried to stay good and steady. I passed a few walkers and felt really tempted! The hardest part of the hill is actually the top - you need to run past it or you could collapse into a walk - I managed to get past that temptation.

It was about this time that I noticed that my watch and the mile marker clocks were getting closer together. I was running closer to 10 minutes than 11 minutes - I wanted to make up some of the bio break time and knew I would be walking while drinking at the water stops - but it was altogether too close. By mile 10, it was almost a full tenth difference! This was the longest part of the race since the river road goes on for some time. I continued getting Gatorade and water at each stop, walking long enough to gulp both down before starting off again. At one point, a fellow runner pushed me quite forefully out of the way - I felt it was a little over the top. I did manage to pass that runner handily long before the end so I felt a little avenged.

During the long river road miles, the inside of my right ankle started acting up. I haven't yet fully recovered it and I had to concentrate quite hard on keeping it very flat when I came down on my right foot. Complicating matters is the surface of the road - it's quite pitted and uneven, making me glad I had cushy sneakers because I could still feel it right through the bottom of my feet. I passed the land marks that I could remember and began to ardently long to see the Lock and Dam sign that meant we were turning east into Minnehaha Park.

Finally at the turn, it seemed like I was steadily catching up and passing people. I haven't had a chance to fully review my results yet, but I recall seeing a number of the people that I saw at this turn in passing as I went back to retrieve my sister. It was nice to be in a familiar place - "Hey, there's were the pavilion is, there's only a small hill to go up ahead!" - and I remember getting a burst of energy at this same place last year. Running on to Minnehaha Parkway, I realized there was still plenty of miles left and I actually thought about walking for about 1 second - no one would know after all! - but I toughened up. I knew I could always drop speed if needed since the true purpose was to keep on running!

I actually visualized the road leading into the final downhill and long flat stretch and was disappointed when I thought I was on it and wasn't! Finally, I was on the road - I believe it's Woodlawn - and could see Nokomis and started to feel good. Coming down the hill to the park road, I knew I had to get past the mile out and back turnaround before I could loop the top part of the lake to the finish. This is the second longest part of the race - you can see people coming back at you to finish but the turnaround is really far in the distance and hard to gauge. My ankle was feeling quite achy so when I finally gained the turnaround, I was very ginger and slow going around it. I enjoyed the water stop, run by the Richfield Piranhas kids swim team on both sides of this part of the route - I was able to take Gatorade going out on mile 11 and water coming in on mile 12. On the backstretch, I ended up pacing behind 2 women that got a little snippy about my being directly behind them. They seemed nice at first then got nasty, saying I was making them nervous. I went ahead and put on some speed and had them eat my dust for the bit of attitude - I'm sure there's a picture of me crossing my eyes about their behavior!

Coming into the homestretch, I could see that there would be about an extra tenth of a mile, so I completely stopped checking my watch. I had told myself at the start of the race, 12 miles ago, that if I wanted to speed up, I couldn't do so until mile 12. I figured I would probably cruise along into the finish no slower than 12 minute miles anyway. I did almost run over some people with fishing poles coming from the community center who were looking right towards the finish rather than left towards runners coming in!

Rounding the last corner, I could hear Judy's voice in my ear from the race last weekend "Time to kick". The most amazing thing happened - I started speeding up and never stopped! I kept repeating to myself, "Kick, kick, kick, kick, kick!" and just kept going. I venture to guess I may have even broken a 7 minute pace at that point - I felt like a gazelle! - but didn't want to look for fear of psyching myself out. I drove past a few people right into the finish line as they announced my name and hometown - nothing like being near the end to get that privilege! In the end, I had made up nearly all the time I used for the bio break and water stop walks - 2:23:59!!

I grabbed some food and turned right back around on the course to pick up sissy. I felt great!! I walked back to almost mile 12, encouraging people as I went, something I always enjoy. I saw a number of people I had passed further back on the course as well as people that had been further back. Passing the Piranhas table, I asked if they had seen a chatty girl in a blue shirt come through, since I was at mile 12 again and sister had texted me at mile 11. Going a little further up, I found her and we turned to walk to the finish. The Piranhas remarked I had found her. When we reached the homestretch, I was surprised to see my coach Jenna come by and greeted her - turns out, according to the results page - that she was third in the women's division - 1:17:00! - I hope this is a good word for her January Olympic trials. I accompanied sister to mile 13 and peeled around the timing mats. I was able to hear her announced as she came into the finish as well.

I was really pleased to have accomplished every single goal I had set out for myself. If my ankle had been better headled and I had a slightly slower pace, I know I could have finished the marathon distance. I'm feeling more and more comfortable that the sag wagon won't get me on October 2!
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